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The Scent of Apples

By Jacquie McRae

Libby is a 13-year-old only child who lives with her parents and grandparents at an apple orchard. Her parents are distant, and Libby spends most of her time with her beloved grandfather. She helps him with the apple trees and cider making and loves being outdoors. When Libby’s grandfather dies suddenly she is overcome with grief, spirals into depression and begins compulsively pulling her hair out. Libby’s parents send her to boarding school where she meets Charlie, a lively Maori girl. Libby goes to stay with Charlie’s large and boisterous family and finally begins to face her problems and look hopefully to the future.

Charlie is a likeable character, and it’s good to see a positive portrayal of a Maori family.  Both girls have loving grandfathers who teach them to love and respect nature and the environment, and both girls are fatherless – Charlie’s dad died six years ago and Libby’s is always away on business trips or locked in his study working and making calls.  He has only a minimal presence in the story. Libby’s feelings about herself and her family are described simply and realistically. Her mother comes across as completely hard and unfeeling, perhaps a bit of an exaggerated stereotype, and it is only at the end of the book that we discover some of the pain she holds inside. The difference in the girls is the way they approach grief and who they have to share things with.

I enjoyed the story. There are similarities to Cath Crowley’s ‘Chasing Charlie Duskin’ in that both books are about teenage loners struggling through grief, finding themselves and making friends.The apple orchard and Charlie’s home town are vividly described and Charlie’s town in particular is very kiwi. The dialogue is plain and realistic. Due to the subject matter of grief, depression and self-harm and the occasional swear word, I’d recommend this book to girls at high school. It would be fine for a level 1 English book.

Reviewed By Pamela McKirdy
Library Assistant
Wellington East Girls’ College





By Lissa Price

Here's a new twist on the myriad of horrific possibilities described in previous dystopian fiction - the possibility of an Elder renting the body of a younger person (a Starter), so that youth can again be experienced. In many ways, this seems a very gross concept.
This is not to say I did not enjoy this book - I did. But the premise on which it is based is pretty foul even for Dystopia!
Callie, the heroine, and her little brother who is suffering from a potentially life-threatening illness, are living as squatters, on the fringe of starvation all the time, and at risk of losing what little they do have to bands of renegades.
Enter the Body Bank, a group of warped  individuals who offer money in return for the loan of your body, as long as it's attractive and young. And of course, Callie signs up so she can help her little brother. So far, so good. However as these things go, something goes significantly wrong and Callie finds herself in way more trouble than she could have imagined.
This is Lissa Price's first novel,  her writing style is fairly easy, and she has a quirky sense of humour which helps to alleviate the bleak nature of the plotlines. However towards the end, I felt that the various threads of the story were cobbled together a bit quickly - the last couple of chapters seemed only to tie up ends, without adding much value.
The ending, however, does give rise to some disconcerting thoughts. I 'll leave it to you to discover what those might be.
Overall, I'd give it a 6 out of 10. Not a must-read, but good enough if you are keen on dystopian fiction.

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Reviewed By Susan Esterman
Information Centre Manager
Scots College, Miramar, Wellington


The Flytrap Snaps

By Johanna Knox

Meet Spencer Fogle from movie-making town Filmington.  His parents are struggling with their catering business, his friend Tom has moved away with his family and now Fogle has stumbled across a loud argument between loan shark Jimmy Jangle and scientist Bette Noir.  Often these things would go un-noticed in Filmington but somehow Spencer knew this was different, this was not a rehearsal but something real. 

Although witnessing and being disturbed by the argument Spencer feels he needs to concentrate on helping his parents and their floundering business by starting his own business so subsidising them, hard to do with only $25 to your name.  Enter the online auction which sees Jimmy the proud owner of a weedy venus fly trap, however this is not your normal fly trap but one with a mind and personality, of it's own, a fly trap which Jimmy Jangle wants back ..... at any cost.

As this book was nominated for the NZ Post awards I had high hopes, however I can't say I was thrilled - it was well written, Spencer's character realistic and set against others who had just the right amount of stereotypical movie characters to make them entertaining, however the story felt, and is, incomplete, it is left wide open for the sequel coming in 2012. For me though, and I suspect for the Harry Potter generation, used to a sequential series where each book is a gripping stand alone read, this story may be a little disappointing it just didn't work as a stand alone book, it did a great job of setting the scene and introducing the characters and scenarios while wetting the appetite, but I would have preferred an edited version be included in the next book.  I have a sneaky feeling that part two will be better, the plot certainly shows promise and I can see the whole story being popular with primary school children, however I can see that those same readers could be disappointed with the lack of resolution in this particular book. Would I buy it?  Yes I would and the sequel but I would promote them when the two are both available.

