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NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: YA Finalists!

Behold — the shortlist for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults has been announced and it is great. If you want to find out about the books that have been nominated for the children’s lit categories, check out our blog post on the matter, but on this blog we’re all about the YA, baby! Read on for our thoughts on this year’s Young Adult Fiction Award finalists, a slice of the book itself (where we can share it!), and for handy-dandy catalogue links so you can reserve them if you haven’t already read them!

Afakasi woman / Young, Lani Wendt
Our thoughts: Lani Wendt Young’s prose, as always, is searing, insightful, and thought-provoking. This collection of short stories puts a laser focus on the experiences and voices of Pasifika women, always sketched with the deftest of hands that combines a powerful evocation of place and voice with a keen sense for moral relativity throughout. Ultimately, the collection is a really freaking awesomely written exploration and discovery of the joys, trials, and day-to-day lives of women in the Pacific. Read it and discuss!

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien
Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!

Pete’s was where I had an after-school job. There was no one at the restaurant called Pete. The owner’s name was Garth but he hadn’t got around to changing the name. He didn’t want to climb on a ladder and paint it up. ‘Besides,’ Garth said, ‘who’d want to come to a place called Garth’s? Sounds like someone clearing his throat.’

I wouldn’t have needed a ladder.

— Damien Wilkins, Aspiring, Massey University Press, 2020.

The History Speech / Sweet, Mark (coming soon to our libraries!)
Our thoughts: In this book Mark Sweet refuses to shy away from some pretty heavy themes — child abuse, drug use, suicide, sexuality, the works. It’s an engrossing tale set in 1960s New Zealand, only the cheery Kiwiana facade is starting to crumble, revealing the universal (and existential) angst beneath. Callum’s voice and unique perspective kept us turning the pages with alacrity, and his tale of self-discovery is not one we think you should miss.

Posh tea is kept in a tin and had with a slice of lemon and no milk. Regular is from the yellow Bell paper box and had with milk, poured before the tea, although his mother does it the other way round. She says people who pour their milk first don’t know any better. That way the milk is scalded, she says. His mother and his grandfather agree about heating the teapot first with hot water, but not about the milk. He doesn’t take sides when the subject comes up,although he was more impressed by his grandfather’s knowledge of the boiling point of milk than his mother’s explanation that that’s the way the do it in Scotland.

— Mark Sweet, The History Speech, Huia Press, 2019.

Ursa / Shaw, Tina
Our thoughts: It’s always exciting when a new dystopian novel comes out of New Zealand — especially from an author of the calibre of Tina Shaw. She brings her trademark attention to place — the granite cobblestones of the streets, the expressions of the statues on the building-tops — to bear on a compelling and convincing world where the iron fist of those with wealth and power is starting to be tested by those without. The intensely personal story of Leho and Emee, and their trials in seeking change, will resonate with you long after you put the book down.

Wynter’s thief / Jordan, Sherryl
Our thoughts: I have to admit to some bias here — Sherryl Jordan has long been one of my favourite New Zealand authors. Wynter’s Thief is another example of her rich use of language, both to conjure up accurate and engrossing historical referents, and to patiently build in elements of fantasy and magic. The pacing of this story is what really grabbed me — it grows in speed and import as you read. Definitely check this out, and while you’re at it, check out Jordan’s substantial back catalogue — you won’t regret it.

There is a wild danger, a dancing on the knife-edge between sacredness and devilry, when a witch works magic. It is like that today, with the maid. Around her, the burning air shimmers, prickly with suspense. She strides ahead, wand outstretched, bare feet swift on the scorched earth. We follow, feverish with excitement, and musicians march alongside, banging drums and playing pipes. Dust rises about us, bright like a holy cloud, leaving us breathless, dazzled in her wake.

— Sherryl Jordan, Wynter’s Thief, OneTree House, 2019.

