‘GRAVITY’ BY TRACEY POUEU-GUERRERO

‘Gravity’ is the first instalment in Tracey Poueu-Guerrero’s Michaels Family Series. This is a coming of age love story that centres around Eva, a young sporty girl from California, and her journey of growing up and self-discovery.

GRAVITY

Summary

Being the youngest child and an only girl in the family is not easy. Always surrounded by her protective brothers, Eva doesn’t even think about boys. A tomboy with no girlfriends, she keeps busy doing what she does best – playing sports.

Eva’s life changes when she meets him – the boy of her dreams. Colton Banks quickly becomes part of the Michaels family and Eva’s best friend; the only friend she has ever had.

As the years go by, both Eva and Colton discover that what they feel for each other is more than just friendship. And although they fight hard to suppress their attraction, the pull becomes impossible to resist.

Review

‘Gravity’ is a young adult read filled with passion, romance, teenage angst, and – here’s the part that may be surprising to you – wisdom. Yes, Tracey Poueu-Guerrero managed to create a relatable story for young people that’s not only enjoyable, but also inspiring and brilliantly thought-provoking.

Although the novel may seem like your typical boy-meets-girl tale, it is not conventionally or trivially romantic. Of course, you may predict right from the beginning that the two main characters will eventually end up together (no surprises here), but what happens along the way is completely unforeseeable.

The love story, which you would think is the central element of the book, at times constitutes just a background for other plots. There is a lot about Eva’s journey from a self-conscious teenager to a self-confident young woman, a good deal about her relationship with her overprotective brothers, a little about her search for her cultural identity. Every chapter adds another layer to the narrative, making it head in directions that are constantly and wonderfully unexpected.

Especially intriguing is the way the author portrayed the theme of Eva’s ethnicity. Part Polynesian, part white Californian girl, Eva struggles to find her identity. Her looks (tan skin, curly hair, generous bum) may give away her island origin, but she knows nothing about her heritage. Thanks to her friend, she gets introduced to the Samoan culture. She meets people who look like her; she discovers the language; she learns about the country her grandfather came from. And she finally starts feeling ‘at home with herself’.

Eva’s journey of self-discovery gives readers wonderful insights into the Samoan world. We get to know it through Eva’s and Colton’s eyes – and I must say that’s a very interesting perspective.

Speaking of Eva and Colton… Everybody knows that no story can exist without characters. If they are well-crafted, they add an extra spark to a tale. Tracey Poueu-Guerrero developed unbelievably believable, round, and dynamic protagonists whom young people can easily identify with. But the real strength of this novel lies in the minor characters – mainly Eva’s brothers and friends. They not only complement the leading pair but are also stars on their own.

‘Gravity’ is a great read. It is well constructed, compelling, and filled to the brim with all the drama teenagers and young adults often have to deal with. If you have a daughter, son, younger sibling – this book will make a perfect Christmas gift for them. Just bear in mind that it contains some explicit language and sexual situations, so it may not be suitable for ages under 15.

‘PACIFIC TSUNAMI GALU AFI’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is an account of the 2009 Pacific Tsunami that hit the countries of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga on September, 29th. It was penned by a Samoan writer, Lani Wendt Young.

GALU AFI

Summary

The morning of September 29th is like any other day in Samoa. Some people are getting ready for work, others are still asleep. They don’t know yet that their lives are soon going to change forever.

At 6.48 a.m. the earth begins to tremble; violently. Things are falling off the shelves; coconuts are falling off the trees; rocks are falling off the cliffs. A short while later, the sirens can be heard blaring out.

Most people, busy with their morning routines, don’t even notice the ocean receding. But the birds know. They know something is coming, so they take off. They take off before the first black wave starts rushing to the shore.

Review

Imagine you’re watching one of those Hollywood-made disaster drama films. You know, the films with an all-star cast, great special effects, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat biting your nails in fear, excitement, or both. The films you’re watching thanking God it’s only a film. Well, ‘Galu Afi’ is such a film; only on paper.

You may think that this is just a book that recounts the tragic events of September 29th, 2009, but I can already tell you that it is not. This book is so much more. It shows us what’s really important in life. It proves that people can act like brothers, not enemies; that we can count on one another when the bad times come. It is, contrary to appearances, an unbelievably uplifting read; one that will stay in your head long after the book is closed.

