Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand fiction’

Book Club Pick: April 2019

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Title: 1914: Riding into war

Author: Susan Brocker

Series: Kiwis at war series, book 1

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand

First Published: 2014

Pages: 215

Publisher Description:

Billy may have been fresh off the farm, but he was a good rider and an even better shot. When the world went to war in 1914, Kiwis rushed to enlist. For Billy and his best mate, Jack, joining the Mounted Rifles Regiment held the promise of adventure – little did they know that half the battle would lie in keeping their horses alive aboard the troopship as the journeyed halfway around the world.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old Billy Bowman, nicknamed Billy the Kid because of his youthful looks, is excited to enlist when war is declared in August 1914 and leave his farm job in small town New Zealand for an exciting adventure.

Billy lies about his age and he and his friend Jack Thompson and their two horses Tui and Spirit join the Mountain Rifles Regiment.

The story follows Billy and Jack’s training at Awapuni, their trip by sea to Egypt, and more training before they are sent to fight at Gallipoli without their horses.

The horses are also important characters and the boys’ relationships with their horses are an integral part of the story. Sadly we often overlook the number of horses that were killed in war.

Brocker is passionate about horses. She lives on a small farm with horses and many pets. She has written several books about horses, including Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses, a true story of Bess, one of only four horses to return from war.

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The book also features a map of the ‘Journey of the NZ Expeditionary Force, October-December 1914’; timeline, glossary and bibliography for readers to learn more.

This was the first in a five book series ‘Kiwis at War’ released to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The series was scheduled to be release one a year to coincide with the 100 years commemorations (2014 – 2018).

Characters will appear across several books to connect the stories. Although each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

I have read the next three books in the series – 1915: Wounds of War by Diana Menefy, 1916: Dig for Victory by David Hair, and 1917: Machines of War by Brian Falkner. I’m still waiting to read 1918: Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.

Brocker portrays the reality of war realistically without the novel being too graphic in its depiction of the horrors of war.

Links:

Susan Brocker Official Website

Susan Brocker on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: May 2017

BugsWhitiHereaka

Book Details:

Title: Bugs

Author: Whiti Hereaka

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Huia Publishers

First Published: 2013

Pages: 242

Publisher’s Description:

Meets Bugs: smart, sarcastic, sixteen and stuck in a small town without a driver’s licence.

Bugs has been best mates with Jez forever; they’re always been Jez and Bugs, Bugs and Jez. That is until Stone Cold, the new girl arrives in town. The year was already going to be a challenge without adding spoilt, bitchy Stone Cold to the mix. Why would anyone want to be mates with her?

But things are never as they seem on the surface – not the picture-perfect postcard views of Taupo, not the drama-queen antics of Stone Cold, not the quiet brooding of Jez. Not even Bugs.

Now, as the future closes in, each will struggle with expectations: either trying to live up to them or trying to live them down.

Review:

The central character and narrator is Bugs, a sixteen-year-old Māori girl that has aspirations to study law at university.

Bugs’ best friend is Jez. Both are children of solo mothers. Bugs’ mother is hard working and works double shifts as a cleaner at a hotel to provide a better life for Bugs. Jez’s mother on the other hand can be neglectful and has had a succession of dead-end boyfriends, including some who have been abusive to Jez.

It has always been just Bugs and Jez that is until Charmaine arrives in town. Jez quickly takes a shine to Charmaine and Bugs becomes her friend by default. Although if it wasn’t for Jez Bugs wouldn’t want anything to do with Charmaine, whom she nicknames Stone Cold. She thinks of her as spoilt and does not like how Charmaine does not appreciate how privileged she is.

The novel is set in Taupo, New Zealand. I grew up in Taupo and this is the first novel I have read set in the small town I grew up in. I felt a strong connection to it. The author named the street my parents have two businesses on, the geothermal area behind my primary school was referenced, I had eaten in the airplane above the McDonald’s playground and I had walked many of the same streets the characters walked.

This coming-of-age story tackles the issues of Māori achievement in the education system, cultural identity, domestic violence, alcohol and drug use, and doing what or going against what society expects of you.

A word of warning the novel features strong language and sexual references (nothing explicit).

Links:

Whiti Hereaka Official Blog

Whiti Hereaka on Facebook

Whiti Hereaka on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2015

BethAndBruno

Book Details:

Title: Beth & Bruno

Author: William Taylor

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Ashton Scholastic

First Published: 1992

Pages: 157

Publisher Description:

Bruno is an adult student at Gray’s Valley High School. A former streetkid, he has returned to look after his aged, blind father on a rambling, untamed farm. Part Maori and tough – and with a reputation to match – it’s not hard for Bruno to keep his distance . . . which is just how he likes it.

Beth is city born and bred. She has come to spend her senior year at Gray’s Valley High, staying with her aunt. Self-assured and attractive, Beth could easily be a popular figure in the local teen scene – but it is apparent that something is troubling her.

They are as different as chalk and cheese – so why does fate seem to keep throwing them together?

 

Review:

Beth Paterson has transferred to Gray’s Valley High School from the city and is staying with her slightly eccentric aunt and high school art teacher Stella.

The novel opens with Beth at a typical high school pool party. She did not want to attend the party but Stella pressured her in the hope that she will make friends – little does Beth know Stella arranged Beth’s invite.

Not really wanting to be there Beth takes up a fellow classmate Vic’s offer for a ride home. Vic has his own motives for getting Beth alone and makes a pass at her. When she rejects his advances they struggle and he pulls the door handle off the car trapping her. A motorbike appears out of the darkness with dead wild big draped over the handle bars. A mysterious rider wearing a black balaclava has potentially saved her.

This mysterious rider is Bruno Petrie. Beth asks around about him and learns he is an adult student who returned from the city to look after his father Archie. Bruno has quite the reputation as a violent thug.

Despite frequently butting heads something keeps bringing Beth and Bruno together.

Beth has a secret past. I’m not going to spoil it but I suspect many readers may pick what it is.

The novel is written in third person. For the first few chapters until Beth and Bruno meet, Taylor alternates chapters between Beth and Bruno’s perspective.

It’s coming on 23 years since Taylor published this novel and its characters and themes are still relevant to teenagers today. If published today they only difference would probably be that the characters would all have mobile phones and be on social media.

There is a moderate amount of adult content including sexual assault, low level violence, minor coarse language and alcohol use by the teen characters.

Beth and Bruno would be suitable for junior secondary school (high school) students.

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.