Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

Brothers of The Knife

Dan Rabarts

Omnium Gatherum Media

Supplied by author

Purchase here

Reviewed by Eileen Mueller

What could a mere cook, the youngest in a family of powerful warlocks, expect when the hornung emperor invites an elvish prince to dinner?

Not to be framed for the prince’s murder! But that’s exactly what happens to Akmenos, who was in the kitchen, minding his own business, preparing delectable dishes for the emperor’s exalted party, when the murderer struck.

Now, Akmenos must flee from enemies far more powerful than he ever imagined. Luckily, he’s armed with salt and pepper grinders, and handy kitchen utensils, stowed in his apron pockets. After all, you never know when you’ll need a good dinner on the run. It’s a shame Akmenos barely has a chance to rustle up a decent meal on his dangerous, but slapstick, journey.

Brothers of the Knife is a whirlwind romp through a dark fantastical landscape, with airships, magic plinths and portals that deliver Akmenos to unknown territories and bizarre dimensions. Pursued by heinous enemies in the guise of friends and befriended by unlikely allies, Akmenos (and the reader) must always be on the lookout for trouble—oh, and dwarves, witches, minotaur, hyena-people, robots, elves and murderous high-caste hornung warlocks!

Yes, there are plenty of surprises, laughs and adventures in book one of what promises to be a very entertaining series. And the genre? A mash-up of fantasy, steampunk, grim dark, humour, sword and sorcery—you name it, this book has it, so I guess it’s in a unique genre of its own.

Eileen Mueller is a multi-award-winning author of heart-pounding fantasy novels that will keep you turning the page. Dive into her worlds, full of magic, love, adventure and dragons! Eileen lives in New Zealand, in a cave, with four dragonets and a shape shifter, writing for young adults, children and everyone who loves adventure.
Visit her website for Eileen’s FREE books, new releases or to become a Rider of Fire.

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When the human creatures appeared, they ravaged the forests and hunted many birds to extinction. The flightless Striggs had only one option:

They went down, down under the ground . . . And it’s there, as you may have heard it whispered, that they still remain. Far below, in a place of stone and darkness . . .

Over thousands of years, they colonised a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, but even underground the Striggs are not safe: chemicals now pollute their water and a deadly sickness threatens the flock.

Even worse: an inquisitive young Strigg called Ellee Meddo discovers a human boy, trapped deep in a well. Humans are to be feared and saving him could mean travelling to the surface, a place of untold peril. What will Ellee decide to do?

A Place of Stone and Darkness

Chris Mousdale

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

It is argued that there are only 7 story archetypes: Rags to Riches, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth, The Quest and Overcoming the Monster, so it is difficult to imagine there are an infinite number of ways to tell the same story. It is true. Some stories are too familiar, pale imitations to ones we have already read. Then there are stories that we think we know, and yet we do not.

A Place of Stone and Darkness follows the unexpected meeting of a young Strigg called Ellee Meddo and a Toppa called Blue. Deep below the earth’s surface they must overcome everything they have been taught about Monsters in order to save each other and everything they hold dear.

Mousdale’s first foray into Young Adult Literature could be read as a list of humanity’s crimes against nature, where our arrogance as taken us to the brink of extinction. It could also be read as the conflict within each one of us to honour our community without losing our own identity. But perhaps the best way to read it is that everything can change in a heartbeat if you are brave and kind, and even when you are afraid you do not give up hope. Mousdale’s original imagining of creatures below the earth, in a time we hope never happens, is embellished with his whimsical vocabulary and engaging imagery. A great read for those who like their adventure to quicken their pulse with each turned page.

On 17 September 1944, General Kurt Student, the founder of Nazi Germany’s parachute forces, heard the growing roar of aero engines. He went out on to his balcony above the flat landscape of southern Holland to watch the vast air armada of Dakotas and gliders, carrying the British 1st Airborne and the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. He gazed up in envy at the greatest demonstration of paratroop power ever seen.

Operation Market Garden, the plan to end the war by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond, was a bold concept: the Americans thought it unusually bold for Field Marshal Montgomery. But the cost of failure was horrendous, above all for the Dutch who risked everything to help. German reprisals were cruel and lasted until the end of the war.

