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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

Answering to the Caul by Ted Dawe. Pub Mangakino University Press. 2020.

January 3, 2021 Comments off

This is a powerful novel in two distinctly different parts. The first part is titled Living with the Caul and analyses the life of Andrei Reti a boy who was born with a Caul covering his head. According to folk lore and superstition this will lead to him having an affinity with water with the possibility of drowning being unlikely.

Water does indeed have a great influence on Andrei as he survives drowning in the bath while a baby, and in other incidents in his life that affect his relationships with his whanau. He grows up with a sense of guilt.

However it is poverty and reading that by far have the biggest impact on his life. When your father is in jail and your mother is sick the world looks like a huge and lonely place. Poverty comes through the door and when Andrei’s mother dies he is shipped up to live with whanau in the north where poverty is a daily existence.

He adjusts and his only escape is books. He reads prolifically at a level far in advance of children his own age and this influence of reading is a major theme of the novel.

Up North he comes in contact with a wild family member called Dallas who is violent and on the verge of exploding every minute of the day. Dallas introduces him to the adult world and is to have a major impact on his life in the second part of this novel but you will have to read it to find out how. Needless to say Dallas regards the two factors that control his life as Whanau and utu. There is no room for aroha as Andrei tells him.

The story is narrated by Andrei and covers his early childhood and school up to high school. It then jumps into adulthood and the repercussions of his childhood and the Caul come to the fore.

Part two is another story as it is set in Thailand but I will leave that to you the reader. Needless to say there is an incident that reminds me of a novel by Michael Morpurgo involving elephants.

The book is very readible, with short chapters, and much to say about school life and poverty. It is very descriptive and brings back old kiwi english with terms like cackhanded, which made me smile. Then there is the description of a current scone made by his aunt that is described as “not a food but a landform, something between a boulder and a cow pat”.

This novel would go well when read in conjunction with Tim Tipene’s White Moko which is reviewed earlier on this blog. This New Zealand in the raw.

Time To Remember by Janna Ruth. Self published 2020. www.janna-ruth.com

December 24, 2020 Comments off

Trauma can have lasting effects on your mental and physical health” This novel written in late 2020 started out to show the effects of earthquake trauma on children at the tenth anniversary of the first quake that hit Canterbury in the early morning of September 4th 2010.

Janna Ruth is a best selling German author who was in Christchurch through all the Earthquakes but the traumatic events that are the Covid 19 pandemic needed to be included in the story as well. She does this successfully in a very compelling novel to read.

Josh and Nathalie are her two main characters and both were 10 years old when the first earthquake hit but it was the February earthquakes that affected them the most.

Josh and Nathalie both attend the University of Canterbury and both are involved in writing articles and publishing the Student newspaper Canta. At the start of the novel they dislike each other intensely and both are involved in relationships within their social circle. Nathalie suggests a special piece on the tenth anniversary of the quakes in which students are asked to write stories of their experiences and Josh is particularly vitriolic at her suggestion. Why? Read it and find out.

Trauma of the earthquakes is at the heart of Josh’s problems as it is with the behaviour of many of the characters in this novel. In many ways it is a love story which explores the fine line between love and hate.

The lockdown because of Covid helps consolidate opinions and situations. Very much an exploration of student relationships which add much of the drama to the novel. I can tell you no more except to say I lived in Christchurch through the earthquakes and attended University of Canterbury.

This novel was real enough to me. One character says this “We lost my mum. One of those white chairs on the lawn was hers”. Of course the words “EQC stinks” will ring true for many people.

A novel to remember.

Breathless by Jennifer Niven. Pub. Penguin Books, 2020.

December 9, 2020 Comments off

I lingered over this romance novel and was sorry when I finished it. I can’t possibly replicate the passion and feeling of this novel in a review except to say “first love will leave you breathless”.

Claudine , (Claude) Henry is as happy as she can be. She lives in small town Ohio, her parents are creative, she is 18 years old and still a virgin and looks forward to when her virginity has gone. She has a fantasy about the boy she wants to take her virginity but he is aloof and unaware of her feelings.

Everything she feels is shared with her best friend Saz. The phone, text and skype to each other all the time. Their discussions on virginity are at times hilarious. Saz is lesbian but this has nothing to do with their relationship. The two plan to do a road trip in summer before both go to college in separate states but they vow that their relationship will be forever.

Then the Sh*t hits the fan. Claude’s father tells her that he is breaking up with her mother and there is nobody else. Is this true? Lauren the mother takes Claude away under protest to a family home on an island off the coast of Georgia with a history that is intriguing.

On the island Claude meets Jeremiah a boy with a lot of charm but a disturbing past. They fall in love over the next 32 days. He is so beautiful it hurts her heart. She can walk the beaches of the island and it is a rare person you can be silent with. Will he take her virginity? Jeremiah warns her not to fall in love with him and she gives him the same warning but will both be able to do this? read it and find out.