Fighting off the boredom with PapersPast

Are you really, incredibly, horrendously and hyperbolically bored? I know. Me too. Lockdown is still, absolutely, the right thing to be doing but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun or not boring.

This is just a teeny blog post but the resource I’m highlighting here can provide hours of interesting scrolling. There is a site called PapersPast that anyone can access for FREE and it is a digitised and readable form of hundreds of the newspapers and magazines from Aotearoa/New Zealand’s past. It’s a resource from the National Library of New Zealand and is a great example of how informative and interesting archival material can be.

This site is for you if:

  • You want to learn more about local history.
  • You’ve got really hooked on researching genealogy, what with ancestry.com being available from home at the moment and all!
  • You want to read newspapers but are, sensibly, limiting yourself to current news intake as there is only so much news it is healthy to consume at this time.
  • You’re bored and want something to do.
  • You’ve become increasingly interested in news and the media and the role it plays in the world through seeing the impact that is has at a time like this.
  • You’re studying history at school and you need to find some primary sources for a project.

NOTE: Old school newspapers may not be quite what you expect. Back in the day they were such a foundational and unique resource that people and communities put all sorts of stuff in there. Sometimes they feel more like blogs or Facebook feeds than they do contemporary print media. If someone loses their favourite knitted beanie ...they probably didn’t call them beanies back then… where does the word beanie even come from?...  on Cuba street back in the early 1900s, everybody knows about it! That kinda thing. It’s weird and fascinating. We’re keen to see what kind of stuff you’re able to find!

Hear Other Humans: Live in Conversation with Elizabeth Knox

So, you’ve joined our excellent Camp NaNoWriMo online writing classroom. You’re mid-way through your debut novelistic masterpiece. Things are going well — your 10,000 – 50,000-word goal is within reach. But still, you crave something… more. Your bedroom is starting to feel more like a cell of imprisonment than a swell of inspiration. Weeks of hearing only those voices of the humans within your bubble (and possibly the ensuing voices in your head) are starting to grate.

Fear not, we have you covered. The ludicrously talented, multi-award-winning author Elizabeth Knox has agreed to join us for a live Ask Me Anything session ~with voice chat!~ this Friday at 4.00pm! So prepare your best, most burning writerly questions and prepare to have your minds blown by one of the most successful authors this country has ever seen. Sound like your kind of thing? Click here to register.

This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Photo: Grant Maiden.

If you’re not familiar with Elizabeth Knox’s work already, you should be. Her incredible career has spanned the publication of thirteen novels (including the wildly popular The Vintner’s Luck and Dreamhunter Duet), three novellas, and a collection of essays. Her most recent masterwork, The Absolute Book, rightfully garnered huge attention overseas, particularly in the US, when it was published in 2019. It’s a daring, epic, intimate and oneiric journey of a read, which needs to be experienced by any lover of fantasy and the magic of everyday life.

But this isn’t all we’ve got going on. This fantastic event with Elizabeth Knox is part of a series of events taking place over on our Discord, which we’re calling Hear Other Humans. We’re taking advantage of that sweet, sweet voice chat function to chat about our writing, share terrible book covers we want to collectively mock, partake in a near-continuous stream of witty banter, and play interactive writing games together. It’s a great way to keep connected — we can’t wait to see you there!

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsIt ends with you, S.K. Wright

Everyone loves Eva. Beautiful, bright, fun, generous – she’s perfect. So when her dead body is found in a ditch in the local woods the only thing anyone wants to know is: Who could have done this? It has to be Luke, her boyfriend. He has the motive, the means, the opportunity and he’s no stranger to the police. Even though the picture is incomplete, the pieces fit. But as time passes, stories change. Told from six narrative strands, this cleverly woven and utterly compulsive novel challenges preconceptions; makes you second, third and fourth guess yourself; and holds an uncomfortable mirror up to the way societies and systems treat those they perceive to be on the outside. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMuse of nightmares, Laini Taylor

Neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice: save the woman he loves, or everyone else. Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of. As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, as forgotten doors are opened, the question arises: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTruly devious, Maureen Johnson

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.” Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWe’ll fly away, Bryan Bliss

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way. Tense and emotional, this hard-hitting novel explores family abuse, sex, love, and friendship, and how far people will go to protect those they love. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBlood water paint, Joy McCullough

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice- a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint. She chose paint. By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice- a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe summoner’s handbook, Taran Matharu

Summoner: One who is gifted with the ability to summon demonic creatures that are emotionally connected to their human counterparts. As brought to life in the bestselling Summoner series, the magic of summoning is also an art, with a story of its own. The Summoner’s Handbook reveals the epic journal of James Baker, who inspired the series hero, Fletcher, to discover his own summoning abilities. Along with a complete illustrated demonology, a guide to the basics of summoning and glorious artwork from the world of the Hominum Empire, you’ll learn everything a Summoner should know, and more. Beautifully rendered in two tone colours and full of detailed sketches, this hardback is the perfect treat for new and old fans. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFlight of the fantail, Steph Matuku

A busload of high school students crashes in the bush in a remote part of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Only a few of the teenagers survive; they find their phones don’t work, there’s no food, and they’ve only got their wits to keep them alive. There’s also something strange happening here. Why are the teenagers having nosebleeds and behaving erratically, and why is the rescue effort slow to arrive? To make it out, they have to discover what’s really going on and who or what is behind it all. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWhat the night sings, Vesper Stamper

Liberated from Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945, Gerta has lost her family and everything she knew. Without her Papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and onto living her life. Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor, and Michah, who helps Jews reach Palestine. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.(Publisher summary)

New book

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe isle of the lost, Melissa De La Cruz

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost–a dark and dreary place protected by a force field that makes it impossible for them to leave. Stripped of their magical powers, the villains now live in total isolation, forgotten by the world. Mal learns from her mother, Maleficent, that the key to true darkness, the Dragon’s Eye, is located inside her scepter in the forbidden fortress on the far side of the island. The eye is cursed, and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the Dragon’s Eye, these four kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThese rebel waves, Sara Raasch

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Agrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice–but Lu suspects something dangerous is at work. Devereux is a pirate. As one of the stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he scavenges the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian–but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war. Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country–or if he’s building his own pyre. As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are…and what they are willing to become for peace.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsLove, Charlie Mike, Kate De Goldi

Christy is under siege. Her father is dangerously near losing it, her grandmother has lost it and Christy fears she has lost her boyfriend to a peacekeeping assignment in Bosnia.

In an attempt to uncover an old family secret and sort out all her relationships, she plans a train journey to the West Coast…(Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsEvolution, Teri Terry

Shay has followed Xander and joined his mysterious scientific cult at their remote Scottish compound. She’s desperately searching for Callie, who went missing before the start of the epidemic that kills 95% of cases, and leaves a tiny number of survivors with astonishing new powers. Can Shay uncover the truth about the origins of the epidemic, find Callie and perhaps even rekindle her relationship with Kai? Or will Xander’s grand plans destroy them all for ever? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSmall spaces, Sarah Epstein

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away ftom a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDarius the great is not okay, Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. (Publisher summary)

You might like…books about art and artists (Part 1 of ? )

Book cover courtesy of the SyndeticsI’ve been inspired to write this post by a visit to our neighbour, the City Gallery, and their excellent exhibition This is New Zealand, which is based around how New Zealand artists convey national identity. But this post isn’t just looking art, it’s looking at artists as well. I’m sticking with drawing and painting this time – there may be more entries on this subject. Artists’ lives can be as interesting as the work they produce…of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some top picks. Think of this selection like a jumping off point: find something you like, and investigate further!

