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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

June 25, 2019 Comments off

sistersSisters by Raina Telgemeier. Pub. Scholastic, NY,  2014.

This graphic novel for Intermediate and High school students is as the title suggests about the relationship between two sisters, Raina who is the eldest and Amara who is a feisty anatagonist.

Raina always wanted a sister and she pestered her parents to get one. There is an old saying that goes “don’t wish too hard for something or you might get it”.

Raina is delighted when Amara is born but her delight is short lived. Amara is not a shrinking violet and the two clash over everything until Raina is a teenager and Amara is knocking on the door. They have different tastes, behaviours, sense of humour and aspirations.

Then an incident happens that you will have to find out for yourself and it is always there between them. Then father loses his job and things become strained in the family. He finally gets a job and the family set off in the car to a family reunion in Colorado and everything changes.

Good family relationship stuff which the graphic illustrations highlight beautifully.

Visual readers and reluctant girl readers will find this easy to read. I read it in half an hour but you can take your time, if you want.

Speechless by Adam. P. Schmitt.

June 21, 2019 Comments off

speechlessSpeechless by Adam. P. Schmitt. Pub. Candlewick Press, 2019.

This superbly paced young adult novel kept me on tenterhooks from beginning to end.

It is said that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, this is teenager Jimmy’s problem and has been for the whole of his life.

Jimmy’s mum has a twin sister who is needy. She has a son called Patrick who is the same age as Jimmy and they have been around every important occasion in Jimmy’s life and much of other times too. Jimmy can’t stand Patrick because he ruins every event and prevents Jimmy enjoying any occasion and having friends of his own. Patrick is unpredictable and volatile and Jimmy is nearly always the victim.

Now Patrick is dead and Jimmy is told by his mother that he has to make a speech at Patrick’s funeral. He doesn’t want to, he feels even in death Patrick is beating him.

The action opens at the wake before the funeral and many people from Patrick and Jimmy’s life show up. Jimmy recounts some of the episodes that happened and he can’t for the life of him think of anything positive about Patrick to say.

Throughout this novel I was desperate to learn two things. Firstly how Patrick died and secondly what and if Jimmy would say anything.  Adam Schmitt draws you in and strings you out magnificently.

One of the best novels of late. You will feel the same as me, I bet. The ending will move you to tears.

 

Skulduggery Pleasant Bk12. Bedlam by Derek Landy

June 15, 2019 Comments off

skulduggerySkulduggery Pleasant Bk12. Bedlam by Derek Landy. Pub. HarperCollins, 2019.

Skulduggery and Valkyrie are Arbiters who are not answerable to anybody. It is their purpose in life to walk the wire in several worlds of mortals and magic.

There are bad girls and guys out their jockeying for power such as Abyssinia who sees herself as princess of the Darklands and China who wants the Magical world under her control.

When Bertram Wilkes an adviser to Martin Flanery, a Trump like President of the mortal world, goes missing, the Arbiters are called in to find out why.

This is a complicated plot but totally thrilling with the banter between the characters a highlight. For me the most fascinating part was a visit by Skulduggery and Valkyrie to the airbourne asylum of Greymire. Valkyrie is sorely tested but Skulduggery is in his element. As he says “my mind is in a permanent state of finely tuned chaos”

Fans of this series will be happy for this new part and new fans will be bemused at first but it will grab you once you are into it.

First class adventure/ action/ fantasy. Brilliant cover.

Louisiana’s way Home by Kate Di Camillo

May 29, 2019 Comments off

louisianaLouisiana’s way Home by Kate Di Camillo. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

Oh to be able to write as well as this!

Twelve year old Louisiana believes that her parents were part of a circus acrobatic team named Elefante who were killed in an accident and that the family is cursed because of an incident in Elf Ear Missouri. She believes that her Granny taught her everything she knows and has looked after her for the whole of her life.

All these beliefs are going to come under question in this superb novel of growing up and the amazing resilience of Louisiana. She is truly a character to be admired.

At 3.00am one morning Granny gets Louisiana out of bed to pack her suitcase and announces that the day of reckoning had arrived. The pair drive north out of Florida across that imaginary Georgia State line. They run out of gas and Granny becomes bedridden with tooth ache.

Louisiana has to drive the car off the motorway to a small town and seek dental treatment for her Granny. This will lead to all secrets being told and for Louisiana to show her incredible character when faced with a crisis that would floor most people.

Beautifully told with great wisdom, common sense and perception. You are with Louisiana all the way and once you start the novel the most difficult part will be putting it down.

Total class writing for intermediate and secondary school students. For me the best junior fiction title of the year.

Home from the Homer by Anya Forest

May 23, 2019 Comments off

home homerHome from the Homer by Anya Forest. Pub. Anya Forest 2018.

The magnificent cover of this novel showing the Haast Eagle, the Fiordland Moose and the Homer Tunnel puts you right in the heart of this novel before you have turned a page.

