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So this was absolutely awesome. I can’t tell you anything other than that because it will ruin the ending of War Cross, the first book, but suffice to say, it was definitely worth the read.

The Last to Let Go

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I so wanted to love this book. I adored The Way I Used to Be and I was/am desperate to find a really powerful story addressing domestic violence. Sadly, I don’t think this is it.  The main character, Brooke, plans to start the coming school year at a fancy new high school where she will be pushed academically to achieve all she’s capable of. Unfortunately, on the day of her final exam at her old school, she returns home to find that her mother has killed her father, having finally cracked after years and years of domestic abuse.  There are flashes of brilliance in this story, but overall it just didn’t deliver. I found Brooke selfish and a little shallowly drawn.  Actually, most of the characters lacked the depth needed to pull this off – the girl Brooke falls for at her new school is furious with her for not telling her the whole story, but I couldn’t help thinking it was one situation when perhaps a bit of understanding should be called for… Most frustrating is that Smith doesn’t resolve any of the issues surrounding the younger sister, who saw the dad being killed. She starts to make it interesting by suggesting the sister blames the mum for what happened, but then it goes nowhere, the conversation is never returned to. So on balance, not a very satisfying read. It’s ok. Maybe 3 out of 5?

Into the Darklands

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In recent years Nigel Latta has become more famous for his tv show about NZ society (for example, the sugar episode is one I use a lot for Home Ec class), but this book was my introduction to him, and a brutal one at that.  It documents his work as a psychologist to some of the most violent offenders in recent New Zealand history, including the “unbelievably pointless” murder of pizza delivery boy Michael Choy by a group of young teens – one was only 12 at the time.  Latta’s voice throughout the book is as no-nonsense as it is on tv. He swears freely and calls a spade a spade.  It makes for a gripping read, but definitely one that will have you looking over your shoulder at your neighbour with a newfound suspicion…