Hillmorton High: Hunters & Gatherers’ Book Reviews

Here is a list of Hillmorton High: Hunters & Gatherers’ Book Reviews, as assembled by Kate into a booklist.

CoverJanuary Gabrielle Lord

This book is about a 15 year old boy called Callum that has to stay alive for 365 days. Someone is trying to kill him, and this same guy may have killed his father. This is the first book in a series, January. Each book represents each month. If you are interested in action books, you should start reading this series. The great thing about this book is that when the exciting parts come (which is almost the whole book), you get such a clear picture in your head of what’s happening.

Reviewed by Dylan

CoverBatman: Battle for the Cowl Tony S. Daniel

This book starts with letting us know that Batman (Bruce Wayne) has died. Without Batman, Gotham City has gone completely insane. Nightwing, Robin and the rest of the Bat Family have been taking control, but every time they get to the crime scene there’s a note saying, “I am Batman.” They know that this person is not the real Batman.

People who enjoy DC Batman and a lot of takedowns (‘takedowns’ are ways of knocking people out quickly) – this is definitely the book for you! This book will seem interesting to those who enjoy epic fight scenes or like mysterious things happening in books. If you’re not interested in that stuff, then this will be boring.

Reviewed by Eustice

CoverCollins Easy Learning Spanish Conversation

Spanish is a fun language to learn. The Collins Easy Learning: Spanish Conversation is a guide to having a worthy conversation in Spanish. This book is for all people that want to start speaking Spanish. It has examples with the phrases just in case you don’t understand. For example: ¿Qué te parece si nos quedamos un día más? How about staying one more day? They have phrases for almost any situation and it has a pronunciation guide too.

Reviewed by Matthew H.

The Beginner’s Guide to Adventure Sport in New Zealand Steve Gurney

The book starts off about Steve Gurney when he was young. He was the last kid picked for bull rush, and was picked on and teased about being a slow runner. He proved them wrong when he won the Coast to Coast a record 9 times! He became an adventure sport legend! He wrote this book to help beginners with adventure sport in New Zealand. He talks about tramping, biking, climbing, paddling, snow sports, and triathlons. He recommends places to go mountain biking, and good techniques for kayaking. He even shows you how to change your tyre if it pops, and suggests good protein foods for energy.  I would definitely recommend this book for beginners and people who just want that little tip, or two.

This book would most definitely be open to boys and girls! I think it would be great if there was more girls getting out there and doing adventure sporting!

It is special because Steve Gurney is a New Zealand sporting legend! An adventure sport legend giving you tips on hobbies or sports that you like is pretty amazing! I would recommend to check it out at your local library! I like this book so much and find it so interesting I have read it about three or four times! There are more Steve Gurney books out there, like Lucky Legs & Eating Dirt.

Reviewed by Matthew L.

Guinness World Records

This book gives us facts about world records like parts of human bodies and fastest vehicles at the current time. If you are like me and like to look for facts, this is a book for you. The great thing about this book is that it gives you lots of different and interesting information.

Reviewed by Neihana.

CoverBunny Drop Series Unita Yumi

Bunny Drop (also known as ‘Usagi Drop’), is a series filled with a lot of drama, comedy, and a bit of romance thrown in. It is about a 16 year old girl, Rin, who lives a motherly life unlike other teenage girls. She is adopted by her uncle, Daikichi. So, you could say, he is kind of like an uncle, but mixed in with some father. Rin has a journey to find out who she is and why she’s here. Along her journey, there are always speed bumps for her, but she has great friends with great personalities that she can count on. People who would like to read this book are probably, the ones that are into drama because trust me, it has a lot of drama! And others that like these books might be people who are into the genre – romance! I think what’s special and unique about this is all the intensity and drama. There is also a lot of scenes that can make you laugh, cry, but mostly laugh!! This series, I think is one of a kind.

Reviewed by Bernadine

CoverCaptain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People Dav Pilkey

 This book is about how George and Harold are going to a school which is very bad, unhygienic and has terrible teachers. When George and Harold go into the Purple-Potty 3000 (a time machine they built), everything reverses so the school is very good, hygienic and has great teachers.

People who are into books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other Younger Fiction will enjoy this book. The special thing about this book is that it has lots of drawings, lots of comics and little things that make it fun to read.

