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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Fire’s Caress by Lani Wendt Young. Pub. OneTree House, 2021

December 19, 2021 Comments off

A very readable novel for young adults that will have you compelled to read from beginning to end.

Set in Samoa with the backdrop of a post covid world and heavily involved in Samoan myth and legend and the protection of Samoan cultural life.

Billionaire Marc Gold, confident, not used to being denied, womaniser and a total smartarse, comes to Samoa to build a luxury resort for the super wealthy without giving any thought to the cultural and habitat damage he will cause. While walking in the forest where he will build the resort he is contacted by a beautiful woman who is of the Aitu, a Samoan demon who protect the forests and lakes. He goes missing for 3 days without recollection and when he returns he has a disease that causes him to have a hunger and it slowly covers his body.

Into the story comes Teuila a beautiful Samoan woman who has a strong gift of sculpture and has achieved World wide fame. She has a past of abuse and has been brought up in an orphanage on Samoa. She returns to Samoa to auction her works to support the home in which she was protected and brought up in. She meets Marc Gold who is strongly attracted to her, as she eases the effects of the body disease that he has contracted.

Gold wants to own her and while Teuila is attracted to his wealth she is supicious. These suspicions are confirmed by a now rich childhood friend and martial arts expert Keahi who conflicts with Marc Gold. Enter Bree, Teuila’s agent and the long lost mother and things begin to boil as Marc Gold tries to control Teuila and his behaviour becomes psychopathic.

What nobody knows is that Teuila is controlled by the Aitu and that a major battle is to be fought.

Don’t miss this, it is superb storytelling and although part of the Telesa World series it is a stand alone Novel in it’s own right. There is reference to characters from the Telesa world and the origins of the gifts that Teuila and Keahi have are explained by the connection to Telesa and their common past.

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus. Pub. Penguin Books, 2021.

December 10, 2021 Comments off

This is the fifth Karen McManus novel and is every bit as good as the others which are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. It is a whodunnit in a high school setting and is a page turner. Once you start this you won’t want to put it down.

Ivy, Cal and Mateo have been friend since they were 12 years old. One day they bunked school and they all regarded it as one of the best days of their lives but the three have secrets from each other and 6 years later after some dramatic school events they do the same thing again. This day is one of the worst.

The novel opens with a profile of the lives and families of Ivy Cal and Mateo with each narrating a chapter as they do throughout the novel as the action changes after they decide to bunk school leave Carlton and go downtown to Boston. They stumble across a murder of a known school acquaintance and the rest of the action takes place in one day when secrets will out, and you will be kept guessing as to who is behind the murder and the reasons for it.

Caught in the action is a beautiful young art teacher called Lara, a mystery man called D, and someone called “the weasel who is running the drug business around town. There are other family members of each of the main characters involved and action that will keep you guessing.

A beautifully crafted plot where apart from the opening chapters and the clean up at the end, the action takes place in less than 12 hours and there are plenty of high points.

See if you can work out who the villain is, I thought I had but I was wrong. If you want a change of scenery over the holidays you will not regret reading this.

There is also a quirky ending which ties all the strings together.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. Pub. Usborne Publishing 2021.

November 29, 2021 Comments off

A young adult novel that will shock with its women hating violence and racism.

Deka is a 16 year old black girl living in a cold environment and largely scorned by the villagers around her. Her mother was also black but has died and her father raises her with an aloof manner. She does have friends and like her fellow 16 year olds awaits the ceremony, The Ritual of Purity, to see if she has purity. Purity means red blood in her veins not gold and all the girls are cut to reveal their status.

Deka fails and for that she goes through an ordeal in which she is killed and drained of blood 9 times but survives. She has extreme powers which she doesn’t know about.

The society she lives in have a god called Oyomo and their holy book is Infinite Wisdoms by which the people live. It is a book that keeps women down and makes them the playthings of men who lust after gold. Not pleasant but not unlike many religious groups on Earth.

Deka is saved by the Emperor of the land of Otera who wishes to put together an army of demon women to fight the Deathshrieks who are vicious monsters that threaten humans and dispose of them in most horrible fashion.

Deka is taken to the capital city Hemaira to a training site to develop her considerable talents and be groomed to fight the deathshrieks with other girls who are her sisterhood. You wonder while you are reading this novel ” why is Deka and her sisterhood fighting for such and evil society?” Well the answer is in the true nature of Deka and this you will discover as you read the book.

