This is Swedish noir for young adults, a murder mystery, and a coming of age story all in one. Our heroine is 16 years old, living in a rough and tough rural Swedish community, where moonshining and being on the wrong side of the law is not uncommon.
The book opens with the police knocking on the front door, searching for Vega’s older brother, Jakob, in connection with the afore mentioned murder. Vega sets out to find Jakob before the police do, amongst people and haunts she should best avoid. Meanwhile, she’s also sorting out her sexual attraction to two young men.
Vega is a bold and resilient heroine, who sets out to unflinchingly confront the dangers in her path. The wintery bleak Swedish setting and the build-up in atmospheric tension is brilliantly done.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It felt very real, and I would recommend it for year 10 upwards.
A novel set in Paris – what could be better?
Add to the mix three interesting women and a middle aged intellectual, who can’t seem to sort out his love life. In the midst of one of these relationships a priceless painting, purportedly by Cezanne, goes missing. Who is the thief? What will they do with the painting?
I didn’t warm completely to Max and his ‘dithering’, and as a father of two young children, he seemed to spend remarkably little time with them, however, the pleasure in C.K. Stead’s depictions of daily life in Paris and the witty glimpses of urbane intellectual life, carried me through. I ended up enjoying this novel as much as any of Stead’s recent fiction, (which is to say, I did enjoy it very much.)
Stead analyses French-ness, and what it feels like to be a New Zealander living in modern-day Europe; tackles themes of love, fidelity, current world events, and ‘the importance of books’, all, superbly well.
I recommend this one to staff, or senior students, who love great writing.
Manhattan Beach opens in 1934, Depression era New York, and introduces the three main characters in the first chapter; Anna Kerrigan, her desperate father, Eddie Kerrigan, and the enigmatic Dexter Styles, nightclub owner, and something darker besides. The action is focused on the New York waterfront, with union men, gangsters, corruption, and our heroine’s struggles to become the first female diver in the Brooklyn Naval Yard.
We first meet Anna as a young girl, on an outing with her father, his first crucial encounter with Dexter Styles, a man of charm, money and influence. Years later, her father has mysteriously disappeared, the country is at war, and Anna is successfully pursuing her career as a diver. One evening at a nightclub, she recognises Dexter Styles and is drawn to him, as a possible link to her father. The action really picks up from this point and the book becomes hard to put down.
There’s mystery, fearless women’s lib action, adventure, romance, history, and engaging characters in this story. It’s engrossing, and indeed, a magnificent novel.
It comes highly recommended as a senior read. Year 11 upwards.
Marian Keyes long awaited latest is brilliant. It speaks to women of a certain age. All the recognisable yearnings, frustrations and dissatisfactions, of women over the age of forty, are hilariously portrayed in this wonderful page-turner of a novel. What will happen next, when out of the blue, Amy’s husband, Hugh, announces he’s heading overseas, for a six month “break”, from their ostensibly happy marriage?
The reader shouts out for Amy, as she copes with the aftermath of this devastating announcement. She’s the mother of three fabulous daughters, a frantically busy career woman, (with a set of attractive and interesting male work colleagues); the daughter of slightly mad parents, and she belongs to a sisterhood of friends, who can’t deal with the way she reacts to Hugh’s departure.
You empathise with Amy, as she begins to realise, she just might have had something to do with Hugh’s midlife crisis.
This book is perfect for a long weekend, or the holidays. It’s funny, uplifting, and true.
This has to be the most inspiring and lovely book I have read in a long time. James Aldred makes a living out of climbing trees as a wildlife cameraman and works for big names such as the BBC and National Geographic.
His passion for trees and the natural world was evident from a very young age and he honed his climbing skills as a child growing up in the New Forest in southern England.
Since then, he has climbed trees all over the world and he takes us through some of his most memorable experiences. With him, we enjoy a magical encounter with an orangutan mother and baby high in the canopy in Borneo, climb giant Brazil nut trees in the Amazon and learn about their incredible life cycle, sleep with gorillas in the Congo and build a tree house in Papua New Guinea at the very top of an enormous ironwood. It’s a tough life and he has had many near scrapes. A vicious honey bee attack in Africa left him in anaphylactic shock while despite the police riot gear he wore to place a webcam near a harpy eagle nest in Venezuela he still received huge scratches from the five inch talons of the protective mother. Enormous spiders, numerous snakes, skin-burrowing maggots and every insect imaginable all make an appearance, along with a huge and furious bull elephant which resented the invasion of his territory.
James firmly believes that each tree has its own personality, most benign but some not so. Throughout his life a huge sequoia in the New Forest which he names Goliath has been his constant and he returns regularly to climb it and recalibrate. His other favourite trees are the endangered cedars in the high snow-covered Atlas Mountains in Morocco around which the now extinct Barbary lions which used to roam. Again, he returns to them as often as he can.
This book is an absolute joy to read and the author is a brilliant advocate for trees and the world’s remaining rainforests. He puts his views across with gentle humour and modesty and his passion and admiration for trees shines through with great intensity. Ultimately optimistic, I hope it will be read and enjoyed by many.
