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  • anime, Books, cute animals awww, DVDs, dystopia, eBooks, Fantasy, Lists, Rachel, Top 10

    Magical menagerie

    10.03.15 | Permalink | Comments Off on Magical menagerie

    This week we have a list featuring animals – magical animals, to be precise. If you just want a taster, try a short story from the collection Unnatural Creatures curated by our fave Neil Gaiman. If you know what you’re in for, try the dark tale The Knife of Never Letting Go (Manchee the dog is the comic relief here) or perhaps an interpretation of the Grimm brothers fable The Goose Girl. Whatever you choose, expect a talking dog. Or bear. An animal will probably be able to talk.

    Syndetics book coverDown the Mysterly River / Bill Willingham ; illustrations by Mark Buckingham.
    “Max ‘the Wolf’ is a top notch Boy Scout, so it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat) – all of whom talk – and who are as clueless as Max. Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…” (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverUnnatural creatures / stories selected by Neil Gaiman with Maria Dahvana Headley ; illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.
    The 16 short stories in this anthology contain accounts of delightfully fantastical creatures, ranging from the familiar (werewolves, mermaids, griffins, and unicorns) to the chillingly mysterious (an ever-expanding, flesh-eating blob; a strange bird that spurs unpredictable changes to its surroundings; and even Death herself). Classic science fiction and fantasy authors Anthony Boucher, Frank R. Stockton, Peter S. Beagle, E. Nesbit, and Diana Wynne Jones are represented, as are contemporary authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, E. Lily Yu, and Gaiman himself. Who would a griffin eat? What does a phoenix taste like? What happens when you question an invisible dragon? Why are there always too many coat hangers? All of these questions, and more, are answered here.” (School Library Journal)
    Also available as an Overdrive eBook!

    Syndetics book coverThe princess and the hound / Mette Ivie Harrison.
    “He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he’ll rule.She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal “your” heart, but will they fall in love?” (Syndetics summary)

    Syndetics book coverDarkwood / M.E. Breen.
    “Darkness falls so quickly in Howland that the people there have no word for evening. One minute the sky is light, the next minute it is black. But darkness comes in other forms, too, and for thirteen-year-old Annie, the misery she endures in her Uncle’s household makes the black of night seem almost soothing. When Annie escapes, her route takes her first to a dangerous mine where a precious stone is being stolen by an enemy of the king, and later to the king’s own halls, where a figure from Annie’s past makes a startling appearance.” (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverThe twyning / Terence Blacker.
    “Thirteen-year-old Peter, who lives in a garbage dump with his younger friend Caz, scratches out a living catching rats for the local “sportsmen” and their dogs. He also works for Dr. Ross-Gibbon, a monomaniacal scientist who wants to wipe out all of the rats in London. Efren, an impulsive young rat living in the Kingdom of elderly King Tzuriel, is restless and has trouble following orders. When Peter captures the dying King for the doctor’s experiments, Efren reports this to his superiors, leading to outrage in the kingdom; matters worsen quickly after the doctor puts his deadly plan into action.” (Publisher Weekly)

    Syndetics book coverThe knife of never letting go / Patrick Ness.
    “Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?” (Goodreads)
    We also have the Bolinda eAudiobook & Overdrive eBook versions.

    Syndetics book coverWinter falls / Nicole Maggi.
    “Alessia Jacobs is a typical sixteen-year-old, dying to get out of her small Maine town. Things look up when a new family comes to town. But as she begins to fall for the hot, mysterious son, Jonah, her life turns upside down.Weird visions of transforming into an otherworldly falcon are just the beginning. Soon she learns she’s part of the Benandanti, an ancient cult of warriors with the unique power to separate their souls from their bodies and take on the forms of magnificent animals. Suddenly forced to weigh choices a sixteen-year-old should never have to make, Alessia witnesses two worlds colliding with devastating consequences.” (Syndetics summary)

    Syndetics book coverThe goose girl / Shannon Hale.
    “Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.” (Syndetics summary)
    Also available as an audiobook on CD and Overdrive ebook.