Book courtesy of SyndeticsLet’s take a look about our fiction first. The guy, the girl, the artist and his ex by Gabrielle Williams is a great look at love, death, human emotion and, of course, art. Then we have Dear Vincent, from New Zealand’s own Mindy Hager. This is a heart-wrenching novel about a young woman who finds comfort – and similarities – in the life and art of Vincent Van Gough. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has a more fantastical integration of art into the narrative; in Brooklyn, Sierra Santiago notices that the murals that are a feature of her neighbourhood start to change, revealing a strange and dangerous new world. Finally, we have another testament to the saving power of art; Draw the line, which is written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, deals with a young artist who uses his obsession with superheroes to work through a hate crime that happens in his small town.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThen there’s our non-fiction collection. For the sake of brevity, we’ll leave graphic novels aside. For a look at the creative process of one of my favourite artists, Shaun Tan, pick up The bird king : an artist’s notebook. One of my other favourites is Subway Art, which is huge, so bring your bag if you want to take it out!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMoving on to the adult collection now: there’s certainly not shortage of amazing books here. Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring deals not only with art, but the artist, his model and the historical and social context in which this famous painting was created. An artist of the floating world by Kazuo Ishiguro deals with similar themes, but also asks harder questions of complicity and integrity – not just artistic, but personal. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood focuses on the female artist and her own past feeds into her development.
Finally, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt examines the theft of a famous painting by a teenager and the impact it has on his life. Like I keep saying, this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’re looking for a more thorough booklist, here are some: female artists from Electric Literature, a top ten list from the Guardian and this utterly insane (667 books) list on Goodreads.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnd now, on to the non-fiction section. Try to pick a selection from this would be an act of madness, so here’s a few (and I mean A FEW) call numbers for you to investigate:
1) 704.03994 : Maori art and artists
2) 709.45 : Renaissance Art
4) 751.73 : Graffiti
5) 741.5 : Comic book art (I couldn’t resist, after all!)

If you’re looking for some great documentaries and movies, we have some of those as well!

I recommend:

1) Jean-Michel Basquiat: the radiant child (documentary)
2) Maudie (film)
3) Exit through the gift shop: a Banksy film (documentary)
4) Simon Schama’s Power of art (documentary)
5) Séraphine (film)

That’s all for now. I think my next one will be on photography! Stay tuned.

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsVengeance Road, Erin Bowman

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate. In the spirit of True Grit , the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation. (Publisher summary)

First lines: It weren’t no secret Pa owned the best plot of land ‘long Granite Creek, and I reckon that’s why they killed him. I was down at the water, yanking a haul ‘cus the pump had gone and stuck dry again, when I saw the smoke.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDawn raid, Pauline Vaeluaga Smith

Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school! But when her older brother Lenny starts talking about marches and protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police for their passports and papers, a shadow is cast over Sofia’s sunny teenage days. Through her heartfelt diary entries, we witness the terror of being dawn-raided and gain an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their rights.(Publisher summary)

First lines: Dear Diary,
I can’t believe the first McDonald’s in the WHOLE country is here – in Porirua! – at the shopping centre in Cobham Court. They had all sorts of problems with the date for the official opening though. Dad said it was because of ‘red tape’ and had to do with them putting in the wrong benches or something. So it just had its opening ceremony last Saturday, and Mum said when she drove past, there were people lined up out the door and down the footpath!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe wicked deep, Shea Ernshaw

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under. Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into. Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.(Publisher summary)

First lines: Three sisters arrived in Sparrow, Oregon, in 1822 aboard a fur trading ship named the Lady Astor, which sank later that year in the harbour just beyond the cape. They were among the first to settle in the newly founded costal town, and they strode onto the new land like thin-legged birds with wavy caramel hair and pastel skin. They were beautiful – too beautiful, the townspeople would later say.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHonor among thieves, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan–a race of sentient alien ships–to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.(Publisher summary)

First lines: I feel the stars,
Energy pulses against my skin, murmuring secrets about this small galaxy, about obits and alignments and asteroids streaming in space. Impulse makes me want to dive and cruise those currents, but I control these urges.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsIda, Alison Evans

