Hastings District Libraries

Friday, 22 September 2017

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

I like books that draw me into the story so that each time I open the page I am once more a part of the action, surrounded ( in my mind) by the smells, tastes and sights, so that each time I stop there is a small wrench as I return to reality.

Lisa Gardner books do this for me. From the very first page she draws us into the story, pulling us along at breakneck speed until we are left breathless and exhausted, not wanting to stop, needing to be there, in the middle, watching and processing.

I also like books where the climax of the story isn’t telegraphed in capital letters, where right up until the end there is still uncertainty and doubt about what is really happening and who the real protagonists are.

This book sees the return of retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner Rainie Connor, very popular characters created by Gardner and back here in their seventh book. However, the story does not revolve around them, but their soon to be adopted daughter Sharlah and her brother Telly Ray Nash. As Sharlah herself tells us in the book, the one thing best about her new family: they are all experts on monsters!

Eight years ago Sharlah May Nash’s older brother Telly Ray beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat and then went on to break Sharlah’s arm with that same bat. She hasn’t seen Telly since that day. Now thirteen, Sharlah has an about to be forever family and is starting to trust again.

Then the call comes in. A double murder at the local petrol station followed by the discovery of two more bodies, and the face in the video footage is that of Sharlah’s brother Telly.

Why after eight years has he started killing again? Why are photos of Sharlah found in his room and is Sharlah his next victim? Once upon a time her big brother saved her life. Now she has to ask herself: is her brother a hero or a killer? As Sharlah knows, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you, so where is Telly Ray Nash?

Posted by Fiona

Catalogue link: Right Behind You

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey

It is always difficult to review an award-winning book, like this novel, which won for Chidgey the 2017 Ockham Award for fiction. First off The Wish Child is not a rollicking read. You don’t tear through it determined to get to the end to see what happens.

The story follows two German families beginning in 1939, and in particular two children. What would it be like to grow up in Nazi Germany? You might well ask.

On a farm near Leipzig, Erich Kroning is the only child of Emilie and Christoph. There is a cloud around his birth, the hint of a secret. At home his parents are dutiful Germans with a copy of Mein Kampf on the shelf. Christoph goes off to the Russian front, but this doesn’t seem to dent Emilie’s ardent patriotism.

In Berlin, Sieglinde Heilmann grows up with her two brothers, her father doing important censorship work he cannot talk about, while around them are signs of the persecution against the Jewish population. House lots are being auctioned off and Mrs Heilmann acquires a samovar. There are droll scenes of the children attending factories, the teacher demonstrating Aryan supremacy, or witnessing piles of clothing being checked for jewellery sewn into hems.

It’s all stuff we’ve heard before, but through the eyes of children, it seems more insidious. There is a powerful pull in a novel like this, and the writing is beautiful, evocative when it needs to describe scenes of country life or the aftermath of a bombing. And what keeps you going, as with any war novel, is wondering about the long-term effects on the characters of such a war of attrition and the shattering of ideals.

The Wish Child is at times a challenging read, but it does draw you in, and gives you a lot to think about – well worth the effort.

Reviewed by JAM

Catalogue link: The Wish Child

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumour has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim… Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. – Penguin Books

I know that they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I couldn’t help it – it’s such a beautiful cover! I couldn’t help but pick it up. When I turned it over to read the back I was hooked at the premise – a young female sharpshooter in a small town where women end up ‘wed or dead’. She wants nothing more than to escape the horrible future in store for her (married to her Uncle, working in his shop for the rest of her life), and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

This is a story about a girl who wants to escape a boring life that she detests. A life where she is told to be ashamed of her gender, and is told she will never amount to anything more than being someone’s wife. She wants to belong in a world where that doesn’t matter. She wants to be judged on her skills, not her gender, and because of this she is a badass (and she knows it).

Described as a cross between the wild west and Arabian Nights, this is a book about one girl's desire to be free, and the rebellion she ends up in the middle of. A world of magic and war, and (of course) love.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Rebel of the Sands

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Cousins by Salley Vickers

Salley Vickers’s new novel, Cousins, is the story of a family beset by tragedy and the curious way that history repeats itself through the decades.

Told by three generations of women in the Tye family, the opening scene describes the aftermath from Will Tye’s near fatal accident – a fall from the roof of a Cambridge college. His young sister Hetta picks up the narrative thread and fills you in on the family background.

And what an interesting family they are. Grandpa Tye, socialist and wartime conscientious objector, fills his retirement translating ancient Greek classics, a passion he passes on to Will. Betsy, Hetta’s grandmother, harbours a guilty secret which she feels was the cause of an almost identical tragedy a generation before involving her son Nat.

Then there’s Betsy’s daughter Belle, both beautiful and wild, who makes up for a lack of childhood affection by having affairs. Her daughter Cele is Will’s cousin and soul mate. She is the quiet one you have to watch, for beneath her placid exterior is a mass of anxiety, a mark of her negligent upbringing.

The passions, secrets and insecurities of the Tye family members, their politics and obsessions, intermingle to create a domino effect on the plot, making for a really satisfying read. The story builds to a tense finale, as secrets are slowly revealed, an ending that is somehow apt as well.

