The Copper Gauntlet

The second novel of the Magisterium reminded me, for some reason, of the second-to-last Harry Potter movie. Maybe it was the whole running-away-from-magic-school bit. It’s meant to be Call’s second year at the Magisterium. He runs away from home, because he thinks his father is planning to do something terrible. Then he runs away from the Magisterium to find his father – whom he now believes has stolen an artefact called the Copper Gauntlet, rumoured to do horrible things to chaos mages.

Call continues on his self-absorbed path… Why do these teen heroes have to be so irritating? Perhaps his only redeeming feature is his concentration on his how-not-to-be-an-evil-overlord list. In fact, we spend a great deal of story time inside his head, and perhaps not enough inside the other main characters, so they feel somewhat undeveloped. As for the plot, there are plenty of twists and turns, some of them a bit contrived – such as questing for a magic copper gauntlet, in Call’s copper year? There’s plenty of action too, some of it quite spectacular. I was impressed by the

But it somehow didn’t quite work for me, and I find myself struggling to remember what happened when, and why. This series is polarising people; some love it, some hate it… Me, I’m somewhere in between.

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

vThe Kitchen Diaries III

There are cookery books that remain in the kitchen, or on the shelf nearby; and then there are books about cookery that go to the bedroom to be read from cover to cover. This is one of the latter, a book about food that is a joy to read.

Nigel Slater is a great cook, and he’s also a great writer. His prose is a delight, and if you want something to read after a hard day, and just relax into the flow of well-chosen words, this may well be a book for you. It may also be a book for you if you want interesting and innovative recipes for real food that you might actually want to try. There is even a recipe for Bacon Granola! I have got to try that, once I figure out what to substitute for hemp seeds – which are, as far as I can tell, illegal in New Zealand (and yes, that really is the first time that issue has arisen in my kitchen). I did try the Maple Pork Ribs with Tomato Chutney and they were pronounced delicious!

The structure of the book is essentially a food diary, from January to December. It’s written in the present tense, which normally annoys me, but works here, perhaps because it’s common in cookery writing. More problematic is that the seasons are reversed for antipodean readers, which means the summery recipes are in the middle, and the Christmas recipes are decidedly wintery. But I can live with that for the sheer delight in food that is found on every page. While this is not a book for a beginning cook, the recipes are not too challenging, flexible, and easy to follow. And there is an excellent index, which is a fine thing in a cookery book. I’m going to enjoy some experimentation in my kitchen with this book to hand.

Fourth Estate

Supplied by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Speaking in Bones

There is Kathy Reichs, herself a distinguished forensic anthropologist; there is the Bones of the TV series; and somewhere in between those extremes is the Bones of the novels. Speaking in Bones is an incredibly realistic novel with a sense of authenticity that is rarely found in detective fiction. It’s also very complex – there’s a lot going on, and the plot twists and turns as Bones works to figure out who did it – if indeed, they did it at all!

It begins with an amateur web sleuth connects a unreported missing person to an unidentified partial skeleton that Bones has previously examined, and finds a mysterious recording on a up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Which are part of the Appalachians, notorious as the home of weirdos and wacked-out religious sects, which as you may safely determine from the title are deeply involved in the plot of this mystery. No doubt that will offend some people, but…

I found this an intriguing and well-plotted mystery – Kathy Reichs writes about what she knows, and writes very well. It might not be science fiction, but it is very definitely fiction about real science.

Heinemann

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Review of Life in Balance

It’s clear from the start that “Life in Balance” does not apply to the bank balance, because this is a book full of trendy food, incorporating fashionable ingredients that are expensive and not always easy to find. Lots of chia seed, spelt flour, ground almonds, and rice malt syrup. And lots and lots of vegetables, in places you would not expect them – like spinach in a smoothie!

