My Top 5 YA of 2015

I haven’t read much YA this year I’m sad to say.  There have been many great YA books released this year but I just haven’t had the time to read them.  In my role in the library I’ve been mainly promoting great reads to primary school kids so I’ve been reading lots of children’s fiction.  Here are my top 5 YA books of 2015 that have really stood out for me (you can click through to read my reviews):

  1. y648Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  4. Stray by Rachael Craw
  5. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

YA from 2015 that are still on my TBR pile (I know they’ll be great!)

  • Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
  • Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield
  • Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
  • Another Day by David Levithan
  • Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

A Monster Calls Movie Trailer

I am so excited to be able to share the teaser trailer for the movie of A Monster Calls.  The movie is based on the book written by Patrick Ness, which came from an idea by Siobhan Dowd.  I absolutely love this book and the trailer certainly looks amazing.  Liam Neeson seems to be perfect for the voice of the monster.

A Monster Calls is due for release next October.  It can’t come soon enough!

 

Inside Illuminae

I’m currently reading Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, an incredibly gripping YA sci-fi thriller.  It is one of my favourite YA reads of 2015 and I can’t wait to see how it will end.  I’ll post my review very soon.

Random House US have created some brilliant book trailers to promote Illuminae and they really capture the tone of the story.  Check them out and grab a copy of Illuminae: The Illuminae Files #1 now.

 

My Most Anticipated Kids & YA November New Releases

Harry Miller’s Run by David Almond, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino (Walker Books)

Liam just wants to go out running with his mates – it’s not long till the Junior Great North Run, and there’s training to be done. But Mam needs him today, to help old Harry clear out his house. Harry knows a thing or two about running. When he was a lad, he says, he ran all the way from Newcastle to South Shields. “But Harry,” says Mam, “that’s thirteen miles!” Harry grins. “Different times,” he says. This is the story of that day: of sweltering heat, clattering boots, briny sea air and the heavenly taste of ice cream; the day when Harry and his pals ran and ran and ran through the blazing sunlight all the way to the sea.

Fairytales for Mr Barker by Jessica Ahlberg (Walker Books)

Peep through the holes in this delightful fairytale adventure.

“Once upon a time, there was a troll,” says Lucy. But Mr Barker isn’t listening. He’s off on his own fairytale adventure. Who will he and Lucy meet and will their story end happily ever after?

Illuminae: The Illuminae Files 1 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen and Unwin)

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the hell is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

The Grunts on the Run by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Allen and Unwin)

Over the years, the Gruntshave made more than a few enemies. But fortunately they’re all safely behind bars. Or are they? There’s been a prison break-out, and three of them are after REVENGE. It’s time for the Grunts to go On the Run. This last book brings back some familiar faces from the series and solves a couple of mysteries too.

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Allen and Unwin)

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. It’s a funny old life, not actually being there, but someone’s got to do it.

Nobody else can see Rudger – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger.

Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr Bunting catches him – and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?

Stripes No, Spots! by Vasanti Unka (Penguin Random House)

Tiger claims that stripes are best. Leopard insists that spots are tops. Their squabble turns into a quarrel; the quarrel becomes a battle; and, by lunchtime, the jungle is a complete mess.

Monkey calls a meeting of the Jungle Council and all the animals put their heads together to come up with a plan. Their cunningly stylish way of resolving matters will bring out the best in everyone . . . well, almost everyone.

Cool Nukes by Des Hunt (Scholastic NZ)

Professor Walter Mayhew has always been weird, but an explosion in his backyard lab sends him over the edge. Soon afterwards he disappears in bizarre circumstances. Then three of his youngest and cleverest students – thirteen-year-olds Max, Jian Xin , and Cleo – start getting cryptic messages which seem to be the plans for a nuclear device – one that could solve all of mankind’s energy problems.

At first they welcome the opportunity to make something spectacular for the upcoming ExpoFest science fair. But this machine, if it works, will be worth a fortune, and Max soon becomes the target of a criminal gang. As the day of the ExpoFest approaches, the pressure increases until Max is forced to choose between completing the task or saving the life of his best friend.

