Category Archives: short stories

Death or Ice Cream by Gareth P. Jones

I love finding authors who write a wide range of stories.  They don’t just write the same kinds of stories for the same age group, but really branch out and write all sorts of stuff.  Gareth P. Jones is one of those authors.  I first discovered Gareth when I picked up his first book, Constable and Toop.  I loved this book so much that I just wanted to read everything that he had written.  He stories can be hilariously funny, spooky and spine-tingling, or eerie and mysterious, and can feature ghosts, dinosaurs, and pirate robots.  In Gareth’s latest book, Death or Ice Cream? he takes us to the town of Larkin Mills and introduces us to the weird and wonderful characters that call this place home.

DeathLarkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death! Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death. An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man. Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another …well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning.

Death or Ice Cream? is dark, devilish and fun and I loved every minute of it!  The book is a series of interconnected spine-tingling stories, with a large helping of black humour, that draws you into the strange town of Larkin Mills.  Gareth made me laugh out loud, shiver and cringe.

I love the way that each of the stories interconnect and interact with each other.  There are characters (Mr Morricone) and objects (a vial of purple liquid) that pop up in a few of the stories and you wonder about the significance of these.  A story that you have just read could relate to the story that you read next, and I often thought it was quite clever how they related to each other.  Each of the stories is a piece of the jigsaw that you add to with each new story, and by the end of the book we know all about Larkin Mills and its secrets.

There are so many characters to love in Death or Ice Cream?  We get brief glimpses of characters, only to realise that they are much more important than you thought, and they turn up in another story.  In the first story there is a man going door-t0-door selling anecdotes.  You don’t learn much about him but you just know that he will turn up later.  Like the town itself, many of the characters appear to be hiding something.  Why, for example, is Mr Morricone’s Ice Cream Parlour so popular?  Why does his ice cream have such wicked sounding names, like Mowed Down Madness or Trigger Finger of Fudge?  Then there is the undertaker, Mr Milkwell, who runs a hotel/funeral home where the guests are both living and dead.

The TV shows that Gareth has added into the book gave me a good chuckle too. My favourite is called Flog It Or Burn It, where competitors are trying to sell their family heirlooms against the clock.  The person with the most unsold items has their burnt in front of a live studio audience.  It sounds much more exciting than Antiques Roadshow or Cash in the Attic.  One of the characters loves watching competitive basket weaving, which I’m sure would be thrilling.

Pick up a copy of the devilishly funny Death or Ice Cream? now and discover what’s going on in Larkin Mills.  This is one town you don’t ever want to visit!

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Chris Priestely’s Tales of Terror

Chris Priestley is one of my favourite seriously spooky authors.  He specialises in spine-tingling short stories and has published several collections of his Tales of Terror, which are absolutely terrific.  These are definitely stories that you want to read with the lights on!  Chris has also written several novels, including Mister Creecher, The Dead of Winter and Through Dead Eyes (which I reviewed here on the blog).

To find out more about Chris’ books take a look at his website – www.chrispriestleybooks.com

Check out the book trailer for the Tales of Terror series and make sure you grab one of Chris’ seriously spooky books.

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Patrick Ness takes us back to New World

If you’re a huge fan of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy like me I’m sure you didn’t want to leave New World behind at the end of Monsters of MenChaos Walking is one of those series that has really stuck with me and I often want to reread it right from the start.  A few years ago Patrick gave his readers a gift when he released his free short story, The New World, about Viola coming to New World.  I loved this story because it gave us a snapshot of Viola’s life before all hell broke loose in The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Walker Books have just re-issued the Chaos Walking Trilogy with very cool new jackets (and they look great beside the originals I have to say).  Not only do they have new covers, they also each contain a new short story, set in New World.  In the new edition of The Ask and the Answer you can read The Wide, Wide Sea, which takes place just before the first Spackle War and stars Mistress Coyle.  It focuses on the relationship between a human and a Spackle in the sea-side settlement of Horizon.  In the new edition of Monsters of Men you can read Snowscape (my favourite of the three), which takes place after the events of the trilogy.

I loved each of these stories!  They’re like the special features on a DVD – you get extra insights into the world of the stories and you get to return to your favourite (or most hated) characters.  Patrick says that he sees the stories as treats, ‘If  you  made  it  all  the  way  through  the  trilogy,  here’s  some  hopefully  fun  rewards.’ Well I certainly feel like Christmas has come early.  If you’re a fan of the series you have to read them.

