Category Archives: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

TRUTHFUL DEPICTION IN FICTION (PART 1)

The Scarlet Series by Lani Wendt Young

Every culture has its own taboos, topics that are forbidden to discuss, little secrets no one should know about. Lani Wendt Young isn’t scared to unravel even the most distressing truths. Her newest series is funny and light-hearted on the surface, but beneath all the cheerfulness one discovers the darker side of paradise.

These are romance books that show Samoa in a way it’s rarely seen.

‘Where We Once Belonged’ by Sia Figiel

A coming-of-age story set in Samoa and penned by a Samoan writer? Yes please!

This outstanding – and probably quite shocking to a foreign reader – novel is an exceptional explanation of the Samoan culture that touches on the subject of personal and social identity and the dominance of the latter over the former. Although written in a poetic manner, it is solidly anchored in reality.

The Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

This light-hearted series is a wonderful way to ‘see’ and understand (at least to some extent) Tahitian culture. Célestine Hitiura Vaite takes readers on a guided tour, showing them what it really means to live on the island many believe is the quintessence of romance. But is it really? Well, everyday life in the town of Faa’a may not be romantic, but it sure is full of excitement.

A wonderful – and gripping – journey to French Polynesia. One you don’t want to miss!

‘A Farm in the South Pacific Sea’ by Jan Walker

What does it mean to be a palangi businesswoman in Tonga in the 1960s and 1970s? Jan Walker’s novel provides a fantastic answer to this question. Despite being a fictionalized account of actual events (the story is based on the author’s cousin’s experiences), it offers invaluable insights into the life in the South Pacific kingdom.

This is a cross-cultural love story that moves, surprises, inspires, and educates.

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

Sieni A.M.’s book cannot be praised enough. Not only does it portray a touching and thought-provoking story, but it also lets readers immerse themselves in the world of Samoan customs and traditions, so deeply-rooted in the local culture. With this novel one can pay a visit to 21st-century Samoa and still explore the country’s ancient ways.

Marvelous read, pure and simple.

ULTIMATE PACIFIC ISLANDS BOOKS – TO BUY FOR A SERIOUS PASIFIKA AFICIONADO (PART 2)

‘The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society’ by Moshe Rapaport

Another very good reference book of the encyclopaedia kind that holds a lot of valuable information on the Pacific Islands. Pleasantly (and simply) written, it broaches all the important subjects every Pasifika lover may be interested in. Definitely worthy of your attention!

Bonus: Impressive illustrations, charts, and diagrams that explain the author’s words.

‘Food Culture in the Pacific Islands’ by Roger Haden

It is not a secret that Pacific cultures are food-oriented. This phenomenal publication makes a wonderful introduction to Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian cuisines. Roger Haden not only familiarizes readers with the most popular local ingredients and dishes, but he also explains traditional methods of cooking and preservation techniques.

Bonus: Engaging chapters regarding food history and typical meals.

‘Architecture in the South Pacific: The Ocean of Islands’ by Jennifer Taylor, James Conner

Would you want to have a slice of heaven in your home? Although the authentic Pasifika style is so unique that it’s almost impossible to recreate, Jennifer Taylor and James Conner’s book may be a fantastic source of inspiration. But the authors aim not only to inspire but also to inform – the title is a brilliant study of local architecture, culture, and history.

Bonus: Striking colour photographs!

‘A History of the Pacific Islands’ by Steven Roger Fischer

There are quite a few good books on the history of the Blue Continent, but this one is probably ‘the most pleasant’ to read. It’s rather concise – not overloaded with unnecessary facts, dates, and information – and thus easily absorbed even by those people who are not fans of history.

Bonus: Chapters dedicated to genealogy of the Pacific peoples – immensely engaging.

‘The People of the Sea: Environment, Identity and History in Oceania’ by Paul D’Arcy

This is one of the most interesting books on Oceania ever written. It is focused entirely on the influence the Pacific Ocean has had on the islands’ history, culture, and everyday life. Few authors examine this subject in such detail, and I dare to say that Paul D’Arcy created a masterpiece.

Bonus: Captivating and highly explanatory narrative that presents a different dimension to Pacific Islands history.

