The Hazel Wood

Author – Melissa Albert35997403

Age – 13+

Alice and her mum have always been on the move. Bad luck seems to plague them wherever they try to settle, and it’s only now that Alice is 17 that she realises there is something eerie about their particular bad luck.

Alice’s grandmother was famous for a book she wrote of very dark fairytales. This book is now impossible to find so she never got to read it. She’d hoped her entire childhood that she would meet her grandmother but it never happened. Her mother was adamant about never returning to The Hazel Wood where her mother lived.

Alice’s mum marries and they seem finally settled – until her mum vanishes. Was she kidnapped? Did she run away from an unhappy marriage? The strange things that have happened through her life manifest into even stranger creatures and events and the only person she can turn to is a boy from her school. Finch is ridiculously wealthy and also a huge fan of her grandmother’s tales.

After avoiding fans for years, Alice has no option but to ask for Finch’s help. He knows the tales inside out and she finds she is connected to one in particular. Despite a warning to the contrary, Alice knows she has to find and then search the elusive Hazel Wood if she is ever to see her mother again.

The writing is superb, the intrigue all encompassing, and the place Alice finds herself in – VERY Alice in Wonderland – but even weirder!


My side of the Diamond

Author – Sally Gardner35698616

Illustrator – Nat Barlex

Age – 13+

Jazmin’s best friend Becky has gone. She jumped off a building with her boyfriend. But moments after they jumped they vanished, leaving Jaz with the fallout, a devastating court trial, and her life shattered.

No-one believed her testimony at the trial. No-one would listen to her. But now, a man called Mr Jones has come to interview her. She can finally tell someone what really happened.

A line on the cover gives a clue to the reader that this is a story that contains something not of this world ‘They came to Earth to find love‘. And indeed it does include alien beings. But the entire story is still set on Earth as we know it today, through a series of interviews. This style and structure was intriguing and had to be followed closely as each person recounted what happened before Becky disappeared.

Something different from a multi-award winning author.

(Aliens, Friendship, Friends, Love, Romance, Sci-Fi, Action, Fear)


The Wrong Train

Author – Jeremy de Quidt32050810

Illustrator – Dave Shelton

Age – 11+

When a boy gets on a train home it isn’t long before he realises something is wrong. Nothing looks familiar outside the windows. Somehow he has boarded the wrong train. When he finally does see a station he gets off to find nothing but the platform and darkness. I’ll just wait for the next train he thinks, wishing his phone hadn’t died after he sent his last text to his dad.

A small light appears in the darkness, getting closer and closer. An old man and a small dog arrive, the light a glass lantern he is carrying. At first the boy is okay about the old man offering to keep him company while he waits for the next train. But then he begins to tell stories to pass the time.

These stories are increasingly disturbing until the boy can’t bear to listen any longer. But there is nowhere else to go….

Super creepy, this book surprised me. It is a book of short stories, all stranger than the last, with a small illustration and title of the story to begin each chapter. There is a warning on the back – ‘not for faint hearted passengers’ and it’s not there for nothing. If you like to be a little scared, read this during the day. If you like to be freaked out a little, read it in your bedroom alone at night!

(Spooky, Train, Scary, Alone, Short Stories, Freaky, Eerie)

The Call

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Author – Peadar O’Guilin

Age – 14+

Children have to face a terrible truth at the age of 10. Their parents might have kept all knowledge of The Call from them, to try and give them some childhood, but the inevitable may be just around the corner….

Set in Ireland, all children at the age of 10 are sent to one of the many survival schools that train them to try and stay alive. Many years before, humankind banished creatures to a terrible grey land. But they now have taken their revenge, calling every child to their land at random. They have to survive one day in this land filled with horrific creatures sculptured out of humans they have slayed and kept. They can fight, hide, or die.

The survival skills teach them the language of the Sidhe and how they fight, live, act and kill. It was once recorded that only 1 in 100 survived this day, but with the school’s intensive training and the testimonies of the survivors pored over for every detail of the grey lands, the odds are now 1 in 10 of survival.

