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Posts Tagged ‘survival’

Elephant Island by Leo Timmers. Pub. Gecko Press, 2022.

February 22, 2022 Comments off

Once again Leo Timmers has come up with a picture book about transport, this time ships and boats and there are a host of them, but ultimately it is a book about making do with what you have and never giving up.

Arnold is a seafaring elephant who comes a cropper when a boisterous wave sinks his boat. After many hours in the water he bumps into the smallest of possible islands and waits. Firstly a mouse boat comes, then an old sea dog and a fishing boat at full steam. All are sunk but Arnold uses his nous and builds on the smallest of islands from all the sunken boats so that all survive and have a place to stay.

It’s a work of genius. nearly every type of ship and boat eventually arrives and the fun has expanded across the world. Check it and see what happens.

The illustrations are also a work of genius, they are sort of collage with a bit extra. Follow the creatures and see how they fare, the dog and his guitar are impressive.

As always with Timmer’s books there is always hope and nobody gets left behind. If only the world was like this. Other books by this author are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Night Race to Kawau by Tessa Duder. Pub. Penguin Random House 2022

February 2, 2022 Comments off

First published 40 years ago this gripping novel about a yachting race at night from Auckland to Kawau Island is as relevant today as it was back then.

The Starr family including Dad, Mum, teenager Sam and younger siblings Jane and Jeremy set sail in an old but sound wooden yacht in a race with more than 100 other vessels of different sizes and crews.

As we meet all the characters it is a tense and hectic day in which time is limited to prepare for the race, Jeremy gets a bang on the head and the Auckland traffic even then plays havoc with getting everybody at the wharf on time. The trip up the harbour with all the other yachts and without an expected adult crew member is tense.

The start is like an America’s Cup race and they sail into a clear sky with light winds and the expectation that it will be an easy race. Not the case. As they enter the Tiri channel with spinnaker pushing the old yacht forward there is a sudden and unexpected change in wind direction and chaos on board as dad tries to get the spinnaker down and is yelling orders left right and centre. Then silence. What has happened? has dad gone overboard? How will the young family cope if he has.

Read the rest yourself it is gripping reading.

Lots of sailing talk, family squabbles at a time when there were no cell phones or computers with all the characters challeged out of their comfort zones.

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.

Shackletons Endurance. An Antarctic Survival story by Joanna Grochowicz. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2012.

May 3, 2021 Comments off

I knew and had read about this famous explorer and his heroic voyage in an open boat and trek across South Georgia to save his men, after their ship the Endurance was trapped and ultimately crushed in sea ice in the Weddell Sea. So how is this story different from those that went before? Ultimately it is because the emphasis that she puts on the nature of Shackleton and his men. Joanna Grochowicz makes it personal and boy is it good. You will not read a better account of this story than this one.

I can’t for the life of me understand why Shackleton and his men were obsessed with the polar region. Freezing cold and an environment which makes it man verse nature and you know nature is always going to win. Robert Falcon Scott was obsessed as was Roald Amundsen and Shackleton was in this league but what made him greater than the other two was his superior leadership and people skills.

Shackleton and his family moved from Dublin in 1888 and his parents went to great lengths to get rid of his Irish lilt. Not a lot of people know that and his wife found it baffling that somebody so bruised by Antarctica could go back for more of a thrashing after the 1902 and 1907 failures.

Shackleton’s attitude in the hardships that he and his men endured was that “no man must think that their situation is anything other than a temporary inconvenience”. Every man, even the stowaway Perce Blackborow, who lost several toes to frostbite, was treated equally and got the same rations as the captain and Shackleton himself. His men had faith in him and times got pretty grim. You can read the details of the journey yourself.

Not only is it a portrait of Shackleton but of all who were on this journey. At the beginning of the book are portraits of everybody by ships artist George “Putty’ Marston with every member including the cat Mr Chippy, is mentioned and profiled to the context of the action that takes place. Not everybody is likeable.

The story is gritty and well told and contains stunning photographs by Frank Hurley, two with a view over a long distance at The Endurance being crushed by ice. Grochowicz descriptions of the Antarctic environment and the men’s struggle for survival are superb.

If you miss this one you will kick yourself. Suitable for readers intermediate and above.

