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)

 

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 dark and spooky surfing story

TITLE = NIGHT BEACH

AUTHOR = KIRSTY EAGAR

GENRE = IDENTITY, FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

This is a dark novel. At its heart is a gothic story about supernatural, ghostly elements which have taken over a young surfer (Kane) and are threatening to take over his step-cousin, Abbie. But even darker than this is the undercurrent of violence that lurks behind the surfing world that Abbie and Kane inhabit. From the moment Kane returns to town and punches the local surfing bully, the threat of further violence lingers around the edges of the story as we await to see if the town bully exacts revenge on Kane.

Against this dark backdrop is the central story about Abbie, a lonely girl who is looking for love and lusts after Kane, even though she fears he is not good for her and recognises that her obsession is unlikely to be returned. Abbie comes from a broken home: her dad is loving but he is starting a new family in Brisbane, so Abbie has reluctantly begun living with her Mum who seems aloof at best and critical at worst.  Her sister offers sage advice but she too is largely absent from Abbie’s world as she is off in Canberra studying and exploring her own romances. Abbies’s best friend is holidaying in Darwin and her sole remaining friend is bitter about her obsession with Kane. Whilst the artistic and creative Abbie attempts to make sense of her feelings, and discover the truth behind Kane’s ghostly haunting, she is also trying to complete her HSC project.

Eagar often writes about the surfing world, but in her hands this world has a far more sinister feel than in the world presented by other Aussie authors such as Tim Winton, largely due to the violence and power plays inherent in the male surfing fraternity.

This is dark and compelling novel and has been shortlisted for the Gold Inky 2012 (dma) ***

 

Final instalment was worth the wait.

TITLE = THE POWER OF FIVE: OBLIVION

AUTHOR = ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE = FANTASY, ACTION, ADVENTURE, ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

When we last left the 5 teens who represent “the Power of 5” they were racing against the elements – diving through a gate in Hong Kong, in the hope of saving themselves and the future of the world. “Oblivion” is the final instalment of this highly charged fantasy-adventure series. It is double the size of previous volumes for a very good reason: each of the 5 main characters has been separated as they travelled through the gate, so each of their stories is told separately. They have landed on separate continents, sometimes alone, sometimes with another but there is a certain unity to their situations: firstly, time has progressed at an alarming rate and secondly, they are also ALL in a life and death struggle – almost on a daily basis.

Matthew has been the leader of the group in past series and he shoulders this mantle again, somewhat reluctantly. Can the five meet in the dream world? Can they each survive, let alone find each other and save the world?

Or in this strange new world of the future, is it all too late? Are the human race saving? And will 5 teens really stand alone against their longtime enemy … or is help at hand? Each character will be tested… but who will win?

Another exciting instalment with action and drama aplenty, as is to be expected from Anthony Horowitz. A fitting conclusion to what has been an amazing journey for Matt and his peers … and for readers, too

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A FAST-PACED THRILLER WITH A DARK TWIST

TITLE = EVIL STAR

AUTHOR =ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE =FANTASY, ACTION, SUPERNATURAL, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

 

Check out the short book trailer below:

You might also like to look at the publisher’s website based on the series – plenty of games and info to entertain and intrigue.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Will Vlad survive his final year at high school?

TITLE = THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD 5: Twelfth Grade Kills

AUTHOR = HEATHER BREWER

GENRE = VAMPIRES, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = years 7 – 9

 

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod comes to a suitably nail-biting end in this book. The previous book ending with a surprising cliffhanger – had Vlad really met his dad or have some of his bloodsucking ways come back to haunt him (or at least, mess with his sanity)?

 Recommended for fans of the series (dma) ****

Check out the book trailer below for a taste of what is in store for Vlad:

(Note: all images in the book trailer courtesy of the Animoto site, music also provided from Animoto – Artist: Thousand Foot Krutch Song: E For Extinction. Text created by dma)

And if you have enjoyed this series, look out for Heather Brewers’s latest sries: the Slayer Chronicles. Yes, now we are going to hear a Joss’ side of the story! It is every bit as exciting as you might expect.

An intense and compelling sequel

TITLE = LUMATERE CHRONICLES 2: Froi of the Exiles

AUTHOR = MELINA MARCHETTA

GENRE = FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 UP

A breathtaking sequel to “Finnikin of the Rock”! There is more political intrigue in this sequel and betrayal upon betrayal as Froi is sent to neighbouring Charyn to assassinate the king, the ruler who caused so much pain and anguish to Lumatere in the past. But upon arrival, Froi finds the situation is even murkier than he could have imagined.