For those of you who do not know New Zealand and even those who do, will be blown away by the Fiordland setting of this story.

Zoe and Seth are 12 year old twins and quite different from each other. They go with their parents on a holiday to Fiordland passing through the Homer tunnel on their way to Milford Sound. The area has magnificent scenery, it rains heavily and it has a mysterious past with some of the animals that inhabited this area but are now extinct. In this novel they all come alive.

When the family pass through the Homer Tunnel they know things are not quite right, and as they exit they look back and the tunnel is gone. They have slipped into another time zone before the tunnel was built and they meet characters famous in the history of fiordland like John Christie the chief surveyor of the Homer tunnel project in the 1930’s.

Both Seth and Zoe get separated in different time zones going back to the 19th century and have their own adventures which are going to impact on their lives after they return to the present. Read it and see who else they meet.

I loved their encounters with the Haast Eagle, the Fiordland moose, the Kakapo, the Piopio and the lost Tribe but the bonus is the respectful and understanding relationships that they have with the people they meet.

There are historical photographs and drawings of some extinct animals and of the pioneers of the region.

Further contact to anyaforest@xtra.co.nz

I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

May 11, 2019 Comments off

I ClaudiaI, Claudia by Mary McCoy. Pub. carolehoda Lab, 2019. Imprint Walker Books.

Sometimes there comes a novel that you don’t want to ever finish and this political thriller about a student council in a Los Angeles high school is one of them.

I savoured this novel over 10 days and was not disappointed by a thing. Yes I was. I was disappointed that the Head and Board of Governors of the school did not step in earlier in spite of ample evidence to do so, but then that would have ruined the story

The Imperial Day Academy is a prestigious school that is run by a student body titled the Honour Council which is structured somewhat like the Roman Senate with representatives from each class level and a President and vice President. The candidates are elected annually and have as many qualities such as liars, cheats, bullies, power freaks and idealists. Just like everyday American politics. The aim is to destroy your opponents character and intentions and make you seem like the only wise choice. Whether it is true or not.

The novel is told by Claudia McCarthy in the form of a testimony and you the reader will find out why this is when you finish the book. The aim is to work out who are the bad guys and who are the good guys and it is not easy. Claudia’s approach is this “I make a habit of identifying the psychopaths in my environment as quickly as possible”. But is she right? Claudia’s character is charismatic. She appears to be a nobody and describes herself as an historian and is ultimately totally brave.

The characters are stunningly conceived from the ruthless, manipulative Livia, to the power crazy Cal and the heroic Claudia. There are deaths, there are inhuman episodes, there is corruption, there is sexual violation and there is love albeit misused.

The tactics used by Nixon during the Watergate scandal are a blueprint for the political drama at Imperial Day school and there is a lot of Trump’s America in there too.

This is a novel of today’s America and if you miss this one you will kick yourself. The ending provides all the answers but leaving some doubt as well. In politics do we ever learn the truth?

For High school students and Young Adults. Just superb. Stunning cover.

A Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale.

May 1, 2019 Comments off

stone & DarknessA Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Released 7 May

At last a fantasy novel with some depth. Deep not because it is set almost totally underground but because it has a lot of significant observations about the Human condition, and it is a very good tale.

Thousands of years ago Humans hounded the Strigg people out of the forests and into underground caves where their culture survived and thrived out of Human knowledge. The Striggs are a bird like creature that has lost it’s ability to fly as their wings have evolved into arm like structures with claws.

Striggworld is now under threat from polluted water from the earth above and from lack of drinking water as wells dry up. Their food supply which is a mushroom like product, morra, has also begun to be scarce and the Elders of the Striggs are contemplating a move North. They would love to go back to the surface but it is too dangerous.

On the eve of a spangletime ceremony which celebrates the move from childhood to adulthood, a young Strigg, Ellee, discovers a human boy called Blue who has fallen down a well into the underground. She saves him and with the help of her academic brother, Sidfred, brings him back to home.

When Blue is discovered by the Strigg Elders panic hits the small community. Some including Kass a fierce warrior type want to kill him to avoid other Humans finding a way underground but the Elders view is that is not our way and never will be our way.

They decide to return Blue to to Uptop or the surface, where all the Toppas live. The action begins and it will have you spellbound. Read it and find out what happens.

If there is a catchphrase that describes this novel it is “It is amazing what eventually ends up underground”. We should take heed of that. It says a lot about the Human condition of treating the Planet and every other creature on it as if it is ours alone to use. The Striggs know all about us and our destructive ways.

Excellent story, descriptively written and with a message for all Humankind.

Chris Mousdale creates an imaginative World that is totally believable, the Striggs are believable The Strigg way contrasts with that of Humans and puts us to shame. And his illustrations are superb. One of the best of the year.

Suitable for Intermediate and High school readers.