Lani Wendt Young was given a tough job of putting together dozens of heartbreaking stories to document the disaster for Samoa and its people. It would be all too easy to create a volume full of sorrowful narratives, but she managed to avoid excessive sentimentality. Yes, the presented accounts are moving, poignant, at times even disturbing – and you might shed a tear or two. But you will also smile, because they are often laced with subtle, appropriate humour only Lani Wendt Young can deliver.

The emotions ‘Galu Afi’ evokes give you a true roller-coaster ride, largely due to the fact that you don’t stay in one story for a very long time. It seems as if the author had wanted all the voices to be heard. You meet one family, then you meet another, and another. There are so many characters, yet somehow you remember them all. You feel for them, admire them, wonder at their strength and resilience. And when you see their faces in the photographs, their tales become even more real. Suddenly you realize that this is not some Hollywood story, and that not everyone has a happy ending.

The book is written in a simple yet elegant style. Lani Wendt Young doesn’t show off her writing skills – she remains in the shadow, but she still gets to shine. The people’s voices are neatly stitched together with her own words, creating an absorbing read full of heart and soul.

Before I started reading ‘Galu Afi’, I had already known that Lani Wendt Young is an extraordinarily talented writer. But now I will say that she is a true literary artisan. This book isn’t good; it’s not even great. It can be described in one word only – a masterpiece. ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is a pure masterpiece.

A CHAT WITH… MADELAIN WESTERMANN

Are you looking for a unique book for your child? If so, ‘Island of the Invisible Being’ should be your choice. Its author is Madelain Westermann, a teacher from Oregon who fell in love with the island cultures after working in the Marshall Islands. I highly recommend reading the interview with this talented and utterly lovely lady!

MADELAIN WESTERMANN

Pasifika Tales: What inspired you to write a book for children?

Madelain Westermann: I have been teaching in one form or another since 1976. The only reason I continue to teach at my age is the children. They are amazing, miraculous, and inspiring. When I come across former students and see what they have done with their lives, I know that I can teach one more year! Our 8th Grade teacher at my current school was one of my former students. She has a beautiful family, and will probably be my boss next year! That’s plenty of reason enough for me to keep suiting up and showing up! So, I chose a children’s book format as they are the future and the book contains a message of ‘being an over-comer’. This is a message that children at this time in history need to internalize the most!

PT: And what inspired you to write this particular story?

MW: I was inspired by a third grade student who was in my class on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. He lived on Ebeye and took the boat over daily to attend school. He wrote this as an assignment for class. He told me that his grandmother had told it to him. He graduated from elementary school and was attending middle school when I was told that he had taken his life. I was so upset but powerless to do anything as I had not been in contact with him for several years. When I left the Marshall Islands, I found his story in with my teaching materials. I had no idea how it got there, but decided to rewrite his story because I wanted some part of him to be passed on. After the book was published, Benjua contacted me and asked for a copy of the book! Turns out that his life’s adventure did not end as I was told! He is now a professional salvage diver!

PT: Children’s books with a protagonist who is not white are not necessarily popular. I would say it was a risky endeavour on your part. Do you agree?

MW: This was a story set in a culture that has such a rich and vibrant history that is basically unknown to most of the world. As global warming increases, this entire culture is at risk of being lost or assimilated. I truly believe that the loss of one culture is a grievous offence to all of humanity. The Marshallese culture has a rich history that needs to be shared both in story and in our curriculum in schools. There were no other picture books for children of this culture that I could find. So, Emon needed to be fully Marshallese to bring this culture into children’s minds, hearts, and imagination. The money was never a consideration in publishing this book. The memory was.

PT: Did you create this book for Pacific Island children or did you want to introduce the Marshall Islands culture to wider audiences?

MW: Both really. I have shipped books to students who are teaching on Ebeye and had book presentations here in America. I use it as part of a UBD Unit (Understanding by Design) that I use in my 4th Grade classroom to this day. My kids LOVE learning about the Marshall Islands! I was contacted by an individual who is trying to translate the text into Marshallese. I have tried to do this in the past, but haven’t succeeded yet in creating a bilingual copy. So the book was intended for anyone who would listen and wanted to learn a little bit about a courageous culture of people way out in the Pacific!

