Archive for September, 2013

Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy

War has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark – it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making. But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.

Last Stand of Dead Men is the second to last book in Derek Landy’s wonderful Skulduggery Pleasant series, and it sure is one tense, action-packed read.  The further we’ve been getting to the end of the series, the more dramatic the events of each book have been.  The magic world has been teetering on the brink of war for some time now and it’s in Last Stand of Dead Men that war finally breaks out between the Sanctuaries.  An epic magic battle ensues, with death and destruction galore.

As the front cover says, ‘no one is safe.’  The characters that we’ve come to love are caught up in the middle of the war and not everyone survives.  Heroes become villains, enemies fight together, some people aren’t who we thought they were, and others look completely different from the last time we saw them.  Derek also introduces us to new characters and creations, my favourite of which are the Warlock’s minions, the Wretchlings.

Last Stand of Dead Men is the darkest of the series so far and we see the darker side of Skulduggery coming out.  While it doesn’t have the same humour as some of the earlier books, the scenes with Scapegrace and Thrasher provide some light relief and had me laughing out loud.  One of the things I like the most about Derek’s books is his brilliant dialogue and there is plenty of this in this book.

Skulduggery will do anything to save Valkyrie and I certainly can’t wait until September next year to find out how it all ends.  Will Skulduggery save her or will Darquesse destroy the world?

Win a copy of Last Stand of Dead Men!

Thanks to HarperCollins NZ I have a copy of Last Stand of Dead Men to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 4 October.

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Kids’ Books: picks from our September newsletter

Check out some of the great new titles in our September Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover of Art DetectiveCover of Bo at Ballard CreekCover of The Dragon's ToothCover of LEGO Man in SpaceCover of The  Name of This Book is SecretCover of The Mouse with the Question Mark TailCover of Romeo BlueCover of Smells Like TreasureCover of The Glitch in Sleep

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

For more great reads for kids, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

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Where do stories come from?

One of the questions that kids (and adults) most often ask authors is “Where do you get your ideas from?” 

“From everywhere,” would be my answer. News items, research, things I overhear (I’m a terrible eavesdropper on other people’s conversations) and of course stories people tell me.

Today I was procrastinating about starting writing, so I went for a walk with Gus the miniature schnauzer. I bought the paper and some milk and the green thread I needed to make curtains (more procrastination) and then we stopped at a table outside a cafe so I could procrastinate even more by having a coffee in the sunshine.  And Jill, an elderly friend, stopped to chat.

I don’t know how we got onto the topic of lottery tickets, but she told me the story of her great-aunt. It was in the 1920s.  Jill’s great-aunt won a lot of money in a lottery, so she took her niece (Jill’s mother) with her on a ship to England. There, Jill’s mother met Jill’s father; they married and came back to Australia and Jill was born. That’s an interesting story, I thought, but because I’m very curious, I just had to ask a few questions. 
“How did  your mother meet your father? Were they strangers, or did your great-aunt have friends in England?”

Jill told me that years before the trip the England, her great-aunt was engaged to an English sea captain.  But he died before they could marry. When she went to England with her niece, they stayed with the sea-captain’s family…and in a kind of delayed, one-generation-later happy ending, Jill’s mother and the captain’s nephew fell in love and got married. What a lovely story, I thought. 

I also thought, I bet I can use that sometime!

Just an example of where stories come from.

Goodbye and thanks for having me on the Christchurchkids blog. Happy reading and writing!


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Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die.
They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood.

The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

The House of Hades, the conclusion to the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, is due out next month.  Reserve your copy from the library now.

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Walking the dog


I had a visit yesterday afternoon from Indigo, a lovely year 9 student who’s doing a project on writers – and at the same time, she’s writing a novel herself. She asked me lots of interesting questions about how I wrote and where I got my ideas from and what advice I had for writers. It was good timing, because I planned to write on just those things on the Christchurchkids blog today.

I could be really silly, and answer “How do you write?” by saying that I sit at my desk and  tap away at the keyboard with my fingers.

Well, actually, that IS what I do, but other stuff comes first. One thing I do before I start writing most days, and definitely before I start a new project, is lots of walking. A walk around the park with my dog Gus is good because I find thinking and walking go really well together.
I don’t make lots of notes; I tend to work things out in my head. I play out scenes as if my mind was a movie screen. I try out ideas and (because I like an insanely complicated plot) I try to make twists and turns and figure out “what if?” as if I’m playing a game or doing a jigsaw. Gus is a great help because he needs to walk every day and he comes and reminds GUSme if I don’t take him.

Could you resist those doggy eyes?

Where do I get my ideas from? The answer is everywhere. I am like a magpie, collecting bits and pieces. News items, conversations that I overhear, people I see in the street, pictures, paintings, photos and places all go to making a story. In Verity Sparks Lost and Found, there is a strand of the plot about spirit photography. That got there because a friend was throwing out old books and there was one on the supernatural she thought I’d like. In the early days of photography, people were easily fooled by double exposures and other tricks, and there were some great pictures with “ghosts ” in them. So I used them in my book.