How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?Ida struggles more than other twentysomethings to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths. One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back? (Publisher summary)

First lines: My shift is finally over and I want to scream. The thing about hospitality is that you always have to be switched on, always nice, welcoming, smiling. Even when someone’s yelling at you because their three-quarter soy latte is too cold.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe sacrifice box, Martin Stewart

Never come to the box alone. Never open it after dark. Never take back your sacrifice… Sep, Arkle, Mack, Lamb and Hadley: five friends thrown together one hot, sultry summer. When they discover an ancient stone box hidden in the forest, they decide to each make a sacrifice: something special to them, committed to the box for ever. And they make a pact: they will never return to the box at night; they’ll never visit it alone; and they’ll never take back their offerings. Four years later, the gang have drifted apart. Then a series of strange and terrifying events take place, and Sep and his friends understand that one of them has broken the pact. As their sacrifices haunt them with increased violence and hunger, they realise that they are not the first children to have found the box in their town’s history. And ultimately, the box may want the greatest sacrifice of all: one of them. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Sep knelt beside the box. The forest was tight with heat, and sweat prickled on his skin. The clearing around him was a blanket of root and stone, caged by silent trees and speckled by dark, leaf-spinning pools that hid the wriggling things of the soil.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnveiling Venus, Sophia Bennett

In the gossip-fuelled world of Victorian London, Persephone Lavelle is the name on everyone’s lips. As Mary’s secret identity is exposed and rumours fly, she flees the scandal by escaping to Venice. Lost among the twisting alleyways and shadowy canals she encounters a mysterious, masked young man. He offers her the world, but at what price? (Publisher summary)

First lines: My dearest Persephone,
Oh, how you must curse me, and how sorry I am! I haven’t written to you in an age. All I can say is I have been so busy! And I have much news. More of which in a minute…

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe diminished, Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone. The singleborn A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him. The diminished. When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what’s left of her life in peace. As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures–one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined. (Publisher summary)

First lines: The first queen built the Alskad Empire from scorched earth and ash after the goddess Dzallie split the moon and rained fire from the sky. The god Hamil called the sea to wash away most of what was left of humanity, but the people who managed to survive gathered in the wild, unforgiving north, calling on Rayleane the Builder to help them shape an idyllic community that would be home and have to descendants of the cataclysm.

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe book of Dust: volume one, Philip Pullman

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…Malcolm’s parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue. He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him . When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra. Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Three miles up the river Thames from the center of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and town dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the Priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called The Trout.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsComing up for air, Miranda Kenneally

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat. All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships–she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team, and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool. No one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love? (Publisher summary)

First lines: When I’m not in the pool, I’m counting the minutes until I can dive back in, so most of the time my bushy, light-brown hair is wet and reeks of chlorine. This is the story of my life. But Fridays nights are different because my friends and I have a tradition. We always meet for dinner at Jiffy Burger to talk about our lives. (okay, mostly our love lives).

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe captive twin, R.J. Francis

While everyone else prepares for war, Elaina is on a divine mission to restore peace. She grew up believing she was an orphan, but Elaina now knows who and what she is, and she’s learning how to use her new powers over nature, life, and death to achieve her goals.

Heavy snow is falling in Arra, and its army and royal court are hiding in caves from the Destaurian invaders. Elaina, her mentor Alessa, and Queen Alethea have journeyed northward to secure allies for a counterstrike. Meanwhile, Elaina’s love Prince Jaimin learns how to inspire his people, and Jaimin’s best friend and advisor Nastasha struggles with her feelings for him.

