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Category: Art Page 1 of 4

Weird Art (and How to Make It)!

In a world of incredible mainstream artists like Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh, some of the stranger, funnier, and more relatable creatives can be left flying under the radar. It can also make it more difficult for us – the artistic hoi polloi –  to find our own style and way of creating.

Perhaps you could be inspired by Tomislav Jagnjić, a Serbian concept artist and illustrator whose oeuvre includes titles such as “hey psst, wanna buy some cubes” and “can’t believe u forgot the scrolls, how am i supposed to resurrect the dragon now?”

Or maybe you could innovate like Thirza Schaap, a Dutch artist who’s been revamping beach trash to create a grim yet aesthetically pleasing commentary on sea pollution.

Or perhaps you’d rather focus on just one subject, and paint it with such determination that you’re eventually interrogated by police. Look no further than Alex Schaefer‘s fascination with painting the Chase Bank. On fire. Repeatedly.

via GIPHY

And if you’re ever feeling insecure about your work, just remember that  Massachusetts has it’s own museum dedicated entirely to celebrating “art too bad to be ignored” – pop on over here for a browse!

Whatever it is you want to say, and however it is you want to say it, get inspired by our collection on weird art (and how to make it)!


Find your artistic voice : the essential guide to working your creative magic / Congdon, Lisa
“This book is a guide to the process of artistic self-discovery”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)
The best art you’ve never seen : 101 hidden treasures from around the world / Spalding, Julian
“Across the globe there are scores of beautiful and unusual works of art that are largely unseen or fail to receive the critical acclaim they deserve. The Best Art You’ve Never Seen is your essential companion to this hidden world of artistic treasures.” (Catalogue)
You are an artist : assignments to spark creation / Green, Sarah Urist
“More than 50 assignments, ideas, and prompts to expand your world and help you make outstanding new things to put into it […] Full of insights, techniques, and inspiration from art history, this book opens up the processes and practices of artists and proves that you, too, have what it takes to call yourself one.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Guerrilla Girls : the art of behaving badly / Guerrilla Girls (Group of artists)
“A compendium of artwork by the feminist activist group, the Guerrilla Girls.”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)
Art in minutes / Hodge, Susie
“The perfect compact reference guide for all would-be art buffs. Art historian Susie Hodge takes you on a whistle-stop international tour of all the major artistic cultures, movements, phases, developments, artists and themes, from Prehistoric art to Hyperrealism. Contents also include Greek classicism, Gothic art, the Renaissance, Baroque, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Cubism, surrealism, Pop art and Minimalism.” (Catalogue)


Unexpected art : serendipitous installations, site-specific works, and surprising interventions / Spring, Jenny Moussa
“Graffiti made from cake icing, man-made clouds floating indoors, a luminous moon resting on water. Collected here are dozens of jaw-dropping artworks – site-specific installations, extraordinary sculptures, and groundbreaking interventions in public spaces – that reveal the exciting things that happen when contemporary artists play with the idea of place. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Wall and piece / Banksy
“_______________Banksy. His work. Photographed. With comments by Banksy. In a book. This is that book._______________” (Catalogue)
Modern vintage Illustration / Dawber, Martin
“Past is prologue in this stunning survey of vintage-inspired illustrations that employ classic styles of artistic expression for up-to-date effects.” (Catalogue)
Muse : Uncovering the Hidden Figures Behind Art History’s Masterpieces / Millington, Ruth
“The fascinating true stories of thirty incredible muses–and their role in some of art history’s most well-known masterpieces. We instantly recognize many of their faces from the world’s most iconic artworks–but just who was Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’? Or the burglar in Francis Bacon’s oeuvre? Why was Grace Jones covered in graffiti? ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Come and do some art at Newtown Library

We’re super stoked to be working with the kind and talented folks at VIVITA to run all kinds of cool events for kids and teens around the city this year. During the last school holidays, they ran a seriously awesome and engaging 5-day workshop on board game creation at Johnsonville Library (check out the video below), and next on the agenda is TRASH ART at Newtown Library.

