Did you know that we have a secret area of the library known as the stacks? It’s where we keep:
*Items that are still in demand which are in a deteriorating condition and cannot be replaced.
*Out of print items of special interest.
*Classic titles or titles by classic authors in a deteriorating condition of which replacement editions cannot be readily sourced.
*Valuable editions of titles.
*Copies of fiction titles written by major ‘Prize’ winning authors.
(From our Collection development policy)
It’s a treasure trove of awesome books which really need a bit more love. You can get these books by reserving them or going up to the second floor and asking at the desk. Here are a few of my favourites. There’s a fair amount in the stack, so I may make this a regular feature.
Watermark, Penelope Todd
In a month or so we’ll be hitting a record breaking summer. Or at least, we hope so! This is an incredible novel about a summer that’s as wonderful and strange as any you could ever live. Zillah, an eighteen year old who’s having doubts about the future that her life so far have been building to – something has to break. So she heads off, away from safety, to a place suggested by a mysterious letter. There she meets an enigmatic brother and sister. Events take a turn for the dangerous as both the natural world and the people around her move in their own mysterious patterns. There are two sequels; Dark and Zillah.
Montmorency, Eleanor Updale
A young thief gets a second chance – of sorts – when a doctor decides that rather than consign the unammed man to death, he’ll try a series of experiments to rebuild his shattered body. The man that results from this is named Mortmorency. Mortmorency is clever and quick and tries to engineer his escape, but there are parts of his life that he can’t quite leave behind. Mortmorency’s set in Victorian London, so a literal world away from Watermark.
The sea-wreck stranger, Anna Mackenzie
Ness is a young woman struggles against the inflexible traditions of her island society. She has the sea in her blood, or so she says, in a place that hates and fears the sea. A stranger washes up with the tide, and suddenly her future becomes even more uncertain and dangerous than she could have imagined. The world that MacKenzie has written is completely fictitious yet familiar and realistic. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while – which makes me happy to have looked in the stacks in the first place!
Spider Mansion, Caroline MacDonald
I wasn’t prepared for how creepy I’d find this novel. It’s a simple enough premise: the Day family run a business out of their home, a beautiful historic home. The Todd family come to stay…and don’t leave. The Todds exert a strange hold over the Days, and tensions escalate and events spiral out of control.
Reading ghost stories at Christmas was a bit of a tradition in Victorian England. As a lover of all things horror I am keen to see this revived; there’s nothing like sitting down with a chilling tale, although I must admit reading ghost stories in the middle of an English winter is very different to reading them in the height of Summer! Be warned: these are not for those of a delicate constitution.
The time of the ghost, Diana Wynne Jones
Ghost stories told from the perspective of the ghost themselves aren’t a rare trope in supernatural fiction, but this book is a cut above the rest. The ghost doesn’t know who she is; she suspects that she is one of four sisters and that she has travelled back in time to prevent something terrible from happening. Something that stems from a not-so-innocent game that the girls play. It also deals with a degree of real-life horror: the girls are actively neglected by their own parents, and their futures seem grim if the evil force cannot be quieted. It’s a subtle, creepy book, rather different from the author’s usual work. I read it again, recently, and found it as disturbing as it was when I read it as a teenager.
This is a group of creepy stories from some of the greats of horror literature: Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft. There are also some more obscure writers, but each story is excellent and a worthy introduction to each writers’ work. What lifts this above other collections is the haunting illustrations by Barry Moser. They’re simple, black and white drawings that chillingly depict some faucet of the story.
The turning, Francine Prose
This book is based off The Turn of the Screw, a novella written in 1898 by Henry James. Like the original, the narrator is sent to a strange house to look after some children. It’s been updated, however: the narrator is now male, a teenager and the story has a contemporary setting. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book asks interesting questions about just how reliable the narrator is – is he actually seeing ghosts, or are they something more sinister from something deep within his own mind? Read this and then read the original, which is here.