    Syndetics book coverPom Poko [videorecording] / a film by Isao Takahata.
    A community of magical shapeshifting raccoons desperately struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.

    Many Studio Ghibli movies contain magical animals of some find, including Nausica’a, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke. Because who doesn’t love a good Ghibli film? (Hint: they are all good.)

    Syndetics book coverTender morsels / Margo Lanagan.
    “Liga’s life is filled with dark hearts and foul deeds. So she chooses a protective path of natural magic to find a safe other-worldly place for herself and her two daughters. But when magicked bears and mischief men break the borders of their refuge the girls must face the truth, and engage with the appeal and risk of the real raw world.” (Syndetics summary)
    Also available as an Overdrive ebook.


  • Rachel, Top 10

    There’s something about Hannah…

    20.01.15 | Permalink | Comments Off on There’s something about Hannah…

    This week’s roundup features protagonists all by the name of Hannah. If that’s you (and you like to live vicariously through books) then jackpot! It was quite fun to round these up, so I’d like to do more collections with different names. If you’d like me to do a feature using YOUR name, leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can come up with!

    Syndetics book coverAt the sign of the Sugared Plum / Mary Hooper.

    “It is 1665 and Hannah is full of excitment at the prospect of moving to London to help her sister Sarah in her sweetmeats shop. But bubonic plague is taking hold of London and Hannah’s excitment soon turns to terror as the unstoppable plague spreads throughout the city. (adapted from Syndetics)
    This book even includes recipes for seventeenth century sweetmeats!

    Syndetics book coverSometimes it happens / Lauren Barnholdt.

    “This novel opens on the first day of Hannah’s senior year, but the story really starts on the last day of her junior year. That’s when Hannah not only gets dumped by her boyfriend, Ryan, but she also finds out her best friend, Ava, is going to be gone for the entire summer. But Ava’s boyfriend, Noah, is definitely around he snags Hannah a job at the diner where he works. Hannah and Noah move from coworkers, to friends….and one night, to something more. Now it’s back to school, where Hannah will see Ryan, Ava, and Noah all in one place. Over the course of the day secrets and betrayals are revealed, and alliances are broken and reformed. In the end, Hannah will learn a lot about love, friendship…and herself.” (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverThe protected / Claire Zorn.

    “Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems? Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that? In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.” (Back cover)

    Syndetics book coverPaper valentine / Brenna Yovanoff.

    “The sleepy, small-town community Hannah Wagnor grew up in used to feel safe, but now, during a record-breaking July heat wave, a serial killer is targeting young girls. Depressed since her friend Lillian’s death six months earlier, the 16-year-old goes through the motions of daily life, with Lillian’s ghost a constant presence at her side. As more bodies are discovered, Hannah begins to see more ghosts-those of the murdered girls. Investigating the deaths, she begins to wonder how much she really knows about Finny Boone, the cute bad boy she’s known forever but is only just beginning to understand.” (School Library Journal)

    Syndetics book coverZombie blondes / Brian James.

    “From the moment Hannah Sanders arrived in town, she felt there was something wrong. A lot of houses were for sale, and the town seemed infected by an unearthly quiet. And then, on Hannah’s first day of classes, she ran into a group of cheerleaders—the most popular girls in school. The odd thing was that they were nearly identical in appearance: blonde, beautiful, and deathly pale. But Hannah wants desperately to fit in—regardless of what her friend Lukas is telling her: if she doesn’t watch her back, she’s going to be blonde and popular and dead—just like all the other zombies in this town…” (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverSomething, maybe / Elizabeth Scott.

    “Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she’s got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad’s girlfriends and is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar…and that’s just how she likes it. Of course, that doesn’t help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah’s sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can’t stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents make Hannah feel like she’s going crazy. Yet she’s determined to make things work out the way she wants—only what she wants may not be what she needs… (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverBunheads : a novel / by Sophie Flack.