My main piece of advice for writers is simple. Finish that story! Don’t leave it half-finished or just started. When you’ve got it finished, then you’ll have something to work with. You can edit, rearrange, change, cut, add and polish to make your story much, much better. But only if you finish it first.

All the best,


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Fancy Nancy Super Sleuth is our Big Library Read!

Fancy Nancy Super Sleuth is available for download as an e-book or an audiobook right now.

Fancy Nancy Super Sleuth

Until 30 September 2013,  this book is available as part of a ‘global book club’ –  parents and children can read together.

Big Library Read sees 6500 libraries around the world offer the chance for thousands to read the same book at the same time!

Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy titles are great fun so get Fancy Nancy Super Sleuth now!

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The Last Thirteen by James Phelan

Do you love sinking their teeth into a new series? Do you love books like The 39 Clues, The Infinity Ring and Conspiracy 365?  Scholastic have just released a new series, called The Last Thirteen, that’s perfect for fans of these series and anyone who loves a fast-paced story full action, adventure, and mystery.

I click my fingers and everybody dies.

Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.

Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren’t who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.

With his life and identity shattered, Sam’s salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.

He alone can find the last 13.

Are you one of them?

The first book in The Last Thirteen series has just been released and James Phelan kicks it off with a bang.  The first book sets the scene for the rest of the series, so we find out snippets of information about Sam, the Last Thirteen, and the organisations that want to get their hands on them.  The Last Thirteen are a group of teenagers with a special ability that some people will kill to get their hands on – their dreams come true.  Sam is the first of the 13 and the race is on to find the other 12 in order to save the world.

The plot races along (especially in the second half of the book) and the chapters are short, so readers will gobble it up and be waiting for the second book.  Each of the books ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger, and the end of the first book certainly makes me want to read the next one to find out what happens.

Like similar series (39 Clues, Infinity Ring) there is a dedicated fan website, where fans can register online and gain VIP access to a range of exciting features.  There’s also the chance to enter the competition, with your chance to become famous.

The Last Thirteen is perfect for ages 10+ who love action, adventure and mystery.  Get your copy today and join the race to find the Last Thirteen.

Check out the book trailer:

Win a copy of The Last Thirteen!

Thanks to Scholastic NZ we have 2 copies of The Last Thirteen to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 18 September.

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Derek Landy talks about Last Stand of Dead Men

War has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark – it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making. But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.

The second to last book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Last Stand of Dead Men, is finally here!  The last couple of books are going to be pretty epic and it will be really interesting to see how the series ends.  I’ll post my review very soon and there will be a copy to win.

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National Geographic just for you

There are a few things that you can not avoid in life and homework is one of them! Here at Christchurch City Libraries we want to make homework as painless as possible. To help beat the due date blues, we welcome National Geographic Kids online.

National Geographic Kids can be searched by itself or  through the National Geographic Digital Archive. This resource is geared toward 6-14 year olds and it includes:

  • National Geographic Kids magazine 2009-present (3 month embargo);
  • National Geographic Kids books which include award-winning photos and maps;
  • Kid-friendly, downloadable images perfect for assignments.

Have a play and see what you think! You can find this electronic resource 24/7 through the catalogue or at the Source, all you need is your library card number, PIN and a sense of adventure and wonder!
Who doesn’t want to know that two unmanned spacecraft have been travelling through outer space for 33 years?

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Listen the the Voices

All books have got their own voice. It’s partly the voices of the characters – especially if they’re the narrators – but it’s the author’s voice too. If you’re writing a story, listen to the voice you use. Read your story out loud to yourself (it seems like a funny thing to do, but it really helps!)

Here are a few opening paragraphs from different books – listen to the voices!

My name is Verity Sparks, and I’ve got itchy fingers. The Professor calls it teleagtivism. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s more like a talent. A gift. I’ve always had it, but I didn’t know I had it until the summer of 1878. It happened the day I finished the yellow hat.

The hat was mostly feathers, with one poor little bird left whole and stuck onto the brim.
“Like a dead duck on a plate, ain’t it?” I said as I held it up.

That’s from The Truth About Verity Sparks.  Did you notice how Verity seems to be speaking?  I was trying to make it seem as if she was talking straight to you, the reader. Verity is a very straightforward girl, so that’s how I wanted her to come across. And at the start of the story, she’s not very well educated – that’s why she says ‘ain’t’ instead of isn’t.

Here’s another opening.

Marlie and I lived at the Overhang, near the place where three roads met. One road went west to the Badlands. No one ever passed that way. It was the same with the road to the east – if you followed it you’d end up in the marshes, which stretched forever. Nobody went in that direction, and you’d never expect to see anyone coming from there. Only the road from Skerrick was used, and that was the one I watched from high up on my ledge.