Reviewed By Bridget Hayes
St Martins School
, St Martins, Christchurch

Trapped Outside a Cage

By Kenn Benn

“Guilty until proven innocent”.
Jack is locked up in a Youth Justice Facility after confessing to a murder he did not commit. Though Jack is innocent he has his reasons for confessing.
Someone wants him to take the fall and if he does not cooperate then no one in his life is safe.
While locked up inside he is beaten and tormented but someone outside is pulling the strings.
His sister, Rochelle is simply trying to cope with a brother locked up and the trials for inline hockey. Her friend, Drew has her own dark secrets. This book leaves you with so many questions and who can’t resist deep dark secrets?
This is the second book in a series by Ken Benn. His first book, Lethal Deliveries gives the foundations for the characters and the murder of Methsy. And if you really want to know how things play out then the third book, Gutted is essential.
Definitely aimed at young adult readers who love a bit of everything.

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Reviewed By Desna Wallace
Fendalton School, Burnside, Christchurch



By Allan Baillie

Allan Baillie is an award-winning Australian author, and his latest book is a science fiction adventure story suitable for 8 to 15 year olds.
The main character is working on a secluded yet dangerous space outpost on the frontier, where he and his team are trying to discover microbacterial signs of life. This changes however, as they soon find out, they may not be alone in this section of space.They soon discover a craft of unknown origins. They set off to explore the ship, but become stranded away from their base, and their only option is to push farther into the reaches of the alien spacecraft in the hope of finding some way to get back home.
Very little is given about the setting or background of the story, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. The story then feeds on this, setting up a variety of encounters aboard the alien spaceship that leavesthe reader scrambling for the next page to see what happens. The story moves well between tense scenes and personable dialogue, although the main character seems a little alienated from the rest of the characters.
Any person who enjoys watching Stargate will enjoy reading this book.

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Reviewed By Nova Gibson
Massey Primary School, Massey, Auckland


The larnachs

By Owen Marshall

Everyone has probably heard of William Larnach and his castle, built out in the country south of Dunedin.  It is now a tourist attraction but once was where this man and his family (six children and three wives) lived when not in Wellington.

William Larnach was a businessman and a successful politician.  However his marriages were traumatic.  His first wife died when the youngest child was just two years old so he married her half-sister- perhaps as a way of having someone to look after the children- and married his third wife, Constance four years after the second wife’s eventual demise.

Constance Brandon was the eldest daughter of Alfred de Bathe Brandon, himself a successful businessman . She took over much of the running of her father’s  household at age 11 after her own mother’s death.  She was 35 when she married William Larnach while he was an ancient 58.

This is the fictionalised story of their marriage and the attraction of Constance and William’s younger son, Dougie.

To be honest, I found this novel extremely hard to get into, perhaps it was because it was the end of term, but for me the language did not draw me in to what I was actually looking forward to reading.

Marshall’s style is dry and he tells his tale through the eyes of his protagonists’ but without hint of who is doing the telling at the beginning of each change, making me at least confused.

However the attention to detail and the immense amount of research the author has undertaken to accurately represent the times merit a second attempt which I will reserve for a long break under summer skies!

This would be good for any students of New Zealand history though as the social mores and the political atmosphere of the time is realistic and insightful.

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Reviewed By Elizabeth Marrow
Hutt International Boys School, Upper Hutt




By Elizabeth Pulford

There has been a terrible accident, and Zara is in a coma.  She is trapped inside herself, desperately worried about her brother, who was driving the motorbike when they crashed. Where is he?  Is he alright?

Her parents, her best friend, are devastated – they visit and talk to her, tell her not to give up, to come back to them.
Elizabeth Pulford has written a story that reads almost like poetry at times. We hear Zara’s response to her visitors, even though they cannot.  We see her search for her brother through the medium of his beloved comics, and we see her draw her way through her story.  We see her confront the tragic events of her own past, and be forced into exploring how to deal with them.  We hope that things will work out happily, but we are worried and uncertain that it may, in the end, be too much to ask....

This is a heartfelt book that will speak strongly to secondary school students, especially (although definitely not exclusively) to girls.  The emotion feels genuine, and not sentimental or forced – and Zara is a sympathetic, beautifully drawn, and interesting heroine.

I loved it.

