Tag Archives: Pacific Islands

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.

A CHAT WITH… TONY HORWITZ

Tony Horwitz needs no introduction. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the author of seven books, and – most importantly – an all-round nice person. His fantastic travelogue, ‘Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before’, is a must-read for every Pasifika aficionado. Do you want to learn more about Tony’s journey across the Blue Continent? You can do so from this interview.

TONY HORWITZ

Pasifika Tales: What was first – the idea to write a book about retracing Captain Cook’s voyages or a desire to set sail? 

Tony Horwitz: If you mean ‘set sail’ in the sense of embark on a global adventure, then that was my prime impetus and Cook’s travels provided a historical path to follow. However, I’m a woeful sailor and was much happier every time I could explore on land rather than by sea.

PT: Why did you choose Captain James Cook? Was it because of all the incredible places he travelled to?

TH: Initially, I was struck by the places he went and wanted to see them for myself. But as the journey went on, I became fascinated by Cook the man, so what started as a travel adventure grew into a biography as well.

PT: It is not a secret that for Pacific Islanders James Cook was no hero. What do people in the Blue Continent think of the famous British navigator?

TH: Is Blue Continent shorthand for the Pacific? It depends where you are. Cook has admirers in Australia and New Zealand but not many elsewhere in the Pacific. He’s generally seen as an advance man of empire and colonization and all the ills that ultimately resulted.

PT: Do you agree with their opinions? Do you view Cook as a villain or a hero? 

TH: It’s undeniable that Cook’s voyages opened the door to colonization, disease, the dispossession of native peoples and other damage to their cultures. But Cook didn’t intend this harm. He was a product of the Enlightenment, on a scientific mission of discovery and, for the most part, expressed sympathy and respect for those he encountered. I don’t think he should be lumped with conquistadors and other Europeans who set out to conquer, kill, convert, and enslave.

PT: You visited various Pacific Island countries after you had read about them in Cook’s journals. To what extent did your impressions coincide with those of Cook? 

TH: Obviously, the Pacific has changed tremendously since Cook’s voyages in the late 1700s. After colonization and other transformations came mass tourism, and sadly we’ve loved some parts of Polynesia’s fragile environment to death. But off the beaten track, there were many places where I felt the views and landscapes were very close to what Cook described. I also caught glimpses of the traditional cultures and characteristics Cook wrote about, such as the warrior heart of Maori society, the sensuality of Tahitians, and the deeply non-Western and non-materialistic nature of Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

PT: How much was your journey a journey of self-discovery? What did you learn? 

TH: To be honest, I find self-discovery an overrated aspect of travel adventures. I’m more interested in discovering others. But I did learn many things, particularly during my time as a sailor aboard a museum-quality replica of Cook’s first ship, the Endeavour. I realized just how soft we are compared to sailors and explorers in the 18th century; few of us could endure a month of the physical and mental strains they put up with for years at a time. I also realized I can’t tie knots to save my life, and that its best not to look down when you’re near the top of a hundred-foot mast.

PT: ‘Blue Latitudes’ is an interesting book. It’s part travelogue and part James Cook’s biography. Was that your intention from the beginning?

TH: My original intent was to write a historically themed travelogue. But as I read and traveled more deeply, I really wanted to understand this extraordinary man who rose from lowly origins to the upper reaches of the British Navy and kept hurling himself off the edge of the known world. So the biographical component grew to roughly half of the book’s content.

PT: I do consider ‘Blue Latitudes’ a terrific piece of travel literature and one of the best books regarding the Pacific Islands. If you could give one reason why people should read it, what would it be?

TH: The book, I hope, allows readers to grasp what true adventure means. Sailing off the map, and having first contact with remote societies untouched by the West, is an experience we simply can’t have today outside of science fiction. I also hope readers will laugh at my own misadventures in Cook’s wake. I really wanted the book to be as entertaining as my travels were for me.

‘BEER IN THE BILGES: SAILING ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC’ BY ALAN BOREHAM, PETER JINKS, BOB ROSSITER

‘Beer in the Bilges: Sailing Adventures in the South Pacific’ is a memoir that chronicles Alan Boreham’s, Peter Jinks’s, and Bob Rossiter’s various voyages through the Blue Continent.

