Tag Archives: Lani Wendt Young

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 1)

Sieni A.M.

Sieni A.M. is one of the best contemporary Pacific authors who seems to get better and better with every book she writes.

Her debut novel – ‘Illumine Her’ – is a wonderful YA paranormal romance, full of unexpected twists and turns that keep readers riveted from the very first to the very last page. But it’s the second book that fully reveals her talent. ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ simply delights, and it should be read by every single person, regardless of race, sex, or age. Keeping that in mind, you can’t help but eagerly await her next work.

Albert Wendt

A Samoan living legend. This is how you could describe Albert Wendt – unquestionably one of the greatest Pacific authors of all time.

His exceptionally well-written novels constitute a phenomenal, truthful portrayal of Samoan culture and way of life, so frequently romanticized by foreigners. More than often he broaches the subjects of Samoan diaspora and the relations between Pacific Islanders and ‘white people’, examining the effect the latter have on the traditions of his countrymen.

Lani Wendt Young

They say that talent runs in the family. In case of Albert Wendt and his niece, this is indeed very true.

Lani Wendt Young never ceases to amaze. Her writing style, fantastic sense of humour, and ability to turn great ideas into even greater stories is unmatched. Whether you’ll reach for her famous Telesa series, the new Scarlet trilogy, the collection of short stories, or the account of the 2009 Pacific tsunami, you will be taken on an unforgettable journey, because every publication with Lani Wendt Young’s name on the cover is a promise of something truly extraordinary.

Epeli Hau’ofa

Epeli Hau’ofa was a writer, poet, storyteller, thinker, and mentor, whose beautiful mind created some of the most amazing pieces about the Blue Continent, or ‘sea of islands’, as he used to call it.

Hau’ofa was a versatile author who could write anything, from fiction to short stories to essays to poetry, equally well. Every single of his works is not only highly engaging but also very thought-provoking and thus worth contemplating. It’s impossible to discuss Pacific literature without mentioning at least one (if not all) of his publications.

Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Célestine Hitiura Vaite is one of those authors who have their very own, distinctive style. Not everyone appreciates it, which is quite incomprehensible, because this lady definitely knows how to create a gripping narrative that is funny and poignant at the same time.

Her wonderful trilogy about Materena Mahi, a professional cleaner-turned-radio star, is a literary masterpiece, pure and simple, and a great example of contemporary Pacific fiction. Sadly, the three aforementioned books are Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s only published works, and no new book is on the horizon.

‘SCARLET LIES’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Scarlet Lies’ is the first instalment in Lani Wendt Young’s new saga that revolves around a Samoan woman trying to find her place in a traditional small island society. The series is categorized as contemporary adult romance and thus not recommended for a younger audience.

SCARLET LIES

Summary

Scarlet hasn’t been back home for quite a few years. Now, when her little sister – her successful, beautiful, perfect-in-every-way little sister – is getting married, she is forced to travel to Samoa to be a smiling bridesmaid at the wedding of the year. What is even worse, she’s been given the arduous task of escorting her sister’s special wedding dress – a designer creation worthy of its own seat in business class.

So together with the Dress of Destiny, Scarlet boards the plane desperately trying to subdue her overactive imagination. Anti-anxiety medications and complimentary champagne turn out to be a wonderful remedy for her agonizing fear of flying, as does the tall, dark, and incredibly handsome man sitting next to her. Chugging down one glass of bubbly after another and certain that she will never see the beautiful stranger again, Scarlet spills her guts revealing a little too much about her life. She has no idea that Jackson is heading to Samoa to be the best man at his friend’s wedding.

Review

It’s official – Lani Wendt Young is unable to write a bad or even mediocre book. This lady has a rare gift for delivering wonderful stories that are not only highly enjoyable but also very perceptive, quite thought-provoking, delightfully anchored in Samoan culture, and always fabulously written. I guess I have just summed up ‘Scarlet Lies’.

