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  • Grimm, Top 10

    Amazon’s Top Ten Books for Teens in 2011

    17.11.11 | Permalink | Comments Off on Amazon’s Top Ten Books for Teens in 2011

    Hello! It is November, which means the annual Best Of lists are emerging. Amazon.com has released its Best Books lists: here’s what they have chosen as the top ten books for teens:

    1. Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor
    2. Delirium, Lauren Oliver
    3. Exposed, Kimberly Marcus
    4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
    5. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
    6. The Running Dream, Wendelin Van Draanen
    7. Divergent, Veronica Roth
    8. The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
    9. You Against Me, Jenny Downham
    10. Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, Richard Paul Evans

    What do you think? Looks like a pretty good list to me (lists with 10 things on them being inherently pleasing).

  • Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Ballet Fiction

    03.11.11 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Ballet Fiction

    Thanks to Natalie Portman and Black Swan and whatnot, ballet is resurgent and popular! There is plenty of storyline potential in ballet, with dancers driven to succeed, and the mysterious inner workings of dance companies and schools. This list is a sort of companion to the theatre list, and also as a salute to mum, a ballet fiend, and other ballet fiends like her:

    1. Bunheads, Sophie Flack – Great cover! Nice title! Hannah is consumed by her ballet – the hours of rehearsals, the performances – until she meets Jacob, a free-spirit musician. Her growing relationship with him helps give her a new perspective on life, and ballet’s place in it.
    2. Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfield – this is a classic children’s book, so if you haven’t read it maybe you must? Either that, or you could cheat and watch the DVD with Emma Watson of Hermione fame.
    3. Dancing in the Dark, Robyn Bavati – not the song by Bruce Springsteen. In this a girl born into a strict Jewish family is not allowed ballet lessons, so (as often happens with forbidden things) she learns in secret and begins to question the world she lives in.
    4. The Splendour Falls, Rosemary Clement-Moore – with a supernatural twist! Sylvie’s broken leg ruins her ballet career, and after her father dies her mother ships her off from New York to Alabama. Everyone knows that mysterious, unexplainable things happen in the deep south.
    5. Rose Sees Red, Cecil Castellucci – set in 1982, when the USA was at loggerheads with the USSR. Rose is an American teen who lives to dance, and Yrena is her next door neighbour, a Russian ballet dancer performing in New York and sick of being confined in her apartment. One night, Yrena makes a bold escape, out her bedroom window and into Rose’s, and what follows is a night out on the town, which would be great in New York.
    6. Fish Feet, Veronica Bennett – not exactly a title the screams ballet, but nonetheless! Erik loves ballet and football, but when he decides to audition for the Royal Ballet School he faces the prospect of letting down his football team: you can imagine how understanding they are. A book about branching out, taking a risk, and being different.
    7. A Company of Swans, Eva Ibbotson – Swan Lake in the Amazon jungle! “Defying her father, Harriet runs away to join the ballet on a journey to the Amazon. In a grand opera house, deep in the heart of the wild jungle, she performs Swan Lake – and falls in love with a mysterious British exile. But Harriet’s father has tracked her down… and her new life is under threat.” (catalogue)
    8. The Melting Season, Celeste Conway – “Giselle, the sheltered daughter of two famous ballet dancers, comes to terms with her relationships with both her late father and her mother, realizing some important truths that help her move forward both in her life and with her own dancing.” (catalogue)
    9. The Kings Are Already Here, Garret Freymann-Weir – Phebe takes the summer off from training to be a ballet dancer to stay with her father in Switzerland. There she meets Nikolai, a young chess champion on his own quest to find legendary chess player Stas Vlajnik. Phebe organises a search to find Stas, and together with Nikolai and her father, travels across Europe following her leads.
    10. Audition, Louise Kehoe. Sara wins a scholarship to study ballet. Her life as a full-time dancer in training is hard, but enjoyable (including being the muse of Remington, choreographer), but she starts to question her life’s direction when she discovers a love of writing.

  • Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Translated Novels

    26.08.11 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Translated Novels

    So what are people reading in other languages? Wellington City Libraries has a small but growing collection of translated young adult fiction (as well as the super popular manga series). If you’re interested in reading something that started life in another language here’s a fairly comprehensive list of what we’ve got. Also, here are a few highlights:

    1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nagaru Tanigawa (Japanese) – this is the first in a series of books about Haruhi Suzumiya, a teen with the ability to destroy the universe. In Melancholy, Haruhi and her friends set up an after school club dedicated to “finding aliens, time travelers, and other forms of supernatural life, with the intention of having fun with them”. Cool. Also, recommended by library staff.
    2. Nothing, Janne Teller (Danish) – a bleak rumination on nihilism that has received awards nominations and very positive reviews (here at the library also). Thirteen year old Pierre decides there’s no point to life, so his classmates set out to prove him wrong, with increasingly disturbing consequences.
    3. In the Sea there are Crocodiles, Fabio Geda (Italian) – new to the library! (Here’s a description.)
    4. Ruby Red, Kerstin Gier (German) – Interestingly set in London, although translated from German. Gwyneth’s cousin Charlotte is supposed to have the time-travelling gene, so she’s been prepared and trained for it since she was young. However, it’s Gwyneth, not Charlotte, who has the gift, so Gwyneth must find out why her mother has been trying to shield her from the truth, while travelling back in time to 18th century London with Gideon, a gifted traveller. One review suggests re-reading the first chapter after you’ve finished for insight into what’s going on. The first in a trilogy.
    5. No and Me, Delphine de Vigan (French) – Lou lives in a quietly disfunctional family, where her father is barely holding up and her mother hasn’t left their appartment for years. She meets No, a homeless girl, and invites her to live with them. A novel about ” the true nature of home and homelessness”.
    6. The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spanish) – A ‘haunting story of magic, mystery and adventure’, about a boy who moves to a house overlooking the sea and the mysterious (and terrifying!) Prince of the Mist. And a weird, staring cat.
    7. Message in a Bottle, Valerie Zenatti (French) – a story set around the Palestine-Israeli conflict. After witnessing a bombing in Tel Aviv, an Israeli girl pours her heart into an open letter and places it in a bottle, requesting her brother to throw it into the Gaza Sea. It is found and read by a young Palestinian man, who is at first angry, but responds and eventually their exchanges turn to friendship.
    8. Winter Song, Jean-Claude Mourlevat (French) – the Amazon.co.uk description is good: “Four teenagers escape from their prison-like boarding schools to take up the fight against the tyrannical government that murdered their parents fifteen years earlier. Fleeing across icy mountains from a pack of terrifying dog-men sent to hunt them down, only three of the friends make it safely to Jahn’s Restaurant, the headquarters of a secret resistance movement. It is here they learn about courage, freedom and love, and discover the astonishing power of one voice as the battle begins – to free a depressed and terrified nation from a generation of cruelty, and to save their captured friend, forced to fight to the death in a barbaric ancient game.”
    9. The Book of Everything, Guus Kuijer (Dutch) – The Book of Everything is nine-year-old Thomas’ diary, in which he writes his thoughts on everything. Thomas is ingenious, but his home life, especially with his ultra-religious father, is stifling Thomas’ ambition, which is to be “happy”.
    10. Planet of the Apes, Pierre Boulle (French) – easy to forget with all the movies that this was originally a French book, La Planète des singes. This is on our Classic Novels list here.

  • GLBT, Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Theatre

    04.03.11 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Theatre

    There’s a fair amount of fiction about drama, acting and theatres, which kind of makes sense, since drama is what fiction is about, in some form of another.

