So we’re on the cusp of Halloween again, the perfect time to curl up in bed with a spooky book. Last year we compiled a list of our favourite scary stories – this year let’s explore some of my favourite ghostly reads.

 Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

When Suze moves to sunny California the last thing she needs is a hot boy ghost haunting her bedroom. Especially one who has no intention of moving on. Now, on top of settling in to a new house, family and school, she has to juggle her duties as a teenage mediator, and not all of the ghosts are friendly. The Mediator series is not really spooky, but it’s sweet, romantic and entertaining.

Doll Bones – Holly Black

Because what list would be complete without a Holly Black novel, right? Doll Bones is a little more middle-school than the rest of the books on this list, but a haunted doll called The Queen is creep-tastic enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.

A Coming Evil – Vivian Vande Velde

An oldie, but still one I return to regularly. During WWII Lisette is sent to stay in the French countryside with an aunt who is harbouring Jewish children. When their safety is threatened, the only thing that might save them is a ghost that Lisette met on a lonely hillside.

 Glass Houses – Rachel Caine

Technically not a ghost story, this book still manages to fit in a pretty compelling haunting sub-plot. Also the books are being made into a TV series so now is definitely the right time to be picking the Morganville Vampire series up.



Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This one will always, always be on my scary books list. Best. Vampire. Story. Ever.

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn Mc Dermott

Because wow.

 Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Do I need a because for this one?

 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

The first book of King’s I ever read (many, many years ago) so I’m not sure if it’s really that terrifying, but I’m happy to let it sit in my memory as just that.

 Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

There were moments with this book I had to put it down, walk away and catch my breath. Phew. Suspense to err, die for. Joe Hill gives just as good horror as his Daddy (Mr King himself).






hehir_julius and the watchmakerIt’s 1837 in London and Julius Higgins lives a quiet life, trying to fly under the radar of the bigger boys at school and helping in his grandfather’s book store at home. On the day that he fails at the former, unexpected salvation is found at the latter. An unusual customer, who has a preoccupation with finding the diary of a master watchmaker, scares the bullies off.

No one could have predicted the events that unfold from that – least of all Julius. Soon he is a thief, unwelcome in his home with nowhere else to go. In desperation, he turns to the shady stranger from the shop…

Julius and the Watchmaker draws you in from the first page. It shows the seedy underbelly of 19th Century England complete with violent gangs of street urchins, thieves, and kidnappers. The language is kept in the vein of its time as well, without slowing the pace of the novel.

While Julius and the Watchmaker lacks the unhurried pace of 19th Century texts, it captures the essence of the era beautifully. As a bonus, the era doesn’t seem forced. It’s evident that a huge amount of research went into the time period; but that research is used to make the setting authentic, not to bog the novel down.

It’s obvious that Hehir is a huge history buff and there are some nods to major historical figures in Julius and the Watchmaker. For the most part this is a really lovely introduction into literary, philosophical, and scientific individuals of the past. However, the fact that most of these people are lauded as even greater than they were in life while the only female historical figure mentioned, Mary Shelley, is reduced to a plagiarist, is deeply problematic. More so considering a long history of women writers and writing being discredited or accredited to the men around them.

The world-building of Julius and the Watchmaker is vividly entertaining. It’s massive on action and adventure, but maintains a grip on the technicalities so that the storyline always makes sense. And there’s a lot to make sense of. Julius and the Watchmaker spans various time periods, countries, and even parallel worlds. It takes a talented writer to work this degree of detail into a novel without the prose descending into info-dump territory; but Hehir manages, seemingly, with ease.

Julius and the Watchmaker is an imaginative adventure that drags you away from real life completely. It’s aimed at a slightly younger age-group: more middle-grade than YA, but is interesting enough that it shouldn’t deter anyone who likes a good adventure story. It’s a lot of fun to lose yourself in for a few hours.


Julius and the Watchmaker – Tim Hehir

Text Publishing (May 22, 2013)

ISBN: 9781922079732

Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen says: While reading is generally a solitary event, love of books has always been something that people have fiercely bonded over. The emotionally intense journeys inherent to reading demand to be shared, recommended, and dissected with friends, family, or anyone else who will listen.


Rest is still inwrittenThis is what made the Hachette Bloggers’ night such a pleasure to attend. Aside from having a wonderful welcome from the evidently passionate and book-mad staff, and the chance to meet the equally enthusiastic Laini Taylor, it was a chance for everyone to finally talk in person to each other about a deep mutual interest.

The bloggers that I met at the event were wonderful – I’m sure the ones that I didn’t meet are just as lovely, but alas, I’ll never know. In fact, the only downfall of the night was that I didn’t have the time to meet everyone, which considering the turn-out would have been quite a lofty achievement.

The people that I did meet, however, have already given me a wealth of information. Rachel from The Rest is Still Unwritten is amazing for finding free YA books on Amazon and sharing her finds on Facebook. On her blog she writes long, passionate reviews of all of the many books she’s read and, considering that her favourite books list shares some hefty similarities to my own, my want list has grown because of her blog. On top of this, it turns out that she was one of the stops in the Shine Light Blog Tour, proving yet again that in YA it’s a small world.

YA book addict.jpgTracey at YA Book Addict is another book blogger who has a wealth of information at her disposal. She’s a bit of a Renaissance woman when it comes to the online community. Her wonderful blog has a wealth of information about YA, and she’s firmly embraced the New Adult genre too. As well as the blog, she has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, which makes following her easy, no matter your preferred platform.

cuddlebuggeryKat Kennedy of Cuddlebuggery fame was also at the Hachette Bloggers’ Night, which was a huge and lovely surprise – and not only for myself. I think that Kat was almost as in demand as Laini on the night, and didn’t see her alone once. If you haven’t stumbled upon Cuddlebuggery in your online wanderings, I suggest you drop everything and go there now. Anything that Kat Kennedy and Steph Sinclair don’t know about YA books, authors and gossip is not worth knowing, and they tend to share their knowledge with everyone else. They’re also intelligent reader/reviewers, analysing books through a feminist and multi-cultural lens.