We know from the first volume in the Lumatere series that Froi has had a difficult past and has partaken in terrible actions. But in Charyn he meets his match when it comes to dastardly behaviour. For there is a curse here that is even darker than the one which heralded events in Lumatere, a curse that embroils the royal family, including Princess Quintana. Although she claims to hold the key to Charyn’s salvation this key comes at a great cost – to herself, no less than the citizens of Charyn. Abused in unimaginable ways is it any wonder that the Princess seems just a little mad?

So why does Froi fall in love with her … especially when she seems to despise him? And will his love threaten her life as well as his own? Or will it save them both? Most importantly, for those readers familiar with volume 1 in the Lumatere chronicles, what will unrest in Charyn mean for the newly recreated Lumatere and its beloved Queen Isaboe and her beloved consort, Finnikin?

The prevailing atmosphere of this novel is one of darkness; rare glimpses of light coming only from the occasional scene between the loving Lumateran rulers, Isaboe and Fiinikin. There are clever twists and turns in the plot that keep the reader guessing – and the ending will ensure that readers will await the final instalment of this trilogy with a keen dread.

Mature readers will be captivated by this latest story from Melina Marchetta. A dark and sordid treat on so many levels.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

You might also like to read an interview with Melina Marchetta about this novel.

An exciting adventure … where horror lurks ….

TITLE = SHIP KINGS 1: The Coming of the Whirlpool

AUTHOR = ANDREW McGAHAN

GENRE = ADVENTURE, ACTION, FANTASY, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 AND UP

 

An entertaining first volume in what looks set to be an exciting series. Despite the adventure, there is a touch of darkness and dread in this book: Dow may long for the sea but there are dark forces at work which may end his dreams. And those forces may be deadly. To what extent can Dow make a future for himself and to what extent is destiny and family heritage going to shape his life??

Shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)

 

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Why not check out this book trailer, too:

 


(Note: all images in this book trailer courtesy of the Animoto collection, music also provided from Animoto – Artist: His Boy Elroy Song: Kill Me Quickly(Or Not at All). Text created by dma)

And if you like this book you might also enjoy another seafaring adventure: “Brotherband: The Outcasts” by John Flanagan, reviewed here.

What a gory feast!!

zombies unicornsTITLE =ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS

EDITORS =JUSTINE LARBALESTIER & HOLLY BLACK

GENRE =FANTASY, HORROR, SUPERNATURAL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

What an intriguing collection of stories from some very popular and talented authors. The tone of the book is immediately established in the hilarious introduction where the two editors continue what has obviously been a long running battle between them about the superiority of zombies or unicorns. Each story has its own mini intro where Justine and Holly continue to joust over the merits or otherwise of the upcomig story (depending on whether the author is on their team!) Perhaps it is to be expected that the zombie stories are often quite gory – but many are also thought provoking (Scott Westerfold) or sad (Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare) or incredibly moving (Alaya Dawn Johnson). Perhaps the surprise is the humour that underlies so many of the unicorn stories, from the farting unicorn (Meg Cabot!!) to the hilarious twist in Naomi Novik’s tale. Whilst many of the authors will be familiar to readers of fantasy, horror or vampire novels (Cassandra Clare and Libba Bray) and whilst it is great to see Aussie’s in the mix (Garth Nix and Margo Lanagan) it is also terrific to find less familiar authors in this collection (Kathleen Duey, Naomi Novik and Alaya Dawn Johnson).

Sure to delight fans of supernatural fiction, however, the frequent coarse language and sexual themes may make this collection more appropriate for more mature readers.

To follow the debate further check out this site.

Recommended (dma) ****

Vlad's adventures continue

vlad tod ninthTITLE = NINTH GRADE SLAYS (The Chronicles of  Vladimir Tod

AUTHOR = Heather Brewer

GENRE =Horror, Vampires

INTEREST LEVEL =Years 7 – 9

Vladimir Tod returns for more adventures – and life seems just as complicated as ever. Whilst still bewitched by the lovely Meredith, Vlad remains too tongue-tied to talk to her. Although the school bullies are still a threat, this year, he has his best friend’s cousin (Joss) to help him out. But is Joss really a friend he can count on?? Meanwhile, it seems that Vlad’s secret may be about to be revealed … and on top of that, a slayer is in town – looking for Vlad. Is his life truly in danger?? Is it time for him to acknowledge his vampire heritage – for better or worse?

Life for Vlad certainly isn’t simple! Readers of the first novel in this series are sure to enjoy instalment 2 – there is plenty of action and intrigue as Vlad (and the reader) try to sort out the dilemmas he faces – and his uncertain future. Another terrific blend of teenage ansgst and vampire action!

Recommended (dma) ****