Yep, you read right. Trash Art. Inspired by the work of phenomenal photographer and environmental activist Mandy Barker, who gained great notoriety in the art world for taking plastic pollution out of the Pacific Ocean and turning it into incredibly intricate photographic sculptures, VIVITA has decided to run a global series of events around turning trash into art, to raise awareness about plastic consumption, its harmful effects on the environment, and how we can fight back. In New Zealand, this is all boiling down to a one-day workshop at Newtown Library on Saturday 5 June, 10am – 1pm, where you’ll go on a journey (literally, like, outside) to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly of consumption and waste in our community, and bring that waste back to the library to turn it into art. What you create will be captured by a professional photographer and included as part of an international exhibition across 8 countries (including New Zealand) in September this year.

The event is totally free, but you do need to be between the ages of 9-15 to attend. If you’re keen, make sure you click here to register, because spots are limited and they are disappearing fast!

Check out Mandy Barker’s incredible work by visiting her website to see what kinds of wondrous things you will learn how to create, using our very own local trash in Newtown.

Click Happy Live: Free Photography Workshop for Teens!

We thought we’d help you celebrate the end of Term 1 by inviting you along to Click Happy Live, a free photography workshop run by master photographer Mandi Lynn, winner of NZ Creative Photographer of the Year 2017. Mandi came along to Te Awe and Kilbirnie Libraries earlier in the year to run this same workshop, and let’s be real, they were super awesome, so we’re thrilled to be able to welcome her to Johnsonville Library as well. Here’re all the deets you need to know:

Where and when?

Johnsonville Library, Sunday 11 April 2021, 10am – 3pm

What even is it?

Click Happy Live is a free photography workshop for young creatives aged 10-22 with an award-winning photographer! This workshop is especially for those who believe that photography and the creative arts can be used as a tool to make themselves — and the world — better. You’ll learn practical photography skills while taking part in creative challenges that will help you to build your personal style as a photographer or as a creative activist. You’ll also get a chance to win a scholarship to participate in a one-term masterclass and one term of professional mentorship with master photographer Mandi Lynn.

So how do I do the thing?

What are you waiting for? To find out more, and to register to take part, just click right on here. We can’t wait to see you there!

Photo of a smiling young man holding a DSLR camera

You could be as cool and chill as — if not cooler and chiller than — this guy! Photo courtesy of clickhappy.org.

Tara Black x Dylan Horrocks: An Event You Don’t Want to Miss

So, you’re an artist. Or a writer. Or both. Or neither — maybe you just like looking at stuff and reading stuff and want to know more about how it works! Maybe you’re into comics, or manga, or general illustration, or live drawing, or all of the above. Maybe, just maybe, you’re wanting to find out how you can take your passion for drawing or writing and turn it into your life’s work, your livelihood, your source of creative (and financial) nourishment. Or maybe you just want to sit in on a conversation with two very cool and talented people and be swept away by their wit and craft.

Regardless of which category you fit into above, we have the event for you: Talk and Draw with Tara Black and Dylan Horrocks, Saturday 17 April, 1.00pm at Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Community Hub. Part workshop, part overview, part conversation — join us for what promises to be a fabulous, informative, and entertaining event, with two of the biggest names in New Zealand comics.


Photo: Ebony Lamb 2020

If you don’t know Tara Black, you should — she is one of the most distinctive and unique graphic artists working in Aotearoa. Alongside her excellent webcomics (I’m particularly partial to The Blue Fury, in which the ghosts of Janet Frame and Katherine Mansfield get their kicks out of haunting a first-year English teacher) and her extremely weird and cool new book This is not a pipe (VUP, 2020), Tara is known for doing live illustrations of events around Wellington City. I reckon that’s a pretty awesome way to make a living.


The Eisner Award-winning Dylan Horrocks, of course, is one of the most talented and versatile cartoonists working in the scene today. His works range from the meta-comic tour-de-force that is Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen (VUP, 2014) to the iconic Hicksville (Black Eye Comics, 1998), which I choose to believe draws some inspiration from my own home town of Hastings, which may have been briefly known as Hicksville in the early 1870s, with a healthy dose of work on the Batman and Batgirl comics in the early-mid 2000s.

Come along and join us for this Most Ambitious Crossover Event In Comic Book History (okay not really, but it will still be really cool!), and of course check out Tara and Dylan’s books below!