One of my favourite genres, crime, murder mystery; this novel stands out.
The story’s set in a typical, small, Australian country town, somewhere between Melbourne and Sydney, and begins with the discovery of a young woman’s mutilated body. That woman’s sister, the town barmaid, is the main narrator. Chris, of the local pub, is a tough character, who has graduated from the school of hard knocks, but remains warm and generous. The extreme violence of her sister Bella’s death, and the puzzle of who and why, is at the heart of the book, combined with the author’s astute observations on sex and our misogynistic contemporary society. There’s a heavy irony in the title “an isolated incident” and along with Chris’s grief is the intrusion of the media interest, and a particularly determined reporter. Everything about this novel rings true. It’s a story that sticks in your mind long after you’ve finished it. It’s well written, with great characters and superb psychological tension.
I loved every page, it’s fantastic.
Recommended for older readers.
This book is fantastic, but definitely a staff read, as the violence, brutality, and general vileness of one of the main characters, would put most young people off. However, the story is action packed, the setting is interestingly unusual, a whaling boat in the Arctic Circle, and the ending is totally unpredictable.
The main character is a disgraced surgeon who has limited options for employment so embarks on this ill-fated voyage, which culminates in a desperate fight for survival in the Arctic wilderness. Sumner the surgeon becomes the nemesis of Henry Drax, a harpooner on the Volunteer, who is the embodiment of pure evil.
This is an utterly convincing historical page turner and I encourage you to read on beyond the horrors of the first chapter. It’s brilliant!
Having read a number of war books recently I didn’t really feel ready for another one. However, when Salt to the Sea won this year’s Carnegie Medal and encouraged by the swathe of glowing reviews I wanted to read it for myself and I’m so glad I did.
It tells the devastating story of four young people in the last days of WW2. Each of them is from a different European country and has suffered during the long years of war. Joana, Florian and Emilia are amongst hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing under desperate circumstances of fear, cold, hunger and danger to the port of Gotenhafen on the Baltic Sea. From here Germany has launched a massive naval evacuation of those trapped by the advancing Red Army. These three travel together and encounter Alfred, the fourth narrator, once they reach the port.
The Wilhelm Gustloff was loaded to the gunnels with refugees and left Gotenhafen at the end of January 1945. Several hours after leaving port, it was hit by torpedoes launched by a Russian submarine. It sunk in just an hour and nine thousand lives were lost, more than half of them children. This is the worst naval tragedy in history, but with the Reich in its death throes, this tragic event wasn’t broadcast at the time. To this day, many of us haven’t heard of it.
Boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff was the last hope for those people trapped by the Russians, including our group. While we know the terrible event Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred will have to face, we don’t know how it will turn out for them and the suspense is sometimes too much to bear.
You can tell this book has been very well researched and it’s written with enormous skill. The short chapters make it a page-turner and through incredible characterisation, we are able to feel for those who were there living through this terrible event in history. It’s a story you won’t ever forget.
I love stories set in other parts of the world and this thought-provoking adventure set in Tibet was a pleasure to read. In fact I enjoyed it so much I read it a second time!
It tells of two children, Tash and Sam, who live with their families in a small village in Tibet. Their lives aren’t easy with the constant presence of soldiers keeping a lookout for supporters of the Dalai Lama and the old ways before the Chinese took over Tibet.
Inevitably, the authorities catch up with Tash’s father for his involvement with the resistance and one night her parents are arrested. Tash decides the only thing to do is to find the Dalai Lama and ask for his help.
So, with her friend Sam and two wonderful yaks called Eve and Bones, they embark on a perilous journey across the Himalayas, encountering hunger and cold, snipers, exhaustion and fear along the way. The Dalai Lama lives on the far side of the Himalayas in Darjeeling and they have to reach him before winter sets in.
The characters are well drawn and getting to know the two yaks is a wonderful bonus! Apart from being an exciting story, it also highlights the plight of the Tibetan people and their strong desire to have their country back. The book itself is beautiful to hold and look at, with its stunning cover and delicate mandala-style spreads for each new chapter.
Do try it - you won’t be disappointed.
This dystopian fantasy will appeal to those who like a cinematic quality to their reading and enjoy a storyline which involves lots of monster vs human fights. I found the main female character, Kate Harker, very hard to empathise with, at first, as she’s not a very nice person! It becomes obvious that this is precisely the point. She is a bit of a human monster, taking after her father in spirit. Then we meet the male hero, August Flynn, who is a real monster, but doesn’t want to be.
Like the Montagues and the Capulets, Kate and August are definitely not destined to be together, as their families rule rival factions of a hellish world, held precariously at peace.
When the truce is broken, Kate and August are thrown together, and violent battles are waged between monster and human.
It’s an exciting read, if you enjoy this type of fantasy, and there will probably be a sequel to this novel, as August Flynn is immensely appealing.
I would recommend it to Year 9’s upward, and to anyone who has a fondness for Twilight-type monster battles.
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