The Scariest Kids Books This Side Of Elm Street

Halloween in Australia is kind of, sort of, in a way, taking off.


Whether you love it or hate it, being scared as a kid is something we all share, and there’s nothing like a scary book to teach you the power of imagery.

Here’s some of Team Booktopia’s scariest books growing up. Let us know yours by leaving a comment below.


I am David – It was an illustrated edition that had charcoal drawings of the Nazis standing outside his house. It made me think that there were evil people outside waiting to take me from my bed in the middle of the night.

Specifically Nazis.

I had a very active imagination.


Choose Your Own Adventure Series – Sure, sometimes you would turn the page and get to keep a suitcase of money you found in your best friend’s garden. But turn the wrong page and you could get in trouble with the mob.

The suspense used to kill me and my Mum banned me from reading them because I was a wreck from being chased by pirates, martians, Bigfoot or the FBI on a nightly basis.


The Steadfast Tin Soldier  – Because I imagined I was the Tin Soldier. Lost. Never to see my family again.

That I was unloved.

That the world would crush me.

Even the happy ending couldn’t stop my anxiety.


Max and Moritz – A collection of 7 stories about two boys doing tricks on people like putting bugs into someone’s bed while they sleep in it, putting shooting powder into a teacher’s pipe, whhich explodes when lighting it and stealing roast chicken from the fire place by using a fishing rot through the chimney.

They end up falling into a mill and are grounded to bits and devoured by the miller’s ducks.

Enough said.


Fear Street – There was a character that was unstoppably evil. Simple as that.

When you’re a kid you always think someone will stop them they could stop them.

Even now, the idea of someone being evil, almost for the sake of it, shakes something inside you.


The Worst Witch – It was about a girl who was always getting picked on by the head teacher.

The book itself was pretty scary, but I could also relate to it a lot and everytime I saw my head teacher I’d get the chills.


Goosebumps – Everyone at school collected them, and I still have my whole collection.

I love scary movies and I think Goosebumps is the reason!

GUEST BLOG: Sulari Gentill On Imaginary Friends

sulariYasser Arafat is notoriously credited with having said that a war about religion is like having a fight over who has got the best imaginary friend. As provocative as the statement is to people of faith, it cannot be denied that human beings have long been capable of intense personal relationships with figures who have no objective existence. Whether such a person is called devout or insane depends often on the social acceptability of the said imaginary friend.

But such friendships are not just the domain of the pious and the mad. Writers, too, can lay claim to relationships with people they’ve made up. Of course, the zealot, the deranged and the author, are not mutually exclusive conditions. The latter two may in fact be interchangeable.

For me, writing is a kind of glorious madness, a descent into the world in my head where it is me who is the figment, the ghost, the imaginary observer. It is a seductive world which I often leave only reluctantly to engage with the real world to which I was born.

The relationships between writers and their protagonists are intriguing, not for the least part, because they can be so varied in intensity and quality. There are writers who insist their protagonists are merely literary constructs, and others who set a place at the table for the hero/heroine of their latest novel.

I have known my imaginary gentleman sleuth, Rowland Sinclair, for five books now, two years of his life, four years of mine. In that time he has always stood in the periphery of my vision, regarding me with a kind of amused resignation, watching me as I watch him. We have an understanding, he and I.

With each book I have, admittedly, become increasingly involved with Rowland, to the point that he is now all but real to not just me, but also my family. My husband and I will often talk about Rowland as if he were an old friend with a tendency of finding trouble. You know the kind. We will argue about the rights and wrongs of Rowland’s actions, as if those actions were fact. Every now and then, I hear our conversations as a third party might, and find myself both alarmed and vaguely embarrassed by the extent to which this figment of my imagination has insinuated himself into our lives. But I reassure myself that I am a writer, and as such a certain level of delusion is not only acceptable but possibly necessary.

My personal writing process is quite instinctive and impulsive: there is no form or formula to my method, just a pursuit of story. I simply sit down and make things up, allowing the words of come out as they will. I write chronologically, beginning with the first word of the novel, and proceeding with little idea of what is coming until I write it. This is undoubtedly dangerous, and risks an outcome that has no structure or resolution or rambles interminably. Somehow though, my work seems to find a natural structure and rhythm, and an internal consistency with ensures it makes sense. I never work in a quiet or serene place, writing instead in the midst of my noisy family, or in airports or cafés, or half listening to the evening news or some late night television show. I used to think that was out of necessity—I was a mother with a demanding day job and I had to multi-task if I ever hoped to find time to write. But I realise now that there may in fact be a purpose to this insane way of working. Writing in the midst of noise and movement, where I am not completely focussed, allows me to engage my subconscious in a way that absolute concentration cannot.