This is not a pipe / Black, Tara
“I’ve decided to document my life in pictures. It’s hard to draw the pole, because of the pole. Beth has a pole through her arms. This is not a metaphor. A metaphor would be a lot less inconvenient. On the other side of the room, Kenneth is creating a new religion. He thinks narrative is the operating principle of the universe. He also thinks he’s the hero of Beth’s story. Beth is worried he’s going to leave her. The creatures living in the pole may have stolen her cat. Tara Black’s comic is surreal, dark, sad, perversely joyful, and if you bet someone they couldn’t find another book remotely like it, you would win. It’s a little bit about being married to Kenneth. It’s a little bit about losing your cat. It’s definitely not about the pole.” (Catalogue)

Hicksville : a comic book / Horrocks, Dylan
“World-famous cartoonist Dick Burger has earned millions and become the most powerful man in the comics industry. However, behind his rapid rise to success, there lies a dark and terrible secret, as biographer Leonard Batts discovers when he visits Burger’s hometown in remote New Zealand. One of the best graphic novels of the past decade.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Incomplete works / Horrocks, Dylan
“Daydreams, fantasy, true love, and procrastination feature strongly in this selection of Dylan Horrocks’s shorter comics running from 1986 to 2012. It is both the chronicle of an age and a portrait of one man’s heroic struggle to get some work done.” (Catalogue)

Sam Zabel and the magic pen / Horrocks, Dylan
“Cartoonist Sam Zabel hasn’t drawn a comic in years. Stuck in a nightmare of creative block and despair, Sam spends his days writing superhero stories for a large American comics publisher and staring at a blank piece of paper, unable to draw a single line. Then one day he finds a mysterious old comic book set on Mars and is suddenly thrown headlong into a wild, fantastic journey through centuries of comics, stories, and imaginary worlds. Accompanied by a young webcomic creator named Alice and an enigmatic schoolgirl with rocket boots and a bag full of comics, Sam goes in search of the Magic Pen, encountering sex-crazed aliens, medieval monks, pirates, pixies and–of course–cartoonists. Funny, erotic, and thoughtful, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen explores the pleasures, dangers, and moral consequences of fantasy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsIt ends with you, S.K. Wright

Everyone loves Eva. Beautiful, bright, fun, generous – she’s perfect. So when her dead body is found in a ditch in the local woods the only thing anyone wants to know is: Who could have done this? It has to be Luke, her boyfriend. He has the motive, the means, the opportunity and he’s no stranger to the police. Even though the picture is incomplete, the pieces fit. But as time passes, stories change. Told from six narrative strands, this cleverly woven and utterly compulsive novel challenges preconceptions; makes you second, third and fourth guess yourself; and holds an uncomfortable mirror up to the way societies and systems treat those they perceive to be on the outside. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMuse of nightmares, Laini Taylor

Neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice: save the woman he loves, or everyone else. Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of. As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, as forgotten doors are opened, the question arises: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTruly devious, Maureen Johnson

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.” Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWe’ll fly away, Bryan Bliss

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way. Tense and emotional, this hard-hitting novel explores family abuse, sex, love, and friendship, and how far people will go to protect those they love. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBlood water paint, Joy McCullough

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice- a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint. She chose paint. By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice- a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe summoner’s handbook, Taran Matharu

Summoner: One who is gifted with the ability to summon demonic creatures that are emotionally connected to their human counterparts. As brought to life in the bestselling Summoner series, the magic of summoning is also an art, with a story of its own. The Summoner’s Handbook reveals the epic journal of James Baker, who inspired the series hero, Fletcher, to discover his own summoning abilities. Along with a complete illustrated demonology, a guide to the basics of summoning and glorious artwork from the world of the Hominum Empire, you’ll learn everything a Summoner should know, and more. Beautifully rendered in two tone colours and full of detailed sketches, this hardback is the perfect treat for new and old fans. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFlight of the fantail, Steph Matuku

A busload of high school students crashes in the bush in a remote part of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Only a few of the teenagers survive; they find their phones don’t work, there’s no food, and they’ve only got their wits to keep them alive. There’s also something strange happening here. Why are the teenagers having nosebleeds and behaving erratically, and why is the rescue effort slow to arrive? To make it out, they have to discover what’s really going on and who or what is behind it all. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWhat the night sings, Vesper Stamper

Liberated from Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945, Gerta has lost her family and everything she knew. Without her Papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and onto living her life. Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor, and Michah, who helps Jews reach Palestine. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.(Publisher summary)

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Demon king, Cinda Williams Chima