Reviewed by Matthew C.

CoverDemon Dentist David Walliams

Alfie HATES the dentist, you could tell with his yellow rotting teeth. He hides all his dentist letters from his dad who is in a wheelchair. But ever since a new dentist came to town, the teeth under the pillows have been taken; but what was left was something unbelievable.

Who is doing this? Why would they need so many teeth?
Anyone who likes a scary book will love this book (it isn’t too scary, just a little bit).

This book is special because it isn’t like our world – in this world you might wanna hold onto those teeth!

Reviewed by Bella

CoverThe Sorcerer in the North John Flanagan

The most important characters in this book are Will and Halt. Will and Halt are two rangers that go on a long journey to kill the evil sorcerer, because people have gone missing and been getting killed in the north.

This is an amazing book to read because in some parts it’s really funny, but it has lots of action too. The Sorcerer in the North is a great book for young adults because this particular book has some swearing in it.

Reviewed by Ryan

Matilda Roald Dahl

This story is about a little girl called Matilda. She could read before she went to school. She read all the books in the children’s library. Her family doesn’t like her because Matilda reads books and her family doesn’t like to read books, they like watching TV. Matilda wants to go to school. Then finally, her Dad takes her to school. Her teacher Miss Honey tells her class to be nice to Matilda. At school the principal Miss Trunchbull, throws a boy and Matilda helps the boy to fly away with her secret, superpowers. This book made me laugh out loud, you will like this book if you are into funny books.

Reviewed by Hellen

CoverTwilight Stephenie Meyer

This book is about vampires.

Bella Swan moved to Forks after living with her mother in Arizona, now she is living with her father Charlie.

Bella is endangered after falling in love with Edward Cullen, the Vampire.

I recommend this book to a person who likes vampires and romantic stories.

This book is special because it became a movie. Also, it was the #1 New York Times bestseller.

Reviewed by Pharot

CoverExtra Special Treats (…Not)  Liz Pichon

This book is about one boy named Tom who has a cousin called Marcus.He doesn’t like Marcus because Tom throws snowballs at Marcus.

I think people who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, people who like action and adventure, and also people who have annoying sisters would like this book. Liz Pichon is very creative and you can easily see this picture in your head.

Reviewed by Joshua

CoverLiteracy My Prize: How I learnt to Read and Write Michael Marquet

This book is about a guy who did not know how to speak or communicate with people when he was a child. Also, he did not know how to read or write, not even his name. I think this is a great book for kids with the same learning problems because the kids would not read it but their parents can read it to them. This book is very inspirational for those who are having trouble learning in and out of school.

Reviewed by Tanja-Marie

Class ACover Robert Muchamore

This book is about children infiltrating a drug dealing company. The children have to somehow make friends with the drug dealer’s children. What’s unique about this book is that there are multiple spies instead of just one kid. If you have read the Alex Rider books and liked the action in there then you would probably like the action in this as well. I would highly suggest you read The Recruit before you read this book because that way you would know more about James Adams.

Reviewed by Talal

CoverHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J.K. Rowling

This book is about a young boy named ‘Harry Potter. One day he gets a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had no idea what this was about.

He had never heard about this place or knew that his parents were magic either! It didn’t take long for him to make some new friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

I think that this book would appeal to people that like fantasy, magic and action-packed stories with lots of suspense. It’s also the beginning of seven book series with lots more adventures. If you liked the Harry Potter movies then you will probably really enjoy this book!

This book is unique because it was something different for this age group, and I really liked it! It wasn’t really a type of book that I was used to or had really read before.

Reviewed by Reuben

Spiders Barbara Taylor

This book is nonfiction and is about Spiders which are arachnids. They can be in any shape and any colour but always have eight legs. They eat insects and some even eat big things like centipedes. Some spider species are different because they don’t make webs to catch prey instead they hunt their prey. To do this some spiders have big eyes, great jumping skills and have good camouflage.

This book has detailed pictures of spiders. It is fun to read and it has good facts. People who likes arachnids/spiders should read this.