It is not uncommon for a writer to gain new insight into his/her or own work through reviewers or readers, who point out nuances and themes which we ourselves hadn’t noticed. Of course, we’re usually quite happy to claim them after the fact! Because I write without plotting, I have always been surprised at the serendipity by which the details of my narratives fall into place, asides I wrote in chapter one on a whim, by chapter thirty prove crucial as if I had laid the thread on purpose. Both the above, I think, owe more to the storyteller’s subconscious than they do to chance or luck. There are many things we do as writers for reasons, about which we not consciously aware, but which have a purpose and a design nonetheless. Somewhere in our subconscious is stored everything we know and have read, every revelation of research, every image, every sound and every feeling. It’s not surprising then that this is cradle of our creativity, where stories are born. The writer’s trick is tapping into that and then trusting it.

Though I don’t consciously plan or plot, there probably is a subliminal design to my work. What I see as Rowland Sinclair leading me through his world and his story is possibly just my subconscious guiding a story it has planned without needing to bother the poor beleaguered and limited conscious part of my brain which has to deal with the realities of the world.

So what I’m trying to say is that we “pantsers”, we writers who just go with the story and allow our protagonists to do as they choose, are probably not as unruly and unstructured in our writing as we may seem.  It is just that we elect not to look too hard at what exactly is at work to produce our plots and our characters. We trust that part of ourselves which tells us “this is the way it was”.

The lawyer in me feels the need to insert a disclaimer at this point.  I am telling you what I think I do. It’s my best guess… but I really can’t be sure, and I haven’t tested the theory in any way. Some part of me feels that examining a spell too closely, articulating it too precisely, will break it, rob it of its magic. And I can’t risk that. After all, I have got the best imaginary friend.

Sulari Gentill’s Gentlemen Formerly Dressed is a Booktoberfest title. Buy this book now to go in the draw to win Booktopia’s weekly giveaway – a $250 Booktopia voucher – AND order by 31st October 2013 to go in the draw to win the fantastic publisher prize.

Click here for prize details and to see the full Simon & Schuster Showcase

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

by Sulari Gentill

After narrowly escaping Nazi terror, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe. But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be… more

GUEST BLOG: Five Important Books About AC/DC by Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC

With sales of over 200 million albums, AC/DC is not just the biggest rock band in the world. It’s a family business built by three brothers: George, Malcolm and Angus Young. And, as with any business, some people prospered while others got hurt along the way.

The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC is unlike any AC/DC book you’ve read before. Less a biography, more a critical appreciation, it tells the story of the trio through 11 classic songs and reveals some of the personal and creative secrets that went into their making.

As part of Booktoberfest, author Jesse Fink guides you through five other important books about the world’s biggest band: AC/DC.

highway-to-hellHighway To Hell
by Clinton Walker

A biography of Bon Scott published back in 1994. Walker is a very good writer and didn’t get a lot of help from the Youngs or their camp for this book. Actually, like all the band’s biographers, he got diddly squat. Big mistake on their part.

He wasn’t afraid to dish it up to the Youngs, describing them as “a closed shop, uniformly suspicious, paranoid almost, possessed of the virtual opposite of Bon’s generosity, prone to sullenness… Angus and Malcolm had this incredible tunnel vision where no one else counted . . . insularity bordering on paranoia”. Strong stuff.

Bon emerges as a true Australian larrikin antihero and this book did a lot to cement his legend. I have a lot of admiration for the work that was involved in this book… more

Highway To Hell
by Joe Bonomo

Not to be confused with the Walker tome, this is about the crucial 1979 album produced by Zambian mega-producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange”, also of Foreigner, Maroon 5, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams and Def Leppard fame.

It was published by Continuum as part of the “33 1/3” series. It’s slim, really a long essay rather than a book, but Bonomo brings a fresh American perspective on the AC/DC story by writing from the point of view of a young man growing up in Wheaton, Maryland, hearing this landmark album from these wild colonial boys for the first time and, like me and every AC/DC fan, being blown the f*** away by it.

He strongly denounces AC/DC for their lyrics to “Night Prowler”, a song that unfortunately came to be associated with the Richard Ramirez killings in California in the early 1980s (Ramirez was a fan of AC/DC). The band claimed the song was simply about a guy sneaking into his girlfriend’s room late at night. Bonomo disagrees: “Bon Scott’s more treacherous imagery pushes the song into regrettably mean places. I’m not sure that the band can have it both ways.” He’s absolutely right. How else do you explain the lyrics, And you don’t feel the steel/Till it’s hanging out your back?… more

Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside and Outside of AC/DC
by Mark Evans

The first autobiography by a current or former member of AC/DC. Mark got treated poorly by the Youngs. He was sacked in 1977 and has plenty of reasons to take off the gloves – such as his being denied induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003; a disgraceful decision – but largely doesn’t.

