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Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Tag: Book Review

Some terrible magic this way comes

Advent (Advent Trilogy book one), by James Treadwell

A December night 1537 and a powerful mage boards a ship for England. There is a shipwreck and none survive. What has happened to the box he was carrying? The box with a magic mirror and ring inside?

Present day: Gavin knows he is different. He still has his childhood imaginary friend, Miss Grey for a start and he dreams very strange dreams. His parents don’t like him and when they get the chance to go overseas, they pack him off to his Aunt Gwen who lives outside Truro, on an estate called Pendurra. But his aunt isn’t there to meet his train and she isn’t in her cottage and when a girl with dead eyes bangs on his door at midnight and then shuffles away, Gavin is certain this is not going to be an ordinary holiday! The next day he meets the owner of Pendurra and his daughter. The very same dead looking girl whom he’d seen the night before but now very much alive. Marina and Gavin spend time exploring, finding strange things happening and finally realise that ‘magic is rising…’

~ Raewyn

Raewyn Reviews:

Changeling (Order of Darkness book one), by Philippa Gregory

Luca Vero, the changeling. Or so the people of his village called him, for he was a very brilliant boy and his parents only peasants. The church of 1453 find him, always asking questions and put him to the task of Inquirer into some of the strange happenings the church has become aware of lately. He arrives at an abbey where the nuns are having visions and stigmata are appearing on their hands. All of these things began when the new abbess arrived but is she the evil temptress they think she is? Luca must discover the truth or watch an innocent girl burn at the stake.

Written by the renowned historical author of The Other Boleyn Girl and many other books, this is an easy read with interesting outcomes and images.

~ Raewyn

Braveheart

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein.

“I AM A COWARD,” begins Verity. “I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.”

“Verity” has been captured in a town in France because she looked the wrong way crossing the road, crashing into a truck right outside Gestapo headquarters in 1943. So, she’s not the most talented spy the British have ever seen then, or is she? Tortured by Gestapo Captain von Linden and his underlings, Verity has cracked under the intense pressure, and agreed to give up British war secrets in exchange for her clothes (“The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly jumper are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity”). She tells her story on recipe cards, music scores and doctor’s prescription forms, gradually revealing the truth about herself, the British espionage effort, and her best friend Maddie – who flew her across the Channel to begin her short-lived mission – all the time loathing herself for her cowardice, and being loathed by her fellow prisoners. Her story reaches its stressful conclusion about half way into the novel, and I shall say no more!

Except, Code Name Verity is an awesome World War II espionage novel. “Verity” is a wonderfully unreliable narrator (would you trust a spy?), and her story is of two heroic young women who throw themselves headlong into the war with unexpected and frightening consequences. Bring your hankie, or two.

Elizabeth Wein has said this novel was inspired by her research into female pilots in World War II (as a pilot herself – cool! – she wondered what role she could have played), and you can read about her other literary inspirations for the story in this Book Smugglers post here.

If you’re also interested in reading more about women’s participation in World War II (the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, for example), then here are some titles.

Also, Flygirl by Sherri L Smith is about an African American woman who pretends to be white in order to be accepted into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

~ Grimm

Reader Review by Katie

The Catastrophic History of You and Me, Jess Rothenberg

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning – Welcome to forever! This enchanting story of 16 year-old Brie starts with her dying and being catapulting into the afterlife. This novel is inspirational, heart wrenching, romantic and difficult to put down. Brie is a relatable and charismatic character who is journeying through the 5 stages of acceptance, with a little help from the charming, off- beat, and gorgeous Patrick who is a resident lost soul. With soaring highs and bottomless lows, this story takes you on the roller coaster ride of the afterlife, in novel which is called “gorgeous, funny and heart-breaking” by Lauren Oliver (New York Times best seller, and writer of Before I Fall). The Catastrophic History of You and Me is a novel I highly recommend.

~ Katie, Churton Park

A Disappearance, A Woodpecker and A Missionary

Where Things Come Back, John Corey Whaley

I can’t remember the last time I got so much enjoyment out of a book!

