About Me

My photo
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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Marooned on Mogmog by Jennifer Barrie

I was really excited when I bought this book because it was billed as a modern-day Swiss Family Robinson: an Aussie family marooned on a remote island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Wow, just my thing! I settled down, started reading and immediately became uncomfortable.
Marooned on Mogmog
(Harper Collins, 2011)
   The quality of the writing is poor, which is such a shame as the author has a great tale to tell. There are many aspects which continually jar the reader. The verb tenses change so often, many times within paragraphs that it makes you re-read many paragraphs trying to sort out when things happened. Continuity between paragraphs is sometimes missing meaning that you are flung from one topic to another with little connectivity. Cliche's abound, repitition is rife. Many times the author fails to write of concrete things, instead saying things like...we had a lot of fun, (such as...?) or refers to a friend who 'you have to read her emails to understand'. So Ok, let us read the emails, OR... please omit this sentence  because it doesn't add to the story. If Barrie had stuck to concrete details all the way through as she does with the death of a dog and its aftermath, the whole story would have lifted. I got the impression that not much editing was done on this book.
  The narrator comes across as a fun person but her voice lacks consistancy. She is sometimes businesslike, sometimes whingeing, sometimes rude. The spattering of profanities don't do the book much good either. She also indulges in hubris and culture bashing too much for my liking. However, having been an expat in the Pacific I understand how easy it is to make cultural mistakes.
   I was really upset for this author because the cultural divide she writes about is fascinating. The photos are terrific too. If only the editing hadn't let her down she would have had a good book. As it stands it's less than average.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finder's Shore by Anna Mackenzie

Finder's Shore
(2011, Random house)
Finder's Shore is the last book in Anna Mackenzie's Sea-wreck Stranger trilogy and in many ways it draws all the threads of the story together. Like most teens Ness doesn't know what career direction to take. Should she stay at the farm or join the scouts? Neither option appeals to her. When the chance to journey back to her home island comes, Ness must steel herself for the horrors she may find. In a dystopian world, Ness's choices are limited but there is a lot of hope in this story, and faith in the inevitability of change.
  The first book in this series was a 'cracker' and the second, Ebony Hill, seemed to be a slower more introspective book. Finder's Shore has glimmers of the tension from the first book but generally it follows the pattern of the second. Ness is basically an adult now and her actions are more measured than in her youthful days narration of  The Sea-wreck Stranger.  If there is one critisism of this story it is that there is a lot of what I call on, off, on, off... in this instance it's to do with a ship and Ness's home island of Dunnett. In a way the safety of the ship seemed to suck some of the tension out of the story. 
   The voice that Mackenzie has created for Ness is delightful and I never tire of it. If you haven't yet read the Sea-wreck Stranger I think you ought to get into it. It is a real treasure and although this one doesn't quite measure up it is still very satisfying to know what happens to Ness, her family and her new friend Ronan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kimble Bent Malcontent by Chris Grosz

Kimble Bent Malcontent is a graphic novel written/drawn by Chris Grosz. It is jam packed with interesting facts about traditional Maori diet, culture and warfare as well as snippets about various military leaders in New Zealand in the 1860s. The story centres around a runaway soldier, Kimble Bent who sought refuge with the Hauhau people near Mt Taranaki during the time of the Taranaki War.
   I admit to knowing zilch about New Zealand history so this book filled me in on some of the battles and the atrocities committed by both sides. I was particularly fascinated by the way the Maori made ammunition and fortified their stockades, ready for attack.
Kimble Bent Malcontent
(Random House, 2011)
   The illustrations are all in black and white and some are pretty frightening. I found the sequence of pictures hard to follow on some pages, but it didn't detract too much from the story. There is a glossary at the front and on many pages there is detailed information about various facts such as how to make tattoo ink or who Major Von Tempsky was. There are also maps and plans of various stockades.
   I would recommend  this book to anyone interested in battles and history. The graphic novel is certainly a good way to present this historical material which often students find dry and uninteresting.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I love these decorative creations that adorn so many houses in the Pacific. It's amazing what can be done with plastic food wrappers. Someone has obviously spent hours folding, cutting and sewing food wrappers to make this interesting piece, displayed here at the Mothers Union Guest house in Buala, SI. And what do we do in Australia? We throw all these wrappers into landfill rubbish tips. Somehow I think the woman who made this decoration has a better grasp of resource management than those of us from developed nations.