PT: Speaking of the Marshall Islands. How much time did you spend there?

MW: In total, I spent 15 years in the Marshall Islands, but at two different times.

PT: What did you – as a person and possibly as a teacher – learn during your stay?

MW: What did I learn?? Honey, it would never fit on these pages!! I wrote an entire unit about the Marshallese Culture that was embedded in the school curriculum there. I am not sure if ‘The Marshallese Culture Experience’ is still a part of the Elementary School program on Kwajalein. But I have to say, now that I am looking back, that the resourcefulness, creativity, and imagination of the Marshallese people is like no other! Put that with their cultural norm of generosity of spirit that could inspire the world, most specifically in today’s mind-set!

PT: I’m sure you know some fascinating Marshallese legends. Have you considered writing more books based on the Marshallese culture?

MW: Oh yes! At one time, I had mapped out a series, but writing and presenting take so much time away from my true passion which is teaching, that I had to put a hold on it until I retire. To teach effectively, I need to be ‘truly present’ with my students for them to really learn during the one short year that they are with me in 4th Grade. I keep trying to retire, but my principal is REALLY GOOD at convincing me that I really need to teach ‘just one more year’. So far, I haven’t found a good enough reason not to! And I do truly love my profession!

PT: Are there any children’s books featuring Pacific Islander characters you would recommend?

MW: Actually, in the picture book format and from the Marshallese culture, I couldn’t find any. There are many based on Hawaiian culture, but I haven’t yet found one that I love for children. I do like ‘Call It Courage’ by Sperry, but it is really old. I haven’t research it lately, though.

‘ISLAND OF THE INVISIBLE BEING: BENJUA’S STORY’ BY MADELAIN WESTERMANN

‘Island of the Invisible Being: Benjua’s Story’ is a legend from the Marshall Islands written by Madelain Westermann and illustrated by Erin Johnson.

ISLAND OF THE INVISIBLE BEING

Summary

Despite being an obedient and hard-working child, Emon can’t please her parents. No matter what she does and how hard she tries, they seem to be never happy with her.

But one day they decide to take her to the Island of the Invisible Being to have a picnic. When Emon goes gather wood for the fire, her mother and father suddenly take off in a canoe, leaving the girl behind in a stranded place. Realizing the betrayal of her parents, Emon knows that no one will help her and that she can count only on herself.

Review

Children’s books need to tick off a lot of boxes in order to be considered worthy of the youngsters’ time. They must capture attention, tell a compelling story, carry a valuable lesson, and be pleasant on the eye. It may appear easy, but it’s a great art. If I tell you that Madelain Westermann’s ‘Island of the Invisible Being’ ticks off all these boxes (and more), I’m certain you will be interested.

It’s quite difficult to find a book Pacific children could relate to. Literature doesn’t like diversity or colour, which is regrettable and sad. A Samoan, Papuan, Chuukese child is more likely to spot a title about a strange creature from another planet than one about his or her fellow Islander. That’s why Emon’s story stands out from the crowd. The island setting, the Marshallese characters, and the local culture make it a fascinating read, I dare say not only for children from the Blue Continent.

As soon as you start reading, you are transported to the beautiful world of the Pacific Islands. Beautiful, enchanting, and a little mysterious. Young Emon introduces you to Marshallese traditions: you discover the art of basket weaving, learn what Islanders’ favourite food is, find out what was used to navigate the great Pacific Ocean. The Marshallese way of living is subtly entwined into the tale, leaving you curious to know more.

That curiosity is further aroused by stunning illustrations, which are a real delight for the eyes. Vibrant colours and an original way of portraying every scene bring the words to life, unfolding before you the magic of the islands. It is impossible not to look at the pages. The azure sky, dark blue waters, lush green vegetation make you literally stare at the pictures in awe.

Now, a good children’s book usually comes with a moral. The moral of this story is a great lesson and reminder for us all, regardless of age. Because how often do we let our fears overpower us? How often do we give up? How often do we take other people for granted? Each of the characters teaches us something different: Emon – that you have to be strong and always endure hardships with fortitude; her family – that selfishness, greed, and unkindness never pay; the Invisible Being – that justice is always served. Those are the truths that every child should know and every adult should remember.