Reviewed by Simon

Girl Online On TourCover Zoe Sugg

Girl Online on Tour is about a girl (Penny) that has anxiety. Her boyfriend Noah is a pop star, so she travels around Europe with Noah and his band and ends up in Brighton. In Brighton Noah performs in a show, watching from the crowd she loses her phone. Penny falls and hurts herself and leaves the stadium because she can’t cope with the crowd and Penny may have a panic attack.

I like that this book has different settings, from all over Europe and more stories from real life. Zoe is actually a famous Youtuber. For age 11-13. If you like her very first book would really enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Holly

Page by PaigeCover Laura Lee Gulledge

Page by Paige is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about sixteen year old Paige who has just moved from Virginia to New York. Paige decides to try out her Grandmother’s drawing lessons and keep a sketchbook. Soon she is happy again.

I would recommend this book for any keen artist or as a teenage read. It is ideal for both girls and boys as it has strong characters.

The illustrations really tie the story together, which is what helps make it so special. I loved this book because it is a deep, moving story that is bound to capture your heart as well as your artistic self!

Reviewed by Katie

HatchetCover Gary Paulsen

This book is about a kid called Brian that goes to his Dad’s house to see him because his Mum and Dad have split up. On the way the plane pilot dies from a heart attack but Brian survives the crash and the only thing he has got is a Hatchet!

You will like this book if you like the woods and adventure stories. It is a really good descriptive book because you can see it clearly in your mind.

Reviewed by Andrew

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia NicolsonCover Louise Rennison

This book is about a young teenage girl who is about to turn 15 and struggles to handle her first crush and her stone-age parents. I recommend this book for young teenage girls because this book gives good advice on how to handle being a teenager and how not to handle being a teenager. In this book there’s a lot of twists, bumps and funny moments that can also help a young girl during the teenage phase. I really like this book because it helps control my emotions, to me, it’s like a girl bible.

Reviewed by Destiny

Never Google HeartbreakCover Emma Garcia

This book by Emma Garcia has everything a really good romance story would need. It has love, great story, someone else falls in love with the boy, and pretty much anything a great romance story needs to hook people in. What’s special about this romance is that Vivienne (The main character) wants to start a website where people can give advice to heartbroken women. What’s also unique is that at the start of every chapter, there is something like a quote or something that relates to that chapter. I would recommend this to young adults as it does have a few swear words but I think that just adds to the story so the reader can feel the emotions better. Overall, this is a great story in my opinion and would be worth reading it if you enjoy romances and suspense.

Reviewed by Jerry

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysCover Jeff Kinney

This book is about a boy named Greg who was always playing video games during the summer holidays. The rest of his family were outside playing and the weather was fine while Greg was playing games inside. I suggest this book for kids and maybe young adults. This is a really funny book and it even has a movie about it. I like the book better because it has lots of pictures in it and even though they look like stick people, it still has lots of features in the pictures. A great thing about this book is that it is part of a series and there are movies about it.

Reviewed by Maria

Double ActCover Jacqueline Wilson

The book is about identical twelve-year-old twins, named Ruby and Garnet. Ruby is the oldest and she is super hyper and she often gets in trouble. Garnet is the smart, intelligent, neat one. Ruby is mainly bossy and Garnet always does what either Ruby does or what Ruby tells her to. Everyone keeps telling Garnet she doesn’t have to be the same as Ruby, but if she doesn’t Ruby gets angry and won’t talk to Garnet. Their mother has sadly passed away, and their father is dating this woman called Rose and well Ruby absolutely hates her, but Garnet however is OK with her. Mainly the book is based on an empty old account book they found and the text in the book is their writing. The girls audition for a main twin part in ‘The Twins at St Claire’ but Garnet ruins everything. Then they both find a piece in the paper that will change their whole lives.

If you’re into drama and page turners, or books with a twist, this is the book for you. It has ups and downs. The unique thing about this book, is that there’s no other book like it. This book really is special.

Reviewed by Katy

MatildaCover Roald Dahl

This is a book about a girl called Matilda she had to take care of herself ever since she was born. She is a very different kid because when she was about 3 she started going to the library and reading lots of books.  She was 5 and a half she went to school because her Mum and Dad were not ready at all. Miss Honey is the nice teacher and Miss Trunchbull is the principal, and is really mean to the teachers and kids. Everyone is scared of her. But what Miss Trunchbull does not know is that Matilda has a secret power. If you love Roald Dahl, this is a must-read.

