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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

Showtym Viking by Kelly Wilson and Amanda Wilson. Pub. Penguin Random House. Imprint Puffin, 2022.

June 13, 2022 Comments off

If you are a horse person, into show jumping and love competition then this is the novel for you. Written by two of the famous Wilson sisters with input from the rest of the family this novel doesn’t seem like your regular novel it reads like a true story. I am sure it is based on real events.

Amanda is 16 years going on 17 and she rides ponies in show jumping events. Her older sisters are riders in big events and are an important part of her interest in horses. Amanda is homeschooled and mixes her school work with training and riding horses. She is good at it but at times lacks confidence particularly when things don’t go her way. She has to learn to get back on the horse after a fall.

When sister Vicki recommends she buy a 6 year old pony who she sees as special Amanda does so and finds that Vicki is right. As Amanda rides the new pony who she calls Strider, with the name Showtym Viking for events, she learns that Strider is indeed a special horse.

With her other horses Max Frodo and Baggins, Amanda competes in many real events with the aspiration that Strider can compete in Pony of the Year a title that no 6 year old horse has ever won. Can she do it? Read it yourself and find out. Is Amanda up to it?

I have read many girl and horse books particularly from Stacy Gregg and other titles from Kelly Wilson too, but this novel taught me more about what training and riding a horse in show jumping events means. Showing the horse the jump before an event, working out how many strides it takes between fences according to the stride and pace of the horse, bridleless riding and lots more.

Well written with short chapters and big build up to the main event. Good story.

Loki. A Bad God’s Guide to being Good by Louie Stowell. Pub. Walker Books, 2022

June 4, 2022 Comments off

Satire and irony are clever tools in comedy and this easy to read short novel about Loki the Norse god of mischief is a great example of these two techniques in action.

Loki is sent by Odin to Earth from Asgard, down the Rainbow Bridge because of his bad behaviour. He is accompanied by his nemesis Thor and two make believe parents Hyrrokkin, a giant woman and Heimdall an ogre like man. The reason is to learn how to behave, show empathy, remorse and kindness. If he fails he will be sent to hell with snakes.

Loki must keep a diary of what happens and the diary can monitor his behaviour and dock points off his starting point of minus 3000 for bad behaviour on Earth. he hasn’t got a chance because he can’t change the habits of a life time or can he? Read it and find out.

Thor is a perfect speciman, popular with the girls while Loki is a puny nerd looking boy who can’t compete, except by behaving badly which he is very good at. When the points differential reaches a million to the power of infinity he is in bad shape but can he come back?

Human behaviour is savaged. Stowell takes the water out of schools, family life, shopping, eating takeaways etc. Very funny and will attract reluctant readers particularly boys.

Skulduggery Pleasant. Until the End by Derek Landy. Pub. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2022.

May 30, 2022 Comments off

The 15th book in this very impressive series and I am astonished that it hasn’t been picked up by the film industry. I have read them all and they are complicated with a myriad of characters, worlds, time zones and scenarios and I just take it a chapter at a time.

For those who don’t know Skulduggery is a skeleton man who wears a flash suit and hat, sun glasses and is a silver tongued flatterer of the highest degree. He has powers that he uses to protect the innocent and fight the nasties in his role as Arbiter for a World dominated by The faceless Ones. They are sort of Gods and are worshiped by a large portion of the World’s population but not all. Supreme mages direct this sort of religion but there are many outbursts of opposition that result in vicious murders which Skuduggery Pleasant investigates along with his former enemy Valkyrie Valkyries was responsible for bringing back the Faceless Ones and she is titled the Mother and Child of them.

The World is a very dangerous place and doomsday is always round the corner but always seems to be averted at the last moment after all seems hopeless. So it is with this novel so it would be pointless of me to outline a plot, it is so complex, you will have to read it yourself.

I dig the names of some of the characters such as Crepuscular Vies, Obsidian, the Darkly Brothers, Darquesse and others.

Told in 133 short chapters with over 600 pages, each chapter deals with a different set of characters with plot and character development that leads to the customary crisis at the end.

There will be other novels I am sure so just enjoy the action and characters. I did.

