Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

The Sparrow by Tessa Duder. Pub. Penguin Books, 2023

May 11, 2023 Comments off

This historical fiction novel is the best I have read about the European settlement of New Zealand aimed at any level.

It is well researched and stresses a fact that is often overlooked by historians – that without the Maori early New Zealand settlement would have been impossible. The Maori provided the settlers with food and shelter without which they would surely have starved.

This novel concentrates on the Auckland settlement in the 1840’s with many of the characters who are associated with Auckland’s and New Zealand’s history such as Governor Willian Hobson, John Logan Campbell, and interpreter Edward Williams featuring.

It also shows that the early settlers brought with them the prejudices of the English class system that is to be a feature of the relationships between the Maori and the settlers and indeed be a feature of the chances of lower status settlers to get a fair chance especially when it came to buying land. Then as now the price of land in Auckland is outrageous.

The central character in the story is Harriet/Harry who is 10 years old when she is wrongly convicted of stealing an apple and transported to Australia in horrific circumstances that would have killed many. Harriet is a survivor and an admirable role model for any you human being. She is strong, resourceful, caring and inciteful and the reader is with her all the way.

Harriet decides that it would be easier to survive as a boy than it would be as a girl because of the male attitudes at the time and this helps her escape the cruel and barbaric conditions at the Cascades prison in Tasmania. She escapes on the immigrant ship Platina to New Zealand and ends up in Waitemata Harbour in a pristine New Zealand.

From the beginning the settlement follows class lines. The poor are at Mechanics Bay next door to the Maori Pa at Orakei. Government is at Official Bay and business at Commercial Bay. Nothing is done for the settlers at Mechanics Bay but the Maori are commandeered to build raupo huts and bring vegetables and food to Commercial bay.

The lot of Harriet and her friend Tillie and family is miserable indeed. The funeral of a young child is moving because the Maori come to pay their respects and are rejected as natives. Even at this early stage all classes treat the Maori as savages but Harriet is different and pays the price. She decides after being a girl that it is safer to be a boy and resumes as Harry until the end of the book which is nerve wracking and exciting.

Harriet’s early days from age 10 to 14 are covered in a segment at the end of each chapter from 1836 to the settlement in 1840 and it shows the reasons why people chose to immigrate rather than live in England but you will have to find these things out by reading this superb novel.

Harriet at one stage looks back to when she landed and observes “those three pretty bays, three unspoiled beaches” and “over the spring we’ve turned them into dirty squabbling villages of too many frightened, suspicious and greedy people with something to hide and nowhere to go”. Is it any better now I asked myself.

The best book I have read this year and Tessa Duder’s first novel in 20 years. Keep writing Tessa.

Edge of Light Series Bk1 New Dawning by A.M. Dixon. Pub. OneTree House 2023.

May 1, 2023 Comments off

This highly descriptive dystopian fiction novel about the most drastic results of climate change is a must read.

It is set in what is left of New Zealand, on the Port Hills above Christchurch which has now been completely flooded due to the rise in sea levels after the Poles have melted away. Names like Littleton, Sugarloaf and the Summit Road are all mentioned mainly I think because the author is from Christchurch as am I.

There has been a great flood followed by a Crisis in which millions died and the survivors now live in a very controlled world where food is in short supply and massive covers in the sky shield the planet and people from a fierce hot sun.

The people that live in the small community live in a state of fearmongering which gets in the way of solid science as it did when new Zealand was in lockdown because of Covid. Every decision made by those in control is politicised and to show dissent is dangerous. The children are so brainwashed that they can’t conceive of the idea that giraffes, polar bears and elephants could possibly be true.

Population control is a feature of this society although the people don’t realise this. The old and some who dissent are sent away never to be seen again, but where do they go?. Every 7 years a 10 year old child is chosen to be the Voice of the Child and at their inauguration they are allowed to tell a truth from their history and this story begins with the appointment of a new Voice of the Child.

The story centres around 16 year old Merel her brother Bexley and their scientist parents. Merel observes trees and specialises in birds. She has a pet Corvus or white crow who she communicates with and it follows her everywhere. Into the story come two other main characters – Ren a 17 year old boy who is interested in Merel and she in him. Also a sensitive and inciteful 10 year old Estelle who is elected the new Voice of the Child.

On the appointment of Estelle those in command decide to open the covers that protect the earth for a short time to see what will happen and Estelle at her inauguration tells the community that Merel is the one who will save them all. In a word all hell breaks lose.

If you want to know more read the novel yourself.

A.M. Dixon spends much time describing the world and community that has resulted from ignoring climate change signals by previous world leaders, and is clearly concerned about the difference between historical truth and prophecies which are whispered between people. Not unlike the fake news, conspiracy theories and lies that trouble the world today.