    “As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet. But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah’s universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other “bunheads” in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?” (Goodreads)

    Syndetics book coverLove by the morning star / Laura L. Sullivan.

    “Mistaken for one another when they are sent to the grand English country estate of Starkers on the brink of World War II, Hannah, a distant relative hoping to be welcomed by the family, and Anna, sent to spy for the Nazis, both unexpectedly fall in love.” (Syndetics)

     

    Syndetics book coverA respectable girl / Fleur Beale.

    “The story of Hannah’s search for her own identity and for the truth about the mother she has never known. Her eruption into the life of an aristocratic English family causes major disturbances, and she needs all her stubborn independence to survive. Set in New Zealand and England.” (Syndetics)

     

    Syndetics book coverHannah / Kathryn Lasky.

    “In 1899, a fifteen-year-old orphan named Hannah obtains employment as a servant in the home of one of Boston’s wealthiest families, where she meets a noted portrait painter who seems to know things about her that even she is not aware of, and when she accompanies the family to their summer home in Maine, she feels an undeniable pull to the sea.” (Syndetics)


  • Books, Lists, Rachel, Top 10

    Top 10: How to…

    23.09.14 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: How to…

    This week we’re going to learn a few things. Such as: how to sell toothpaste, how to steal a car (maybe not) and how to be a vampire. Wait, what?

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to sell toothpaste, Leonie Thorpe

    Dom has left school and is about to launch into the real world. All his friends have their futures mapped out, but Dom is distinctly lukewarm about the prospect of doing a degree in science. Before he has to commit, however, there is the holiday job painting his dad’s offices. Dad is an award-winning creative in an ad firm, with possibly his greater success being his ability to look younger, and way, way cooler, than his 17-year-old son. Annoyed that his dad has beaten him to the stud earring, the bicep tatt, and the wardrobe, Dom decides to take on his dad on his own turf, an ad campaign. How hard can it be?” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to steal a car, Pete Hautman

    Fifteen-year-old, suburban high school student Kelleigh, who has her learner’s permit, recounts how she began stealing cars one summer, for reasons that seem unclear even to her.” (Syndetics)

     

     

     

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to ruin a summer vacation, Simone Elkeles

    “Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer-no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone… Goodbye pride, hello Israel.” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to (un)cage a girl, Francesca Lia Block

    A celebration of girls and women in a three part poetry collection that is powerful, hopeful, authentic, and universal.” (Syndetics)

     

     

     

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to say goodbye in robot, Natalie Standiford

    New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to ditch your fairy, Justine Larbalestier

    In a world in which everyone has a personal fairy who tends to one aspect of daily life, fourteen-year-old Charlie decides she does not want hers–a parking fairy–and embarks on a series of misadventures designed to rid herself of the invisible sprite and replace it with a better one, like her friend Rochelle’s shopping fairy.” (Syndetics)

     

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to save a life, Sara Zarr (also available as book on CD)

    “Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends–everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted–to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too? As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy–or as difficult–as it seems.” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to be popular : when you’re a social reject like me, Steph L, Meg Cabot

    “Steph Landry’s been top of her school’s unpopularity list ever since she spilt her red Super Big Gulp all over It Girl Lauren Moffat’s white D&G mini-skirt. But now Steph’s got a secret weapon – an ancient book, HOW TO BE POPULAR, which her soon-to-be step-grandmother once used to break into her A-crowd. All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book and wait for the partying begin. But as Steph’s about to discover, it’s easy to become popular – it’s less easy staying that way!” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to be a vampire : a fangs-on guide for the newly undead, Amy Gray

    “For those who join the decadent realm of the vampire, eternal life holds juicy perks–charm and strength, shape-shifting and flying, telepathy and super-powered senses. “How to Be a Vampire” is a comprehensive guide to the vampire lifestyle that quenches newcomers’ thirst for lore–and tasteful tips.” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow to take the ex out of ex-boyfriend, Janette Rallison

