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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Coast Watcher by David Hill. Pub. Puffin, 2021

July 21, 2021 Comments off

Terrific war story this set in Bougainville in 1942/3 when the Japanese were a real threat to the security of NZ. The Japanese were in retreat but it was island by island stuff as USA, Australian and New Zealand troops and navy fought for dominance.

Frank is a young soldier who suffered from TB and is not regarded as frontline material. He is a radio operator and desperately wants to prove himself. He feels that his father let the side down and he is determined not to do the same but worries that his lungs will prevent him from achieving his goal.

Frank is given the chance to prove himself as radio operator on a coast watch mission on a small island off the coast of Bougainville where along with Maori soldier Wally and Australian soldier Les they are left behind to hide and report ship, air or troop movements.

The island is covered in jungle with animals from monkeys, snakes, lizards and poisonous insects and mosquitoes to make life treacherous along with the humid temperatures and heavy rainfall. The three settle in but are disturbed by a Solomon Islander, A’ata, who they like and mistrust at the same time. He takes them to Bougainville by canoe where the Japanese are still active and they discover something that will make HQ think that all their birthdays have come at once.

There is action aplenty and David Hill builds tension superbly throughout. At any moment you expect a crazed Japanese soldier left behind to do damage, come screaming out of the jungle with machete yelling Banzai!

A superbly told story that will keep you rivetted and one of my top novels of the year. I first read See Ya Simon 30 years ago and David Hill has lost none of his capacity to tell a good yarn. If you are not impressed by this you are very hard to please.

AVAILABLE 10 August

The Memory Thief by Leonie Agnew. Pub Puffin, 2021

July 18, 2021 Comments off

Seth is a troll who lives in the gardens with an older troll Celeste. In the day he turns into a stone statue and at night he reverts to a human persona and feeds off the memories of those who pass by. His own memory is not so hot and he is confused by the mixing of others memories with his own. he wants to leave the park but is locked in by iron gates and we all know trolls are allergic to iron.

Next door lives a girl called Stella who has a younger brother. Stella spots Seth in his dirty condition and thinks he needs help but all he really wants is her memories. As Seth gets to know Stella he wants to get to know her as a person and avoids stealing her memories.

Stella however is onto him, she has researched google and knows Seth is a troll and that trolls eat humans. Seth is upset with this and has no intention of eating Stella or stealing her memories but Stella wants him to steal her memories.. Stella has a disturbing past that she would rather forget.

What will Celeste do? Can Seth break out of the park? What role will the little brother play?

Check this excellent fantasy and see what happens. Very imaginative and well written in a flowing style. Once you start reading you will not want to stop.

Under the Radar by Des O’Leary. Pub. Cuba Press, 2021.

July 16, 2021 Comments off

One of the most entertaining novels for high school and intermediate students I have read this year. It is the sequel to the excellent Slice of Heaven novel which was about a rough and ready racially diverse high school group who are forced to form a softball team as punishment for misdemeanors. This novel is about the same group of students plus a couple of new ones and how their lives and relationships develop in the following year.

Sione and TJ are the central characters again with Sione after parental pressure deciding that this year he is going to stay under the radar. Fat chance of that but he resists. A new big girl comes to school and he is assigned the task of showing her the ropes which he does reluctantly. Her name is Teresa and she has a shit attitude “I don’t want to make an effort. I don’t want friends. I don’t care if they don’t like me”.

This is not the only problem Sione faces. His younger brother Ronnie is seduced by the gangsta culture and wants to join a gang as a wannabe. Three of Sione’s softball buddies form a crew called FBK and want Sione to join. get respect, have your back covered, the gang is better support than your family, you will be safe on the streets. When Sione resists violence results but there is a guardian angel afoot called Turtle a big connected gang leader who drives a Mercedes and has an offsider called Ponytail. Why is Turtle looking after his back?

Lots of street action but the star of the writing is the banter between the characters. It is fast and witty with verses of rap lyrics in between. When big boy Jordan takes part in the shotput at the school sports day “he took it slow, he let it go, in that last throw. he felt the flow?

Sports Day and a after school Mathematics class are highlights and help bring Teresa out of her attitude. The discussion amongst the school mates over how the school Houses got their names is hilarious.

