Book Review: Sport 46, edited by Fergus Barrowman, Kirsten McDougall and Ashleigh Young

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

sport_46Literary journal Sport has returned for its 46th instalment, featuring a great variety of fictional pieces by 49 New Zealand writers. It’s a little difficult to know how to properly review Sport 46 as a book when it covers so many styles and formats. Each essay, poem, story and interview really needs to be considered in its own review. There are some very distinctive voices here, and each one demands your full attention; despite this, they feel perfectly at home alongside eachother.

The anthology opens with a interview with Bill Manhire by Anna Smaill, and from there covers an impressive range of fiction. Amongst the more traditional stories and poetry, seven essays fit in seamlessly, as does Barry Linton’s brightly coloured comic, My Ten Guitars. This is a story told through a list of the guitars that have followed the author through his life; from Hamilton to Auckland, from his first guitar at 16 to his friend’s Yahama guitar before it got stolen. The list of guitars survived by the author tell an autobiographical story in such a refreshing way; it would be wonderful to see more comics in future editions of Sport, as they are such an effective yet underrated storytelling medium.

While I love a good poem – and Sport 46 certainly has no shortage of very good poems – short stories are always the pieces I tend to enjoy most in an anthology. Amongst my favourite pieces in Sport 46 is The Pests, a short story by Zoe Higgins. A teenager who builds landscape models discovers that her perfect miniature worlds are being invaded by mysterious creatures. Another short story that particularly captured my attention was Blue Horse Overdrive by Anthony Lapwood. A group of young friends experience a number of startling things in a short amount of time; their band is noticed by a record company, the bass player begins routinely fainting while perfoming, and most concerningly, the band begin to see an electric blue horse appearing in the crowds during their gigs. The supernatural elements of both of these stories make them so enthralling to read; I thoroughly enjoyed them.

I strongly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of Sport 46 and sample some of the best work to come from New Zealand writers in 2018. There is an excellent combination here of the bizarre and the familiar, the distortion of a dream and the comfort of home.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Sport 46
edited by Fergus Barrowman, Kirsten McDougall & Ashleigh Young
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776562343

Book Review: The Haunting, by Margaret Mahy

cv_the_hauntingAvailable in bookshops nationwide. 

Eight-year-old Barney Palmer lives an almost-ordinary life with an almost-ordinary family, with two exceptions. Barney has been haunted all his childhood, and the Palmers are a family of magical blood. Every generation a ‘Palmer magician’ is born; this is seen as both a gift and a curse to the family. When Barney feels a “faint dizzy twist” in the world around him on the way home from school, he knows that he is about to be haunted again…but something is different about this haunting. For one, it seems to be linked to the death of Barney’s great-uncle (and namesake) Barnaby.

It soon becomes clear to Barney and his family that Barney is being haunted by something potentially dangerous. Barney begins to hear voices, has bizarre dreams and begins to look rather ghostly himself; pale-faced and constantly tired. Sometimes his eyes don’t appear to be his own. Sometimes his body feels like somebody else’s. With the help of his sisters – silent, mysteriously tidy Troy and talkative, curious Tabitha – Barney begins to get to the bottom of his family’s history.

My favourite thing about this book would have to be the characters; they feel fresh and bold, and their dialogue is so realistic. Tabitha and Barney both seem to share the role of the protagonist; while Barney is being haunted he feels like a ghost sometimes, observant and silent. On the other hand, Tabitha’s personality is so bubbly and overwhelming that she dominates the story with her note-taking, matter-of-fact commentary and constant stream of questions. I like Tabitha.

Only a few pages in, I could already see why this book had received the Carnegie Medal back in 1982. Margaret Mahy’s use of language is completely unique, and her way of storytelling is so effective. Conversations between the characters seem to crackle with energy, while the story progresses at a satisfying pace. The events of Barney’s haunting are told through the eyes of the children, so there’s this innocence about the way the story is told. (At first Barney refuses to confess that he is being haunted at all; he does this because he is afraid that he will upset his beloved stepmother Claire, who is expecting a baby.) Somehow it makes the scarier parts of the story that more chilling.