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister is struggling to get by. Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell – a pair of thick, silver, rune-engraved cuffs he can’t seem to be able to get off his wrists. Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Helena, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She aspires to be like Hanalea – the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King. But her mother has other plans for her – plans that include a suitor. First in a thrilling new teen fantasy trilogy. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe fall of innocence, Jenny Torres Sanchez

For the past eight years, sixteen-year-old Emilia DeJesus has done her best to move on from the traumatic attack she suffered in the woods behind her elementary school. She’s forced down the memories–the feeling of the twigs cracking beneath her, choking on her own blood, unable to scream. Most of all, she’s tried to forget about Jeremy Lance, the boy responsible, the boy who caused her such pain. Emilia believes that the crows who watched over her that day, who helped her survive, are still on her side, encouraging her to live fully. And with the love and support of her mother, brother, and her caring boyfriend, Emilia is doing just that. But when a startling discovery about her attacker’s identity comes to light, and the memories of that day break through the mental box in which she’d shut them away, Emilia is forced to confront her new reality and make sense of shifting truths about her past, her family, and herself. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNightblood, Elly Blake

Ruby’s world has changed more than she ever could have imagined. She’s in love with a powerful Frost King. She’s the heir to the Fire Throne. And she may be a Nightblood–the spawn of a vengeful deity hellbent on releasing an imprisoned army of shadowy wraiths. Once freed, these beasts will roam the earth, devouring the spirits of every last person until he or she is nothing but an empty husk. Ruby is able to control the shadows to a degree, even hosting one in her own body. But will this tenuous connection–which threatens to consume her–be enough to hold the beasts back? With time running out, she must bring Frostbloods and Firebloods together to make a stand against an immortal foe more deadly than any she’s faced. And the price of peace may be her very life. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe brink of darkness, Jeff Giles

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable–he’s given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands. X is determined to break the lords’ hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he’s never experienced and a past he’s never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe…or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsYou’re welcome, universe, Whitney Gardner

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural. Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she?s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up. Out in the ?burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off-and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAsh princess, Laura Sebastian

When her country was invaded, Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. The Kaiser had Theo crowned Ash Princess– a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner. For ten years a captive in her own palace, Theo has endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. One night the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsCatwoman: soulstealer, Sarah J. Maas

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Gotham City looks ripe for the taking. Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove that as Batwing he has what it takes to help people. He targets a new thief on the prowl who has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Together, they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman is clever–she may be Batwing’s undoing. In this third DC Icons book, Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse, forming unexpected friendships and entangling herself with Batwing by night and her devilishly handsome neighbor Luke Fox by day. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull off the heist that’s closest to her heart? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSmoke and iron, Rachel Caine

To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone , Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series. The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies. (Publisher summary)

You might like…books about art and artists (Part 1 of ? )

Book cover courtesy of the SyndeticsI’ve been inspired to write this post by a visit to our neighbour, the City Gallery, and their excellent exhibition This is New Zealand, which is based around how New Zealand artists convey national identity. But this post isn’t just looking art, it’s looking at artists as well. I’m sticking with drawing and painting this time – there may be more entries on this subject. Artists’ lives can be as interesting as the work they produce…of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some top picks. Think of this selection like a jumping off point: find something you like, and investigate further!

Book courtesy of SyndeticsLet’s take a look about our fiction first. The guy, the girl, the artist and his ex by Gabrielle Williams is a great look at love, death, human emotion and, of course, art. Then we have Dear Vincent, from New Zealand’s own Mindy Hager. This is a heart-wrenching novel about a young woman who finds comfort – and similarities – in the life and art of Vincent Van Gough. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has a more fantastical integration of art into the narrative; in Brooklyn, Sierra Santiago notices that the murals that are a feature of her neighbourhood start to change, revealing a strange and dangerous new world. Finally, we have another testament to the saving power of art; Draw the line, which is written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, deals with a young artist who uses his obsession with superheroes to work through a hate crime that happens in his small town.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThen there’s our non-fiction collection. For the sake of brevity, we’ll leave graphic novels aside. For a look at the creative process of one of my favourite artists, Shaun Tan, pick up The bird king : an artist’s notebook. One of my other favourites is Subway Art, which is huge, so bring your bag if you want to take it out!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMoving on to the adult collection now: there’s certainly not shortage of amazing books here. Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring deals not only with art, but the artist, his model and the historical and social context in which this famous painting was created. An artist of the floating world by Kazuo Ishiguro deals with similar themes, but also asks harder questions of complicity and integrity – not just artistic, but personal. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood focuses on the female artist and her own past feeds into her development.
Finally, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt examines the theft of a famous painting by a teenager and the impact it has on his life. Like I keep saying, this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’re looking for a more thorough booklist, here are some: female artists from Electric Literature, a top ten list from the Guardian and this utterly insane (667 books) list on Goodreads.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnd now, on to the non-fiction section. Try to pick a selection from this would be an act of madness, so here’s a few (and I mean A FEW) call numbers for you to investigate:
1) 704.03994 : Maori art and artists
2) 709.45 : Renaissance Art
4) 751.73 : Graffiti
5) 741.5 : Comic book art (I couldn’t resist, after all!)

