It’s time to face the final trial . . .

The battle for Camp Jupiter is over. New Rome is safe. Tarquin and his army of the undead have been defeated. Somehow Apollo has made it out alive, with a little bit of help from the Hunters of Artemis.

But though the battle may have been won, the war is far from over.

Now Apollo and Meg must get ready for the final – and, let’s face it, probably fatal – adventure. They must face the last emperor, the terrifying Nero, and destroy him once and for all.

Can Apollo find his godly form again? Will Meg be able to face up to her troubled past? Destiny awaits . . .

The Tower of Nero: The trials of Apollo #5

Rick Riordan

Pufin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree Pavletich

Apollo annoyed Zeus and now he is a teenager named Lester on the mean streets of Manhattan. After overcoming many trials, but not his ego, and fighting and saving Camp Jupiter, with plenty of snark, Apollo and partner Meg are back in the city that never sleeps to do final battle with Nero. That Nero, fiddle and all. And then Python, Apollo’s sworn enemy (pardon the pun). If they win; Apollo will get his divinity back. If they lose, they die and humanity will suffer. Being humiliated isn’t the end it’s just the beginning.

If you get annoyed by irrepressible ego this book is not for you, however, it shows even gods can learn and although it may rife on the first Thor movie there is a lot more going on.

Monique Fiso is a modern-day food warrior, taking Maori cuisine to the world.

After years overseas in Michelin-star restaurants, Monique returned to Aotearoa to begin Hiakai, an innovative pop-up venture that’s now a revered, award-winning restaurant in Wellington.

Monique has also gone on to feature on Netflix’s ‘The Final Table’, alongside 19 other international chefs, with Hiakai being lauded by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Forbes and TIME magazine, which named Hiakai in 2019 as one of the ‘100 Greatest Places’ in the world.

This book is just as unforgettable: ranging between history, tradition and tikanga, as well as Monique’s personal journey of self-discovery, it tells the story of kai Maori, provides foraging and usage notes, an illustrated ingredient directory, and over 30 breathtaking recipes that give this ancient knowledge new life.

Hiakai offers up food to behold, to savour, to celebrate.

Hiakai, Modern Maori Cuisine

Monique Fiso

RHNZ Godwit

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Hiakai is both the Maori word for hungry and a noted restaurant in Wellington. Monique Fiso has credentials – she started with Martin Bosley, worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in New York. and focused on Maori cuisine after returning to New Zealand in 2016. As with any cookbook, there are photos of ingredients, finished dishes, and Fiso out foraging for wild goodies.

Hiakai is modern Maori cuisine. So, don’t expect recipes featuring tui, sealion, or Ngati Lost-the-War as you would be prosecuted for trying (as would they for promoting it), nor anything for hangi, boil-ups, or fry bread. Actually, that last one does make it in, but the bread ain’t plain rewena – it’s fancy! And that is the thrust of this book – modern. Just because the recipes are “Maori”, there is no need to tie them to pre-contact ingredients.

The book is divided into three broad sections: beginnings, ingredients, recipes. Naturally, there are further subdivisions, particularly with the recipes. For those wishing to recreate some of these recipes at home, you will need a mixture of patience, fitness, and observational skills – finding hakeke (wood-ear mushroom) in the shops is not a starter. Hiakai the restaurant is apparently highly successful and has attracted international attention. Unfortunately for me, this book arrived during lockdown so neither I nor a suitable stunt double have managed to get along to Wallace St in Mt Cook to sample the wares first-hand. But that is going to change.

I recommend this book. It breaks the stereotypes of Maori cooking and the recipes are fairly straight forward. Sourcing some of the ingredients may suit those with an interest in New Zealand flora more than others, but isn’t that half the fun of “ethnic” cuisine – shopping somewhere other than Countdown? Buy, try, surprise yourself. Thank you to RHNZ/Godwit for the review copy.

The eighth and final book in a bestselling junior fiction series inspired by true stories from the Wilson Sisters’ childhoods.

