Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thoughts: "When Water Burns"

Note: This is about a book titled "When Water Burns" by Lani Wendt Young, it's not a scientific post about the temperature of H2O, or about me burning myself with it. 

SPOILERS KINDA. I mention my favourite characters. And one that wasn't in the first book. But I don't talk about what happens. The ending and what I thought about it not mentioned at all. 
(Also, hurry up sister and sister! I want to discuss the book already! lol)

Cover design: Jordan Kwan
This book is the second of the Telesa trilogy that follows the story of a late teenage girl (around 18. wait, I think she's 18) named Leila who moved back to her mum's homeland, Samoa to find out about her heritage and all that. Also things resembling fire-bending happens. Oh, and she's in love with a dude. That happened in the first book. The second one's just a continuation (Thank you Captain Obvious). I don't really wanna write what happens in the second book but it's still in Samoa, she's more settled in and she's still in love with said dude (that's them on the cover). 

Okay, you either already knew what I just poorly summarised and could probably think of a better way to describe it, or you've never heard of the book so I didn't want to give too much away. Anyway, read what I thought about it and see if it's something you'd fancy, oooor, tell me if you agreed of disagreed with anything I said. 

I loved that it's set in Samoa and most (but not all) locations were familiar. I've read and watch lots of stories set in America and the UK and places like Rodeo Drive, Wall Street, and London Square are places I've heard lots about. They're like acquaintances - I kind of know of them, but only at face value. I can't really say much apart from what it looks like and the times I've seen them. But to hear about Samoan locations casually in the text allows me to be more easily immersed in the story because I'm so familiar with the setting. I understand the vibe, the culture, the general people's attitude there and also what it feels like to be physically there. It's easier to visualise the scene and it makes the characters seem more like real people rather than characters of a novel. They're walking in the places I've walked, they love the food I love and are surrounded by people who are similar to people I know.

It was such an easy book to read. And I don't mean in a way where the book is like one of those Aussie Bites books written with simple vocabulary in large font with fewer words. I mean that it held my attention very well. I didn't feel like skipping chunks of it because the narration was getting boring (something I'm very prone to doing). Also, (and I don't want to sound pompous and fiapoko when I say that) Lani's writing has improved since the first book of the trilogy. Her story telling is more fluid.

I liked the subplots so much that I didn't mind when the main plot was paused for a while. The story didn't feel like it dragged out because the mini stories were greatly welcomed comedy relief (thanks to Simone) and also the story didn't feel rushed because it was spaced out (great terminology, I know). 

As I did in the first book, I loved Matile and Tuala. They were my favourite characters. They were just so... real. Their dialogue, their personalities were so familiar that I just laughed at the reality of their seemingly cold yet loving attitude they had towards Leila. The little things about them, like how Matile loved the lace fabric thingy Leila brought and how she dissaproved of the use of chocolate chips in her recipe just make me chuckle to myself. The brief scenes they had never failed to make me smile.

Keahi. I didn't mind him. With any book, I find it hard to physically visualise my characters. Most of the time, they're just invisible people with personalities. But Keahi's physical appearance was a big thing to the other characters in the story. I got frustrated at myself because Lani repeatedly described his appearance but I still couldn't accurately picture it myself. I did my best and I decided I don't mind him at all. Especially his totally not ugly face. (Will "he" be appearing in any photoshoots any time soon??)

I think Daniel did to me what Edward Cullen did to others. That thing where the ideal man is painted with perfection... and more. Yeah, I'm trying not to get sucked into that dangerous place where I judge guys because they don't live by WWDD (What Would Daniel Do). Anyway, Daniel's gotta have some flaws right? RIGHT?! I'm sure Donna can tell me! She's good at shedding realistic light onto seemingly perfect things (and people). 

One more thing I liked was that it was written by an author who I know through (haha, my claim to fame right there - although I'm probably related to David Tua or The Rock too). The addiction to diet coke, Daniel's ability to think about nothing and other little details reminded me of blog posts I've read on Sleepless In Samoa. So not only did I feel a personal connection with the story, but also with the author (I have this uncomfortable feeling I'm being pretentious but I don't know how else to describe it. Eh! YOLO! haha).

So yeah, I think it's safe to say I enjoyed this book.


  1. Laura - this made my Sunday. Im SO happy that you notice/mention that the writing has improved from the first bk, more fluid storytelling etc - because I feel like I have improved/matured/gotten better at storytelling and its SUCH a buzz to have readers notice it. (thank you, thank you!) It would have been so crushing to have you say the writing flow sucked when there I am thinking that it got better...LOL) Hey, speaking of the blog connections, you forgot to mention that Jason Momoa and Game of Thrones obsession from the blog posts...and the Ryan Reynolds thing...and even Leila eating donuts at one point... Im realizing just how transparent I am becoming, and how readers know way too much about my weakness, culinary and otherwise...I need to stop blogging!
    Love the review. Thank you.

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  3. A great review Laura! Have had students hounding our librarian asking when the second book is going to be available. We order through Wheelers so still waiting : ( They are so looking forward to reading it and so am I.