Reviewed by Anna

LegendCover Lu Marie

This book is about a 15 year old girl who tried to find out who murdered his brother Ian. She finds out that a boy named Day, was the one who killed his brother. Or did Day kill his brother? Find out for yourself if he is innocent, or if he is a murderer.

If you really like action, this book is for you. This book is really interesting, with lots of action and more. If you do really like it, there will be another book coming out named Prodigy. If you like The Stormbreaker, then you will LOVE this. I don’t want to spoil anymore, so have fun with this comic.

What’s special about this book you might ask, well, it has 3 categories or genres.

  1. Action                  2. Emotion                     3. Romance

When you read through this comic, you will find that action is harder than you think, emotion for you to feel and romance could be one of your talents with girls/boys, if you are very confident.

Reviewed by Conrad

Adventure Time: The Duke based on an episode by Merriwether Williams and Tim McKeown

This book is a book with lots of funny comedy scenes and a little bit of anger. It’s about a human boy called Finn and his best friend/brother Jake which is a dog. They accidently throw a boomerang potion into Princess Bubble gum’s window which makes her half bald and green!?! She thinks it is the Duke of Nuts because he eats all of her pudding, but actually it’s his obsession. So Finn and Jake help the Nut Duke avoid being put in the dungeon, and also saving themselves from trouble.

This book is a comedy book and it’s suitable for people who love cartoons. It has some twists in the book which is interesting. Also, this book is for both boys and girls which is good. It’s really interesting and cool in ways. It tells the story in a different format, which is really cool because it’s from a television episode.

Reviewed by Kaylene

One PieceCover Eiichiro Oda

This Manga is called One piece and it is about a boy named Monkey D. Luffy, that ate a Gum-Gum Devil fruit that turned him into a rubber man. His mission is to be the king of pirates by getting treasure called the ‘One Piece’ but it is in the most dangerous part of the sea called the Grand line. In the Grand Line there are monsters and other devil fruit users.

Will he get the One Piece?

If you like adventure and action you will like this book, which is what I like the most about this Manga series.

Reviewed by Shea

Death BringerCover Derek Landy

This book is about the adventures of Skulduggery Pleasant, the skeleton detective, and his young apprentice Valkyrie Cain. This is the sixth book in the nine book series. If you like lots of action, magic, a complex story, plot twists, mystery and lots of characters then this book is for you. In the sixth book in the Skulduggery series, Death Bringer builds on the story in the first five books. I would recommend reading the first five books in the series before you read this one otherwise this book won’t make any sense.

Reviewed by Riley

The 13-Storey TreehouseCover Andy Griffiths

This story is about Andy and Terry Denton. Andy is the story writer and Terry is the illustrator. They live in a treehouse with 13 storeys.

Terry turns a cat into a canary by painting the cat yellow! So I think people who like comedy and funny things will like it.

It was the first book in the series, and in every book the treehouse gets an extra 13 storeys, so if you like this one you have other books to read after this.

Reviewed by Alexander

YA reviews: Clover moon, Don’t even think about it, and Think twice

Want the skinny on books? Check out what the Cashmere High School Read and Review Team have to say.

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Cover of Clover moonYet another (amazing) book about a broken family. This sad story about a young girl who lives in rags is definitely a must-read for Jacqueline Wilson fans. I loved the connection with Hetty Feather! The beginning of the story is all rather upsetting, with almost no chance of getting any better. But at the end things turn out just fine! Clover is a sweet girl who loves to look after children, she doesn’t tend to get along well with kids her age however Clover is brighter than most of them! She uses her intelligence to find her place at The Girls’ Institute and finally a more permanent home.  I would love another book about Clover to see what she gets up to!

Don’t Even Think About it & Think Twice by Sarah Mlynowski

Cover of Don't even think about itI absolutely love this two-part series about telepathy! Jam-packed with an amazing plot and heaps and heaps of love triangles. Before reading this book, I warn you that the ending contains a massive plot twist; that requires a little knowledge about chemical elements. Some of my favourite things about these books, besides the unique use of telepathy, was probably the range of personalities. Each character was different and all of them went on different journeys, experiencing their ESP (telepathy) in different ways.