The really awesome thing is that you don’t even have to buy copies of the new editions to read the stories.  You can read all of them for FREE at www.chaoswalkingstories.com.au, where you can also enter to win signed Chaos Walking goodies.

Don’t forget – enter my competition to win a signed copy of the new edition of The Knife of Never Letting Go or The Ask and the Answer.

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Introducing The Department 19 Files by Will Hill

I’m a huge fan of Will Hill’s Department 19 series.  I love them because they’re action-packed and gory, and there are vicious, blood-sucking vampires galore.  If you haven’t come across the series you can read my reviews of Department 19 and Department 19: The Rising here on the blog.

The third book in this awesome series, Department 19: Battle Lines will be released in April in New Zealand (March 28th in the UK).  In the lead-up to the release of Battle Lines, Will Hill is publishing three Department 19 short stories as ebooks.  The Department 19 Files is a trilogy of new stories, set in the same world as Jamie’s, but further back in history.  Will describes the stories as:

“…some of the darkest, most painful stuff I’ve written, and are full of all the action and gore you’ll be expecting. They shed light on the early years of Blacklight and how it became the organisation that Jamie and his friends are parts of, and they allowed me to write about one of the most fascinating periods in history, a period of mechanised death and devastation on a scale that is almost unimaginable in these days of drone strikes and laser-targeted bombs.”

The three stories are being released over the next three weeks in the lead up to the release of Battle Lines, and you can buy them from Amazon.com or Kobo in NZ.  Will explains what each of the stories is about on his blog:

“if you want to read about Quincey Harker and his horrifying adventures in the darkness of the Western Front, pick up The Devil In No Man’s Land. If you want to see a younger Valeri Rusmanov doing what he does best as Europe is gripped by the flu pandemic of 1918 (and read some of the nastiest stuff I’ve ever written!) then stick around for Undead in the Eternal City. And if you want to know what happened when Quincey Harker returned home and discovered the truth about what his father and his friends really do, then The New Blood contains the answers, along with some characters that fans of Dracula will be very familiar with!”

I’ve just read the first story, The Devil in No Man’s Land, and it’s bloody brilliant!  Set in the muddy battlefields of the Western Front, it tells the story of Quincey Harker (a character you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read any of the other Department 19 books) and the members of the Special Reconnaissance Unit.  They fought relentlessly for their country and were given medals that they could never be officially awarded, but none of them were prepared for the horror that they would discover in Passchendaele.  Will Hill is brilliant at building suspense and having you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what Quincey and his squad will come across next.  The gore that I love in the Department 19 books is certainly here in this compact little story and Will portrays the horrors of war very well.

One of the things I like the most about the Department 19 books are the historical chapters that give you background to the story and the organisation, so it’s great that Will has written these ebook short stories.  The great thing about The Department 19 Files is that they can be read separate from the rest of the books, so even someone who hasn’t read the others would enjoy these.  They would be a great way to hook readers into the series too.

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Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt, illustrated by Marjolein Pottie

Mouse has a sword. She wears a suit of armour. She is a knight. She is bold Sir Mouse.

Dragon does not have a sword. She does not wear a suit of armour. She is just Dragon.

Knights fight dragons. But Mouse and Dragon never fight each other. Mouse and Dragon are best friends.

Join Mouse and Dragon as they rescue Prince, outwit Cat, have a fancy dress party and find out all about friendship, knighthood and the true meaning of happy every after.

Sir Mouse to the Rescue is my favourite of new local publisher Book Island’s launch titles.  It’s a collection of five funny tales about an unusual friendship between a mouse (who is also a knight) and a dragon.  The wit and humour of Dirk Nielandt’s stories will appeal just as much (if not more) to adults as children.  The conversations between these two wonderful characters will have you and your children laughing out loud.

“Maybe I can rescue Prince,” says Dragon.
Mouse bursts out laughing.  “Don’t be so silly,” she says.
“You are Dragon, not a knight.  You you ever read books?”
“No,” Dragon admits.
“Exactly,” says Mouse.  “Who rescues the prince in books?”
“Um…” Dragon says.
“It’s always the knight, never the dragon,” says Mouse.