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, co writer Andrew Weiner, Illus Brittney Williams. Pub Harper Alley, imprint HarperCollins, 2022

May 24, 2022 Comments off

A powerful graphic novel that looks at the lives of poor kids from the projects in an American city and how their lives and aspirations are affected by their situation. It will be popular with Maori and Pacifica students and .anybody who is a graphic reader from intermediate through to high school students and beyond.

Co written by pop singer Alicia Keys and based on a hit song of the same name, this novel looks at the lives of Lolo Wright, her brother James and her school mates. They live in a tough neighbourhood that is riven with drug dealers lead by a nasty man called Skin who controls everything.

When Lolo’s brother James is falsely accused of a crime he didn’t do, Lolo develops a characteristic she didn’t know she had and it is super powered in nature. At the same time a short boy named Runt who is also bullied and abused develops the same power.

Conflict results with a few surprises and ends in a satisfactory manner. Message is we all have the power within us to shape our own destiny no matter who we are.

Lots of friendship stuff particularly between girls and family stuff too. Great reading.

I read this book twice in a row without stopping. Firstly I looked only at the graphic images to see what they told me, then I read the written text. They complimented each other perfectly. Lots of tough ghetto talk and action images. This book will be popular.

Faraway Girl by Fleur Beale. Pub. Penguin Books, 2022

May 12, 2022 Comments off

I am so glad to have read another Fleur Beale novel for intermediate readers and above. It is a time slip novel contrasting Victorian values about women and girls and today’s specimens. It makes for humour and drama that will keep the most discerning of readers in the book.

17 year old Etta wakes feeling rough but not as bad as her younger brother Jamie who has a condition that is wearing him away with no reason that the doctors can find. As the book opens Jamie is a “limp lump of paleness”. I love the way Fleur Beale uses language.

As the family gather around the limp Jamie a vision appears and solidifies before their eyes. It is Constance, a 17 year old girl from 1869 England dressed in her wedding dress. She has traveled through time while having her wedding picture painted by a creep of an artist. The painting is to be complete before the wedding of Constance to a swine of a man called Mr Smeaton. He is an entitled mill owner who holds sway over Constance’s parents.

Constance is awed and horrified by the way Etta talks and behaves “all the belief’s she had drummed into her everyday of her life made no sense in the modern world of today”.

Etta and Constance bond as friends then both girls are whisked back in time to Constance’s Victorian home and boy what an impact Etta makes.

The girls find out what rogues Mr Smeaton and Constance’s father have been and learn that Jamie’s demise is related to the portrait of Constance in her wedding dress. Will he be saved? What will happen when Etta gets back to now time? what if the media find out?

If you want to know anything else you will have to read it yourself and it is compelling reading especially the last 50 pages. How is an improbable situation going to feel credible? But it does, such is the skill of Fleur Beale’s writing.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A. F. Steadman. Pub. Simon & Schuster, 2022.

April 19, 2022 Comments off

The first of a new series that has taken the publishing world of children’s books by storm and has already had the film rights acquired by Sony Pictures. It is being seen as the next big thing in children’s literature and compared to Harry Potter, His dark materials and Percy Jackson. Need I write anymore?

This first book establishes the scenario and the characters and if a phrase can describe the theme of the novel it is this “Two souls destined for each other can never truly be parted

This is a story about unicorns but not the dreamy docile fantasy creatures you read about elsewhere. These unicorns have a horn that is razor sharp and they are creatures that are fundamentally bloodthirsty with a preference for violence and destruction. They have a shriek that is somewhere between a horses whinny, an eagles cry and a human scream and each is destined to be bonded to a human just as the human is destined to be bonded to the unicorn.

Each unicorn has an element-earth, air, fire or water, that they thrive in and their destined partners have that element too and the beginning of this novel has the human and the unicorn matched so that the human and unicorn are bonded from the birth of the unicorn from an egg.

Skandar Smith is bonded to Scoundrel’s Luck but they are different from the rest because both are from a secret and banned “spirit element”. Both have a destiny that neither knows about.

