Monthly Archives: January 2017

Book Reviews Reading

Review: The Demos Deception by Carl Anson

A photo of the cover of the book The Demos Deception by Carl Anson
A photo of the cover of the book The Demos Deception by Carl Anson

What is it?

The Demos Deception by Carl Anson

First published 2010

A New Zealand, young adult adventure novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Seventeen year old Steven Grant, tragically orphaned whilst in his last year at school, longs to escape the humdrum existence he is forced to lead with his appointed guardians.

Sea Wolf, a blue water yacht left to him by his father is his one love and finally provides his escape to freedom. All is not plain sailing however as Steven is soon to discover.

Shipwrecked by a violent storm on a supposedly deserted Pacific island he accidentally uncovers a terrorist plot by modern day pirates.

Captured, he escapes and begins a personal odyssey to bring the culprits to justice. Aided by the intrepid Nadia Villas from the British Embassy in Bahrain he comes up against the piratical captain and crew of the oil tanker Demos which sails the seas under different aliases.

Can Steven and Nadia foil the terrorist plot to blow up a Middle Eastern port?

What I thought

Oh…kay. I picked this up at the library because I was trawling through the YA section starting at A.

The back cover blurb is kinda bad, (Humdrum? Really?) but it had a couple of things that interested me. Tragically orphaned. Boom! Appointed guardians. Zap! Personal odyssey. Pow!

So I’m thinking, angry kid pushing against people who aren’t his real parents. That sounds like a bit of me. The rest of it (shipwreck, pirates, terrorist plot) wasn’t as interesting, but in line with my resolution to read more NZ YA that I wouldn’t otherwise, I grabbed it.

And, in the spirit of honesty, I skimmed it. It was that bad.

Again, I don’t want to go on a rant about why I didn’t like it, but here are a couple of things:

  1. The title is a bad choice. The Demos Deception makes it sound fantastical, but it’s contemporary.
  2. The writing doesn’t work. Along with the humdrum example from the blurb, there are dozens of examples of bad word choice. Forenoon (uh, we call that morning). Encumbrance (um, just, reword that). Alighted (try, got off). There were also some spots where the writing was lovely: “The staccato drumming of the radials on the roadway.” But do teens, the target audience, know that radials are tyres? What this really comes down to is that the voice was off. It wasn’t a teenager telling this story. It was an old man.
  3. There were scenes from Steven’s uncle’s POV and the ship captain’s POV. Does it ever work having adult POV in YA? Really, it felt like a cop-out to be able to tell the reader stuff Steven wouldn’t otherwise know.
  4. But the big thing, the thing it always comes down to, was the lack of feeling. Steven was desperate enough to jump on a little yacht and sail off into the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to feel his pain. He got abducted by pirates. I wanted to feel his fear. And I wanted him to grow, to be a different person at the end thanks to the events he experienced. I didn’t feel anything.
Book Reviews Reading

Review: I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale

A photo of the book I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale
A photo of the book I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale

What is it?

I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale

First published 1998

A New Zealand, young adult contemporary novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Imagine that your mother tells you she’s going away. She is going to leave you with relatives you’ve never heard of — and they are members of a strict religious cult. Your name is changed, and you are forced to follow the severe set of social standards set by the cult. There is no television, no radio, no newspaper. No mirrors. You must wear long, modest clothes. You don’t know where your mother is, and you are beginning to question your own identity.

What I thought

I Am Not Esther is one of those classic NZ books that you feel like you *should* read. I’d read Juno of Taris before, and it didn’t really grab me, so I wasn’t so keen to give Esther a go. But I won a copy of Being Magdalene, and it’s waiting to be read, and I felt I couldn’t do that without reading Esther first, so after my resolution to read more NZYA this year, I grabbed a copy from the library.

I’m going to come out and say it. I did not like Esther.

The concept is appealing. Kirby’s mother suddenly takes off for Africa, leaving Kirby with her strictly-religious, previously-unknown relatives. Faced with living with them for the next two years, Kirby — renamed Esther — has to figure out how to fit in and whether to fight the strict rules.

It *sounds* good, but the writing didn’t engage me. I felt there was too much summary and not enough scenes. When I’m reading, I don’t want to be *told* a story, I want to live it with the characters. And with Esther, this didn’t happen.

And speaking of things not happening, NOTHING HAPPENED. I started skimming a bit, waiting for things to really get going, but it just never did. Her uncle and aunt, though strict, really weren’t that bad. There were a couple of big, dramatic scenes, but, again, I didn’t feel them. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t angry, I didn’t laugh, I didn’t cry.

I’m not too disappointed, as I didn’t have high hopes. But I *hope* this isn’t a sign of how my year of reading more NZ YA is going to go.



New Year’s Resolutions

A photo of fireworks in the night sky
A photo of fireworks in the night sky – photo credit: **ste** 1-DSC_3831 via photopin (license)

I’m not normally one for New Year’s resolutions. They seem to fritter away so quickly I don’t see the point. But this year I had an idea. I want to read more New Zealand YA. I want to read things I wouldn’t normally read in the hope of finding something I didn’t know I’d like.

I actually thought I’d try reading only NZ YA this year. Then I remembered Brigid Kemmerer’s next book comes out in April.

Ha ha ha ha nope.

So I settled for “Read more NZ YA”.

I’ve also decided to blog about them. Normally I don’t blog about or review books I don’t like, because reading is so subjective. Just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean it was bad. And there’s enough negativity in the world. And I don’t want writers or fans of a book to feel bad because I ranted about it. But I’m going to now (not rant exactly, but put down my thoughts) because I want to try and figure out what works for me and what doesn’t, and that might help me find more books I *do* like in the future.