Even if the counterstrike succeeds, peace is not assured. Ultimately, Elaina must travel far into a hostile land to find and heal the enemy king. And she will need the help of a family she never knew she had. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Dearest Jaimin,
We’ve just sailed past a rock that Alessa says marks the border. They’ve let us come up on deck to watch the moon rise, but we’re to scramble below at the slightest hint of trouble. It’s a clear night here. All the mist is back towards Arra.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe last namsara, Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness — and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer. These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari — a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl. Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend — a slave boy from her betrothed’s household –Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Asha lured the dragon with a story.
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her.
She hated to do it. Telling such stories was forbidden, dangerous, even deadly.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFortissima, Sara Kingsley

In Raven Araroa’s kingdom, firstborn royal daughters are destined to rule, the woman kings of Nadir. A thousand years before she was born, a malevolent regime decreed there would be no more woman kings, by ordering firstborn daughters to immediately be put to death. But the last daughter born to rule is still alive. (Publisher summary)

First lines: When I hear the song of the redbird outside my window I’m not going to make it. Or maybe I can. If I hurry. I jump out of bed and swing out my window, legs first. I’ve got to move fast if I’m going to beat Tui to the other wise of the tree village.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSatellite, Nick Lake

Leo has lived his entire life on Moon 2. Born on the space station along with a set of twins, he is anxious to finally visit Earth so he can meet his beloved grandfather in person and see the ranch where Grandpa lives. Leo is a bit of a space prodigy-his mom is a renowned astronaut and scientist, and Grandpa was among the elite crew that last visited the Moon. Leo, excited to bond with his mother, is disappointed with her calculated and distant professionalism. When Leo finally makes it to the ranch, Grandpa is everything the teen had hoped. Leo has a new dog waiting for him and his grandfather is eager for him to learn ranching skills. Meanwhile, the protagonist is frustrated that he can’t contact the twins and then finds a flyer indicating that outsiders are willing to help “space boy.” Leo isn’t sure what help he might need, but after an accident, the doctor notices his bone density is surprisingly low. When Grandpa discharges him from the hospital prematurely, the boy wonders what is really going on, and hints of conspiracy start to unfold. (Publisher summary)

First lines: the sun is rising for 14th time today, firing the Saharan landmass like a match flame in the darkness. i am sitting in the cupola, watching the earth spin below me, desert rolling past the window of the Moon 2 space station, dunes like waves, sunlight flooding westward.

The Changeover

The Changeover, the movie, opens in cinemas next week! It stars great New Zealand actors Melanie Lynskey and Lucy Lawless, and also the super-creepy (in a good way… we think) Timothy Spall, and features Erana James as Laura Chant, and Nicholas Galitzine as Sorry (more information at IMDB here).

We’re super excited! Being librarians, to celebrate we suggest you read the fantastic novel by Margaret Mahy. We’ve got lots of copies, and we love the cover of this new edition.

If you prefer to listen, Radio NZ is also doing readings of The Changeover, narrated by Miranda Harcourt (another great New Zealand actor). The first episode is here.

Enjoy!

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWant, Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart? (Publisher summary)

First lines: I watched the two you girls from the corner of my eye as the crowds surged around me. Eleven o’clock on a balmy June evening and the Shilin Night Market in Taipei was spilling over with mei shoppers looking for a way to cool themselves. Stores lined both sides of the narrow street, and music blared in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWhen Dimple met Rishi, Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now , they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him–wherein he’ll have to woo her–he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not? Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Dimple couldn’t stop smiling. It was like two invisible puppeteers, standing stage left and stage right, were yanking on strings to lift up the corners of her mouth. Okay, or maybe something less creepy. The point was, the urge to grin felt irresistible. Dimple clocked on the email again and read it. Standford. She was going to Standford.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSaints and misfits, S.K. Ali

There are three kinds of people in my world: 1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose. 2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me–the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad. Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right? 3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories. Like the monster at my mosque.People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask. Except me. (Publisher summary)

