Monday, February 28, 2011

NZ Book Month mini-challenge

The Kiwi YA challenge here: is still running for the length of 2011, and sign-ups are open all year round.

For those of you, though, for whom a year  is a long time, I'm re-running the NZ Book Month mini-challenge that I ran in 2009. It's exactly the same, so I'm linking back to that post: it's more open, in that it includes Kiwi-made movies and music. Please to be ignoring the "October" as NZ Book Month was rescheduled to March.

Go forth. Celebrate the awesomeness that is Kiwi literature. Let me know how you get on in the comments, or on twitter: OR

Let me get you started with a Kiwi video:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Changeover: review

Laura Chant is a relatively ordinary 14 year old girl, living in a quiet suburb of Christchurch, going to school, and negotiating life with her mother and little brother.

Only Laura’s not quite as ordinary as most girls her age. She has premonitions occasionally – flashes of insights about impending disasters. They’re rare, and Laura can never pinpoint exactly what’s going to go wrong, so when she gets a strong premonition one morning and tells her mother, her fears are dismissed.

Laura can’t put her finger on why she’s experiencing such a heavy feeling of dread, but she knows something bad is going to happen.

The new senior at school -  Sorenson “Sorry” Carlisle is an enigma to everyone, but Laura’s convinced he’s a witch – he’s never said as much, but Laura feels like it’s just something she knows about him.  

When Laura’s little brother Jacko has a more than unsettling encounter with mysterious Carmody Braque, Laura finds herself needing help to bring Jacko back from the brink of death after Braque stamps his hand with a mysterious looking stamp.

As Jacko becomes sicker and sicker, in desperation Laura turns to Sorry and his mysterious mother and grandmother to help bring her little brother back from the brink of death.

The Changeover is a short novel, but it does pack quite the supernatural punch. Laura is a spirited protagonist, who stops at nothing to save her little brother’s life. There are overtones of romance with Sorry (a very strange character) and Laura, and  the … witchiness? Is really well handled as well, being fairly detailed for a book that’s under 290 pages.

Margaret Mahy won the Carnegie Medal in 1984 for The Changeover. It’s a spooky, atmospheric and tense tale, with a lot of detail packed in.

8/10 That movie that you've watched 100 times and you never get tired of

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox


Dreamquake picks up immediately after the end of Dreamhunter. The Rainbow Opera is in chaos after Laura Hame releases a terrible dream to unsuspecting dreamers: a nightmare of being buried alive that her father has been employed by the Ministry of the Interior to show to convicts.

Keeping the secret drove Tziga to take desperate action, and to reach out to Laura to expose the truth of what had been happening.

Grace Tiebold – Laura’s aunt and the erstwhile star of that night’s dreaming at the Rainbow Opera  – is taken into custody, believed – at first – to be the source of the nightmare,  Laura disappears and chaos ensues.

No one – apart from convicted felons – was ever supposed to see Tziga Hame’s dream, and the Minister of the Interior  Cas Doran finds himself with a very, very big problem on his hands.

Dreamhunter is an amazing kind of … trip through dreams, and an alternative view of New Zealand that’s incredibly creative. Dreamquake takes the worldbuilding from Dreamhunter and pretty much shatters it into tiny, tiny pieces.

My favourite part of Dreamquake is still the relationship between cousins Rose and Laura, but Laura and Nown also own a tiny piece of my heart.

It’s hard for me to explain exactly what happens in Dreamquake without rambling on and on until I make no sense, or flailing until there’s an embarrassed silence around here …


I cannot think of a single thing about Dreamquake that I didn’t like – from the continuing strength of Laura and Rose’s relationship, to Sandy’s jealousy and guilt over hiding Laura’s letter to Nown, to Nown himself, who pretty much broke my heart in the last few pages.

The fact that Knox so carefully built up this world in Dreamhunter and then – seemingly without hesitation – was what really made the story for me in the end. She tears down her careful constructs one after the other until you’re left exhausted, emotionally wrung out, but ultimately satisfied with the result.

10/10 Could not be improved on, even by angel dust and a basket of kittens

Friday, February 11, 2011

Short reviews

Quillblade: Voyages of the Flying Dragon Vol 1 by Ben Chandler

Lenis and Missy are twins – and slaves. They’re working aboard the airship the Hiryu, which belongs to the Emperor. When the captain of the airship steals it out from under the Emperor’s nose, Lenis and Missy find themselves on a completely unexpected adventure.

And when Lenis starts getting messages from the Blue Dragon _ one of the last totems against the demons threatening to engulf everything _ begging him to save her daughter, the airship, the captain and crew and the twins find themselves on an entirely different kind of quest.

Quillblade is a readable YA steampunk novel, that doesn’t flinch or spare its targeted audience from the more unpleasant aspects of life. Having said that, it also has moments of transcendent joy, and Bestias, which may be my new favourite fictional characters after Phillip Pullman’s Daemons.

7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme

I loved this so much. It’s basically a sort of meandering memoir of Julia Child and her husband Paul’s life in France during the 1950s.

In about 2004, Julia sat down with her nephew Alex to pull together many, many years of photos and correspondence to bring the book to life, and My Life in France is the rambling, charming, engaging result.

It describes, in the course of the book, the process of getting Julia’s seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, and a thousand and one details of what can only be described as an extraordinary life.

9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum

Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman

I found this an odd little crime novel. It’s the fourth in a series that I’m not familiar with, and references previous novels, so I was confused (although, of course, that confusion was on me), but I found the whole thing slightly … futile.

Libby Sarjeant is an artist, living in  Steeple Martin. She gets caught up in the death of an elderly woman at a rest home, the aunt of a friend of hers.

For me, Murder at the Laurels sort of … meandered about. Libby and her friend Fran spend a lot of time dithering and waffling. And … they don’t really actually seem to solve the case. The police do.

I’m failing to see the point.

5/10 A very nice day

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Your meme is here:

At the moment I'm making fairly quick work of Dreamquake, by Elizabeth Knox, the sequel to Dreamhunter - both for my own challenge:

I loved Dreamhunter and Dreamquake is also excellent.

I finished, over the weekend, My Life in France, by Julia Child, and Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman, a rather odd little murder mystery novel.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read after Dreamquake; possibly True Grit, as I'm going to the movie tomorrow night.

Happy reading!