Some lovely descriptions of the island and the feelings Jeremiah and Claude have for each other. I enjoyed the book and so will you. As good a romance as you are going to get.

Deadhead by Glenn Wood illus. Scott Pearson. Pub. OneTree House, 2020.

November 2, 2020 Comments off

This novel for reluctant readers, particularly boys, starts at a rate of knots and never lets the reader go until the end. It has action, it is violent, it is over the top witty, it is very clever and it has a satisfying ending.

You can’t get better than that.

Spenser and his friend Regan are 13 years old. Spenser is very smart and Regan likes to be around him not that he notices her very much in the way she notices him.

Spenser is being bullied by a rich kid, Carl, who forms a gang based on the Yakuza. Spenser provides him with a samurai sword but it still does not stop the bullying. Spenser has a plan to resurrect a copper who was recently killed in a gang confrontation, turn him into a robot with some clever engineering and protect himself from Carl and his pretend Yakuza gang.

Regan and Spenser dig the decomposing body up and create a moveable zombie like character dressed in his ex cop uniform. It solves the problem for a while but then something weird happens but you will have to read the novel to find out what it is.

Needless to say they have created a crazy zombie cop with a heart. The real Yakuza come into it as does a criminal gang.

Superb creative and imaginative novel that will make you laugh all the way through. Told in short chapters with graphic novel illustrations at the end of each chapter that summarise the important action.

One of the best novels of the year.

The Forever Horse by Stacy Gregg. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

October 21, 2020 Comments off

The eighth and possibly last book in this excellent series about history, horses and strong willed girls. They all have two girls from different historical periods and two horses that are linked.

In this novel 13 year old Maisie from london wins an art scholarship at the prestigious Paris art school. She has a passion for painting and drawing horses that is not shared by her Parisian tutor. She stays with a Parisian family and becomes friends with a Parisian Celestin who introduces her to a black stallion, Claude whom she paints.

While residing in Paris Maisie finds a diary of a famous artist, Rose Bonifait, who likes to paint horses and has a favourite horse in Celine. Her life is loosely based on the 19th century French painter Rosa Bonheur who painted the famous painting The Horse Fair.

How are the two girls and two horses connected? Things go wrong in both girls lives including a terrorist attack in Paris. Read this enthralling easy to read novel and find out what happens.

Good values, lots of horse talk, strong willed girls whose fathers and many women told them “no one likes it when girls are proud”. Yes it has an unashamed feminist view but it is very good. I have read all eight novels in this series and i have enjoyed every one. You will too. The others are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Children of the furnace Pt3. Heartsblood by Brin Murray. Pub. C.P. Books, 2020.

October 14, 2020 Comments off

Finishing a trilogy as good as this one was always going to be hard. Set in a brutal world of Sekkerland, which is Greenland without it’s icecap, the country is ruled by a ruthless regime called The Revelayshun.

They rule with a brutal hand of a religious fanaticism and the country has been so brutalised that most of the remaining inhabitants are children, mostly males. The regime is led by High Patriarch Sachs, a disgraceful human being who has brainwashed society through fear, to believe that A Great Atrocity was committed by an amorphis group called the Heaters.

The Heaters came from the Southerm Land to the south which has been badly affected by a global catastrophe caused by climate change. Now Sachs and his Revelayshun are going to invade the Southerm land and main characters Wil, his twin sister Mari, a humanist nurse Leah, a survivor of brutality Jace and a tech expert Harper, are going to take on the Revelayshun while it is away. Can they succeed or is it all a trap?

Tensely written with brutality of human against human a major theme. The country of Sekkerland is a character in it’s own right and the action is intense. The final battles make exciting reading which is not for the faint hearted. Be warned not everybody the reader wants to survive will survive but the ending gives hope for the future.

Told in 51 short chapters by two narrators Wil and Leah the language is often written as the words sound but this adds to the reality of the -plot and situation.

One of the best of the year Dystopian fiction that will make you think about the human condition. Are we capable of going this far. Books 1 & 2 are also reviewed on this blog.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Pub. Penguin Books, 2020.

September 29, 2020 Comments off

Avery Kylie Grambs is 17 years old, she lives in her car, her mother is dead, she has nothing to do with her father and she has a sister who is in a dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend. She is positive in her attitude to life but the future doesn’t look hopeful.

Then she is visited by a lawyer who tells her she is a beneficiary in a will left by an eccentric billionaire Tobias Hawthorne who has four sons of similar age to Avery. When the will is read Avery has inherited $46 billion and the rest of the Hawthorne family are left scraps. Why?

