Awatea’s Treasure by Fraser Smith

Mixed feelings about this one. I can absolutely see why there are recommendations by Jack Lasenby and Sam Hunt on the cover, it is the sort of book I can see them really liking. A bit like a yarn told by an older man to his grandchildren. I was not really hooked in the first quarter of the book, it felt like it was tricky to set up the relationships, particularly between Awatea and his uncle Kim, stronger editing would have made the book much better at hooking me (and the kids) in. The dialogue was not quite right but after we get past that, the story moves along and is really great. My concern is that this would be clunky to read aloud, this is disappointing because this is exactly the sort of book which gets read aloud in our school.  It is a relief when the story gets itself sorted and becomes a good read.

The characters of Awatea and his grandparents and the neighbours along the beach are beautifully done. Lots of rich New Zealand country kid stuff to treasure in there, the bush, the beach, the tree hut that needs to be worked on, hidden treasure of a very interesting kind, fish and crayfish to be caught and a parrot for company.

There is a lot to like about the book but a fix up to the opening section would really have helped it.

Here comes a political statement.  New Zealand stories are important.  Our children need to read stories that reflect their lives. This is a good story, but it is set long before any of our current youth were born.  Publishers, you need to sort your shit out and start commissioning some stuff which is like this but which is contemporary.  We have lots of stories of the past for our youth, but we don’t have stories of kids who live now, who go on holiday with their grandparents now, who have experiences like Awatea has but who have them in 2017.  I have to tell you that my kids don’t care what happened in the past.  They want stories of now!  I honestly think we need to move on from stories recommended by elderly men.  I want a story recommended by Julian Dennison.  Or by

Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

world endsAn incredibly moving and gripping book set on the islands off the coast of Scotland in the western most islands of the Outer Hebrides one of the most remote locations you could imagine. The inhabitants eek out a living by hunting on rocky vertical outcrops called Stacs, which are out in the ocean, gathering birds and their eggs and selling them to the owner of the islands and living on only those in teams. Then a boat arrives back and carries the hunters back to their family on the nearly as miserable island, Hirta, where they live with their families. It is grim. They have little to no equipment to use, they have frayed ropes and not enough warm clothing.

This book tells the story of one team of 9 men and 3 boys out harvesting on the Stac in 1727, it is based on a true event and is written beautifully by a fabulous writer who has obviously done her research on the horrific event that occurs in this book. I think it is best not to give a warning of what befalls these poor people, but just to say that they are there a terrifically long and miserable time. This is a rich and sorry tale but completely gripping. I’ll be recommending it all over the place to staff and students.

Talon by Julie Kagawa

talon Hmmmm. I was encouraged to read this by one of the boys at school, he loves this series and for a year has been harassing me to read it, so I’ve just finished it. I can absolutely see why he likes it and I the combination of teenage romance and dragons is a winner. It is pretty predictable but the dragons are described perfectly and I really liked the fighting scenes, but the pining of Ember for the hot boys got a bit wearing. Sometimes it is a bit slow to move along then whoo hoo we are off and it is all action. Overall I found it a mixed bag, but will definitely be encouraging the dragon lovers to have a go at it. And that cover! That is a thing of beauty!

Review: The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake
The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book this, it is a murder mystery set in small town Australia, a town where everyone has secrets and things they need to hide, this includes Gemma Woodstock the lead detective on the case. A teacher at the local high school has been murdered and her body found in the lake. She is someone who was in Gemma’s class at school and there is history between them. While she is working on the case, having an affair with her police partner and raising her small son, Gemma is pretty stretched. Her relationship is crumbling and the pressure of all of the stuff going on for her is taking a toll.

This is a nicely complicated crime novel, Gemma is the kind of troubled detective character that I really like her past informs her present and the alternating chapters between the past and the present tell her back story. Sometimes this can be annoying but I found it nicely . The characters in the town are very realistic and Gemma’s dealings with them all ring true. The suspense builds nicely and the pace picks up as the conclusion draws near. Great book.

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Review: Prick with a Fork

Prick with a Fork
Prick with a Fork by Larissa Dubecki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the title! I have a son who works in hospo and he sometimes tells me stories of the customers and their interesting behaviour, so when I saw this I thought it might be a bit of fun, and it is. This is the story of the behind the scenes doings at restaurants and bars the author has worked in as a waitress. This book is guaranteed to make you think twice before you send your food back! It is entertaining and funny in parts, occasionally the stories fall a bit flat but some of the anecdotes which are interwoven in the stories are pretty hilarious.

I’ve been dipping into this book over the last couple of weeks and it has been a pretty enjoyable experience. This writer can tell a good yarn and you get a good view of the kitchens and behind the bars of a bunch of places, something only the insiders would see normally.

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Review: Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage
Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good fantasy novel. Perfect for anybody who likes their fantasy laced with magic and special skills but also set in a familiar world. This is England but 700 years after the rules changed which meant that unless you have magical skills, you are destined to spend 10 years being a slave to the inaptly named Equals. They have all the power, those without magic have none. England is a brutal place if you are serving your slave days.

This story is told from the point of view of siblings Luke and Abi, each of them serving their slave days in very different ways. Luke at Millmoor the grimy nasty industrial city and the rest of the family at the luxury estate of Kyneston, the seat of one of the most powerful families in the country, the Jardines. The family hate that Luke is separated from them but Luke becomes a vital cog in the resistance machine fighting to change society. He is involved in resistance missions and meets a team of others, as the series goes on I’m sure these people will come into their own. This is magic, political intrigue, family drama and survival novel all in one.

This is a fast moving story, whipping along as it sets you up for an action packed fantasy series. I’m sure that my students will love it. The cover is awesome and definitely influenced my decision to pick up the book.

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Review: Moonrise

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot since I finished it yesterday. The story of Ed and Jo Moon and their family is very moving, well it would be, given Ed is on death row and due to execution in the very near future. Sadly the odds of saving Ed are stacked against him. Even though he didn’t commit the crime that he is accused of and his lawyer is working hard to save him it doesn’t seem like there is going to be a last minute reprieve. This is Joe’s story, the story of how he deals with the horror of the looming death of his brother, how he relives the memories of his childhood with Ed in flashbacks. Joe has always looked up to Ed, the much older brother who was kind to him, a support for him while their mum was being flakey and someone to look up to. Now Joe is all alone in a prison town, he is drawn to be with Ed, he has no money and and he knows nobody in the town. Luckily for him he falls on his feet and even finds a kindred spirit.

This is a wonderful book. A book that will stay with you and haunt you, it will make you consider the impact of the death sentence on those left behind. Those who physically put the person to death and all the people on the periphery. Sarah Crossan is a wonderful writer, the prose style makes this very easy to read and the language is perfect. An excellent book.

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