A great portrait of the community of South Auckland and of a school culture. The gangsta wannabe culture is exposed for what it is and the novel stresses family and community values. It you miss this one you will kick yourself. Very entertaining and easy to read in short chapters.

I am sure there will be another novel about this community. Bring it on.

Stop the Tour by Bill Nagelkerke. Pub Scholastic, 2021

June 29, 2021 Comments off

Martin Daly is thirteen years old, sensitive, caring and keeps a diary. This novel lifts extracts out of his diary about one of the most divisive episodes in New Zealand history, the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of new Zealand.

Before the tour commenced there was a simmering resentment over Maori land and racism in NZ and this tour brought it to the surface in the most violent fashion. It divided friends, families, communities, work places and ruined many relationships.

Martin tells all this from the point of view of his family, his school and his friends with short simple easy to read diary entries that give power to this social and historic catastrophe. Looking back, rugby has not suffered, South Africa has rid itself of apartheid but still racism persists as evidenced by the George Floyd incident in USA and the Ihumatao occupation in Auckland.

Martin’s sister was against the tour from the start and urges Martin to take sides and stop sitting on the fence. It takes a while as NZ disintegrates in conflict and division. A change of school and a friendship with captain of the first XIV helps him decide. It is not an easy decision as Martin’s father is a staunch rugby man and tour supporter.

The historical perspective and photographs are at the end of the novel and it begs an answer to the question “have we learnt anything from the tour?”

This book was first published in 2007 under the title Sitting on the Fence.

Elastic Island Adventures Bk5. Kingdom of Blong. Pub. Duckling, 2021. Lighthouse PR.

June 20, 2021 Comments off

An easy to read adventure series for primary and intermediate aged children. This is the latest and it is about the kingdom of blong whose king has gone missing.

Yes it is a cat and if you have a cat you will know that cats have staff, they are owned by no-one.

The four children from the first four books Kiri, Jed and twins Emma and Ethan are all in this adventure but it is Emma’s cat Blong that takes the headlines. Blong is the missing king of Blong an island on which inhabit cats and bilbies. If you don’t know what a bilby is look it up, but they are delightful little animal like a small kangaroo and cats love to hunt them.

The four children take the elastic Island route to Blong and Emma’s cat is lauded as the missing king. His sister Bella has held the fort while he has been gone but Blong himself is not keen in assuming the role of king.

When they arrive on the island Emma’s cat Blong and his sister Bella and an imposter usurps the throne and tears up the treaty that kept peace between cats and bilbies. Cats are now allowed to hunt bilbies and a slaughter is threatened.

What will the children do? Is there a way out? Check it and see and look at the others in the series too.

This series is a lot of fun, easy to read and brings up problems that we humans have in our own society. Reluctant readers will have no problem with these stories..

The Life and Times of Eddie Mcgrath by Brigid Feehan. Pub, Onetree House, 2021

June 11, 2021 Comments off

Eddie short for Edwina is an imaginative junior high school student with a caring and bizarre family including two older sisters and an aunty who is a Druid. She has stunned everybody by winning a competition in which she becomes an MP for the day in his or her constituency office, then has to prepare a speech and meet the Prime Minister, all on camera.

She has a couple of good friends Meri and a boy named Liam and it is all innocent and idealistic. Such is young life. Their lives are hectic and things change very quickly but they are caring and well meaning. The story is narrated by Eddie and she agonises over her life with her friends as young girls do.

Hanging over her head is of course the meeting with the PM and her speech but many other things are happening. Her father has an accident and a boy from Christchurch who also won the competition wants to come to Wellington to meet her.

The best story however involves Liam and his arthritic dog Russ. Liam is not happy with some chickens that are being mistreated by a neighbour so he removes them in a chilly bin and ensconces them on the top floor of an abandoned and earthquake risky former convent. Then he changes his mind and decides to put them back but is caught. This introduces another character and another situation.

Brigid Feehan links all the stories together in a witty spirited novel for intermediate and junior secondary readers. Eddie is a committed reader herself and this novel is probably best suited for girls although not necessarily so. I enjoyed it and it shows that life doesn’t always go smooth but if you adapt to the changes you might get a better than asked for result.

Partners in Slime by Belinda O’Keefe. Pub. Scholastic 2021.