Deka is a good role model and the writing is expansive and catchy.

Read it and check out what happens but expect some gore and very cruel treatment. There will be a sequel in 2022.

Black Spiral trilogy Bk2. Black Wolf by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin, 2021.

October 29, 2021 Comments off

Second part of the series that began with Violet Black which is also reviewed elsewhere on this blog and it will excite you just as much as the first novel.

After the disastrous episode in Germany Violet and her associate Phoenix return to the Foundation complex in central Australia. Phoenix is being experimented on with an LSD substance and it has altered his mental powers so that he can bypass blocks in The Foundation staff and read their minds.

Phoenix age 18years, is not popular with Violet aged 18years and now wants to be known by his real name Johnno. Meanwhile Violet is being experimented on too but is still able to communicate by ESP with Phoenix and other members of VORTEX. She is dissatisfied and wants to escape.

She plots with Phoenix AKA Johnno AKA Black Wolf and the two manage to escape into the centre of the Australian desert and the two have a ball, find they like each other, romance blossoms and some exciting action takes place. The two have now perfected Dream-Flow by which they can escape their bodies ,turn into animals like birds and wolves and fly for miles.

This part two also develops the reasons why and how M Fever came about and returns the major characters to New Zealand where the action started. This sets up part three with the questionable actions of the Foundation now becoming exposed. But who is behind them?

Well written and believable. I can’t wait for the third part hopefully due early next year.

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Double Helix by Eileen Merriman pub. Black Swan, Imprint Penguin Random House, 2021.

July 30, 2021 Comments off

A medical drama out of the top draw for young adults and adults. As is the case of all Eileen Merriman’s novels medical ethics and practice are at the heart of it all which makes the novels such powerful reading.

This novel is about Emily and Jake who have known each other for most of their lives and are fated to be together but for how long? Emily’s father is a doctor and has always pressured her to be a doctor but Emily has doubts. “what if I make a mistake and kill someone?”

Jake is drawn to medicine and wants to be a doctor and regards surgery as survival of the fittest but he has a timebomb within. His mother had Huntingdon’s disease and died when Jake was a teenager. Jake figures he has the gene that will affect his life like that of his mother. One of the messages of this novel is “If you want to spend your whole life worrying about what might happen then you’re missing out”.

The plot moves from Northland to Dunedin to Melbourne as Jake and Emily follow their careers and their relationship. The timebomb within Jake and a dark secret between Jake and Emily underline their lives. Is the double helix of DNA going to dominate their lives together or are other forces going to predominate? Read it and find out.

The medical talk is a highlight of the novel – there is a profile of Huntingdon’s disease- the third most common cause of death from HD is suicide. The gene is passed through to offspring but may not be and how do you know or act if a test is inconclusive? If you know you are going to get it should you leave an Advance directive of what you want to happen when the disease takes hold? What are the family to do if they have to decide or are asked to assist with the death a sufferer?

There are other characters who are worthwhile following – Kylie a flamboyant girl with flaming red hair, Jim, who is Emily’s father and disapproves of Jake and Emily’s relationship and other student and medical associates who party, get drunk, inter-relate plus a gay couple who have a surrogate baby.

The plot has several different time spans from 2003 to 2019 from childhood to university to adulthood and in each relationships advance and change or are fostered. I didn’t know doctors drunk so much. Each chapter is headed by the title of a popular song and there are three parts to the novel in three locations dealing with the drama of the lives of Jake and Emily and all who know them.

Compelling reading from a novelist at the top of her game.

AVAILABLE 31 AUGUST

LIT. Stories from Home. Edited by Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod. Pub. Onetree House, 2021.

June 26, 2021 Comments off

I was very happy to read this anthology of 15 short stories by New Zealand writers because it reacquainted me with Katherine Mansfield’s The Dolls House which I had read nearly 60 years ago in my 4th Form English class taught by Gordon Ogilvie who was to become a writer in his own right. He described the story as the most important piece of literature written by a new Zealander and at the time that meant nothing to me but now it does. I remember sympathising with the Kelvey sisters because I was from a family of eight and we were poor like them.

This story is important to the theme of this anthology which explores society in New Zealand from the closed class ridden structure of The Dolls House through the various stages in our development till todays society which is varied, ethnically diverse and severely challenged.

