Book review: The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

The Last of the Spirits cover imageThe Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley, Bloomsbury, ISBN9781408854136, RRP$27.99

Christmas may be well gone but stock up for next year’s present pile or just enjoy a bit of Christmas with this excellent book for kids and young adults.

The Last of the Spirits is another retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but Chris Priestley has produced a spooky, satisfying and ultimately comforting read that honestly explores the dark themes that Dickens also wrote about.

Sam and Lizzie are homeless, parentless children, looking for a warm place to sleep when they stumble into the ghost of Marley, about to go and wake one Ebenezer Scrooge. The ghosts are scary but are they as scary as what real life has done to them?

Priestley has written a number of horror stories inspired by traditional masters of horror (and which I am definitely going to go looking for!) and with this tale he has added another dimension to Dickens’ world. This is a spellbinding little book that will do wonders for the imaginations of young readers, as well as introducing them to some of the hard questions of our society.

And the winner of Minton Goes! is…

Minton Goes cover imageFirst, thanks to everyone who entered and sorry to those who missed out! I do try to run a few giveaways every so often so keep your eyes out for more. :)

Without further ado the winner is… Tim! For obvious reasons I won’t give away your last name but if your name is Tim and you entered then look out for a parcel in your mailbox soon.

Writers invited to enter Mind Body Spirit Awards

Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust logoWriters working in the mind, body and spirit genre have just over one month to go to enter their unpublished manuscript to the 2015 Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Book Awards.

The Award, now in its 12th year carries a $10,000 prize.

Entries close on 31 March 2015.

The award’s judges also seek entries for published works. Entries in the Book category close on 31 May, and it also carries a prize of $10,000.

Spokesperson for The Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust, Adonia Wylie says the judging panel is looking for fiction or non-fiction works that have the potential to uplift and enhance people, relationships and society.

“We enjoy reading works that extend our knowledge of the genre and we would like to encourage all writers interested in the growing mind, body, spirit field to submit their work.

“Authorship and editing are important considerations, and in the case of published books, quality of production such as design and typography will also be important.”

Last year, Wiremu NiaNia, Allister Bush and David Epston won the $10,000 award in the Unpublished Manuscript category for their work:  Tātaihono: Stories of Māori Healing and Psychiatry. Professor Lloyd Geering won the Book category for his work: From the Big Bang to God.

The awards are unique in the country for their encouragement of writing in the mind, body, spirit field.

“The genre encompasses a wide range of beliefs and has higher consciousness, expanded awareness and greater enlightenment as its goals.

“Works from secular and religious backgrounds such as mysticism, spirituality, religion, alternative healing, metaphysics, quantum physics, meditation, holistic personal development, and theosophy are of interest to us,” says Ms Wylie.

Shortlisted writers will be announced mid-July and the award winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust’s own venue, Hopetoun Alpha in Auckland on 14 August, 2015.

Submission forms and entry details are available from http://www.awct.org.nz/bookawards.asp or from The Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust office, phone: 0800 367 242, e-mail: awctbookawards@ebco.co.nz.

Book review: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

There Will be Lies by Nick Lake cover imageThere Will Be Lies by Nick Lake, Bloomsbury, ISBN9781408856000, RRP $24.99

Some books you read the blurb for and get rather excited about. Expectations run high… which can always lead to dashed hopes.

That rather dramatic opening is basically my way of saying I really had high hopes for There Will Be Lies but ultimately the book didn’t entirely deliver. It wasn’t by any means bad, it just had some issues.

Our protagonist is Shelby Cooper and from the start it’s clear there’s something a little off about her life. She lives with her mum and is home-schooled and quickly we realise that more than that, she barely goes out in public without her mother by her side. Her mum seems obsessed with her safety.

Shelby is one of the good parts of this book, she’s sassy and sweet and more than a little sarcastic. Her mum embarrasses her no end but she also clearly loves her. So I liked our main character… except, and it’s a big except, her personality didn’t really fit with her story. She’s supposedly been really REALLY sheltered, she doesn’t have any friends and she’s never been to school. The author throws in a bit about how she spends lots of time on the internet which her mum supposedly doesn’t know about… but that seems more like an easy way to explain her personality.

As the story goes on the reader is hit with more and more revelations. Shelby is hit by a car, ends up in hospital, and suddenly she and her mum are on the run. Shelby realises she has no idea of the truth about her life. She is mysteriously pursued by a coyote and the story spins again to include switching in and out of Shelby’s “real” life and a fantasy world, heavily influenced by Native American mythology.

Here’s where we hit the major snag. I don’t know a lot about Native American mythology and culture … and I don’t think Nick Lake had a lot of knowledge either. The use of these signs and symbols feels incredibly heavy handed, as if he banged it out in a hurry to make sure he got the plot down before losing inspiration, then forgot to go back and do a decent amount of research to finesse it.

There are some great plot twists in There Will Be Lies and I’ll admit I had to keep reading it, despite all my reservations. The major twist is a fantastic idea to hang a storyline on and was genuinely surprising. But the parts never entirely added up to the whole.