Anyone familiar with the author’s previous works knows that her novels are characterized by well-developed, multi-layered, extremely believable and authentic characters. This novel is no exception. Scarlet is a true heroine. She is not your typical flawless woman. Wait… Actually she is your typical flawless woman. Just because her body is a little bit curvier doesn’t mean she can’t be considered perfect, does it? So yes, Scarlet is the embodiment of perfection – gorgeous, intelligent, confident, fun-loving young lady who isn’t ashamed to admit that she truly enjoys her life. Scarlet’s charming personality makes you fall in love with her – instantly! Quite honestly, she – not Jackson – is the real hottie in this book. Surprised? Well, you shouldn’t be. In Lani Wendt Young’s world nothing is plain, simple, and usual. Which leads us to the next point: fantastic story.

Although the plot is somewhat predictable, it has quite a few ‘layers’ that keep it interesting. One of them is Scarlet’s love-hate relationship with her family: mother, sisters, aunts, cousins. This underlying theme spices up and drives the narrative, making it very ‘relatable’, especially to female readers. We all have those aunties who can’t stop nagging and telling you how you should do this or shouldn’t do that. And if you are, God forbid, a single woman in your 30s… Oh my! Our heroine encounters the exact same problems. Add to that constant comparisons with the bride-to-be and often rude remarks regarding her voluptuous body and you can imagine what it’s like to be in Scarlet’s shoes.

Another intriguing ‘layer’ is the mystery – yet unsolved – that lingers in the background of the story. This first instalment unravels bits from Scarlet’s past – you learn that she was once sent away in disgrace and is basically the black sheep of the family – however, you have no idea what this dark/shameful/terrible secret of hers might be. The author certainly knows how to build up the suspense. Your anticipation of what’s going to happen next is heightened with every single page. And when you reach the last sentence, you are still left wondering.

I must admit that I enjoyed this book very much. It is an engaging read and yet another proof that you can’t praise Lani Wendt Young enough. She is an extremely talented writer who created a delicious novel – seasoned with irony, wit, humour; flavoured with poetic descriptions; garnished with intense passion; coated in relaxed atmosphere of the Samoan archipelago. Tasty, isn’t it?

BEST BOOK SERIES

The Telesa Series by Lani Wendt Young

It is an engaging story of Leila Folger, a young woman from Washington D.C., who comes to Samoa in search of her heritage. As she spends time on the beautiful island, she not only discovers who she really is, but also finds the love of her life.

The series, which is considered Young Adult Paranormal Romance, is suitable for readers of all ages. It is an extremely compelling tale of love, friendship, commitment and devotion, which introduces people to Samoan mythology and the legend of Teine Sa. Every single book of this trilogy is a masterpiece; it’s something you will not regret buying, reading, and rereading over and over again.

The Materena Mahi Series by Celestine Hitiura Vaite

The novels follow Materena Mahi, a young female living in Tahiti. Her seemingly ordinary life is full of surprises and events that constantly turn her little world upside down.

This trilogy is a cultural study of contemporary Tahiti woven into a gripping and written with a great sense of humour story. Celestine Hitiura Vaite created an amazing group of characters, whose trials and tribulations show readers the true value of life and family. These heart-warming novels simply deserve to be read and praised, as they are exceptionally good.

The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Set in modern Hawaii, the Niuhi Shark Saga is a series of five books that tell the story of Zader, a boy who was found abandoned on a reef and adopted by the Westin family. His life on the island, not an easy one, is full of secrets and mysteries that Zader needs to uncover.

As for now, only two volumes have been published; the third one is due out later this year. This is a wonderful series for children, both boys and girls, but if you ask me, any adult will be more than happy to read it. Lehua Parker did a fantastic job of mixing magic with reality – while reading the books, everyone will be transported to a completely different world of exciting adventures.

The Ancient Tahiti Series by Clare Coleman

It is a story of Tepua, a chief’s daughter, whose canoe is wrecked on the shores of Tahiti. Despite many adversities, despite being a stranger in a foreign land, she learns to live among not always friendly and amiable people. Everything changes when she finally comes back home.

This is an extremely moving and exciting historical trilogy. It takes readers on a wonderful journey to Tahiti, where ancient customs and traditions come to life. It is a truly captivating read. Settings, scenery, characters – everything is just magnificent.

