Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

Depressive werewolf girl is hunted by her own family. She has nowhere to go, and no life until she is rescued by two extraordinary humans who find themselves caught in the middle of two power struggles: one centred on a rather crazy clothing-obsessed elemental; and the other, a bid for the werewolf leadership -- a struggle in which the Werewolf girl's dead body would be a very powerful bargaining chip.

I'm so deeply divided about this book. The prose is stultifying, it's almost like eating baby food that's been chopped down until it's so soft all the texture is missing. But even so, and this is where the deeply divided comes in -- this baby food has kick. There's wit and charm, and the odd glimpse of three dimensions in amongst the cut-out two dimensional characters. Even better, against the odds, the apparently rambling plot of feud and counter-feud comes together to a relatively satisfying conclusion, so in the end all I can say is people like this book. They do. My copy went flying across the floor more than once, but I still made it to the end, which is more than I can say about quite a few books lately.
It's the sort of story that can make a so-so author into a name, not because it's brilliant, but because it has the things that teenagers are looking for in a story, sex, drugs, depression, rock and roll, and originality. It's not preachy. It doesn't glamorise, it just gets on with the plot as two -- no three -- very different worlds collide. I'll never love this book, for me it was twilight all over again, maybe edgier, more exciting, and far less sentimental, but still pulp -- a fact proudly proclaimed by the cover as it declares the author has invented a new genre; "pulp fantasy noir."

Review:  Alicia Ponder

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Phoenix Files -- Arrival by Chris Morphew

Review by Alicia Ponder

There are one hundred days until the end of the world...

A crazy man, three friends thrown together in a strange town in the middle of nowhere, and a deadline -- this book is adventure through and through.  It's an easy read that's fun, fast paced, and very up to date on modern families, school and adventure -- and of course if you like it there's a whole series.  
(From one of the authors of  Zac Powers -- Volcanic Panic and apparently eleven others, this is a couple of steps up in terms of age and difficulty, but the author's experience shines out in this story in terms of pace and action.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Gathering Storm, Book 12 in the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series by Brandon Sanderson

Death is merely an inconvenience for Robert Jordan, as his long running series The Wheel of Time continues to turn.

It is in fact (thankfully) turning a little faster now. Under the hands of Robert Jordan, the Wheel of Time was becoming little more than a cash cow. Nothing happened, and then still less happened, while the most powerful women tugged at braids like nine-year olds - and had nothing better to do than sit through endless meetings and choose which clothes to wear. NO MORE.

Brandon Sanderson has injected new life into the characters, sped up the plot, and rekindled the flame of the first few books of this series. The threads are now finally coming together as the different factions battle it out for supremacy while a still greater evil threatens to wipe them all out of existence - forever. So yes, this book is worth reading - the only thing that's vaguely frustrating is this is BOOK 12 - and I can't help but think, are we there yet?

Two more to go.

I can't wait.

LINKS  (useful for abridged plots)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nightlight, by The Harvard Lampoon

Reviewed by Amelia Sirvid

Nightlight is a hilarious take on the first book in the Twilight saga, Twilight.

It's about Belle Goose, a teenage girl who moves from Phoenix to Switchblade, Origin -- a tiny town not on most maps. There she meets Edwart Mullen, a hot (in her opinion) computer nerd, with no interest in girls.

This book is recommended to anyone who has read Twilight

8 ½ /10

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"And Another Thing..." by Eoin Colfer from the Douglas Adam's Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy -- universe

Part 6 of the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy is one of the more controversial books to come out this year - all the hard-core Douglas Adams fans were out asking the hard questions before it was even released, like; "is it as good as the original?" "Is it funny?" But most of all, "how dare this upstart take the place of our beloved demigod and creator of the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything?"

Fortunately the answers to the fan's questions don’t require a computer the size of a planet. In terms of readability "And another Thing" is somewhere between the good hitchhiker's books and the crappy hitchhiker's books, with a smattering of fantasy, and good eye to adventure -- which admittedly takes a while coming but is well worth the wait.

In some ways "And another thing" is fresher with more of a story feel, and I liked that a lot, but I thought the humour was also cruder and less godlike and so I liked it less.