The terms of the will are iron tight and if the family challenge it, they get nothing. Avery is taken by the family lawyers to Hawthorne Mansion, a fabulous house with a theatre, bowling ally and a thousand rooms, plus staff. Avery is advised by a lawyer and has a bodyguard who was same for Tobias Hawthorne.

The family are hostile and the terms of the will mean she has to stay in the house for a year in order to inherit what has been left her. She fears for her life and rightly so.

The paparazzi are all over the place and everybody wants to know who this Avery is. She has to relate to the four sons two of which she is attracted to.

The old man Hawthorne was a game player. He liked mysteries and promoted competition and games amongst his sons. The biggest mystery is Why Avery? She doesn’t know herself. The rest of the novel is spent working out the mysteries that the Old Man has set.

This novel is written in 91 short chapters that will keep you in the book long after you want to stop reading. It is compelling and very clever. I loved it you will too.

Loveless by Alice Oseman.

August 27, 2020 Comments off

lovelessLoveless by Alice Oseman. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

This 430 page novel for high school students and young adults is about sexuality and romance. How do we know who we are attracted too? What is the spark that turns attraction into love? How important is sex and romance in peoples lives? Does everybody have erotic dreams? What happens if you don’t feel attracted to anybody? What if you don’t feel attracted to boys, girls,  both or neither?

Georgia is 18 years old and has just finished High school. She has never kissed anyone and is still a virgin. She doesn’t know if she is gay or straight because she feels revulsion at any sexual contact at all and she is worried that she will never have a partner and love a normal life.

She has two friends – Pip who is an attractive Latino girl who knows she is a lesbian and makes no bones about it, and Jason a shy boy who is attracted to Georgia but she doesn’t know it. All three are off to Durham University and all three are into acting and drama especially Shakespeare. Georgia hopes that the questions about her sexuality will be answered at university.

While at University she is paired with a girl named Rooney in a flat. Rooney is totally out there. She goes clubbing, mixes well, has sex because she likes it and is everything that Georgia wants to be. All four characters form a Shakespeare club and plan to put on scenes from Shakespeare’s plays that are key scenes. But the sexuality question gets well and truly in the way. Read it and find out how.

I read this book in small chunks but it was compelling reading and I was sorry when it was finished. It is really addressing  asexuality or aromanticism. Some scenes are hilarious some down right embarrassing but always right on the nail. Everybody is interested in the subjects discussed here and to do so with a good story is brilliant.

The Shakespeare scenes are superb. My YA book of the year.

Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards.

August 16, 2020 Comments off

thandi2Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards. Pub.Green Room House 2020.

Thandi is a baby rhinoceros that accompanied Jabu, a teenage orphan who left his shanty in Soweto for Durban. They were unwittingly in the same truck together and neither forgot the experience.

Now Jabu is a famous surfer and runs a Trust for young black surfers particularly Alexia a teenage surfing sensation. Surf and rhinos come together in

the private game reserve Umfolozi which is part of the Kruger National park on the Mozambique border.

Alexia is to have a photo shoot with the baby rhinos at Umfolosi but her and her friend Billie and Jabu get involved with a battle against poachers that extends from the game parks to the Mozambique coast.

Also entering the fray is Ice, a boy who became crippled while train surfing and now has lost his job and any hope again. He is a friend of Jabu and he is to learn that there is always hope.

Excellent adventure both at sea and on the game reserve.

Very well written  with spaces between paragraphs for the reluctant reader to pause while reading. The descriptive writing is also a feature and the characters worth knowing. The sequel to Train Surfer also reviewed on this blog

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile.

July 19, 2020 Comments off

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile. Pub. Anderson Press, 2020.

This is the most powerful graphic novel  for high school students that I have ever read and it deservedly won the Newbery Medal. It is about basketball and it is about families and all the characters in this novel are black.

JB and Jordan are twins, they are 13 years old and a very gifted basketball players. They live and breathe basketball and they are fans of rap music. Their father was a pro baller and won a championship ring as “da man”, but he is not a well man. Their mother is Principal of the High School the boys attend and both parents are highly involved with boys lives.

The boys compete, the father coaches them and the mother ensures that the boys education takes priority. Then a girl comes on the scene. She is beautiful, wears pink gym shoes and she makes a play for Jordan and they become an item. This upsets JB and the closeness the brothers once had starts to deteriorate to the point that it erupts into a violent act in the middle of a basketball game.

The family is wracked with problems, the boys become enemies and then tragedy. The ending is stunning.

There is lots of basketball talk most of it in rap verse. The book is divided into four quarters and there is a competition going on.

Easy to read with the illustrations superb. I read the book in about an hour and got emotionally involved with what was happening, you will too.

Reluctant boy readers and readers who like sports stories particularly basketball will love this novel. The rap prose is inspiring to as is the relationship between Jordan and the girl. Black Lives matter is also a strong theme of this novel.