    1. Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev. Very weird and well written. Bertie has grown up in the Theatre Illuminata, a sort of magical place where some of the great characters of the theatre are actually real, including the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Peaseblossom and friends, and also the mysterious Ariel), and Nate the pirate-type (from The Little Mermaid I think?). Bertie is a bit accident prone, and also adventure prone, to the point where things get really out of control and the theatre is shaken to its foundations. Perchance to Dream, the sequel, is even more of a trip.
    2. Wondrous Strange, Lesley Livingston. The sequel is Darklight. Again there’s a sort of Midsummer Night’s Dream going on here. Kelley Winslow is a theatre actor who is about to have the faerie world unleashed on her (and vice versa), which involves having a horse hang out in her bath for several days, and meeting people like the mysterious Sonny Flannery, who guards the Samhain Gate behind which (and through which) bad things happen.
    3. Illyria, Elizabeth Hand. Yet more Shakespeare! This time cousins Madeleine and Rogan discover their acting talents in a production of Twelfth Night, as well as a problematic romance (they’re cousins). Narrated by Maddy as a reflection on the past, this was a winner of the World Fantasy Award. For older teens.
    4. The Jumbee, Pamela Keyes. A revisioning of The Phantom of the Opera, except where in Phantom it’s about the singing, here it’s all about the (Shakespearean) acting. After her father (who was a famous thespian) dies, Esti and her mother move to a Caribbean island where she attends a theatre school which appears to be haunted by a jumbee (ghost) with a gift for bringing Shakespeare alive and getting the best out of Esti’s talents.
    5. Cuckoo in the Nest, Michelle Magorian. Set in post World War II Britain. During the war Ralph received an education he otherwise wouldn’t have in his working class community, and develops a love for the theatre. When he returns to his family Ralph is caught between two worlds. He wants to become an actor, but this doesn’t sit well with his father at all, and Ralph must try and reconcile his background and his passion.
    6. Shakespeare’s Apprentice, Veronica Bennett. A historical love story of star crossed lovers (as in, like Romeo and Juliet). Sam is an actor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre group who performs (among other things) pieces written by the playwright William Shakespeare. Lucie is the niece of Lord Essex, and the two (most unsuitably) fall in love. Things get hairy when Lord Essex is convicted of treason.
    7. My Invented Life, Lauren Bjorkman. A comedy of errors (which Shakespeare was rather good at). Roz’s fantasy life sometimes gets in the way of reality. So, when she decides her sister Eva must be gay, she encourages her to come out by staging a (fake) coming out of her own. This sounds problematic already, but to make it more so, Roz has a large crush on Eva’s boyfriend Bryan. Oh the trials! The drama club’s production of As You Like It is the background for this one.
    8. Saving Juliet, Suzanne Selfors. Mimi is somewhat reluctantly performing as Juliet in her family’s Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet. On the final night, however, things get interesting when she and her leading man are transported to Verona (Shakespeare’s Verona, that is) and Mimi decides to help Juliet out a bit. But will she get back again.
    9. Malvolio’s Revenge, Sophie Masson. But wait, there’s more Twelfth Night, this time set in turn of the 20th century New Orleans. A group of travelling performers comes to New Orleans in the hope of staging their play, Malvolio’s Revenge, and stay at a plantation mansion called Illyria, the home of mysterious 17 year old Isabelle. Toby, the group’s young jack of all trades, “unravels the mysteries of Isabelle’s origins, [and] he begins to suspect something terrible will engulf them all.” (from goodreads.com)
    10. Talk, Kathe Koja. Kit is secretly gay, Lindsay is one of the popular crowd, and together they’re the stars of the school’s controversial play Talk. Lindsay falls for Kit, dumps her boyfriend, and therefore tests Kit’s real-life performance. The truth will out.

  • Lauren, Top 10

    Top 10: Laurens

    21.02.11 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Laurens

    1. Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver. Lauren Oliver’s blog is here. She uses blogger.com (if you’re interested in blogging).
    2. Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, Eileen Cook. This one gets the Lauren Award for the best book cover with the name Lauren in the title.
    3. TTYL, Lauren Myracle. TTFN and L8r, G8r too. Her blog is here.
    4. Fallen, Lauren Kate. There’s also Torment, and then Passion, which comes out in June (reserve it now! Become a Facebook fan).
    5. L A Candy, Lauren Conrad. The first in the series that also contains Sweet Little Lies and Sugar and Spice.
    6. Chestnut Hill series and the Heartland series, Lauren Brooke. For horse lovers.
    7. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger. We also have the DVD starring Anne Hathaway ($4 for one week).
    8. The rise and fall of a 10th-grade social climber, Lauren Mechling and Laura Moser. Lauren Mechling blogs using WordPress here.
    9. Lauren Conrad: style, Lauren Conrad with Elise Loehnen. Not fiction, fashion this time. Have a look at the Fashion Friday post inspired by The Hills.
    10. Lauren the puppy fairy, Daisy Meadows. Unlock the magic within at the official site.

    TAFN, Lauren.

  • Grimm, Top 10

    Ten Authors of Realistic Fiction

    31.12.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on Ten Authors of Realistic Fiction

    Ten +

    There has been a suggestion there have been many suggestions in the Young Adult world that there’s too much paranormal (here at the Teen Blog we call it supernatural) going on, too many characters with superhuman motivations, strengths and failings, or too many thunderbolt-type interventions and whatnot. It’s all not very likely. If you’re sick of all that, or didn’t really like it in the first place, here are some writers who keep it real, and, amazingly, manage to produce some fine work with not a sparkle in sight.

    Read some realism this summer!

    Laurie Halse Anderson: widely well regarded, and a multi-award winner. She’s also written a couple of historical stories (Chains and Forge) for younger readers.

    Courtney Summers: how horrid can girls be? Quite.

    Walter Dean Myers: won the Printz Award for Monster, and author of over 70 books, which is quite staggering really.

    Sara Zarr: author of three thought-provoking novels about living with the consequences of the past, childhood friendship, and faith.

