WORD Christchurch 2018: Spoilt for choice – Roberta’s Picks

It’s the first law of any truly great literary festival that you’ll almost certainly wish you could be in two places at once. That’s because just about everything you really want to see (or do) will probably be on the same day (quite often at exactly the same time) and in completely different venues. And WORD Christchurch 2018 is no exception to this rule.

It’s a hard life, but programme in one hand, good coffee in the other, here are some of the tricky festival choices I have made – grouped like this: Something Old; Something New; Something Borrowed and Something Blue:

Drawn OutSomething Old: I choose Catherine Chidgey: Transformations (Friday 31st August) because reading In a Fishbone Church seventeen years ago was when I first started to love New Zealand writing, and Chidgey has never let me down since then. She’ll be chatting to Morrin Rout about how she brings her own life to her writing. Tom Scott’s: Drawn Out (Saturday 1st September) is another choice of mine that stretches back to my early New Zealand days when I would laugh out loud at a Tom Scott cartoon over my cappuccino and huge muffin in the food court next to the old Farmer’s in Central Christchurch. I was such a lonely immigrant then. Thanks for the laughs Tom!

Something New: I just can’t go past The Witches of Gambaga (Friday 31st August). This is a documentary by Yaba Badoe  about a group of women ostracised as witches in Northern Ghana. I know nothing about witches or Ghana, and it all seems worlds apart from the venue at the Art Gallery in Christchurch, but how magical is that? Also new to me is my festival hot favourite Around the World in 80 Trees (Friday 31st August) by Jonathon Drori. I love trees. Were I a tree I would hope to be a tall, straight, slim-waisted Nikau Palm throwing my arms up in the air at the sheer joy of living. Please let me not be tempted to reveal this weirdness at this event!

Jonathan Drori
Author Jonathan Drori. Image supplied.

The Diary of a BooksellerSomething Borrowed: For me this is all about learning from other peoples’ experiences. My two picks are The Diary of a Bookseller (Saturday 1st September) by Shaun Bythell – he’s young, he’s Scottish and in this day and age he sells books. No Brainer! And Explosive Archaeology (Sunday 2nd September) in which a poet, a curator, a novelist and an academic discuss the underappreciated artists they love. I’m bound to learn something off-the-wall here.

How we met

Something Blue: And finally some luuuuurve. My pick is Let Love In (Saturday 1st September). Catherine Robertson and Michèle A’Court both write about love, but from very different perspectives (romance or quirky realism). But in the end it all comes down to our fondness for our own love stories – question time should be a blast. I feel warm and fuzzy already!

And of course in any respectable festival day there’ll be the little side forays into interesting cafés. Maybe I’ll take in a 20 minute lecture from Cabinet of Curiosities, and I’ll certainly loiter in the Piano foyer to get that magic feeling of reconnecting with my literary tribe again. No secret handshake required. Just see you there!

Find out more

Of humans and gods elemental

I’m a committed reader and I do read fairly widely and there’s one particular thing that I love when it comes to fiction; I love stories that blend and blur the lines between reality and mythology. The kind of thing where the lives of men and meddling gods coexist and the environment holds some physical form.

There’s loads of examples of this throughout literature – the Greeks and Romans loved to tell these types of stories, and those stories continue to be told in our own time – think of John Banville’s ‘The Infinities’ and ‘Fifteen Dogs’ by Andre Alexis . In both books the Classical Gods get involved in the modern life of humanity (and canines). And more recently there’s been ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Good Omens’ a joint effort between Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett. Both of which will be getting the screen treatment very soon!

Cover of The infinites Cover of Fifteen dogsCover of American GodsCover of Good omens

But what about the more elemental gods, the older gods, gods of the earth, environment, and the supernatural world…?

Cover of FlamesI’ve just finished reading ‘Flames’ by Robbie Arnott – a young Tasmanian author with some serious talent! He’s been writing for some years now and has a string of awards following in his wake, and he’s a very welcome addition to the burgeoning Tasmanian writers scene, a scene which includes the rural romances of Rachael Treasure, the gritty historic fiction of Rohan Wilson, and the Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan. I’m a Tasmanian myself so I do enjoy keeping up with what’s coming out of the beautiful isle, but I wasn’t really prepared for how good ‘Flames’ was going to be! It feels as you read it as if the land of lutruwita (the indigenous name for Tasmania) is itself telling the story and we are the privileged few who get to gain some insider knowledge.

