Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Teen Blog

Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Tag: strong women

New Simultaneous Collections on OverDrive!

We heard a rumour that you guys might quite like books. We also like books. So, we’ve created a new collection of always-available eBooks and audiobooks for you to enjoy any time, anywhere. Check out the Teen Book Club Reads section on OverDrive or Libby for the full list, but for now, here are some of our faves:

Overdrive cover Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan (ebook)
{LGBTQ+, romance, slice-of-life}
Two Boys Kissing is a cornerstone work of queer YA literature. Told from the perspectives of four boys “under the watchful eyes of a Greek chorus of a generation of men lost to AIDS,” this book explores questions of identity and emotion, and the often intimate connections between history and the personal. While you’re drying your eyes and restoring your breathing patterns to normal following this essential book, check out our LGBTQIA+ Fiction booklist for your next literary fix.

Overdrive cover Aspiring, Damien Wilkins (ebook)
{NZ author, small town, coming-of-age}
We’ve already talked about our enduring love for this book, which is a finalist in the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, on a previous post on this very blog. Trust us when we say that you will not regret immersing yourself in the unforgettably wry and observational voice of 15-year-old Ricky, crafted and shaped by Damien Wilkins’ bold and beguiling prose.

Overdrive cover Monster, Michael Grant (ebook)
{dystopian, science fiction, action}
From the author of the crazily popular Gone series comes this new trilogy, available for the first time on OverDrive as a Book Club read. In the aftermath of the Perdido Beach meteorite and the deadly wave of mutations that followed, Earth is once again being struck by meteorites bearing an even more deadly virus. This time, the whole world is exposed, and humans are beginning to change, again, some gaining unfathomable power. Sound like your kind of thing? We have the follow-ups Hero and Villain available for your delectation as well.

Overdrive cover You Can Do a Graphic Novel, Barbara Slate (ebook)
{non fiction, art, creative writing, comics}
If you’ve ever been interested in the art of creating graphic novels and comics, this nifty guide is meant for you! It starts at the start — with the story — and shows you the ropes as you move through the whole creative process, from drawing techniques and layout/structure tips, to how to deal with creative block and building strong and recognisable characters. Who knows, we may just see your work on our shelves in the zine collections at Arapaki, He Matapihi, and Newtown Libraries!

Overdrive cover Feminism, Nadia Abushanab Higgins (ebook)
{non fiction, feminism, social sciences, women}
This book is a concise and well-written introduction to the concepts and movements embodied by the word ‘feminism,’ which author Nadia Abushanab Higgins describes as “America’s new F-word.” Although it does have an undeniable focus on the history and contemporary definitions of feminism in the United States, it still provides a useful international perspective on the movement through really interesting profiles of pioneers including Gloria Steinem, Rebecca Walker, Elizabeth Stanton, and more. If you’re interested in the intersectionality between feminism and the Black Lives Matter and #GiveNothingToRacism movements, we have a great introduction for you here.

Valkyries and Liars: Book Reviews

There are some good books around at the moment! Here’s a couple I’ve enjoyed recently:

The Strange Maid, Tessa Gratton

If you haven’t read the United States of Asgard books yet then you should! This is a companion novel to The Lost Sun – it’s not really a sequel because it starts before The Lost Sun, then catches up and passes it. You could read this one first; it might be a bit spoilery but you wouldn’t be confused.

The United States of Asgard are an alternative United States where the Norse gods are real and preside over the running of the country, where there are Beserkers, Valkyries and trolls – it’s a bit dystopian (the trolls help here), but also not at the same time. The Strange Maid introduces Signy Valborn, a Valkyrie-in-waiting who has received a prophetic riddle from Odin she must solve (and, in doing so, fulfill her destiny). Signy is a tough customer with a troubled past, and she’s not going to be outdone by the riddle or other people’s disappointment in her. When a strange man tells her he knows the answer she jumps at the opportunity to crack it, even if the solution is dangerous to the point of impossibility.

This is a great read, particularly if you like strong female characters (too busy being kick-ass to be nice sometimes), a lot of action, and a bit of poetry mixed in here and there. It’s also a good introduction to Beowulf. Really recommend it!