First lines: I’m in the water. Only my eyes are visible, and I blow bubbles to ensure the rest of me stays submerged until the opportune time. Besides the lifeguard watching from his perch, there’s a gaggle of girls my age patrolling the beach with young siblings in tow. They pace in their flip-flops and bikinis, and I wait.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTash hearts Tolstoy, Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash is a gifted filmmaker and dramatic arts student with her own vlog, and she and her best friend Jacklyn have a YouTube series titled Unhappy Families, based on Anna Karenina. Tash and Jack are consigned to relative obscurity until a prominent online celebrity praises Unhappy Families, but with the accolades and attention comes the pressure to live up to the image. Additionally, Tash is struggling with her older sister’s growing distance, a surprise announcement from her parents, her understanding of her own identity as a romantic asexual, and her long-distance flirtation with fellow vlogger Thom. As a result, Ormsbee’s story comes close to feeling overstuffed with issues, but her attention to the depth of Tash’s thoughts and feelings, as well as a spot-on narrative voice, make this a compassionate and frank look into challenges that can seem to fly at teenagers from all directions. (Publisher information).

First lines: Isn’t it funny how something can be a joke for so long until one day it isn’t? You laugh at an awful new pop song until the fateful day you end up playing it twenty times on repeat, totally un-ironically. You laugh at the idea of deep-fried okra until the fateful afternoon your family stops at some boondocks diner and, as a joke, you order deep-friend okra, and it is suddenly your new favourite snack.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNerve, Jeannie Ryan

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it’s exhilarating–Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they’re directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE. (Publisher summary).

First lines: It took three days of waiting, but at four a.m. on a Sunday, the street in front of Abigail’s home finally emptied of all the Watchers. Maybe even crazies needed to sleep once in a while. She could use some rest, too, but more than that, she craved freedom. It had been almost a week since she’d left her house.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSlave power, Raewyn Dawsom

East of the Black Sea, c.300 BC: Fifteen-year-old Melo is one of the most gifted Riders in the Wild Horse Tribe, destined to become a leader in her female warrior clan. Her old rival Mithrida, however, has cunning plans of her own. But when city slave traders cut a violent path through the Plains, all the Amazon Tribes are under threat. Far, far away on the Holy Island, Sofia, a young priestess-intraining, wonders why these strangers have landed on their isolated shore. Can she find the answers from the Black Rock? When the worlds of traders, slaves and warriors collide, new alliances come from unexpected sources and new powers are harnessed. But is it enough for the Peace Way to succeed? (Publisher summary)

First lines: “Aaarghh! Hold on, everyone!” Melo staggered and stabbed her spear into the ground as it bucked and groaned beneath them like a furious wild horse. A second big quake so soon? The night’s first shattering terror had been bad enough – she would be needed to extend her guard duty – but where?

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGirls can’t hit, T.S. Easton

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve. Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring. Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it’s better to drop your guard and take a wild swing. (Publisher summary)

First lines: I groaned inwardly. It was a cold Tuesday morning in May and my parents were arguing about the dishwasher again.
“Honestly, Liz,” Dad said, “you don’t need to rinse the plates before putting them in. That’s the whole point of a dishwasher.”

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWreck, Fleur Ferris

Tamara Bennett is going to be the first journalist to strictly report only good news. Finished with high school, Tamara is ready to say goodbye to her sleepy little town and part-time job at the local paper. But things take an unexpected turn when Tamara arrives home to find her house ransacked and her life is danger. What is the mysterious note her attacker wants and why is he willing to kill for it? A tragic boating accident five years ago holds the clue that could keep Tamara alive. But how can she find the truth when she can’t tell who’s lying? (Publisher summary)

First lines: Tomorrow morning, at ten thirty-two, my train will pull away from the station and take me to my exciting new city-dwelling grown-up life. This chapter of my existence will be called ‘Deliriously happy university student.’ The chapter after that will be called ‘Journalist changes the world one good-news story at a time.’ I am going to be the first journalist, probably on the planet, who strictly reports good news.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsKid got shot, Simon Mason