BEER IN THE BILGES

Summary

For three experienced sailors Andrew Clubb’s proposal is a no-brainer. After all, who wouldn’t want to sail an elegant yacht from the South Pacific to Hawaii? The men, having already travelled across the Blue Continent, are certain they can accomplish the task. However, it soon turns out that bringing Ron of Argyll to the Aloha state is no mean feat. No amount of preparation and knowledge can truly prepare a person for such adventure. Because the Pacific Ocean is an unpredictable beast. Unpredictable but always fascinating and bewitching. Especially if there’s some beer in the bilges.

Review

This is not a book about Pasifika. This is a book about sailing in Pasifika. High seas, gale-force winds, water gushing into the deck… This is the kind of content ‘The Professionals’ offer their readers. Have you been dreaming of cruising the South Pacific? If yes, you’ve just bought a ticket.

One of the most interesting features of this memoir is its unusual construction. The book is wisely split up into four major parts. The first three highlight the authors’ individual voyages: Bob’s journey from California to New Zealand, Peter’s Sydney-to-Suva yacht race as well as his little odyssey around the Polynesian islands, and Alan’s sailing trip on a Vancouver-Hawaii route. The last part concentrates on the famous Ron of Argyll delivery – a formidable undertaking the three seamen were eager to carry out.

Bringing together four separate stories was indeed a terrific idea, as it gives readers the feeling of being immersed in four separate books! Each tale is like a breath of fresh air – something new, exciting, unexpected, unpredictable. There’s literally no time to get bored. And although the leisurely pace in which the tales are written may indicate differently, plenty of thrills await you on every single page. This is a real adventure. Unless you are (mentally) prepared, don’t even bother getting on board – better just leave the book on the shelf.

Now, the memoir is penned by three gentlemen. Co-authoring usually means that one book is written in slightly (or sometimes very!) different styles and manners. Where there are multiple authors, there are multiple voices. And even the most subtle change of tone may easily spoil your reading enjoyment. But do not be afraid, because the stories in ‘Beer in the Bilges’ could not be told in a more consistent voice! A third-person narrative – almost never used in personal memoirs – allowed the authors to share their individual experiences without disturbing the flow and ‘rhythm’ of the chapters. They are singing…writing…in perfect unison! Add on top of this their great sense of humour, a bit of drama, and vivid descriptions that engage all of your senses and you have the best sea tale you can get!

In the ‘sea adventure’ category this book is definitely in the top 10. However, let’s don’t forget that the gentlemen sailed the South Pacific – one of the most intriguing corners of our globe consisting of beautiful islands, smiling people and their vibrant cultures. Unfortunately, you won’t read much about that. Pasifika is virtually non-existent in Boreham, Jinks, and Rossiter’s memoir. The authors are focused exclusively on the sailing part. This is highly regrettable as it’s always fascinating to be able to ‘see’ delightful places through somebody else’s eyes.

All in all, ‘Beer in the Bilges’ is a great read. Excellently written, absorbing, thoroughly entertaining. This is your ultimate sailing book. For people interested in cruising adventures, it will be just perfect!

‘KON-TIKI: ACROSS THE PACIFIC IN A RAFT’ BY THOR HEYERDAHL

‘Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft’ is a record of Thor Heyerdahl’s three-month-long voyage through the Pacific Ocean, penned by the explorer himself.

KON-TIKI

Summary

After developing a controversial theory that the Pacific Islands were settled not from Asia but from South America, Thor Heyerdahl is determined to prove it right. In order to do so, he decides to ‘travel back in time’ and recreate the voyage of the Peruvians. He assembles a group of people willing to embark on such a hazardous journey and together they travel to the land of the Incas, where they build an exact replica of an ancient balsa-wood raft. Within a few months, they are ready to set sail from Peru to Polynesia.