It centres on two young people just after the death of their mother, which itself acts as a catalyst for all that follows. The brother is steadfast and pragmatic and wants to protect his sister so decides to build her a coffin, to which her response is to flee into the wilderness of the South West where she discovers a supernatural aspect to the world around her, and to herself and also to her family. Meanwhile the brother mounts a search to find his sister. On the journey we meet characters that are both at one with the natural world and still finding and settling into their place in it. We meet their father, we learn more about the family’s background, and other characters each of who are portrayed perfectly to outline their purpose in the narrative.

Robbie Arnott’s use of language is poetic and evocative of times past, of the smell of earth, the feel of wind, and the heat of fire. The narrative moves organically from one character to the next, shifting perspectives and fleshing out the magic of the story as it progresses. His descriptions of Tasmania (and you can rely on this ex-pat to confirm) are stunningly accurate and establish a very strong sense of place – you can smell eucalyptus burning, hear the rush of the waves onto the rocks, and you can feel the semi-decayed earth under your feet as you negotiate the wombat burrows.

So; beautiful language, strong sense of place, great characters with depth and purpose, and an engrossing story line – it’s ticked all the boxes for me!

Cover of The buried giantAnd ‘Flames’ is not the only book to achieve this balance between the real, the myth, the supernatural. ‘The Buried Giant’ by Kazuo Ishaguro is the tale of an ageing couple on a medieval pilgrimage with their purpose obscured by a think fog affecting memories, or there’s the outstanding series ‘The Tale of Shikanoko’ by Lian Hearn where we follow a journey of growth within a fantastical Edo-era Japan that has such imagination and rooted in strong mythology and where the everyday is touched with magic both light and dark. As is fellow Tasmanian Richard Flanagan’s great piece of surrealist historical fiction ‘Gould’s Book of Fish – a novel in twelve fish’ which I’m sure was both inspiration and license for Robbie Arnott to create this work, ‘Flames’.

And if you like this particular sub-genre then there’s plenty of films and tele series’ that are similar. You could have a look at ‘The Kettering Incident’, Tasmania’s own supernatural, David-Lynch-esque, tele series. It’s brilliant, dark, a bit creepy, and it’ll show you some places and environments very like those Robbie Arnott has depicted in ‘Flames’.

Enjoy your reading,

^DevilStateDan

When the man you love lives in a bush: Intrepid romance, humour and travel

Just in case you wondered, How to Fall in Love With A Man Who Lives in A Bush is not set in he wilds of Africa and the protagonist is certainly no Jane Goodall.

An engaging and entertaining journey of self realization across the turbulent oceans of the earth, How to fall in Love is a story of boy meets girl.

No wait, dirty boy meets very clean girl.

This is a true story; of how Emmy, a Swedish actress and author, met her partner, Viv; a Canadian who was travelling, surviving on odd jobs and living rough – yes, in a bush.

It’s kismet – fate – as they sit together on a park bench in Austria; Julia looks into his eyes, and falls for Ben’s sense of humour (that and the size of him!).

Yet the two are very different people:

Ben : You live your life so…safely. I’ve seen how you never take any risks.

Julia: And that’s news? I told you the very first time we were on the Donausinel: that I don’t like surprises…

I’m actually so sick of the myth that adventurous people are somehow better than the rest of us. That you’re only worthy of attention if you’ve swum naked in the Ganges or stroked a dolphin. “Oh look at me! I’m covered in mud at a music festival where there are no toilets. I’m so cool!” (p.107).

Will the two find a middle ground?

Julia’s stay at home, safe character is hilarious in the wild:

I’m going camping. I’ve never been camping before. I’m an indoor person. Nothing makes me more nervous than a sunny, cloudless day, because I know I should be outside, doing the kind of thing outdoorsy people do…The closest I’ve come to being a nature person was when I hiked in the Lainzer Tiergarten one time. I tried to impress (Rebecca and Jesus-Jakob) with my knowledge of nature but almost managed to kill (them) by mistaking lily-of-the-valley for wild garlic. (pp176-7).

Emmy Abrahamson’s first book for adults is laugh out loud funny and not sickly romantic at all. (Julia can’t even kiss Ben at first, until he’s cleaned his teeth.)

My kind of romance.