    John Green: slightly less grit, but still real, and a champion of the geek (google “nerdfighters”).

    Melina Marchetta: although she’s written one fantasy novel (Finnikin of the Rock (we’re not saying you should avoid it of course)), she’s best known for books like On the Jellicoe Road, which won the Printz Award last year.

    Chris Crutcher: his books cover issues as wide ranging as prejudice, abuse, disability and poverty, with a realistic voice that has won him lots of fans.

    E R Frank: is a clinical social worker who specialises in trauma, so it is unsurprising that she puts her characters through a really tough time in her books.

    Todd Strasser: author of such varied works as The Wave (made into a movie in 2008), Wish You Were Dead (the first of a new thriller series) and Give a Boy a Gun.

    Close to Home: New Zealand authors like to mix it up a bit, and there have been some excellent novels in the last while, for example (just the four for now) End of the Alphabet by Fleur Beale (Ruby Yarrow’s always called at the end of the school roll, but this doesn’t have to translate to a life of always coming last), The 10 pm Question by Kate De Goldi (life is a real worry), Violence 101 by Denis Wright (try this one for an unlikeable but compelling protagonist!), or About Griffen’s Heart by Tina Shaw (Griffen’s heart features both literally (he needs heart surgery) and metaphorically). There are heaps more of course – look for the Koru sticker on the book spine, the New Zealand books display, or your nearest friendly library staff member.

    Happy 2011.

  • Music, Synthesiser Patel

    Best Of 2010 : Music

    23.12.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on Best Of 2010 : Music

    At the end of every year, every single website is contractually obligated by the internet to publish a list of their top ten albums released that year. Not wanting to void our contract and, let’s be honest, because it’s fun too, here’s ours.

    The rules are that it must have been both released and catalogued into the YA collection in 2010.

    10. BARB – BARB
    Local goodness from Liam Finn, Connan Mockasin and pals. Felt like this one flew under the radar a little bit, undeservedly so.

    9. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
    The best of the lo-fi indie girl band bunch in a year that said bunch was of a ubiquitously high quality.

    8. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot, The Son Of Chico Dusty
    On this album Big Boi proved that he is far from just “that other dude from Outkast”

    7. Connan Mockasin – Please Turn Me Into The Snat
    My favourite NZ release of the year. It’s a psychedelic pop gem.

    6. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
    Apparently this is the last album from Damon Albarn’s cartoon band. If so, it was a great one to go out on.

    5. The White Stripes – Under Great White Northern Lights
    No new material, just some great live performances of old favourites, rarities and a brilliant behind the scenes DVD

    4. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II
    The noisiest and most “punk rock” electro band returned with their second and it stayed on my ipod all year long.

    3. Pavement – Quanrantine The Past
    Do greatest hits albums qualify for lists like this? Seeing as it’s my list, I’d say yes. More so because this is some of the best indie rock ever made. Ever.

    2. The Black Keys – Brothers
    This album not only features the best use og guitar and drums this year, but also the cover features the best use of Cooper Black.

    1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
    Pretty much the perfect electro album. Which is more than enough to qualify for album of the year.

    So there you go. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section. Perhaps write your own, discussion generating list?

  • Comedy, DVDs, Top 10, Vic Ferrari

    Top Ten: Comedy DVDs

    29.09.10 | Permalink | 1 Comment

     There is a Comedy DVD display in the YA area of the Central Library at the moment, this list is an online companion piece.

    1. Cool Runnings – Not only hilarious, it’s emotional too. Someone at Teen Blog HQ admits to getting choked up at the end of this one, others just enjoy Doug E. Doug’s antics.
    2. Mean Girls – Lindsay Lohan is mean, and funny!
    3. Superbad – Unpopular kids try to find girlfriends, general ineptitude interferes and provides lulz.
    4. High School Musical – You have probably all seen this, and as such any description of plot etc. is surplus to requirements.
    5. The Mask – Jim Carrey puts on a magical green mask and turns into what pretty much amounts to a living cartoon. Visual gags aplenty.
    6. 17 Again – The dreamy Zac Efron plays a man who magically gets turned from a forty-something loser into, well, the dreamy Zac Efron. All sorts of rofl-tastic capers ensue.
    7. Legally Blonde – Reese Witherspoon plays the stereotypical blonde valley girl in a fish out of water scenario where she goes and studies law at an ivy league school. Hijinks follow.
    8. School Of Rock – Jack Black teaches kids how to be in a rock band by shouting, waving his arms around and acting manic.
    9. Dude, Where’s My Car – Ashton Kutcher wakes up after a big night out and realises his car is missing. Then he is confused for pretty much an entire day.
    10. Adventureland – A quirky rom-com set in and around a theme-park.

