Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Good news for all Michael Grant fans (author of the popular Gone series) !

A new series starting with Messenger of Fear has arrived in the library today. It promises to be a tense supernatural story of good and evil. If you enjoyed the weirdness of Gone, you are going to race through Messenger of Fear.

“Why do we need to understand? I want to ask him that, because there has to be some very good reason why my subconscious mind would lay these sad images before me like a fortune teller laying out her tarot cards. But all of Messenger’s answers were vague, and after all, was there a point in asking why within a dream? Eventually I would wake up, and then I could consider the meaning of it all. Calmly, coolly, with the sick sadness of it all pushed aside and relabeled as nothing more than random imagery conjured from an overtired mind.”

If I Stay by Gayle Forman


If I stay by Gayle Forman is the story of  a girl with a choice to make; whether to live, or die. The author weaves a wonderful story through time, backwards and forwards, past and present ( pulling together the threads of Mia’s life, her key events, her friends and family) up the point of a terrible accident. It is another example of a story about someone in an “out of body experience”.

Mia is a girl from a musical family but unlike her rock band guitar playing father, she plays the cello. This makes her feel ” as if she [comes] from a different tribe. ” To add to her discomfort she also has a boyfriend in a punk rock band. Mia talks about her mother eventually acquiring a taste for classical music ” like learning to appreciate a stinky cheese”.

The movie opens in New Zealand soon.

Gayle Forman wrote that “music was a huge part of this story [drawing] a lot of inspiration from Yo-Yo Ma – whose own work informs much of Mia’s story – and from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, whose song ‘Falling Slowly’ she “probably listened to more than 200 times while working on the book”.

Falling Slowly from the movie Once (2006)

Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at the age of four and traveled with his family to New York, where he spent most of his formative years. Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at The Juilliard School.

When Mia auditions for The Juilliard School she has to play five pieces one of which is “a movement from Ennio Morricone’s The Mission, a fun but risky choice because  Yo-Yo Ma had covered this and everyone would compare”.

Mrs H.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 12.44.45 PMLast week I was lucky enough to hear Laini Taylor talking about her books and  how she works as a writer. Laini lives in Portland, Oregon, USA (with her family) and although she has traveled to various countries, this was the first time that she had visited New Zealand. Calling in on Auckland on her way to the WORD Christchurch (the 2014 Writers and Readers Festival) she spoke freely about her experiences, and reveled in the opportunity to meet her fans.

Liani was great fun, and laughed a lot, and as a result made her audience feel very welcome and at ease with asking her questions about her books. Laini admitted to being a writer that chose her words very carefully, sometimes spending a day on a paragraph, so perhaps this was why she found writing a book easy to start, but hard to finish. Despite this, she never gives up on a project and the last book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone fantasy  has now been published; Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Laini has written a number of  books (plus one finally finished but probably never-to-be-published novel about ballerinas).

They include:

On the plane over to New Zealand Laini was working on the fifth version of a movie script. So if you have not read any fantasy lately, you have time to try the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy before the movie comes out.

Mrs H.

PS. For more visual clues have a look at this interesting Pinterest board for Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Who are you and what is real?


Quite by chance I have read a series of books recently which, whilst all being very different, have all had a spooky continuity. They have all asked questions about reality and identity, and involved stories about people trying to find themselves and get back home.

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 3.50.36 PMThe first book,  Nowhere Boys by Elise McCredie,  is based on an Australian television drama series [by Tony Ayres and Beth Frey] that won the Australian Film Institute Award for best Children’s Television Drama in 2013. It is a fantasy adventure about four very different teenage boys who spend a night in the bush when a school excursion goes wrong. But when they return home, they discover that they are trapped in a parallel world where no one recognises them and they no longer exist. What has happened? Is it magic? Is it demons? Why has this happened? and how are they going to get home?

The second book, Flip is Martyn Bedford“s first young adult novel [although he has published five novels for adults]. Flip is a much more intense psychological thriller about a boy called Alex who wakes up one morning to find himself trapped in the body of someone else; this person shares the same birthday but nothing else. He lives in very different part of the country, he has a sister not a brother, he is popular, he is good at sports and he has lots of girlfriends. Alex knows that at his core he is not Philip, or Flip, but where is his “unique inner essence”,  is he really a “psychic evacuee” and how can he return to his family?

The third and final novel I read was More Than This by Patrick Ness. It has been described as a “tense thriller” about “love and survival.” Our copy in the library has a lovely message at the front of the book from the author especially for Australian and New Zealand readers! In it he explains that this book started as an idea in his head whilst he was in our “part of the world”. More Than This begins with Seth drowning; then he wakes up. Where is he? Is he in hell? Is he dreaming? Is he living in his imagination? Little by little we find out about Seth as he tries to reconcile his past with his present. I wont spoil your delight of discovery by telling you any more, but I would say that this book is perhaps the most demanding and challenging  read of the three.

Mrs H.

“Reading is fantastic fun”

Anthony Horowitz OBE [for services to literature] is most well known as the author of the Alex Rider books and The Power of Five series. But you may not know that he has also written many episodes for television including Foyle’s War; Midsomer Murders; and Agatha Christie’s Poirot, to name but a few.

He travelled to Russia to carry out research for his latest book Russian Roulette, which is described as a prequel to the bestselling Alex Rider series. “An international contract killer has just been given his orders. His next target is a fourteen-year-old spy … Alex Rider. The man’s name is Yassen Gregorovich. He knows Alex well. The two of them share a secret from the past. As he considers his next mission, Yassen remembers the forces that turned him from an ordinary schoolboy into a hired assassin. What is it that makes someonechoose to do evil?What would it take to make them kill?”

