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 brilliant update on an old classic

TITLE = BLACK SPRING

AUTHOR = ALISON CROGGON

GENRE = GOTHIC, FANTASY, LITERARY REVAMP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 – 12

A fresh and brilliant take on a literary classic (Wuthering Heights), this novel is an absolute masterpiece. For those who have read the story on which it is based, this will be a wonderful read: the intense gothic atmosphere is rendered effectively, the characters are well drawn and familiar, the inclusion of supernatural elements only heightens the effect and gives it a more credible context. The writing is brilliant: the sense of place and mood is created with succinct yet evocative imagery, which recalls the harsh beauty of the original Bronte creation. Croggon has even kept the structure of the original – with the finicky character (here named  Hammel), whose commentary frames the real story of the relationship of 2 compelling and passionate characters (in this case Lina and Damek, rather than Cathy and Heathcliff).

For those who are new to the story line, they will be equally captivated. The front cover is haunting and truly creepy, to match the narrative style which reflects the writing of the 19th century without being too old-fashioned to put off readers who are more used to modern novels.  The ensuing tale of intense emotions – love, anger, hatred and revenge – is wrapped up in a haunting atmosphere where darkness lurks and where passion is never far from the surface.

This novel could be a great introduction for many to the Bronte world for after reading this book, many will be drawn to the original and may well find it more accessible. Alison Croggon is to be commended for taking a literary classic and breathing new life into it – for complementing the original work so cleverly.

A must read for lovers of YA literature and for lovers of literature in general

This novel is a worthy selection as a Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Gothic fantasy continues delightfully

TITLE = THE GRIMSTONES: Mortimer Revealed (Book 2)

AUTHOR = ASPHYXIA

GENRE = GOTHIC, DIARY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a delightful story, part novel, part picture book, part diary. Martha Grimstone is the young child whose diary provides the story. She comes from an unusual family in an unusual gothic world. Her mother sews (and grieves for her dead husband) her grandfather is an apothecary (who weaves spells to heal illness and hopes to control the weather), her brother is a cute toddler with 3 legs and magical ability and her rather stern aunt is Martha’s teacher. Martha is inquisitive and perceptive. She desperately wants to help her family and is great at making plans for new ventures. Unfortunately her projects do not always turn out quite as she expected them to, often resulting in chaotic outcomes for both Martha and those around her.

This story is based on the puppet theatre created by the author, Asphyxia, so many of the illustrations are photos of the puppets and models that the puppeteer has created . As the story is told in dairy format, the pages often look exactly like pages in a dairy – with Martha’s sketches and plans supposedly stuck in or taped down. These notes and drawings and the illustrations in general, add a visual depth and richness to the story, providing an air of credibility to a very gothic fantasy tale.

The rich illustrations complement the rich language and vocabulary of the story – providing a perfect match for the charming imagery. All in all, a delightfully quirky tale told in a delightfully quirky way.

Look out for Book 3 (reviewed here).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

A quirky new series is a visual delight

TITLE = THE GRIMSTONES: Hatched (Book 1)

AUTHOR = ASPHYXIA

GENRE = GOTHIC, DIARY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is the first charmingly quirky book in the Grimstones series. We are introduced to Martha Grimstone and her rather odd family: her mother, Velveta, who sews wonderful garments by day and weeps mournfully by her husband’s grave by night; her grandfather who works day and night in his apothecary and her Aunt Gertrude, who grimly keeps house for the family and tries to tutor an unwilling Martha each afternoon.

With her mother and grandfather so busy, poor Martha is a lonely little girl who dreams of becoming “Martha the Magnificent” – she just needs to find out which of her talents or ideas will make her Magnificent! In her hopes of making her mother happier and proving her magical talents to her grandfather, Martha decides to create something rather special. While her creation hatches, Martha tells us her story in a delightful diary: filled with “taped” in pages and drawings that sometimes help tell the story.

Part of the delight in this story is due to the entertaining nature of Martha’s adventures (or misadventures) and partly due to the decorative features of the diary itself: the quirky sketches and photographs that adorn this book. “Hatched” is based on the puppet theatre created by the author, Asphyxia, so many of the illustrations are photos of the puppets and staged rooms that the puppeteer has created. A wonderful addition to the book comes at the end where Asphyxia explains how she created these theatre pieces. It is both fascinating and inspiring.

Readers might also like to view the Grimstone website and watch the youtube clip of the puppet show. Readers are sure to want to see the next two volumes in this gothic tale: Mortimer Revealed and Whirlwind (catch a review for this one here).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

A quirky gothic fantasy tale

TITLE = THE GRIMSTONES: Whirlwind (Book 3)

AUTHOR = ASPHYXIA

GENRE = GOTHIC, DIARY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a delightful story, part novel, part picture book, part diary. Martha Grimstone is the young child whose diary provides the story. She comes from an unusual family in an unusual gothic world. Her mother sews (and grieves for her dead husband) her grandfather is an apothecary (who weaves spells to heal illness and hopes to control the weather), her brother is a cute toddler with 3 legs and magical ability and her rather stern aunt is Martha’s teacher. Martha is inquisitive and perceptive. She desperately wants to help her family and is great at making plans for new ventures. Unfortunately her projects do not always turn out quite as she expected them to, often resulting in chaotic outcomes for both Martha and those around her.

This story is based on the puppet theatre created by the author, Asphyxia, so many of the illustrations are photos of the puppets and models that the puppeteer has created . As the story is told in dairy format, the pages do indeed look exactly like pages in a dairy – with Martha’s sketches and plans stuck in or taped down. These notes and drawings and the illustrations in general, add a visual depth and richness to the story, providing an air of credibility to a very gothic fantasy tale.

The rich illustrations complement the rich language and vocabulary of the story – providing a perfect match for the charming imagery. All in all, a delightfully quirky tale told in a delightfully quirky way.

Check out the author’s website for more info.about the author herself, her creations and her other books.

Highly Recommended (dma) ******