    Sixteen-year-old Giovanna Petrizzo finds it hard enough to fit in. Three years since her family moved to Texas, she’s still the newcomer. It doesn’t help matters when her twin brother, Dante, takes on the mayor’s son by running for class president. The least she could expect, though, would be for her boyfriend, Jesse, to support their cause. But Jesse’s apparent defection triggers Giovanna’s rash emotional side, and before she knows it, she’s turned Jesse from the boy of her dreams to the exboyfriend she dreams of winning back.” (adapted from Syndetics)


  • DVDs, dystopia, Fantasy, Lists, Rachel, Top 10

    Top 10: Spring flower girls

    16.09.14 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Spring flower girls

    In the name of Spring (again), I bring you books featuring girls with flowery and botanical names. Violets, Daisys and Lilys, you’ll find them right here.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHow I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

    Fifteen-year-old Daisy thinks she knows all about love. Her mother died giving birth to her, and now her dad has sent her away for the summer, to live in the English countryside with cousins she’s never even met. There she’ll discover what real love is: something violent, mysterious and wonderful. There her world will be turned upside down and a perfect summer will explode into a million bewildering pieces. How will Daisy live then?'” (adapted from Syndetics)

    Featuring awesome protagonist Daisy. We also have the movie version on DVD, but it is R16 so you may have trouble reserving it with a young adult library card. Give us a call if you get stuck!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsCinder, Marissa Meyer

    “Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.” (Syndetics)

    Cinder has one horrible step-sister, but her other, lovely step-sister is named Peony. We also have this book on CD, and Rebecca Soler does an incredible job of narrating all the unique characters.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsEmbrace, Jessica Shirvington

    Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend? Nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori, part angel and part human, and Violet is his eternal partner. Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity…” (adapted from Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMarcelo In The Real World, Francisco X. Stork

    Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file — a picture of a girl with half a face — that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.” (adapted from Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

    Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSoulmates, Holly Bourne

    Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect match for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love, thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems. After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, they are left with an impossible choice: the end of the world, or a life without love?” (Syndetics)

    This one doubly wins because the author (Holly) has a botanical name too!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsVampire Academy, Richelle Mead

    “St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger… Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.” (Goodreads)

    If one’s not enough, we have the whole series here in our collection!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOn a Clear Day, Walter Dean Meyers

    Dahlia is a Low Gater: a sheep in a storm, struggling to survive completely on her own. The Gaters live in closed safe communities, protected from the Sturmers, mercenary thugs. And the C-8, a consortium of giant companies, control global access to finance, media, food, water, and energy resources–and they are only getting bigger and even more cutthroat. Dahlia, a computer whiz, joins forces with an ex-rocker, an ex-con, a chess prodigy, an ex-athlete, and a soldier wannabe. Their goal: to sabotage the C-8. But how will Sayeed, warlord and terrorist, fit into the equation?” (Syndetics)

    This one’s actually not out just yet, but you can still reserve it before its release in a couple of weeks.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFlora Segunda, Ysabeau Wilce

    Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall–the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. Huge mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler–and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever.” (Syndetics)

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Fault In Our Stars, John Green

    Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.” (Syndetics)

    I couldn’t make this list and NOT include Hazel Grace! It just couldn’t be done. We also have this as an audiobook on CD.

    There are plenty more books that could have made it onto this list – have you got any suggestions? Let us know in the comments!


  • Books, Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10 Chocolate

    06.09.13 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10 Chocolate

    chocolateHow is it that a top 10 books with chocolate in the title has escaped me? Here are some YA, some children’s, some other fiction, and the Dewey number of the gods.

