New year, new reads: Sci-fi, fantasy and mystery for teens

I’ve read so many YA books recently it’s difficult to choose which ones to blog about! I’ve made a list of my favourite teen reads in 2017 (all but one published last year and all highly recommended), so that frees me up to talk about some YA books from the new year.

If you like… science fiction

Cover of Martians Abroad

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

Polly is happy living in a colony on Mars, hoping one day to pilot a spaceship across the galaxy — but then her mother sends her and her twin brother to Earth to attend the prestigious Galileo Academy. Struggling to adapt (both socially and to the increase in gravity), Polly has to deal with more than just agoraphobia on her school field trips — something (or someone) seems to be targeting her and her group of friends. And each time, they’re raising the stakes…

If you like… fantasy set in Hungary

Cover of Blood Rose RebellionBlood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Anna Arden is unusual in being born into a prestigious magical family but having no magical ability herself — instead of casting spells, she breaks them. When she breaks her sister’s debutante spell she finds herself pretty unpopular with both her family and with noble magic society in general, so Anna finds herself packed off to Hungary with her grandmother. But Hungary might not be the best place to lie low, with resentment towards the Austro-Hungarian Empire rising. Soon Anna finds herself embroiled in a plot to overthrow the magic elite — and her magic-breaking ability might just be the key.

The second book in the trilogy (Lost Crow Conspiracy) is due to be published next month, so now’s a good time to start reading.

If you like… Sweeney Todd and demon librarians

Cover of Evil LibrarianEvil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

A silly romp of a book reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Cynthia is amused when her best friend Annie falls in love with the new school librarian Mr. Gabriel, but amusement turns to horror when she realises Mr. Gabriel is actually a demon hell-bent on sucking the life force out of all the students and making Annie his demon bride. Luckily he also loves musicals, so Cynthia has until the opening night of the school production of Sweeney Todd to try and save her best friend and banish her demon(s).

If this sounds like your cup of tea be sure to grab new sequel Revenge of the Evil Librarian as well!

If you like… twisty turny books that turn your head inside out

Cover of Jane, UnlimitedJane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This starts innocuously enough, with Jane being invited to stay at an old friend’s island mansion (as you do). Once there, however, it’s soon clear that there’s a lot more to the island that meets the eye — a cornucopia of mysteries await Jane’s investigative eye! And she investigates them all, the book gradually revealing more and more until she finally figures out the answer to the question she’s been asking all along — what really happened to her Aunt Magnolia?

If you like Jane, Unlimited then I’d also recommend Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall, which also involves aunts, mysteries and a bizarre house full of secrets, but set in Spain.

Where have all the middle-aged gone?

There have been no middle-aged folk in any of my recent reads. It is as if they have been spirited away to a far-flung galaxy at the end of the reading universe where they beaver away at earning the cash to put food on the table, or spend their weekends repairing the gutters and ferrying kids to sports matches. But no on seems to be writing about them any more.

The Story of Arthur TruluvInstead there has been a veritable deluge of books where the very old become all matey with the very young. Books in which the middle-aged, (for a variety of reasons) barely feature. Books like:

The Story of Arthur Truluv: Maddy pals up with Arthur after they meet in a cemetery. Maddy’s father, although still alive, is a remote, unhappy figure who is next to no help to her at all.

A Man Called Ove: OK, let’s be honest here, initially Ove hates everyone, but by the end of this sensationally successful novel, his redemption comes from his relationship with his new, young neighbours and their children. All the middle-aged people are idiots of one stripe or another.

The Lost For Words BookshopThe Lost For Words Bookshop: Loveday’s world changed in one unspeakable night of horror. She is left with no family. Elderly Archie takes her in as an assistant in his quirky Lost For Words Bookstore. There are hardly any middle-aged people in this book at all.

Our Souls at Night: Addie and Louis, two lonely small-town-America pensioners, form an unusual relationship that is complicated by the arrival of Addie’s 6 year old grandson. Gene, the father of the child, has issues that relate to the death of his sister. He just can’t get his act together. So Addie and Louis need to pick up the slack.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises: Elsa’s Granny is eccentric (to put it mildly), but Elsa loves her. Even after her granny dies, Elsa’s relationship with her granny remains more important than her relationships with any of the other adults in her life.