Earlier this month Anthony Horowitz took part in an interactive webcast in association with Walker Books and The National Literacy Trust.  The interview in London was simultaneously broadcast to a number of schools around the UK. It was an inspirational talk about reading and writing, and the excitement of books. Anthony Horowitz spoke passionately about reading when he said that you get a lot of people saying …..” oh, you should read this, or you must read that, and all the rest of it, but they forget   … yes, reading is good for you, yes, reading helps you become more articulate, yes, reading takes you on wonderful adventures, but the main point is that reading is fantastic fun. You can go to places, and meet people, and do things, and see things that you would never ever do in real life.”

He also said that the most important room in any school is the library!

Mrs H.

Love, Fantasy and Magic

Winning YA novels

Love, fantasy and magic are the common themes between two of the winning categories of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults announced last night – Best Young Adult Fiction and Best First Book. For a full list of all the winners see here.

The Best Young Adult Fiction prize went to Elizabeth Knox for Mortal Fire, described by Paula Green as “a story of love, desire, friendship and teenage turning points, yet it is much more. It is also a story of politics – the lengths a community will go to stop a hydro dam flooding their precious Zarene Valley. It is a story of outsiderness, whether through the colour of one’s skin, abilities or bloodline. Above all, it is a story of trust.” She goes on to say that “Knox writes with such a graceful hand that the story (despite its mist, steam and smoke) reverberates with exquisite clarity.”
The Best First Book award went to R.L. Stedman for A Necklace of Souls, a book that won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2012, and already has an average rating of 3.83 stars (out of five) on Goodreads.

Rachel enjoyed researching for A Necklace of Souls and surprisingly “read a lot of books about things like knife fighting and breadmaking” in the process, which she recorded in the form of a research board on Pinterest. Last year when she was asked what was the best thing about being a writer, she replied, “You get to write :). Most writers seem to really like finding out new things. I think most writers are little like ‘fact magpies’ we get to learn new stuff every day and we can call it ‘research.’ For example, through writing A Necklace of Souls, I learned a lot about knife fighting. I read a whole lot (and watched a lot of you-tube videos) about Kali knife fighting, which is from the Philippines. And I know how long an English longbow is – over seven foot. That is taller than most men. Do you know, if you use a long bow a lot, the bones in one arm grow heavier than the other? Skeletons of archers have bigger left arm-bones than the right. That is why writing is so cool, you get to learn random stuff every day. (Makes you good in quizzes, too!)”
Mrs H.

Hunger Games and moral courage

Books that demonstrate  moral courage

Books that demonstrate moral courage

This term we are examining moral courage. It is one of the eight institutional values of King’s College and it is also at the core of our founding motto Virtus Pollet – or, Excellence of Character Prevails.
Moral courage can be defined as the power and determination to follow what one believes to be right, regardless of the cost to one’s self, and irrespective of the disapproval of others.
We have put out a display of books in the library where characters have demonstrated their integrity by being brave and doing the right thing, even if it was not to their advantage. The books include Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally, Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Lieutenant Hornblower by C.S. Forester, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; but of course there are many more.

Today in the news we see an example of moral courage in Thailand where fact appears to be mirroring fiction. Some people in Thailand have adopted the three-finger salute used in the Hunger Games stories as “an expression of silent protest” against a military coup.

Mrs H.

Sense and sensibility by ……

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

A lot of authors have dabbled with the ideas of Jane Austen and her books. We have had Bridget Jone’s Diary by Helen Fielding, The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rogler  (not to mention Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith) but now publisher HarperCollins has commissioned six authors to rewrite Jane Austen’s novels putting them into a contemporary setting.

The Austen Project began last year with Sense and Sensibility written by Joanna Trollope. If you are studying the original novel by Jane Austen this year, I would recommend reading the modern version for fun and comparison after your exam,  as  I found the new version a light and easy read which left no lingering thoughts. The second book just published by the Austen Project is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid , who is best known as a Scottish crime writer. The third book to appear will be a rewrite of Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. Is this a good thing do you think? Should we rewrite Jane Austen? Are we so bereft of anything new to say and think, or is this just part of a long tradition of retelling classic tales?

Mrs H.








Dewey numbers

The Dewey Decimal System was formulated by the American Librarian Melvil Dewey in 1873 for use in the Amherst College Library.  It is a method of ordering and finding books, where each book is given a number according to its subject. One hundred and forty one years later it is still being used in libraries around the world, including King’s College.

These are the familiar divisions:

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 3.11.26 PM

Have a look at this game. It shows a shelf of books (representing the ten main Dewey Decimal categories) press the start button at the top and discover how many seconds it takes you to match each subject with its Dewey number (on the book) and score 100% correct.

If you were a book where you might be shelved? With Mathematics, perhaps or Geography? If you are intrigued to discover the answer, then try this quiz.

Whilst I am writing about all things Dewey I discovered that we have a book in the library entitled Dewey: the small-town library-cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter.

the cat

It is the story of an abandoned kitten who was posted through the library returns box at Spencer Public Library, Iowa on a bitterly cold day in January 1988. He was named Dewey Readmore Books because of his library connections and became very famous before he died at the age of nineteen. He was not the first cat to live in a library but he was very lucky not to be evicted like poor old Muffin in Putnam Valley Library, New York state; times were tough in 1989.

Mrs H.




Short stories in Spanish, French, and Chinese

short storiesWe have a few books in the short stories collection that are part of the  New Penguin Parallel Text series.  They are written in a number of foreign languages – Spanish, French and Chinese which appear on the left hand page of each book, with the English translation on the right. If you are interested in reading authors from these countries writing in their native tongue, and you would like to practice your languages, they are a very good collection.

Mrs H.