Where Things Come Back is made up of two separate narratives which eventually come together in a way I never expected. The first narrative is that of 17 year old Cullen Witter, whose widely-liked younger brother suddenly disappears. While his brother’s disappearance is in the forefront of his mind, the people of the small town he lives in are obsessed with the alleged sighting of a Lazarus Woodpecker, a bird not seen in the area for more than 50 years. The other narrative follows Benton Sage, a young university student who takes up a position as a missionary in Africa but loses his faith and any sense of meaning in his life along the way. It’s very well written and the multiple storylines are interwoven carefully. One issue I had was the narrative perspective change towards the end which came out of the blue. It took me four pages to click to what was going on before I realised it was something clever. There are a lot of smart, witty and heartfelt observations throughout the book as well as a lot of elements to the story, so I look forward to reading it over again.

I really can’t recommend this book enough!

~ Rachel

An unbecoming review!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

How is it that Mara escaped the totally destroyed building with a sore head and all her friends died? Who bashed in the head of that dog-beating hulk of a man near her school? What strange things are happening to the wildlife in their new home town? So many alligators dead all at once! Could these incidents be related? And why does she have to be attracted to the best looking guy at school who can only mean trouble!

A strange and haunting tale of life with amnesia and self discovery.

~ Raewyn

Reader Review: The Fault in our Stars

We all know the feeling of having very high expectations for something, and then being disappointed with an unfavourable outcome. It seemed quite likely that this would happen with The Fault in Our Stars. I’m a big fan of John Green (whether it be his books, video blogs, or general being), I’d had this book pre-ordered for six months, and I’d listened to the pre-released first and second chapters many times. But, even with my sky-high expectations, this novel exceeded them beyond what I could have imagined.

The Fault in Our Stars is amazing. The blurbs from authors on the back and reviews from critics say much the same thing: That TFiOS is both extremely funny, extremely sad, and extremely thought-provoking. This is so true. The transition between quotes and scenes that have you in stitches, tears, or pondering the meaning of life seem so unexpected, yet never misplaced, and keep the wonderful pacing I’ve always found Green’s books to have.

The two main characters, Hazel and Augustus, are both very witty and very intelligent cancer survivors. Even though their conversations are deliciously interesting and entertaining, it is continually stressed that suffering from cancer does not make them hold all knowledge and the secrets of the universe, a cliche that is far too embraced in the world of ‘cancer stories’. But even with the too-good-to-be-true aspects of their personalities many fictional characters possess, these characters also have flaws and shortcomings that make them real. I felt myself relating to them, even though the only thing I really have in common with Hazel is being a teenage girl.

A great way to sum up my thoughts and feelings on this book is said by Hazel herself:

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all humans read the book.”

In short, I love this book insane amounts and everyone– teens and adults– should read it.

~ Lucy

[If you’ve read something good lately, then tell us about it! It’s easy! Plus we like hearing from you. Ed.]

Best of 2011: Julie’s Picks

2011 is nearly over, so we thought we’d ask some library staff what their favourite books of the year were. Here are the first reviews of an interesting, ecclectic bunch!

Naked, Kevin Brooks

London 1976, during the height of IRA bombings and the emergence of the punk scene, teenagers Lili and Curtis are living their dream by playing in their punk band called ‘Naked’.

William Bonney, a Belfast boy joins the band as guitarist and Lili is immediately drawn to him. She finds herself caught up in his Irish past which inevitably follows him to London. This is a characteristically gripping novel from Kevin Brooks.

Out of Shadows, Jason Wallace

This is the story of Robert Jacklin a thirteen year old boy who arrives from England to Zimbabwe at the end of the civil war – Robert Mugabe has just taken over as president. Robert is sent to a very traditional boy’s boarding school where bullying is rife and he quickly learns that instead of remaining friends with one of the school’s few black students it is in his interests to be loyal to the white elite. Over his five years at the school he turns into a thug’s accessory and chooses to ignore his own morals.

The story turns into a fast paced thriller as Robert’s mentor becomes more and more focused on achieving what he think is right.

Author, Jason Wallace grew up in post revolutionary Zimbabwe so the portrayal of the boarding school and political climate is very real. While in many ways it left me feeling shocked it was a very powerful novel.