On the day I died, Candace Fleming
Mike Kowalski decides to pick up a strange girl on his way home, only for her to take him to a nearby cemetery. He is greeted by nine teenage ghosts, each with their own story to tell. This book is haunting not just because of the poignant, strange or downright terrifying tales of each of the ghosts, but the fact that many are based on real incidents from Chicago’s history – the setting for this story and almost a character in its own right.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I couldn’t go past the one that started it all, of course! A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, and has undergone many productions and reinterpretations since then. My favourite film version is The Muppet Christmas Carol, and my favourite book is the one pictured here: sure, Quentin Blake isn’t the scariest of artists, but his art’s gorgeous and suits the story very well. You’re never too old to enjoy a story well told, I think!
Shakespeare is taught in most college classes these days; whether you think this is a bad or good thing depends on you! I’m a fan, but I get tired of the same-old same-old productions and books. So here are a few of my favourite Shakespeare related books, websites and DVDs, to make your experience of the great man that much more interesting. I think this post is going to get a lot of flack from English teachers and Shakespeare purists everywhere, but I’m of the opinion that stuff like this should be enjoyable and accessible. I’m sure the Bard would have wanted it that way.
To be or not to be: a chooseable path adventure, by Ryan North, Shakespeare, and you!
This is unquestionably one of my favourite things to come into the YA collection in a while. I have fond memories of choose-your-own adventure books from my childhood, even though I always ended up dying! That’s an option in this book but the great thing is, you can always start again. Especially if you start out as Hamlet Senior…well, that’s not a spoiler. After all, I think the statue of limitations on spoiler warnings runs out after 415 years. Anyway, you can start the game as the aforementioned (deceased) King of Denmark, Ophelia or Hamlet himself. After that, it’s up to you. It’s written more like a YA novel than in prose, and the possible endings get pretty wacky. Added to this are the amazing illustrators; there are too many to namecheck all of them but Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Randall Munroe (XKCD) and Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys, Nothing Possibly can go wrong) all contribute. What I find particularly awesome is that this book is the result of a kickstarter campaign: crowd funding for the win! A necessary disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend using this to write your NCEA essays.
Hamlet: a novel, John Marsden
This book takes a rather more serious look at Hamlet. It keeps fairly close to the original story, but manages to convey the inner emotions of those entangled in the story. Retellings of Hamlet are by far the most popular among YA writers, but I think this one’s the best. The language is fresh and the pace makes the looming disaster all the more tragic. It also doesn’t try to force a happy ending on the characters, which I’ve always find a bit jarring, especially in books that aim to be taken seriously.
Lady Macbeth’s daughter, Lisa Klein
In the text of Macbeth, it is revealed that lady Macbeth has been pregnant before; but this is only mentioned once, and Macbeth’s lack of children plays a central role in the plot of the play. In this novel, Lisa Klein imagines what the life of such a child – a daughter, who is cast out by Macbeth – would be like. The historic Lady Macbeth also had a son, by her first husband, but is Lady Macbeth and Albia, her lost daughter, who tell the story in alternating chapters. The writer says she set out to give “an entirely new perspective on the events of Shakespeare’s play, using a protagonist who is outside the main action but crucial to its unfolding.” She more than succeeds, and manages to incorporate historical facts into the narrative fairly seamlessly, which keeps the book from seeming too fanciful.
The most excellent and lamentable tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare and illustrated by Gareth Hinds
This is the only book included in this blog post which takes its text entirely from the play, although it’s somewhat abridged. What sets it apart from the other graphic adaptations is its attention to detail; the artist, in his postscript, has taken actual features from Verona and uses them in backgrounds in his lavish illustrations. He does admit that he’s moved various places around for aesthetic purposes, but it doesn’t really affect the sense of a real Renaissance city. Gareth Hinds also tries to “fix” parts of the text that are often portrayed incorrectly in the staging.
Shakespeare retold DVD series
There are plenty of “pure” adaptaions out there but sometimes it can be a struggle to get through all that prose. These modern adaptations are a whole lot of fun. They feature some of the best actors England has to offer having a great time chewing the scenery and taking a break from having to memorise 16th century lines. Again, I wouldn’t recommend using these to help write your essay, but I’m a big believer in enjoying Shakespeare because it’s fun, rather than because you have to study it in class. My favourites are Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer night’s dream.
