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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

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.

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.

Nor’East Swell by Aaron Topp. Pub. OneTree House, 2022

February 12, 2022 Comments off

This excellent novel for High school and young adult readers is a combination of surfing and Maori myth and legend. It is complex and deep and elevates surfing to the status of a religion while linking it to the Maori spirit of Wairua.

Aaron Topp is a surfing guru, I first read his early novel on surfing titled Single Finn where he analyses the surfing culture but this novel goes well beyond that.

Witi is a year 13 student, a guitar player, a surfer and a loner. He has a friend in Alana who also surfs and he would like to take the relationship further. Witi lives with his mother and they both mourn the disappearance of his father 8 years earlier. But has he disappeared for good, where has he been and will he return? That is one of the novels mysteries.

Onto the scene from Australia comes a stud surfer called Jordy who on his first day a school wades into a fight with the first 15 who are giving Witi a hiding. It seems a spur of the moment thing but is their something more sinister about him? Another mystery.

The novel is divided into four parts. Part 1 we learn of Witi’s background and of that of his father who was a rock’n roll legend in NZ. Part 2 is more poetic as it tells more of the mystical side of Witi’s father’s background and disappearance and has Jordy meddling with the relationship between Witi and Alana. It also discusses Wairua and the Maori spirit world.

Part 3 has Witi and Jordy investigating Witi’s father’s legend and finding a code that suggests a secret surfing beach with magical powers. Part 4 brings it all together with major action as we learn that Witi’s father has left a door open in the waves that leads to the place where Wairua leave for the after life and that Witi has a role to play in closing this doorway between worlds.

To confuse matters a major international company has found out about a power source in the secret bay and they know of Witi’s power. Guess who is the leader of this company?

Plenty of action and a lot of surreal happenings occur but you can find that out for yourself. Very Complex and culturally respectful.

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.

..

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.