Meet Garvie Smith. Reprobate, genius, waster, and sometime detective. Right in the middle of revision hell – until now. A boy from Marsh Academy has been shot, with no clear motive and no clues. Disgraced DI Singh is on the case, and he’s determined to keep Garvie away. But Garvie knows he’s the only one who has any idea where to look for the answers. Starting with his best friend’s girlfriend. And it’s going to take more than pointless revision or flunking his exams to stop him getting involved. (Publisher summary)

First lines: The others were already there, waiting in the darkness, and Garvie Smith went through the park gate and across the slippery grass towards them. Haphazardly arranged on the tiny swings and miniature roundabout of Old Ditch Road kiddies’ playground, dim, low-slung and damp, Smudge, Felix, Dani and Tiger raised hands and touched knuckled with him, one by one, and he settled down among them, yawning.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe book of heroes, Miyuki Miyabe

When her brother Hiroki disappears after a violent altercation with school bullies, eleven-year-old Yuriko finds a magical book in his room which leads her to another world where she learns that Hiroki has been possessed by a spirit from The Book of Heroes. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Halfway up the long slope to the Threshing Hill, the youth heard the sound of a tolling bell. He stopped and looked around. The sound came thickly through the chilled ashen-blue mist that rose all around him, yet he heard it as sure as he felt the vibrations in the ground beneath his feet.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBecoming Aurora, Elizabeth Kashmer

Sixteen-year-old Rory is at a crossroads in her life. While her gang plans its next move in a racially motivated turf war, Rory is sentenced to spend her summer at an aged care facility. She’s proud of taking the rap for a crime her gang committed and reading to a feisty old boxing champion isn’t going to change that. But what happens when Rory’s path intersects with migrant boxer Essam’s and she becomes the victim, not the perpetrator? Can she find the courage to face her past and become the girl her dad called Aurora? (Publisher summary)

First lines: Tonight we are wolves. Our pack moves as one, past empty shop fronts and faded billboards. On the corner we gather in the shadows of the Royal George Hospital. Last drinks were served hours ago, but the stink of stale beer lingers.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBoone Shepard, Gabriel Bergmoser

Boone is taking a break from writing for The Chronicle newspaper to hunt down and destroy every last copy of a very rare, very dangerous book. But then his editor calls to demand he investigate a missing persons case deep in the Scottish Highlands – in the company of his rival, photographer Promethia Peters – and he is forced to abandon his personal goals and get back to work. Restless and begrudging, Boone is unprepared when this hunt leads him back to the one story that won’t stop chasing him – his own. (Publisher summary)

First lines: I always take the time to appreciate the rolling green fields and pretty woods of the English countryside, whether I am viewing them from the seat of my motorbike, or, as I found myself on the day this story begins, hanging one handed from the side of a speeding training. But it is hard to appreciate nature when you’re viewing it at an angle with your eyes full of soot and the wind throwing you around like the world’s strangest flag.

Moon boy, Kathy Sutcliffe

Kat and Eru are new in town and trying to find their way. Not easy when her mum’s in a relationship with his mum, and he’s not your usual sort of guy: Māori with the palest skin and blond dreads and – strangest of all – no ears. More moon than boy. (Publisher summary)

First lines: “Hey.” A guy walking past my towel flashes me a white-toothed grin, his eyes sparkling blue beneath a floppy fringe. He’s carrying an armload of driftwood and staggering a bit on the soft sand. “My family’s having a bonfire tonight to see in the New Year. You can come if you like.”

Freedom swimmer, Wai Chim

Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields with his fellow villagers…When a group of city boys come to the village as part of a government re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re intellectuals not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and dreamlike discussions… But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Ma is gone. I fought back tears, gripping the handle of the wheelbarrow tighter so her body wouldn’t tip out too soon. I was taking her to the river to join the other villagers who passed. I didn’t dare look around- what if one of those bodies had surfaced, caught on a rock instead of being swept away by the current after the last rains? I could almost picture the head of some weeks-dead villager bobbin up beside me, all sunken cheeks and lifeless eyes behind paper-thin lids.

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