In the background you are aware of the course of events of the twentieth century – the Spanish Civil War, the Blitz of WW2, the development of socialism and the education of women all affect one character or another. And the physical settings are lovely, particularly the Northumberland home of Dowlands which is the Tye stamping ground, but also Cornwall and Ely.

Cousins is a brilliant book, written in the crafted prose and with the psychological insight we have come to expect from Salley Vickers. Her books may be few and far between, but are always worth the wait.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Cousins

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache novels frequently pick up crime fiction prizes, including six Agatha awards. The Long Way Home is the tenth in a series now numbering thirteen, and having read only two before and in no particular order, I wondered how I’d get on.

The series is set in Quebec and in this book, Gamache has recently retired to the village of Three Pines where most of the crimes from previous novels have taken place. There are the usual characters we’ve met before: Olivier and Gabri who run the antique shop/café; the prickly old poet, Ruth, whose only friend is her pet duck, etc.

Portrait artist Clara Morrow is worried about her husband Peter who has failed to arrive home as expected. Peter has been plagued by jealousy over his wife’s successful career, while his seems to have stalled. He has spent a year away, in search of inspiration, but now Clara wants to know why he hasn’t returned.

Gamache and his detective son-in-law Jean-Guy, Clara and Myrna, the bookshop owner, study Peter’s terrible pictures and dig into the past for clues, before embarking on a journey to the mouth of the St Lawrence River. It's a wild place as well as the home of a former art teacher with a potentially dangerous philosophy.

The Long Way Home starts out as a cosy mystery, but things take a sinister turn as Gamache and co. fear the worst and discover how artistic envy can drive someone to plan a very unpleasant and unusual murder. It’s a brilliant read; Penny has a real knack for throwing out interesting clues and enough action for things to seem desperate just when they need to be.

I loved the quirky characters who have philosophical discussions over delectable meals, and the settings are enough for you to want to plan a holiday to Quebec. And while it didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t read all the previous books in the series, I will be putting them all on my must-read list.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Long Way Home

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

Mara just wants an ordinary life, but she is anything but ordinary. When you’ve spent your life travelling with a carnival it’s hard to be normal. When your mother can communicate with the dead and her boyfriend is psychic, normal is not a word you can use to describe yourself. A life always on the road, and sharing an RV with her Mum instead of a bedroom all of her own, Mara loves nothing better than to admire houses, and help out behind the scenes at the carnival.

However, when they set up for a week-long run in a small town, trouble seems to follow them. Their powers start misbehaving, and something is hunting them down. Will they make it through the week? Or will whatever is lurking in this small town prove to be too much for them?

Set in the 1980’s (mainly I think this was so that the characters had an excuse to not always have a cell phone on them when they were about to walk into trouble) it does tend to try too hard to remind us constantly of this fact. With references to Corey Hart, characters popping out to the local video store to snatch up a copy of Top Gun and Weird Science, and making sure to crank the volume on Tears for Fears, Hocking did put the decade in our face a bit.

However I ended up really enjoying this book. Although I did find it SO HARD to relate to Mara because honestly, growing up working for a carnival sounds fun! Her best friend can create and control fire, she has the greatest friends that she travels with, and she has a pretty amazing amount of freedom for a teenage girl. While the romance element seemed a little rushed, Gabe’s ‘secret’ wasn’t too hard to guess, and I feel that the ending could have been bigger, overall it was an enjoyable story. A great read for lovers of young adult fiction, or even just of fans of supernatural stories.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Freeks

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Chinese Proverb by Tina Clough

An old Chinese proverb states that if you save someones's life you are then responsible for that person.

Hunter Grant, an ex-soldier, is staying at his basic bach in Northland when he finds an unconscious young woman in the bush during a storm. Gradually it is revealed that the girl, Dao, has run away from a man she calls Master, and has been enslaved for some time.  Master is a drug trafficker who is desperate to find Dao as she knows too much information about him.  By association Hunter is in the firing line as well, and takes matters concerning Dao's safety into his own hands using his knowledge as an international security consultant. If you are unconscious and in trouble in the middle of the New Zealand bush it would seem that Hunter Grant would be the best possible person to find you (kind of like having Bear Grylls sitting beside you when your plane goes down).  Although in many ways Hunter and Dao are polar opposites, they share experiences of psychological and physical damage; Hunter from the Afghanistan war and Dao from years of enslavement and the death of her parents.  Three women  help in Hunter's quest to keep Dao safe: Hunters old army friend Charlie, and his two sisters. Hunter's dog Scruff is  also an endearing character in his own right.

This is a great pacy story with interesting relationships, good characters and gripping suspense.

Tina Clough is a Hawke's Bay author who has previously published Running Towards Danger and the Girl Who Lived Twice. She was born in Sweden, married a New Zealander and also works as a translator and editor of Swedish medical research papers. Clough's last book Running Towards Danger was set in Hawke's Bay and also dealt with a young woman in distress being pursued by criminals,although in a very different way.

The Chinese Proverb provides an interesting view on how a person copes with changes in society after having no contact with the outside world for many years.   For the first time Clough writes from a  male perspective, which she manages with aplomb.

For those of you who say you don't like reading New Zealand authors:  a) shame on you, and b) Clough's crime novels have more depth than many of her international peers works, and are all the more authentic for having a New Zealand setting.
Recommended.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  The Chinese Proverb