Apart from the conversations between Mouse and Dragon, the thing I like the most about this book is that roles are reversed.  Sir Mouse is a girl, it’s the prince stuck in the tower not the princess, and a knight and a dragon are friends not enemies.  I especially like the last story in which Prince asks Sir Mouse to marry him.  Sir Mouse puts on a dress and considers living happily ever after, but she decides,

“I want to live happily ever after.
But I don’t want to be a Princess.
I wear a suit of armour. I have a sword.
I am a knight. I am bold Sir Mouse.”

Marjolein Pottie’s illustrations, which were created by a combination of collage and paper-cutting technique, are absolutely stunning.  I love the different patterns that Marjolein has used for Dragon’s scales and the paper-cut illustrations are a very effective way of telling the story.  This beautifully produced book is finished off nicely with the patterned end-papers.

Sir Mouse to the Rescue is perfect for reading aloud or for newly independent readers to read by themselves.  The stories are short and funny, and the text is broken up into blocks to make it easier for children to read.  This is the first of a series of stories about Mouse and Dragon so I hope we’ll get to read more soon.  Get a copy of Sir Mouse to the Rescue from www.bookisland.co.nz from 11 November.

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Cool stories to discover at Story Cloud

There is an awesome new website that’s just been launched in the UK where you can read, listen to and download a new story from a different author every Monday and it’s all FREE. It’s called Story Cloud and it runs from 18 June to 3 September 2012.

To read the stories you click on one of the icons and choose to read or listen to the story. Then go and find the surprises in the pictures and see the challenges and tasks for you to write your own story.  It’s a great resource for primary teachers to use or for a boredom buster for the school holidays.

This week’s story is called The Talent Show, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Kristyna Litten.  Other stories to come are written by David Almond, Malorie Blackman, Debi Gliori and Philip Ardagh.  Check it out now at www.storycloud.co.uk.

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Hana – a Delirium short story by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver’s Liesl and Po was one of my favourite books of 2011.  I absolutely loved her very descriptive writing and magical story.  While I haven’t read Delirium yet it’s definitely on my to-be-read pile.  I know there are lots of Delirium fans out there and I like to support and promote authors whenever I get the chance, so here’s some special news for you:

“We now have a special Christmas treat for all you Delirium fans: whilst you’re eagerly awaiting its sequel, Pandemonium, out in March, you can read Lauren’s amazing short story, Hana. It’s told from the point of view of Lena’s best friend (who, you might have guessed, has some secrets of her own…) There’s a shocking twist to her tale that will leave you with your heart in your mouth. The short story is out exclusively in eBook this Christmas – it’s available to buy for just 99p for a limited time only over the festive season. 

Now, we know you’ll be desperate to order it immediately, but we have a favour to ask you. We’d love to give Lauren the best Christmas present ever: seeing Hana at number one in the eBook charts on Christmas Day.

Will you help us get it there by joining in on one big Christmas Eve push? If we all buy it on the 24th December, that will propel it up the charts into (hopefully!) the top spot.”

Check out the Hodder and Stoughton website to find out more about the story and where to purchase it.

 

 

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Chronicles of Harris Burdick – 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

I’ve been reading lots of short stories lately because we’ve been getting some cool collections of short stories for children and young adults in our library.  The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a collection of short stories written by 14 amazing authors, including Kate DiCamillo, Louis SacharJon Scieszka and Lois Lowry.  The stories are based on the original illustrations from the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, in which there are only illustrations with a title and caption.  I got introduced to this book about 8 years ago when I was at Teacher’s College and have loved it ever since.  There’s a whole mystery to the book and where the illustrations have come from.  Who was Harris Burdick and why did he disappear after dropping off his illustrations?  If you’ve never seen it you should definitely get this from the library to have a go at making up your own stories to go with the pictures.

I love this book!  Not only are there so many great stories by some of the best children’s authors, but the book is beautifully designed too.  There are stories for everyone in this book, from the magical and funny to the strange and unsettling.  There are naughty children, different dimensions, a wizard, floating nuns, aliens, ghosts, and a horrible stepfather who gets his comeuppance.  All of the illustrations are amazing and you could make up all sorts of stories about them.  I liked some of the stories more than others.  Some of them are really strange and others just left me thinking ‘what just happened?’  My favourite story is The Harp by Linda Sue Park, about two sisters who are always bickering and get a spell put on them by a wizard.  Get a copy of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick and discover this strange collection of stories from some of your favourite authors.

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