Both reviews by Genevieve (Y9)

Read more reviews by high school students

The Atomic Weight of Love

Book cover of The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J ChurchThe Atomic Weight of Love is the debut novel of Elizabeth J. Church and I hope we see a lot more books from her. This book is an ideal Christmas present. It appeals to a wide audience and will make a great holiday read and is not without a little racy love interest.

Meridian has won a place at the University of Chicago where she studies ornithology working towards a graduate degree and eventual doctorate. Just as her wings are opening and she starts to glimpse new horizons she falls in love with a college professor two decades older than herself and her wings are clipped.

It is written in a memoir style following Meridian as a woman growing up in the 1940s through the fifties and sixties into the seventies and the emergence of women’s liberation. You will find yourself reflecting at times how so much has changed yet still remains the same.

Meri marries Alden and follows him to Los Alamos where she attempts to fit into the group of ex-academic wives she meets there. It is the era when a wife is expected to follow their husband and make the best of it. She struggles to be a good wife while salvaging something of her studies by continuing to study Crows, having left her graduate study dreams behind her.

The novel’s dual strands, the place of women with the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, and the atomic bomb with its resulting anti-war Vietnam and Korean war movements, almost splits it characters by gender over its two themes.

Some of the characters could do with more development – they feel a little clichéd. It seems women have little to say on war in this novel and men little say on the home front. Even for the times this feels a little stretched. She skims over the women who Meridian meets in Los Alamos except her best friend Belle, a strong woman who urges her not to minimise herself yet when it comes to the crunch still tells her to stay in her marriage and try to make it work.

That being said bird studies draw amusing parallels between human and bird society. Each section of the novel starts with an ornithological reference “A Parliament of Owls”, “A Deceit of Lapwings, “A Murder of Crows”. When Meridian meets Clay, a young hippie ex-marine about two decades younger than her, it seems they are about to repeat past mistakes. Her husband seems not to understand her sacrifice while her lover urges her to soar again.

Read the novel to find out if she does.

It is an enjoyable debut novel with a poetical style and reminds me of The Guernsey Potato Peel Literary Society, The Light between Oceans and The Shipping news. If you like nature and have a slightly scientific bent you will enjoy it and even learn a little physics on the way.

The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008209292

The Reincarnation of Hercule Poirot

CoverYes, it’s true. Hercule Poirot has received the kiss of life and is exercising his “little grey cells” in the well-heeled living rooms of British author Sophie Hannah’s latest murder mystery, Closed Casket.

I cut my reading teeth on Agatha Christie’s novels and devoured every word she wrote with a voracious appetite for the refined macabre. To this day there is nothing I like more than curling up with a cup of English Breakfast and watching Miss Marple on TV. I like Christie’s fiction because you can guarantee that despite the heinous nature of their crimes and the unashamed elitism of their lifestyles, the baddies will get their comeuppance and the haughty will be brought down a peg or two. All this, while looking fabulous in tweed and Brussels lace. When Closed Casket arrived, I leapt at the chance to reconnect with my old friend, Hercule.

In many ways I wasn’t disappointed. Sophie Hannah can plot along with the best of them. The British author and former fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, based Closed Casket on “a brilliant, simple-yet-unguessable four-word idea” which came to her as if by magic and felt “very Agatha-ish”. The novel is full of dark pasts, red herrings and so many twists and turns I was kept guessing right to the end. It’s a light, engaging read that motors along. Agatha Christie has been called the “Queen of the Who-Done-Its” and Hannah certainly lives up to her standards.

However, something about the characterisation missed the mark for me. An author distils the essence of their times into their dramatis personae. Like the Sirop de Cassis he sips, the original Hercule Poirot is a rich blend many would consider “noxious”. In 1916, when The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published, the English class system was alive and kicking and Europe was at war. People were bound by convention and were geographically and culturally insular. These were times of lamplight, inequality and suspicion. To Hastings and the characters who interacted with him, Hercule was foreign and disturbing. How times have changed.