How to fall in love with a man who lives in a bush
by Emmy Abrahamson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN:9780008222338

Further reading

WORD things to get excited about: Mark’s picks of the 2018 festival

The WORD Festival is arriving in Christchurch (29 August to 2 September) in a celebration of all things literary. There will be something for everyone with events ranging from the silly to the profound with over 120 authors, and close to 100 events across 30 venues. Below is just a tantalising taste of what this wonderful event has to offer, so feel free to explore the WORD Christchurch Festival programme in full.

So pull up a chair, get yourself a drink, and get ready to explore the wonderful world of the WORD.

Picks of WORD Christchurch 2018

The Politics of fiction (Saturday 1 September 4-5pm, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Brannavan Gnanalingam, Pip Adam, and Rajorshi Chakraborti. Image supplied.

There will be certain pieces of fiction that hold special places in the hearts of literature fans, and one of the reasons could be for political reasons. Join Ockham award winning author Pip Adam, with fellow authors Rajorshi Chakraborti, and Brannavan Gnanalingam in conversation with Julie Hill as they discuss the very topic of the politics of fiction looking at the way fiction can be more than mere entertainment, but can serve a role in helping create empathy and change perspectives.

Yaba Badoe: Fire, Stars and Witches (Saturday 1 September 2.30-3.30pm, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Magical Realism is a beautiful genre of literature with narratives that can displace time and space or use magic as a metaphorical device through which to tell fantastic story rich in cultural relevance. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars author Yaba Badoe is a great international author of the genre of magical realism in addition to being an accomplished filmmaker and will be in discussion with University of Canterbury PhD candidate Sionainn Byrnes. This talk promises to explore issues surrounding women in Africa in addition to magical realist fiction itself.

Laurie Winkless: Science and the City (Saturday 1 September 4-5pm, Phillip Carter Family Concert Hall)

A topic that should be at the heart of all Christchurch locals. Following the tragedy that was the Christchurch Earthquakes, everyone – bar none – has had an opinion on how the rebuild has progressed and what should have been done. Laurie Winkless, author of Science and the City, will provide specialised knowledge on the subject that is well informed through studies of cities from all over the world and explore the scientific considerations of cities.

New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival (Thursday 30 August, 6-7.20pm, New Regent Street)

A glorious event for young and old. The New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival is my favourite event from Word Festival’s prior, and it’s free! This event will bring world class talent to New Regent Street in multiple pop-up events as the street is turned into a festival celebrating the literary form. The New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival will make you wish New Regent street was like this everyday.

David Neiwert: Alt-America (Thursday 30 August 6-7pm, Philip Carter Family Concert Hall)

David Neiwert. Image supplied.

American journalist David Neiwert will be talking about his book Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Time of Trump, in an attempt to explain what is actually happening in the American political landscape at present. What promises to be a great and informative event, David Neiwert will historicise the rise of this seemingly overnight political phenomena to the 1990s as he discusses his work in tracking and following the far-right in American politics for multiple decades.

Ted Chiang: Arrival (Sunday 2 September 2.45-3.45pm. Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

The Science Fiction Author of Story of Your Life, which was adapted into the film Arrival, Ted Chiang will be in conversation with science fiction and fantasy author Karen Healey. Expect and interesting and philosophical conversation from this thought provoking and awarding winning author.

Find out more

The world of WORD: Dan’s picks of the 2018 festival

WORD Christchurch is back for 2018 and the programme is full of quality experiences of the written word!

Once again there’s everything from poetry sessions, confessional sessions, author and book-related panels, and even a whale-watching tour to beautiful Kaikoura!

But for me, the biggest excitement surrounds the sheer diversity of options available to us, the reader/audience…