The novel opens with a race of unicorns and riders called the Chaos Cup a sort of Melbourne Cup or Grand National. It is gatecrashed by an evil being called the Weaver and the winner stolen. We learn that the Weaver is stealing other Unicorns, bonding them illegally with humans and has formed a powerful army to threaten the balance on the island of Unicorns which is out at sea by a pebble beach, surrounded by the Mirror Cliffs. If you want to know more you will have to read it yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Well written, excellent characters that you can relate to, Skandar is a good role model. An incredible world is created and of course those nasty unicorns. There are casualties along the way, an inevitable battle with the Weaver and big surprises. You will keep reading long after you want to put it down and watch out for the Silver Unicorn.

Baby Love by Jacqueline Wilson. Pub. Penguin , 2022

April 7, 2022 Comments off

The best novel for teenage and pre teen girls I have read for a long time. No surprise really , nobody writes better realism about girls facing challenges in their lives than Jacqueline Wilson.

The novel is set in 1959/60 when community morals were much different than they are today. Horribly so in fact. Jacqueline Wilson unravels the community morality of the era with the story of Laura a 14yr old who comes from a poor working class family.

They live in a prefab home which is tidy and clean and both parents work to live and better themselves but money is tight. Laura wins a scholarship to a grammar school because she is bright and this puts her in contact with Nina a rich upper class girl whose parents are both doctors and whose lifestyles blow Laura away. Laura’s parents particularly her mother like the relationship at first but then feel threatened by it.

Nina is sophisticated and talks about boys and kissing and sex. This is all new to the innocent Laura but she starts to feel sexual attraction with a crush on Nina’s older teenage brother. On a trip to a swimming pool Nina attracts the attention of two visiting French boys and tells them that her and Laura are 16 yrs old. The girls split with Laura being walked home via a park and cricket pavilion by the French boy. He kisses her and she likes what she feels but things go further than she wants or can understand.

The rest you can say is history. Laura doesn’t understand the changes that are taking place in her body with sickness in the morning and strange movements in her tummy. When things come out she has to tell her mother who is totally horrified at the shame that Laura has brought her family. She whips her daughter out of school before anybody knows and into a welfare home for teenage girls in the same predicament.

At 5 months pregnant Laura has to survive with other girls who have had their babies or are waiting to have theirs and questions of keeping the baby or adopting it out are discussed. Laura has decisions to make but will they be the same ones her parents want? Her parents stress that the baby will change Laura’s chances in life “Nobody will want you now” her mother says. But what will Laura do?

There is heartbreak in this novel and at the back there is information for teenage mothers on all the issues that surround their pregnancies, who to consult and what to do.

At nearly 500 pages this is a big read but it is easy and you will not want to put it down. The relationships between the girls and their mothers is eye opening but Jacqueline Wilson with her easy style keeps the reader in the book with her clever, perceptive story writing. I talked about it with my pre teen granddaughter and she practically ripped it out of my hands.

If you miss this one you will kick yourself.

My NZ Story; Quarantine by Philippa Werry. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

March 17, 2022 Comments off

This is a well told moving story about a Wellington family and their friends during the 1937/37 “infantile paralysis” or polio pandemic which showed many of the same characteristics that the Covid pandemic has in today’s world.

Polio came from nowhere and the medical profession was flummoxed as to it’s cause and how to stop it. They realised that it was a virus but no vaccine was found until the 1950,s and not used in NZ until 1956. Like Covid the community reacted in different ways. Schools were locked down particularly for children as they seemed to be the target for the polio virus. There was even a conspiracy theory that milk was the cause and should be boiled before use. This was refuted of course and in 1937 the school milk programe was introduced by the first labour govt.

Twelve year old Tom narrates this story. He belongs to a family with five children, 3 girls and two boys and he is the second oldest. His father is a working man and although it is the Depression holds down a job at the newly opened Ford motor Coy in Petone. His mother is a hymn singing stern hardworking Welsh woman who cares for her children and there is not much money around.

This portrait of a family life during the depression is a highlight as is the school life of Tom and his friends. Tom is a big fan of Olympic gold medalist Jack Lovelock and actually meets him running at the beach. Tom begins to run himself. His sisters Flo aged 10 and Lily aged 14 are into films of Shirley Temple etc.

