January 26

Sea Dreamer

This book is another in my growing list of ‘don’t believe the blurb’. The publisher really wants to dress it up to be a ghost story, but really…

Cassie is a typical young lady living in a small coastal town in New Zealand. She loves the sea, her family, her friend Rana and old fashioned poetry. At school her favourite teacher gives her a family history assignment but for English not history. Cassie chooses to write about her mysterious ancestor Sarah Cassandra, who was reputed to be a pirate. So where is this story idea going to lead? The blurb makes it sound like the spirit of Sarah Cassandra takes control of Cassie and her whole life.

But the book itself is much more satisfying. The story is really about the struggle many adolescent girls have in maintaining friendships. Why is it that two people who have been friends since kinder can no longer have a conversation about the weather without it becoming a fight? And what happens to the trust? This book is really about Cassie and Rana and the gradual dissolving of their ‘best friend’ relationship. And it tells this story beautifully. Although Cassie is the narrator, Pulford very gently reveals enough of Rana’s story to clearly explain her changing behaviour.

As you can tell, I liked the book. I did have some questions about listing it for lower secondary rather than upper secondary because some adults will object to the mention of teenage pregnancy and suicide in a book for 12-14 year olds. But I believe that it is very often this very age group that needs to understand that sometimes people change, and it is OK not to be best friends forever.

January 15

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This was one of the first books I read at the start of the school holidays. A friend had recommended it and I certainly needed a change from the diet of children’s and young adult books. What a powerful read. It should almost be required reading in any teacher training course.

Picoult tells the story of a school shooting incident from many points of view. The judge, whose daughter attended the school and cannot remember what happened in front of her own eyes. The detective, who arrives on the scene while the shooting is still in progress and manages to disarm the shooter and arrest him. The mother of the shooter, who has been a successful midwife for many years, advising other mothers about nurturing their own children. The daugher of the judge, who used to be best friends with the boy with the gun. The defense lawyer, desperately looking for any defense for the young man. And finally the shooter himself, is he a criminal or really a victim…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Every page. However, be warned, it is not a book you can forget easily.

January 15

Kydd: The Admiral’s Daughter by Julian Stockwin

No, I haven’t stopped reading. Work just got to busy to allow time for writing. And now the dozens of books waiting for review are starting to crowd me out of the house.

Ah, another seafaring adventure. My editor has provided me with several over the years, and I am always looking to get hooked into another series after the wonderful Master and Commander from Patrick O’Brian. And I have always been attracted to the Kydd series right from the publication of the opening book. I bought it for the library, but never found the time to read it.

Now I have read book 8 in the series, and book one should be brought home to add to my reading list, possibly before I write this review. Reviewing a book in the middle of the series is kind of like walking into the movie in the last 20 minutes. However, the reading list is long and this review is due for publication.

Kydd is an English common seaman who has risen through the ranks during the Napoleonic wars. He has seen the world and fought in a large part of it. He was with Nelson at the Nile, fought privateers in the Caribbean and now he has come home to England to command his own vessel doing coastal patrol. He chases smugglers, hunts down Black Jacques, and navigates the treacherous currents and storms in the English channel. At the same time he meets and falls for the Admiral’s daughter, and spends a great deal of this book working on his vowels and his manners in order to impress the young lady. But then another woman catches his eye, …

I had a few problems with this book, and many of them may have been caused by joining the series so late. I found the history irrational. Any self-respecting young commander on his way up the social register would not even see the daughter of a Cornish squire. In fact, I doubt very much that any common seaman, no matter how able, would reach the quarterdeck in a single lifetime, let alone command. I found the writing of conversational language annoying. Please Stockwin, give me the occasional vowel. I c’nt st’nd ‘ll th’ di’l’g’ wr’t wi’owt th’m no matter how authentic the dialect may be.

Patrick O’Brian he is not, but for those may readers out there who find the Aubrey Maturin series too slow and descriptive, you may well enjoy this.