If you’re looking for some great documentaries and movies, we have some of those as well!

I recommend:

1) Jean-Michel Basquiat: the radiant child (documentary)
2) Maudie (film)
3) Exit through the gift shop: a Banksy film (documentary)
4) Simon Schama’s Power of art (documentary)
5) Séraphine (film)

That’s all for now. I think my next one will be on photography! Stay tuned.

You might like….fairy tale edition and first in a series!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHere is a new feature on the blog! In this series of posts, I will examine various new releases and Librarian’s Choice books and suggest other items in our collection that are related – whether as inspiration or as first examples in the genre. This week, something that’s close to my heart and very popular in YA fiction at the moment: fairy tales.

Holly Black is one of the best YA authors writing today and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of her books and am especially keen to read her latest book (the first in a series, yay!) called The Cruel Prince. Like many of her other books, it deals with the fae. This time a young woman must navigate the capricious and cruel fae court – politics and fairy tales, excellent!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is another book I’m really interested in; it’s currently ninth on the New York Times’ YA bestseller list and had a glowing review in the Guardian. It’s rather more controversial on Goodreads, but that just makes me all the more eager to give it a look. It tells the story of Alice, who lives with her mother is chased by constant bad luck; they make their way to Alice’s Grandmother’s (an author of a cult collection of fairy takes) house, in the Hazel Wood of the book’s title.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsShaun Tan’s The Singing Bones is my go-to recommendation for anyone looking to start investigating the “original” Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. It’s a deceptively simple collection featuring a fragment of text from the original Grimm brother’s story and then an image depicting a central moment within that narrative. If you want to read the original stories, we also have the uncensored translation. We also have books about fairy tales and their significance. My favourite and one of the most well known authors on this subject is Jack Zipes: start with Fairy tales and the art of subversion. If you’re more visually inclined, check out Fairy tale fashion by Colleen Hill.

I’ve hope you pick some of these books up – they’re all wonderful and weird, just like faerie/fairy tales themselves.

New books

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnder Rose-tainted skies, Louise Gornall

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did. Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up. (Publisher summary)

First lines: I’m going to kill the damn blackbird sitting on my windowsill, chirping and squeaking at the top of its lungs. It hops back and forth, wings spread and flapping, but has zero intention of taking off.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe careful undressing of love, Corey Ann Haydu

The girls of Devonairre Street in Brooklyn, who have always been told that they are cursed to cause the deaths of anyone who falls in love with them, do not regard the curse as real until the sudden, violent death of a boy they all loved. (Publisher summary)

First lines: When the Minute of Silence hits, I have a glass vase in my hands and I almost drop it. We have been doing it for years, at 10:11 every Tuesday morning, but it takes me by surprise sometimes, still.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnd we’re off, Dana Schwartz

Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in! Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Stop it, Nora. You have more self control than this. My fingers twitch on the keyboard, but my eyes don’t move from the screen. It’s not even that Nick’s Facebook profile is that interesting. It’s just…he changed his profile picture.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsRoyce Rolls, Margaret Stohl

After five seasons on her family’s reality show, Rolling with the Royces, and a lifetime of dealing with her narcissistic sister, Porsche, media-obsessed mother, Mercedes, and somewhat clueless brother, Maybach, Bentley wants out. Luckily for her cancellation is looming and freedom is nigh. With their lifestyle on the brink, however, Bentley’s family starts to crumble, and one thing becomes startlingly clear– without the show, there is no family. And since Bentley loves her family, she has to do the unthinkable– save the show. (Publisher summary)