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Reviewed By Helen Nicol
Plateau School, Upper Hutt



By Megan Miranda

“First came the pain.Needles piercing my skin, my insides contracting, everything folding in on itself, trying to escape the cold.  Next, the noise.  Water rushing in and out, and the pain of my eardrums freezing.  Pain had a sound; it was a high pitched static.  I sunk quickly, my giant parka weighing me down and I struggled to orient myself”
11 minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the freezing waters of the lake near where she lived. She should have been dead but for some inexplicable reason she survived but was she the same person that fell in?
Delaney appeared okay which was a medical mystery as far as the doctors were concerned but she was far from being alright. She finds herself being drawn to people who are dying.  She doesn’t understand what is happening.   She meets a boy called Troy Varga who appears to be the only person that understands what she is going through because he is suffering the same as she is. It doesn’t take long before Delaney comes to the realization that Troy looks differently at things to what she does.
Delaney has a family who worries about her and during the sagas that have now become her life she finds out things about her parents, especially her Mum. She has got a friend, Decker, who is very supportive and harbours feelings for her although neither of them realise it to start with. They have been friends forever and can’t seem to get over the ‘best friend’ scenario and go that step further.
All in all Fracture is a great read. Megan Miranda has managed to intertwine all those feelings, emotions and trials that teenagers and families go through even without the added stresses of unexplained health problems and death. I didn’t expect this book to be as thought provoking as it was and it made me think about life and death.
The recommended reading age is for 12 – 15 years and I would agree with this. 

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Reviewed By Penny Fischbach

Wairakei Primary School


Between the Lines

By Jodi Piccoult and Samantha van Leer

Written by Jodi and her daughter, after her daughter had an idea about a book and Jodi had been prompted by fans to write something their children could read.

What happens to the characters within books when the pages are closed? Now that sparks the imagination!
Imagine that their lives continue quite apart from the role their
‘characters’ play, only to be pulled back to their places when the book is re-opened.

Well... the prince in the fairy story wants out, but he can’t get readers to hear him, that is until Delilah finds the book in her school library (which secretly isn’t  on the catalogue). Being a teenager Delilah has to hide her obsession from her friends and her mother, which ultimately leads to her having to see a ‘shrink’. Delilah and Oliver try different ways of getting him out of the book with varying degrees of success. Does it have a happy ending? Well, that all depends on the readers mindset doesn’t it.

Chapters alternate between the Prince Oliver / Delilah, in first person and excerpts from the fairy story. The illustrations and the silhouettes are fantastic and really add to the whole experience. I am not a fan of Jodi Picoult, but I enjoyed the light read ,that leaves you with the warm buzz that only the wonder of magic can. The cover will sell it, but personally favoured the Allen & Unwin version 1743310927.

Reviewed By Sheryn Smith
Library Administrator
Wairoa College, Wairoa


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Collecting Cooper

By Paul Cleave

Who knew there were so many serial killers in Christchurch? Paul Cleave continues to write novels that thrill and intrigue as he delves into the twisted minds of serial killers. And his latest, Collecting Cooper, is no exception. I just love how he weaves in characters from previous novels and how all his characters have so much good and evil lurking inside them. You never know who’s going to surprise you next.
In Collecting Cooper, Theodore Tate has just been released from his four month prison term and on the day of his release he’s contacted by the father of the girl who he badly injured in a drink-driving accident a year earlier. The girl, Emma has mysteriously gone missing and Tate can’t refuse to try and help. After all it will go some way towards his atonement. The clues are quickly revealed with Cooper Riley also going missing. It seems that Emma and Cooper are linked, but how is Melissa X from Paul’s first book “The Cleaner” linked? Although she doesn’t actually make an appearance there is a definite link and a future story line.
I sometimes wonder why I love these stories. If they were even slightly true, they’d be horrific, but being so out there with action, mayhem, evil and insanity they are just good fun. Paul’s books are best read in order of publishing even though each story is a stand alone; the references to previous novels are more fascinating. They are more suited to senior students due to the violent content.

Reviewed By Coralie Walton
Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt


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On Two Feet and Wings

By Abbas Kazerooni

Imagine you’re nine years old when you find yourself in a very dangerous foreign city alone! This is what happens to Abbas and to make it more harrowing, it’s a true story. He was an Iranian and it was after the Iranian revolution and the Iran/Iraq war was raging. Iran had lowered the age of conscription to ten and Abbas’s birthday was coming up. His loving parents knew that if he went to war, the chances were that he wouldn’t return alive. Due to their family history (originally from the elite upper-class) they found themselves on the wrong side of the new regime. So they were unable to leave the country. They sacrificed everything to get Abbas out. His survival depended on his maturity, strength of character and wily ways.
I loved Abbas’s determination and the way he could read strangers’ trustworthiness. There will be sequels to this story and I will be looking out for them as I want to know what happens next. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about human rights issues and overcoming adversity.

Reviewed By Coralie Walton
Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt


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