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Locked Down by Jesse O. Illus. Toby Morris. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

February 5, 2021 Comments off

This is a remarkable story because it was first written in 2011 when Bird flu was around and the author prophetically extrapolated what might happen if things got worse. Well things did get worse and it was called Covid 19 and the nation was in lockdown.

The title has been changed from Staying Home to Locked Down to reflect the modern situation. The interesting thing of course is to compare how the author saw things going in 2011 compared what actually happened in New Zealand under lockdown.

The story concentrates on the Flint family who live in the town of Hansen which is somewhere in the South Island. A virus XB276 has struck the North Island down and people have been told to stay home. The South Island has been relatively untouched but is radically effected by the situation in the North.

There are major differences and solutions to the problems created by lockdown and i will let you find out by reading the book. There is a complete shutdown of shops and supermarkets and there is a shutdown of power sources too which create different problems than in the current situation.

The strongest messages relate to families under stress and trying to survive. It hasn’t got that bad in todays crisis, see how the children and their neighbours get on in this crisis..

Toby Morris’s illustrations enhance the story and provide images to hang your thought s on. Well worth a read.

The King’s Nightingale by Sherryl Jordan. Pub. Scholastic 2021.

January 31, 2021 Comments off

This is one of the best adventure novels about slavery that you will read this year. Based in Europe and North Africa although those two regions are not mentioned in the novel. Instead it is the Penhallow Isles where the main character Elowen was born and raised, and Rabakesh where she is enslaved to king Shaistakhan.

Elowen is a 16 year old girl brought up in a christian religion called Followers of the Shepherd. It’s faults and credibility are revealed to her early in the novel over a illegitimate baby is denied death rights because of her illegitimacy. As this is happening pirates from the south sack Elown’s village and carry off those they can catch to be sold as slaves. Many do not make the journey alive after brutal treatment from the pirates.

Elowen survives along with her brother Fisher but they are sold separately. Elowen is bought for the king because of her beautiful singing voice and is treated very well indeed, in fact in luxury but she has a fatal flaw which is going to ruin this for her.

She is warned not to question the decisions of men or to speak ill of the king who belong to the Izarin religion much like Islam. Elowen is outspoken and makes it clear she wants to escape to find her brother fisher.

Her abilities as a singer earns her the name Shalimar or Kings nightingale and she evokes jealousy amongst the king’s harem. This results in Elowen being resold into desperately different conditions that she had with the King. She regrets this and when she learns of a war machine that is to attack The King she takes very dangerous actions. Read the rest and find out it is brilliant.

Beautifully told and described by Sherryl Jordan who is surely at the top of her game. It follows a similar book titled The Freedom Merchants also reviewed earlier on this blog. However the descriptions of the desert landscape of Rabakesh and the palace lifestyle of King Shaistakhan are delicious, as are the comparisons of the two religions and cultures.

Elowen is a good role model, loyal, brave, compassionate and generous but her outspokenness gets her into trouble. She learns the language and religion of her captives in order to quietly achieve her goals.

A novel in four parts. If you miss this one you will kick yourself.

White Moko. stories from my life by Tim Tipene. Pub. OneTree House, 2020.

November 15, 2020 Comments off

This memoir of childhood in an abusive family is one that all New Zealanders should take heed of particularly those whose lives have been damaged by their upbringing.

Tim Tipene has a Maori name but he is white skinned, hair haired with blue eyes. His father was rightly jailed and his mother married a Maori man who had wonderful whanau but he himself was a brute.

Tim was brutalised all through his childhood. Both parents took great delight out of being sadistic towards him. His mother told him he had ruined her life and that she wished he had never been born.

All this reflected on his performance at school where he was labelled a bad boy and not worth the effort. He had a couple of good teachers but when he was kicked out of college he couldn’t recite the alphabet. Didn’t know his times table and couldn’t tell the time on an analogue clock.

The stories he tells of his early life are harrowing but he never lost hope and loved both his parents and was fortunate that he had his Maori whanau to get him through. He was a white Maori and proud of it.

As he grew to adulthood he got involve in martial arts which led him to Japan and a karate master. He attended an anger management class for men who were abused as children and found he was not alone.

His school and early adult life and recovery is covered up to his formation of Kora Toa Warrior school and his work with underprivileged and abused children.

He is a wonderful successful man and it is essential that his story be utilised as a source of hope for those who have suffered similar treatment. His message is you are not alone and can be helped.