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart strikes again! We loved Frankie Landau-Banks, and have waited ages for this one.

An old, privileged East-Coast American family owns an island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, and every summer they stay there, each branch of the family in their own house. Cadence, a couple of her cousins and a close friend make up the Liars, and they’re inseparable.

That’s as far as I go because I don’t want to spoil things, because the book has big secrets! It might not have important things to say like Frankie does, but, wow, that ending will catch you unawares (unless you go snooping for clues on the internet – but we definitely don’t recommend doing that!).

~ Grimm

Braveheart

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein.

“I AM A COWARD,” begins Verity. “I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.”

“Verity” has been captured in a town in France because she looked the wrong way crossing the road, crashing into a truck right outside Gestapo headquarters in 1943. So, she’s not the most talented spy the British have ever seen then, or is she? Tortured by Gestapo Captain von Linden and his underlings, Verity has cracked under the intense pressure, and agreed to give up British war secrets in exchange for her clothes (“The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly jumper are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity”). She tells her story on recipe cards, music scores and doctor’s prescription forms, gradually revealing the truth about herself, the British espionage effort, and her best friend Maddie – who flew her across the Channel to begin her short-lived mission – all the time loathing herself for her cowardice, and being loathed by her fellow prisoners. Her story reaches its stressful conclusion about half way into the novel, and I shall say no more!

Except, Code Name Verity is an awesome World War II espionage novel. “Verity” is a wonderfully unreliable narrator (would you trust a spy?), and her story is of two heroic young women who throw themselves headlong into the war with unexpected and frightening consequences. Bring your hankie, or two.

Elizabeth Wein has said this novel was inspired by her research into female pilots in World War II (as a pilot herself – cool! – she wondered what role she could have played), and you can read about her other literary inspirations for the story in this Book Smugglers post here.

If you’re also interested in reading more about women’s participation in World War II (the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, for example), then here are some titles.

Also, Flygirl by Sherri L Smith is about an African American woman who pretends to be white in order to be accepted into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

~ Grimm

It’s not easy being queen

Bitterblue is the third book by American writer Kristin Cashore (blog here), and acts as a companion to Graceling and Fire.

Bitterblue has been Queen of Monsea for eight years when the novel opens. Being Queen of Monsea, in practice, means struggling under a great weight of paperwork supplied by her trusted advisors, who assure her that it is indeed essential to the running of her kingdom. It also means she is isolated from her friends (who are busy overthrowing kings in other countries), and increasingly frustrated by how little she knows about Bitterblue City and Monsea. It is hardly surprising then, when one night she snatches the opportunity to escape the castle and explore the streets in disguise, finding herself drawn to a pub where a storyteller has his audience enthralled.

This begins an intricate journey of discovery for Bitterblue and the people of Monsea, who have been kept from the truth first by Leck (Bitterblue’s heinous father, as seen in Graceling and Fire), and then by a misguided assumption that sweeping things under the carpet and quietly moving on is the best way of dealing with attrocities. Bitterblue is about secrets, lies, and the truth that slowly wangles its way out of hiding. (And also adventure and romance.)

Bitterblue is a quiet, page-turning read. There’s a large cast of characters, all with strengths and weaknesses – it’s hard to separate the goodies from the baddies, which is mostly the point. Bitterblue herself differs from Kristin Cashore’s other two heroines (Katsa and Fire), in that she doesn’t have a special power and isn’t (she thinks) particularly beautiful (describing herself as being built like an eggplant), but she does have a large amount of pluck and courage and wit, proving that you don’t have to be magic to be strong, and being strong is an admirable quality in a heroine.

Apart from being a great story, Bitterblue has some other features:

  • – Cyphers! I never really understood how cyphers work, but now I do! Just don’t ask me to explain.
  • – Illustrations – some nice pictures by Ian Schoenherr, including of Monster Bridge, Winged Bridge, Winter Bridge.
  • – “A Who’s Who of the World as We Know It” (a list of characters) – compiled by Bitterblue’s excellent royal librarian, Death (which rhymes with teeth, you see).

You can read the first couple of chapters here. There’s also a website with extras.

~ Grimm