    The Chocolate War, and Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – before young adult literature was something everyone wanted to be doing, there were the Roberts (Cormier, Swindells and Westall). The Chocolate War is classic YA literature. First published in 1974, it’s a disturbing tale of evil and good, corruption and the opposite of corruption (with chocolate as the catalyst). Plus there’s a sequel.

    Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. A much-loved, pre-Twilight story of a werewolf who falls for a human boy with a very catchy title. Interestingly, the author also wrote a pre-Twilight vampire story (The Silver Kiss).

    Bitter Chocolate by Sally Grindlay. The more serious side of chocolate. Bitter Chocolate is set in West Africa during a particularly violent time (Liberia and Sierra Leone were both in a state of civil war in the early 2000s). After rebel fighting kills his family, Pascal is made a child soldier, escapes, and then is forced to work as a slave in a cocoa plantation. For information about Fair Trade products, and an app to help find them, you can visit Fairtrade New Zealand.

    Chocolate cake with Hitler by Emma Craigie. Twelve-year-old Helga Goebbels is the daughter of Joseph, the head of Nazi propaganda. As World War II comes to an end, chocolate cake for tea every day with Uncle Leader turns into hiding in an underground bunker, watching the Nazi leadership crumble.

    In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin. This is the book that reminded me I hadn’t done a chocolate list, so it goes in too. The Birthright trilogy is set not too far in the future (2083 to start), in a time when chocolate and coffee are illegal (unimaginable!). Anya’s family manufactures chocolate, meaning they’re as good as the Mafia.

    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Tita is forbidden to marry, and must look after her mother until she dies. To complicate things, she falls in love with Pedro, who is seduced by her delicious cooking (Tita is a gifted cook, like Remy the rat in Ratatouille). Pedro marries Tita’s sister as a way of staying close to her (like that works, poor Tita). The title is a reference to the best way to make hot chocolate (I am dubious). There are recipes in the book, and it was made into a (Spanish language) film.

    Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Another movie conversion (this one with Johnny Depp). One day, quite suddenly, Vianne breezes into a somewhat  uptight French village and opens a chocolate shop, causing consternation among the locals who disapprove of her sinfully good chocolate and her outlook on life.

    The Great Chocolate Cake Bake Off by Wellington’s own Philippa Werry. Home-grown chocolatey story about a boy who discovers he has a gift for baking, but can he come up with a great bake-off-winning recipe?

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This is the most amazing book about chocolate, ever.

    Everything at 641.6374. There is an unbelievable collection of chocolate recipes books. You should try one (pictured is one about Whittakers, for example).


  • Books, Grimm, Movies, Top 10

    Top 10: Book related 2013 movies

    07.01.13 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Book related 2013 movies

    2013 should be another great year for movies. Rebecca and Rachel are looking forward to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (starring Emma Watson (Hermione) and also Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries), which is one of many intriguing upcoming book-inspired films, like:

    1. Catching Fire – November (book / IMDB page). New cast additions include Sam Claflin (who is Finnick, and from Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jenna Malone (Johanna).
    2. Beautiful Creatures – February (book / IMDB page). Based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, in which Lena is the girl of Ethan’s dreams, literally. The film stars Alice Englert (trivia: she is the daughter of New Zealand director Jane Campion) and Alden Ehrenreich. They may soon become household names.
    3. City of Bones – August (book / IMDB page). The first film, and the first book in the Mortal Instruments series, which, if you haven’t read it already and mean to, you should reserve now! Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower and Godfrey Gao (as Magnus Bane).
    4. Iron Man 3 – April (graphic novels / IMDB page). IMDB says that Stan Lee might put in an appearance. We shall see!
    5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December (book / IMDB page). Poor Smaug.
    6. Man of Steel – June (graphic novels / IMDB page). Starring Henry Cavill (Humphrey in Stardust, recommended recently by R and R – I agree, excellent sky pirate) and Russell Crowe as Jor-El (Amy Adams is Lois).
    7. Ender’s Game – October (book / IMDB page). Based on the über-popular book by Orson Scott Card, in which Ender Wiggin, genetically engineered genius, is sent to an elite school to train to save the earth from invasion by a (very) malignant alien race. NCEA seems not too bad now. The film stars Asa Butterfield (from Hugo) and Abigail Breslin (My Sister’s Keeper) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). They’re also Marvel comics.
    8. The Great Gatsby – June (book / IMDB page). One of the 20th century’s enduring classics, written by F Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby hosts great parties, but that’s all most people know about him. When Nick moves in next door, he’s keen to uncover the mystery, but becoming part of Gatsby’s world may reveal a dark side. Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio star alongside Isla Fisher, who used to be on Home and Away.
    9. The Host – March (book / IMDB page). This is the other Stephenie Meyer novel, where she tries out Sci Fi. Wanderer (or Wanda for short) is an alien who inhabits bodies. When she’s given Melanie Stryder, she can’t quite take her over, and she’s drawn into Melanie’s world of free rebels fighting the alien invasion. Saorise Ronan is Wanda, and she’s also going to be busy in:
    10. How I Live Now – release date TBA (book / IMDB page). In the award-winning book by Meg Rosoff, New Yorker Daisy is sent to live in the English countryside, which seems like a major adjustment but the sudden onset of World War III puts that in perspective as Daisy battles to survive and find her family.


  • Books, Grimm, Horror, Top 10, zombies

    Top 10: Zombies

    15.10.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Zombies

    Can you take a zombie seriously? Sometimes yes, sometimes no (it depends largely on whether there is supposed to be kissing).

    Seriously:

    This is Not a Test, Courtney Summers – this book is a horror story: imagine being trapped inside your school building with five other students, with moaning masses of the undead outside, lying in wait, when you know it’s only a matter of time before the water supply runs dry, you eat your last food, and face the prospect of either starving to death or running the zombie gauntlet outside, to who knows where. What makes it worse is how the horror plays out in the way that you and your schoolmates cope. And then, when you think you’ve barricaded the school building enough, someone gets in.

    The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan – to quote an earlier post: “Mary lives in a fenced village in the middle of the forest of hands and teeth; fenced, because the forest of hands and teeth is peopled with zombies (the Unconsecrated) with an undying drive to bite. When the village’s fortifications are compromised Mary must flee in the ensuing chaos, down the paths that run through the forest, following mysterious symbols that might lead her to the sea she dreams of.”

    Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Maberry – the School Library Journal likes this series, perhaps even better than The Forest of Hands and Teeth: they say it “appears to be a retelling of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth but with a male protagonist. But Maberry’s vision of a zombie-infested future has more action, more violence, and more emotional depth” (School Library Journal). It must be good then! Instead of a forest, here there’s the Rot and Ruin where – Benny (the male protagonist) learns – the zombies actually aren’t even the scariest prospect. 

    The Enemy, Charlie Higson – the latest in the series (The Sacrifice) has recently arrived. When a sickness sweeps through London, affecting everyone over the age of 14, leaving them either (mercifully) dead or the walking undead, those under 14 find themselves in a fight to survive. Some, sensibly, hole up in supermarkets (the lucky ones in Waitrose, which is quite posh), while they must attempt to make their way to the relative safety of Buckingham Palace. But if they get to Buckingham Palace, what will they find? A zombie queen? Or something more problematic? We should’t be too flip: this one’s grim and doesn’t pull any punches.

    Not quite as seriously:

    Dearly Departed, Lia Habel – this series is called “Gone with the Respiration” (a salute to Gone With the Wind), so I think it’s safe to say it’s a bit fun. “Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead – or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?” (Goodreads.com). This brings a whole new meaning to the expression “undying love”.

    You Are So Undead to Me, Stacey Jay – the first in the series about Megan Berry, Zombie Settler. Homecoming (and people’s lives) are in peril when someone starts using black magic to turn the average, bumbling undead of an Arkansas town into souped-up zombies. Can Megan save the day? Can she what! (I’m picking).