  • Grimm, Top 10

    Top 10: Relationships with Parentals

    16.09.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on Top 10: Relationships with Parentals

    Lots of YA fiction does its best to avoid the topic of parents. There are lots of convenient boarding schools (or exclusive academies, as we like to call them here), or parents with jobs that mean they have to travel a lot, or parents who are just rather absent (which would make for a good story, except that’s often not the point). But then there’s the brave book that jumps in and explores parents, who can be problematic creatures sometimes. Lots of potential for conflict (a key ingredient in story telling). Here are ten books in which relationships between teenagers and parents are explored in, we hope, thoughtful and challenging ways.

    1. Solace of the Road, Siobhan Dowd (also try A Swift Pure Cry) – In Solace of the Road, Holly is newly fostered by a seemingly perfectly lovely couple, and her life should be on track, but she’s haunted by the idea of her mother and, with the help of a wig, she becomes Solace and travels across the UK, heading for Ireland. The road trip turns out to be one of self-discovery and the upheaval of buried memories.
    2. Once Was Lost, Sara Zarr – Samara’s mother’s lost it a bit and has gone away to sort out her rather public drinking issues, and her father, the local minister, is kind of hopeless (and way too busy), so Samara is left to herself a bit to keep herself and her household going. The story is about faith and family, and it also follows the mystery of a disappeared girl.
    3. Twisted, Laurie Halse Anderson – this is one of my most favouritist YA books. Possibly more interesting than anything else in the book is Tyler’s relationship with his (controlling) parents, most specifically his father.
    4. Dirty Little Secrets, C J Omolulu – this story plays out over a one day period. Lucy’s mother dies suddenly, leaving Lucy to cope with her loss, and also her dirty little secret – a compulsive, shameful hoarding habit that leaves their house a real health and safety hazard and earns Lucy the nickname “Garbage Girl”. Cleaning up happens literally and figuratively.
    5. Blue Plate Special, Michelle D Kwasney – proof that your mother wasn’t always a middle aged embarrassment. Three generations of 15 year olds tell their stories of being raised by single mothers, from 1977 through 1993 to 2009.
    6. Borderline, Allan Stratton – Sami Sabiri is the only Muslim in a private school, then his father is implicated in a terrorist plot. One reviewer said this book would be great for fans of the TV show 24 (which I wasn’t one of, so I couldn’t comment, but that sounds good).
    7. Counter Clockwise, Jason Cockcroft – Nathan’s mother was killed when she was hit by a bus, and his father will do anything to prevent this from being truth, even travelling back in time in an attempt to change history. Chaos ensues.
    8. Choppy Socky Blues, Ed Briant – Jason’s father is a former stunt man who runs a dojo who Jason wants to have nothing to do with, on account of his having abandoned his family. But when Jason meets Tinga, who is going for her blue belt, he feels compelled to get back into the karate world of his father.
    9. For Keeps, Natasha Friend – Josie is 16 and her mother is 33, and they’re close, but when Josie’s father’s family moves back into town things get a bit complicated and Josie learns some truths about her parents and her arrival, in amongst both herself and her mother finding love.
    10. Infinity: Chronicles of Nick, Sherrilyn Kenyon – Nick’s mother is an exotic dancer, a truth that causes Nick endless grief and adds to his social outcast-ness. He’s fiercely protective of her, though, which winds him up in lots of trouble, both with her and others, and this is all before he’s drawn into a supernatural battle against zombies (this time rather than cheerleading they’re football-playing). The first of a series.

  • Grimm, Top 10

    A Top 100 YA Fiction List: From Persnickety Snark

    17.08.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on A Top 100 YA Fiction List: From Persnickety Snark

    Persnickety Snark, an Australian YA review blogger, recently conducted a thorough poll of her readers and fellow bloggers and such, asking them what their favourite YA books were. She’s carefully collated the results, and counted down the results in a Top 100 for 2010. Number 1 is, interestingly, The Hunger Games, with the first in the Harry Potter series coming in second. I’ll summaries the top 10 for you here, so you could have a browse through the results and read stuff you like the look of (if you haven’t already).

    1. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
    2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J K Rowling
    3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    4. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
    5. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
    6. The Truth About Forever, Sarah Dessen
    7. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
    8. The Outsiders, S E Hinton
    9. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
    10. This Lullaby, Sarah Dessen

    It looks a pretty good list (especially if you love Sarah Dessen).

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