And finally, I'm not exactly sure how Eion Colfer had the balls to take on this project knowing full well that he'd be caught in the crossfire of the purists and all the infidel who remain blissfully ignorant of the significance of the number 42. Was it money? Probably. The fun of playing with gods? Well he certainly took that opportunity in both hands. Maybe we do need a computer the size of a planet to answer that question after all.

In the end though, the only real question worth asking is -- is this new instalment of the Hitchhikers guide worth reading, and, yes, I think it is, so don't be shy -- give it a burl -- even if it's only so you can complain about how Eion Colfer should have done everything differently, which is admittedly, rather fun.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Twilight Review - Reviewed by Cassie Brown , Australia

Genre: Romance , Fantasy

Author: Stephanie Meyer

Twilight is a romantic story about a high school romance….but different. This book is a sure hit with female teens and even some adults.

Twilight is about a girl named Bella Swan, when her Mother has to go away with her stepfather, she has to move in with her father in a small town named Forks. When Bella moves to Forks she meets old friends, and makes new ones. But she is completely mystified with one person… Edward Cullen, she cant keep her eyes off him, but soon she realises that he has a secret…..

I love Twilight and its series. They just keep you captivated so you just want to keep turning every page to see what happens next! I loved it so much I read it every night just waiting until I could read new moon (the next volume in the series) to see what happens! It’s like the most unlikely fairy tale! The clumsy awkward girl falls for the bad guy!!!

I recommended Twilight for young female teens an onwards. Although I recommended twilight for girls some boys may also enjoy this book too.

Thanks Cassie for your great review!
Older readers might also enjoy the Host by Stephanie Meyers

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson

Jack is the chosen one, only with his help can the city of London be turned to gold -- so Jack is kidnapped by an alchemist determined to do just that.

There's kind of off the wall charm and a simplicity that gives this book a fairy tale feel - not to mention all the crazy fantastical beings, a dragon, a knight in shining armour, several orphans, and of course the heroine of Tanglewreck brought back in time especially. All of which makes this a must read for all those who enjoyed Tanglewreck - for although it's not really a sequel it does feel like one.

"'there is a battle,' he said, 'a battle for the sun..."

And there is...

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

"A must read" - Richard Ponder

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's nest is a bloody good aeroplane read, it's got suspense, drama, great characters, it's well written and can be read by literary as well as crime buffs. A great final book for the series that started so well with "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Photo's from the Fifi Coulston's workshop.

Everyone had a blast creating characters from a picture of a skull, and adding everything from noses to names to secrets.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beside the Dark Pool by Dame Fiona Kidman

Review by Alicia Ponder.

Yes, I know, I usually leave these reviews to the people who know something about "serious" genres. But Fiona is such an icon, and as I have rather enjoyed her latest offerings I thought, why not? I mean I rather intended to get around to it some time ago, but sometimes life gets in the way and books get piled behind other books - but now I've finally done it and I'm pleased I did.

Then, because I know so little, I peeked at the other reviews. And I agreed with them, yes she's a fantastic author, and yes it's a very long list of books, yes it was a great historical encapsulation of the springbok tour and of writing events in the last twenty years, and finally yes it was written with clarity, humility and style.

But what I took away from it, as an ex-NaeNae College student was completely different. Forget the overbearing honesty, it's overrated, I agreed with Fiona's sentiment that fiction can be more can be more truthful than non-fiction -- what I saw was her caring, and her willingness to stand up for other people, especially writers, but this was made to seem inconsequential (although I'm sure it was not) compared to her husband Ian. Fiona shows that Ian is not just any man, he is a man who is prepared to give his time, and even put his body on the line for other people. His tough and almost lawless childhood is well worth reading about - and then at the last gasp he decides to educate himself, and takes himself on the path that would lead him to NaeNae College and refugees and the clash with police during the infamous Springbok Tour.

Yes, everyone who is interested in New Zealand writing, or Fiona Kidman will want to read this book, and I certainly count myself in that category, but I think a few ex-NaeNae College students will also want a read, maybe flicking through all the writery bits and getting to the bits starring Ian, just to see what he was up to as well.

Raven: Blood Eye by Gile Kristian

Review by Alicia Ponder

A boy with a blood eye is taken by a band of Vikings...