Reading Closed Casket is less like stepping into the impoverished grandeur of war-torn England than leaping onto the LED lit set of Big Brother. The characters are all fabulous and uber-confident so there is a mismatch between their motivations and their actions.  Sadly, in this decade of globalisation and mass media, a Belgian detective just doesn’t seem that interesting and the reader is left with the uncomfortable dichotomy of Hercule Poirot meets the Kardashians.

Don’t get me wrong, Closed Casket is a good, fun read but I’d be tempted to learn from other contemporary authors who have recently resurrected famous detectives and not continue with a series. Authors John Banville, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz have brought us singular, at most dual, incarnations of Philip Marlowe, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes recently.

The release of Closed Casket marked the 100th anniversary of the creation of Hercule Poirot and was commissioned by the literary estate of Agatha Christie after the success of Hannah’s earlier work, The Monogram Murders. Sophie Hannah does nothing but honour the Grand Dame of Crime in her Poirot works but she’s a fine author in her own right. I believe she’s at her best in her Culver Valley Crime series which includes excellent titles such as Kind of Cruel and A Room Swept White. I’d love it if Sophie Hannah reconnected with DC Simon Waterhouse and let sleeping detectives lie.

Closed Casket: The brand new Hercule Poirot mystery
by Sophie Hannah
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008134105

Cup and Show Day Reading : Give a Man a Horse by Dianne Haworth

Give a Man a Horse CoverHere’s a book to whet your appetite for Christchurch Cup and Show Week!

Give a Man a Horse is the biography of celebrated Cambridge Stud bloodstock breeder Sir Patrick Hogan, owner of the famous Sir Tristram.

This is an entertaining and often poignant tale of farming, family and horse breeding in early New Zealand. Author Dianne Haworth eloquently traces the roots of this famous New Zealander from the mists of seventeenth century Ireland to the modern world of horse racing.

Beginning with an Irish family myth of a rebel Hogan horseman, the book follows Patrick’s father Tom’s emigration to New Zealand in the early 1900s to his establishment of the family’s first Clydesdale breeding stock farm in the Waikato in the early 1930s.

His father’s canny anticipation in the 1950s of the end of working draft horses on farms changed the course of Patrick’s life. Sharing his father’s natural ability in spotting and presenting a good horse, Patrick learned first to show calves at Calf and Show day, then followed his father into breeding thoroughbred horses for the high paced racing world.

Sir Patrick’s is a story of calculated risks, exciting wins and impressive bloodlines. Close associates speak of him as someone who would always give a little guy a go, while never mincing words when it came to horse business. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, for its relaxed style and history of a fixture of New Zealand life. I even found myself reading the statistics!

Give a man a horse: The remarkable story of Sir Patrick Hogan
by Diane Haworth
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775540960

More reading:

Horses parading in the ring at Riccarton Racecourse [ca. 1960] Flickr CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0030
Horses parading in the ring at Riccarton Racecourse [ca. 1960] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0030

YA reviews: All the bright places, The catalyst and The originals

Want the skinny on books? Check out what the Cashmere High School Read and Review Team have to say.

Cover of All the bright placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“Sometimes when we’re in the darkest places, we find the brightest light.”

Extremely moving, will make you feel joy, sadness and inspired all at once! All The Bright Places is an amazing book, it keeps you on your toes and is impossible to put down! I totally recommend it for teenagers!

– Genevieve (Y9)

Cover of The catalystThe Catalyst by Helena Coggan

It has been eighteen years since the world they knew was ripped apart around them, eighteen years since the ‘Veil’ between their world and the beyond shattered. Human were split into the magically Gifted and the non magic Ashkind.

Rose Elmsworth is fifteen year old Gifted working with her father at the Department, an organisation that holds power in the crumbling war-torn society. In Rose’s world monsters reside within men and women, and there is no one you can truly trust, not even yourself.

The Catalyst establishes a unique dystopian world that is the perfect setting for this dark fantasy story and leads perfectly into the second book in the series (The Reaction). It was an enjoyable read with interesting and intriguing characters.

I would rate The Catalyst 4 out of 5.

– Cassie

Cover of The originalsThe Originals by Cat Patrick

Elizabeth Best is a name, not a person. Elizabeth is the name used, and split, by 3 sister-clones: Lizzy, Ella and Betsy. Their mother is a scientist and cloned 3 “test subjects”. She intends to kill the two clones that aren’t ‘perfect’ but instead she gets too attached to the girls and runs away with them. She makes the girls live a third of a life until, one day, the girls have had enough.