Madelain Westermann and Erin Johnson have created a gem. It’s an utterly beautiful book with a valuable story that deserves its place in every home! Kids will absolutely love it. And so will their parents.

‘AFAKASI WOMAN’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Afakasi Woman’ is a collection of twenty-four short stories penned by Lani Wendt Young. They are set in Samoa and centre around various women of mixed ethnicity.

AFAKASI WOMAN

Summary

In Samoa, every afakasi woman knows that life isn’t always a bed of roses. When you are too brown to be white and too white to be brown, there are challenges you have to face, hardships you have to endure, and tragedies you have to get through.

But women know how to be strong. They are able to withstand any storm that life throws at them. They can stand up, fight back, and show everyone around that the colour of your skin doesn’t determine who you really are.

Review

This compilation was written by Lani Wendt Young – one of the most gifted contemporary writers from the South Pacific – so you can be certain it is at least good, if not great. And I can already tell you, that if you decide to read it, you won’t be disappointed.

The book is titled ‘Afakasi Woman’. ‘Afakasi’ means ‘half caste’ and is used to describe a person of mixed ethnicity. You might think, therefore, that the themes explored in the volume will appeal only to half-palagi (white), half-Samoan ladies. That only they will be able to relate to the stories. Well, that is the furthest from the truth. Of course, the collection is heavily infused with Samoan culture, but it can be enjoyed by females all over the world. Because the issues tackled in the book are so universal that every single woman will understand the message the author wanted to convey.

If you are familiar with Lani Wendt Young’s works, you know that she is never 100 percent serious or 100 percent light-hearted. ‘Afakasi Woman’ follows this beaten path, so in a matter of minutes you get to experience a vast array of emotions. Prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride that will take you from laughing out loud at one lady’s curse and admiring  Sina’s strength to overcome her biggest fear, to almost weeping for a family torn apart and feeling sorry for Luana over the loss of her child. Not two stories are alike. Some are heavily-themed with violence, abuse, death; others are loaded with a witty sense of humour. But there is something they all have in common – they were created with a purpose. Lani Wendt Young never writes about trifles. She brings up important, often sensitive topics other people prefer not to notice. Even the light-hearted narratives are thought-provoking – they may be coated in humour, but the message is there.

The stories are excellently crafted. The writing feels fresh, original, and very satisfying. Simple but descriptive language brings the scenes alive, allowing you to fully experience the written word. Vividness is definitely one of Lani Wendt Young’s biggest strengths. She knows how to create pictures that will not only appear in the reader’s imagination, but most importantly stay there long after the last page is turned.

‘Afakasi Woman’ is a beautiful portrait of female nature, movingly painted and laced with Samoan vibe. It’s hard not to think that it came into being to honour, support, and encourage women; to give them hope and show how strong and resilient they can be. It is a truly worthy read that I could not recommend more.

BEST BOOKS ABOUT WOMEN FOR WOMEN

The Materena Mahi Series by Celestine Hitiura Vaite

This trilogy is about being a woman – a partner, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a cousin, a professional, a star. It’s about caring for those you love but not forgetting about yourself. It’s about having a dream and chasing it. It’s about not being scared. It’s about taking the risk and getting what you really want from life.

‘Afakasi Woman’ by Lani Wendt Young

What does it mean to be an afakasi woman? To belong neither here nor there? To be too brown to be white and too white to be brown? It’s not always easy. There are hardships; there are trials, and tribulations. But there are also hopes, triumphs, and joys. Because women – regardless of their colour, race, culture – know how to be strong even in the worst of times.

‘Secret Shopper’ by Tanya Taimanglo

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When Phoenix’s husband tells her he’s leaving, her entire world falls apart. But she knows that she needs to take hold of herself and this new situation she’s found herself in if she wants her little world to get back to normal again. She quickly learns that life is full of surprises and that happiness can wait just around the corner. You just have to believe and never ever give up.

The Scarlet Series by Lani Wendt Young

You can’t choose your family. But you can choose what impact your family will have on you. Even though Scarlet’s past doesn’t let her forget about itself, she finds motivation to let go of it and – for the first time in her life – have a little bit of (steamy) fun. Well, that’s what girls wanna do when they meet a deliciously divine man.

