A bit late with this post, but better late than never! Here are some of the best books about living as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley
Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, makes a living repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside one another. The white Feldish command the nation’s higher echelons of society; the native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there’s Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated there generations ago and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm’s edges. When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice, Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon’s theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit’s murder—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers Ang a job investigating the death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers.
Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city’s mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon’s theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah’s haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos. (Goodreads)
First lines: The last person up here never made it down alive, but there was no point thinking about that. Instead, I did what I always did-focused on the work, on the exact effort of muscle, the precise positioning of bone and boot that made it all possible. Right now, that meant pushing hard with my feet against the vertical surface of one wall while my shoulders strained against another, three feet away.
The bombs that brought us together, Brian Conaghan
Fourteen-year-old Hamish Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever. Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Hamish is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.(Goodreads)
First lines: It was hard to remain silent. I tried. I really did, but my breathing was getting louder as I gasped for clean air. My body was trembling, adding noise to the silence. Mum pulled me closer to her, holding tight. Dad cuddled us both. Three spoons under one duvet. With the summer heat and us huddled together the smell wasn’t amusing.
The geek’s guide to unrequited love, Sarvenaz Tash
Graham met his best friend, Roxy, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since. But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books. When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.(Goodreads)
First lines: “I know we’ve been friends for such a long time, Roxana. I only have about five years’ worth of memories without you in them. But…”
Here’s where the next panel would come. And in an ideal world, I’d ask Roxy to help me figure it out. She would sketch something, sometimes just a ghost of a line, and on the best of days, a dying ember would ignite and suddenly I’d know exactly what came next.
Agent of Chaos, Kami Garcia
How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers. The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news. The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.(Goodreads)
First lines: Packs of teenagers, pumped for the official start of spring break, rushed past the black sedan parked across from the high school, unaware they were being watched from behind the car’s tinted windows. Jocks wearing Wilson High jerseys carried pretty cheerleaders on their shoulders, enjoying the chance to final touch some thigh. Other guys horsed around in the road, showing off for girls in tight jeans who pretended not to notice them.
Kids of appetite, David Arnold
Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell. It begins with the death of Vic’s father.It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle. The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it. But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.(Goodreads)
First lines: Consider this: billions of people in the world, each with billions of I ams. I am a quiet observer, a champion wallflower. I am a lover of art, the Mets, the memory of Dad. I represent approximately one seven-billionth of the population; these are my momentous multitudes, and that’s just for starters.
In the skin of a monster, Kathryn Barker
Three years ago, Alice’s identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the same face as a monster. She’s struggling with her identity, and with life in the small Australian town where everyone was touched by the tragedy. Just as Alice thinks things can’t get much worse, she encounters her sister on a deserted highway. But all is not what it seems, and Alice soon discovers that she has stepped into a different reality, a dream world, where she’s trapped with the nightmares of everyone in the community. Here Alice is forced to confront the true impact of everything that happened the day her twin sister took a gun to school … and to reveal her own secret to the boy who hates her most. (Goodreads)
First lines: The night before you shot up our school, I slept like a baby. So much for twins having some kind of mysterious connection. I was probably dreaming of fluffy bunnies, or something stupid, when you crept out of our bedroom and nicked Dad’s gun.
Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say. Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home. There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?(Goodreads)
First lines: Some children are just born bad, plain and simple. These are the children that don’t live up to the statistics. One cannot blame their surroundings or upbringings for their behaviour. It’s not a scientifically proven inheritable trait. These children are sociological phenomena.
Before you forget, Julia Lawrinson
Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia. (Goodreads)
First lines: Someone yelling wakes me up. I have no idea what time it is. I jump out of bed and head for the kitchen. I almost collide with Mum, who’s also coming out of her room.
“Go back to bed,” she whispers.
Pushing perfect, Michelle Falkoff
Kara has the perfect life. She gets perfect grades. She never messes up. Until now. Because perfection is an illusion, and Kara has been struggling to maintain it for as long as she can remember. With so much pressure to succeed, it’s hard not to do whatever it takes. But when Kara takes a new underground drug to help her ace the SATs, she doesn’t expect to get a text from a blocked sender, telling her to follow a set of mysterious instructions—or risk her dark secret getting out. Soon she finds herself part of a group of teens with secrets of their own, who are all under the thumb of the same anonymous texter. And if they don’t find a way to stop the blackmailer, their perfect futures will go up in flames.(Goodreads)
First lines: During the summer between eight and ninth grade, I turned into a monster. It didn’t happen overnight; it’s not like I woke up one day, looked in the mirror, and let out a dramatic scream. But it still felt like it happened really fast.