Raising our children's childrenAnd real life reflects this trend as well. Two Stuff articles this year have revealed the extent to which grandparents are having to raise their grandchildren. In one remarkable case a granddad  is raising two sets of twins for his step-daughter who has drug addiction problems.

Where is the help should this happen to you? In New Zealand the organisation Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is your starting point. Where is the research on this social phenomenon? Raising our Children’s Children is a good place to start with its many stories about how other families have coped.

But, in at least half of the novels I have read on this topic, the young people are completely unrelated to their older mentors. So this could happen to any of us. Don’t get too hooked on that luxury cruise to Vancouver is all I can say.

If you’re interested in more stories about the older generation, try our If you like … Older adults behaving badly and other quirky characters list

Cycling for beginners

The bicycle band, 1898
Cycling while playing music is not recommended for beginners. A cycling novelty [1898], Christchurch City Libraries PhotoCD 5, IMG0053
A friend of mine has just started riding a bike around Christchurch. She is a very tentative cyclist but I’m so proud of her for getting on her new bike and giving it a go. So far her forays along bike paths have been positive ones and I hope she comes to love cycling as much as I do.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to share what I know about cycle commuting in Christchurch with her, but also with other wannabe cyclists who are thinking about trying to rack up some kilometres this month in the friendly competition that is the Aotearoa Bike Challenge. (Registering on the website is quick and easy and if you download one of the recommended apps to your phone it’ll record your cycle journeys automagically! Also there are prizes!)

Tips for newbie Christchurch cyclists

If you’ve never done it before, riding a bike can be a bit intimidating but the more you do it, and the more you learn, the more confident you’ll be. Here are some things it might help you to know:

  • Cyclists are friendly folk – We love encouraging new cyclists and there are numerous clubs and groups that would love nothing better than to encourage you towards freewheeling greatness. Try:
  • Plan your route – If you’re nervous about busy roads and intersections plan your route so you can avoid them. And if you feel like a particular intersection or bit of road is dicey, there’s no shame in pulling over and being a pedestrian for a bit. I do it all the time!
  • Cycle lane etiquette – If you’re a slowpoke like me you’ll want to keep to the left of a cycle lane so it’s easier for faster cyclists to overtake you on the right. If you’re speedy calling out a cheery “coming up/overtaking on your right” as you approach is helpful for avoiding any collisions. A bell is a useful piece of kit for cyclists of all speeds as it’s great for getting the attention of pedestrians on shared pathways (or those who absentmindedly wander into a cycle lane). To me a bell always sounds more friendly than “OI!”.
  • Do wear a helmet – Because them’s the rules. And if you’re in an accident you’ll appreciate not being concussed (I speak from experience). And yes, it’s still the rules if you’re cycling on the footpath (but don’t cycle on the footpath unless it’s designated a shared pathway). Correct deployment of your helmet is firmly strapped on your head… not dangling off your handlebars.
  • Do wear whatever else you want though – There is no cycling uniform and I have successfully biked in everything from heels to jelly shoes (and even a veil once – it was Halloween). Short or floaty skirts can be problematic (especially when windy) but a snug pair of shorts underneath or the coin and a rubber band trick (or a peg) can successfully keep things “under wraps”.

