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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

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.

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.

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 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 Wonderful Whippet of Winifred Weatherwax by Philippa Stasiuk.

February 22, 2019 Comments off

whippetThe Wonderful Whippet of Winifred Weatherwax by Philippa Stasiuk. Pub. Tivoli Press, 2018.

I laughed all the way through this sumptuously written story about Kennel Clubs, best in Show dog competitions and the dog owners. I think Philippa Stasiuk is taking the water and she does it superbly well.

Heroine is Freddy, a 15 year old girl, real name Winifred Weatherwax. Freddy’s mother buys a whippet called Shumba. It has something unusual about it which Freddy recognises immediately even though she has no knowledge of dog breeding.

It turns out Shumba is of mysterious pedigree which the breeder is hiding from the rest of the dog world. Freddy brings the best out in the dog and it wins it’s first show in unprecedented fashion. Suddenly the best in Show world looks up determined to solve the mystery of this familiar first time winner.

Then champion dogs start to go missing and Shumba’s fortunes rise. Who is behind the missing dogs and will Shumba be next? Freddy and her friend Eli investigate.

Wonderful satire of the dog world and of New York social whirl. Freddy utters at one stage “I watched a woman spoon-feed her dog an organic, grass-fed lamb smoothie” and of New York society she describes Upper East Side tenants of having two things – a doorman and a therapist.

The writing is lofty, tightly written and hugely funny.

Savour this one.

For capable intermediate  and High school students. Adults will get a laugh out of it too.