ULTIMATE PACIFIC ISLANDS BOOKS – TO BUY FOR A SERIOUS PASIFIKA AFICIONADO (PART 1)

‘The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia’ by Brij V. Lal (editor),  Kate Fortune (editor)

This substantial volume is a must-have for those who are interested in the Blue Continent. Over 600 pages cover all the important topics – from geography and environment to history and politics to peoples and their culture. It’s a true mine of information you definitely want to have sitting on your bookshelf.

Bonus: Lots of photographs, illustrations, maps, and tables that enhance the written word.

‘Reach for Paradise: A Journey Among Pacific Islands’ by Andrew Rayner

Andrew Rayner’s memoir-cum-travelogue is probably the most beautiful book on the Pacific Islands ever written. It is a treasure, pure and simple. Not only does it guarantee an enjoyable and insightful reading experience, but it also delights visually. I can assure you, it will hold your attention from the very first to the very last page.

Bonus: Every single page of this title is one big bonus!

‘We Are the Ocean: Selected Works’ by Epeli Hau’ofa

When you think of great Pacific writers, Epeli Hau’ofa’s name immediately comes to your mind. ‘We Are the Ocean’ is a brilliant book if you want to get a taste of the man’s works. It’s a terrific – absolutely terrific – combination of essays, poems, lectures, and fiction that not only entertains but most of all educates.

Bonus: Chapters from Epeli Hau’ofa’s novel ‘Kisses in the Nederends’ – hilarious!

‘Arts of the Pacific Islands’ by Anne D’Alleva

Art constitutes such an important part of Pasifika lifestyles. For those who want to delve deeper into this subject, Anne D’Alleva’s publication is a must-read. It explains the significance of artistic craftsmanship in Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian cultures in great detail, letting you understand the real meaning behind various forms of Oceanian art.

Bonus: Breathtaking photographs that are worth a thousand words.

‘Globalization and Culture Change in the Pacific Islands’ by Victoria S. Lockwood

Cultures around the world are constantly changing, and the Pacific Island nations are not immune to this fact. Edited by Victoria S. Lockwood volume sheds interesting light on globalization and the effects it has on the remote countries scattered around the great blue ocean. A really fine piece of immensely engaging literature!

Bonus: In-depth case studies that offer a closer look at the topics discussed in the book.

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 4)

Kaui Hart Hemmings

Kaui Hart Hemmings is an American author best known for her highly-acclaimed novel ‘The Descendants’, which has been made into a movie starring George Clooney.

Born and raised in Hawaii, she often writes about the Aloha State as seen by the locals. And although her books aren’t always set in the islands (her second novel, for instance, is set in a Colorado ski resort), the local vibe can be felt throughout the pages.

Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport is without doubt one of the best-known Hawaiian authors. Of part-Hawaiian ancestry, she likes exploring Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures in her books.

Her famous ‘Shark Dialogues’ – a beautiful and fascinating family saga, in which Hawaii is not just a setting but one of the characters – is merely one example of how exceptionally talented Kiana Davenport is. Her books are more than worthy of your time and attention.

Matthew Kaopio

Matthew Kaopio was not only an extremely talented writer but also an unbelievably gifted painter. He began his artistic adventure after a diving accident had left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

The books he wrote before his death in December, 2018 transport readers to Hawaii – paradise not but nonetheless a very special, even magical place. The local culture, practices, and traditions are neatly woven into each and every story, so if you’re craving a bit of Aloha Spirit, this is the author you must read.

Marita Davies

Marita Davies is an Australian-Kiribati writer, whose website – The Little Island That Could – is a valuable source of information on Kiribati and the Pacific. But she doesn’t confine herself to only running a blog. Her publications have been featured in various magazines, and her book – ‘Teaote and the Wall’ – is one of the most wonderful children’s stories you’ll be able to find.

Marita is passionate about traditional oral storytelling of Pacific Islanders, which she tries to recreate in written form. That’s definitely one of the reasons why her works are so incredibly compelling to read.

L. Filloon

L. Filloon, an American Samoan writer, is probably best known for her fantasy book series, The Velesi Trilogy. It can be said that she specializes in this particular genre, so those who enjoy folk tales, mythology, and a bit of science fiction will absolutely love her novels.