I’ve read this book twice and the second time, even though I knew what was going to happen, I felt myself sitting there holding my breath! This book is amazing and you would be silly not to read it.

I rate it 4 out of 5.

– Eibhlin

YA reviews: Cosmic, Fault line, and Thicker than water

Want the skinny on books? Check out what the Cashmere High School Read and Review Team have to say.

Cover of CosmicCosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

This book is so good. So this boy is like 13 but is like so tall and has a moustache so he fakes being a girl’s dad and wins a father and daughter trip to space. He goes to space and has an awesome adventure. Get this book and read it because it is way too good for earth!

Rating: Infinity stars

-H.M. Year 10

Fault line by C. Desir

This book is strictly senior fiction. It is about a relationship between a boy and a girl. At a party, something terrible happens to the girl and the rest of the story is about how she deals with the aftermath of the event. The writing of the book was sensational it had me feeling the tears rolling down my face before I had known they had fallen. It told a heart wrenching story that touched on many themes that few people seem to want to talk about. A very good book, well worth reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5

-Grace Y11

Cover of Thicker than waterThicker than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

A crime story. A story of loss and finding love. A paranormal thriller. What’s to love about this book? Everything.

Thomas Bellweather’s mother, the only person who truly cared about him, the only true family he really had, is dead. Murdered, to be precise. The doors were all locked, there were no signs of forced entry and only Thomas and his mother were in the house. He is now the only suspect. But Thomas would never knowingly hurt someone he loved … so who was it? A brand new house in a brand new town means that no one trusts Thomas. Even his cop stepdad can’t help him from police and town ridicule. Only one person believes Thomas is innocent and she is a sister to three protective cops; Charlotte knows the police are missing something, and is determined to help Thomas in uncovering the truth.

I simply loved everything about this book. The story was well-paced and engaging, the premise was original and thought-provoking and the author created characters who were relatable and displayed a good sense of humour and irony. Brigid Kemmerer has mastered changing both voice and writing style between chapters so that Thomas and Charlotte have distinctive voices that are shown well when they take turns narrating the story. I also enjoyed the different levels and themes this book had, and came away with the distinct impression that this story wasn’t about Thomas at all; it was about Charlotte. As with any love story, the characters learn more about themselves as they learn more about each other, and through this, they grow and develop. This development is shown most prominently through Charlotte’s character.

The underlying theme of feminism was the aspect that earns Thicker than Water a place on my must-read list. I mentioned previously that I found the story to be more about Charlotte than about Thomas; so here’s my rationale. Charlotte is presented as a vulnerable girl (through her illness) who would look much more at home playing a 1950s housewife. Her mother and grandmother insist she knows how to cook, and expects her to clear and wash the dishes for the whole family while her father and three older brothers relax and do not contribute. Charlotte’s grandmother appears to be still caught up in the gender norms set for girls in her youth and openly disapproves of Charlotte’s decisions towards something as simple as clothing choices (e.g. a skirt above knee-height). However, in helping Thomas find his mother’s killer, she ends up finding out that the way she is treated at home is very different from the outside world, and I believe falling in love with someone like Thomas, someone who doesn’t expect her to do housework or clean, was probably the best thing for her to do.

I rate Thicker than Water by Brigid Kemmerer ten out of ten.

By Saoirse (Year 11)

Avian Flu and the ‘Quiet Days of Power’

It started with the destruction of the world via avian flu and ended with mind control and memory loss via music. My last few weeks have been filled with two books from my go-to genre, dystopian science fiction, and both were rip-snorters.

Cover of Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a classic post-apocalyptic tale. A deadly flu that kills within hours sweeps through the entire world population, laying waste to all but a few hardy souls. We follow a group of survivors, whose lives intersect at various stages throughout the book. The interesting decision by the author to switch between the time when the flu hit and then twenty years later to see how society survived, coped and altered gives the story movement and contrasts, and I loved seeing where and when the characters met and re-connected.