A typical Viking adventure (not for children) where swords rule and mischeif and mayhem abound. There's plenty of action. Lots of plundering and looting, rapine (nothing graphic), murder.... You know that kind of thing. Yes on many levels its improbable and absurd but the readership doesn't care, it's adventure, treachery, and Norse heroism all the way.

Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle

Review by Alicia Ponder

Toby at 1.5 mm Tall, is certainly the smallest little person I've met since the Who's of Whoville, and that being the case the story has an originaility about it. Desperate to save his parents, Toby must escape from the people who are now running his home, or what he sees as the whole world -- the tree on which he lives. Throughout the book we find out that the meanies who are chasing him are also destroying the tree and want an invention that Toby's father so that they can destroy it faster. On the journey of discovery there are chases and escapes, treachery, a little holding hands, and plenty of opportunity to find out about the dangerous creatures of Toby's world.
The natural tendency with a fantasy story about "little people" is to think that it is for a quite young readership, as in the borrowers, but although this story's language isn't overly complicated, the timeline does jump around somewhat, and the content at times is also for maybe ten, eleven plus. The story has won awards - but not that I'm aware of in the English language version and that seems fair enough, it is however a fun and challenging read with an environmental message that never becomes overbearing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dark Fire by Chris D'Lacey

Review by Alicia Ponder

David Rain is back, the dragons are stirring, but with hope also comes risk, the risk of a darkling. Lucy finds herself trying to save a dragon, and simply stay alive

Unfortunately somewhere in the journey from that enchanting instant classic, "the Fire within," Chris D'Lacey seems to have lost the easy charm and magical wonder that so characterises his first book. Fortunately though, buried in this book are inklings of what series could have been, before it was hopelessly overblown. I certainly enjoyed it far more than a couple of the previous installments, less mucking around with polar bears, and more action invlovling the main characters, although I still want the simple charm back, perhaps that is because I haven't grown up in the same way that much of the readership of this series has, with the constant expectation of more excitement and more dragons, Chris d'Lacey certainly doesn't disappoint there.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Lavinia, a nobody character in the Aeneid takes centre stage as the heroine. A love story. A story of passion and death. This is a poetic romance with the format of a novel, a serenade of the poet Vigil and a celebration of the strength of the female spirit.

Never mind that I found my usual easy-going suspension of disbelief to be impossible; it is hard to keep up such fakeries when the truth is woven into the story itself, as implacable and inescapable as the prophecies of the poet himself. For Livinia knows -- as do her readers -- that the man she is waiting for will die, that she will spark a bitter war, and that if she does not follow this destiny then her life, and the life of her people will be for nothing.

An intriguingly subtle interweaving of Ursula Le Guin's skill both as a fantasist and as a literary writer.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Hollow Tree by Jacob G. Rosenberg

Set in Nazi Germany, a scholar and his family refuse to see that their life is about to be torn apart...

A heartbreaking story of intolerance and love, of bravery and brutality. The simple prose and clean writing are almost as heartbreaking as the story of lovers parted.

A pleasure to read.

Review by Alicia Ponder

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Deborah Beale and Tad Williams

Ordinary farm is about as far away from ordinary as you can get. There are no hay rides, no fluffy lambs, no signs of farming at all - even the people are strange. It's much more fun than the Tyler and his sister ever expected when their mother insisted they go - and far more dangerous. Will they get out of it alive? And if they do - will their uncle ever allow them to come back again?

The biggest fault with "The Dragons of Ordinary Farm" is that it seemed to try too hard. There's so much crazy packed into the pages so that I found myself being sidetracked. Still it's written with such a good understanding of mothers, children, and modern life - and of course, adventure - that it's easy to recommend this book as a great read and fully deserving of its current five star Amazon rating

Review by Alicia Ponder

Monday, July 20, 2009

Johannes Cabal - The Necromancer, by Jonathan L. Howard

Necromancer, Johannes Cabal, needs his soul back. Problem is, he's dealing with the devil, and the devil wont be satisfied without at least a hundred more souls to take its place. Armed with a carnival, and a conscience that he could do without, Johannes has to collect the deeds to those hundred souls -- and beat the devil at his own game.