That said, he doesn’t avoid being critical of his former bandmates, such as his description of Angus and Malcolm as being “morose, grumpy, sullen and generally not too much fun to be around”. As a piece of writing, this book is straightforward but there are some lovely passages and at points it’s deeply personal, moving and poignant.

Mark’s not afraid to show his sensitive side and that’s to his immense credit… more

AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll
by Murray Engleheart with Arnaud Durieux

Not the “definitive” biography it claims to be and appears to be from its enormous heft, but what’s “definitive” anyway?

This book has a lot of useful information and was the product of years of intensive research but it just reads like a laundry list of shows and album releases.

It could have benefited from more structure and a lot more critical analysis.

Too many AC/DC books are hagiographies. This isn’t one but it comes close… more

AC/DC: Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
by Mick Wall

Again, another brick of a book embracing a conventional biographical format, but the difference is Wall is much more strident with his opinions.

If you’ve read Highway To Hell by Walker and AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll by Engleheart, in my view this is really only super-essential for hardcore fans of the band.

It’s most notable for his theory about the circumstances of Bon Scott’s death in 1980, involving the possible role of heroin… more


Tom Keneally chats with John Purcell about his new book Shame and the Captives

John Purcell reviews Shame and the Captives by Tom Keneally

One of the drawbacks of living in a society obsessed with the new is that we fail to recognise the simple fact that many things get better with time. There is just no story in ‘Author Gains Wisdom by Living a Long Interesting Life:  Talking, Travelling, Reading and Writing’. But there should be. Someone gaining wisdom should be news. It so seldom happens.

Tom Keneally should be news. His last two books are a direct challenge to the more newsworthy overnight success authors. Both are the result of fifty years of writing both fiction and non-fiction. And it shows. Both Daughters of Mars and his latest novel Shame and the Captives give younger writers a lesson in writing.

At its most basic, Shame and the Captives is a retelling of the Cowra breakout. Something which was long overdue. But it is much more than that. Keneally cleverly (and effortlessly) divides his story into many sub stories and embeds his reader into each one. We mingle with Japanese POWs, hear their stories, feel their shame and share their frustrations; we are sent out to the farms as labourers with the Italian POWs; we wait out the war far from the frontlines with the British and Australian camp guards and officers; we share in the guilt and confusion of a woman who’s trying to remember her captured husband’s face whilst an attractive Italian POW labours away for her father-in-law in the sun outside her window.

All the while trouble brews. We know the story of the Cowra breakout. We have never had it told like this.

Click here for more about Shame and the Captives

This is a Booktoberfest title. Buy this book now to go in the draw to win Booktopia’s weekly giveaway – a $250 Booktopia voucher – AND order by 31st October 2013 to go in the draw to win the fantastic publisher prize.

Click here to see the full Random House Showcase

REVIEW: Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson (review by Andrew Cattanach)

I’ll let you behind the curtain of having the best job in the world. Publishers are awesome, and very generous. So when a book comes along that excites and surprises a publisher, so much so that we only get to look at a quick teaser before release instead of the entire book, we tend to take notice.

Mike Tyson’s autobiography Undisputed Truth is one of those books.

As the sports nerd in the office I came in one day to find a sampler of Undisputed Truth on my desk. I flicked through it and expected a pretty watered down version of events, a fallen star trying to dig himself out of trouble with a ghostwriter and PR manager at hand.

What I got blew my socks off. This is Mike Tyson, leaving his support staff at the door. A naive street kid who had it all and then threw it all away. He lays it all down, every thought, every feeling, every emotion. At 23 he was hailed as possibly the greatest fighter to ever live, married to a movie star, earning millions of dollars for fights that rarely went past the first round. By 24 he was broke, in jail and a worldwide disgrace. He writes of his sentencing that “it took me a long time to realise that that little white woman judge who sent me to prison just might have saved my life.”

It’s difficult to decide whether this is a story of ‘how did it all go wrong’ so much as ‘how did it all go right’, if only in his early days. He was raised as a gang member, a fat kid with a lisp who tried to stay quiet and not get hurt. How did he become a national celebrity, and what happened when he discovered the only thing that knocked him off his perch was himself?

