The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.
Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.
When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.
Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.
An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”
Teens and Young Adults will love it.
Boy X by Dan Smith. Pub Chicken House, 2016.
This is an easy to read action/ survival thriller set in a research Lab on an island covered in a deadly jungle.It is aimed at high school students and intermediate aged readers
Ash is about 16 years old and he awakes in a bed in the research laboratory with memories of a man called Thorn having stabbed him in the neck with a needle. He goes looking for his scientist mother and stumbles into a heap of action including a helicopter crash.
He meets Isabel, an Hispanic girl whose father is also a scientist and together they make their way to the laboratory where Ash’s mother and Isabel’s father are sealed in. They learn that both have been injected by a lethal virus called Kronos which has the potential to destroy the World.
Fortunately there is an antidote but some villains have taken both the virus and antidote and fled across the dense jungle to a boat on the other side of the island. Isabel and Ash need to stop the virus from leaving the island and to get back to their mother and father to give them the antidote.
They have 24 hours to do so. The countdown is on, the psychopathic Thorn is after them, and the jungle has terrors of its own. Not only that, Ash has developed heightened senses and can see, hear and smell things miles away. He is also stronger, heals quickly and can move like a vampire.
Read the rest and find out what happens. It is thrilling.
Middle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein
Middle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2016.
Book 4 in the Treasure Hunter series from prolific writing duo James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. Sure they are formulaic but hell they are good reading for middle school kids.
They are funny, informative, action packed with both male and female heroes who are flawed but essential well meaning. The Kidd family of Treasure Hunters are a together family and this time they are with their recently found parents trying to solve a great conspiracy by a secretive group who like to toy with eggheads and do-gooders like the Kidd family.
They call themselves the Enlightened Ones and they are stealing and have already stolen some of the World’s greatest works of art and this time it is set in Russia and the North pole under the Aurora borealis or Northern Lights.
It isn’t going to be easy and they are going to be imprisoned in some of Russia’s most notorious prisons. Narrated by twin Beck there is lively dialogue, informative information from Russian trivia expert Larissa and clues to solve to find the missing art collections.
Chris Grabensteins illustrations and oddball comments are a highlight.
Johnny Danger Bk 3. Spyborg by Peter Millett. Pub. Puffin Books, 2016.
Yes book three is out at last and it is full of the same intelligent silliness that made the other two books so popular. Perennial villain Dr Disastrous is joined by new villain Yuri Boom-Boom-ovic who has invented a cyborg that can be replicated to look and act like anybody.
The two villains retreat to Happy World island formerly known as Ikki Ikki Bunga, Dr Disastrous’s hideaway, and plot to get Johnny Danger and conquer the World at the same time. Mwahahaha.
Not only that Johnny Dangers older brother Evil Ian has gone to the darkside and Penelope Pounds and Johnny’s father are acting very strangely, could they be one of Boo Boom’s new cyborgs or Yuri-nators as he calls them?
Read this action packed spoof on James Bond and have fun. Lots of action and toilet humour, there is even a lego car. Adults will love it too as Peter Millett spoofs film classics Dirty Harry, the Terminator and others.
The best compliment I can give this novel is to tell you I read it in one sitting. It made me smile on a miserable day. It will do that to you too.
For middle school and older students who have furtive imaginations. All the Johnny Danger books are at this link
Into the World by Ted Dawe. Pub Mangakino University Press, 2016. http://www.teddawe.com.
This sequel to the award winning and controversial Into the River is tuff, raw, emotional, at times unbelievable but always riveting. It continues the descent into hell of innocent Maori boy Te Arepa who has morphed into the devious but likeable Public school educated Devon Santos.
Expelled from school this novel starts 10 minutes after Into the River with Devon deciding to stay in Auckland and not go back to his Whanau. Big mistake.
Devon contacts his school mate Mitch who is now the gopher or bitch to Rebel who is a skinhead and into drugs, midnight autos and the seedy street life. Devon finds work and accommodation with Martin and his wife Gail and learns what it is like to be used.
When that ends he is taken in by Mitch and the skinheads and it is all downhill. Prison is the inevitable ending but you know that Devon has been unlucky, he has been dealt a bad hand.
A new Corrections Department initiative throws Devon a lifeline and he grabs it with both hands and is taken in by a rich philanthropic rich man called Wes. Life begins to look sweet for Devon, he is intelligent, willing and adaptable. Then he meets Ella. The rest is dramatic reading.
Superbly written by Ted Dawe in three parts with short sharp chapters. The story moves fast like the cars Devon drives and the street talk and dialogue is a feature of the novel.
The question that is asked is does Devon really have a chance in life? School alienated him from his culture and whanau and in this book he still hides his Maori upbringing. What options does he have after prison? Can any one be totally rehabilitated? Does society give Devon or any prisoner for that matter, a chance?
Ted Dawe throws up a lot of social issues. The role of father is a massive issue in this novel both for boys and girls. I like his style, but some may not. Whatever you think it is damn good writing.
Certainly senior secondary and young adult.
First published in 1981 this classic bit of Kiwiana is back again with some small alterations but the story still the same. Terry while skateboarding down the private driveway of businessman/villain Ray Vegas comes a cropper, head through the hedge and witnesses something dodgy. Vegas sends his two clownish henchmen to capture Terry and a whole battle with gunrunners begins.
The action takes place in the small coastal town of Kaupati where the local copper keeps chickens, is socially responsible but not a lot going on upstairs. Vegas is your obnoxious rich thug who thinks he can do anything at all and the two henchmen are dumb and dumber. Plenty of appeal there.
Bob Kerr’s cartoons are terrific as always and there are lots of little in-house jokes and Kiwi things going on that are smilers when you see one.
Stephen Ballantyne’s written text is to the point and captures the whole Kiwi attitude. The highlight for me was the written dialogue of the gunrunners in an Aussie accent. Priceless.
At the back of the picture book is a section by Adrian Kinnaird on the making of Terry Teo as a NZ icon and the history of the book, TV series and film.
This book has high boy appeal for reluctant readers and is certain to win fans at primary and intermediate schools all over again.
An easy to read rollicking adventure of a family of four who are seeking the treasure of King Solomon’s mines as well as trying to find their mother and the death or otherwise of their father.
Narrated by Bick one of twins, her brothers Beck and tailspin Tommy and the brains of the group Storm with the photographic memory. They are brave fearless risk takers and have a false uncle after their fortune and the ruthless Guy Dubonnet Merck, a classic villain, chasing them.
Lots of adventure on the Nile and sharp witted conversation. Well written in short chapters with Chris Grabenstein’s illustrations providing great characterisation and enhancing the plot.
Reluctant boy and girl readers will love this novel, it is madcap. Primary, intermediate and some high school students.