  • As stated above, you can take a Whale Watching (Tues 28 Aug) trip to Kaikōura. Hosted by authors Philip Hoare and David Neiwert, and travelling from Christchurch to rendezvous with Whale Watch Kaikōura for an early afternoon cruise out into the mighty ocean, you can encounter the ocean giants first hand, all the while having the author/hosts regale you with knowledge and stories.
  • Then there’s A Cabinet of Curiosities: Tiny Lectures on the Weird and Wonderful. (Fri 31 Aug – Sun 2 Sept) A series of quickfire 20min lectures on some of the more unusual aspects of our world; UFO’s, sexbots, mermaids…. you get the idea! These will be a great way to fill in some downtime between bigger events, such as…
  • Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting to Dead Men’s Trousers. (Fri 31 Aug) What an exciting opportunity to hear from the mind of the man who burst onto the scene in 1993 with what is now a modern classic! Welsh has written quite a few books centred on the characters featured in Trainspotting, but is this to be the last one…?!? He’s also a highly opinionated and politically-minded individual so there’s sure to be some Brexit talk during his talk.
  • Diary of a Bookseller (Sat 1 Sept) gives us an insight into the highs and lows in the life of a Scottish second-hand bookshop. It’s hosted by Shaun Bythell who will also be running Book Collectors Old and New (Fri 31 Aug) – a 3 hour interactive workshop on all things book collecting. Shaun co-hosts with Brian Phillips as they will impart all the knowledge you could want on the world of book collecting.
  • And how about a panel discussion with authors presenting readings of new writing on the music that has shaped them as artists and people. Soundtrack or, Dancing About Architecture (Sun 2 Sept) will see authors Philip Hoare, Pip Adam, Chris Tse, and Nic Low do just that. Musical styles and experiences will be as wide and varied as the work of the authors presenting.
  • And finally, the story of the editor-turned-bestselling author. A.J. Finn: The Woman in the Window (Sun 2 Sept) introduces us to the next big thing in thriller writing. Dan Mallory, writing under a pseudonym, is getting huge accolades from some big names in the genre and The Woman in the Window is already getting the silver-screen treatment. This will fascinating to hear him speak about how his years of editing set him up for the best possible crack at his own bestseller!

So there are my pics for this year’s festival – wide, rich, and varied. See you there for literary-themed goodness!

Cool stuff from the Selectors: New Children’s books

Here are some books that our Children’s Selector has suggested for sharing with children.

Who doesn’t love a good rhyme?  Generations of children have joined in, memorised and loved rhymes over the years and here are some new ones to enjoy.

Cover of Playtime Rhymes9780838912164Cover of The Golden Mother Goose

Cover of Under the silver moon

When looking for books for children don’t overlook the nonfiction section.  These books are interesting, full of great stories and pictures.

9781787410695Cover of The squirrel's busy yearCover of It's a puppy's life

Cover of Earth! My first 4.54 billion yearsCover of Whose home is this?Cover of Amazing animal friendships

200 years of the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she began writing the English language’s most successful gothic horror tale, Frankenstein, which was first published  200 years ago. So after all these years what do we know about her, the story, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frank Jnr.?

  • She did indeed write the story when she was 18, although it was not published until she was 21.
  • It was written as the result of a challenge laid down by Lord Byron (romantic poet extraodinaire), who along with young Mary, her husband Percy, and Byron’s “personal physician” John Polidori was staying in a spooky country house. On a stormy night telling ghost stories to each other, Byron thought it would be a good challenge for the group to see who could write the best ghost/horror story!
  • That session also led to Polidori writing the story ‘Vampyre’ which was influential on Bram Stoker for his work, ‘Dracula’.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously on a short run of 500 using extremely budget materials by publisher Lackington’s, who are still operating today
  • In 1910 Thomas Edison created a 15min film based on the story – I love the music accompaniment on it!
  • The monster has no name but is referred to in the book by the names in my first sentence. For many years I believed the monster’s name was Adam, but I must’ve dreamed that!
  • The story was initially published anonymously with many readers assuming the author to be Mary’s husband Percy. Even after its reprinting in 1831 with Mary’s name on it many still thought Percy’s hand was involved. In truth it is now believed that Percy contributed a measly 6% of the text (4,000 of 72,000 words) with many readers considering that his contributions only detracted from the story, were over complicated and over described, making the whole thing harder to digest.
  • During her life Mary also wrote, seven novels, three books for kids, over a dozen short stories, and numerous biographies, articles, and poems.

The story of Frankenstein is now so embedded into our popular culture that there have been countless depictions and references all through the history of film and television; think Hermann Munster, the film Young Frankenstein, British tele series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and even with the fantastic kids film Tim Burton, Frankenweenie ,we see that this story of horror has even entered into the realms of children’s literature and culture.

But have we stayed true to Mary’s idea?? Does the monster still serve the same purpose as she intended; a lesson in mortality, human desire for control and intolerance for the different, perhaps even describing the perils of parental abandonment…? This series of charts from the Guardian suggests there have been some major deviations.