The Hachette event was a fantastic way to connect with other readers and reviewers. In a world where so much discussion of books is conducted online, it was a nice change to be able to sit down and talk to people about what they read, what they’d recommend and everything else book related.

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Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen says: Money drips through your fingers like water in Sydney. After shopping in Brisbane, Sydney feels like a surfeit. The stores are bigger, there are more of them and there are sales everywhere.



hachettesydney2014 015Bel and I were lucky enough to meet up with Jorge from Spotlight Report during our visit. Because of his local expertise, I discovered two stores that were probably my favourite part of the trip. Utopia is the self-proclaimed Home of Metal, and lives up to its name. The staff are friendly and almost scarily knowledgeable about the local and International Heavy Metal scene. Within twenty seconds of me asking, they had found a reasonably priced album for my incredibly hard to buy for baby brother.

The other store Jorge told me about is one that I will be visiting every time that I go to Sydney in the future. Basement Books is buried in a passageway out behind Central Train Station. At first glance it looks like a little hole-in-the-wall bookstore. As you get closer, however, it expands into a verifiable Aladdin’s cave of wondrous things. The store stocks a wide range of art supplies and canvasses as well as books of every major genre. All at unbelievable discounts. Obviously I spent my time there combing through the fantasy and YA sections. Had my luggage allowance been more extravagant, I dread to think of how badly my credit card would be suffering right now.

hachettesydney2014 034After a five-hour day at Paddy’s Markets, my cards were depleted enough. For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to visit Paddy’s Markets, it is one of the places to go in Sydney. A labyrinth of stalls selling all sorts of things, everyone is bound to find a bargain here. From costumes to unusual pieces of jewellery, fresh fruit to ornamental swords, handbags to Australian memorabilia; Paddy’s has it all. Located in the heart of China Town, it is a short distance from the beautiful Chinese Gardens and is surrounded by some wonderful Asian restaurants. Bubble tea is also abundant, so there are many and varied reasons to visit.

There are a lot of great things to buy in Sydney, but it is also a beautiful city. I’d recommend walking rather than catching a bus or taxi. There are some truly amazing churches and old buildings that you may miss out on if you’re in a rush.

rutkoski_winnersA general’s daughter and a defiant slave should be worlds apart, but as Kestrel and Arin are discovering, those worlds can touch all too easily.

In Kestrel’s world, war and marriage are the only options open to her. Her father, the revered General Trajan, expects her to follow in his footsteps, conquering territories for the Valorian emperor. She would rather play music and study the people around her.

Finding herself in the slave markets one day, she encounters a Herrani slave who seems as determined to escape his fate as she is to escape hers. One rash decision later, she is reluctant the owner of Arin. She becomes the talk of the town due to the ridiculously high price she paid for him, and this price may grow steeper over time.

This is possibly the hardest review I’ve written this year. I have such conflicting feelings about The Winner’s Curse that I’ve put off writing about it for far too long. The novel is getting amazing reviews online, and they are well-deserved. The world-building is wonderful, the writing superb, and yet…

About halfway through the book there is a massive world-altering event that shifts the entire dynamic. It’s stunningly brave writing to have a shift of this calibre, and there’s no way that the story would have worked without it. The shift isn’t the problem, but it’s the way things change after the shift that kills me.

A change of atmosphere is to be expected. It’s the change in the characters that I can’t come to terms with. Arin’s character development might be a bit heavily influenced by his romantic lead status, but it is otherwise believable. Kestrel, on the other hand, becomes someone that I don’t recognise. She’s initially intelligent and alert. She is a strategist who watches the people around her until she knows their weaknesses. Her strength isn’t in combat but in her mental prowess, and she knows it. Aside from playing the piano, it’s the one area in her life that she actively tries to improve.

Despite this, the moment that her strategic side is desperately needed, she stops using it. For maybe the last quarter of the book she stagnates, becoming the opposite of the dynamic character she was at the beginning. There’s more action here than in the rest of the book, but it just crawled for me. Every page I turned I was waiting for her to do something – anything – and it didn’t happen.

Strangely enough, the thing that I expected to bother me most didn’t bother me at all. I’ve rarely seen slavery written well, unless it has been written by someone who has been a slave rather than for purposes of entertainment. I actually hiked this book right up to the top of my reading list because I was so sure that I would dislike it and wanted to get it out of the way earlier rather than later. I should have had some faith. The slavery aspect is handled with the care it deserves. Kestrel has an interest in the Herrani people and treats them respectfully, so when she meets Arin there’s already a framework for friendship.

There’s a lot happening in The Winner’s Curse, but it is a love story at heart, and this aspect of the novel is handled brilliantly. There’s no insta-love in Kestrel and Arin’s story; they have to work hard to get there. Arin is full of anger at all Valorians; he initially makes no exceptions for Kestrel. It’s only when he realises that she isn’t out to break or conquer him that things start to change. For her, it’s finding someone who can match her mentally and someone who doesn’t expect her to fit the standard Valorian model.

After having finished The Winner’s Curse I’m desperate to get my hands on the second book in the series. Not because of the cliff-hanger ending, but because I need to see if Rutkoski can recreate the magic that I felt at the beginning of the novel without resorting to the unwarranted plot-devices at the end.

Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

Bloomsbury (March 4, 2014)

ISBN: 9781408858202

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