‘Freelove’ by Sia Figiel

Growing up is hard. Growing up in Samoa is even harder. Inosia happens to know an awful lot about it. Restricted by her culture, she’s wondering whether love can ever be free; whether a woman has the right to desire, pleasure, and sexual fulfillment. If so, at what cost?

WRITTEN BY…TANYA TAIMANGLO

‘Secret Shopper’

This romantic comedy tells the story of Phoenix, a young woman who is forced to change her entire life after her marriage falls apart.

Tanya Taimanglo wrote a fabulous novel. Not only is it extremely enjoyable to read, but also – or rather most importantly – charged with positive energy. Phoenix is truly inspiring and her experiences joyfully uplifting.

For who: Definitely for women; especially those who are insecure, who have no hope for a better future, or who simply need a little pick-me-up book.

‘Attitude 13: A Daughter Of Guam’s Collection Of Short Stories’

This collection of 13 stories provides readers with fascinating insights into the lives of various Chamorro people, who try to reconcile their Micronesian traditions with modernity.

Although quite short, this book is a must-read. The narratives are a nice mix of light-hearted tales, which aim to entertain, and a little bit more thought-provoking pieces, which offer well-known but often forgotten words of wisdom.

For who: For everyone. For younger and for older. For men and for women. For people interested in Guam and Chamorro culture.

‘Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam’

The heroine of this tale is Sirena, a young Chamorro girl who adores nature. Her life changes forever when she gets cursed by her own mother.

This is a retelling of an old Chamorro legend, which comes with a moral lesson. Beautifully written and adorned with even more beautiful illustrations, it is a book to keep. Great alternative for popular children’s stories.

For who: For children, especially girls; but also for their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

A CHAT WITH… LEHUA PARKER

If you are Lehua Parker’s fan, you surely know about the two boxed sets that feature her novellas. What is more, you have probably already read them. Curious to find out what inspired Lehua to write the stories? Just read the interview.

LEHUA PARKER

Pasifika Tales: Why did you decide to take part in this project?

Lehua Parker: For the simplest of reasons: a friend asked me. Adrienne Monson is an author who writes paranormal romance. She asked if I’d be interested in writing five novellas based on classic fairy tales to go into boxed sets with five other authors. She had a publisher lined up who wanted wildly different genres. Novellas are about a third as long as novels, and so it seemed like something I could do around other projects.

PT: How big of a challenge was it for you?

LP: It was much harder than I anticipated. I’ve published short stories, plays, poetry, and novels; novellas are a different beast.  In ‘Nani’s Kiss’, I kept wanting to write either a much shorter or much longer story. To keep to the novella length, I had to gloss over a lot of background about the sci-fi setting and the Indian and Hawaiian cultural aspects. This required readers to do some heavy mental lifting to connect the dots – which they didn’t expect. Based on the book cover, it looked like all the stories would be fast, fluffy romances.

In ‘Rell Goes Hawaiian’, I made it a little easier on myself and the reader by setting the story in contemporary Hawaii and staying truer to the Cinderella fairy tale.

PT: Which novella was more fun to write?

LP: ‘Nani’s Kiss’ was fun because I had to do a lot of research about Indian Buddhist culture and had to imagine Polynesians voyaging through space. ‘Rell Goes Hawaiian’ was a blast because I got to revisit a world and characters I knew very well.  Originally, ‘Rell was set in Waikiki and she was a nanny for a rich family on vacation. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get into that story. Finally, I gave myself permission to reimagined it in Lauele Town with Uncle Kahana, Ilima, and the rest of the gang and added cultural conflicts, a homecoming, and Hawaiian mythology. That’s when the fun began.

PT: You did not forget about incorporating Hawaiian / Polynesian cultures into the stories. Was it important to you to stay ‘faithful’ to your roots?

LP: Yes. There are thousands of authors who write romances and reimagined fairy tales for western readers. I want to write stories that resonate with a Pasifika audience. Last week, I was back in Hawaii, swimming in the ocean, eating too much, and poking around libraries and bookstores. It was discouraging to see how few titles are published about the Pasifika experience for a Pasifika audience. I get fan email from kids who are reading the Niuhi Shark Saga in school who tell me how excited they are to read Hawaiian and Pidgin words and to see characters just like people they know. So rather than write the same kind of story a thousand other authors are publishing, I try to write what’s in my heart, natoos, Poliahu’s house, and all.