Overall, The Haunting is the perfect paranormal thriller – it manages to be a story that readers of any age will be gripped by, as they have been for 35 years now. Margaret Mahy is just one of those authors whose work is really timeless; that word gets thrown around a lot, but her work really does suit the description. I can imagine in another decade that The Haunting would have the same effect on its readers.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

The Haunting
by Margaret Mahy
Published by Hachette
ISBN 9781869713676

Book Review: The Ghosts Of Moonlight Creek, by Sue Copsey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_ghosts_of_moonlight_creekSue Copsey brings us the third installment of the ‘Spooky Adventures’ series which follows the adventures of Joe and Eddie, the ghost hunters. Although I have not read the two previous books in the series, The Ghosts Of Young Nick’s Head and The Ghosts Of Tarawera,  I would love to!

When Joe, Eddie, Beckie and Anastasia are called to a location near Queenstown by Anastasia’s father ,the famous movie director Roberto Johnson. They think it’s just for a summer vacation on a movie set, but someone or something is terrorising the set and delaying the filming. It’s up to Joe and his ghost-hunting team, to find out who is destroying the film, and stop them. Only it’s not like a mystery they’ve solved before.

I enjoyed this book not just because it is based in Otago, but because of the spine-chilling storyline, and well-described characters. I would recommend it to any Kiwi child who loves a good ghost story. WARNING: DO NOT READ AT NIGHT!!

Reviewed by Isabelle Ralston (14)

The Ghosts Of Moonlight Creek
by Sue Copsey
Published by Treehouse Books
ISBN 9780473359461

 

Book Review: Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo, by Brian Falkner

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_battlesaurus_rampage_at_waterlooBattlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo, won the YA category of the 2016 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

NZ author Brian Falkner’s novel introduces a thrilling concept to readers – what if the French emperor Napoleon had had a secret weapon, and what if that weapon was an army of the most dangerous and vicious creatures in history? Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo combines the 1815 Battle of Waterloo and a world plagued by dinosaurs to create a suspenseful story with a riveting conclusion.

In this alternate universe where small dinosaurs run wild, and are farmed and kept as pets, war is swiftly approaching. When fifteen-year-old Willem, son of a famous magician, learns that a girl from his Belgian village has been killed by something in the forest, he knows that the culprit is a far greater danger than the smaller ‘saurs’ that inhabit the land. It’s clear that this is connected to Napoleon’s plans to invade Europe. Willem is the only one who can interfere with Napoleon’s plans and save the world from a terrible fate.

While I was skeptical at first about the book, the pairing of the unique idea and the very high quality of the writing made it an incredible read. With remarkably well-written, historically accurate battle scenes, terrifying dinosaurs and a set of strong characters that readers will find themselves rooting for, Rampage at Waterloo will leave you eagerly anticipating the sequel.*

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo
by Brian Falkner
Published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux Inc
ISBN:  9780374300753

NB: The sequel is Battlesaurus: Clash of Empires (FSG) and it was released in hardback last month. ISBN 9780374300777

Author Helen Lowe talks about the Wall of Night series, and Daughter of Blood

One of our most successful fantasy writers, Helen Lowe, has recently released the third in her Wall of Night series, Daughter of Blood. We have a copy to give away, and our reviewer Tierney Reardon has provided us with these questions for her. Fantasy fans, enjoy.

cv_Wall_of_Night_trilogy

1. What originally inspired you to write the Wall of Night series & who do you consider your biggest influences?
The Wall of Night series emerged from a convergence of moments. The idea of a twilit-to-dark, barren, and wind-blasted world had been with me for many years, before a chance heard remark, describing someone whose life had been lived like “a race along the edge of a precipice”, called up my first image of Malian of Night, scaling a precipice-like wall in a ruined keep. Malian is the main character in the series, and besides that initial image, the overheard remark also sparked a great deal of reflection (on my part) as to what a person whose life resembled a race along a cliff’s edge, might be like.

cv_eyeless_in_gazaI was also a Fantasy and Science Fiction lover, so had been reading extensively in the genre since childhood—and what you enjoy reading tends to influence the sorts of stories you wish to tell yourself, I suspect. In my case I always point to the “seminal” influences of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (of course!), as well as a swathe of myths, fairytales, and legends, but also to writers from other genres. For example, historical fiction authors, Rosemary Sutcliff and Dorothy Dunnett, dystopian authors such as Aldous Huxley (Eyeless in Gaza, in particular) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), as well as classic writers such as Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy – to name just a very few among many.

