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Erik. The lone Wolf by Sarah Finan.

January 19, 2018 Comments off

erik wolfErik. The lone Wolf by Sarah Finan. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2018.

This picture book impressed me the minute I picked it up and without even opening up to see what was inside. The cover was done in a relief type of art. The title stuck out from cover you could feel it like a blind person. So did Erik with his red scarf and the mountains as well. It was lovely to rub my hands across it.

Inside the written text did not disappoint either. It is about belonging and feeling crowded at the same time. Erik is sick of being with the pack and being told to do this and not to do that. He takes off on his own.

At first the freedom is exhilarating but then trouble, Erik is in the deep stuff. Fortunately the pack haven’t left Erik and they rescue him and he is so he is glad to be back.

Great to read aloud and to read on your own. A real beauty, don’t miss this one.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

How To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.

January 18, 2018 Comments off

hang witchHow To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. Pub. Walker books, 2018.

The Salem witch trials of 1691 make some of the most sordid reading in American history. Cotton Mather was a leading instigator in these trials, this novel is written by a descendant Adriana Mather and the main character in the novel is teenage girl Samantha Mather. It’s a family affair.

Samantha and her step mother Vivian sell their New York apartment to pay the medical expenses of Samantha’s father who has mysteriously gone into a coma. They move to Salem and stay in a house once owned by Samantha’s grandma that she didn’t know about.

Samantha is a difficult girl she has an affinity for sarcasm and doesn’t have any friends. Why is this? Her first day in the old house results in mysterious happenings, secret rooms, things that go bump in the night.

Her first day at Salem high school is no better, she makes enemies of a group of black clad girls called the Descendants who are related to the witches of 1691. They threaten her and say she is cursed. Then Samantha meets handsome boy Elijah who is a ghost and only she can see and hear him. He tells her to leave or else, but Samantha is built of sterner stuff and is not intimidated by the threats. She should be. Elijah tells her that when one of each of the main families involved in the original trials is in Salem a curse is invoked and the death rate mounts. Can the curse be broken?

A fascinating read that sheds light on the Salem trials and likens them to modern day bullying. Not a lot of laughs in this novel that has the power to scare the s**t out of you but fortunately there is a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Superbly written and structured in 47 short sharp chapters so that you can read it in short bursts like I did. Senior secondary but I suspect younger readers will clamber to read it as well. It will do them no harm.

Rain Fall by Ella West.

January 15, 2018 Comments off

rain fallRain Fall by Ella West. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2018.

When a teenage boy who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” empties a shotgun into the local police station and  blows his house up with plastic explosive while surrounded by the Armed Offenders squad, then disappears into the bush, you know something is dreadfully wrong.

Add to that a suspected murder and missing body and you have a mystery on your hands.

Fifteen year old Annie lives in Westport, just out of town and down the road from Pete the boy suspected of murder who used the shotgun and blew up his house. Annie loves horses and while exercising her horse Blue along the West Coast beach she meets a boy Jack, who is a rodeo star, a little older than her, and whose father is a detective sent from over the hill to investigate the crimes mentioned above.

Jack kisses Annie, her first kiss, and romance blossoms but around them the community is falling apart. What is going on? Read it and find out.

The rain soaked West Coast becomes another character in this novel that chronicles the effects that mine closures and job losses have on a community. Set near the Stockton mine, Annie’s father drives the coal train from Stockton to Otira and becomes victim of the mine closures. The whole community is stressed.

Up to date account of a real situation. The descriptions of the rain and the Coast environment are superb and the tensions created by the murder make great reading.

A worthy follow up to Ella West’s hit novel Night Vision which is reviewed on this blog and has the most hits of any novel on it. Intermediate and high school readers will enjoy this.

Arc of the Scythe Book 1. Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

January 8, 2018 Comments off

shalt killArc of the Scythe Book 1. Scythe by Neal Shusterman. Pub. Walker books, 2018

This first novel in a new series for readers who enjoyed the Hunger Games will mesmerise you. You will have to keep reading long after your eyes are telling you to go to sleep.

The Age of Mortality is over. Humankind has defeated death, all economic inequalities have been levelled and government is by an entity known as Thunderhead. The population still expands by the usual process and so the level needs to be controlled by putting people at random to death. The process is called Gleaning.