The Bloodtree Chronicles: Bragonsthyme by Elizabeth Pulford (Scholastic NZ)

When the Bloodtree loses its last leaf, there will be no more stories in the Silvering Kingdom . . .

The Silvering Kingdom is the home of fairy tales but the kingdom and all those within are in danger of vanishing because the Bloodtree – the source of all stories – has been poisoned.

In Book 2 of the series, Bragonsthyme’s story is frozen in time. It is up to Abigail (Spindale) and Flint to track down the story’s happy ending by finding the dark master Treolle’s last words, thus helping the Bloodtree to heal.

The Roly-Poly Baby by Catherine Foreman (Scholastic NZ)

The roly-poly baby rolls through the house, past her cat, her sleeping grandad, her mum and older siblings in the kitchen, then outside into the elements and the autumn leaves, and then back into her mother’s arms for her evening bath.

The Bad Guys: Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic NZ)

The Bad Guys are back with a daring plan to rescue 10,000 chickens from a high-security cage farm! But how do you rescue chickens when one of you is known as The Chicken Swallower? Join The Bad Guys as they return for more dodgy good deeds with a new member of the team. And watch out for the super villain who might just be the end of them! Good deeds. Whether you like it or not…

Liquidator by Andy Mulligan (David Fickling Books)

LIQUIDATOR! The brand-new, delicious and wildly popular energy drink. “For those who wanna win!” The company that makes it is set to earn a fortune, with its global launch climaxing at an international rock concert that will SHAKE the planet. The only problem?An innocent child is dying. Meet Vicky and her class-mates – their work experience is about to spin totally out of control as they uncover a secret that could change the world. And put them all in mortal danger.

Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

Olive has always dreamed of attending boarding school, but Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers is not what she expected. To tell the truth, dear reader, it is not what anyone expected!

The headmistress is completely bonkers and Pig McKenzie, school bully and all-round nasty swine, is determined to make Olive’s life unbearable.

Olive, however, is clever, sweet and kind, and soon gains the loyalty and devotion of three rats, a short-sighted moose, a compulsive liar and a goose who faints at the sight of cherries.

But will friendship and wits be enough when Pig McKenzie puts his Truly Wicked Plan into gear? Or will Olive be cast out of Groves forever?

 

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.

Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Rebecca Lim

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Rebecca Lim, the author of sixteen books for children and young adult readers, including The Astrologer’s Daughter and Afterlight.  Rebecca joins me to talk about why she writes ‘slightly freaky young adult novels.’ Thanks for joining me Rebecca!

In the opening of my latest novel, Afterlight, a little girl is lying in bed, about to fall asleep, when she looks up to see a man standing over her in the dark. He’s very tall. She can see what he looks like, even with the lights out, because he’s shining. And this is how she remembers feeling:

But he was real. Real as you. And I was terrified. But all he did was look down at me, lying with my blankets pulled right up to my eyes, looking back up at him.
Then I breathed in—just a trembly, choky flutter, the tiniest sound—and he was gone.

I write these slightly freaky young adult novels filled with archangels and demons, Norman knights, wronged ghosts and parentless children. In them, I try to make sense of questions like: Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens to human energy, human consciousness, after death? Are we ruled by fate or by our own free will? How does one bad past act reverberate into the future?

In order to do this, I’m quite happy to throw the “extraordinary” into the narrative mix because—even though I consider myself a very rational and logical person—I do believe there are things in this world that can’t be explained by known science. And, often, the worst monsters in our world are not supernatural, but decidedly “human”. So having a paranormal or supernatural narrative foil brings our humanity into sharp relief. Plus, as readers, who doesn’t want to believe that magic exists?