First lines: On May 4, 2016, in the early hours of the morning on one of the better streets of the Huntington Palisades, Talullah Kyong-Grunsburg (thirteen-year-old daughter of Lifespan Network president and chronic insomniac Jeff Grunburg) saw the news on her tumblr feed @AllHailMemeOverlord.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGenius: the game, Leopoldo Gout

Three underprivileged young prodigies from across the world with incredible skills in technology and engineering team up to become the heroes the world never knew they could be. As 200 geniuses from around the world go head to head in a competition hand-devised by India’s youngest CEO and visionary, the stakes are higher than anyone can imagine. Like life and death. Welcome to the revolution… and get ready to run. (Publisher information)

First lines: Albert Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” He’s right. The people I know, they always led with their creativity. And they don’t let age stop them, either.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFour weeks, five people, Jennifer Yu

Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she’s okay. Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous. Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality. Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot. And Stella just doesn’t want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy. As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future. (Publisher summary)

First lines: A few word of advice for those attending Camp Ugunduzi for the first time: Contrary to what the brochure may have told your parents, siblings, grandparents, estranged uncles, teachers, psychiatrists, well-meaning friends, not-so-well meaning friends, and distant relations who “care about you” and therefore shipped you to the middle of upstate New York (read: out of their lives) for one month of summer while everyone else goes kayaking and eats hot dogs, you will probably not discover a way to change your life at this camp.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsUnplugged, Donna Freitas

In the App World, Skye is a sixteen-year-old virtual girl without any glamorous downloads or fancy effects. She joined the App World for the promise of a better, virtual life, but she’s looking forward to her seventeenth birthday, when she gets to unplug, see her mother and sister again, and decide which world she belongs in once and for all. Without warning, the border between worlds suddenly closes. Skye is trapped, and her only chance to unplug and see her family again is to find and help Rain Holt, the son of the most powerful leader in App World, who was also left behind when the border closed. But when Skye unplugs, she discovers that the reasons for the border closing are much bigger than anyone in the App World knows, and that she somehow has a part to play–a part that will turn friends into traitors and strangers into followers. And the only person she can trust–in either world–is herself. (Publisher summary).

First lines: I’ll never forget the day the news rang through the App World. It was early June and I was just a virtual girl looking forward to unplugging on her seventeenth birthday.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGrace and the fever, Zan Romanoff

Still obsessed with the boy band Fever Dream long after her friends lose interest, Grace unexpectedly meets band member Jes and embarks on an unlikely romance that leads her to confront complex truths about herself and the realities of stardom. (Publisher summary)

First lines: Heyyy girl u up?
That chatbox window blinks from gray to blue, pulsing like a heartbeat. Grace taps her fingertips against the keyboard, listening to the tiny sounds they make, like raindrops hitting glass, plink plink plink.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBreak me like a promise, Tiffany Schmidt

When new legislation threatens to destroy her family’s operations in the black-market organ trade, Maggie finds herself falling in love with Alex, a computer whiz who makes a shocking revelation. (Publisher summary)

First lines: A long, long time ago, back when I had hair as long and shiny as any of the fairy-tale princesses Mama was always shoving down my throat, I made a promise to run away with the boy I’d chosen to be my prince.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe end of fun, Sean McGinty

Seventeen-year-old Aaron is hooked on FUN, a new augmented reality experience that is as addictive as it is FUN. But when he sets off on a treasure hunt, left by his late grandfather, Aaron must navigate the real world and discover what it means to connect–after the game is over. (Publisher information.)

First lines: Dear To Whom It May Concern or Whatever. This is Aaron O’Faolain and I’ve got some Issues. The directions say I’m supposed to briefly discuss reasons for the Application for Termination of Fun.

Books for Pride Week

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.

  1. Some assembly required : the not-so-secret life of a transgender teen, Arin Andrews
  2. If you could be mine, Sara Farizan
  3. Girl mans up, M-E Girard
  4. If I was your girl, Meredith Russo
  5. As I descended, Robin Talley
  6. Drag teen, Jeffrey Self
  7. Draw the line, Laurent Linn
  8. Boy meets boy, David Levithan
  9. Beyond magenta : transgender teens speak out, Susan Kuklin
  10. The boy’s own manual to being a proper Jew, Eli Glasman

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