I remember when this film first came out, which, given that this was 15 years ago, is going to date me a bit. I didn’t realise that this was based off Taming of the Shrew until a while later though! It’s considered a classic, and for good reason. Even though the fashion is slightly dated, the movie still holds up: Heath Ledger, in his break-out role, has great chemistry with Julia Stiles, who’s equally impressive as Kat. It’s full of quotable dialogue and great acting, and conveys what it’s like to be young, cynical and in love in college. Well, as far as I can remember, anyway.
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead
This is a classic adaptation of an extraordinary play. It concerns the lives of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, two fairly minor characters in Hamlet. There are chunks of the actual play, but for the most part it’s in modern language. It deals with fate, the nature of theatre and performance, and various philosophical problems. It might sound a bit dry, but it’s extremely funny and features some of the best actors working today.
Our graphic novel section is growing bigger by the day! Here are some of my picks, from the historical to the hysterical.
These two graphic novels tell the story of the Boxer rebellion from different points of view. The Boxer Rebellion was a clash between the occupying colonial powers in China and a pro-nationalist and anti-Christian movement that became known as the Boxers. Gene Luen Yang captures the hard lives of the protagonists: Little Bao, who fights for the Boxers, and Vibiana, who is Christian. Both books are heart-breaking stories of people caught up in larger events beyond their control.
The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun
This book serves as a stand-alone inthe Sixth Gun series. The Horsemen go their seperate ways, trying to escape the dreadful choices they made. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read the Sixth Gun series, but for those who have, it’s an interesting look at our primary antagonists. As usual, the artwork is both lush and disturbing, with reddish tones and black shadows predominating. The Sixth Gun was mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts about graphic novels, and is well worth picking up.
Doctor Who: Dead Man’s Hand
Continuing the Western theme, here’s a new adventure featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Clara. They go to Deadwood, a frontier town in 1882, to pay their respects to the famous gunslinger, Wild Bill Hickock. But as always with the Doctor, nothing is as it seems. The town is being terrorized by a sinister, masked gunman. They meet up with real-life figures Calamity Jane and Oscar Wilde, who was on a tour of America at the time. (Bet you didn’t know that!) The art’s decent, but the real star is the story, which clips along in true Doctor Who style.
The thrilling adventure hour
A comic anthology featuring a plethora of awesome stories, by a whole range of different authors and artists. Western, science-fiction, steampunk, superheroes: there’s something here for everyone. The art and writing is consistently amazing, keeping close to the “pulp” feeling of the book. My pick for best story? “Beyond Belief” a screwball comedy about a pair of psychics who keep the various supernatural factions of their city from war in between drinking cocktails and delivering killer quips.
Read a children’s book from 1972 (the olden days) which attempted to depict what life would be like in 2010. Which is the year we’re in now, as you are aware! It gets a few thing right, although the robot arm that throws you your toast and the jumpsuits everyone wears are a bit of a stretch.
This summer looks to be the summer of beloved childrens books being turned into good movies. With Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, and now Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox set for cinematic release one can only speculate what will be next. Personally, I’d like to see Willard Price’s Adventure series get a turn. Anyway, here is the trailer for Fantastic Mr. Fox, starring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and directed by Wes Anderson.
The Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield may be losing his grip on the kids, suggests the New York Times in this here article. Apparently his primary concerns – about phoniness and so on – have dated and aren’t quite as relevant to teens as they once were.
(Read a related post here.)
A sequel to J. D. Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has been written and is about to be published. It is called 60 Years Later (it’s set 60 years later), and Holden Caulfield, now an elderly man, escapes from a retirement home to travel through New York. Permission from Salinger wasn’t given, but as he’s so famously reclusive it was unlikely to happen anyway.
What would Holden say about it?