The One Foot Island Trilogy by Graeme Lay

The books tell the story of a teenage girl, Tuaine Takamoa, who leaves her beloved islands to attend school in New Zealand. When she comes back home, she falls in love with Adam, an Australian boy whose parents are not happy with their son’s new relationship.

This is another series for young adults, but, let me tell you, it is a good one! Tuaine is a very believable heroine. The problems and dilemmas she needs to deal with provide readers (both young and old) with interesting insights into the world of teenagers. An alluring titles for adolescents and valuable and educational material for their parents.

‘I AM DANIEL TAHI’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘I am Daniel Tahi’ is a companion novella to the Telesa series. It is a collection of first person narratives from Daniel, Leila’s boyfriend and a key character in the books. It should be read after or in conjunction with ‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’.

I AM DANIEL TAHI

Summary

Daniel Tahi has just returned to school after taking a year off due to his grandfather’s illness. Young, handsome, and very talented, he intends to focus solely on his education and sporting career. But everything changes when she appears in front of the SamCo. A new girl, looking angry and so furiously mad. She doesn’t seem impressed by Daniel. She doesn’t seem impressed by anything at all.

This strange behaviour grabs Daniel’s attention as he becomes more and more fascinated by his new co-student. Leila is unlike any other girl he knows. She is full of secrets. She is a mystery he’d like to uncover.

As time goes by, the two develop a strong friendship that gradually turns into love. Leila is not angry anymore. She is happy, and so is Daniel. With this beautiful girl by his side, he feels complete. But happiness doesn’t last forever and the young Samoan man fears that he may lose the one he loves. He is, however, desperate to fight and doesn’t want to give up until the very end.

Review

The concept of this book is absolutely fantastic! One can say that it is just a revised version of the first novel in the Telesa series, but honestly, it is so much more.

First and foremost, this novella tells the story of Daniel. You get to see him in a whole new light. His personality, his thoughts, and his emotions are finally fully revealed. You start to understand why he did the things he did, and what made him behave in a certain way. You learn a little bit more about his family and his past. His interactions with Leila are shown from his point of view, which, let me tell you, is quite interesting.

What can be easily noticed is that in this volume Daniel’s character is much more mature. Even though he sometimes acts like a typical young man, he demonstrates a very sensible approach to life. He is strong, both physically and mentally, and not afraid to take the risk. He is devoted to his girlfriend – he respects, admires, and loves her beyond words. Despite his raging hormones and various sexual temptations, he remains a true gentleman.

But there is also a different side to Daniel: funny, light-hearted, and playful. His great sense of humour really shines through. I would even say he is almost as amusing as Simone. And this is a huge compliment.

Now, this book is written in a completely different style compared to the novels in the actual Telesa series. With its jargon, slang, and abbreviations, it is much more casual and very informal. It is also quite ‘manly’, especially in the descriptions of hot and steamy make out sessions between the two lovers.

All in all, ‘I am Daniel Tahi’ is a great story. And I really mean great! It is such an enjoyable read; gripping and captivating. It contains some mature content so I am not sure if it’s appropriate for very young teenagers. But if you are, let’s say over the age of 16, go for it!

‘THE BONE BEARER’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘The Bone Bearer’ is the third and final instalment in the Telesa series. It is a long-awaited conclusion to the story of Leila Folger and her adventures in the Pacific Islands.

THE BONE BEARER

Summary

After the fight with Sarona, Leila is taken to the hospital in Samoa. Everyone is happy and relieved when she finally wakes up from a coma. But their joy doesn’t last long. The sweet girl they all knew before the accident now seems to be a completely different person who cannot recognize her boyfriend, friends, or relatives.

Shocked and confused Daniel finds out that Leila’s body has been possessed by Pele, the great Fire Goddess. He chooses, yet again, to fight for the one he loves. To do this, he needs only one thing – the Tangaloa Bone necklace. But he is not the only person who tries to recover the three pieces of this ancient weapon. As Pele’s awakening caused quite a stir among Telesa guardians from the Pacific region, they’ve all decided to join forces and protect their beloved islands. And what is more, they are not willing to give up at any cost.