Valentine, Jodi McAlister
Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her. Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too. Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about…(Goodreads)
First lines: We might have been at the old stables, but the last thing any of us had expected to see was a horse. No one’s gone and changed the meaning of the word ‘abandoned’ on me, have they? Because I was pretty clear that it meant deserted, vacant, empty, assorted other shift+F7 adjectives. Abandoned stables = devoid of horses.
Whether in the face of the elements, climate change, mysterious conspiracies or zombies…here are my top picks for books about surviving (or not) against the odds. These aren’t easy reads, but they’re testament to the human spirit in challenging and overcoming.
Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
This is a classic and for good reason. After a plane crash, Brian finds himself alone with only the titular hatchet to help him survive in the middle of the wilderness. I haven’t read it for a while and I really appreciated it on the re-read. There are few other characters that appear but the majority of the book is Brian vs. nature. “One flip of the coin”, Brian thinks at one point, is all that stands between him and disaster. My heart was in my mouth until the very end.
Not a drop to drink, Mindy McGinnis
“Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.” Lynn is lucky; she lives by a pond in a world where there is little water. She will defend it, even if it means killing to do so. But a stranger comes Lynn has to make some hard decisions about what to do about her water. Often these survival novels deal with people who are lacking something – this is one of the few that deals with the choices an individual has to make when they have control of the resources; when it’s not a question of your survival, but other people’s.
A drop of night, Stefan Bachmann
Anouk is contacted by a mysterious corporation, asking her to apply for a spot on a team of “talented young people” to explore an archaeological site, unlike any other. This one is an underground palace dating from the French Revolution somewhere near Paris. Of course, not everything is what it seems. I really enjoyed this book; it’s an intriguing premise and the book’s pace doesn’t let up.
The girl who owned a city, by O.T. Nelson ; adapted by Dan Jolley ; illustrated by Joëlle Jones
This is one of my favourite graphic novels ever. A plague has killed off everyone over the age of 12, leaving the children in a world where their main threat is each other. Is it survival of the fittest or is there an option to create a better world?
Bleeding earth, Kaitlin Ward
Lea and her girlfriend Aracely have enough to deal with in their lives, hiding their relationship from Aracely’s father. Then the earth starts bleeding, literally, and their struggle for survival begins. Quite apart from the representation of GLBTQ characters in genre fiction (which is great!), this a heartrending story of realising what the people you love are capable of when their lives are on the line.
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.
We’ve all heard of Twilight. But perhaps it’s time to try something different…
Afterlife with Archie, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
I know what you’re thinking. Archie, wholesome hero of almost 77 years of comics set in the all-American town of Riverdale, fighting against the Undead? It’s a strange concept, but a concept that works. The art’s not the usually cartoony Archie style, which is also good. I don’t want to give the plot away, but it’s well worth a look.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, Andi Watson
This is a rather wacky take on your bog-standard supernatural romance. Princess Decomposia spends most of her life running the kingdom while her hypochondriac father lies in bed. On her to do list is to hire a new cook. Luckily, Count Spatula appears. He’s a charming chap with a knack for baking impressive meals. It’s hardly the most terrifying story of love between the undead, but Halloween is equally parts “treat” to “trick.”** A nice break from all the chewing on brains.
The forest of hands and teeth, Carrie Ryan
What happens ten years after the zombie apocalypse? Twenty? This book is set in an undefined period of time after the zombies – here called “Unconsecrated” – have apparently taken over the world. It’s a wonderful blend of horror and dystopia and a really great look at how humanity copes with the undead after the initial attack. It’s also an interesting coming of age story about a young woman struggling with the traditions she’s grown up with and the promise of a world outside all that she’s ever known.