The baking section is, not surprisingly, largely gluten-free, despite the scientific consensus that unless you have coeliac disease, gluten will not hurt you. But then, there isn’t a lot of science in foodie trendiness…

That said, this is a beautifully-presented book, with sections explaining the more unusual ingredients, where they come from, and why they are believed to be good for you. The food photography is excellent, and the book has a good limp binding, that sits nice and flat on the bench. There is a detailed glossary, and a proper index.

The only quibble I have with presentation is that many of the recipes are printed white on black, which can be harder to read. As for the content, if you are about to embark on the trendy diet, then this may well be a great book for you.

As for me, I’ll be pushed to find many recipes I can even begin to attempt with what I have in my (reasonably well-stocked) pantry.

Fourth Estate

Supplied by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

the Amber- ountain

I am really rather grateful that Stephen Minchin decided to publish this short novel before calling it a day for Steam Press. It is the sequel to The Glass Projector, which ended on a definite cliff-hanger, and to be frank, I really wanted to find out what happened next. And I was not disappointed. The story took off from where it had left, with little preamble (which does mean that you will need to have read The Glass Projector first), and rocketed on to a most satisfying climax.

As I explained when reviewing The Glass Projector, this is a fantasy steampunk adventure for young people, set against a background of war, and with an innovative twist to the nature of magic. I must say that I enjoyed the over-the-top writing style which perfectly matched the subject. The characters are fun and fascinating, they get to be suitably heroic, the young heroine saves the day, and the villain gets his just desserts. Yes, it’s all very melodramatic, but that’s not a flaw.

Sometimes it’s good to read something that’s simply fun and engaging. Part way through I realised that I was engrossed, and had to tear myself away with difficulty. This is a great read for young and old – and I challenge you to spot the kiwi!

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui

 

Journey to a Hanging

In 1865, the Reverend Carl Sylvius Völkner was hanged, beheaded, his eyes eaten and his blood drunk. In January 1872, Kereopa Te Rau, (Kaiwhatu: the Eye Eater), was hanged in Napier as retribution. While the two events were directly related, were there more similarities than just death by hanging?

Wells bookends his story with visits to Opotiki, where Völkner died, and Napier, the scene of Te Rau’s death. He examines the modern day appearance of both (one is now a hostel) with the historical appearance. And he talks to those responsible for the up-keep of the graves of the two men. Völkner’s is seen as a martyr’s grave whereas Te Rau’s is viewed with a degree of shame.

Both men are set in their historical context. Völkner was formerly a missionary for the North German Missionary Society, in part driven to this work by the dire financial situation in Germany at the time. However, after a strained financial relationship with his mother order, he swapped to the Anglican missions – they at least paid regularly. As an Anglican missionary, Völkner considered it part of his job to communicate with both the Church and Government on conditions in his part of New Zealand. And this proved fatal for him in 1865 as war visited his corner of the Bay of Plenty in 1865.

Te Rau’s history is less well known, though he was given a “Christian” name – Kereopa is the Maori version Cleophas (one of a group of Jews who met Christ three days after the Crucifixion). Te Rau at some point converted to Pai Marire, or Hauhau. Personal circumstances placed him on the Kingite side of the Maori Wars, and this enabled him to evade early capture until late 1871. While the demand for revenge for Völkner’s death was loud immediately after, as time wore on more were prepared to see the act as more political than criminal. As a consequence there were a few campaigning for clemency.

Völkner’s killing was an incident that shocked settler New Zealand. There was much satisfaction with the hanging of Te Rau. Wells does a good job of placing both events in both their historical and modern context.

Vintage

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Little Kiwi Counts The Chicks

It’s spring and Little Kiwi and Little Sister are in the forest listening to the newly hatched birds.  They have never seen so many and decide to see if they can count them.  There end up being too many for Little Kiwi to count.

This book helps toddlers become familiar with numbers and objects and helps them recognise the concept of counting.  Beautifully illustrated with cute birds that look alive, each number from one to ten has the corresponding number of  chicks for readers to count.

The numbers are in their numerical form, as well as the word form identifying each bird family.  A well thought-out book that is sure to help develop counting skills.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan