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 fairytale in small town America

far far awayTITLE = FAR, FAR AWAY

AUTHOR = TOM MCNEAL

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, GOTHIC HORROR, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNITY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an unusual tale, filled with ghosts and the whisper of grim fairytales, where children go missing and evil lurks around the corner. There is a real sense of other-wordliness about this story partly because the narrator is none other than the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, of the Grimm brothers’ fame).

Unable to crossover after his death and meet his beloved brother Wilhelm, Jacob believes his destiny is to look after Jeremy Johnson Johnson and ensure that he doesn’t fall into the clutches of the “Finder of Occasions”. So he whispers in Jeremy’s ear and tells him spooky fairytales.

Jeremy is a quiet boy, with few friends – partly because he hears voices (Jacob’s whispers) and partly because he loves reading fairytales (surprise, surprise). He is a kindly lad who cares for his father, bedridden with grief since his wife left them many years ago. But Jeremy is shunned by the townspeople after an unfortunate prank … is the beguiling Ginger simply leading him astray? Or can she help him find his way to fame and fortune … so that he can save his home from the debt collectors?

Jeremy & Ginger need to stay one step ahead of the “Finder of Occasions” … whoever he may be… for if they are caught they may join the ranks of other missing children. Can Jacob help save them or is he too busy watching the wrong person?

A spooky tale that mesmerises readers into believing in fairytales … and hoping for the best for our young hero, Jeremy and his friend, Ginger. This book has won numerous awards, including the California Book Award Gold Medal (2013), it has been shortlisted for the US National Book Award (2013) and been a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Awards (2013) as well as gaining many, many acclaimed reviews from school libraries. A great choice if you are interested in spooky fairytale-like stories.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

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) *****

A ghostly romance

TITLE = Love Notes from VINEGAR HOUSE

AUTHOR = KAREN TAYLEUR

GENRE = MYSTERY, GHOSTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

This novel presents a great blend of ghostly mystery, family rivalries, friendships lost and won … and just the right touch of romance. And it is all narrated by a very credible character who shows great resilience when the world around her seems to be against her every move. Check out the booktrailer below:

  

(Music “Again” by Secrets in Stereo sourced from the Animoto site as were all the images. Text created by dma)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Can love truly conquer all??

afterlife_coverTITLE =AFTERLIFE

AUTHOR =CLAUDIA GRAY

GENRE =VAMPIRES, SUPERNATURAL

INTEREST LEVEL  = YEARS 9, 10

This is the fourth and final instalment in the Evernight series and readers of the third volume will know that it ended on a heartwrenching cliffhanger with Lucas being turned into a vampire, the one thing he hated most. Will he be able to handle this transition or will his self-loathing be the final nail in the coffin for any kind of future between Bianca and Lucas?

The action of this novel returns to the Evernight Academy where Lucas is surprisingly welcomed with open arms by Mrs Bethany. But despite the support of Vic, Ranulf and Balthazar, life is not easy for Lucas and Bianca. Lucas has a tough battle against his own vampirish hunger and is haunted in his dreams by Charity, his sire. Bianca yearns for an intimate relationship with Lucas but it seems that her wraith’s blood can  burn and harm him – so what hope for the future is there? Especially when fellow wraiths are demanding she turn more to them and break her ties with earth.

The action never slows down in this novel and readers will be on the edge of their seats as new plot twists arise bringing both complications and further torment for Lucas and Bianca. And the tortured love affair that began at the Academy seems destined to be resolved there – that is if a wraith and a vampire can ever have a meaningful future or does Bianca represent the greatest threat of all to Lucas??

This is a fitting conclusion to the Evernight series which began so brilliantlywith the first instalment: Evernight.

Readers will be delighted to realise the significance of the wonderful silver and red cover, too.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

The previous 3 novels in the series:

evernight_cover stargazer_cover hourglass_cover

Accident survivor

5 parts deadTITLE = FIVE PARTS DEAD

AUTHOR = TIM PEGLER

GENRE = GROWING UP, SURVIVAL, GHOSTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

Dan should feel lucky to be alive – of the 5 teens in the car he is the only one to have survived a horror smash. And this is not the first time he has escaped death. So the meaning of the title becomes painfully clear early in the novel. Through a series of flashbacks, we gradually  learn about Dan’s escapes from death and the circumstances around this most recent car acident. Dan admits early on that he hasn’t told the police the full story so we are intrigued to find out why he still feels so guilty – and how a kid who seems to be a pretty decent young man could have had a part to play in the horror of that night.

Dan is spending the hols recovering from the accident with his parents, twin sister, Mel and her friend Pip, staying at a lighthouse on the coast. As he is restricted by his broken leg and crutches, Dan is often confined to home base and starts to read the old lighthouse log where another miscarriage of justice appears to have occurred – is it ghosts from the past or more recent times that are disturbing Dan? The two stories are cleverly woven together and offer interesting parallels.

And will Dan’s burgeoning friendship with Pip develop into something more? Or could he ruin this too?

This is a thoroughly compelling book – from page one the reader will be caught up in events and be keen to learn the truths that are revealed at novel’s end – to resolve the mysteries from the past and recent times. Dan is a likeable young man and his journey provides an interesting perpspective on an all too common occurrence – road accidents caused by inexperience, drink and speed. The cover is enticing and the  flag signals at the beginning of each chapter are a clever device given the novel’s location.

Highly Recommended (dma) ****


Of ghosts and shadows … and looking from different angles

dreaming of ameliaTITLE =Dreaming of Amelia

AUTHOR =Jaclyn Moriarty

GENRE =Gothic, Romance, Growing up

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Another wonderful novel from the acclaimed author, Jaclyn Moriarty. The setting of this novel will be familiar to readers of Jaclyn’s other novels (eg Finding Cassie Crazy, Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie) for once again we are visiting Ashbury High. And some of our favourite characters (Lydia and Emily) are once again key elements in the story. But there are new characters too – namely Toby and the enigmatic couplo, Riley and Amelia.

As with her previous Ashbury novels, structurally this novel is intriguing: this time instead of letters and emails, exams essays, assessment stories and school created blogs forward the story. However, the tone of this novel is different: laugh out loud humour has been replaced by a gothic story of ghosts and shadows, there is tension and foreboding as well – although, when two of the key writers of the story are Emily and Lydia, rest assured that there is also a lovely touch of humour as well. In fact, the drama , parties and occasional mild hysteria of surviving the final year of high school provides a brilliant (and often quite funny) backdrop for the central action of the story.

The structure of this novel may provide challenges for some readers, as the focus constantly changes but the reward is that the story unfolds in tantalizing ways: each writer tells their version of the truth about events, but it is the details they leave out (and others fill in) that build the story as a whole for the readers. Just as the opening exam question asks the students to write about first impressions, we as readers are shown that the first impressions we may have developed are not necessarily well founded. There are some delightful twists and turns in the story, the central mystery behind Rily and Amelia will also be revealed, and there are some delightful emails, blog entries to keep readers entranced. And Emily once again has the chance to spread her “legal” wings as the case against Riley and Amelia is mounted towards the end of the novel.

A more demanding read than some YA lit – particularly given its length (at over 500 pages) – but it is well worth the effort: not just to resolve the central ghostly mysteries at the heart of the novel, but also as a thoughtful commentary on truth and reality, on love and friendship and the importance of family … and of surviving high school and taking on the challenge of adulthood!

A wonderfully thought provoking and engaging read especially for more mature readers.

Why not check out Jaclyn Moriarty’s website – and learn more about her books (and how they were retitled for overseas markets).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

You Have Ghost Mail!!

You Have Ghost Mail.

Genre: Adventure

Interest Level: Grade 6 to year 9.

You have Ghost Mail is an adventurous and creepy book that people with an active imagination should enjoy. I got really into the book, but the ending was pretty boring and one of the characters kind of annoyed me. There weren’t many illustrations in the book which made it a bit less interesting as well. I don’t think Year 10’s and up would enjoy this book.

I’d rate this book *** 1/2.  Gina

Gilberts-Ghost-Train

Gilberts Ghost Train by David Metzenthen

Genre: Death and Dying

Interest Level: Yr 7/8

This book is about a boy who is dying and he loves trains. He meets a very nice guy who come every day to tell a story to this dying boy (who is 13 years old). The book tells the story about the boy before he died. It is a great book, in the end one of the people in the book is a ghost. I not going to give away much of the story or the ending. The book is written by David Metzenthen and he writes some great books. A few other good ones include, Danger Wave, and Tiff and the Trout both of which are great books.

Recommended: ****