Things to know about cycling infrastructure

There are a lot of cycling initiatives and changes to infrastructure happening in Christchurch and some of these can be a bit confusing or mysterious if you’ve never come across them before. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Sharrows – If you’ve seen road markings that incorporate a bicycle icon and a chevron shape then you’ve seen a “sharrow” (share arrow). These are used on slow or quiet streets and indicate that cyclists should bike towards the middle of the road. But do move across to the left if a motorist wants to come through.
  • How to make lights go – You may notice at or on the approach to an intersection a section of road that looks like the surface has been sliced into, often in the form of a box or rectangle. Underneath the road surface is a sensor that can detect bicycles and in some instances this may be the only way to trigger the lights. If you feel like you’ve been waiting an age for the lights to change, look down or around you. You may be a little too far ahead, behind or to the side to be registering as a cyclist.
  • Extra lights just for you – In the central city there are now some intersections that operate on a different system to work in with the new separated cycle lanes. Instead of following what the main traffic lights indicate, you’ll need to pay attention to the special lights just for cyclists (you’ll know they’re for you because they’ll have a bike symbol). Keep your eyes out for these at spots like the Tuam/Colombo intersection, and by the bus exit of the Bus Interchange.
  • Hook turn boxes – A hook turn is a handy option at really busy intersections where making a right hand turn in heavy traffic might not be the safest option. If you see a painted box featuring a hooked arrow and a bicycle icon at an intersection this is a good place for cyclists to perform a “hook turn” (although hook turns are allowed at most intersections). A hook turn is when you take a two step approach to a right turn. Staying to the left, a cyclist can go with traffic through a green light then stop in the hook turn box, and then go with traffic through a second green light (or even ahead of it if the road is clear), effectively making a right hand turn in two stages. The NZTA has official instructions on performing hook turns (with pictures) that explain this really well.

Where to go for more information

Library resources for beginner cyclists

 

A guide to European political thrillers

Political thrillers are great. They’re most often a mix of brain and brawn and they give us a chance to get behind the scenes of a part of society many of us are never privy to first-hand. We also get to ride along with an individual who might know just as little as us about navigating the worlds of poli-speech, discovering where the true powers lay in the scheme of things, and who is really working for whom… It’s a good recipe for intrigue and action!

And it makes sense that America would be a hot-bed for political thriller writers – think Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Archer, Vince Flynn… the list goes on and on, and little wonder when the state of politics in the good ol’ US of A seems a swirling miasmic minefield of betrayals, press control, and hidden agendas… what a source of inspiration for willing authors!

But what about Europe?!? European political thrillers have often been the poor cousins of the big budget American titles, but I’d like to speak out for the Euro-Political-Thriller and encourage you all to try some out.

Not only do we encounter the world of politics but with the Euro versions we also get conflicting cultures trying to outwit each other, the language barriers of neighbouring countries, and recent history – don’t forget that there are wars ongoing in places like Turkey, Ukraine, and the ever-present threat of Russia – a heady mix to spark the creative juices of European thriller writers

So here’s a list of ten recent Euro-Political-Thrillers that were released last year (2017) for your enjoyment. There are some excellent ingredients here including (of course) the MI6, people-smuggling, an ever meddling Russia, and a whole lot more troubles of our times – just remember as you read, trust no one!

A Guide to Euro Political Thrillers

List created by DevilStateDan

Not all political thrillers are written by American authors, and here’s a slice out of the European side of things.

Cover of The 7th function of languageThe 7th Function of Language – A murder conspiracy neck-deep in the world of literature. Seeking a lost manuscript, and the truth of what happened to the murder victim – a high brow literary critic – our detective, Jacques Bayard, delves into a secret alternate history of the French intelligence agency. Action packed and at times humourous, if you liked the Da Vinci Code then give this one a go!

You Don’t Know Me – The defendant has sacked his lawyer and is now taking up his own defence. We, the reader, are essentially jury members as he takes us through each piece of evidence. There’s gang violence, cover-ups and conspiracy. Wait until the end, and you be the judge…did he do it?!?

Cover of KompromatKompromat – A story to echo our times… Easily written and at times seriously close to the mark, this story (by a former politician) outlines Britain’s split from the EU, a meddling Russia, a farcical US election, and all the underhand machinations that occur under the table. Truly a satire of our current political world.

A Damned Serious Business – The cold war still rages but this time it’s computer hackers in addition to bombs! Our central character sets out on a near-impossible mission that will see many lives inperiled. It’s a classic race for survival with a great sense of pace.

Cover of The Susan effectThe Susan Effect – Susan has a strange an unique gift and some very powerful people want to use her for their own purposes and gain information about the Future Commission – an underground political movement. The story unfolds in two timelines and is complex, full of sub-plot, a little dystopian, and completely thrilling.