L. Filloon has a wonderful way with words, which makes her books truly magical. The stories quickly capture the reader’s imagination, and once you start reading them, you simply cannot stop.

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.

BOOKS TO WAIT FOR

‘Scarlet Redemption’ by Lani Wendt Young (3rd book in The Scarlet Series)

Lani Wendt Young’s newest series revolves around Scarlet – a young woman who returns to Samoa for her sister’s wedding.

The first two books, ‘Scarlet Lies’ and ‘Scarlet Secrets’, have quickly won readers’ hearts. But the conclusion to this romantic and poignant story is yet to be released. What will the future be for Scarlet? Will she find her true happiness? Will she finally let her fabulous self to flourish? It all remains to be seen.

‘Where Petals Fade’ by Sieni A.M.

The author of ‘Illumine Her’ and ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ has already announced that a new novel is in the works. What we know as of now is that there’s ‘a woman florist, a beach cottage, a graveyard, and of course a guy’. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Taking into account that Sieni A.M. is an unbelievably talented writer, it’s safe to assume that her new book will be just as good as the previous ones.

‘Attitude 13 Volume 2’ by Tanya Taimanglo

Those who have read Tanya Taimanglo’s ‘Attitude 13’ know exactly how wonderful the book is. This collection of short stories makes readers laugh and cry, reminding them at the same time what truly matters in life.

The author has mentioned that the second volume will be released. When? It is not known. But I am certain it will be a book worth reading. We have no choice but to wait.

WRITTEN BY…LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’

This is a non-fiction book that commemorates the devastating tsunami that hit Samoa in September 2009.

Although a harrowing read, it is deeply moving, very informative, and extremely interesting. The survivor’s memories and the interviews with those who came to rescue them have been amazingly woven together, giving readers a thorough account of that horrible day.

For who: For non-fiction fans. For people interested in natural disasters. For those who appreciate literary craft.

‘Afakasi Woman’

This collection of twenty-four short stories gives readers fascinating insights into the lives of women in Samoa.

It is both light-hearted and serious, funny and sad, cheerful and thought-provoking. It’s a female voice from the Pacific region – strong female voice that touches on some of the most difficult issues. Definitely not to be missed.

For who: For all the people who think that women are important. And for those who prefer short forms.

The Telesa Series

The trilogy, which has its roots in Samoan mythology, revolves around a young American girl who initially comes to Samoa to meet her family, but ends up discovering her true self.

These are fantastic books! Excellently written and engaging, they transport readers into the world of ancient myths and legends, letting them discover the unknown side of the Pacific.

For who: For teenagers who love fantasy novels. For teenagers who hate fantasy novels (after reading these, they’ll love them). For adults who think they are too old and mature to read anything that’s a mix of imaginary world and romance.

‘I am Daniel Tahi’

This short novella is a companion book to the Telesa series. It tells the same story but from the male point of view.

Lani Wendt Young created a narrative that’s not only compelling, but also fun to read. Having been written in a very ‘manly’ manner, it is pretty enlightening (for us – girls) and often quite hilarious. A truly fantastic read!

For who: For girls (and women) who are dreaming of or looking for their Mr Perfect. Warning: you may suddenly heighten your expectations! Also, for all the females who think that Mr Perfect doesn’t exist – he does, at least in Lani Wendt Young’s books.

The Scarlet Series

The author’s newest series focuses on Scarlet – a young woman who, while coming back to Samoa to attend her sister’s wedding, learns that homecomings don’t always mean love, hugs, and happiness; especially when secrets from the past are involved.

Despite the seemingly light-hearted and humorous nature of the books, they broach some very sensitive topics, making the whole story multidimensional and unique. Fantastic, believable characters (with Scarlet taking the lead here) only add to the greatness that these novels are.

For who: For everyone who has already celebrated his/her 18th birthday. Probably a bit more suitable for women than men.

