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Posts Tagged ‘The human condition’

A Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale.

May 1, 2019 Comments off

stone & DarknessA Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Released 7 May

At last a fantasy novel with some depth. Deep not because it is set almost totally underground but because it has a lot of significant observations about the Human condition, and it is a very good tale.

Thousands of years ago Humans hounded the Strigg people out of the forests and into underground caves where their culture survived and thrived out of Human knowledge. The Striggs are a bird like creature that has lost it’s ability to fly as their wings have evolved into arm like structures with claws.

Striggworld is now under threat from polluted water from the earth above and from lack of drinking water as wells dry up. Their food supply which is a mushroom like product, morra, has also begun to be scarce and the Elders of the Striggs are contemplating a move North. They would love to go back to the surface but it is too dangerous.

On the eve of a spangletime ceremony which celebrates the move from childhood to adulthood, a young Strigg, Ellee, discovers a human boy called Blue who has fallen down a well into the underground. She saves him and with the help of her academic brother, Sidfred, brings him back to home.

When Blue is discovered by the Strigg Elders panic hits the small community. Some including Kass a fierce warrior type want to kill him to avoid other Humans finding a way underground but the Elders view is that is not our way and never will be our way.

They decide to return Blue to to Uptop or the surface, where all the Toppas live. The action begins and it will have you spellbound. Read it and find out what happens.

If there is a catchphrase that describes this novel it is “It is amazing what eventually ends up underground”. We should take heed of that. It says a lot about the Human condition of treating the Planet and every other creature on it as if it is ours alone to use. The Striggs know all about us and our destructive ways.

Excellent story, descriptively written and with a message for all Humankind.

Chris Mousdale creates an imaginative World that is totally believable, the Striggs are believable The Strigg way contrasts with that of Humans and puts us to shame. And his illustrations are superb. One of the best of the year.

Suitable for Intermediate and High school readers.

The Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat

April 8, 2019 Comments off

magic deskThe Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat. Pub Olympia Publishers 2018.\

This is the third book from this author, all are reviewed on this blog, and his main obsession is bullying in schools. He has others too and many are found in this recent novel.

Timothy is a WASP (white anglo saxon protestant), he is 12 years old and has just arrived in NZ with his born to rule mother. He looks like a studious boy but at heart is shiftless and lazy, and he is going to have to change.

Timothy is rescued from a beating by bullies by Aroha a Maori girl who fancies him and is the daughter of a reformed Gang leader. Their relationship is at the core of this novel.

Timothy’s mother buys a mahogany “escritoire”, (desk in more common language,) which has a portal into another world. Through traveling via the desk to different historical scenarios including pre European Maori, French revolution and others, Timothy learns that bullying is a human trait that is impossible to extinguish. Humans will take it to the grave.

Lots of race and immigrant talk, some of it will appall you, but mostly it is tongue in cheek and open to further discussion. The novel is well written, lofty writing in parts and the characters do change. Timothy learns that reading and writing are powerful and a petition over enviromental concerns changes everything. His mum will never change.

I laughed all the way through. For intermediate and high school students. Check it out.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

January 7, 2019 Comments off

outsideOutside by Sarah Ann Juckes. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2019.

I have never read a novel like this before and the thoughts I had when reading it, you will have too. Some will be right and some will be wrong but you will be compelled to keep reading and the ending will give you satisfaction.

It is senior fiction and YA and is written in a style that you need to get used to because Ele the main character, a girl in early teens, has had a background that you would wish on nobody. She narrates the story and has been brought up in a room with her brother Zeb and doesn’t know there is an outside.

Something happens to Zeb and alone in the room Ele creates a fantasy world based on a book of nursery stories such as Rapunzel and Jack and the Bean Stalk. Ele makes up a fictional world and fictional characters to explain the world she lives in, that help her survive. But why is she there? Who is the Him that feeds her and visits her from time to time carrying a gun?

Then she escapes and finds Willow and his dad Ezra and the whole mystery unravels.

A gripping read, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. You will ask yourself many questions the most important of which will be ‘how can humans act like this towards each other? To quote from the novel “Truths are like people. They don’t like being shut up tight. They shrivel slowly and then rot with lies….when those truths get out, they get rubbed clean by people. nice people”.

Thank heaven it had a positive ending.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.

August 6, 2018 Comments off

girlGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.

If I had to give advice to a new writer I would say write what you know, write what you have experienced, write honestly about how you feel and write with a purpose.

Kathleen Glasgow has done all of those things in this compelling young adult novel about 17 year old Charlotte (Charlie) Davis. Charlie thinks that nobody normal will love her.

Charlie has had a harrowing life and has NSSI or non suicidal self injuring. Yes she cuts herself on the arms and legs and amazingly feels that she is in control of her body while she is doing this. She keeps a Tender Kit with her at all times – a box that enables her to cut herself and repair herself afterwards.

The book opens in a psychiatric centre for young girls who do the same as Charlie. She doesn’t speak, she has been living on the street and her body has been cut to ribbons. We learn of her journey to this crisis point in her life in part one of this novel and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. Abusive mother, bullying at school, drugs, sleeping rough, brutal men, self loathing, worthlessness and extreme self harm. Yet strong friendship from those around her.