The anthology begins with Baby Doll by Gina Cole narrated by a 10 year old Uyghur working in a slave factory sewing garments and stressing because she will be docked pay for not meeting targets and who has subsequently fled China and now resides in New Zealand but looking back.

In between times we have gems from Witi Ihimaera, Owen Marshall, David Hill, Frank Sargeson and another favourite Elsie Locke. There are other gems each adding another development of New Zealand’s society to where it is today.

The last story in the anthology is Chinese New Zealander Ting. J. Yiu titled Gutting which will stun you as it did me. It features a middle aged Chinese woman called Kim who lives as a hunter in the bush of West Coast new Zealand and actually hunts, kills and guts a deer during the story. This is surprising in itself but she arrives at doing this after she has discovered a pod of pilot whales who have beached themselves on a remote West Coast beach. The meaning of all this is one for you to decide for yourself but are we all like beached whales looking for our own place in this new society we call New Zealand /Aotearoa.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. One of the best short story anthologies I have read.

Mirror Man by Fiona McIntosh. Pub Penguin Random House, 2021

June 15, 2021 Comments off

I do not read many adult novels but this one is very good. It is about a serial killer, Colin, who wants to ensure that criminals pay their dues while answering the need to empty prisons. He is a vigilante, or is he? and when a prisoner who has committed a dastardly crime is released too early, he plans and commits a murder. He has done it on at least four occasions but are there more and will there be others?

I admit than when I read about the crimes and the death of the perpetrators, I felt a sense of justice being done and indeed Colin feels that he is administering justice to the victims of crime. But there is more to this story than that but that is for you the reader to find out.

The hero of this story is DCI Jack Hawksworth a debonair James Bond like character who has a weakness for beautiful vulnerable women, and there are many of those in this novel. Jack is chivalrous, charming, awfully good looking, with long legs and a smile that melts the hearts of women who cross his path. He plays it cool as he has been hurt badly in the past, especially from a serial killer, Anne who is now inside Holloway prison and whom he consults on this case.

Jack is instructed to look at connections between several murders and to keep a low profile so as not to unsettle the public but he is undone by a canny journalist Lauren, who has been worked over by a cad of a man but has an instinct for a story like no other. Jack is attracted to her and she to him, and he realises that a nosey journalist can fly under the radar in a way no member of the police can. But can he ignore his weakness for this vulnerable, clever and beautiful woman?

A clever intelligent story that I was thrilled to bits to read. Fiona McIntosh writes a well crafted plot with endearing characters, grim murders and ties up all the loose ends. A particular strength is her portrayal of women. Most are in their 30’s have been worked over by a man, and are reluctant to try again. Until they meet Jack of course.

This is the third book about Jack Hawksworth and I for one an going to read the first two. Fiona McIntosh is not well known in NZ and she should be. I savoured this novel over a week and I don’t know where to go after reading it. I bet you feel the same.

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson. Pub. Penguin Books, 2021.

May 21, 2021 Comments off

Set in Idaho in mid winter this suspense thriller for Young Adults is possibly the best book this year. If it was a rock band you would describe it as tight, if it was a film you would liken it to Fargo.

The background to the story is a robbery of a money laundering premises in which a suitcase of money has gone missing, hidden by a criminal who is violent and now in prison. The money is of drug origin and the gang is still after their loot.

Seventeen year old Jack and his six year old brother Matty are the sons of the man in prison and when we first meet them they are living in a cold house without heat or food and their mother has just hung herself after years of drug abuse. Jack buries his mother in the back garden and vows to himself that he will look after Matty.

At school Jack meets a tough shy girl called Ava who is described as “an animal peering out through human eyes”. She has a black tattoo of a heart on her wrist and keeps to herself. Jack helps her out at school and a bond begins between them that blossoms as the book progresses. Ava’s father was strongly implicated in the money laundering robbery and he wants the missing suitcase of money.

As carnage breaks out around them Jack and Matty link up with Ava without knowing that her father is chasing the money and will do anything to get it and does so. Jack suffers horribly and Ava for the first time in her life starts caring about someone.

The action is thrilling, compulsive and fast moving. The chapters are short and very readible hence the word tight in the opening paragraph. Each chapter has an introduction by the narrator who is mostly Ava looking back at what has happened. There is the occasional poem and a lot of talk about the human condition. The ending is gory and earth shattering but you can find that out for yourself.