The abused werewolf rescue group, Catherine Jinks
Tobias Richard Vandevelde begins his lycanthropic journey not howling under the moon on a deserted moor but naked in a dingo pen. After that rather inglorious start thing escalate, and the titular group comes into play. I’ve been a fan of Catherine Jinks for a long time, so I was pretty excited to find out she’d written something in my favourite genre. Fair warning, though: you won’t find handsome men with rippling abs brooding under the full moon in this book. Refreshing, really.
**It took me a long time to think of this sentence and I refuse to apologise for it.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said something that has formed the basis of many fictional story. “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…” Whether or not the protagonists in these stories have won that particular battle is up to you.
The monstrumologist, Rick Yancey
Will Henry, an orphan, becomes an assistant to the titular character, an acerbic man called Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe. Be warned: the monsters in this book are nasty and the author pulls no punches in describing the gore and mayhem they cause.
The haunting of Alaizibel Cray, Chris Wooding
Monsters known as wych-kin have overrun an alternate-history London. Thaniel Fox is one of the best wych-hunters in London, along side his mentor, Cathaline Bennett. But he needs all his wit and skill when he encounters Alaizibel Cray and the horrific conspiracy that surrounds her…This is one of my favourite YA novels ever. This is a book not just about a few characters but an entire city in the grip of a terror caused by human and monster alike. Disease, poverty and violence stalk the streets – the wych-kin are only the beginning of this London’s problems.
Riverkeep, Martin Stewart
Unlike the other monster-hunters, Wulliam Fobisher has his sights set on a single monster: the mormorach, a magical but deadly creature that may be able to save his afflicted father. Riverkeep’s one of the most original and interesting novels I’ve read this year, with an enthralling fantasy world populated by all sorts of strange people.
The girl from the well, Rin Chupeco
“I am where the dead children go.”
This is a rarity in the “monster hunter” genre. Okiku is an unavenged spirit who seeks to avenge the murdered souls of others – the monsters she hunts are very human and very alive. It starts out with a terrifying chapter in which this is described. This is the first in a series – make sure you read them all, it’s well worth it.
Everyone loves a good ghost story, right? We’ve got so many that it was hard to pick my favourites.
The time of the ghost, Diana Wynne Jones
This was Diana Wynne Jones’ thirteenth book ever published; a Goodreads commenter pondered if this was an accident. Even if it wasn’t, it’s a genuinely creepy story told from a ghost’s perspective, as she tries to work out which of four sisters she is and how to prevent an “accident” she knows is coming. Then there’s a strange malevolent force that the sisters seem to have called up…
Frozen charlotte, Alex Bell
A drowning, a fire and a series of mysterious deaths at linked to a closed school; all are connected through a group of mysterious dolls known as Frozen Charlottes. Frozen Charlottes are a real type of doll by the way and their backstory is just as (if not more) morbid than the one in the book.
Long lankin, Lindsey Barraclough
An ancient evil stirs when two sisters are sent to live with their reclusive Aunt Ida. This book’s a bit of a slow burn; the terror and unease slowly growing as Cora, the elder of the two, discovers more and more about the mysteries of the old family home. This is not only a terrifying story of a ghost, but an interesting look at how a whole community can be haunted by the spectres of the past.
The graveyard book, Neil Gaiman
This is a warm, witty and sometimes outright terrifying retelling of the Jungle Book. The young hero, Nobody Owens, is raised in a graveyard by its mysterious and ghostly denizens. But a mysterious stranger threatens his home and himself, and he must find the courage to fight back. Chris Riddell – one of my favourite artists – provides some amazing illustrations as well.
Johnny and the Dead, Terry Pratchett
Johnny, an ordinary guy, meets a bunch of dead people in the cemetery, which is facing destruction at the hands of a local business. They’re not ghosts and get very offended when you suggest that they are, but they’re certainly not keen on being moved from their graves. Johnny decides he has to help. Unlike the others, this is more funny than scary – but well worth reading after if the other titles are keeping you awake…
The gilded cage, Lucinda Grey
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident. A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too? (Goodreads)
First lines: I heft the gun to my shoulder, feeling its familiar weight and the heat of the metal through my dress. Sighting along the barrel, I curl my finger around the trigger. The world shrinks around my target as I breathe in. Exhaling, I squeeze.