PT: As you’ve mentioned, ‘Rell Goes Hawaiian’ is set in Lauele Town – a place known from the Niuhi Shark Saga. Why did you choose this particular setting?

LP: Firstly, because I wanted to write a new story for fans of the Niuhi series that continued a little bit after ‘One Truth, No Lie’.  Secondly, land ownership is a cultural concern in Hawaii. I only touched on this theme briefly in the Niuhi series when I explained why Lauele Town was so underdeveloped for such a highly desirable location on Oahu. As ‘Rell’ began to take shape, who controls, inherits, and uses land became a major theme. Lastly, I wanted to revisit beloved characters. Ilima as a fairy godmother simply cracked me up.

PT: Hawaiian culture is present in both novellas, but ‘Nani’s Kiss’ also draws from Indian culture. Where did this idea come from? 

LP: Before I wrote one word of ‘Nani’s Kiss’, I knew two things: the publisher wanted me to write a sci-fi story for the boxed set, and I wanted to somehow work Polynesian wayfinding into it. I needed an alien for the Beast. I was reading ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ and started thinking about how the Bardo was a Buddhist place between death and rebirth. ‘What if’ questions poured out. Clashes between Hawaiian and Indian cultures and expectations, a galactic federation with debts owed, an ancient alien lifeform older than any other in existence, gender role expectations, alien communication dream sequences, Bardo sequences, reincarnation, a wicked Machiavellian stepmother – it was a lot to cram into a novella! I was so enamored by how the story was shaping up that I forgot it was supposed to be a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In truth, it’s closer to a mash-up of Hawaiiana, Indian Buddhism, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ plus a little too much late-night Diet Coke.

PT: I’d like to ask you about your plans. What can your fans expect from you in the near future?

LP: I have several irons in the fire. The one that’s closest to publication is the next Fractured series novella based on the ‘Little Mermaid’, which is about how Zader’s Niuhi mother Pua and human father Justin met.

Also in the writing queue is a middle grade novel with series potential about a critically ill Asian girl who escapes into a world where she’s an adventure hero called Roxie Sparkles.  Only she’s not. Another is a story about a part-Hawaiian teenage girl who comes to her grandmother’s house in Lauele because her father is in the military and on assignment to the Middle East. She discovers she can see all the ghosts and Hawaiian gods—and they want her to solve their problems. This one is set during the high school years Zader is away from Lauele Town and has all the characters from the Niuhi series – Uncle Kahana, Ilima, Jay, Maka, and Char Siu.

PT: So there will be more stories related to the Niuhi Shark Saga. But will you also surprise us with something completely new?

LP: There are more MG/YA and adult stories related to the Niuhi Shark Saga and Lauele Town that I plan to write and others that are totally unrelated. It’s hard to say which will be available to readers first since acquisition editors and publishers follow the market and give priority to what they think will sell best.

‘RELL GOES HAWAIIAN’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘Rell Goes Hawaiian’ is a novella penned by Lehua Parker. It’s a newly imagined version of ‘Cinderella’ set in Lauele Town, Hawaii. It is included in ‘Fractured Slipper’ (‘Fairy Tale Ink Book 2’).

RELL GOES HAWAIIAN

Summary

When Rell comes to Hawaii with her stepmother, Regina, and two bratty and more-than-annoying stepsisters, she realizes it isn’t to celebrate her 18th birthday. Instead of having fun, she needs to sign papers, take care of her stepsiblings, and do whatever Regina tells her to do.

The girl’s life changes immeasurably when her stepsisters push the sacred aumakua stone into the saltwater pool at Piko Point. Suddenly, with a little help from a special wagging friend, Rell gets more that she has ever wished for.

Review

A contemporary ‘Cinderella’ story set in tropical Hawaii? Why not! You would think that this clichéd theme couldn’t result in anything interesting. After all, we all know how the tale goes. But in this case, you may get slightly surprised.