Part 2 of the novel takes Charlie out of her Minnesota environment to Tucson Arizona where she finds work at the bottom of the pile and starts to get herself together again. She is vulnerable, she needs love and attention and she needs a massive break in life.

Can she get it or will her past come back to haunt her? read part 3 and find out.

I loved Charlie to pieces. I didn’t want to stop reading about her. I wanted to care for her and for much of the novel I was totally apprehensive. You will be too.

Beautifully written in short sharp episodes that keep you hanging on. It’s tough and has a powerful message ” sometimes you have to let stuff go if you want to move forward”

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher

June 18, 2018 Comments off

eve of manEve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

This  dystopian fiction young adult novel will blow your mind. Few novels will promote more discussion about life, survival and the human condition than this one.

It is superbly written by two writers who are in total harmony. One narrates through Eve around whom the novel is based with the other taking Bram an 18 year old boy who plays a female character called Holly who is the game breaker in this novel.

No female baby has been born on Earth for more than 50 years. Then comes Eve whose mother allegedly dies in birth and whose father is condemned as mad and hidden away.

Eve grows up in an ivory tower on top of a mountain surrounded by aging mothers, worshiped by the populace who live beneath her and befriended by Holly her constant companion. Those in power see Eve as the saviour of humankind and they are searching for a suitable male companion for her to breed with.

Holly is sixteen, inquisitive and starting to get the stirrings. Holly alias Bram is falling for Eve as a man and when suitor after suitor proves disasterous for Eve, Bram’s feelings for Holly begin to overwhelm him. When Eve finds out that Holly really is Bram she too becomes smitten. Can their love ever be?

The absence of women has turned the male population into heartless beasts. Without women to soften their animal instincts they are lost. Is there hope for humankind. Read it and find out. It is a stunning read and the first of three parts.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr.

December 13, 2016 Comments off

flora-banksThe One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Pub. Penguin Books, 2016.

This superb young adult novel about awakening is one that you will never forget.

The novel begins with a letter to Flora from her mother. It tells Flora she is 17 years old and that when she was ten she had a tumour taken from her brain and with it the memory of everything that has happened since. It also says she has a friend Paige and that she (Flora) will always live with her parents who will care for her and keep her safe.

Is this true?

At a party everything that Flora has known is dramatically changed when Paige’s boyfriend Drake, a total scoundrel, kisses her in a way that she remembers and can never forget. Like Sleeping Beauty she awakens to a confused  life she never knew and with a memory that gives her hope and life.

Flora lives from day to day by writing important things on her arms and in a book, but this is sorely tested when her parents leave  for Paris to look after an older brother that Flora never knew existed.

Flora comes off her medication and embarks on a journey to the North Pole to find the boy who kissed her, in the hope that he will spark further memories. The adventure is stunning and Flora meets some wonderful people during the journey while  discovering everything she has been told is not as it seems. Be Brave Flora.

The best novel I have read this year. Superbly structured in three parts and narrated by Flora in a manner that reflects her medical condition.

The ending is hopeful and tells much about the human condition. Unforgettable and believable. Due for release 3 January 2017

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.

August 4, 2014 Comments off

queen tearlingThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Pub. Random House, 2014.

This novel took me four days to read and I wished it had taken me longer. When it ended I wanted more and fortunately I am going to get it because it is part 1 of a trilogy that i am sure will set the literary world on fire.

It reads like an historical/ adventure /fantasy but I can assure you it has a lot more depth than that.

The setting is The Tearling a new land that has resulted from a cataclysm in the past and has been settled by a utopian group from America in an event known as The Crossing. The Tearling is bounded by Cadare to the south and  the Mordor like Mortmesne to the east. Some past technology has survived but not all, gunpowder for instance is a fringe technology.

The Tearling is ruled by a decadent and corrupt Regent following the murder of the inept Queen Elyssa. Before the queen’s death her daughter was smuggled out to be raised by a couple known as Barty and Carlin. They bring up the very plain girl named Kelsea  in an enlightened yet tough environment.

In the mean time The Tearling has been overrun by the cruel and decadent Red Queen from Mortmesne who has left the Regent in charge. The Regent who is Kelsea’s uncle has hunted widely for her without success and now 19 years later it is time for her return.

On a day known to Barty and Carlin the Queen’s Guard led by hard man Carroll and equally hard man Mace arrive to take Kelsea back to the Capital City New London to claim her throne.

The action starts and it will mesmerise you the reader the way it did me.

Kelsea is a brilliant character. She is straightforward, decisive, tough, human and aware of her destiny and what she must do. As she and her Guard travel though The Tearling she sees the enormity of the task ahead of her but first she must assert herself as Queen and prove her worth to the Guard and to the people.

One of the central themes of this novel is leadership. What does it take to get people to follow you and attract loyalty. Other themes are the gap between rich and poor, corruption, the place of the church and religion and the deviance of human behaviour.

Kelsea and her main man Mace plus a host of astonishingly real characters drive you through this outstanding novel which at times will shock and horrify the reader. But you are on Kelsea’s side all the way.

Senior secondary and young adult. I can’t wait to read the next one.