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.


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