This book is being widely recommended on the coat-tails of Tim Burton and Terry Pratchett, and stylistically this is pretty much on the button. The story does however contain more adult content, and so is more appropriate for the older teen/adult crossover market. Otherwise anyone who enjoys a good story with plenty of off-beat humour will love this book - I did, so did others in my family -- it's already being farmed out to more people. So why don't you hop on a wagon and see where the Johannes Cabal's carnival is headed - just be careful not to sign up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

"Luca Campelli's wish to die surrounded by his beloved books came true..."

After Luca Campelli's untimely death, his bookshop is inherited by his estranged son, Jon. Jon is a top notch lawyer with the gift of the gab, and hardly knows what to do with his inheritance -- he isn't even sure he wants it -- until he's pressured to sell it. That's when Jon finds out that the friendly little bookshop is no safe refuge, indeed it has it's own shadowy secrets...

I did enjoy this book on the whole, but I do have one warning, and that is that although the first chapter is unforgettably brilliant, it takes a while for the rest of the book to live up to that promise. Indeed, it was only as I was about to give it up, that the plot coalesced, and the story emerged into an absorbing (if far-fetched) adventure revolving around those most revered and mysterious objects -- books.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturdays exhibition opening with Fiona Kidman was lovely. I know I'll treasure my signed copy of this fantastic book.
Please check out the link if you wish to see a review for this second part of her celebrated memoir.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith

Review by Alicia Ponder

There's something wrong about this book. There's no denying the idea's a little sick, but then every Zombie story ever written is a little sick. Nor is there much denying that the book struggles to have a plot, but that never stopped the original from being a classic. So the thing that's screamingly, horribly wrong is only that somebody dared put the two together. It's just wrong on a gut level -- and that's the exact reason I had to read it, and probably why I kind of enjoyed it -- but I wouldn't rave.

Yes, there are moments of brilliance, but there are also moments of drear drudgery. Whole sections where a stray Zombie or two -- just to put one or two of the characters out of their misery (and consequently out of our own) would have been heaven-sent. Whatever point Jane Austin may have been trying to prove about how shallow it is to be only interested in men and fripperies, did she have to make it so well that even the zombies Seth Grahame-Smith injected into the script, seemed more full of character than the majority of the heroine's family?

So is it worth reading? Yes, in the end, why not? It is a bit of culture -- and there's the added bonus that the character you dislike the most may yet succumb to those dreadful zombies..

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nina of the Dark by Ken Catran

Children's Fantasy approx 9-12

Nina is raised as a slave, but her special abilities mean that she is the only person capable of saving the world.

Yes, as you can probably tell by the opening paragraph -- this book is full of thinly disguised cliché fantasy stereotypes, so if that's what you're after, you'll probably love it. I didn't, and unusually it wasn't the writing that put me off -- it was the characters. Not only were they shallow, but they acted like puppets to be directed by nothing more than the plot, and often heavily directed by author devices like "the balance of the world," and the completely new "thumb hurting."

The action is episodic, a little bit like a random Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Now, that's not entirely a bad thing, and the action was mostly fun, except when, for no reason at all, important fight scenes are skipped and then revisited in retrospect. And the reason for this seemed to be that the book wasn't written around the action, so much as things being explained to Nina. Those one-way dialogues are the big turning points of the story. This having stuff explained, and having objects and events fall into Nina's lap in my view are plot flaws, and trumpeting them undermines her character, the decisions she makes, and how she fights for them. If only more emphasis had been put on those moments, instead of the jiggery-pokery behind the scenes stuff, the story might have worked.

My overall impression was simply that the author did not have respect for his audience, and if that is the case, I suggest he turns his very able pen toward the adult market.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Very Very Late Rona Gallery Awards for 2008

Children's Awards

Best Children's Book:

Verdigris Deep by Francis Hardinge - Macmillan Children's Books

Simply the most satisfying, well written book I think I've ever read.

The children's children award for best children's adventure: The Roar by Emma Clayton - The Chicken House

The Roar is nothing more than an aeroplane read for children nevertheless it was the fastest devoured children's book I know of - with five readers finishing the book in as many days.

Crossover Book Awards

Best Adult Teen Crossover: The Nostradamus Prophecy by Theresa Breslin --Doubleday

Best Book for Adults Disguised as a Book for Children: The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E L. Koningsburg - Ginee Seo Books

Adult's Book Awards

And the winner is...
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - The Dial Press

I can't count the number of people who raved about this book. Absolutely delightful, you'll wish it would never end.

