Book Review: The Goose Road, by Rowena House

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_goose_roadOne girl’s epic journey across France with her flock of Toulouse geese amid the terror and chaos of World War One is the subject matter of this debut novel by Rowena House.

It is 1916. News has just arrived that 14-year-old Angelique Lacroix’s alcoholic father has died in battle. The only chance Angelique’s family have of surviving the financial strain and keeping their farm is if she walks her geese across France and sells them for a significant amount of money.

Rowena House’s historical novel, inspired by her winning short story entry ‘The Marshalling of Angelique’s Geese’ in a competition run by Andersen Press in 2013, is both a historical journey into World War One affected France with the soon to arrive Spanish ‘Flu epidemic, and a charming personal story about a young girl dealing not only with the rearing of a beloved gosling to lead her geese onward on their treacherous journey, but also hunger, anger, violence, truth, and the unfathomable need for love in this world.

This book was a pure delight to read, which is surprising for me because I am one who normally shirks away from books involving war when I can. An easy page-turner with wonderful movement in the language like this:
‘I think of Emile, and his horror at watching that shrapnel shell screaming towards him. Does he still see it in his dreams? A shiver runs through me, and a twinge of guilt: I’ve never really wondered before whether Father saw the missile that killed him.

‘Maybe that’s why Mother wanted me to forgive him: not because of what he’d done to us, but because of the things he’d seen on the battlefield.’

Angelique’s journey is in turns inspiring and tear-jerking in ways I never thought I’d ever feel about geese. You yourself feel caught up in the journey, especially knowing that at the bittersweet end ownership and bonding with the geese must be sacrificed in order to save one’s home and family. Particularly, I will hold in my head forever the image of the tame geese wishing they could fly up in the sky with the wild geese they encounter on the way.

Ok, so go out and read Rowena House’s debut, I thoroughly recommend it.

Review by Penny M Geddis

The Goose Road
Author by Rowena House
Published by Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781406371673

Book Review: The Rift, by Rachael Craw

Available today in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_riftA few years ago, Rachael Craw captivated me with her excellent Spark trilogy. Now, in November, she returns with her new young adult novel, The Rift. Taking us on a new journey, to an island inhabited by a mysterious herd of deer, deer which hold the cure for any ailment. These deer must be carefully managed, and conserved, both for their safety and the safety of their world.

Engrossing and immersive, Craw has created an elaborate mythos, and settled it in with science. She has given us two heroes: Cal, a fisherman’s son, now initiated into the rangers, the people that protect the Herd; and Meg, the daughter of the head ranger, who has not set foot on the island for 9 years – since the tragic event that wounded her, and changed Cal and the rangers forever.

Now, she must return with her mother to settle an argument over property, only to find new turmoil. The way of the rangers is being challenged, and conspiracies and intrigue abound. As she becomes entangled in the complex snare, she cannot deny her growing attraction to Cal. Once childhood friends, could they now be something more? But their shared past has left him altered irrevocably – he can no longer bear the touch of another person.

The writing is eloquent and evocative, thrusting the reader into this strange and otherworldly place, whilst also delivering a modern political theme of corporations and greed, of putting profit before people.

I also especially loved the scouts (the rangers’ bird companions), and the manner in which  Reeve (a crow) communicated with Cal and Meg – and manipulated events to bring them together, added not only a touch of humor, but also unexpected delight.

Overall, another engrossing and thought-provoking tale from an NZ writer who deserves to be ranked highly in the young adult market. I look forward to reading more!

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Rift
by Rachael Craw
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650025

Book Review: The Anger of Angels, by Sherryl Jordan

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_anger_of_angelsThis wonderfully written tale marks the return of New Zealand author Sherryl Jordan to the historic fiction market. Set in a country inspired by Italy, it encompasses two realms: one ruled by a generous and benevolent duke, the other by a cruel prince.

Our heroine is Giovanna, the jester’s daughter. She has had a relatively unconventional upbringing and dreams of travel and adventure. That is, until her father’s latest performance is heard by the wrong ears – and suddenly the cruel prince’s eyes, and attention, fall on her city. Now, the fate of her people may lay in Giovanna’s hands and, armed with a dangerous secret, she must journey into the hostile land and plead for forgiveness – or seek retribution.

As befits any strong young adult book, there is romance too, and Raffaele makes for a worthy love interest. Whilst undeniably handsome, he is marred by a slight physical variation that marks him as different – and the source of the occassional scorn. He also comes armed with a strong dose of heretical cynicism – which does not go down well in lands where the church hold reign. He has fled the tyrant prince’s Kingdom,  along with his artist brother, Santos, and has seen much of the horrors it contains.

Giovanna is a worthy protagonist. She does not need a man to save her from danger – instead the two support and complement each other. The setting is evocative and somewhat romantic, a nice counterpoint to the dark dystopia novels currently ruling the teen market. And, despite all the tragedy and treachery that does befall our heroes and their home, there is also the strong element of hope. Overall, a fresh and compelling read with a few minor loose ends that I would hope hint at future novels.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Anger of Angels
by Sherryl Jordan
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650605

Book Review: Maya & Cat, by Caroline Magrel

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_maya_and_cat.jpgCat does not want feather boas, nor pink shoelaces or a pompom on a stick and although she ate every oily silver morsel of fish, Cat is searching for something much more precious. So Maya sets out with Cat in tow to knock on doors to see if one holds what Cat is seeking.