And I don’t often talk about this—2015 is probably my year for bringing this out in the open, finally—but the scene where the little girl sees the “shining” man actually did happen to me. I was about five, and I don’t think it was a case of “sleep paralysis”. I can quite clearly recall him looking down at me looking up at him, and I remember how terrified I was as I inched my hand towards my bedside lamp: because I knew that if I turned on the light, he would go. And he did. He looked like no one I knew or had ever seen on television. But, to this day, I can still remember what he looked like. And I’ve never thought it was a dream.

So that one tiny thing from my childhood has enabled me to walk with archangels along city streets and mountain switchbacks and follow the insistent spirit of a murdered woman down the alleyways and walking tracks of Melbourne. I never discount anything anyone tells me, and I read voraciously across all genres, because what do we really know? Not enough. Never enough.

Seriously Spooky Month: Interview with Derek Landy

Derek Landy is the author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and the new Demon Road series.  He is one of my absolute favourite authors and I have loved everything that he has read.  I got the chance to meet him and interview him back in 2010 when he was part way through the Skulduggery Pleasant series (you can read the interview here).  Since he has started a new series I wanted to ask him a few questions about it and get the scoop on Demon Road.  Read my interview with Derek to find out how many Demon Road books we have to look forward to, what Derek’s favourite supernatural being is, and why Derek loves horror stories.

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  • How did it feel starting a new series after you had been living in Skulduggery’s world for so long?

Scary, daunting, but also thrilling and refreshing. I was fully at home writing Skulduggery, and possibly too comfortable. That’s not always a good thing for a writer, so a new challenge was needed to stop things from getting stale.

  • Why did you choose to set your new series in America?

The idea of a roadtrip pretty much dictated where it was going to be set. I tried setting it in Ireland, but you can’t really have a roadtrip here. In America, you can drive for weeks without seeing anyone. In Ireland, every five minutes you’d be passing through some small town somewhere…

  • How many books are you planning on writing in the Demon Road series?

Three. There was no way I was committing to a nine book series like I did with Skulduggery!

  • What is your favourite supernatural being?

Vampires are endlessly fun. You can adapt them to fit whatever you need them to be. Dracula had them scary, Anne Rice had them romantic, Buffy had them cool, and Twilight had them sparkly. Er…

  • There are some really gory scenes in Demon Road.  Are these your favourite parts to write?

Gory scenes are definitely fun…! And it’s always an interesting exercise to see how far I can push things before my editor picks up the phone…

  • Out of all of your characters which one are you most like?

I’d like to think I’m like Skulduggery — cool, charming, and awesome. But the truth is I’m probably a mixture of Glen and, I dunno… Scapegrace.

  • Do you see your two series crossing over?  Will Skulduggery characters make an appearance on the Demon Road?

That was a temptation that I ultimately decided against. I wanted people to be able to pick up Demon Road without needing to know the rules of magic as set down in Skulduggery. Plus my vampires in both series are completely different, and I didn’t want to confuse people.

  • Why do you love horror stories?

I’ve always loved horror, since I was a kid. We love to be scared. Being scared is entertainment — provided you get to walk out of the theatre afterwards, or close the book, or turn off the TV. We love horror because it tests us within a safe environment. I doubt I’d love it so much if these things were really happening to me…

  • What other books would you recommend to kids and teens who love your books?

These days I’m recommending ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness to everyone, as well as the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Loved them both.

Demon Road by Derek Landy is out now.  Go and grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

 

13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

When I was a kid there weren’t many books about ghosts available for my age.  As a 12/13 year old I wasn’t ready for Stephen King and there weren’t many other scary books to choose from.  Thankfully there are more and more ghost stories for kids and teens being published and it’s always good to read a different and exciting take on ghosts.  Leo Hunt gives readers a good helping of ghosts in his new book, 13 Days of Midnight, about Luke and the 8 murderous ghosts he inherits.