Their expedition starts out rough. Contrary to its name, the Pacific Ocean turns out to be not so peaceful and the men need to get used to handling the craft on the high seas. When the weather finally calms down, they begin to actually enjoy the experience. With each passing day, they are one step closer to reaching their final destination while their dream is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Review

Is there a greater classic among adventure books than Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his Kon-Tiki expedition? I highly doubt it. His memoir is a riveting chronicle of human daring that grabs readers’ attention somewhere in the first few pages and holds it tight till the very last sentence. This is, of course, the result of the story itself – so unbelievable that you can’t help but wonder whether or not it really happened. Traversing more than 3,500 nautical miles of shark-infested waters on a wooden raft with virtually no equipment, eating little fish and drinking who-knows-what… Is this even possible? Can a person survive such a dangerous voyage? Apparently yes. Although for many of us it seems completely unimaginable, Thor Heyerdahl managed to achieve his aim. After 101 days he could proudly say: ‘Mission accomplished. I had proved my point; and I’m still alive.’ Oh, we do love this. We do love when someone takes the risk, overcomes obstacles, and succeeds. And that’s exactly what this story is about.

So yes, the account is extremely engaging – this cannot be denied. But it’s also quite disappointing. The narrative revolves around the expedition that was undertaken for a single purpose: to confirm a bold hypothesis regarding the settlement of the Polynesian islands. You would expect the author to elaborate on this subject and maybe even reveal some hidden secrets about the Pacific. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. True, he sailed from Peru to the Tuamotus, showing everyone it was doable. However, nowhere in the publication does he disclose if his theory was formally proved; you’re just left wondering. And Oceania? He barely mentions it. There is very little information concerning the islands – only a few cultural and historical facts. They are, by the way, immensely fascinating, so it’s a real pity they so rarely appear in the book.

Despite the fact that the memoir is written in a formal and slightly official manner, it reads very well. Heyerdahl’s prose is powerful, his language extremely precise, his depictions vivid and animated. All these make you want to turn the page and spend yet another exciting day on the Kon-Tiki raft with Thor, Bengt, Erik, Thorstein, Herman, and Knut, looking for the sweet shores of the nearest land.

This is, undoubtedly, a wonderful tale – dramatically told and thoroughly compelling. It sparks interest. With each word you crave for more. Adventure enthusiasts will love it. Those who are curious about Pasifika may find it slightly mundane.

A CHAT WITH… GRAEME LAY

Graeme Lay is the author of several books set in the South Pacific. Along with ‘The Miss Tutti Frutti Contest’, these include the young adult novel trilogy, ‘Leaving One Foot Island’, ‘Return to One Foot Island’, and ‘The Pearl of One Foot Island’; the non-fiction works ‘The Cook Islands’ and ‘Passages – Journeys in Polynesia’, and the adult novel ‘Temptation Island’. His recent historical novels: ‘The Secret Life of James Cook’ (2013) and ‘James Cook’s New World’ (2014) also feature largely South Pacific settings. Here you can read what he had to say about his beloved Pasifika.

GRAEME LAY

Pasifika Tales: When did you first fall in love with the Pacific Islands?

Graeme Lay: Probably from the moment I first set foot on one. That was New Caledonia, which is not a particularly beautiful island in itself. But the mixture of people – Melanesian, Asian and European – was captivating. I loved the cultural intermingling, too. Racial intermarriage has produced people of distinctive beauty. I had always been keen on French culture, so to see it transplanted to the South Pacific was fascinating. I’ve subsequently seen and relished the same cultural and racial mixture in French Polynesia. Samoa too has a great blend of Polynesian, Palagi and Chinese people.

While researching a book I wrote about the Cook Islands, I went to several islands in that group, which was a great experience. Mauke, for instance, is not visited by many tourists, but is a lovely ‘outer island’. Rarotonga is another favourite island of mine since I first saw it, in 1983. I now have many friends there too, which makes visiting it even more pleasurable.

PT: And where would you like to go? Is there an island you have never been to?

GL: There are lots of islands I still haven’t been to, although I’ve visited a good many. I’d like to see Easter Island – the easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. I haven’t yet seen the Hawaiian Islands, but I’m going there in August and greatly looking forward to seeing them. Raivavae, in the Austral Islands, is another island I’ve heard and read lots about. I’d like to go there one day. And also ‘Ua Pou, in the Marquesas.

PT: Do you think you could live in one of the Pacific countries; call it your home?

