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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ 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.

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.

Chronicles Vol. 1 an Autobiography of Bob Dylan

December 31, 2017 Comments off

DylanChronicles Vol. 1 an Autobiography of Bob Dylan. Pub. Pocket Books, 2004.

Bob Dylan has always been one of my musical heroes and when given this title for Xmas by my son I read it avidly finishing in one day. I was searching for something about the man that would unlock all the secrets and speculation about him and the songs that he wrote. It doesn’t do this but it does present an artistic mind and how it works and it outlines the influences that made Dylan the genius that he is.

When asked early in his career by the poet Archibald McLeish who his boyhood heroes were Dylan answered Robin Hood and St George the dragonslayer. Figure that out.

Dylan never saw himself as a mouthpiece or conscience of a generation which the press and others were determined to tag him with. All he did he says was to sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful realities.

A remarkable quality of Dylan that comes out is his dedication as a father and family man. He did everything to keep them out of the vagaries of his life as he struggled with the complexities of fame. When the Kennedys, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were shot he didn’t see them as leaders rather as fathers whose families had been left wounded.

While he does talk of the influences of Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Jack Kerouac and others in  his life as a young artist working in 60,s New York the best titbit he gives about himself is this  “be true to yourself because that is what I am all about”.

Not the autobiography I wanted but hell it is compelling reading.

Categories: Biographies, Young Adult Tags:

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

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada.

November 4, 2017 Comments off

mortal coilThis Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2017.

This Young Adult novel can be described as science meets literature and indeed literature meets science. Mortal Coil from Shakespeare and the double helix coil that is the shape of human DNA. Very clever from a very intelligent and literate writer.

It is set in a dystopian world in which gene technology and software rule the planet through a conglomerate called Cartaxus. The World is swimming in toxins and Cartaxus seized control by offering people implantable panels in which are embedded gene control codes that allow them to survive. These panels respond to electronic pulses sent from outside and actually grow inside the body. Most Cartaxus people live underground.

Human gene editing is at the heart of everything until a virus called Hydra begins to infect the planet with clouds of explosive toxins for which there is no cure. Humanity is threatened with extinction.

Dr Lachlan Agatta who reluctantly worked for Cartaxus was a genius who wrote codes to protect people through their implanted panels. Before his death he wrote a code for a vaccine that could nullify Hydra. Cunningly he hid the code inside his 17 year old daughter Catarina without her knowledge and told her to hide outside the Cartaxus World. Catarina is a genius just like her father.

Catarina who narrates this novel, survives in the wild for a couple of years  with help from the underground resistance called Skies. Then one day a superbly wired up Cartaxus soldier comes looking for Catarina asking for help to write the code to destroy Hydra before it is too late. His name is Cole and there is chemistry between him and Catarina which both are trying to avoid. This brings a romantic side to this astonishing story. Together they find out some extraordinary information and have crises and adventures that will blow your mind. The World is at stake.

Superbly written as the science is complicated yet plausible and the reader must be able to understand what is going on to enjoy the story. Emily Suvada achieves this with some panache and keeps the drama up from start to finish.

If you like Rick Yancey’s series The 5th Wave you will love this. The best scifi novel I have read in years.