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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

Amundsen’s Way. The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz.

April 21, 2019 Comments off

AmundsenAmundsen’s Way. The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2019.

This is historical writing at it’s very best. It is the other side of the coin about the great race to the South pole in 1912 between Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. Scott’s tale is told in Joanna’s earlier book Into the White reviewed earlier on this blog.

It is not only the story of Amundsen and his men and their journey to the pole but also the story of the dogs who took them there. The dogs’ story is equally dramatic and mirrors the drama of Amundsen and his crew.

Amundsen deceived the King of Norway, his people and the famous explorer Nansen, into believing he was headed for the Northwest Passage around Cape Horn and up the Pacific. Captain Scott had no knowledge of Amundsen’s intentions either. When the ship the Fram berthed at the port of Madiera, Amundsen’s brother was dispatched with a letter to both the King and Nansen. He was heading South to the Pole.

Doing this he unwittingly drew Scott into a race he didn’t want and he put his reputation on the line. He must succeed. This preyed on his mind for the whole escapade and affected his decision making and his relationships with his men. But Amundsen had planned meticulously and was convinced of his ability to be successful. The contrast with Scott is one of the great exploration stories.

Having reached the Antarctic they hunkered down in a small hut  with 9 men, surrounded by dogs, leading to power struggles amongst both men and dogs. There was significant drama and conflict in both species.

Amundsen was haunted by the knowledge that Scott had motorised sleds, little did he know that these were a white elephant but it caused him to panic and move before his men were ready and the conditions were suitable.

Read it and see how the journey went and the fate that befell the dogs. Totally absorbing. This book is for everybody. They don’t make men like this these days.

The Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat

April 8, 2019 Comments off

magic deskThe Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat. Pub Olympia Publishers 2018.\

This is the third book from this author, all are reviewed on this blog, and his main obsession is bullying in schools. He has others too and many are found in this recent novel.

Timothy is a WASP (white anglo saxon protestant), he is 12 years old and has just arrived in NZ with his born to rule mother. He looks like a studious boy but at heart is shiftless and lazy, and he is going to have to change.

Timothy is rescued from a beating by bullies by Aroha a Maori girl who fancies him and is the daughter of a reformed Gang leader. Their relationship is at the core of this novel.

Timothy’s mother buys a mahogany “escritoire”, (desk in more common language,) which has a portal into another world. Through traveling via the desk to different historical scenarios including pre European Maori, French revolution and others, Timothy learns that bullying is a human trait that is impossible to extinguish. Humans will take it to the grave.

Lots of race and immigrant talk, some of it will appall you, but mostly it is tongue in cheek and open to further discussion. The novel is well written, lofty writing in parts and the characters do change. Timothy learns that reading and writing are powerful and a petition over enviromental concerns changes everything. His mum will never change.

I laughed all the way through. For intermediate and high school students. Check it out.

Harsu & the Werestoat by Barbara Else.

April 5, 2019 Comments off

HarsuHarsu & the Werestoat by Barbara Else. Pub. Gecko press, 2019.

This is one of the weirdest novels I have ever read, yet I was compelled to finish it, in order to understand it. I am not sure that I did but here is what I think.

Daama is the mother of 12 year old Harsu. Daama is the daughter of the Wind God, changes into a werestoat, wields power through charms, signs and magic and feels she should be praised for being a good mother and goddess. She is not. She is narcissistic and shallow in her beliefs and deserves to be curbed.

Harsu is part human, devoted to his mother but can’t forgive her for eliminating his father. Fortunately Harsu’s father left him enough clues to curb the power of his mother through charms and signs written on a clay tablet that he carries around with him.

Daama wants perfection in her children and sees the pock marked Harsu as not good enough to praise her. She is wrong. Daama kidnaps two seemingly perfect boys and a girl and locks them in jars letting them go periodically so they can praise her.

Together they all pass through the gate of Time and Place and travel through the mystical world arriving finally in New Zealand, while Daama pursues admiration and power.

Harsu is the key to her downfall and must learn that through reading and writing he can quell his mothers powers. But he has to box clever. The ending is tense with many lives at stake.

See if you can do better than me in explaining this novel. It has been written for middle readers, somewhat like a legend or myth or fairy tale but it baffled me.

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James.

March 18, 2019 Comments off

quiet worldThe Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

Is it possible that the human race could become extinct? This is a major theme of this new sci-fi novel from Lauren James and her next after The Loneliest Girl in the Universe also reviewed on this blog.

Shen and Lowrie are 16 & 17 and are the only humans left on the planet. A virus years before rendered humans infertile and once the storehouse of eggs and sperm was used up no more humans were born. Shen and Lowrie are the last and they are yet to discover the truth.