A Divided Spy – A cat and mouse spy thriller about an ex-MI6 agent tasked with locating and recruiting a Russian spy to the English side. Lines are blurred between the sides as the plot unfolds and the Russian agent’s secrets become clear. If you like John Le Carre then you’ll love this!

Cover of I am pilgrimI Am Pilgrim – A terrorist has something seriously big planned for the North America and it’s down to one man to stop him. A modern day spy vs. spy story in the same vein as the Bond or Bourne stories.

A Dying Breed – War journalism is not for the faint of heart but our protagonist, William Carver, is out for the truth about a bombing in Kabul. A younger journalist is sent to manage Carver but the plot goes deeper than first thought, way back to the corridors of Whitehall it seems. Another one for fans of John Le Carre.

Cover of NomadNomad – Inside the MI6 Marc Dane is a pencil pusher, always on the safe side of the action. But that’s about to change! A brutal attack and a conspiracy running all the way through the secret service means Marc Dane is now an active agent.

Die Last – The fourth book to feature detective Max Wolfe and this one, with it’s tag-line “twelve dead girls, thirteen passports” delves into the morally corrupt world of people smuggling and the modern day slave trade. It’s lots of action, a sympathetic detective and loads of twists and turns. If you like Rankin’s Rebus then have a go at Parson’s Wolfe!

View Full List

And the nominees are…

The nominees for the Academy awards have been announced for this year. For me the most notable inclusions are “genre” films in the Best Picture category. It’s unusual for genre films to get much love from the Academy in this category (Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King is so far the only fantasy film to ever win Best Picture) so it will be interesting to see if either Guillermo Del Toro‘s fairy tale fantasy (The shape of water) or Jordan Peele‘s modern gothic horror (Get out) will take the out the Oscar. They’re both up against more traditionally “Oscar-worthy” films in this category so it seems unlikely, in my opinion ( but if you’re interested in knowing more, may I direct you to this graph showing how the genre preferences of the Academy for Best Picture stack up)

Oscar nominated movies must have opened in the previous calendar year, which means that some (but not all) of these films are now available in New Zealand. Flicks has a useful list of where and how you can watch the 2018 Oscar-nominated movies locally.

As for the library collection, below are the 2018 Oscar-nominated films available for loan on DVD or with tie-in reading material. See how many you can watch/read ahead of the awards ceremony on Sunday, 4 March (Monday, 5 March here if you’re planning on watching live).

2018 Oscar nominated films available on DVD

Related books and soundtracks

A number of  this year’s nominated films are either based on books or have tie-in titles or soundtracks, so you might want also want to check out:

  Cover of The breadwinner by Deborah Ellis Cover of Call me by your name by Andre Aciman Cover of The disaster artist by Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell Cover of Dunkirk: The history behind the major motion picture by Josh Levine Cover of Molly's game by Molly Bloom Cover of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan Cover of Star Wars the last jedi, the visual dictionary Cover of Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu Cover of Wonder by R. J. Palacio Cover of The world of Kong: A natural history of Skull Island

Find out more:

A novella idea…

Well the new year is underway and it’s another year of excellent reading ahead!

But if you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of reading, or if the idea of a thick tome after weeks of recreation has you daunted, then I’ve got an idea for you; why not try a novella or two!?

A novella is a mid-length story that fits somewhere between a short story and a full blown novel. Many great authors have produced great works through this medium (some of them feature in this list!) and it’s a format worth celebrating, so here’s a list of stories in…

The Mid-Length Form

List created by DevilStateDan

Not quite a novel but longer than a short story; here’s a list of great reads in the shorter form of a novella and ranging from all over the world, across many genres and eras. There’s some big names (authors) in this list and a great way to read some classics without committing to a hefty tome! From Voltaire and Kafka, to Jack London and John Gardner – there’s something here for all tastes and all easily knocked over in one or two sessions.