The most powerful book I have read for some time.

Children of the furnace Pt3. Heartsblood by Brin Murray. Pub. C.P. Books, 2020.

October 14, 2020 Comments off

Finishing a trilogy as good as this one was always going to be hard. Set in a brutal world of Sekkerland, which is Greenland without it’s icecap, the country is ruled by a ruthless regime called The Revelayshun.

They rule with a brutal hand of a religious fanaticism and the country has been so brutalised that most of the remaining inhabitants are children, mostly males. The regime is led by High Patriarch Sachs, a disgraceful human being who has brainwashed society through fear, to believe that A Great Atrocity was committed by an amorphis group called the Heaters.

The Heaters came from the Southerm Land to the south which has been badly affected by a global catastrophe caused by climate change. Now Sachs and his Revelayshun are going to invade the Southerm land and main characters Wil, his twin sister Mari, a humanist nurse Leah, a survivor of brutality Jace and a tech expert Harper, are going to take on the Revelayshun while it is away. Can they succeed or is it all a trap?

Tensely written with brutality of human against human a major theme. The country of Sekkerland is a character in it’s own right and the action is intense. The final battles make exciting reading which is not for the faint hearted. Be warned not everybody the reader wants to survive will survive but the ending gives hope for the future.

Told in 51 short chapters by two narrators Wil and Leah the language is often written as the words sound but this adds to the reality of the -plot and situation.

One of the best of the year Dystopian fiction that will make you think about the human condition. Are we capable of going this far. Books 1 & 2 are also reviewed on this blog.

Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz.

March 10, 2020 Comments off

alex rider (2)Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz. Pub. Walker books, 2020.

Released 2 April

This is book number 13 in the Alex Rider series and this time it is serious. Alex is a little out of his depth as he tackles a secret organisation called Nightshade which uses children who have been kidnapped at age 4 or 5 years.

These children have been brainwashed into forgetting their past and trained to be ruthless and efficient killers. One of their number known to MI6 as Freddy is captured while assassinating an agent in Brazil but shuts down and cannot be broken. MI6 know that there is a secret plan to destroy London and that Nightshade are the culprits.

Freddy who is a heartless killer is locked away in a secret high security prison on Gibraltar and Alex is given the identity of another villain from the past called Julius Grief with the job of befriending Freddy in order to find out when and how the destruction of London is to be achieved.

How Alex attempts this is astonishing and beggars the question is he finally out of his depth. To make things personal Mrs Jones, Alex’s master at MI6, had her two children kidnapped at ages 5 &6. Could they now be members of Nightshade? Alex also has his doubters in MI6.

Brilliantly conceived story, action packed and thrilling to read. I can tell you no more but if you are a fan you will relish this novel and if you are discovering Alex for the first time live long and prosper.

The best action novel you will read this year.

 

 

Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray.

January 31, 2020 Comments off

orphansOrphans of the Tide by Struan Murray. Pub. Puffin, 2020.

RELEASED 18 FEB. 2020

Always nice to read a children’s novel by a new author who has a great imagination.

Struan Murray creates a totally believable world that has been through the Drowning. The sea has risen enormously and the only known city left is built on a mountain and is called the City. The City is a character in it’s own right in this novel.

The plot is mysterious and action packed and it is about survival in this watery world. It begins when a whale is washed up on the roof of a house close to the waterfront. Ellie the main character knows that whales start decomposing in the stomach which produces gas and needs to be opened up before it explodes.

The opening starts a panic in the town. Ellie slices the whale open and a boy is extracted from the intestines. Ellie names him Seth and wants to protect him from the townsfolk who have judged him to be a Vessel for the main foe of the people who they call the Enemy.

The Inquisitors in the City have the job of hunting the Vessel down and killing it. Seth is the first Vessel in 23 years, but Ellie, her friend Annie and mysterious character Finn have other ideas.

Between chapters there is the story of the previous Vessel who has left the Diary of Claude Hestermeyer. Does it hold the secret to what is going on?

Ellie is a superb character. Her mother was an inventor and she herself has many skills and a respected role in the town. But she has a deadly secret which you can find out about by reading this novel. The last 50 pages are gripping.

Highly descriptive  novel for intermediate and junior high school students that will make you think. There is a map in the front to guide you. A great start to my reading year.