FORGET GREY. BEST BOOKS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

‘I am Daniel Tahi’ by Lani Wendt Young

‘I am Daniel Tahi’ is a companion novella to Lani Wendt Young’s well-known Telesa series. As it shows Daniel’s point of view, it is written in a very ‘manly’ manner. It’s casual, funny, and…quite hot. You think Christian Grey is a guy for you? That means you haven’t met Daniel Tahi yet. And believe me, you do want to meet him.

‘Sons For The Return Home’ by Albert Wendt

Albert Wendt’s cross-racial love story follows a young student, the son of Samoan migrants, who falls for a pakeha girl. Amidst the troubles and difficulties, the two lovers discover the world of intimacy and relationships, quickly realizing that it’s not always easy to love someone from a different culture. The plot of this book is filled with desire, lust, sexual tension, and…overwhelming longing for what’s not there but could be.

‘Conquered’ by Paula Quinene

This historical erotic romance revolves around Jesi, a young Chamorro girl who, in the most dramatic circumstances, meets the man of her dreams. The story will make your heart beat a bit faster than usual, and the couple’s intense relationship will make you green with envy…or red in the face (if you know what I mean).

The Scarlet Series by Lani Wendt Young

Sometimes girls just wanna have fun, right? And, trust me, no one does it better than Scarlet, the main character in the series. Especially when a very handsome man appears on the horizon. Although this very enjoyable book may seem light-hearted on the surface, it has a real plot full of secrets. And if you’re looking for some romance, you will definitely find it here!

‘A Farm in the South Pacific Sea’ by Jan Walker

This title is a little more ‘serious’, more ‘mature’. It recounts a true story of June von Donop, who comes to the Kingdom of Tonga to find a purpose in life but ends up finding her true soulmate (while at the same time having a romance with a young Tongan man). This is the most beautiful love story, told with great passion, that you’ll want to reread as soon as you finish the last sentence.

MOST INTERESTING CHARACTERS IN PACIFIC LITERATURE (PART 1)

Simone, The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

Just imagine… An exuberant fa’afafine who is an absolute ideal of a best friend and who seems to always know what to say and do. Don’t you wish you had a person like this around you? Yes, Simone is…well…just shamazing!

Lani Wendt Young created a character who’s far more interesting and compelling than the protagonists of the novels, but – what’s important – doesn’t steal the whole spotlight. The bright and bubbly personality she bestowed upon him makes the occasionally serious story exude humour and Polynesian cheerfulness.

Materena, The Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Materena is the real heroine of the trilogy. A devoted wife, an excellent mother, a star. She is, as teenagers would say, the coolest ever.

The author managed to develop a dynamic female character who is, first and foremost, a woman strong enough to fight for herself and do as she pleases. This powerful feminist voice is a reminder that you can never forget about your own needs; and that your dreams are just as important as everybody else’s.

Kiva, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

The most fascinating people are the ones who have a story to tell; the ones who are not perfect (what does it mean to be perfect, anyway?); the ones who can teach us something. And because we usually want the novels to reflect the real world, the same goes for literary characters.

Kiva, the protagonist of Sieni A.M.’s book, instantly becomes your best friend. She isn’t flawless (although for me she is!), she has her struggles, and yet she is determined to lead a happy and meaningful life. She is a true role model every one of us – regardless of age – should look up to and at least try to emulate.

Tomas, ‘An Ocean In a Cup’ by Stephen Tenorio Jr.

Stephen Tenorio Jr’s literary debut, ‘An Ocean In a Cup’, is a wonderful example that it is indeed possible to create a multi-layered character who can not only attract but also hold readers’ attention.

Tomas is a leading figure of the book. Although at first he seems like an ordinary – extremely gifted, yes, nonetheless completely average – young man, you quickly realize there is more to his personality than what you see on the surface. The inexplicable darkness within him makes you contemplate psychological mechanisms that define human nature.

Uncle Kahana,  The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

In Middle Grade/YA genre characters are probably the most important element of the story. They may be an inspiring example for the youth; they may provide them with guidance; they may impart the words of wisdom. But most of all, they may entertain.

Uncle Kahana is a mysterious elder who knows more than he’s willing to show. Well versed in traditional knowledge, he represents ‘old Hawaii’, showing everyone that the ancient way of being is an integral part of the island life, and that indigenous culture simply must be respected.