Canyons, Gary Paulsen
Two boys, separated by the canyons of time and two vastly different cultures, face the challenges by which they become men. Coyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid — the one that will usher him into manhood. He is to be a man for but a short time….More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it was the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find any peace until Coyote Runs’ skull is returned to an ancient sacred place. In a grueling run through the canyon to return the skull, Brennan faces the challenge of his life. (Goodreads)
First lines: Soon he would be a man. Not after months, or years, as it had been, but in a day. In a day Coyote Runs would be a man and take the new name which only he would know because finally after fourteen summers they were taking him on a raid.
Words in deep blue, Cath Crowley
This is a love story. It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets. It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.(Goodreads)
First lines: I open my eyes at midnight to the sound of the ocean and my brother’s breathing. It’s been ten months since Cal drowned, but the dreams still escape.
A separate peace, John Knowles
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war. Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
First lines: I went back to the Devon school not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student fifteen years before. It seemed more sedate than I remembered it, more perpendicular and straight-laced, with narrower windows and shinier woodwork, as though a coat of varnish had been pit over everything for better preservation.
The graces, Laure Eve
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on? (Goodreads)
First lines: Everyone said they were witches. I desperately wanted to believe it. I’d only been at this school a couple of months, but I saw how it was. They loved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wakes, stares following their backs and their hair.
Three truths and a lie, Brent Hartinger
Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.
Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.
Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.
Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.
Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.
One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is. (Goodreads)
First lines: It was my fault, everything that happened that weekend. It’s hard for me to admit that, but it’s the truth. I was the one who suggested going away in the first place. If I hadn’t had that dumb idea, who knows how things would’ve ended?
As I descended, Robin Talley
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word. But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily. Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line. (Goodreads)
First lines: The Ouija board was Lily’s idea. Maria warned her not to go through with it, but Lily didn’t listen. She went onto eBay while Maria was at soccer practice and bought the prettiest board she could find. A “genuine antique” she called it.
Blame, Simon Mayo
What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed? That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.
Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame. (Goodreads)
First lines: The girl with the pudding-bowl haircut crawled out of her bedroom, edging her way to the bannisters. She lay flat on the carpet and peered down into the hall. She watched as a white man in a smart coat half steered, half carried a black woman through the open front door.
The reader: sea of ink and gold, Traci Chee
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book. Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learnes, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning. (Goodreads)
First lines: Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story. Once there was a world called Kelanna, a wonderful and terrible world of water and ships and magic. The people of Kelanna were like you in many ways – they spoke and worked and died-but they were different in one very important respect: they couldn’t read.
Long dark dusk, JP Smythe
The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before. As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive – but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost. But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again? (Goodreads)
First lines: She says that her name is Alala, but I’m not sure if I believe her. She says that it has a meaning, that in the language her ancestors spoke it would carry some weight, but she doesn’t know what it is now. Nobody remembers. It’s a word that has been lost, from a language that went under the sea.
What I couldn’t tell you, Faye Bird
When love turns to jealousy, when jealousy turns to rage, when rage turns to destruction…Laura was head over heels in love with Joe. But now Laura lies in a coma and Joe has gone missing. Was he the one who attacked her? Laura’s sister Tessie is selectively mute. She can’t talk but she can listen. And as people tell her their secrets, she thinks she’s getting close to understanding what happened on that fateful night. (Goodreads)
“I love you.”
She said it.
She just said it.
She’d been waiting to say it, and there it was.
The fail safe, Jack Heath
Everyone seems to know who Fero is – except Fero. Is he a ruthless boy soldier from Besmar, or an innocent teen recruit from Kamau? He’s running out of time to decide. If he doesn’t help a renegade spy steal a politician’s briefcase, his two countries could end up in a full blown nuclear war – the kind that no one wins. (Goodreads)
“Why are we doing this?” Fero asked.
“Because potassium iodide stops radiation from-”
“From reaching the thyroid gland. You said. But won’t the shelter protect us.”
Street soldier, Andy McNab
Sean Harker is good at two things: stealing cars and fighting. One earns him money, the other earns him respect from the gang that he calls family.
A police chase through the city streets is just another rite of passage for Sean . . . as is getting nicked. But a brutal event behind bars convinces him to take charge, and turn his life around. Now he must put his street skills to the ultimate test: as a soldier in the British Army. And the battlefield is London, where innocent people are being targeted by a new and terrifying enemy. Undercover, under threat – only Sean Harker can save the streets from all-out war. (Goodreads)
First lines: A helicopter roared in enemy airspace. Its searchlight speared out of the warm night and swept over the rooftop. Sean Harker swore and ducked into the shadow of an air vent.