The British fascination for heroic failure has clouded the story of Arnhem in myths, not least that victory was possible when in fact the plan imposed by Montgomery and General ‘Boy’ Browning was doomed from the start. Antony Beevor, using many overlooked and new sources from Dutch, British, American, Polish and German archives, has reconstructed the terrible reality of this epic clash. Yet this book, written in Beevor’s inimitable and gripping narrative style, is about much more than a single dramatic battle. It looks into the very heart of war.

Don’t miss hearing Antony Beevor talk at the Auckland Writer’s Festival Saturday 18 May 2019.  Click here for details.

Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944

Antony Beevor

Viking

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

For many World War II armchair generals, no subject is likely to generate a vigorous discussion than Operation Market Garden – the attempt to capture a series of bridges in the Netherlands in late 1944. Devised by the recently promoted Field Marshall Montgomery, the aim was to capture a bridgehead over the Rhine in the Netherlands and pursue the Germany army into Germany. Needless to say, the operations did not go as planned.

Beevor starts the action a few weeks before the actual period in question, as the situational background is important in understanding the decisions behind the plan. He then follows the planning and implementation of the operation as envisaged. The last chapter is devoted to the aftermath of the operation and the German response. Those that know about Operation Market Garden and the film, A Bridge Too Far, will be aware that it failed.

Beevor, as part of his research, sought answers as to why. Blame is firmly attributed to Monty and his senior commanders. Beevor consulted documents from multiples sources, including Dutch and German, before writing this book. These two sets are important – both were witnesses and participants to the plans as executed. The Dutch army also had an Army Staff College who would have failed Montgomery for implementing a plan so simple and obvious as running directly up the road and straight for the Arnhem bridges.

I enjoyed Arnhem: it is a good read and the action reporting is balanced (it seems confusion abounded on both sides early in the battle). While the title is Arnhem, that city is not the sole focus, as fighting continued along the entire 120km route. It was the target, however, and despite later claims the operation was 90% successful, in this case the miss may as well have been a mile. Read it. I thank Penguin for supplying a review copy.

Why do we prefer to drink tomato juice on flights?
Why do we eat less when food is served on red plates?
Does the crunch really change the taste of crisps?

In Gastrophysics pioneering researcher Professor Charles Spence explores the extraordinary, mind-bending science of food. Whether it’s uncovering the importance of smell, sight, touch and sound to taste or why cutlery, company and background noise change our experience of eating, he shows us how neuroscience, psychology and design are changing not only what we put on our plates but also how we experience it.

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating

Professor Charles Spence

Viking

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed  by Jacqui Smith

I don’t I have ever before come across a book that was almost 40% notes before; but this is a quite unusual volume in other ways. It’s a book about food science on a whole different level; about the psychology, chemistry, biology and even physics of eating. What effect does the environment, expectations, colours, sounds, smells have on the experience of food… It’s all here. And it’s all very interesting.

I suspect that almost anyone who works in the food industry and has a passing interest in science would be fascinated by this book. As would anyone with an interest in food and eating. It’s not a simple read, and I found that I preferred to read it a bit at a time with a pause for digestion. It does have some interesting adventures for the domestic cook as well, especially if you’re into hosting dinner parties. You’ll learn more than you really want to know about the ways in which the food industry manipulates what we eat. There’s even some surprising advice for weight loss – try using red plates!

Is vocabulary destiny? Why do clocks ‘talk’ to the Nahua people of Mexico? Will A.I. researchers ever produce true human-machine dialogue? In this mesmerizing collection of essays, Daniel Tammet answers these and many other questions about the intricacy and profound power of language.

In EVERY WORD IS A BIRD WE TEACH TO SING, Tammet goes back in time to explore the numeric language of his autistic childhood; in Iceland, he learns why the name Bl r became a court case; in Canada, he meets one of the world’s most accomplished lip readers. He chats with chatbots; contrives an ‘e’-less essay on lipograms; studies the grammar of the telephone; contemplates the significance of disappearing dialects; and corresponds with native Esperanto speakers – in their mother tongue.

A joyous romp through the world of words, letters, stories, and meanings, EVERY WORD IS A BIRD WE TEACH TO SING explores the way communication shapes reality. From the art of translation to the lyricism of sign language, these essays display the stunning range of Tammet’s literary and polyglot talents.

Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries & Meanings of Language

Daniel Tammet

Hachette Australia

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve Litten

Daniel Tammet suffered from autism as a child, and saw the world in numbers, rather than words. Not surprisingly, this different view of the world, and language, made him a troubled user of English, his native tongue. At least, as a child. After moving to France and learning the joys of literature in French, he was re-introduced to English. Which he saw in another light. For apart from the whole number thing – words evoking numbers – he also has a certain degree of synaesthesia: words evoke other sensations.

It is this complex array of foibles, both bane and boon, that inspired this collection of essays. Daniel recounts an adventure language teaching in Lithuania, attempts at reviving a mostly dead language, chasing down a fellow autistic poet, a childhood vocabulary test and so forth. But instead of coming across as a whiney, life was hard sort, he buzzes with excitement. Yes, the difficulties of childhood were sad, but he recognises that these were his problems. The reader doesn’t suffer for Daniel’s limitations. Rather, he carries them along with his love of language and human communication.

I enjoyed this book. It gave me an insight into another mind, another method of approaching languages, for Daniel doesn’t confine himself to exploring just English. His essays, some of which are deeply personal, are not about him; they’re about language. For writers, language is almost all they have. For people who use words, and that is almost all of use, the title sums up what we strive for with our use of words: every word is a bird we teach to sing.

1814: Mary Godwin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of radical socialist and feminist writers, runs away with a dangerously charming young poet – Percy Bysshe Shelley. From there, the two young lovers travel a Europe in the throes of revolutionary change, through high and low society, tragedy and passion, where they will be drawn into the orbit of the mad and bad Lord Byron.
But Mary and Percy are not alone: they bring Jane, Mary’s young step-sister. And she knows the biggest secrets of them all . . .

Told from Mary and Jane’s perspectives, Monsters is a novel about radical ideas, rule-breaking love, dangerous Romantics, and the creation of the greatest Gothic novel of them all: Frankenstein.

Monsters

Sharon Dogar

Andersen

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Despite analysis by PhD students of Literature it is impossible to say why a novel becomes a classic. Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley when she was just a teenager, has remained a constant ‘must read’ since its publication on New Year’s Day 1818. Since then, one reader after another has picked up Frankenstein to see ourselves in Mary’s characters, both the creator and the created; the one who harms and the one who is harmed. As we read, we question how its author was able to convey our own struggle through life through an impossible metaphor of monster. In Monsters, Sharon Dogar attempts to give us a peek into the events in Mary’s own life that allowed her to write the novel of a lifetime.

Monsters follow the life of Mary Shelley from 14 until the publication of her novel, Frankenstein at 19 years old.  Throughout the novel, her obsession for understanding her dead mother becomes an obsession for a married man and his ideas of modern society, and finally an obsession for her own novel. As she writes, Mary becomes convinced that the terrible events she brings alive on the page cause them spill over into the real world with deadly consequences.

Sharon Dogar’s historical novel allows the reader into the world in which Frankenstein was created. We not only get to understand Mary’s life, her family and her friends, but we also get a greater understanding of the societal shifts around the western world as equality for workers and women were becoming centre stage. At its core, it is a novel about an unhappy little girl finding love and a sense of self-worth; and around the edges are a study of people and places we have read about but never experienced.

Tracy Beaker is back, and she’s a mum now…

The Dumping Ground is far behind her, and Tracy Beaker has grown up, living on a tough housing estate with her daughter, Jess.

This time, it’s Jess telling the story.

Jess looks like a mini version of her mum- but she’s not quite as fiery. Well, not often. Jess and Tracy are living a hand-to-mouth existence on their estate, until Tracy meets up with someone from her past and their whole lives are turned upside down…

My Mum Tracy Beaker is a fantastic new story, reuniting readers with a much-loved old friend. Just like old times, it’s packed full of illustrations from Nick Sharratt throughout.

My Mum Tracy Beaker

Jacqueline Wilson

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

Even the redoubtable Tracy Beaker can get stuck in a relationship that is not all it should be. We meet Tracy and her daughter Jessica when Tracy has just started a new relationship with the wealthy and handsome ex-footballer Sean. But Jessica isn’t convinced that Sean is fond of Tracy’s famously independent ways and no-filter mouth. Tracy has to battle through finding and losing, then finding, love, finding and losing jobs and looking after her daughter with every fibre of her being. A heart-warming story of what really matters in life.