How will Merel, Ren, Bexley, Estelle and Corvus combat this? Well there will be two other parts coming to develop the scenario further. I for one will be reading them. In some ways it reminded me of an old favourite Lois lowry’s The Giver.

The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp by Leonie Agnew. Pub. Walker books, 2023

April 12, 2023 Comments off

I liked Hannah Kemp the character. She is imaginative, caring, literate, has a good sense of humour but she is troubled and she is not letting the real Hannah out. The best thing about this novel is that Leonie Agnew gets inside the head of this troubled girl to analyse the problems she has, but she does it in a very unusual way.

Hannah has got her herself into trouble due to relationship troubles with her friends at school and she does something that gives her notoriety through a loss of temper. This is not the source of her troubles however these lie in the fact that she is adopted and like all teenagers she is clashing with her parents particularly her mother.

The fact that she is adopted is very obvious to all as her father is Asian and she looks nothing like her adopted mother, so everybody knows. Her adopted parents are very good, they have told her the history of her mother how she was taken from her mother for abandoning Hannah in a hot airless car. But they haven’t told her everything.

Hannah is to find out about her mother and her past in a surreal way. A mobile library comes to town with a strong woman librarian who has a book that seems to tell the story of Hannah’s past and present life. Hannah discovers this, takes the book, reads about her life, and mysteriously two characters fall out of the book and one of them is her mother Jasmine or a replica of her.

Hannah and her replica mother react and get a lot of shit out of the way which leads to a dramatic but satisfying ending. Another character falls out of the book but you will have to read it to find out who.

Well written with imaginative descriptions and some sharp discussions between Hannah and her parents and friends. lots of girl talk and boys It’s Mean Girls meets Frankenstein. There is also a baby duckling who makes quite an impact.

I dare you to read it. I enjoyed it although some may find it far fetched. The title has the word Impossible in it and that says a lot.

Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron. Pub. MacMillan 2022.

January 11, 2023 Comments off

The history of Rock ‘n roll is a gateway into how society has changed over the years. This autobiography of Ronnie Spector not only tells her story and that of the Ronettes but throws light on what was happening in society especially the civil rights movement from the early 1960’s onwards. It also tells the story of one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever Be my Baby.

Ronnie Bennett was born of Afro Cherokee mother and white European father and grew up in Spanish Harlem New York a mixed race community and home of the great Apollo Theatre. She was neither black nor white and struggled with this in the early part of her life but all barriers break down when it comes to music.

She formed a group with her sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra and they watched American Bandstand in the morning and practiced routines and harmonies with all the popular songs. Her first influence was Frankie Lymon a 13 year old singer whose hit was “Why do fools Fall in Love” a great song. They got their first job as dancers and backing singers with Joey Dee and The Starlighters at the Pepperment Lounge in New York and Miami and after an unsuccessful attempt at fame contacted the man she was to marry Phil Spector.

The profile of Phil Spector is one of the highlights of this book and you will have to read it yourself if you want to know more and if I were you I would do it. It does discuss the “wall of Sound” technique developed by Spector and it’s influence on rock music.

It is written in easy style and you can flow through it with ease. At the back is a timeline and a discography and there are photographs as well.

There is more to the book than that as Ronnie bedded a number of high profile artists as you would guess and there is the music. Suitable for anyone with an interest in rock ‘n roll and the social development that resulted from it.

Between the Flags by Rachel Fenton. Pub. Cuba Press, 2022.

November 24, 2022 Comments off

Winner of the Laura Solomon Cuba Press prize for YA literature this three part novel captures the problems faced by young people when a crisis takes over their lives.

The following quotation from the book tells it better than I could so I have printed it intact:- “You can’t get rid of grief. Its like plastic. Once it’s there it’s always there. It just gets broken down into smaller and smaller pieces until you hardly notice it”

Mandy came out to NZ from England with her mother and elder brother and settled into the kiwi way of life. Her mother formed a relationship with a decent man, Geoff, and they had a son Casey who became Mandy’s younger brother and Geoff her father.

Mandy joins a surf lifesaving group and has serious rivalry with other girls in this group who bully her because she is over weight and different. When her mother is seen flirting with a well known local celebrity Mandy’s life starts to come undone. Then tragedy hits with the drowning of 6 year old casey and the demise of her mother’s relationship with Geoff.

Mandy copes by writing a comic book about a girl called Mako who is a lifesaver but it is not enough. She takes counselling, her school work falls away and her relationships fall apart. She needs help and a break. She gets it and the comic book is the key.

Two main parts to this novel with the comic book the third part. Read it and find out what happens. The comic illustrations are superb.

Very good teacher role models in this book. I wish I had teachers as good as this when I was at school. All the adults in this novel are worthy although the same cannot be said of some of the school girls. Female bullying is so personal.

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.