Knowing this, Daniel puts together a team made up not only of his friends, but also of his enemies. Along with Simone, Keahi, Lesina, Teuila, and Talei, he starts the race to save his girlfriend. But in order to win, they all need to overcome their differences and work as a group. And this only seems like an easy task.

Review

Let me start by saying that this book is definitely different from its predecessors. First of all, it is not written from Leila’s point of view. There are parts with the first-person narration, where you get to know certain characters’ thoughts, but they are quite rare. Instead, Lani Wendt Young chose to serve as an unseen voice that slowly unfolds the entire story. Mixing the narrative perspective was definitely a great idea as it added a little bit of mystery and made the whole thing even more interesting.

Second of all, in this last instalment of the series Polynesian mythology is a dominant element. The novel explores all the legends in much more depth than the previous books. Right from the start you are taken on a wonderful journey to the magical world of Telesa. A very captivating (and long) prologue gives you some background on Pele’s life, unraveling the secrets of her soul. You learn why she behaves in certain ways and why she makes certain choices. You understand more and thus can fully enjoy this amazing tale.

Another great thing is the fact that this book introduces some new characters but at the same time explores the ones you already know. You discover a different side of Keahi (who eventually turns out to be a really good man), Lesina, and Teuila. And of course you cannot forget about Simone – brilliant as always.

At this point I should mention that you may be disappointed if you expect to find some more interaction between Leila and Daniel. Except for the very romantic ending, there is no place for amorousness here! But this is probably a good thing as it brings quite a bit of diversity to the whole trilogy.

Of course, the novel is a pleasure to read. Vivid descriptions are second to none. Again, you’re almost able to see the scenery, and you feel as if you were really there – on the beautiful islands of Samoa, where people are nice, food is delicious, and everything around is just breathtaking.

If I were to sum the Telesa series up, I would say it is absolutely fantastic. A great concept was turned into a truly unique tale of love, commitment, and friendship. It is not your ordinary paranormal romance with vampires, fairies, or werewolves. It is so much more as it brings back the Polynesian mythology and the forgotten world of the fierce Earth Guardians. Every single book in this trilogy is just excellent: well-written, captivating, thought-provoking (!), and full of Samoan culture. Highly recommended for people who would like to read a good piece of literature!

‘WHEN WATER BURNS’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘When Water Burns’, penned by Lani Wendt Young, is the second book in the Telesa trilogy. It brings back the story of Leila Folger and her incredible journey as the Goddess of Fire.

WHEN WATER BURNS

Summary

After the death of Nafanua and her sisters, The Covenant Sisterhood no longer exists. The only one that survived is Sarona, who, being completely alone, poses no threat to Leila and Daniel. The two lovers can finally lead a normal life. Or so they think.

While Daniel is recovering from the battle with vicious sisters, Leila is back in the Washington D.C. to be with her dying grandmother. Before her death, the old lady reveals a shocking secret to her granddaughter, which leaves the young girl utterly shattered. Despite her family’s objections, Leila decides to go back to Samoa.

Back on the island, she starts university, moves to a new house together with Simone, and finds out that she is the sole beneficiary of Nafanua’s will. She chooses to accept the inheritance, much to Sarona’s frustration.

Leila’s life seems almost ideal. She is happy in Samoa, has quite a few friends and a loving boyfriend. Her relationship with Daniel flourishes as they get to know each other better and better every day. But nothing lasts forever and there are dark clouds on the horizon. Daniel learns the truth about his past, Leila meets mysterious Keahi, and Sarona is back in the game.

Review

The problem with sequels is that they hardly ever live up to the originals. But let me tell you, this novel is just as good as its predecessor. It is even more action-packed and full of surprising twists and turns you definitely won’t foresee. What is more, it is set not only is Samoa, but also in Tonga and Hawaii, so you’ll get to know more about all those fantastic places.

As Leila’s story evolves, it also gets a little bit darker. This volume is certainly less light-hearted than the first one. It addresses some serious and difficult subjects: sexual assaults, abuse, domestic violence. They are particularly prominent in the very touching prologue, which, despite being a great introduction to what a reader can expect, may be hard to get through for some people.