Sixteen year old Luke Manchett has a pretty ordinary life living in a small northern town with his Mum. Until one day, a letter informs him that his celebrity ghost-hunter Dad is dead and Luke is the sole heir. But this is no ordinary inheritance – Luke finds himself in charge of eight horrendous ghosts, his Host, with his life and that of his Mum, loyal dog Ham and new friend Elza all in terrible danger. It’s up to Luke to open the Book of Eight and find a way to stop the Host destroying everything at Hallowe’en. Even if it means stepping into Darkside…

13 Days of Midnight is a deliciously dark, creepy read that will make you want to keep the light on at night.  It’s a genuinely scary story that creeped me out in several places. Much like making a deal with the Devil, you don’t get quite what you expected with this book.  Just when you think the story is taking off in one direction Leo pulls you in a completely different direction and he certainly keeps you on your toes.

Leo introduces us to some seriously creepy ghosts in 13 Days of Midnight!  Luke inherits his Host of eight ghosts from his father – the Vassal, the Shepherd, the Judge, the Heretic, the Fury, the Oracle, the Prisoner and the Innocent.  As Luke has just inherited them he doesn’t know how to control them, so they are trying to break free.  They’re violent and unpredictable, and even though they can’t kill Luke, they find other ways to hurt him and the ones he loves.  There were moments in the book when each of them sent a shiver down my spine but I think the one that scared me the most was the Prisoner with his shears.

The splatter on the front cover boldly claims that ‘If you like Skulduggery Pleasant read this!’ and I totally agree with this.  Leo has a great mix of spookiness and humour that will appeal to fans of Derek Landy.  Whether you are looking for the book to fill the whole that the Skulduggery series has left behind or you just want a really good scare grab a copy of 13 Days of Midnight now.  Leo leaves us with a sense of impending doom at the end of the book.  You know that something big and scary is coming, but what that is I have no idea.  I can’t wait for the sequel, 8 Rivers of Shadow coming in 2016!

Win a copy of Demon Road by Derek Landy

Demon Road is Derek Landy’s latest book and one of my recent favourites.  It’s a deliciously dark, gory, witty, totally gripping book that will make you cringe one minute and laugh out loud the next.  You can read my review here on the blog.

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Thanks to HarperCollins NZ I have 3 copies of Demon Road to give away.  To get in the draw all you have to do is email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject ‘Demon Road,’ along with your name and address.  I will draw 3 winners at random.  Competition closes Thursday 1 October (NZ only).

My Most Anticipated October Kids & YA Releases from Allen and Unwin

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Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Don’t call them heroes. But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart.

Ethan aka Scam has a voice inside him that’ll say whatever people want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t – like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, aka Bellwether, the group’s ‘glorious leader.’ After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. At the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.

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The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

In this beautifully presented volume, the essence of seventy-five fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm is wonderfully evoked by Shaun Tan’s extraordinary sculptures.

Nameless princes, wicked stepsisters, greedy kings, honourable peasants and ruthless witches, tales of love, betrayal, adventure and magical transformation: all inspiration for this stunning gallery of sculptural works. Introduced by Grimm Tales author Philip Pullman and leading fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes, The Singing Bones breathes new life into some of the world’s most beloved fairy tales.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay

Prepare to be spellbound by Jim Kay’s dazzling depiction of the wizarding world and much loved characters in this full-colour illustrated hardback edition of the nation’s favourite children’s book – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Brimming with rich detail and humour that perfectly complements J.K. Rowling’s timeless classic, Jim Kay’s glorious illustrations will captivate fans and new readers alike.

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Box by Rosalind Beardshaw

What would YOU do with a box? When four toddlers find some toys in cardboard boxes, they have fun with them for a while. But, before long, the friends’ interest in the toys wains and their attention turns to the boxes themselves. What could they do with SO many boxes, they wonder? An inspiring and charming novelty book celebrating the creative possibilities and limitless joy of the boxes.

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Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis

Everybody knows that penguins belong at the South Pole and polar bears live at the North Pole-but what would happen if, one day, a family of picnicking penguins accidentally got lost? When the hapless Pilchard-Brown family find themselves at completely the wrong pole, they need Mr White, the friendly polar bear, to guide them all the way home.