May 25, 2021 Comments off

Thirteen year old Jake and his mate Cooper want to ride on a new roller coaster called the Steel Beast which is to open in 38 days time. Unfortunately they have no money and the beast is going to cost over $100.00 each to ride on.

Jake gets an idea to make money from his younger sister Paige who is a real handful for Jake to handle and she seems to have the ear of her parents. The idea is to make slime and sell it to the kids at school who Jake believes are gagging for it.

With the help of a web page and input from Coopers scientific uncle Ivor the boys make a very desirable product and it sells like hotcakes. The sister Paige and her girlie friends come up with a better product that smells of food product and the boys have been usurped.

What are they to do next? The answer is off this planet and the results hilarious. Will the boys get near the Steel Beast? Read it and see what happens.

The best part of this story is the business venture. How do you start a business from scratch? Once you have a product how do you market it? What do you do about competition?

A great read-a- loud for junior and intermediate readers with high boy appeal.

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. Pub. Hardy Grant, 2021.

April 16, 2021 Comments off

Amari is a black girl from the housing projects who has a destiny that she doesn’t understand. She is used to living the hard way but has good attitudes and is loyal and brave. Her older brother Quinton has gone missing in a magical world and she is determined to find him.

Quinton is a magician which nobody knows about and he sends her a package in which is a pair of glasses that give Amari a virtual reality show telling her about the dangerous world Quinton has got caught up in and a plea to not try to find him.

Amari follows clues from the glasses and is led to a magical world that exists in the same space as the real world but only few people can see it. A bit like J.K. Rowlings world of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Amari enters the world of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs an organisation that ensures that supernaturals have a safe place to meet. Amira is tested for her suitability to work for the department and surprisingly learns that she is a magician and related to magicians that have caused havoc in the past. She learns too that her brother Quinton was also a magician and has disappeared while looking for and elusive and dangerous group called the Night Brothers.

Amari applies to become a member of the Dept of Supernatural Investigations run by the van Helsings relatives of the Van Helsings that trapped Dracula. How will she get on? Will she find Quinton? and who are the Night Brothers.

Exciting fantasy for lovers of this genre.

Space Detectives by Mark Powers, illus. Dapo Adeola. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

April 8, 2021 Comments off

This is a short easy to read chapter book for newly confidant readers and reluctant boy readers. It is introductory Sc/Fi with a load of laughs and lots of weird creatures.

Ten year old Ethan and Mark are good friends and they run an ice cream parlour on the manmade planet of Starville. It is a glass bubble in space with all the elements of Planet Earth except that it is populated by both humans and creatures from other planets.

Both boys are detectives and want to start an agency up on Starville but there is a lack of work. The boys witness a crime in which a Tufted Grotsnobbler from Venus steals the handbag off the daughter of the Supreme Governor of Starville. They attempt to get the handbag back and are invited to a party at the Governors house for their efforts.

Then things get worse as Starvillians learn that their planet is heading for a collision with the moon. Can Ethan and Mark find out who is behind this dastardly scheme? Read it and find out.

Cricket Crazy by Vivienne Bailey. Pub. Cuba Press 2021.

March 19, 2021 Comments off

Tom is 11 years old, at Rewa Intermediate school and is crazy about cricket. His father was a good cricketer and has an old bat with the autograph of some famous NZ cricketers including Martin Crowe. Tom’s best friend Fletcher plays cricket too and so does Izzy a girl that Tom likes but keeps it to himself. She is an all rounder and there is nothing worse for a boy than to be bowled out by a girl.

Tom is still missing his dead mother when dad turns up with a red headed lass called Tanya who has taken over all his dad’s attention. Worse thing of all is they are kissing and cuddling and Tanya doesn’t like his dog Archie who is moved from his home comforts to out of doors.

A cricket competition is to be played with the final to be played at the Basin Reserve. Tom wants to get there but things are not going well for him. Then his favourite bat is nicked at a cricket game and Fletcher gets glandular fever.

Will Tom make it? How about dad and Tanya? What has Izzy got to do with it all? Read it and find out.

Lots of cricket talk and a glossary of terms in the back of the book. Good advice for a young cricketer and for any sport in fact. practice, have confidence in yourself, concentrate and play for your team.

A first novel for this author and I think she is on the right track with this novel about cricket and family and school life.

The cover looks very much like Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batting together and they do get a mention in the novel.