The main story centres around a band of actors and musicians who travel through mid-west USA performing Shakespeare and classical music to the few survivors in scattered outposts: people eking out an existence without any infrastructure, centralised government and dwindling resources. Holding onto history, art and culture in such a bleak landscape seems both foolhardy and wonderful in equal measures.

The Chimes by Anna Smaill is a very different animal. Yes, people are struggling, living in a London very different to the one we know, but things are very different from Station Eleven. There is a power in charge, a cloistered order that have developed a powerful weapon they use on their own people to keep control. The weapon? Music.

Cover of The ChimesThe Chimes are sent through the air and there is no escaping them; they wipe people’s memories and keep them subdued: you almost feel music has become an opiate that makes the populace feel safe. With no written word, people use music and song to remember things, such as how to travel from one place to another. They also keep objects that help them remember family, places and their history.

I love the use of musical terms in their language, many of which I had to look up, such as Lento, which means slow and Tacit, which means a sudden stop in a piece of music. I was fascinated by the way music was both their prison and their saviour, the way the protagonists in the story used music to keep themselves alive and to try to bring down those in power.

The run was tacit. Clare and I followed the first of the two strange, twisting melodies. Ours moved straight into the fourth chord and pushed on presto, skipping and meandering and returning almost completely on itself  before branching straight out in a modulation to the dominant.

Simon, our main character, is an orphaned young man who soon discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

Both books fit my ideal of dystopia. People struggling in an alien world, even if it is our own in a different time or altered state. Heroes, villains and fascinating ideas to transport you and challenge you. Both books get the Purplerulz  purple seal of approval… read them now!

To learn more about the writing process and ideas behind The Chimes, read Masha’s great post about her interview with Anna Smaill.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

You probably know the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Twelve sisters disappear at night and come back with worn out shoes — where have they gone? The father offers a reward for anyone who can solve the mystery.Cover of The Girls at the Kingfisher CLub

The mystery of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club has already been solved. A father, determined for a male heir, perseveres until he has twelve daughters living on the top floor of his New York apartments. Twelve sisters, aching for freedom, slip out each night to whatever Manhattan speakeasies seem safest. The story mostly follows Jo, the General, but also manages to capture the disparate personalities and hopes of her eleven younger siblings.

While I loved the historical element of this book (1920s New York!), the characters really steal the show. One of my favourite moments was when the father, stern faced and suspicious, confronts all twelve daughters for the first time. Suddenly he’s vulnerable in the face of his own offspring, especially Jo, trained by necessity to guard and look over her sisters and constantly worrying: am I my father? She certainly shares his iron will, his strength and his stubbornness, but while her father uses his power to cage others, Jo uses hers to set her sisters free. The sisters aren’t perfect by any means; they squabble and hate and love each other equally, living together with an invisible line marking each sister’s territory. There’s loneliness on that crowded floor, but there’s also a connection between prisoners that never really fades.

She was still trying to discover how people related to each other, and how you met the world when you weren’t trying to hide something from someone. It was a lesson slow in coming.

If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like a light read, you’re right, but it’s worth it for the elegance of Genevieve Valentine’s writing, and watching twelve princesses free themselves while carrying their shoes in their hands.

All copies unavailable? Try these similar titles which I also wept over:

Cover of The Goblin Emperor Cover of Rose Under Fire Cover of The Diviners

Another way to find a good book

The Ultimate teen book guideReading book reviews is part of my daily routine, as I work in the team that selects stock for the Library Network.  (And yes, it is a great job!)  I need to be up to date with new titles and any trends in the publishing world, and reviewing journals enable  me to try to keep one step ahead.  

One of my favourite journals  is Good Reading.  Easy and interesting to read, it is published in Australia,  and includes most books that you will find in our bookshops.

What I enjoy most about Good Reading  is the input from readers who send in reviews.  As you can imagine the recommendations are eclectic and far-reaching, and give me an idea of what titles might become very popular, as well as and opportunity to find something for myself!

Good reading is also online, and the web page has links to a free e-newsletter, a blog and access to book titles that include reviews, first chapters and reading notes.  You can also subscribe to the magazine.

The library subscribes to other reviewing journals such as Booksellerand Publishers weekly, and like Good Reading, can also be borrowed.  Our Web pages are also full of ideas for finding great books.