They live in London which has a population of only three hundred and spend their lives in a hi-tech world run by androids and robots with their parents. Their parents have not told them everything and as the book evolves the whole truth comes out and it is mind-blowing.

While exploring an old Tube station Lowrie discovers a wallet belonging to someone called Maya who lived through the period when humans became infertile. They read her Posts on a social web site as some old sites are still available, and find out what happened and how humans reacted.

Humans became lonely without children so created their own robotic children in a programme called Babygrow. For a while living humans and Babygrow children existed together and how they related makes for interesting reading.

Then a helicopter accident sparks off a series of events that reveals the astonishing truth. Read the novel and find out what.

Excellent science fiction that feels like normal life. But is it? Well structured with old facebook and Twitter like comments from Maya and friends feeding the historical information. Great environmental message for the future

Senior and young adult fiction. Confident intermediates could handle it too.

Invisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman

March 13, 2019 Comments off

breathing invisibleInvisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2019.

When 16 year old Felix Catalan was in year 7 he realised he was different and he was going to be lonely for the rest of his life like a solitary moon orbiting a distant planet he’d never be able to call home. He probably has Asperger’s Syndrome although this is never stated, loves Green Day and lives with his mother and brother after his parents split up.

Then he meets Bailey.

Bailey is questioning his feelings too after a failed relationship with a girl. He has 3 siblings, an abusive father, he is good at judo and he has just moved to Wellington from Auckland. His first encounter with Felix is at school and they later attend a school party together and sparks fly.

Both boys feel it. When Bailey touches Felix’s arm it feels like all his atoms are spinning away from each other. They both feel like they never have before and they can’t get enough of each other. But it is a perilous world out there. Homophobia is rife and pretty soon life at school and at home becomes upsetting as the relationship between the two boys blossoms.

Conflict is inevitable and invisibly breathing becomes impossible.

Then Lucy comes along. Read it and find out what happens.

Eileen Merriman is at the top of her game as a writer. Her descriptive prose is a delight and the dialogue between the characters is totally believable. She deals with a sensitive subject with aplomb and knowledge. I couldn’t put it down and nor will you.

Definitely senior fiction but anybody out there agonising over their sexuality be assured this is the book for you.

The Valentines Bk1. Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale.

March 7, 2019 Comments off

happy girlThe Valentines Bk1. Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale. Pub. HarperCollins, 2019.

If you were a big fan of the Geek Girl series or you are follower of the Kardashians and their celebrity lifestyles then this first part of a new series will captivate you.

I guess it is for teens and pre-teen girls in particular, who love clothes parties and enthuse over hot boys.

Hope is 15 yrs, the youngest of four Valentines who live in a mansion in London. I guess the later books in this series will focus on Hope’s siblings. Family policy is that no-one gets involved in the celebrity lifestyle until they are 16 years old and Hope cannot wait for this. She fantasises about hot boys and copies her sisters and lone brother’s lifestyles. They care for each other but there is intense sibling rivalry.

Their mother is an actress in rehab, getting over an alleged marital split with her American husband who is into film production. He allegedly is into a steamy relationship with a tight-bummed young actress and is away from the family home.

Hope gatecrashes a family party and hears things she should not. She flees and on the train home falls into the arms of an American hot boy called Jamie. They develop a relationship that is remarkably akin to lurv in which they develop their own language that nobody else can possibly understand. Hope becomes Happy Girl Lucky.

Then Jamie drops a bombshell. Read it and find out what.

It is a good laugh for a cynic like me and I think Holly Smale is taking the water but it made me smile. Go on give it a crack.

 

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer.

February 25, 2019 Comments off

dogfishTo Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. Pub. Hardie Grant Egmont 2019, Imprint HarperCollins.

This is definitely a book for the girls but boys would benefit from reading it but I doubt many will.

It’s about two pre-pubescent girls whose fathers are gay and starting off a relationship that the men hope will lead to marriage. Bett is a California girl, into surfing and the outdoor and her pet name is Dogfish. Avery is from New York full of neuroses and into indoor cerebral activities and she calls herself Night Owl.

Their fathers Marlow and Sam book both girls into a summer camp for 8 weeks while they travel through China on motorbikes to discover each other. They want their daughters to bond at camp so that they can become a family.

The book is told entirely in emails between the two girls and other characters who come into. the story. At first the girls are loath to follow their fathers’ wishes and plan to ignore each other at camp but soon discover they have lots in common and like each other.

Unfortunately their fathers’ trip to China does not go well, they fight, leaving the girls, having bonded to ponder and wonder what to do next. Will things work out? Read it and see. Superb ending.

I was mighty impressed with this book. It is very witty, beautifully structured and the action never dulls. I liked the two girls but the men were not my type. I said it is not for boys and I should elaborate – lots of period talk!!

For intermediate and high school students but YA will get a laugh and gays will hoot and holler.