First and foremost, this novella takes readers back to Lauele Town, so well-known from Lehua Parker’s Niuhi Shark Saga. You get the chance to catch up with the old characters – uncle Kahana, Ilima, Jerry Santos, Tuna to name a few – and get to know them better or see them in a different light. Bringing back individuals from previous novels is always a treat for loyal fans. Especially if the author makes sure to further develop their storylines or add some extra layers to their personalities. What has Jerry, the surfer who witnessed Jay’s accident in the ocean, been doing? Is uncle Kahana still the guiding spirit of local community? And what about Ilima? Could she act as a fairy godmother? Obviously, she could (in Lauele Town, anything is possible), but don’t expect her to be that I-am-here-to-make-your-dreams-come-true type of a godparent. She has her own hidden agenda. Plus, with four legs and a tail she just couldn’t be your ordinary fairy, could she?

Along with the old characters, a few new ones make an appearance. Typically for a fairy tale, there are heroes and villains – and in this case it is not hard to guess who is who. Rell and Regina, the two new introductions and main characters in this story, are plausible and decently crafted, but perhaps too obvious as ‘symbols’; they lack a little bit of substance. But let’s bear in mind this is a novella, so not everything can be achieved.

Now, while the overall plot is somewhat predictable, the specific scenes are not. There are quite a few surprises thrown in, and I have to say they really keep things interesting. Even though you can foresee the ending, you are not able to guess the sequence of events that lead to it. Add to this a tropical island setting, traditional Hawaiian folklore, and a Polynesian vibe, and you get the best Cinderella tale possible.

Reading this story is a pure pleasure. It is a very engaging and even more enjoyable piece of literature, chock-full of Aloha spirit and effortless wisdom, which make it perfect for children and adults alike. So visit Lauele Town; I promise, you won’t regret doing so.

‘NANI’S KISS’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘Nani’s Kiss’ is a novella written by Lehua Parker. It’s a sci-fi story loosely based on ‘Beauty and the Beast’. It’s featured in a boxed eBook set called ‘Fractured Beauty’ (‘Fairy Tale Ink Book 1’).

NANI'S KISS

Summary

Nani has always known that one day she will marry Arjun. Even though she doesn’t know him very well, even though she is not sure she really loves him, she understands this is her destiny. Their parents arranged it a long time ago and Nani must fulfill their wishes. If only it was so simple. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Arjun is dying. Since he collapsed, he has been locked in stasis in a medi-mod. What if he doesn’t survive? What will happen to their future? Risking everything, Nani is desperate to bring her fiancé back to life.

Review

Is it possible to write a futuristic story anchored in traditional cultures? You have to admit, it is no mean feat. Lehua Parker dared try to do just that. And I think it’s safe to say she has succeeded.

‘Nani’s Kiss’ is a sci-fiction version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (only the beast is not who you expect it is), which takes from Hawaiian and Indian cultures. It’s a rather unusual mix and one that can be easily ruined. But Lehua Parker managed to keep the right proportions of all the elements, thanks to which the novella makes an interesting read.

The storyline engages the reader right from the beginning, and as it evolves you become more and more curious as to what will happen next. The unforeseen twists and turns keep you riveted and don’t let you get bored even for a short while. However, they also require your undivided attention.

I have to warn you that this novella is not the easiest to read. If you want to follow the plot, you really have to concentrate on the words. There are a lot of fictional names of characters and places you may simply have trouble keeping in mind. They make the story slightly confusing, which for some readers may be a minor put off.

The characters themselves are incredibly well-built for such a short tale. They are believable, and we must remember that the novella takes place in the future, and easy to relate to. With their hopes, dreams, and fears, they are like ordinary human beings. And despite the fact that their backgrounds are not as clearly shown as we would all want, you get the feeling that you know their past quite well.

Now, although the story isn’t set in Hawaii, the local customs and practices are very noticeable. Especially the tradition of tattooing. But forget about permanent drawings here. In the world the author has created, nano-bot tattoos appear and then dissolve, only to reappear on a different part of a person’s body. The images they form reveal the intimate secrets of one’s heart and soul, and for a novice are impossible to hide.

The idea – a brilliant idea – of giving a futuristic twist to one of the oldest Polynesian traditions shows how the past can connect with the future. It also reminds us that some things in life should never be forgotten.

‘Nani’s Kiss’ is without a doubt a very interesting novella. The concept is truly fascinating, so I am positive you won’t feel let down when you give it a try. I definitely recommend it!