The profile of the killer Bardem whose catch phrase is “whatever you put in that circle is yours to take’ is astonishing. Don’t miss this novel.

A superb novel. Take your time over it and relish every word. One of the best of the year.

Displaced by Cristina Sanders. Pub. Walker Books, 2021

May 14, 2021 Comments off

I really enjoyed this historical novel of New Zealand in the 1870’s when settlers were being encouraged to come to New Zealand and establish farms. The Land Wars with the Maori were essentially over in terms of an armed struggle and new Zealand was open to settlers from all over the World.

This novel concentrates on an English gentry family named Sansonnet headed by Robert and his family whose farm in England is sold from underneath them by Robert’s brother who encourages them to join him on a farm in New Zealand. Well all is not as it seems.

Robert and Penelope and their three sons and two daughters book passage to Napier in New Zealand and set sail but all does not go well. Robert is a bully of a father and it is way or the highway for his family. This cause some conflict. On the journey all three sons come to grief in different ways and only one makes to Napier.

On arrival there is no brother waiting, no farm and a very rough and ready colonial settlement. Robert takes off to Thames to meet his brother and the family are left to make it on their own headed by 18 year old Eloise who is a superb character, her 16 year old sister Martha and mother Penelope who has lost it after the fate that befell her sons.

With the help of a preachers daughter the family settle in, but Eloise has fallen for a Norwegian woodcutter named Lars and Martha has taken with Hemi, a half cast Maori boy. To find out any more you are going to have to read it yourself and believe me it is worth it.

The clash of values of Victorian manners of the Sansonnets and those of the settler communities is stunning. The women cope very well but the men are left flabbergasted and found to be hypocritical.

Well written, the descriptions of early New Zealand are superb and there is a nice bit of scandal at the end. One of the best novels about early New Zealand that I have read. Could be read by Intermediate school readers and above but aimed at senior audiences.

Winner of The Storylines Tessa Duder Award for 2021.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Adapted for young Readers. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

April 3, 2021 Comments off

The most fascinating and readable autobiography I have read for some time. The cover says it has been adapted for young readers but I couldn’t see what Michelle had left out. The woman with the dazzling smile, with the too lovely daughters who stood beside Obama when president of USA, sweeps you off your feet in this extraordinary book.

The book is in four parts the first is Becoming Me and tells of her schooling and College until she met Barack Obama. Born Michelle Robinson in South Chicago in an area that experienced whit flight as the Black population slowly moved in. It was a rough area and Michelle and her brother Craig with their parents lived in an upstairs apartment above a stern woman who taught piano. Michelle learnt piano and went to schools that were mainly coloured students.

She learnt how connections and privilege gave some people an advantage over others which she accepted. She spoke very correct English and was taunted by her fellow students ” how come you speak like a white girl”? She was seen as uppity and betraying her black Culture.

She followed her basketball scholarship brother Craig to Princeton in the 1980’s a place she saw as “extremely white and very Male”. She stuck to what she knew and had few white friends. When she left with her degree she studied law and got a position in a Chicago law firm and met Barack when she was assigned the job of mentoring him.

Part 2 is titled becoming Us in which she gets to know Barack, forms a relationship with him, marriage two daughters Malia and Sacha as well as developing a career involving social and political work plus motherhood. She saw that Barack was a deep thinker, heavy reader and had a version of hope that extended beyond hers. He wouldn’t settle for the World as it was, he wanted it as it should be.

Politically the path of the future was laid with the election of bill Clinton as President when she was involved in encouraging the black voters to vote which ensured Clinton’s win. The road was set for Obama’s run for president.

Michelle and Barack married in style with a Stevie Wonder song You and I We can conquer the world.

As Barack’s political aspirations bore fruit Michelle was left as a working mother bringing up her daughters with

Barack largely absent. She gave him the space to forge his career. She witnessed the dirty right wing lies that mar any election and the racism that a black man running for election brings. Obama had to receive the earliest protection any presidential candidate has ever had.

Becoming More is part 3 and covers Obama’s election, inauguration and move into the White House that makes fascinating and compelling reading but I will let you the reader find this out for yourself.

Michelle Obama is a talented writer. She is clear concise and bloody interesting. You will not read a better autobiography than this.