2. Which of the three Wall of Night books have you found most enjoyable to write?
They have all been enjoyable, just in very different ways that reflect the differences between the books themselves. The Heir of Night had the magic of being the first, with all the wonder and mystery of a story opening out. cv_the_heir_of_nightBut I loved the expanded world of The Gathering of the Lost, and the adventurous nature of the story, with its assassins and rooftop chases, tournaments and armoured knights. Daughter of Blood worked me very hard in terms of getting the story to the page, and although it has its duels and battles, the nuances centre on treachery and political intrigue. But if I had to pick one, I would probably opt for The Heir of Night because of the delight of beginning and then further exploring something new, which in Heir’s case was both the story itself and writing my first novel.

3. You’re best known for your fantasy works but you also write poetry. Are there other genres you’ve written in or considered writing in and, if so, which?
So far, when I’ve had an idea for a novel, it’s always been Fantasy. However, I’ve also had a number of short stories published, in a range of genres that include contemporary realism, recent historical (e.g. World War 2 settings), and legendary history, as well as science fiction.

4. Wall of Night is a complex and carefully constructed series. How do you keep track of
the characters, storylines, the lore and the geography of Haarth?

wallofnight_map_small-300x237Mainly in my head, although I do have a number of tables where I record key facts, particularly about the Derai. I have also have a folder of sketch maps of the world—all very rough and as much scribblings as sketch, but useful when I need to provide locational clarity in the text. I also include a comprehensive glossary with each book, which is a cross between a compendium, a gazetteer and a dramatis personnae. I include it because I love glossaries myself, but also to assist readers since the series is complex—and when circumstances require, I consult it myself.

5. Would you say that in your latest book, Daughter of Blood, Kalan and Malian are faced with their greatest challenges in the series so far?
I had to pcv_daughter_of_bloodause for reflection regarding this question, because of course Malian and Kalan have already faced some steep challenges in The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. I think, though, that the circumstances in this book are a significant step up for Kalan, in particular. I shall leave it to readers to decide whether he meets the tests set before him, but believe it is not too much of a spoiler to reveal that single combats, military assaults, and large armed conflicts are in his cards. With respect to Malian, although she faces significant challenges in Daughter of Blood, it is more her realisation of the immense undertaking that still lies ahead that shadows her path through the story.

6. Without giving too many spoilers, what would you say readers can expect from Daughter of Blood?
In view of where readers left Malian and Kalan at the end of The Gathering of the Lost, I believe it would be reasonable to expect a return to the Wall of Night. I have already mentioned single combats, military assaults and large armed conflicts in Kalan’s cards, but believe readers could also expect Malian to be grappling with the implications of her new alliance with Raven and the House of Fire.

Readers can expect plenty of intrigue arising from the enmities between the Derai Houses, but there is also a four-hundred-year-old mystery to be solved – and of course the last of Malian’s inheritance of three legendary weapons to be found. I can also promise at least one truly glorious cavalry charge that beta readers would not allow me to cut from the book; the return of at least one character from The Heir of Night; and the introduction of two central characters, Faro and Myr (the titular Daughter of Blood) who are new to this book.

7. What are you currently working on in terms of writing projects?
That’s a very easy answer: The Chaos Gate, The Wall of Night Book Four, which will also conclude the series. I’ve also written a novelette in the past year, although it’s still very much a work in progress (and likely to remain so until The Chaos Gate is done.)

pp_helen_loweRecently, too, I’ve had three poems accepted for a new anthology, Leaving the Red Zone … poems from the Canterbury earthquakes, edited by James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston, that is intended for publication on February 22nd, the fifth anniversary of the February 22nd, 2011, Christchurch earthquake. As a Christchurch person who has lived through 2010-2011’s eighteen months of “awful”, and the subsequent five years of “recovery”, I do feel honoured to have my work included in this book.