Cover of The daylight gateThe Daylight Gate – A dark and violent story of witchcraft, witch-hunting, and human frailty. A stunning read by a great writer! It’s 165 pages will transport you back to the brutal times in 1600’s Lancashire

The Forensic Records Society – A group of men decide to create a society for the forensic appreciation of 7″ vinyl records, each taking turns to share their chosen song in silence. That is until a newcomer has different ideas as to how the society should work – are the originals open to change!?! Very humourous and insightful book by one of my new favourite authors. 182 pages.

Cover of McGlueMcGlue – A sailor with the mother of all hangovers tries to reassemble the happenings of the previous night. He’s now locked up and on a murder charge so things must’ve gotten out of hand. Amazingly dark and vivid descriptive writing from a Man Booker Prize shortlisted author. Just over 100 pages for this character to grasp some metaphoric life-raft of decency.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – A dreamlike discussion between an elderly man and his grandson outlines the confusing and heartrending circumstances of dementia. 76 pages of introspection and warmth.

Cover of The old man and the seaThe Old Man and the Sea – The classic and one of my all time favourite books. If you haven’t read this yet then do so now, it’s beautifully written and explores ideas of humanity, life, death, and more – all in under 130 pages!

Hunger – Published in the 1890s, this is about the abject poverty and desperation in he life of a young writer struggling to stay alive in the freezing streets of Oslo. Absolutely stunning writing and descriptive writing and a hidden classic that should be held in much higher regard than it is! This one’s a bit bigger at 232 pages, but well worth the extra time.

Cover of The subterraneansThe Subterraneans – A group of young wasters in NYC drift about doing not much else except try to find themselves and discover who they are. He’s a good writer and this is one of his best imho. Only 110 pages but crammed with quality.

Fifteen Dogs – The Greek Gods are a troublesome lot and two of their order have a bet about the nature of “intelligence”, so they bestow self-realisation upon fifteen dogs due to be destroyed. What happens after is shocking, funny, violent, heart-wrenching, and amazing. Great book at 170 or so pages.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – Classic horror right here with a young man drawn to the dark arts of witchcraft in Rhode Island. His dabbles with Hell become increasingly dangerous and with he himself becoming more deranged by the day. What’s going on behind his closed door at night and what are those strange lights…?!?! 127 pages will leave you freaked by the evil that men do!

Cover of GrendelGrendel – The Beowulf Tale but told from the perpective of the monster… but what if you had a deeper understanding of Grendel, about his feelings, his motivations – is he still so monstrous or are the monsters elsewhere!?!? This is an outstanding book beautifully written. So much in it for only 123 pages!

The Peculiar Life of A Lonely Postman – A curious tale of a postman who develops a love of haiku, and starts a poetic dialogue with a stranger that gets deeper and deeper. Maybe a case of mail fraud and stalking but delivered in such a light hearted and charming approach and only 119 pages.

Cover of Call of the wildThe Call of the Wild – A classic novella with the hardy Buck as our hero. A timeless and ageless adventure and survival story. It’s about love, loss, power and control, and the will to endure hardship through sheer inner strength. An amazing 79 page story for all ages.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – A harrowing yet beautiful look at 24hrs of life in a Stalinist Russian prison and labour camp. Our central character strives hard to maintain dignity in the face of inhumanity. Seemingly ordinary objects take on great significance in the quest for one’s own survival. A bleak and hard hitting read and a cult classic. 142 pages of grim determination.

Cover of Animal farmAnimal Farm – Another book that everyone should read. It’s very famous story of farm animals in revolt against their perceived oppressors is nowadays part of our very culture. If you’ve not read these 104 pages then do so now!

Metamorphosis and Other Stories – A man awakes to find himself transformed…. into a bug, and his (and his family’s) attempt to adjust to his new form. It’s about identity, social isolation, alienation, and loads of other heavy allegory that you don’t need to be aware of when getting into the 64 pages of weirdness and exposure!

Cover of The death of Ivan Ilyich & confessionThe Death of Ivan Ilyich – Explore the stages of grief with Ivan Ilych, who has just been diagnosed with an incurable illness that will soon see the end of him. He and his family travel the rocky roads of denial, anger, and finally acceptance over the course of the 114 pages. A great work by a great writer.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells is a giant in the world of fantastical sci-fi, and The Time Machine is arguably his greatest work. An eccentric inventor loses his beloved and seeks to travel through time to save her, but what he finds throughout the depth and breadth of human history is shocking, disturbing and thoroughtly inhuman. A brilliant piece of work in 118 pages.