“Peat, get down! You won’t make her come any faster by looking!”

from Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt. It’s a new book, published just this year by Allen&Unwin. In this opening, Julie Hunt is setting the scene, and creating a sense of mystery. Why is Peat watching the road? You’ll just have to read on.

And this last piece is from an old favourite of mine, Smith by Leon Garfield. It was first published in 1966, so you might not be able to get hold of it.

My father is put in the stocks again! Oh! The injustice of it! My father is a genius – as are all of we Treets. A grand man, as great in mind as he is in body, for he’s a large man who bears himself with more dignity than all the Justices in Kent put together. Except when the Stranger calls: and then his spirit seems to flicker and sink somewhat…as if the Stranger was something dark and devilish, and there was an unwholesome bargain eating away at my father’s soul…

Can you tell that the book is set in past times by the “voice”? You might have to look up “the stocks” – a hint; they were used as a punishment! The writer here tells us there’s a mystery from very first paragraph! Who is the Stranger? And why does he come to visit Mr Treet?

Next time, I’ll post a little bit about how I write, and how important my dog is to my writing routine.

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Hello from Susan Green

Hello Christchurch kids – thanks for inviting me to visit you. I hope you are keen readers and keen writers, because during the month of September, I’m going to write about both.

Perhaps some of you have read my book The Truth About Verity Sparks? Or the sequel, which came out in May. It’s called Verity Sparks Lost and Found. I am due to start writing the next Verity book and so at the moment my mind is buzzing with all things Verity. I love Verity. I am very proud of her – she is brave, clever and very sensible. If I was going to give you my five top tips for writing stories, at the top of the list would be “Create a character you love”. Verity is such a real character to me that she’s almost like an actual person. So this week I’ll be thinking about the things that make Verity seem real to me – and hopefully, to my readers as well.

Verity first came to me when I was walking around the streets of Melbourne, looking up at the tall, grand buildings built in the Victorian (named after the Queen, not the state!) era around a hundred and fifty years ago. They have carved decorations and big columns and huge doors and if you get a peek inside, often marble halls with more columns and more doors. They seem designed to make a person feel very small and insignificant. I imagined wealthy gentleman wearing suits and top hats strolling in and out…and I started wondering what it would have felt like, to have been little, poor and powerless in those days. And somehow Verity came into my head.

When you’re creating a character, you have to give your character a setting. You have to be clear about where and when the action is happening. Verity’s story starts in 1878 in London, where she is employed as a milliner’s apprentice. You also have to create a backstory. Backstory means the character’s history; his or her past. You might not use it in the story, but you use it to help you understand your character.
I made Verity an orphan. Unlike in real life, in fiction it’s always quite useful to have no parents! After her mother and father died, she went to live with her Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah. They ran a used clothes stall in the East End of London, but it didn’t work out (mainly because her uncle was a cruel, drunken bully) so Verity was apprenticed to Madame Louisette, who owned a hat shop in a post part of town. As it turned out, Verity’s past is very much part of the plot of the story, but even if it wasn’t, working out your character’s backstory is a good idea.
Some authors keep files on their characters, or write detailed biographies. I don’t go that far, but I think you should do whatever is helpful to make a good story.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. Next post, I’ll write a bit more about creating characters – especially getting their voice right.

See you next time!

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Enter the 400 Words Writing Competition

The Breeze radio station is running its very own writing competition for Kiwi kids aged 13 years and under.  There are two categories: 9 & under and 10 to 13. Entrants have to write a short fictional story of no more than 400 Words.  Your entry will go in the draw for $400 cash and books for your school library (1 x prize for each category). Selected stories will be read by well-known Kiwi’s, and the two winning stories by TV3’s Hilary Barry.

Two of our previous Star Authors are judges – Melinda Szymanik and Maria Gill.  Check out their Star Author posts for writing tips to help you with your story.

Entries close on 27th September so head on over to the 400 Words Competition page now and submit your entry.

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Take ten titles from OverDrive!

OverDrive is where library members can go for thousands of free and delightful  e-books and downloadable audio books.  Since the collection has grown we have decided to increase the number of e-books and audio books you can have out at one time from 5 to 10!

The loan periods are set by OverDrive and can not be extended. The loan periods are still 7, 14 or 21 days.

Here is a list of new titles you could possibly borrow….

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Meet our September Star Author – Susan Green

Our super September Star Author is Australian author, Susan Green.  Susan has written two books featuring the charismatic Verity Sparks, The Truth About Verity Sparks and Verity Sparks: Lost and Found.  She always wanted to write and illustrate books, but gave away her art studies and teaching to concentrate on writing when she won a short story competition. The Truth About Verity Sparks was short-listed in the Book of the Year for Younger Readers category of the 2012 CBCA Awards.

Thanks for joining us Susan!  We’re looking forward to hearing all about your books and writing.

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