An excellent young adult thriller that is a must-read for fans of complex heroines battling against powerful forces..
Teenager Alexandra "Lex" GladstoAn excellent young adult thriller that is a must-read for fans of complex heroines battling against powerful forces..
Teenager Alexandra "Lex" Gladstone has a fairly typical life in some ways - high school, boyfriend, college applications, doting grandfather - but in other ways she's completely unique.. Not just for her two eyes of different colours. Although they played a part in the twists her life took.
Years ago Lex was Milena, a young girl in Olissa, a state that has been battled over by the Russians, Iran, America and others. Recruited to Perun, a training academy for spies, she was groomed as a sleeper agent, indoctrinated to the quest for Olissian independence, then inserted into her mission: replacing the real Lex Gladstone, who died in a tragic car crash with her parents. Milena/Lex is raised by Albert, her American grandfather, who himself works for the CIA. She doesn't know when she will be called on to activate and undertake a mission. Until then, she's a regular American teenage girl. Even if she keeps everyone at distance.
Then she gets her mission, to assassinate the US-friendly President of Olissa, and pin the blame on her grandfather.
TA MacLagan weaves a page-turning tale, that is slickly written, and full of intrigue both in terms of the twisting plotline, and the character of Lex herself. An accomplished and highly trained young woman who battles with herself and where she fits, just like any teenager. Who tries to find a balance between her mission and her life.
There are some echoes of the likes of THE HUNGER GAMES, with its intriguing and kickass heroine up against the world, making choices that affect her and others' lives, and fans of that series may easily be hooked by the adventures of Alexandra Gastone. But TA MacLagan also brings something fresh in her storytelling. A great read. ...more
Award-winning Auckland cartoonist Ant Sang has now released his first graphic novel; an exciting, modern take on Chinese traditions and kung fu mytholAward-winning Auckland cartoonist Ant Sang has now released his first graphic novel; an exciting, modern take on Chinese traditions and kung fu mythology.
Shaolin Burning tells the twin stories of Deadly Plum Blossom, a feisty young woman rescued at birth, raised by a Shaolin nun, and trained in a new style of kung fu, and a vengeful former monk who’s cut a swath of destruction across China after escaping the razing of the Shaolin Temple. Deadly Plum Blossom is determined to prove herself, and sets off to challenge the most dangerous foe of all; the former Monk Who Doubts.
Sang’s debut novel-length effort is intriguing. His illustrations are stark, violent, and evocative; but a dash of colour instead of greyscale could have raised them to spectacular. Overall the story is an interesting fusion of myth, history, fantasy, and contemporary themes. Tattooed teenaged fighting gangs give a lively feel to old China, although their dialogue ‘clunked’ at times - the author appearing to try too hard for ‘modern’ with ‘bro’ and ‘waste them’ type slang that seems contrived.
But overall Shaolin Burning is a well-drawn, page-turning tale that would be an enjoyable read for many. Graphic novel uber-fans should add a star. ...more
Maritime expert Joan Druett provides readers with an engaging mix of classic mystery and colourful seafaring adventure in a unique mystery to launch hMaritime expert Joan Druett provides readers with an engaging mix of classic mystery and colourful seafaring adventure in a unique mystery to launch her popular Wiki Coffin series.
In the ocean of mystery fiction, it can be hard for an author, no matter how talented, to stand out. Druett manages to create something enjoyably unique in A WATERY GRAVE, both in her evocation of the nineteenth century maritime setting, and her creation of a fabulous protagonist, Wiki Coffin.
It is 1838, and part-New Zealand Maori, part-American Wiki Coffin is scheduled to embark with the US Exploring Expedition from Virginia when he finds a woman's body in a boat and is mistakenly arrested for murder. The Expedition is a big deal - seven ships packed with astronomers, map-makers, naturalists, and sailors, all tasked with charting the uncharted waters (and lands) of the South Seas - but has been much delayed by politics. Wiki is on board as a translator, but his skin colour sees him blamed for the killing, so the ships sail without him.
When Wiki is exonerated and freed, the local sheriff in Virginia sends him to catch up to the Expedition, having been deputised to find the real killer on board one of the seven ships.
Druett, an experienced non-fiction maritime writer, marvellously combines mystery and history in a unique crime novel setting. She vividly evokes nineteenth-century seafaring life as Wiki goes about observing and investigating his fellow expedition-ers - finding a good balance between weaving in interesting details that provide colour and texture, and not going information-overboard to such an extent it drowns the story.
Overall, I felt I was learning plenty about the setting (time and place) along the way, but in a fun and organic way; Druett creates a great atmosphere for her mystery. After rejoining the expedition, Wiki is confronted by an apparent suicide, then a deadly accident, in addition to the original murder. Compared to some other crime writers, the mystery plot in A WATERY GRAVE isn't as complex, puzzling, or fast-paced, but I still enjoyed how it unfolded, with plenty of suspects, clues, and red herrings on the way to a satisfying conclusion.
Along with her superb touch for setting, Druett has a knack for crafting intriguing characters, from our hero Wiki to many others on board. Based on the real-life expedition, with a fictional ship added, Druett mixes historical and fictional figures throughout her tale. There's a beguiling mix of personalities, motivations, and perspectives amongst the Expedition's officers, scientists, and sailors, and I particularly enjoyed how we not only get to know Wiki a little more as the story progresses, but that our perception of various characters changes subtly as Wiki learns more. No cardboard cut-outs or movable pieces here.
Overall, Druett has created an intriguing and entertaining mystery, drenched in maritime colour, with a terrific and engaging lead who I will have no hesitation in following throughout more adventures. ...more
The Asterix series of comics always had elements of political, historical and socio-cultural satire in amongst its fun-filled storytelling and layersThe Asterix series of comics always had elements of political, historical and socio-cultural satire in amongst its fun-filled storytelling and layers of humour, but in THE MANSIONS OF THE GODS this strongly comes to the fore. The Romans have come up with a new plan to try to overcome our beloved village of indomitable Gauls: build some luxury high-rise housing. As Asterix, Obelix, Getafix, Vitalstatistix and all our other favourites try to work out how to deal with this latest threat, creators Goscinny and Uderzo are able to skewer many aspects of modern life, such as the naked ambition for dollars, comfort, and modern conveniences that can threaten communities and breakdown the social fabric. We all want to live well, but what do we give up if that becomes our sole focus? Another great instalment in an all-time iconic series. ...more
ICE STATION, the second novel from Matthew Reilly, is very cheesy and incredibly over-the-top to the point of utter ridiculousness at times, but at thICE STATION, the second novel from Matthew Reilly, is very cheesy and incredibly over-the-top to the point of utter ridiculousness at times, but at the same time still page-turning, exciting, and worth reading if you're after some mindless fun and action.
'Scarecrow' Schofield is a likeable main character, and Reilly brings several plot threads together well in a (very, even overly) action-packed tale set in (and beneath) the frozen wastelands of the Antarctic - a geographic region less travelled by both man and author.
You may have to disengage your brain while reading this, but at the same time you'll probably close the book with a smile on your face (if with tired eyes from rolling them a few times). ...more