Cover of the Third man & The fallen idolThe Third Man – Rollo is a writer. He writes cheap paperbacks. When his friend, Mr Lime, invites him to Vienna he jumps at the chance for an interesting journey. But Mr Lime has been killed before Rollo arrives and Rollo finds himself embroiled in a post-war Vienna noir thriller. A good suspenseful novella of 195 pages.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Other Stories – Another classic horror story that is so familiar to us nowadays, but if you’ve never read the book then you only know half the story! With lines like; ““I slept after the prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break.” – how could you not love every word in its 110 pages…!?

Cover of The outsiderThe Outsider – A story in two parts; the first follows a young man on the fringes of identity with no aims or plans, when an incident occurs. The second part is the resulting consequences of that incident. French author Albert Camus is the king of the novella and this one is a beaut place to start if you’re new to his writing. 126 pages of thought provoking text.

Candide, Or, The Optimist – Candide is a well balanced young man who has been raised to see the best in the world, until he becomes embroiled with a local girl and is ousted from his wealthy family home. What happens next is a road trip like no other with adventurous deeds and arduous ordeals. A brilliant story in 135 pages.

Cover of Slaughterhouse 5Slaughterhouse-five – Butchery in the service of authority is the theme of this classic novella. It’s post-war absurdity, humour, and tragedy, and quite brutal – a great read in 185 pages!

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You’ll get through those in no time! So you might also want to check out Joyce’s list of tiny books.

The many confusions of a new year

At the start of every new year I feel a certain sense of confusion. How will this year be for me? How will I be for this year? I feel very receptive to signs and portents at this time. Here’s what I’ve garnered so far:

Breakfast is a Dangerous MealWhat will I eat? Not breakfast as it turns out! The very latest foodsy trend knocks on the head the old notion that brekkie is the most important meal of the day, and does so with one of the cleverest cover designs so far this year! Terence Kealey’s Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal is a very well researched diatribe against early morning eating for diabetics, the overweight and those with blood pressure problems. How does he cope? “On waking I resort to a strong cup of black coffee; then I go for a run, a swim or a cycle ride. It helps that I have a job that I love.” Oh and Kay.

Goodbye ThingsWhat will I do? More tidying I’m afraid. Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki (who is quick to point out that he is no Marie Kondo) is just a regular messy guy who changed his life by getting rid of absolutely everything he did not need. The effects were remarkable: “Sasaki gained true freedom, new focus, and a real sense of gratitude for everything around him.” Sounds good – and there is no folding of clothing required.  If you can’t handle that, try Bohemian Residence instead which bills itself as being witty with: “lavish possibilities for contemporary city living”. There’s something about that word “lavish” that fairly screams “Bring Me My Eggs Benedict Now!”

I actually Wore ThisWhat shall I wear? Years ago I loved Trinnie and Susannah because they helped us work out what to wear by ruthlessly telling us what not to wear (everything we had in our wardrobes, as it turned out). I Actually Wore This (Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought) is a happy reminder of that time in my life. Arty types and fashionistas reveal those items they bought and then never wore (or hardly ever). It is comforting to realise that we have all done this – bought an item for a New Year’s do, worn it once, then only dragged it out again as a kind of fancy dress item for Halloween. This book is visually pleasing and very wittily written. I now know that I must NEVER AGAIN be tempted by ethnic clothing while on vacation to exotic shores.

So there you have it: the all new, possibly snappy (no brekkie) 2018 Roberta. Neat and tidy, but whatever is that she is wearing?

Happy New Year!

What’s a young person to do this summer?!

The summer holidays are upon us at last and there’s now lots of daytime hours to pursue your extracurricular interests and one of those interests is sure to be reading, but just WHAT do you read..?!?

I have compiled a reading list just for you so you don’t have to waste your precious summer moments searching for your new favourite book.