So how will you celebrate the outstanding achievement of Mary Shelley? Perhaps by reading some classic gothic/horror/monster literature, there’s plenty out there and I’ve created a short list of titles for you, all available through the Christchurch City Libraries catalogue and across many formats; books, audiobooks, ebooks, and graphic novels…

Classic Gothic/Horror/Monster stories

List created by DevilStateDan

Some spooky, dark, and unnerving tales, classic titles from famous names…

View Full List

Happy and spooky reading to you….

Astroman at the Court Theatre – We talk to writer Albert Belz

One of the prizes in our Winter Read Challenge for teens is three double passes to see Astroman at The Court Theatre. This show is on from 27 October to 10 November. It sounds like a ripper – the 80s, video games, and Michael Jackson moves:

It’s 1983, and young Hemi ‘Jimmy’ Te Rehua knows how to dominate the games at the Whakatāne Astrocade Amusement Parlour. Too smart for his own good, Jimmy has a knack for trouble.

In this vid, playwright Albert Belz talks about Astroman to The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director Ross Gumbley.

We asked Albert a few questions:

How would you describe your play Astroman in a couple of sentences?

A coming of age story set in the small town N.Z. 1980s where a young boy genius discovers what it really means to be brave.

Do you have any tips for teens who want to get into writing plays?

Write with humour about the things that make you most angry.

What are your fave things – games, books, comics, movies, tv etc?

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Kia ora Albert, and good luck to all of you entering the Winter Read Challenge.

More about Albert

Staff picks for the Winter Reading Challenge (for ages 13 to 18)

How are you going with the Winter Reading Challenge? We have highlighted some of the fab books picked by teens, now here are some staff picks to help you tick off some challenges:

The first book in a series

Truly Devious Maureen Johnson
Unsolved mysteries, kidnapping, murder, and super smart teenagers at an isolated boarding school in Vermont. Alina

The Raven Boys Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Blue, the only non-psychic in her family of fantastic women, and the Raven Boys – four boys from a private school on a quest for a dead Welsh King. Full of humour, teen angst, almost-kisses and magic. (Also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is the last man on the planet. All the females are gone, you can read everyone’s thoughts, and nothing is quite as it seems. A brilliant series, fantastic as an audiobook, and coming out as a movie in 2019. Kate

Find more:

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A book that was made into a movie

The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
When Starr witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer, she struggles to decide what to do — speak up against injustice, or keep her family safe? (Read it before the movie comes out in October!) Alina

Everything Everything Nicola Yoon
What do you do when you literally can’t leave the house, and the thing you want most in the world is just outside the front door? Kate

Every Day David Levithan (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Book Thief Markus Zuzak (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Maze Runner James Dashner

The Fifth Wave Rick Yancey

Ready Player One Ernest Cline

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A book with non-human characters

Year of the Griffin Diana Wynne Jones
When Elda, the griffin daughter of the great Wizard Derk, arrives for schooling at the Wizards’ University, she encounters new friends, pirates, assassins, worry, sabotage, bloodshed, and magic misused. Alina

Find books about:

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A graphic novel/comic book

Nimona Noelle Stevenson
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Alina

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Ryan North
She’s part squirrel, part girl – she’s Squirrel Girl! Lots of fun, lots of laughs. Kate

One punch man

Spill Zone Scott Westerfeld

Find more:

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A love story

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Lily Anderson
A loose retelling of Much Ado About Nothing featuring fandom, extra-smart teens and a lot of snark. Alina

Autoboyography Christina Lauren
It can be hard enough being a gay teenager when you live somewhere liberal and progressive. It’s even harder in the middle of Mormon Utah. Kate

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell (picked by Kim)

Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi (picked by Alina)

Pieces of You Eileen Merriman (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books) [NEW ZEALAND]

Find more:

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Listen to a podcast or audiobook

Nation Terry Pratchett
Finding himself alone on a desert island when everything and everyone he knows and loved has been washed away in a huge storm, Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s also completely alone – or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. Narrated by Tony Robinson (don’t worry, he doesn’t sound like Baldrick from Blackadder in this). Alina

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz
Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Superbly narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alina

Find more:

