About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Crossing by Mandy Hager

The Crossing (Random House, 2009)
I loved this book, the first of a trilogy called The Blood of the Lamb series. Set on a remote island somewhere in Kiribati in a post apocalyptic world, the novel is filled with snippets of Gilbertese culture, from toddy drinking to public shaming. Some Gilbertese phrases and terms are also used. The descriptions of noddies and frigate birds, the swell and cycles of the reef are all so clear that the tropics come alive in this book and make it a sensuous treasure.
   But the plot is a sinister one. Maryam is one of the chosen ones, an islander who is raised away from her island of Onewere on a small atoll where children are indoctrinated to follow the teachings of Saul, the founding father of the Apostles of the Lamb. The apostles are the descendants of Europeans shipwrecked at Onewere during the Tribulation (solar flares which brought destruction to most of the Earth). They live in the remains of their ship the Star of the Sea.
   The chosen ones are selcted to serve the Apostles and Maryam is determined to be a dutiful servant. When the time comes for her to cross over to the rotting ship she finds life is far from idyllic. She is nothing more than a slave, doomed to die. With the help of some unlikely friends Maryam plans her escape.
   This book has quite a gothic feel to it when the blood-thirsty motives of the sect leaders are revealed. The pace is fast and the characters are plausible and interesting. It had me gripped right to the last pages. Exciting and disturbing. A terrific read.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sky Dancer by Witi Ihimaera

Sky Dancer (Penguin, 2003)

This book was such a challenge for me. Normally a fat book puts me off reading. I guess that's why I like Young Adult Fiction because they're usually thin books that don't take over a week to read. The other thing that tripped me up for the first 100 pages was the number of characters, all birds, whose personal name or species began with the letter k. Once I got over these two hurdles though I was captivated.
   Ihimaera has such a relaxed natural style that it's easy for the story to sweep you along. 
   The novel is about a young woman called Skylark who has Maori heritage. She takes her mother away for a holiday to a remote country town where they stay with two old Maori women. The old women are sisters and sworn protectors of the birds of the land. Skylark is drawn into helping the old women to fight a pitched battle with the sea birds.
   The bad guys in this story are the sea shags and gulls, terns and albatross, and every other sea species who in Maori folklore were jealous of the landbirds, coveting the sweet eelfish that the landbirds ate.  Skylark is a fiesty character and is a lot of fun, a terrific heroine. Her side kick Arnie has sections of cliched dialogue which is a bit annoying but in harmony with the character so it's easily forgiven. But by far the most memeorable character is old Hoki with her withered foot, who sacrifices almost everything to save the day.
   Ihimaera has managed to link myth with a contemporary plot to produce a rollicking good yarn. An enjoyable read.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Riding the Waves: Four Maori Myths by Gavin Bishop

Ridning the Waves (Random House NZ, 2006)
Riding the Waves is the second in a series of picture story books for very young children by author illustrator Gavin Bishop.
   The four myths are portrayed by Bishop's clear but effective style. His figure drawings are well defined in black and ink washes fill out the background colour. The effect can be quite dark on some pages and gives pictures a muted feel. 'Maui finds his family' had this appearance. But on other stories with brighter spreads the colour is vibrant and fluid. 'Hatupatu and the Birdwoman' has this appeal.
   The stories are related simply with plenty of dialogue.
   My favourite was 'Maui and the Godess of Fire'. Even small details like Mahuika's fiery fingernails are depicted. The red ink stretching across the pages evokes the image of spreading fire perfectly.
  This book is a great one to read to your pikininis before bed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Unquiet by Carolyn McCurdie

The Unquiet (Longacre, 2006)
Tansy lives in New Zealand and is alarmed when big things start disappearing. By big I mean massive, like entire countries and even the planet Pluto. A dark emptiness is growing, swallowing whole communities and driving people crazy with a 'jabbery, twisty kind of sound'. It's the Unquiet. Tansy and her classmate Anaru are drawn into the realms of Maori myth as the Unquiet claims their town. In shadow form they use Maui's waka to go fishing and hook NZ out of danger.
   I liked this children's story because of the blend of myth and reality. The book was well written and the plot moved quickly. Tansy and Anaru are engaging characters although I thought Mrs Rex was a bit stereotyped as the eccentric teacher.
   If you like speculative fiction then you ought to find this a good story. It's too easy for PSSC students but still an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tev by Brendan Murray

Tev by Brendan Murray (Freemantle Arts Centre Press, 2002)

Tev is half Tongan, half Australian and is almost fifteen. 'My parents call me Tev, usually, and Tevita when they're annoyed with me. There's been a lot of 'Tevita' lately.'
   His parents believe he's been deceitful and so Tev has been sent home to Tonga, his mother's land, to straighten him out.
   The book starts with his plane journey and meeting his uncle Maka and cousins at the airport. His stay with the family is difficult as he has to grapple with the culture and language. He finds love too and  safe refuge for his companions during a cyclone.
   I enjoyed the depiction of the funeral (I won't say who dies) and other cultural events in this book. Murray shows island life as it is: the squabbles, the joys and the unity.
   The whole way through the book there are Tongan words and phrases with English translations following in brackets. I found this technique distracting. Many meanings could be understood from the context of the sentences and the glossary at the back served to help when meaning was lost. I also found Tevita's voice inconsistent. In the dialogue he sounded like a teenager, but a lot of his internal thoughts were those of an adult.
Overall the book is good light entertainment, but I didn't think Tev was a fully developed character. There was a lot of room for improvement.