Undisputed Truth isn’t so much a story about Tyson as a story of a world of scatter gun celebrity worship. A study in what happens when the music stops but the camera keeps rolling.

A book like this doesn’t come around very often. Don’t miss out.

Click here for more about Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson

IN THE NEWS: Jackie Collins says teens must reclaim the pleasures of ‘almost’

Author: Jackie CollinsWhen a teenage Jackie Collins was seduced by Marlon Brando at a party, little did she know the experience would come in handy years later while writing her first YA novel…

New York Times bestselling author Jackie Collins was recently in Australia promoting her new novel, Confessions of a Wild Child, which tells the story of the teen years of her much loved character Lucky Santangelo. Jackie had hoped her publisher would promote the novel as a novel for teens. But Jackie’s publisher decided her fanbase would feel left out if they did so. And besides, they knew, just as Jackie probably did, that teens had been borrowing/stealing their mothers’ copies of her books since 1968 when her first novel, The World is Full of Married Men set tongues wagging and would read Confessions of a Wild Child whether it was published as a young adult novel or not.

Having read Confessions of a Wild Child I can see why Jackie would want young girls in particular to read it. Confessions is set in a world outside time, this could be the 1960s, the 90s or now and Jackie has gone to great trouble to write a very fast moving story in which her heroine, fifteen year old Lucky, learns very quickly about love, lust, boys, men, friendship, sex, betrayal and the value of ‘almost’.

The driver for Lucky is personal freedom and much of that is expressed in a desire to have as much fun as a young girl can have. But there are lessons along the way, and having been instructed in the pleasures of ‘almost’ by her more experienced friend, Olympia, (‘almost’ meaning kissing, fondling, touching and everything one can do with a cute guy without doing ‘it’) Lucky navigates her way through adventure after adventure fairly unscathed. The same cannot be said of Olympia, who abandons the wise course of ‘almost’ and repeatedly gets Lucky into trouble.

In a world where teens carry iPhones with unlimited access to the Internet, i.e. porn, Jackie’s hope that a novel like Confessions of a Wild Child might serve as some sort of antidote to the sexualisation of youth may seem a little naive considering the sheer size of the challenge. But then I couldn’t help but feel that the novel, by advocating the pleasures of ‘almost’, might get some readers thinking about what they are missing out on, and may encourage a handful to take the tourist route to adulthood.

Click here for Confessions of a Wild Child

INTERVIEW: Thanks wholly to Caroline Baum’s decision to go on holiday there was a vacant seat opposite Jackie Collins in an interview which was scheduled to be filmed for Caroline’s Bookshots. When Caroline asked me to take her place she did not have to ask twice. Here is my interview with Jackie Collins (and yes, I ask her about her fling with Marlon Brando):

Click here for more deatils or to buy Confessions of a Wild ChildConfessions of a Wild Child

Lucky Santangelo is a powerful and charismatic woman. But how did she become the woman she is today?

Many people have asked, and in Confessions of a Wild Child we discover the teenage Lucky, and follow her on her trip to discover boys, love and how she fought her father, the infamous Gino Santangelo, to forge her own individual and strong road to success.

Confessions of a Wild Child takes you on a trip and navigates the teenage years of a wild child who will eventually rule an empire. Even at 15 Lucky follows her own path and it’s a crazy ride, taking the reader from a strict girls’ school in Switzerland to an idyllic Greek island, a Bel Air estate, a New York penthouse, and a shuttered villa in the South of France. Nobody can control Lucky. She knows what she wants and she goes for it with no holds barred. Lucky at 15 – a true revelation.

Buy Confessions of a Wild Child from Booktopia before November 30th 2013 for your chance to win an incredible backlist prize pack – 29 books all signed by Jackie Collins herself! Woo! 

What a Great PRIZE!

A lesson in performing Space Oddity. In Space.

Chris Hadfield has nearly done it all as an astronaut. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft.

The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success –  and survival –  is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst – and enjoy every moment of it.

Despite all this Chris Hadfield is probably best known for this.
It is awesome. You must watch.

Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4,000 hours in space. In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible.

Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement – and happiness.

His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff. You might never be able to build a robot, pilot a spacecraft, make a music video or perform basic surgery in zero gravity like Col. Hadfield. But his vivid and refreshing insights will teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change, completely, the way you view life on Earth – especially your own.

Click here for more about An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Chris Hafield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is a Booktoberfest title. Buy this book now to go in the draw to win Booktopia’s weekly giveaway – a $250 Booktopia voucher – AND order by 31st October 2013 to go in the draw to win the fantastic publisher prize.

Click here for prize details and to see the full Pan Macmillan Showcase


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