Remember This, by S. T. Underdahl (282 pages) – Lucy’s looking foward to summer. But she embarrasses herself when trying out for the cheerleading team, ends up dating a boy she previously disliked, and has to watch her grandmother suffer from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
First sentences: ‘Remember this: I love you. It was the special saying my Nana Lucy and I had for each other, ever since I was tiny.‘
Sword : A Novel, by Da Chen (232 pages) – Martial arts expert Miu Miu turns fifteen and is told by her mother about her father’s violent death. Miu Miu is asked to avenge her father, and to find her fated true love, all in the faraway city of Chang’an. The Emperor has ‘other plans’.
First sentence: ‘On the morning of Miu Miu’s fifteenth birthday, her mother did not arrange a visit by a matchmaker, as all the mothers of Goose Village did when their daughters reached marriageable age.‘
The Bloodstone Bird, by Inbali Iserles (326 pages) – Sash finds a riddle in his father’s study, which leads him – and his enemy, Verity – on the search for a magical bird. Their search takes them to a dazzling new world.
First sentence: ‘“In the beginning, Aqarti was a lush paradise surrounded by endless sea.”‘
Sharp Shot, by Jack Higgins and Justin Richards (297 pages) – Twins Jade and Rich are kidnapped and find themselves at the centre of a deadly plot, involving the first Gulf War and explosives. This is the third book in a series.
First sentence: ‘John Chance raised his powerful binoculars and focused on the low building on the other side of the sand dune.‘
The Other Side of the Island : A Novel, by Allegra Goodman (280 pages) – Honor and her family move to Island 365, where the weather is always nice, there’s no unhappiness or violence, and everyone prays to Earth Mother and her Corporation. Honor and her family don’t fit in, however, and she meets Helix; together they uncover a terrible secret about the island.
First sentence: ‘All this happened many years ago, before the streets were air-conditioned.‘
Crushed : A Year in Girl Hell, by Meredith Costain (137 pages) – It’s Lexi’s first year of high school and life is changing fast. Her friends split up and Lexi has to choose between her old friends and her new, cooler friends. And she develops a crush on Jack, one of the cool kids. For younger teens.
First sentence: ‘“Lexi, can you hurry up please?”‘
Undiscovered Country : A Novel, by Lin Enger (308 pages) – Seventeen-year-old Jesse is out hunting with his father in Minnesota on a cold, wintery day. His father is shot; and it looks like he had killed himself. His father’s ghost begins to haunt Jesse, and he soon uncovers family secrets and his own, new responsibility. This book is a ‘bold reinvention’ of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
First sentence: ‘As I write this, I am sitting in the kitchen of the small house where we’ve lived now for a decade.‘
Fouth Comings : A Novel, by Megan McCafferty (310 pages) – This is the fourth Jessica Darling book and it will be very difficult to summarise in my usual two or three sentences. But if you’ve read the others you will be hanging out for this (I know Grimm will probably be first to read it).
First sentence: ‘”Waiting sucks.” The voice was male and came from behind my right shoulder.”
Bliss, by Lauren Myracle (444 pages) – Bliss has grown up in a Californian commune, and is sent to live with her strict grandmother and to study at Crestview, an exclusive school for the rich with an old, dark history. There she is targetted by Sandy, a girl obsessed with the occult. A ‘contagiously creepy tale of high school horror.’
First sentence: ‘Grandmother won’t tolerate occultism, even of the nose-twitching sort made so adorable by Samantha Stevens, so I’m not allowed to watch Bewitched.’
The Beginner’s Guide to Living, by Lia Hills (248 pages)
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, by Glenda Millard (225 pages)
Dead is a State of Mind, by Marlene Perez (175 pages)
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell (347 pages)
Saving Sam, by Susan Brocker (192 pages)
Skykids (Rated M) – Two friends sneak aboard a plane for a look and it takes off. They discover a bomb and then – to compound the dire situation further – realise that they’re the only ones left on board.
Grange Hill Series 1 & 2 (Rated PG) – Grange Hill was a British drama series about a group of kids at a high school. It lasted from 1978 until late last year. This DVD collects the first two series. Very retro. Maybe.