Friday, August 30, 2013

Wizardry from a Local Author

Azrael's Twins: Book One of the Nearworld TalesAzrael's Twins: Book One of the Nearworld Tales by V J Mortimer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a rather delightful book, the story of two siblings - a brother and sister (not twins, as the title had lead me to previously believe) who live in our world, but one day they follow some squirrels and meet a phoenix. From that point on, their lives will never be the same again, as they are whisked away into a fantastical world, the world from which their parents originated, and begin to learn the craft of magic - and many other things besides.

It is impossible to read this book without drawing mental comparisons to the adventures of a certain boy wizard - with the wands and the broomsticks and magical castles in which places switch and shift - but there is enough originality here too, this is not merely a Harry Potter clone but a fun and engaging novel in its own right.

In terms of editing, it's pretty good, with no spellling mistakes noted thus fun! However, I did find a few missing closing " on dialogue (and one opening), and also - no final fullstop! - overall, pretty good for a self-published novel. It also may seem rather long - at over 160,000 words, but it moves at a rollicking pace and I finished it within only a few days.

An enjoyable read for the middle-school age group (9-13) and those of us who are young at heart.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Paranormal Fantasy from the Pacific

When Water Burns (Telesa, #2)When Water Burns by Lani Wendt Young

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This follow-up to "The Covenant Keeper" is as least, if not more, engrossing at its predecessor. Leila returns to Samoa, this time a stronger, more mature and more independent woman than the one who first made the journey to the island shores. However, she is still her hot-tempered, stubborn self and still flares up at the least provacation (although not it is more emotionally, rather than literally). The courtship between her and Daniel continues to be sweet, even if he can be a brick-headed chunk hunk at times. Simone comes more to the front in this novel, taking the role of "flamboyant best friend". However, aside from these formulaic moves, the plot has a freshness absent in many teen paranormal-style novels, the folklore behind the Telesa and their convenants is more fully explained, and the delightfully lyrical nature of the writing immerses one fully in the humidity of tropical Samoa.

I look forward to reading the final volume!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Should be Compulsory Reading!

Dear VincentDear Vincent by Mandy Hager

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an extraordinary and very moving book. At times I was almost reduced to tears, other times my heart swelled with the imagery. Sometimes I felt a little ill, sickened and saddened, and wanted to slap Tara and/or her mother and tell them to take a deep breath and approach the situation like adults. But oh, the sheer stubborness of the two female leads! Their emotions as sharp and fragile as a razor's edge.

This is a story of secrets and lies, of loss and loneliness. A story of art, and memories and pain unresolved. All of the main players are damaged in some sort of way - Tara's situation seems bleak and depressing - her father is incapable, almost comatose, thanks to two severe strokes he has suffered; her relationship with her mother is a bitter and shattered thing, with the two barely rubbing shoulders but still finding time to argue. It is a situation made all the worse when Tara learns how her older sister, Vanessa, really died - and it wasn't in a car crash. Slowly the threads of her life begin to crumble around her, as the shadows loom in. But luckily there is a ray of light from the shadows - first coming in the form of Max, an elderly gentleman residing in the Old Folks' home where Tara works - he has lived through pain and suffering too, being born in Austria before World War II, and of Jewish heritage.

Tara is not the most admirable of heroines, she makes plenty of mistakes, biting when she should be restraining herself and pushing people away from her, but this just expands her personality, and adds a real flavour to the plot.

Overall, this is a powerful story telling a powerful message and it should be read by any teenager that is feeling a little melancholic, a bit nihilistic because there is one thing that is definitely not the answer.

I would recommend this to fans of John Green. The themes are similar (teenage drama, handled maturely but with a dash of humour) and the writing precise and poignant. Probably best for ages 14+. And Mandy Hagar - you've won my vote in next year's NZ Children's Post Book Awards (and this had better jolly well make the shortlist).

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