GL: I suspect not. I’m very much a New Zealander – a fifth generation one – so this is my permanent home. An extended visit to say, Rarotonga or Tahiti, would be lovely, but I could never call them ‘Home’. Some of the appeal of those islands may wear thin if I stayed for an overly long period, I suspect. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’, as the saying goes.

PT: Let’s focus on your book for a while. ‘The Miss Tutti Frutti Contest’… It’s an interesting title. I assume you didn’t choose it to immortalize the famous fa’afafine pageant. Is this how you perceive the islands? As a delicious mix of fascinating cultures?

GL: Most certainly. We gave the book that title because it’s different and catchy, and the contest itself was unforgettable. The fa’afafine phenomenon had always fascinated me, right throughout Polynesia. Each island group has an equivalent of Samoa’s fa’afafine, and to observe them and meet them is very interesting indeed. When I was working in Apia, one of my colleagues was a fa’afafine, and he was great company. It was Makisi who put me on to the Miss Tutti Frutti Contest.

PT: The book consists of fifteen different stories, but I’m sure you have many more to tell. Do you plan to write a sequel?

GL: I would very much like to. I’ve been to several other islands since I wrote that book, and always I’ve discovered great stories while there. Mangareva in the Gambier Islands and Pitcairn Island were particularly inspiring. Some of the more remote islands of Tonga, too, I found fascinating. There is always much to be inspired by in the islands of Pasifika!

PT: In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about Pasifika?

GL: The fact that people invariably apply the word ‘Paradise’ to the islands. There is no such place as ‘Paradise’ in the sense of a total Utopia. The belief that the islands of Pasifika are Utopian is false. The people there have such serious economic, political and social problems that the word ‘Paradise’ is a misnomer. The islands are alluring yes, beautiful yes. But ‘Paradise’? Definitely not. That’s just a tourism brand, and a misleading one. That’s why New Zealand has such huge Pasifika populations.

PT: If you were to choose the most beautiful island, what would it be?

GL: My favourite island in French Polynesia is Huahine, which is exquisitely beautiful and not over-commercialised. It also has a fascinating history, both Polynesian and European. Some of the finest archeological sites in the whole Pacific are found on Huahine. Captain James Cook knew the island well, and anchored his ships in the lagoon in front of the island’s only town, Fare, several times. I could never tire of sitting on Fare’s waterfront in the evening, sipping a Hinano lager and watching the sun go down over Raiatea, Huahine’s neighbouring island.

‘KISSES IN THE NEDERENDS’ BY EPELI HAU’OFA

‘Kisses in the Nederends’ is a novel penned by a Tongan-Fijian author, Epeli Hau’ofa. It is set on a fictional Pacific island named Tipota and tells the story of Oilei Bomboki and his painful and rather embarrassing problem.

KISSES IN THE NEDERENDS

Summary

One morning Oilei Bomboki, a much respected landowner and a very important man, wakes up with a terrible pain in his backside. Pain so excruciating that he has no choice but to seek immediate help.

In search of a cure Oilei visits various healers and doctors, none of whom seems to be able to relieve his agony. Desperate but not without hope, he finally learns to love his body as well as accept the situation he has found himself in.

Review

There is absolutely no doubt that Epeli Hau’ofa was – and always will be – one of the greatest Pacific writers. His talent, wit, and intellect were beyond superlatives. I dare say that only him could produce a book – an extraordinary book, may I add – about… an anus.

‘Kisses in the Nederends’ is not a novel for the faint-hearted. If you lack a sense of humour, if you’re a bit too prim and proper, or if you simply don’t like reading about other people’s arses, then you may want to choose some other title. If you, however, don’t mind a little crudeness, then you will enjoy this slim volume.

Although it may seem that this novel is predominantly about Oilei’s health issue, it is not. After all, why would anyone decide to write a story about an intimate part of the human’s body without giving it a deeper meaning? For fun? Well, Epeli Hau’ofa was too much of an author extraordinaire to do that. In his book, an anus constitutes a metaphor. He said in the interview with Subramani: ‘(…) it is a metaphor for society and for everything else I could think of’. I admit, it is a rather unusual metaphor, but one that certainly attracts attention.