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A book about identity

Lies We Tell Ourselves Robin Talley
In 1959 Virginia, Sarah, a black student who is one of the first to attend a newly integrated school, forces Linda, a white integration opponent’s daughter, to confront harsh truths when they work together on a school project. Alina

I am Thunder Muhammad Khan
Muzna is a regular British teenager, so how does she end up involved with Islamic radicals? Kate

A quiet kind of thunder Sarah Barnard
Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager with anxiety is even harder. And being a teenager with anxiety who doesn’t speak is even harder again… especially when love’s involved. Kate

Girl mans up M-E. Girard
Pen doesn’t want to be a boy – she just wants to look like one, and that confuses people. This is her look at frenemies, love, and teen pregnancy. An awesome read – I wish it had been written when I was a teenager! Kate

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index Julie Israel (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books)

Girl Missing Sophie McKenzie (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

You’re welcome, universe Whitney Gardner

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertalli

Find more:

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A dystopian novel

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run. (First in a series and also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Little Brother Cory Doctorow
A standalone cyber-thriller packed full of teen hackers, revolution, terrorism, a police state, and an awesome romance. Alina

The Giver Lois Lowry (picked by Julianne)

Replica Lauren Oliver

Flawed Cecelia Ahern

Find more:

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Inspirational biographies

Hope in a Ballet Shoe Michaela DePrince
Adopted in the United States, a young girl from Sierra Leone dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. A great read, even if you’re not a dancer. Kate

In the sea there are crocodiles: The story of Enaiatollah Akbar Fabio Geda
Based on the true story of 10-year-old Enaiatollah’s escape from Afghanistan, and his journey across the mountains and seas to safety in Italy. Kate

In order to live Yeonmi Park (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

Being Jazz Jazz Jennings

Never fall down Patricia McCormick (a work of fiction based on the true story of a Cambodian child soldier).

Find more:

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More recommendations

Personal recommended reads from librarians – from classics to new publications!

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Rachel from Scorpio Books recommended these books for teens:

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Saskia from Cashmere High’s library recommendeds the following good reads:

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More reading ideas

Enter the Winter Read Challenge and win prizes!

“Lymond is back!”

Cover of The Game of KingsI come bearing glad tidings, for the Lymond Chronicles have finally been republished and the library now has a complete set available to borrow.

This means I can finally recommend them with a clear conscience, starting with The Game of Kings — first in a series featuring the sneaky and erudite 15th century Scottish Francis Crawford of Lymond and lots of humour, sheep-stealing, and a bunch of historical references I’m too uneducated to understand.

During the course of the series the reader is taken to England, France, Malta, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, Dunnett’s writing and incredible depth of research transporting you with ease to each location. Her characters, too, are well-drawn and sympathetic, particularly my favourites Kate Somerville and her pragmatic daughter Philippa: 

“There are twenty thousand men, women and children in the bagnios of Algiers alone. I am not going to make it twenty thousand and one because your mother didn’t allow you to keep rabbits, or whatever is at the root of your unshakable fixation.”

“I had weasels instead,” said Philippa shortly.

“Good God,” said Lymond, looking at her. “That explains a lot.”

Lymond himself has been compared to other clever/ridiculous heroes such as Peter Wimsey and Athos, and I’d add Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle to that list. He has influenced writers from Marie Brennan, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner and Max Gladstone to Kim Stanley Robinson — all, now that I think about it, either fantasy or science fiction writers. Perhaps it’s the detailed sense of history and place that Dunnett evokes that makes it resonate with creators of other worlds.

Much as I love this series, its writing takes no prisoners and often leaves first-time readers baffled and confused within the first hundred pages. They’re not light reads by any means, although they are often fun, and going in you just have to accept that there is a lot going on that you won’t understand — unless you speak five languages and are deeply familiar with the literature and politics of the time period, in which case I salute you. (Or if you can’t but still want to understand, grab a copy of The Dorothy Dunnett Companion which attempts to explain the myriad references that the author drops carelessly every second paragraph.)

But if you do persevere (which I recommend you do), you’ll have six  ridiculous, funny, clever, heartbreaking books to read ahead of you. I mean, it has lines like this:

“And the English army, wheeling, started south at a gallop over the hill pass into Ettrick, followed by twenty men and eight hundred sheep in steel helmets.”

Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Cover of Queens' PlayCover of Disorderly KnightsCover of Pawn in FrankincenseCover of The Ringed CastleCover of Checkmate