But of course, there are occasional bouts of humour among this gloominess, especially when Simone takes the stage. As a flamboyant fa’afafine, he is the most hilarious character with a truly extraordinary personality. And it is absolutely fantastic that he plays a bigger part in this book.

All the other characters are much more mature and grown up compared to the first novel. Leila is not a teenager anymore. She is a young woman who knows how to fight for her life. She is determined to succeed and is not afraid of what may happen in the future. Daniel, on the other hand, has finally come into his own. As he discovers his gifts, he becomes more independent. He starts to be ‘Daniel’ and not just ‘Leila’s boyfriend’; but he still remains that sweet and loving boy everyone knew. Keahi is a new introduction. He is an inscrutable person with a painful past. Because of his secrets, he adds extra spice to the whole story.

‘When Water Burns’ is a great novel. Without a doubt it is just as good as ‘Telesa:
The Covenant Keeper’, which, by the way, you should read if you haven’t done it yet. Brilliant storyline, good pace, intense action. The sequel is a bit darker and serious (but still incredibly funny!), so I would say it’s best for emotionally mature people. I highly recommend it.

‘TELESA: THE COVENANT KEEPER’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’ is the first book in Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa trilogy. It is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance set in modern Samoa and inspired by ancient mythologies from the Pacific region.

TELESA

Summary

Leila Folger, a teenager from Washington D.C, travels to Samoa after her father’s sudden death. All she wants is to meet her mother’s family, get to know something more about her heritage, and find a place she could call ‘home’. But from the very beginning nothing seems to go her way. Leila’s aunt Matile and uncle Tuala do not want to broach certain subjects, she is forced to abide by strict rules and has to adjust to Samoa College – a school she needs to attend.

But as time goes by, Leila starts to settle into her new environment. She is befriended by Simone, a very nice fa’afafine who instantly becomes her best friend, and meets Daniel, a handsome captain of the SamCo’s rugby team. Even though Leila and Daniel seem like total opposites at first, they quickly become attracted to each other and gradually develop a romantic relationship.

Leila’s life changes dramatically when she discovers a strange fire growing inside her body. Having no idea what it is caused by, she starts looking for some answers. And she gets them when she meets her mother. The beautiful woman introduces her daughter to the Sisterhood of Telesā. The girl is now torn between two worlds…

Review

The book is considered Young Adult fiction, but you will definitely enjoy it even if you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc., as it is suitable for all ages.

The story is absolutely captivating. A slow start introduces readers to the Samoan culture – you get to know the country and its people through Leila’s eyes. Everything – certain places, clothing, food, and even everyday life – is so richly and evocatively described that you can easily visualize every part of this tale. The second half of the novel, on the other hand, is action-packed. Literally. Mysteries, suspense, twists and turns – you will get it all! And I can assure you that you will not be bored even for a second. Heart palpitations? Yes, they are quite common amongst Telesā readers!

When it comes to the characters, they are a mixed bag. Leila at first seems like a typical American teenager who has her own problems and worries, but eventually turns out to be a very strong and mature young woman. Daniel is a true Samoan gentleman, a little bit old-fashioned but definitely easy to fall in love with. Jason, an all-American guy just wishing to help a person in need, could be a model friend. And there is also Nafanua, a very complex person full of dark secrets from the past. Every character is different, every character is great. But there is one that stands out from the crowd – Simone. The first ever fa’afafine in a young adult fiction book. What a fantastic creation! Absolutely brilliant and oh-so worthy of your attention.

Equally good is the author’s writing style. Well, it must run in the family. Taking into account that Lani’s uncle is the great Albert Wendt, you couldn’t expect anything less from her. The story is told in a witty and mostly light-hearted manner, occasionally tinged with a subtle dose of melancholy. Real-life dialogues adorned with the author’s fantastic sense of humour (yes, prepare yourself for a laugh or two) balance out extended descriptions, making a novel a pleasure to read.

‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’ is a marvelous book. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to get immersed in a good piece of literature. Even if you are not a fan of paranormal romance genre, give it a try! You won’t regret it. The idea of incorporating Samoan mythology into the storyline was well-aimed and gave the novel a very fresh feeling. It is original, it is unique, it is simply amazing.