Foer me the character that I loved was Mr Moffat a teacher at Tom’s school. he is a great teacher, strong disciplinarian, strict but fair and the children new where they stood with him.

When one of Tom’s family gets “infantile Paralysis” and you will have to read the book to find out which one, everything in his family changes.

In the back is a historical note and photographs of polio treatment and even the first Iron lung. Fascinating.

A stirring story with some sad moments but also some joyous ones. Terrific writing from Philippa Werry who knows her history and never disappoints. Her portrayal of family life in the 1930,s is a great contrast to life now and in many ways I preferred it. One of the best books in this series.

Katipo Joe Bk3. Wolf’s Lair by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

March 12, 2022 Comments off

The epic conclusion to this action packed spy thriller about Katipo Joe, a teenage spy during WW2 whose skill and intellect outwitted the Nazi enemy.

In book 1 he escaped Nazi Germany with his mother, witnessed the Blitz and was trained as a spy to kill a leading Nazi in France. In book2 he penetrated the Hitler Youth Movement and was accepted to compete with other leading German youth to become Hitler’s successor at the Eagles Nest in the Austrian Alps. Both books are great action stories and are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Wolf’s Lair is Hitler’s hideout and strategy fortress in East Prussia from which he masterminded Operation Barbarossa or the attack on Russia.

Joe is ensconced as Hitler’s youth successor under the name of Jurgen and he travels to Wolf’s Lair on Hitler’s special train Der Fuhrersonderzug and the action and tension is plentiful. His mission is to kill Hitler and we know from the start he is going to fail.

Arrival at Die Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair) with his German youth classmates Thomas, Heike and Sophie is tense as they witness the invasion of Russia, the persecution of the Jews and Poles and the cruelty of the SS.

The highlight of this final episode is the personification of Hitler and his Nazi cronies Himmler, Goring Goebbels and Bormann, the biggest challenge Brian Falkner had with this novel. I think he succeeds but you the reader can decide for yourself.

The series as a whole has been the best action writing I have read from a New Zealand writer and rivals any overseas novelists. Don’t miss this one or the whole series, it is riveting.

Needless to say all the loose ends and side stories are sorted out as is Joe’s future. There is a couple of moving characters in Sophie and Polish girl Felka. If you miss this you will kick yourself.

Black Spiral series Bk3 Black Spiral by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin Books, 2022

February 28, 2022 Comments off

This is the best ScFi series and futurism I have read since The Arc Of the Scythe series which is also reviewed on this site. It is the final in the series and ties up all the themes and plot lines in a satisfactory ending but leaving food for thought.

M-Fever is a man made virus that has been spread among young adults by a ruthless organisation called The Foundation. Survivors of the fever have shown heightened cognitive ability including the ability to read minds and communicate with ESP. In some survivors it has led to the ability to shift into a Dream-flow by leaving their bodies and assuming the form of an animal like a wolf or a bird or even a whale.

The Foundation has realised the potential for espionage and medical science and has become secretly sponsored by powerful people in government, in the law, in the military as well as medicine. They are extremely powerful. The Foundation has isolated a group of young adults who have powers into a group called VORTEX who are treated as medical guinea pigs and used to infiltrate terrorist groups etc.

17 year old Violet and 19 year old Johnno who narrate this story come together through VORTEX and realise that the Foundation are basically an evil organisation. They flee, become lovers, dream-flow together and are hunted by the foundation.

Violet becomes pregnant adding a new dimension to the story, her IQ rating is off the scale, she has developed an ability to heal and she wants to destroy the Foundation. She and Johnno flee back to NZ and plot with Apollo , a group opposed to the Foundation, to help others of their kind and to destroy the organisation that has put them through mental hell.

The action tales place in NZ, Australia, Germany and Poland and it will keep you on your toes. A highlight is the medical talk and the science fiction. Violet discovers that the telemores at the end of her chromosomes are not shortening with age posing the scenario that she could live forever. The dream-flow phenomenon brings up the possibility of time travel. And what about the baby? Check it out and see.

An extremely thought provoking series that is compulsive reading. Don’t miss this series you will kick yourself if you do.