The last descendants, Matthew J. Kirby
Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn’t commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus — a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered legend — the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artefact — the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear to Owen that the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first. Under the guidance of Monroe, Owen and a group of other teenagers enter a simulation of memories they all share within their DNA: the 1863 draft riots in New York City. Owen and his companions will find themselves tested on the gritty streets of New York, and their experiences in the past will have far-reaching consequences in the present. (Goodreads)
First lines: The informant cleared his throat across the dinner table, his long frock coat unbuttoned, his hair greased and curled at his temples. Evening had quickly overtaken the townhouse, and the man had emptied his plate before delivering his message.
An unexpected hero, L.P Hansen
What could be worse, Matt Turner wonders, than having to leave your parents, friends and the buzz of big city life for a remote rural school that’s so small it only has two classrooms, and two teachers who are married to each other? The twelve-year old soon finds out that worse things can happen. A school project plunges him into his worst nightmare – he has to make a speech in public. Matt decides to speak about New Zealand’s First World War pacifist, Archibald Baxter. But is that a good idea in a district where almost every family has lost someone to war?” (Back cover)
First lines: Matt rummaged in his backpack, pretending to be looking for something so he could be the last one getting on the bus. It was his first morning at this country school, so he could be the last one getting on the bus.
It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that, a week after my post on Mary Shelley, a graphic adaptation of Frankenstein – “Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein” appeared on the new books shelf. Bad timing! But then this has to be one of the best graphic adaptations of any classic novel I’ve ever read. It takes text directly from Frankenstein, and the illustrator/editor, Gris Grimly, is an amazing artist. The art itself has a gothic, vaguely steampunk vibe; Boris Karloff eat your heart out, because this is the best depiction of the ‘monster’ I’ve ever seen. Please, please, if you’ve got any interest in Frankenstein, pick this one up.
Podcasts are just the thing for shelving, I find, but I often struggle to find good ones. So I was excited to find four that I really enjoy. Like a lot of my recommendations, they err on the side of the creepy and/or mysterious. All are free and all are available on iTunes. All have quality voice acting and excellent production values.
The Black Tapes
Borrowing Serial’s format, this (fictional) podcast follows Alex Reagan, a reporter investigation Dr. Strand, a mysterious figure who’s offered a million dollars for scientific evidence of the supernatural. The podcast takes its name from a mysterious collection of tapes that contain footage that Dr. Strand has never been able to definitively debunk. What seems a straightforward assignment takes Alex (and the listeners) on a strange journey involving mysterious deaths, sacred geometry and Dr. Strand’s missing wife.
Tanis is made by the same people who make The Black Tapes- both in real life and in universe. Like The Black Tapes, the podcast follows a single journalist, Nic Silver, as he investigates the mysterious concept or place or conspiracy known as Tanis. Nic is searching for a real mystery in the internet age – like Alex, he finds a lot more than he’s looking for. While TBT focuses on the supernatural, Tanis skews more to strange conspiracies. Nic relies on the services of Meerkatnip, a hacker who spends as much time wryly dealing with Nic’s naivety as searching for information on the hidden side of the internet.
Both are in their second season, so there’s a plenty to catch up on.
Limetown’s my pick for the best of the bunch – once again, a journalist seeks to find out the truth, this time behind the mysterious disappearance of over 300 people from a small town in America. Like Tanis and TBT, the journalist gets a lot more than she’s bargained for; the tense atmosphere starts at episode 2 and doesn’t let up until its shocking conclusion. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of a second season, but there may be a TV show in the future and the creators are working on a prequel novel.
Alice isn’t dead
Like the previous three, Alice isn’t dead follows a narrator chasing after a central mystery; what happened to her wife, Alice, whom she had presumed dead. Unlike the others, the narrator isn’t a professional journalist; instead, she’s a long haul truck driver, transporting mundane domestic items across America. The podcast consists of her audio diaries, which she narrates to Alice. Along the way, the narrator encounters many other strange occurances and people, some of which are connected to the central mystery of Alice, others which are not.