Best Produced book : CK Stead Collected Poems - Auckland University Press

Best Non fiction - Outliers: the story of success
by Malcom G
ladwell -Penguin.

Best Aeroplane Read, sheer fast-paced, leave your brain at the door fun:
A Prisoner of Birth by Jefrey Archer - St. Martin's Press

The Reformed Vampire's Support Club by Catherine Jinks

The perfect antidote to Twilight, funny, undeniably original, and there's a plot!

So you think being a Vampire is cool? Think again. Nina has been cooped up in her room, barely able to go out -- except to her vampire support group.
When one of her fellow vampires is killed they are all terrified a mis-informed vampire-killer is on the loose. Something has to be done - but it means risking everything. And it's dangerous, just think about it, for a vampire sunlight is deadly!

Catherine Jinks is always a great read, so there were a few arguments about who would read this book first -- and second -- and third...

Review by Alicia Ponder

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nation by Terry Pratchett

What? not Discworld??

Surely we cant be in the real world? It's too funny, but what exactly am I reading?

According to the author, Nation is set in -- "a world that's remarkably similar to earth." But not Earth. At least not Earth as we know it. Must be some parallel universe where there are pirates and pistols and parrots. A universe where the world is funny and fresh and dangerous. A universe where the sweetness isn't Hollywood and the lessons-- or more accurately -- the really cool stuff, isn't preached, but folds its way into the story like chocolate chips into cookies.

It's just a shame that it takes so long for the plot to really get kicking. Apart from a tsunami and the culture clash of Mau and Ermintrude (Daphne), all the real action seems to kick off about half way through, when the "Nation" our characters have built must stand or fall, not only on their actions, but on their wits.
A great story, in many places this is being touted as his best yet.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Thursday, April 16, 2009

City Of Glass - Cassandra Claire

City of Glass is the third instalment from the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series. The two prequels City of Bones and City of Ashes build up to a dramatic finish in the third book.
Clary, the stubborn redhead is determined to make her way to Alicante, the City of Glass, believing the answers to all her problems lie there. But when Jace sneaks behind her back in an attempt to protect her, Simon, the new vampire, is dragged unwillingly into the melee. Using her new found powers Clary makes her way to the far outskirts of the City of Glass, but at a price.
Clary, Jace and Simon struggle with their feelings for another and with themselves, is everything really as it seems?
As more of the Shadowhunter history is uncovered, the closer they become to destroying Valentine, but will they really do it?
A full-on fast paced book from modern fantasy writer Cassandra Clare, City of Glass leaves you breathless, twisting and turning through the streets of Alicante. Dangerous new characters, thrilling new powers, and a scandalous history; City of Glass is an exceptional addition to the Mortal Instruments series.

(It is recommended to read the first two books first)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The list of books nominated so far....

We're still making our final decisions, and wondering if we've forgotten something -- so feel free to e-mail us if you feel we've forgotten about your favourite book!


Best Produced book :

CK Stead Collected Poems -- Auckland University Press (2008)

Best Book Non fiction - Encyclopaedia of Bob Dylan (2006 - not eligible) Continuum
Outliers: the story of success by Malcom Gladwell. Penguin.

A Writer's Tale - Dr Who (2008) BBC books


The Roar , Emma Clayton (2008) The Chicken House

Verdigris Deep pub - Macmillan Children's Books (May 4, 2007)

Juno of Taris - Fleur Beale 1/7/08 Random House

The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman - Sept 30 2008 Harpercollins

Best Adults Book Disguised as a Book for Children

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World - E L. Koningsburg - Ginee Seo Books (September 25, 2007)

The 10 Pm Question by Kate De Goldi , Longacre Press 09/08
Then - Gleisman

A small free kiss in the dark - Glenda Millard

Best Adult Teen Crossover

The Nostradamus Prophecy by Theresa Breslin -- Doubleday (1 May 2008)

Best Adult -- The Other Hand by Chris Cleave - Sceptre (7 Aug 2008)
The Guernsey Potato pie society - The Dial Press (July 29, 2008)


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