It’s their greatest adventure yet — a road trip in search of ponies!

In this exciting conclusion to the bestselling Showtym Adventures series, Amanda, Kelly and Vicki go on a road trip to find their dream ponies!

Nine-year-old Amanda is thrilled when her parents announce plans to travel the length of the country in search of a Grand Prix show jumper for Vicki, as well as a new pony each for Kelly and Amanda.

From wild beaches and lake swims to high-country musters, each day on the road brings the three sisters new experiences — and new challenges. Will Amanda and her new pony Syd survive the dangerous overnight cattle muster? And will Vicki find the Grand Prix pony of her dreams?

In this story inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda first taste the freedom of exploring the world on horseback.

Syd, The Muster Pony: Showtym Adventures #8

Kelly Wilson

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The Wilson sister’s are searching for ponies for Kelly and Amanda and a Grand Prix showjumper for Vicki.  They find two likely Grand Prix ponies but one is in Christchurch while the other is in Invercargill.  All the sisters want to view them but airfare for the whole family would be too expensive.  There’s only one solution – ROAD TRIP!!!

The sisters convince their parents to travel round New Zealand for three months in the horse truck, hopefully finding for ponies for Kelly and Amanda.  They have a lot of fun adventures and meet many people, while riding their ponies all over New Zealand.

A brief explanation of the real life ponies and their accomplishments that the book was based on features at the end.  A detailed explanation of travelling with ponies/horses is also given.  It covers; preparing to travel, the journey, arriving at your destination.

It‘s well thought out and full of handy tips.

A fitting end to a series that was all about the Wilson sister’s adventures with ponies. Any pony-mad teen will love it.

Review of Katt vs. Dogg – James PattersonThe most famous enemies in the animal kingdom finally meet face-to-face… and the fur is about to fly!

Oscar is a rowdy pooch who loves everybody – except katts! His family of down-to-earth doggs enjoys giving those snooty katts a hard time.

Molly is a pretty kitty who’s destined for fame and fortune as an actress. Her family of well-bred katts thinks all doggs are dirty and disgusting!

But while on family camping trips, Molly and Oscar get hopelessly lost in the dangerous woods. The only way for them to survive is for the mortal enemies to work together…

Yeah, not gonna happen!

Katt vs. Dogg

James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

Arrow

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree Pavletich

Katts believe dogs are dirty and disgusting.

Doggs believe Katts are snooty and only good for chasing

Sworn enemies.

But when two youngsters; Oscar the dogg and Molly the katt, get lost in the woods, they find sworn enemies have to team up to survive and by doing that they may, just may, change their world. But first they have to get past years of being told they shouldn’t even look at each other let alone talk or help each other!

I found this on the simplistic read side but younger readers will love it.

        Peter Gossage’s famous Maori myth about discovering Aotearoa’s North Island is now a bilingual Maori-English edition, featuring Merimeri Penfold’s translation.

Kahore nga tuakana o Maui i hiahia kia haere ia i to ratou taha ki te hi, he hae no ratou. Heoi ano, ka mau i a Maui atamai te ika whakamiharo katoa.

He putanga reo Maori–reo Pakeha o tenei tino pakiwaitara o Aotearoa.

Maui’s jealous brothers don’t want him to come fishing with them. But clever Maui catches the best fish of all.

Te Ika a Maui / the Fish of Maui

Peter Gossage, translated by Merimeri Penfold

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

This is the re-telling of a Maori myth about how Maui discovered the North Island of New
Zealand.

Maui’s foster brothers were jealous of him as he had magical powers and they didn’t, so when they planned a fishing trip they left him out.  After learning of this, Maui hid in the bottom of the canoe and emerging when they found a place to fish.

The illustrations are lifelike and well-drawn, very detailed and comprehensive in explaining the story.  The English and Maori language paragraphs are clearly defined and the text is mostly easy to read.  The white lettering on a light green background was a bit difficult to see, but the colours suited the story.