Thank you to Helen Lowe, and to Tierney Reardon for providing the questions. You can buy Daughter of Blood now at any bookshop. And enter to win a copy by emailing info@booksellers.co.nz, subject ‘Daughter of Blood’ and tell us who you most enjoy reading from the Fantasy and Science Fiction section of your bookshop. 

Book Review: This Raging Light, by Estelle Laure

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_this_raging_lightWhen Lucille Bennett’s mother leaves town to have ‘a break from everything’, Lucille and her sister Wren are left to fend for themselves. This is easier said than done – there are bills to pay, suspicious neighbours to avoid and grades to keep up at school.

Lucille gets a job at a Mexican restaurant run by the eccentric Fred, and her best friend Eden is happy to help take care of Wren. Even so, Lucille’s problems are piling up as fast as the lies she is forced to tell. People are starting to talk, and the Bennetts’ secrets are in danger of being discovered. Just when it seems things couldn’t get more complicated, Lucille finds herself falling in love with her best friend’s brother Digby. Could there be worse timing for something so wonderful to happen?

This book quickly proved itself to be much for than just another YA romance. This Raging Light is a story centred on themes of family and friendship, and I actually think it would have been just as good without the romance. Lucille’s relationships with her sister and her best friend are much more important to the story than her love for Digby.

I was impressed by how realistic Lucille’s character is; her story is very well-written. She’s a strong, hard-working protagonist who is the main force pushing the story forward – you’d be surprised how often the main characters of young adult literature aren’t like this. No helpless Bella Swan characters to be found in this book. I was also surprised by how maturely Lucille dealt with the situations both of her parents were in. Forgiveness is another theme that you don’t see enough of in young adult novels.

I recommend This Raging Light to any teen readers who are looking for a book that they will struggle to put down; the vivid characters are what make this one special. They’ll capture your attention and have you rooting for them from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

This Raging Light
by Estelle Laure
Published by Orchard Books
ISBN 9781408340271

Book Review: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire, by Dan Howell and Phil Lester

cv_the_amazing_book_is_not_on_fireAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

Dan Howell and Phil Lester are best friends, YouTubers, internet stars, presenters of a weekly radio show on BBC Radio One, and as of now, authors of The Amazing Book is Not on Fire. This book is a collection of all things ‘Dan and Phil’, and a compendium of the remarkable world that the two friends have created together to share with the internet. The book includes trivia and stories that have never been told before; for the first time, fans can read about how Dan managed to literally get set on fire for a video, ‘Phil and the Snorkeling Incident’, and what really happened in Vegas.

TABINOF teaches readers how to draw the perfect cat whiskers, explains why Phil can’t have a hamster and describes some of the many unique experiences Dan and Phil have both had during their careers as internet stars – the day they met One Direction, their adventures in Japan, the birth of their shared gaming YouTube channel, and the time Ariana Grande gave Phil her cat-ear tiara. Readers can also take a quiz to find out which of the dining chairs in Dan and Phil’s apartment they represent emotionally, which is the kind of creative, relevant content you don’t see very often in books these days. Each page is bright and colourful; their stories are told in words, photos, drawings, emojis – there’s even a Dan and Phil manga. Much like the content they publish online, there isn’t a single dull moment to be found.

Of all of the books by YouTubers that have been published this year, this is by far my favourite. The Amazing Book is Not on Fire is a funny and very creative book that never runs out of things to say. It doesn’t feel as though it has been written just to follow the trend of YouTubers writing books about whatever they can think of. It has been written with a great deal of thought, care and enthusiasm, and it’s easy to see how much effort has been put into it.

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire is a hilarious must-read for any Dan and Phil fan, anyone interested in the lives of YouTubers or keen to become a YouTuber themselves, or just anyone looking for a light and funny read for the school holidays.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon, age 15

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire
by Dan Howell and Phil Lester
Published by Ebury Press
ISBN 9781785032264