There’s everything in here, from steampunk adventure to wilderness survival, sci-fi alien battles to swords and sorcery, everyone will find something to rock their world this summer. There’s not a lot of romance in here, it’s all action, adventure, and fantastic tales – just the ticket for the long hot season!

So get looking through the list, place holds, search your local library, and talk to your local librarians…

Teenage Kicks

List created by DevilStateDan

A list of action-packed, non-sentimental, teenage reads!

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The Obsidian Blade
The first book of a trilogy that hurtles through dimensions as the young protagonist seeks answers and the truth behind what has happened to his family. Fast paced, full of action, and confronts the ideas of organised religion – great read!

Stormbreaker
High octane adventure as a young man gets recruited into the secret service – action packed!

Mortal Engines
Cities on wheels scouring the globe eating each other..?? A brilliant future-fantasy/steampunk adventure, and the first of four books. Hugely inventive and creative in it’s world building, and non-stop action!

Nation
A desert island survival adventure with a fantasy twist, and it’s Terry Pratchett so you just know it’s going to be full of heart and humour.

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Starship Troopers
If you like science fiction then this is the one for you! A huge story of alien battles, military camaraderie, and a high level of irony make this space adventure story a huge winner! Once you’ve read this book then watch the 1997 movie of the same name – you’ll never look at humanity in the same way again!!

Hatchet
Another wilderness survival story, this time in the wilds of Alaska and a young man alone. A great coming of age story – he goes into the wild a boy and becomes a man, but does he survive…??

The Outsiders
Gang life in the 1980s is where this story is at, with all the highs and lows of growing up in a poor and struggling family, trying to find your way in the world. This is a modern classic and a must read for all teens!

The Book Thief
As my colleague AliReads describes this book; “The Book Thief, Leisel, embodies the idea that humans need stories to continue being human. Like a lot of these other books, it’s a holding-on-to-your-humanity story, because war will strip you down.”

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Gone
What would you do if everyone fifteen or older was suddenly gone? No explosion, no green alien smoke, just … disappeared.

A Wizard of Earthsea
Wizards. Dragons. Good vs Evil. Oustanding and classic fantasy storytelling complete with the reluctant hero and a great quest. This has also been made into a movie by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Goro Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli)

Ashfall
A natural disaster survival story about a young man trying to reconnect with his family after a devastating volcanic eruption negotiating dangerous terrain and perilous people.

Neverwhere
Modern fantasy by the best in the business right now – Neil Gaiman.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go
I’ll let my colleague stewaroby describe this one; “Where have all the women gone? 13-year-old Todd Hewitt must solve this mystery and escape a strange, all male society on a strange,, harsh planet. He will need to find a new way to be a man”…sounds beaut!

Eragon
A young farmer finds a dragon egg and is propelled headlong into the action and intrigue of a swords and sorcery fantasy story – dragons are cool, this story is cool.

Cycle of the Werewolf
Werewolves are terrorising a small town in this horro story from the godfather of horror; Stephen King – a great place to start for a young horror enthusiast!

The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The one that started it all! Follow Arthur, Ford, Trillian and friends as they travel through the universe together, guided along the way by the best known travel book ever – and don’t forget your towel!

The Maze Runner
Think of an escape room… now make it as big as a city and extremely dangerous! That’s where a young man wakes up suddenly one day, finding himself in the company of strangers who together have to figure their way out of their deadly predicament!

The Lord of the Rings
The classic fantasy trilogy – it’s got everything, awesome world building, swords and sorcery, a quest of great significance… if you haven’t read this yet then do so now!

Ender’s Game
With humanity under threat from an alien race, six-year-old Ender Wiggin leaves his family on Earth to journey to the Belt. There he enters Battle School and is strictly disciplined in mind games and mock battles. In instinct, compassion and genius he is unequalled, for his is a unique destiny.

But hey! maybe Graphic Novels are your thing…?!? No worries, we have you covered and Ma1co1m’s reading list is full of the best of the best graphic novels for 2017.

But wait….there’s more!!

With reading comes your chance to WIN!