This is a bilingual Maori-English story.

In The Deep End, book 15 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series from #1 international bestselling author Jeff Kinney, Greg Heffley and his family hit the road for a cross-country camping trip, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

But things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves stranded at an RV park that’s not exactly a summertime paradise. When the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation – or if they’re already in too deep.

The Deep End: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #15

Jeff Kinney

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Dylan Howell

The book series that won’t give up, Diary of a Wimpy Kid remains one of the most consistent and entertaining names in children’s literature, I’ve praised Kinney before for unbelievably hitting the reader with a fresh concept each time. Even now, upon the release of his 15th instalment. However, while “The Deep End” is incredibly derivative of an early entry in the franchise “the long haul”, it adds a new spin and raises the stakes higher than ever before.

This novel features the familiar Heffley family embarking on an outdoor camping trip following the events of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball” when the family borrows a fixer upper RV from their shady Uncle Gary. As is expected of our titular Wimpy Kid, hijinks ensue. Floods, storms, wild animals, bullies, and overflowing sewage tanks are the least of Greg’s concerns in this solid entry in the franchise. It may be less relatable than other instalments, but at this point in the series, Greg is as sympathetic as any anti-hero can get.

“The Deep End” is suitable for children aged 9 and over. There are brief mentions of nudity, drinking, and violence but they aren’t intrusive or influential. The rest of the content may be pitched towards Americans, as some humour is specific to the flora and fauna of the United States. The subject matter however, of camping and road tripping could be of interest to anyone.

I can easily give this my seal of approval, I began reading these books when I was 8, a great age to enjoy them, and I still find them endearing page-turners at age 18. There’s something undeniable about the simple brilliance of these books, and the domino-stacking dance Kinney plays with his audience, which can be finished in a gut-busting afternoon.  I simply can’t recommend them enough. It would be tough to find a funnier children’s series.

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He poto rawa nga ra, he roa rawa nga po. Oti ana i a Maui he whakaaro e ata rere ai te ra i te rangi.
He putanga reo Maori–reo Pakeha o tenei tino pakiwaitara o Aotearoa.

Faced with very short days and very long nights, Maui comes up with a plan to slow the Sun’s passage through the sky.
Peter Gossage’s much-loved retelling of this famous Maori myth has captivated young children for generations.

Te Hopu a Maui i a Te Ra / How Maui Slowed the Sun

Peter Gossage, translated by Merimeri Penfold

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

This is the re-telling of a Maori myth about how Maui made the Sun slow down its journey across the sky.

The Sun began to move too fast through the sky, making the days too short to get things done.  Maui came up with a clever plan to lengthen the days but needed his brothers to help him carry it out.

The illustrations are very detailed and lifelike, well-drawn and very comprehensive in explaining the story.  The English and Maori language paragraphs are clearly defined and the text is easily read.  The colours suit the story on each page.

This is a bilingual Maori-English story.

‘I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.’

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Men Without Women

Haruki Murakami

translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

Harvill Secker

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Men Without Women is a collection of seven shorter form stories (which mostly qualify as novelettes and one short story), one of which is also called Men Without Women. Both Goossen and Gabriel have translated Murakami before, and Harvill Secker seems to be his usual English publisher.

As with the majority of Murakami’s output, these are contemporary stories set in Japan – what a surprise. We have a widower with a new driver, a caregiver who provides extra services, two friends who speak the others dialect, and so forth. We get to see a snippet of the protagonists’ world and sometimes a resolution.

Generally, these stories are an exploration of relationships, mostly couples but not always romantic or sexual. With the title story, we have a man who is contacted by the survivors of his past partners. He wonders why they feel compelled to contact him. We have a man who remembers his name and very little else.

The pacing of these stories is good, with the ending coming naturally. Nothing feels rushed. The stories work, and the translations are good; nothing jarred, or sounded like it was delivered by another voice.

I apologise if this review seems a little short, but this is first anthology 000ve reviewed in quite a while and so am completely out of practice with them. That said, I enjoyed this collection and strongly recommend it. I also thank Penguin Random House for the review copy.

The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they will lay siege for ten whole years. It is a terrible war with casualties on all sides as well as strained relations between allies, whose consequences become tragedies.

In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.

Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold

Stephen Fry

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Yes, it is that Troy, and the story starts like most Greek myths, with Zeus not keeping it in his pants. From there on, there’s a few more Olympian extramarital affairs, royal murders, marriages, prophecies, and a divine beauty contest. From this point on, the gods seem to fall over each other trying to get their preferred prophecy over the line. And once war starts, they can’t resist meddling in Greek and Trojan affairs. Even after Zeus puts his foot down and orders a stop to it.

For those familiar with Homer’s Iliad¸ which covers but four days and three nights during the tenth year of the war, there is a wealth of background detail Homer assumes his listeners know. Such as how Menelaus came to married to Helen, why Paris risked it all to abduct her (and Menelaus’ treasury), and why the Greeks united to get her back. All told in the pared down, modern idiom Fry has used in the preceding Mythos and Heroes.

Once more. Stephen Fry has crafted another great book out of the dusty stanzas of Greek epic poetry. He has drawn on various sources to create a coherent narrative. And then tells the reader not to look too closely at the timelines as it’s all been bodged together. The one grumble I have is Stephen hasn’t really shown his calculations. Part of the problem is that many works, such as the Epic Cycle (which details various events during the Trojan War). Apart from the usual Intros and acknowledgements, Fry has included two short essays on Myth and Reality. Read them.

This is a book that should inhabit your collection. It’s certainly staying in mine. Hopefully there is a retelling of the Odyssey (and other tales following the fall of Troy). My thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy.

A convicted killer. A gifted thief. A vicious crime boss. A disillusioned cop. Together they’re a missing girl’s only hope.

Blair Harbour, once a wealthy, respected surgeon in Los Angeles, is now an ex-con down on her luck. She’s determined to keep her nose clean to win back custody of her son.

But when her former cellmate, Sneak Lawlor, begs for help to find her missing daughter, Blair is compelled to put her new-found freedom on the line. Joined by LA’s most feared underworld figure, Ada Maverick, the crew of criminals bring outlaw tactics to the search for Dayly.

Detective Jessica Sanchez has always had a difficult relationship with the LAPD. And her inheritance of a $7 million mansion as a reward for catching a killer has just made her police enemy number one.

It’s been ten years since Jessica arrested Blair for the cold-blooded murder of her neighbour. So when Jessica opens the door to the disgraced doctor and her friends early one morning she expects abuse, maybe even violence.

What comes instead is a plea for help.

Gathering Darkness

Candice Fox

Bantam Australia

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Held up at gunpoint at her overnight shift in a convenience store, Blair Harbour feels for the terrified young woman and doesn’t  tell the store owners – who happen to be a drug cartel – figuring she doesn’t need to be on the run from them too.  Blair was a respected surgeon before being convicted of the murder of her neighbour and her one goal is to keep her head down to win back custody of her son.

Then she learns the robber is her former cellmate’s missing daughter – Dayly – and her mother begs for help to find her.   Against her better judgement, Blair starts investigating and is forced to ask for help from Ada Maverick, a former inmate who owes Blair a debt and happens to be a scary criminal boss in L.A.  They enlist the help of Jessica Sanchez, the LAPD detective who arrested Blair, whom other cops hate due to an inheritance of a $7 million mansion.

The story is told from two POVs, Blair’s and Jessica’s, and is fast-paced with lots of things happening very quickly.  The different threads are all very tightly wound and as the story unfolds, it all comes together.  I loved some of the ending, other bits haqd me asking ‘did that HAVE to happen?’ and made me sad.

If you enjoy creepily compulsive crime thrillers tis is a MUST READ!