Nessa is a beautiful girl, strong, determined and brave, but her legs are twisted, preventing her from walking very fast or running at all. When she is in a training session or an organised hunt through school, she fashions crutches out of anything she can, giving her the freedom of movement her legs never have.

They may be called at any time of day, day or night, and although they are in the grey land for a day, they are only missing from current time for 3 minutes and 4 seconds. When they vanish, leaving their clothes behind, the wait for their friends, teachers or loved ones is excruciating as most return dead. If they somehow do survive they are often disfigured, burnt, bleeding and/or changed physically and mentally.

This was a quick read, with a fascinating story line, tense relationships and the threat of ‘The Call’ at any moment. Each time one of the characters was called, it caught me by surprise. There is the kick-ass girl character, her risk taker friend, the ‘jock’ who likes her but will never admit it, and his followers who believe every word he breathes, until….

Think Hunger Games, with every kid forced to enter, at random, with no warning, and little chance of survival. The Call is brutal, violent but captivating.

(Violence, Hell, Creatures, Fight, Fear, Determination, Horror, Creepy)

The Haunting

(Not in Napier / Taradale Libraries)


Author – Alex Bell

Age – 13+

Part of a Spooky Series called Red Eye, this was a very creepy book.

The Waterwitch Inn was built from a sunken ship with a history of terrible things happening to it, even before its maiden voyage.

When Emma returns to her home village to see her dying grandmother, she is drawn back to the closed down Waterwitch that her Gran used to own. Soon meeting her best friend Jem from her childhood, she is drawn back into his life and his worries that his sister Shell thinks she is a witch, their abusive father has broken Shell’s arm and now they have nowhere to live except hiding in the Waterwitch Inn.

But Gran claims she never sent them the keys they have, and she shut it because it is haunted. Emma, along with Jem scoffs at this notion, but Shell knows better. Something is in the cellar, and it’s all their fault.

(3 points of view – Emma, Jem and Shell – all 1st person)

A tale of witches, sunken ships and an age old curse. Should Jem believe Shell’s explanations of the strange things happening or is she unbalanced after the suicide of her mother and her father’s constant anger and abuse? The Inn setting is great with its ocean theme and the tension builds throughout the novel. Great read.

(Witch, Ship, Haunting, Creepy, Spooky, Curse, Ghost, Horror, Revenge)

Thirteen Chairs

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Author – Dave Shelton

Age – 11+

Jack has heard about the strange house in town – even that it might be haunted. So when he finds 12 people sitting in a room, each with a flickering candle in front of them and ready to tell a scary story, he makes sure he is close to the door. Just in case. But the stories he hears draw him in – until he has to tell one of his own….

On the Carnegie/CILIP Medal Longlist 2016.
This is a great collection of scary stories, wrapped up in a story of its own. Clever!

(Short Stories, Ghost, Creepy, Intrigue, Murder, Horror, Advanced readers 11+)

13 Days of Midnight

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Author – Leo Hunt

Age – 12+

When Luke Manchett learns that his Paranormal TV star Dad has died, he’s more intrigued than upset about it. He has instructions to meet his dad’s lawyer and is told he will inherit $6 million. Instantly he thinks of the flash cars he can buy to impress the girl he likes at school. But what he should’ve been thinking about is why one of the things he signed was on an ancient goat skin.
Later that week to his shock, he discovers the men that seem to be following him are in fact two of eight spirits called The Host that are part of the bargain. These eight spirits (some nicer than others and some truly evil) are now bonded to him as they were to his father.
Only the strange girl (Elza) at school can help him, when she admits she can see his ghosts too. She has always had the second sight. Now Elza and Luke have to try and unscramble his dad’s notes, and open the strange green book with a star on the cover. Halloween is approaching and his eight spirits can wreak some true havoc on him, his mum, his friends and the rest of their town of Dunbarrow, because he doesn’t have the same necromancer skills of his father to keep them in line. How will he learn enough in time to stop them?

Great story for Skulduggery fans or anyone who enjoys tales of the paranormal.

(Black Magic, Devil, Spirits, Action, Conflict, Family, Courage, Ghost, Horror)