That’s right, all you have to do to be in the running to win a Westfield voucher, an MTA voucher, or book or movie vouchers is either visit one of our libraries or our website, complete the challenge sheet and hand it in and you’re chance to win! You can find out more by visiting our website (where you can also download a copy of the challenge sheet!)

And remember; if you can’t find the information you need, come and talk to one of our librarians and they’ll set you up with a beaut new read.

Happy Summer to you 🙂

2017 Book Challenge

Reader, I need your help. I’ve been diligently ticking off the categories on this year’s reading challenge (Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge), but it’s getting incredibly close to 2018 and I’ve still got a few unfilled. If anyone has any good recommendations that fit the bolded themes please let me know in the comments so that I can whip through them before the new year! (Or if you’ve read any of the same books as me, let me know what you thought of them.)

  1. Read a book about sports. A Season of Daring Greatly, Ellen Emerson White
  2. Read a debut novel. True Letters from a Fictional Life, Kenneth Logan
  3. Read a book about books. Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library, Chris Paling
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. Nightlights, Lorena Alvarez
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. American Street, Ibi Zoboi
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers
  8. Read a travel memoir. Japan AI: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan, Aimee Major-Steinberger
  9. Read a book you’ve read before. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. Kaitangata Twitch, Margaret Mahy
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey
  12. Read a fantasy novel. The Last Namsara, Kristen Ciccarelli
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. First, Catch Your Weka: A Story of New Zealand Cooking, David Veart (food technology counts, right?)
  14. Read a book about war. Firstborn, Brandon Sanderson
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Ramona Blue, Julie Murphy
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (I’m cheating with this one because I think it’ll be a classic even though it was only published this year.)
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. American Street, Ibi Zoboi
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. Soft Spot: short stories, by Jagdev Singh Kaler
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories, Connie Willis
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. You Bring the Distant Near, Mitali Perkins

Has anyone else completed (or tried to complete) a book challenge this year? Or if you want to get started on a new one, try out our summertime reading challenges for kids and for adults and be in to win a prize!

Cover of American StreetCover of Ramona BlueCover of Leviathan WakesCover of Howl's Moving Castle

Serial killers

Face facts, life has bad patches. I’m in one right now: post Italy holiday blues; Skype meltdowns in the middle of calls to the grandies; and Pneumonia.

GormenghastTime was I would have bounced back from all of this, but now it feels more like I am seeping. Seep-back requires that you do nothing. This is so much harder to do than one might have thought.

What I really needed was a good book. And the best books for holidays and dark times are serials. The first serial I ever read was way back in my twenties – The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake – a cultish read at that time. I loved these books and I remember, in particular, that my understanding of the importance of setting and naming in a novel stems largely from these reads. Ah Steerpike, Titus Groan and Fuschia!

DissolutionForty years passed before I read another serial: The Dissolution series by C.J. Sansom. Far surpassing anything else written about the time of King Henry VIII, these books get down and dirty with England at the time of Henry’s reign and they do this through a hunchback lawyer – Shardlake – as the main protagonist. If you’ve read Hilary Mantel and have tired of Philippa Gregory, do yourself a favour and try Sansom’s clever murder mysteries set in Cromwell’s time.

My Brilliant FriendAnd that was it for me and serials. Until we went on holiday to Italy, and right at the last minute I remembered that I’d been given the first book of The Neopolitan Series by Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend. I popped it into my hand luggage, and what a wise move that turned out to be.

Written in Italian and translated into many other languages, I have become a Ferrante groupie. I now know that this is the pseudonym of an author who wanted her real identity kept secret (but who has just been outed by a nosy journalist). I’m also now aware that there are actual Ferrante tours of Naples  which visit all the main locations mentioned in the books. And I’ve learnt that a TV series on the Neopolitan Novels is currently being filmed in Italy.

But mainly I fell onto the couch, and into another world of family and friendships and fall-outs. A world that does not stop after one book. A world peopled by characters so real you want to slap them, or as said by reviewer John Freeman writing for The Australian:

Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.

I’m saving the fourth and last book for my Christmas read, my not-so-Secret-Santa gift to myself!

Any suggestions for other very readable series?