The selection process and the gleaning is done by specially selected humans called Scythes whose first commandment is Thou Shalt kill. The Scythes are both feared and revered in society and a visit from one means usually someone in your family has to die. To resist or to hurt a Scythe is punishable by death to your whole family. While Thunderhead controls and sees everything, Scythes are outside this control

People accept that this must be the way and between chapters of the book are excerpts from the Gleaning Journal by H.S. Curie and other Scythes who make comments about the process and philosophical arguments, for and against, are made throughout the novel.

The action revolves around a decent man Scythe Faraday, who takes no pleasure in the selection and gleaning of people. As a result of two gleanings Scythe Faraday selects two 16 year olds to be his apprentices, Citra and Rowan. The two like each other but such relationships are banned.

At the end of a years apprenticeship only one of them is to become a scythe. Which one? But there are rumblings and growing corruption within the Scythes. A decision at the first Conclave of Scythes is to increase the tensions between Scythe Faraday’s two apprentices.

Brilliantly conceived idea from Neal Shusterman and superbly written in short chapters with the background to the Scythe and their roles between chapters. I believe the film rights have already been picked up so get in early before the film ruins the books.

Compulsive reading.

The Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr.

January 3, 2018 Comments off

truth ella blackThe Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

I finished this stunning novel 2 hours ago so I have poured myself a whiskey and ginger ale to savour this moment of reviewing it. It is not a book I will forget in a hurry because it deals with a 17 year old girl called Ella who is struggling to keep out and /or control a  character in her mind that she calls Bella or bad Ella.

Ella is a studious girl with talent in art, she has a gay friend called Jack and a girl friend called Lily. Bella however is loud, violent and provocative and takes over Ella at embarrassing times. A solution is at hand but you will have to read the whole book to find out what it is.

The action is started when Ella’s parents take her out of school in London in the middle of the day and whisk her onto a plane that is flying to Rio a place that Ella has always fantasised about. Why? It happened at a time when Bella was starting to dominate.

Rio is wonderful and the action of the rest of the novel is set in this magnificent Brazilian city with its beaches, bars and favellas. Ella meets a boy and it is love at first sight but it is not this that causes Ella to flee her parents and live rough on the streets of Rio’s favellas. Bet you want to know why and the reason is stunning. Secrets!!

The second YA novel from Emily Barr after The One Memory of Flora Banks and it is structured in a count down of 40 days until she dies.

My goodness me I might read it again. Superbly written with a host of other characters, but at times I got irritated because I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Ella/Bella is a strong character and you are with her all the way but you do feel for her parents.

Chronicles Vol. 1 an Autobiography of Bob Dylan

December 31, 2017 Comments off

DylanChronicles Vol. 1 an Autobiography of Bob Dylan. Pub. Pocket Books, 2004.

Bob Dylan has always been one of my musical heroes and when given this title for Xmas by my son I read it avidly finishing in one day. I was searching for something about the man that would unlock all the secrets and speculation about him and the songs that he wrote. It doesn’t do this but it does present an artistic mind and how it works and it outlines the influences that made Dylan the genius that he is.

When asked early in his career by the poet Archibald McLeish who his boyhood heroes were Dylan answered Robin Hood and St George the dragonslayer. Figure that out.

Dylan never saw himself as a mouthpiece or conscience of a generation which the press and others were determined to tag him with. All he did he says was to sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful realities.

A remarkable quality of Dylan that comes out is his dedication as a father and family man. He did everything to keep them out of the vagaries of his life as he struggled with the complexities of fame. When the Kennedys, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were shot he didn’t see them as leaders rather as fathers whose families had been left wounded.

While he does talk of the influences of Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Jack Kerouac and others in  his life as a young artist working in 60,s New York the best titbit he gives about himself is this  “be true to yourself because that is what I am all about”.

Not the autobiography I wanted but hell it is compelling reading.

Categories: Biographies, Young Adult Tags:

Valensteins by Ethan Long.

December 24, 2017 Comments off

valensteinsValensteins by Ethan Long. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Fran the ogre is making pink hearts on Valentines Day, but who are they for and why is he doing it? Could it be love? What is love anyway?

When Fran is caught making the pink hearts Vladimir the vampire speculates that they are pink butts much to the hilarity of the other ghouls. Then a witch surmises that Fran is in love. Eewww! cry all his friends.

An embarrassed Fran  puts up with their taunts of feeling Mushy Mushy and kissing on the lips but who is the recipient of Fran’s feelings?

Read the rest and find out who and learn that love is a feeling in the heart. Awww!

Great illustrations especially the eyes of the characters that show where their feelings and motives are.