    I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, Adam Selzer – take that Katy Perry. Ali meets the mysterious Doug – a strong, silent, Goth-type of singer – and falls madly in love with him before, doh, someone points out he’s actually a zombie. Naturally Doug’s mysteriousness is not all that attractive any more, but when Ali tries to dump him she learns it’s not so easy to get rid of a zombie. She also learns, along the way, that vampires don’t like their music being critiqued.

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith – I think you have to give credit to someone who basically invents a new genre in the 21st century. This was the first Classic Novel Horror Mashup, and there’s a bunch of others, including Romeo and Juliet, Sense and Sensibility, and P & P & Z even has it’s own sequels and prequels. Excellent.

    A mixed bag:

    Zombie Blondes, Brian James – Hannah is the new girl in a town where the many houses for sale and the, well, deathly quiet suggest something’s wrong. Hannah seems oblivious on her first day of school, when she meets the popular crowd: a group of cheerleaders who all look remarkably the same, and who Hannah really wants to be like.

    Zombies Versus Unicorns – more to the point, can you take a unicorn seriously? One or two writers have had a crack at it in this oddly fab collection of short stories.


  • Books, Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Dystopia Revisited

    30.04.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Dystopia Revisited

    Since we published our list of Top 10 Dystopian novels (see it here), the publishing world has gone a bit barmy for them, the result being heaps and heaps more to choose from. So, it might be time for another list! Here’s the 10 dystopian novels (and series) I have enjoyed the most since (or more accurately, found the most gripping).

    1. The Chaos Walking trilogy, Patrick Ness – Todd lives in a strange world where only men exist, and they can hear each other’s thoughts, which are a constant “Noise” that is inescapable. While out with his dog, Manchee – who can talk – Todd finds an odd “hole” in the Noise, and it is his interaction with this whole that will send him on the most incredible, dangerous, hard journey you could possibly imagine: the books read like a nightmare rollercoaster. 
    2. The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins – speaking of nightmare rollercoasters.
    3. Blood Red Road, Moira Young – this was fab! It’s a dangerous, post-apocalyptic road trip, where the danger comes more from some truly heinous characters than the desert-like landscape. There’s a kick-ass heroine, a witty and confident, mysterious hero, and a crow. Plus there will be a sequel. And a movie.
    4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan – Mary lives in a fenced village in the middle of the forest of hands and teeth; fenced, because the forest of hands and teeth is peopled with zombies (the Unconsecrated) with an undying drive to bite. When the village’s fortifications are compromised Mary must flee in the ensuing chaos, down the paths that run through the forest, following mysterious symbols that might lead her to the sea she dreams of. Rather tense. This book has two companions, The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places.
    5. A Long, Long Sleep, Anna Sheehan – a dystopian take on the sleeping beauty fairytale. Rose is, in effect, a society princess. Her parents are high flying elite, rich enough to afford a stas chamber, in which you can sleep for years without aging. So, one day Rose is woken with a kiss (as in, the kiss of life), to find she’s sixty two years in the future and everyone she knows is long gone. She must struggle to adjust to a whole new society, a new life, but there’s much worse: a terminator-like killing machine that’s out to get her, and the truth about her long, long sleep.
    6. Matched and Crossed, Ally Condie – this kind of goes together with:
    7. Delirium and Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver – these two series have, it is often pointed out, similar storylines. The characters live in societies that attempt to control human emotions, since it is human emotions that have caused all societal catastrophes in the past. They rule with an iron grip, but what happens when someone beings to question the rules, regulations, and truths that have been hammered into them all their lives? Not towing the party line, risking and living a little, and following your heart can lead you on a dangerous journey!
    8. Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi. I don’t think very much of the cover (sorry cover!), or the tag line on the cover (it needs a paper bag really). But! It’s a really good read. Lots of action, and a heroine and hero who learn things along the way, and develop, and don’t fall floppily in love with each other after a few moments.
    9. Divergent, Veronica Roth – the Veronicas! This one is soon to be followed by Insurgent. People have gone quite crazily enthusiastic for Divergent. If you’re after a gripping read with suspense, a courageous heroine and an aloof, super-cool hero, then please read! My only problem with Divergent is the idea central to its dystopian-ness, being that society is divided into factions based on character traits and behaviours (why?). I also hoped that the names for the factions could have been cooler. Still, am looking forward to reading the next!
    10. The Maze Runner trilogy, James Dashner – In The Maze Runner, Thomas wakes up in a lift that is climbing for what seems to be an eternity into a nightmare world, where a group of boys survive together in “The Maze” of shifting walls, and hideous machine-bug-like monsters. He has no recollection of his past, apart from a sense of having been here before, and a yearning to become one of the maze runners, who map the maze in the hope of finding a way out.