~ Julie

Death Bringer

Derek Landy’s next Skulduggery Pleasant book Death Bringer!

It’s wonderful. But I’m not going to say too much in case you are still in the reserve queue for it. And I can see two copies on the Karori reserve shelf from where I’m standing right now, so a couple of people here will be picking up copies very soon… 

My favorite part (okay, there are a few, but this is the one that I’m thinking of right now that I can write down without giving too much away) is when Skulduggery calls Caelan (that vampire that’s following Valkyrie around if you’ve forgotten the name) a “self-pitying Paranormal Romance reject” Oh yeah, guess what book that’s referring to!

There’s a lot going on with everyone, and their evil alter-egos so I didn’t realise until the end that I think a few of the main characters (Tanith for example) were missing in action. So I don’t know what they’ve been up to – I guess we’ll find out next year…

For anyone who hasn’t read Skulduggery Pleasant yet please start here ASAP.

There is also a semi-short story coming that takes place a couple of months after Death Bringer called “The End Of The World” which will be available next year. About 90 pages long, so longer than the other Skulduggery short stories. So much good. Derek Landy’s blog is here.

More post-apocalyptic reading

Another book to add to this list. Blood of the Lamb: The Crossing by Mandy Hager is the first book in a fantastic new trilogy by a NZ author. Set on a pacific island in a post-apocalyptic world, it follows the fates of Maryam, Joseph, Ruth and Lazarus, as they attempt to free themselves from the oppression of the ruling elite who lord over the island’s inhabitants from a rotting cruise ship that became shipwrecked on a reef during the storms that destroyed the rest of the world.

Margaret Mahy liked it and reckons it’s a teen version of George Orwell’s 1984.

The second book in the series Into the Wilderness has also been released and can be grabbed from your local library.

Those of you who are in the know will have already secured a copy of the third book in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as we Knew It series. This World We Live In is on library shelves now.

More world-ending goodness

Phoenix Files

The Phoenix Files by Chris Morphew is another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-is-nigh series that kept me guessing. It’s not your usual armageddon story…

Phoenix is a picture-perfect town in the middle of nowhere built by the Shackleton Co-operative to accommodate its employees. The town is brand new, high-tech and immaculate. It seems all too good to be true…

On the first day of school in Phoenix, Luke, Peter and Jordan are drawn together by a series of strange events. Together they uncover the reason behind Phoenix’s existence.

The countdown has started… There are only 100 days left until the entire human race is destroyed, leaving only Phoenix to survive. Luke and his friends must find out what’s going on and stop them before it’s too late.

The first of The Phoenix Files series ‘Arrival’ is in the library, with the sequel ‘Contact’ arriving in Jan/Feb 2010.

Book Review

Raewyn’s latest book review!

Devil’s Kiss, by Sarwat Chadda – A Knights Templar! Who would have guessed that she could be one of them? Billi had thought it was a wonderful thing to be chosen as one of this elite fighting group when she was only 10 but now at 15 she has bruises everywhere and her Ordeal is to kill a boy of 6! Well actually it is a demon inside the body of a 6 year old boy but you have to be up really close to tell that. Then her friend Kay returns from Jeruselem and she is having to learn a lot more about how much evil there is in the world. When Kay looks into the Cursed Mirror and opens a portal to the other side things start to get weird. But when she is asked out on a date with a handsome young man she starts to think about doing normal things for a change – or is this just the beginning of the end?

Book Review

A book review from Raewyn!

Atherton: The House of Power, by Patrick Carman.

Atherton is a made up world, Edgar. A place created by men at a time when almost every part of the known world was used up. This was the first part of the book that Samuel read to Edgar and the beginning of their fight to help the people of their separate worlds, as they gradually came together. Atherton is made up of three tiers. The Highlands is where the water comes from and is the domain of Lord Phineus who controls all. Tabletop is ruled over by the cruel Mr Ratikan (a pawn of Lord Phineus), hard taskmaster to the people who tend the fig trees, which feed the Highlanders. And far below are the Flatlands, where horrible creatures dwell. What will happen when all the tiers become one? First in this new series by the author of “The Land of Elyon”.