It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)

 

 

A ghost story with plenty of twists and turns

doll bonesTITLE = DOLL BONES

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = HORROR, QUEST, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9    

Poppy, Zach and Alice have been friends for ages and have had great fun playing a special game filled with imagination and adventure. They use action figures, puppets and dolls to act out their stories, collaborating and decorating their storytelling.

But what happens when one of them is challenged to stop being childish … the ripple effect on their friendship and their storytelling game quickly stirs into action, especially when Poppy realises that the doll in her cabinet at home has a mysterious curse that can only be lifted by a road trip … by bus, at night ….

Can 3 young teens really work together on this quest without destroying their friendship? Does the doll really need help or is it just playing games with them? Can they in fact finish their quest … or will fear, anger or disappointment get in the way?

This is a clever story with plenty of mystery, adventure and friendship problems to be resolved. If you liked The Spiderwick Chronicles you are sure to enjoy this novel for younger readers from Holly Black

Recipient of a Newbery Honor Award

Recommended (dma) **** 

A gothic horror with a literary twist

fairytales for wildeTITLE = FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS

AUTHOR = ALLYSE NEAR

GENRE = GOTHIC, HORROR, FAIRYTALES, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, GRIEF, MENTAL HEALTH

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Does Isola live in a fantasy world or is the fantasy simply happening in her head? When we first meet this teenage girl who lives on the edge of a “dark and scary wood”, we are certainly introduced to an unusual setting and an unusual girl. Living with her gruff and often absent dad and with a somewhat unbalanced mum to care for, it may come as no surprise that Isola often loses herself in her beloved book of fairytales and surrounds herself with imaginary friends that seem to come from a rather twisted fairyland. For the mermaids, warriors, fairies and heroes who seem to be her best friends and greatest protectors, all seem to have lived and died violently.

Yet Isola also inhabits a very real world with school and its normal assortment of friends and foes, of bossy teachers and deadlines, of swimming carnivals, tests and detentions. And she also has two boys vying for her affections.

How does a girl live a life haunted by her mother’s illness, haunted by her namesake’s short life and haunted by her fears … is Isola brave enough to face the truth of her world or will she simply waste away? Will she spurn the help of those who care for her, those who really can help her … can she break free from the horrors she has witnessed, from the ties of family?    

This novel may be a challenge for some readers, especially in the early pages as the focus and style seem to change all too rapidly but it is well worth the effort. Ultimately, readers might have different views about whether it is a clever fantasy story or a book about mental health and resilience… but there is certainly plenty to think about and plenty to enjoy in the writing.

 It is no surprise to find that this novel is the winner of a number of awards (gaining two 2013 Aurealis awards –  joint-winner of Best Young Adult Novel and winner of the Best Horror Novel) and it has been shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and long-listed for the 2014 Gold Inky Awards.

This book was announced as A CBCA HONOUR BOOK!! CONGRATULATIONS TO ALLYSE NEAR.

 Highly Recommended ****(dma)

 

A witches brew indeed

undermy hatTITLE = UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON

AUTHOR = JONATHAN STRAHAN (ed)

GENRE = SHORT STORIES, WITCHES 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8+

If you like witches then you will love this book. Every story is about a witch or wizardly being – some are dark and scary, some are hauntingly beautiful, some are quite funny and clevr as they play on common witch mythology. There are longish stories and there are poems ( Some witches fit the ‘black hat, black cat” mould and some really stretch this image to its limits: so some stories will appeal to younger audiences and some to older readers (“The threefold world” by Ellen Kushner). This is not just a book about magic spells (“Payment Due” by Frances Hardinge and “A Handful of Ashes” by Garth Nix), it is also a book about the magic of life (although you may need the tissues for “Stray Magic” by Diana Peterfreund). Whilst some of the stories hark back to older times, others focus on a more modern wicca experience (“Little Gods” by Holly Black) Some stories are a little spooky and some are unexpectedly warm-hearted and some manage to combine elements of both (“The Witch in the Wood” by Delia Sherman). An absolute favourite is the very clever “The Stone Witch” by the queen of Australian fantasy, Isobelle Carmody.  Fantastic Aussie author Margo Lanagan , provides a suitably weird and thoughtful : “Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow”). The funniest story (in a dry sort of way) continues the wizardly detective work of Jim Butcher’s hero, Harry Dresden  in “B is for Bigfoot).

Basically, there is something in this collection for everyone: whether you are a huge wiutch fan, or even if witches are not reasly your fave .. Dip in a nd out .. choose fave authors or try someone new … that’s the fun  of a collection of stories. And the introduction which sketches in the historical and literary background of witches will delight witch lovers and intrigue those new to (or less enthusiastic about) witches. Plus bios of authors at the end are very readable and add to the overall enjoyment of this book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A brilliant end to a wonderful series

black heartTITLE = THE CURSE WORKERS (Book 3): Black Heart

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, MAGIC, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

This is the third and final book in an intriguing series. Fans of the previous 2 books are sure to be satisfied with Holly Black’s clever conclusion. As usual, Cassel Sharpe finds himself in a tricky situation: trying to keep his mother alive and out of jail, trying to keep away from a life of crime, he has signed up to help the Feds. But can he trust them? Or do they simply want to use him as so many others have used him before?

And is his heart destined to be broken…again? The only girl he has ever loved truly despises him (and given that he once turned her into a cat and his own mother once worked a spell on her, Cassel can’t really blame her). But his heart so wishes it was otherwise.

Meanwhile his best friends are fighting, a girl he doesn’t trust wants his help and the principal keeps threatening to kick him out of school. Life was never meant to be this complicated .. was it?

A  terrific book and a wonderfully inventive series … Cassel Sharpe will worm his way into your heart …even if he thinks his own heart is blackened.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gritty and compelling vampire story

coldest girl in coldtownTITLE = THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLD TOWN

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, SUPERNATURAL, VAMPIRES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS

Imagine a world where vampires exist … not the sparkly kind, the dangerous kind. Imagine going to a party one night and waking up the next morning to find all the other party guests have been killed …. by vampires. That is, all but your ex-boyfriend. Do you run? Do you save him? And what about the vampire chained in the corner .. do you take him with you or escape while you can??

This may seem like a nightmare world but it is Tana’s reality.

And so begins a gripping new novel by that wondrous writer, Holly Black. As Tana tries to maintain her sanity, and her humanity, she is driven into increasingly desperate situations. Going on the run with a soon-to-be vampire she once loved and a somewhat crazed vampire who she seems to be falling for, may seem like an act of madness but Tana is intent on staying alive and staying one step ahead of danger. She is not trying to impress anyone, she is not looking for romance – she simply wants to stay alive and human …even if she must risk everything by entering the strange world of Coldtown, where vampires and reality TV seem to have merged.

Only Holly Black could have dreamed up a world like this one: dark and cruel and absolutely fascinating. A world where compassion may be found in the unlikeliest places and where no-one is quite as they seem. A compelling tale from go to whoa which will have readers spellbound, especially those who like their fantasy to be just a little bit gritty.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****  

An unusual and amusing tale of adventure, myth and mayhem

houndedTITLE = THE IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #1: Hounded

AUTHOR = KEVIN HEARNE

GENRE = FANTASY, HUMOUR, MYTHS & LEGENDS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

 Atticus O’Sullivan is the last of the Druids. He runs an occult bookshop in Arizona and is happily minding his own business when life is turned upside down for him. Atticus has in his possession a famous sword (Fragarach – the Answerer) but the Celtic god who previously owned this sword wants it back and will use any means to achieve this end. Atticus has always been careful (some would say he is paranoid about safety) but it seems even harder than usual for him to know who to trust – are the local witches on his side? Will his werewolf friends help out? Will the local cops believe him … and what of that pesky neighbour??

Perhaps the only one he can truly trust is his beloved wolfhound, Oberon with whom he communicates in thought ..

Life is certainly never boring for Atticus and readers will be cheering him on as he faces one danger after another. Action packed and very,  very funny – a most entertaining read with a new take on magic and the supernatural. Thankfully this is not a stand alone novel but the first in an engaging new series.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** For more mature readers

An exciting horror adventure awaits … if you dare to read….

screaming staircaseTITLE = LOCKWOOD & CO. : The Screaming Staircase (Book 1)

AUTHOR = JONATHAN STROUD

GENRE = GHOSTS, FANTASY, SUPERNATURAL, ADVENTURE, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 10

A bit of horror, a bit of humour and a whole lot of adventure … this book has it all. Set in a world where ghosts come out to play at night, and they like to play nasty, scary, life threatening games! Lockwood and Co is a small company of psychic investigators; for a price they will come in and rid your home of those nasty spectres, they will banish the ghosts to eternity.

Well, that is what Lucy has trained for and that is why she has joined forces with the dashing Anthony Lockwood and his side-kick, their researcher, George. The three teenagers hope to make a name for themselves, even though they are working solo, without the usual adult supervisor. However, it is hard to be taken seriously when your exploits have a tendency to go slightly awry. Customers may want the ghosts to disappear but they don’t necessarily want their house to be burnt down in the process!

This is the predicament they find themselves in early in the novel. To avoid going out of business, they must solve a mystery and take on the scariest challenge ever: a challenge that has already taken the lives of many other ghost seekers. Can they survive the night on the renowned “screaming staircase”? Will Lockwood lead his charges safely or will they pay with their lives for his recklessness?

An exciting adventure awaits readers … and the best news is, this is the first in a series of books by Jonathan Stroud – so there are plenty more to come. This book has already been nominated for a number of awards, including the Edgar award (US award for mystery writing).

Check out the website based on the series or read the interactive shortstory featuring Lockwood and his crew, here.

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Silver Inky Award.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting mix of supernatural curses and romance

TITLE = INVISIBILTY

AUTHOR = DAVID LEVITHAN & ANDREA CREMER

GENRE = PARANORMAL, ROMANCE, FAMILY, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 -11

 Stephen has been invisible since birth yet he has somehow managed to eke out an existence in one of the busiest cities in the world: New York. Living on his own since his father fled and his mother died, Stephen is used to spending time with himself, invisibly wandering the city, especially Central Park. IT may be a solitary existence but he has made peace with his lot in life. This peace and quiet is massively disrupted when he discovers that his new neighbour, Elizabeth can actually see him! Elizabeth is battling her own demons: for she is angry at the world since a shocking attack on her gay brother, Laurie, has split up her family and forced Elizabeth, Laurie and her Mum to relocate from small town Minnesota to NYC. Both Elizabeth and Stephen are shy and hesitant when it comes to forming relationships, yet they tentatively reach out to each other.

Then suddenly everything changes: for the characters and for the reader. For once we learn the reason for Stephen’s invisibility the whole genre and pace of the novel changes. Suddenly Stephen and Elizabeth are facing life changing and life threatening odds and we enter a world of magic, spells and curses and nail biting action. Andrea Cremer is well versed in paranormal fiction but this is new territory for David Levithan and one of the charms of this novel is that the chapters that he contributes to the story (those from Stephen’s perspective) are filled with typical Levithan thoughtfulness and reflection.

Ultimately, this is not your everyday paranormal romance… it is much much more… and will leave readers with plenty to think about. Fans of David Levithan may be surprised but many will also be excited by this new direction in his writing.

Check out the authors websites here (David Levithan) and Here (Andrea Cremer ).

Highly Recommended *****         

If a dinosaur travelled to mediaeval times … oops!

TITLE = DINOSAUR KNIGHTS

AUTHOR = MICHAEL GERARD BAUER

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, KNIGHTS, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Take a scientist who believes he can play with time, a dinosaur and some medieval twins and you have the recipe for an unusual adventure. Roland and Oswald have known better times when they grew up in the castle as the twin sons of the esteemed doctor. Since their father has fallen out of favour their lives have been turned upside down and Roland’s dreams of becoming a knight seem hopeless. Or are they? What happens when an unsuspecting dinosaur is transported into their time … and mistaken for a fire-breathing dragon? Will Roland get his chance to face the dragon and save the princess?? Or will he and his brother simply be collateral damage in a scientist’s attempt to play with time??

Michael Gerard Bauer has all the ingredients for an entertaining story which young readers are sure to enjoy.

Recommended (dma) ****