    But there’s much more! Here’s a selection of dystopian fiction (and other book lists are here).


  • Books, Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Books With Happy Endings

    04.04.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Books With Happy Endings

    This is to go with Top 10 Tearjerkers, for balance. The tearjerkers were a whole lot easier to find than the happy endings. Perhaps a happy ending is a lot harder to write well? So, without giving away too many punchlines, here is a selection of happy and happier endings.

    1. My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger
    2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan
    3. Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan
    4. Fly on the Wall, E Lockhart
    5. Dairy Queen, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    6. I’ll Be There, Holly Goldberg Sloan
    7. How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr
    8. One Whole and Perfect Day, Judith Clarke
    9. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    10. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen


  • Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Tearjerkers

    21.02.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Tearjerkers

    Do you like a really good sad story? We do. Here’s some.

    1. The Fault in our Stars, John Green. Not wanting to give too much away: here’s an excellent reader review.
    2. Before I Die, Jenny Downham. Tessa is terminally ill. Deciding to make the most of the time she’s got left, she creates a List of Things to Do, but not of the “book appointment at the dentist” and “flea the cat” variety.
    3. Looking for Alaska, John Green. John Green, king of the weepies apparently. Looking for Alaska was his first novel, and it promptly won a very prestigious award. The chapters in the first half count down ominously (like, “one hundred thirty-six days before”), but you’re still not prepared for day 0.
    4. If I Stay, Gayle Forman. Mia and her family are in a truly horrific car accident, which only Mia survives – just. Hovering in a coma in hospital, she must choose between fighting for her life and letting go to be with her family.
    5. The Outsiders, S E Hinton. Stay gold, Ponyboy. This is a classic story of gang rivalry. Ponyboy is a Greaser, from the wrong side of the tracks: the Socs are from the right side, and they know it. The rivalry between the two is heated, and boils over into an act of violence that changes everything.
    6. Th1rteen R3asons Why, Jay Asher. Clay receives thirteen cassette tapes in the post from a classmate who recently killed herself. These tapes send him on a heartbreaking tour around town, as Hannah describes events that led up to her decision to end her life.
    7. Sweethearts, Sara Zarr. Once upon a time Jennifer and Cameron were best friends and social outcasts, until Cameron and his family leave town suddenly. Now, years later, Jennifer has transformed into Jenna, one of the popular girls in school. When Cameron makes a surprise reappearance Jenna’s life is turned on its head.
    8. The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson. Lennie is withdrawn and reserved. Her sister, Bailey, was the opposite: a shining light until her sudden death. The Sky is Everywhere captures Lennie’s passage through grief and self-discovery as she confronts her life of confusing relationships in the wake of personal tragedy.
    9. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak. In World War 2 Germany, Death narrates the story Liesel, a young girl with an irresistible urge to steal books. There are sad bits of course.
    10. Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson. This one is in the children’s fiction collection, but it’s a real howling sad story, so it’s here, in this list. Then you can graduate to the movie, with a large box of tissues.


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