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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

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.

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz.

December 22, 2017 Comments off

the rainsThe Rains by Gregg Hurwitz. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

I like zombie novels but this is one that differs from other zombie novels because it appears the zombies are controlled by something else. You will have to read the novel to find out what.

The novel is written in diary entries by 15 year old Chance Rain. He warns the reader to take notice as “your life depends on it”.

On a clear night an asteroid slams into the Creeks’s Cause valley and a week later stalks grow to maturity and spout pollen into the air in a process Chance calls the Dusting. The spores attack the frontal brain lobe of everybody over the age of 18 years, lasering their eyes out so that membrane covered clear holes appear in their heads. These former humans then attack and capture all kids and put them in cages.

The male zombies are the lumbering kind with immense strength, while the females  are rapid moving cat like creatures that lunge like lions and tigers. Both types are called Hosts as it appears they are the host of a zombie spore. The action involving the zombies is thrilling.

Chance Rain, his older brother Patrick and his girlfriend Alex escape the zombie hordes and shack up in the locked school complex. Meanwhile the zombies rove the towns and appear to have a mission about them. What is it? Is the valley the only victim of this spore attack? Patrick is only a week away from turning the magic age of 18 years. Will he turn into a zombie?

Then the surviving group find out some stunning information. Read it and find out what.

A stunning ending that will leave the reader with questions but have no fear a sequel titled Last chance is published at the same time. Watch this space.

Catch me When You fall by Eileen Merriman

December 15, 2017 Comments off

catch me when i fallCatch me When You fall by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

This tear jerker of a novel for teenagers and young adults is set in my home town of Christchurch and will be released for publication on 3 January 2018. I have the privilege of reading it early and know I shouldn’t write an early review but I can’t hold it in, so here goes.

Alex went into remission for Leukemia when she was thirteen and now on the eve of a check up when she is sixteen she meets Jamie. He is an extrovert, an actor, takes lithium every day and is bipolar.

They fall in love in four days as Alex finds her leukemia has come back with a vengeance and goes through the tortuous treatment to rid her body of this cruel disease. In between time Alex and Jamie fall in love and all those around them including the brilliant parents and sister go through the daily agonies of Alex’s treatment.

I learnt more about leukemia from this novel than I could have from a medical journal. This is the power of fiction. Personalising this condition has for the want of better words given leukemia life.

Very well written and structured and will appeal to all those that like Fault in the Stars by John Green and similar novels. Give yourself plenty of space when reading this novel, it is powerful.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mud by Mick Stone

December 8, 2017 Comments off

mudThe Mud by Mick Stone. Pub. BMS Books, 2017

The coast around Whakakatane has sandy beaches and muddy estuaries and these form the backdrop to this rather disturbing story of 17 year old Emily Lewis who has been abused by the man she knows as father for much of her life.

Emily has been taken off a boat she has drifted around the estuary in, talking to her yet unborn baby, while her mother’s house has become a crime scene after she was stabbed in the back. Are all these events linked?

Emily is cautioned and taken to the cells, moved around the court and psychiatric circuit which she is well adept at handling and it is she who narrates the story. I liked Emily, she is clearly able academically but her life has virtually been snuffed out by adults who clearly need to be dealt to under the law.

Emily  has the opinion that “there is nothing you or anyone else can do about me”. Adults all the way down the line have failed her. How very sad. This story is only 105 pages long and is a short sharp punch in the guts. It is written to assist others who are in the same predicament as her.

Secondary and young adult