Maya & Cat is a heart-warming story that follows a little girl and a cat as they seek out the thing that Cat is missing most and the thing that Maya discovers she is missing too; companionship. A perfect story to read together; young children will enjoy the gentle, poetic language. Caroline Magrel’s adorably quirky watercolour illustrations take us through the wet and gloomy, lamp-lit streets of a seaside town. They leave you with that sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you’re warm and cosy indoors while a storm rages outside your windows.

This unique feel-good picture book written and illustrated by Caroline Magrel would make a wonderful addition to any young child’s bookshelf. Maya & Cat makes for a pleasant and comforting read – the perfect bedtime story!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Maya & Cat
by Caroline Magrel
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921977282

 

Book Review: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, by Siobhan Curham

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_don't_stop_thinking_about_tomorrowStevie and Hafiz are two fourteen-year-olds from very different backgrounds. Stevie is a talented guitarist who is passionate about music – but she has a difficult home life, living with the challenges of her mother’s unemployment and crippling depression after the recent death of Stevie’s father. Hafiz is a gifted footballer, new to England after a gruelling journey on his own from his war-torn home in Syria, desperately missing his parents. The one thing Steve and Hafiz have in common is that both of them are struggling to fit in at school – until they find each other.

This is a fabulous book about diversity, mental health, the plight of refugees, and overcoming prejudice. But mostly it is a story about friendship. The book unfolds in chapters alternating between Stevie and Hafiz’s perspectives. Slowly we learn more about their backstories and the events that have led them to the moment where a well-meaning teacher instructs the new boy to sit next to the lonely girl. This is a very contemporary tale, with its empathetic and tactful discussion of mental health issues and the refugee experience. Stevie and Hafiz’s voices are unique and genuine and the author carefully avoids slipping into a schmaltzy treatment of some very tough topics.

My daughter and I were both big fans of Curham’s earlier books, The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell It To The Moon, so I was very keen to read this new novel. To my surprise, I think I like this new book even better than the other two; no mean feat. Both of the characters are endearing and extremely likeable. And how can you not love a book that includes a Spotify playlist? This is a thought-provoking and extremely enjoyable read for anyone twelve and over.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
by Siobhan Curham
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406387803

Book Review: Front Desk, by Kelly Yang

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_front_deskWhat a fascinating read this is. Mia and her family are immigrants to the US from China, and this is the story of their American dream and how against all odds they actually realised it.

Mia and her parents land what seems to be a dream job, managing a motel. However all is not as it was cracked up to be in the interview and the owner is a really mean-spirited, grasping piece of work. He is quick to impose penalties and wage reductions for perceived errors and unexpected costs, and takes every opportunity to make life really hard for the family. To make things worse, his son is in Mia’s class at school and he too is quick to make Mia’s life miserable.  Her language skills are not wonderful and she struggles with English until she finds a real friend, also the child of immigrants, and they join forces.

Mia decides, as she observes the crazy workload her parents struggle with, to take on front-desk responsibilities herself. She is only 10, but the work ethic of her parents is strongly implanted in her too. She has some problems, of course, but the depth of the story lies in how Kelly Yang brings to life the issues of discrimination, poverty, and language barriers which are known to immigrant families everywhere. She also sheds light on the Cultural Revolution in a way accessible to young readers.

Mia is a clever, thoughtful and resilient girl who – as we see often in immigrant stories – wants things to go well for her parents, and for them not to lose face among their friends and relatives both in the US and back in China. She has a gazillion ideas for improving how the front desk operates, and is able to get some of them in place. She makes friends with the “weeklies” – the people who live semi-permanently at the motel – and their willingness to help her and her family provides a good counterpoint to the owner’s attitudes and behaviour. The parents in turn are generous and welcoming to friends and acquaintances who are in need of temporary support or accommodation. All of this comes at considerable cost and stress to the whole family, as they find ways to do this without having the motel owner in the know!

The story careers along, from crisis to crisis but it works extremely well. The book is based on Kelly Yang’s own experience, and this is why it rings so true. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Front Desk
by Kelly Yang
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650469

Book Review: Maya & Cat, by Caroline Magrel

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_maya_and_cat.jpgCat does not want feather boas, nor pink shoelaces or a pompom on a stick and although she ate every oily silver morsel of fish, Cat is searching for something much more precious. So Maya sets out with Cat in tow to knock on doors to see if one holds what Cat is seeking.

Maya & Cat is a heart-warming story that follows a little girl and a cat as they seek out the thing that Cat is missing most and the thing that Maya discovers she is missing too; companionship. A perfect story to read together; young children will enjoy the gentle, poetic language. Caroline Magrel’s adorably quirky watercolour illustrations take us through the wet and gloomy, lamp-lit streets of a seaside town. They leave you with that sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you’re warm and cosy indoors while a storm rages outside your windows.

This unique feel-good picture book written and illustrated by Caroline Magrel would make a wonderful addition to any young child’s bookshelf. Maya & Cat makes for a pleasant and comforting read – the perfect bed time story!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Maya & Cat
by Caroline Magrel
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921977282