It is not a secret that Pacific societies are full of taboos and prohibitions. Certain things aren’t even thought about, not to mention discussed publicly. An anus is a very apt representation of the Islanders’ (or anyone’s!) fears and avoidances. We can easily talk about our arms and legs, but somehow we aren’t so keen on chatting about the opening in our bottoms. As a reader you get the feeling that through Oilei’s story Epeli Hau’ofa wanted to show his fellow countrymen and people of Oceania that sometimes there is nothing to be afraid of; that not everything is bad and deserving of being despised. The protagonist of his story finally learns to love his anus; he learns to accept it as a beautiful part of his body. This is an obvious suggestion and a message for us all – whatever it is that you fear or loathe, get to know it first. And then, with time, maybe you will be able to change your attitude.

If you have read any of Epeli Hau’ofa’s books, you can imagine that this novel, too, is exceptionally well written. It is sharp, witty, comical. However – here’s the warning – some people may find it distasteful. The main character doesn’t mince his words, so you should be prepared for some foul language. But, this is exactly what makes the book raw and real.

‘Kisses in the Nederends’ is a very important title in the history of Pacific Literature. It is a must read. You may not like it, but you should – no, you have to – give it a try.

‘OCEAN’S KISS: A TELESA WORLD NOVEL’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is a standalone novel in Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa World series. It tells the love story of Daniel Tahi’s father, and is set in contemporary Tonga and Samoa.

OCEAN'S KISS

Summary

When Ronan Matiu comes to Daniel’s workshop, Leila instantly knows that this man isn’t just an ordinary customer. He may be a stranger, but she has seen him before. He looks all too familiar. He looks like…her husband Daniel, twenty years from now.

Ronan’s life wasn’t meant to be this way. He wanted a family and a peaceful existence with the woman he fell in love with a long time ago. But Moanasina walked away from him, leaving Ronan heartbroken and confused. Despite the bitter words she said, he simply can’t get her out of his heart and head.

After meeting Ronan, Daniel’s life gets stirred up again. His past is coming back to haunt him. He must decide if he will embrace his Tongan heritage and stand alongside the Vasa Loloa sisterhood of his mother’s people.

Review

‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is Lani Wendt Young’s return to the world of Pacific mythology. Although the book is described as a ‘standalone novel’ in the Telesa World series, I don’t think it can be treated as such, as some parts might be slightly confusing for those who haven’t read the previous volumes. That’s not to say you shouldn’t reach for this title if you are not familiar with the other books in the series, but you will definitely enjoy this novel more if you read the entire collection.

It is never easy for an author to come back to the characters and storyline from the earlier volumes. The readers have certain expectations – quite rightfully so; after all, they have read the preceding books. They want to stay in the ‘place’ they know oh-so well, and yet they anticipate something new. One has to be a very gifted writer to meet this challenge. Or, one has to be Lani Wendt Young.

I won’t lie, ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is a real treat primarily for the author’s fans. Those who have visited the world of Telesa before will be delighted to ‘meet’ Daniel, Leila, and Simone once again. But even those who have never had any of Lani Wendt Young’s books in their hands will quickly get hooked. Because the story itself is truly captivating.

Despite being heavily anchored in mythology – much more than the other titles in the series – the novel has a very contemporary feel to it. It strikes a perfect balance between the ancient Polynesian lore and the modern times. This combination of the past and the present makes for a unique reading experience and ensures that you will stay glued to the pages until the very end. Especially that the story isn’t purely about love, but covers a wide range of topics and themes. The author writes about loss and heartbreak, about forgiveness and reconciliation, about difficult life choices, and even about environmental issues. That’s surely a lot for one book, but in ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ everything is so smoothly intertwined you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Taking into account that Lani Wendt Young has a wonderful way with words, the novel is a joy to read. It is exceptionally well-written. The descriptions – which quickly transport you to the bewitching islands of the Pacific – are vivid yet not voluminous, and the author’s distinctive sense of humour lessens the seriousness of certain topics, making the book a light-hearted but still thought-provoking read. If only the newly-introduced characters were a little more defined, ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ would be close to perfection.

You can never go wrong with Lani Wendt Young’s books. They are all phenomenal. This title is no exception. So if you want to immerse yourself in the world of Pacific mythology and stay in the 21st century at the same time, this is the novel for you.

‘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.

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.