April 2

Shadows in the Mirror by Cameron Nunn

Once again Black Dog Books has a winner. I really would like to meet their talent scout because again this is a book by a first time author. One of my personal guides to the quality of a book that I have read is how long the story line sticks with me. Since I read a book a day on average, a plot that sticks is important. And this book has it. Several time in the past few weeks I have reached to recommend it as ‘just the right thing’.

This book appears on the surface to be a true condemnation of private school education, especially boarding schools. However the situations that are found at this school can also be true of many workplaces or other communities that are found in our society.

David has been attending Hamilton College since year 7. He has learned the rules, don’t dob, keep your head down, say nothing to attract the attention of the bullies (teachers or senior students) and work on your rugby because that will give you an edge. Just before he is due to start year 11, his parents decide to move to the country and a new job. David begs to be allowed to board, and his parents relent. His new roommate is Simon, the son of a rugby great. But Simon is no rugby star, in fact he is the ideal victim. When the bullying begins, Simon looks to David for support and friendship, but 5 years of training by the school has taught David that interference is useless.

To say much more would be to spoil the story. And that would be a shame. Just accept my recommendation. This book will make you think about violence in our society, real and implied.

April 2

Zac Power series by H. I. Larry

I picked up this book prepared to hate it. I am really not a fan of the boys spy adventure stories. I have always hated James Bond films and tolerated the Alex Rider books because it is part of my job.

And this book is no different. Another young super cool spy kid is snatched away from his family (who are also spies so they don’t worry) and sent off to some remote location with a couple of gadgets and his wits. Within 24 hours Zac has to complete some mission that has baffled adults in order to save the world. Need I say more?

Get Smart it aint. There is nothing for adults in this childish adventure. However, I expect this book will be extremely popular with many boys. The Alex Rider books are huge for most young readers and many reluctant reader boys will need to be convinced that they will enjoy them before they will even take it off the shelf. However Zac Power is short, illustrated and large type. It can be read in a day easily. In spite of my personal bias, it’s not a bad introduction to the whole spy thriller genre.

April 2

Red Leader Down by Ken Catran

Ken Catran has done it again. Somehow he manages to capture the adventure of war without dressing it up to be glamorous. He accomplished this with his wonderful series about the Moran family and now looks at the final days of WW II and the fighter pilots who were fighting Hitler’s ‘last fifty planes.’

The story opens with a young man apparently seeing the ghost of his grandfather, a strange old man who had little time for his family. The ghost claims there is more to his wartime experience than the family knows and Matt will need to go find out. He later discovers that the old man has died, and when he attends the funeral he meets a few of his grandfather’s wartime ‘buddies’. The house was trashed before the family could arrive to look after the place, so Matt gets left behind to prevent any more damage. One thing leads to another, and eventually Matt discovers a journal that was written by his grandfather for him to read.

And there the adventure begins. There is enough action in this book for anyone. As we all know the British fighter pilots kept going up again and again until they died, were captured, or the Germans were beaten. So the book is packed full of dogfights, gunfights and even some escapes. But this is no Biggles. The flamable aircraft left hundreds of pilots burned beyond recognition, and these poor souls are included in the commentary. And every dogfight has its casualties, and sometimes they are friends.

In a couple of weeks I will be talking about war stories and I look forward to including this tale in my collection of Ken Catran stories.