Firefight

The middle volume of a trilogy is often the tricky one, for writers, readers and reviewers. Sanderson pulls it off neatly, with a story that has a clear beginning, a middle and a truly spectacular ending. But that isn’t the striking thing about this book. What I found truly memorable was not the characters, although they continue to develop in interesting ways, nor the plot, although it was well-structured. No, what remains in my mind is the setting. This is Sanderson’s Babilar, Babylon Restored, the city of New York reinvented through Epic power, and it’s quite astonishing. Weird, beautiful, and truly imaginative. Yes, I know that this is background, but it is what grabbed me. Not that there’s a problem with the story, it’s action-packed and lots and lots of fun. We learn a great deal more about Epics, their weaknesses and the source of their powers – but not so much that I’m not really looking forward to the next book!

Gollancz

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Review of Steelheart here

anzac

Image  —  Posted: April 25, 2015 in war
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A Treacherous Paradise

Hanna Lundmark escapes the terrible poverty of her life in rural Sweden by marrying a sailor and joining the crew of his Australia-bound steamship as a cook. Unfortunately he dies soon after and is buried at sea, leaving Hanna with the freedom to start her life afresh. When the steamer docks at the African port of Lourenco Marques she jumps ship.

Hanna reserves a room in a run-down hotel and settles back to observe the intrigues of a small African town and the dynamics between the white settler and the native population. Embroiled in a series of events which lead to her inheriting the most successful brothel in town, Hanna is determined to befriend the prostitutes working for her and change life in the town for the better but the distrust between blacks and whites, and the shadow of colonialism, lead to tragedy and murder.

Based on the true story of a Swedish woman who ran the most famous brothel in Mozambique, this is an interesting historical fiction that has a crime angle to it. It didn’t grip me, though the true story it’s based on sounds interesting. Try it for yourself.

Harvill Secker

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

If I Should Die

Territorial Army veteran Joseph Stark was badly wounded in an attack in Afghanistan that killed the rest of his unit. Returned to the normality of civilian life, he’s a Trainee Detective in Greenwich and does his best to ignore his army past, which is difficult when they keep calling. Seriously injured, Stark relies on painkillers and booze to keep him going but has consented to some hydrotherapy, where his therapist is an extremely attractive blonde.

A string of random attacks on the homeless occurs and the investigation soon links them to a gang of wanabe thugs. Even with CCTV and cell phone videos the police can’t prove anything though, and then one victim dies and it becomes a murder investigation. Then there’s another attack but this time the victim fights back…..

The storytelling is so vivid, the characters are so real, you can’t help but be drawn in. The plot is very strong and leads you to think one thing before suddenly – boom – you’re totally mistaken. This book is so well written and compelling, a fantastic debut novel that I could not put down. I am really looking forward to the next book!

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

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Image  —  Posted: April 19, 2015 in war
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blackpeak station

Charlotte Black is the fourth generation of the Black family to farm Blackpeak Station, a farm in the rugged high country of the South Island. Wanting to own the station Charlotte runs into a few problems, she has an older brother and a father who believes that daughters run families, not farms.

After her father dies Charlotte faces many struggles to keep her dream alive, including ending things with her first love Rob. She resigns herself to never having romance in her life, as the station came first.   Then the handsome, suave Luke turned up on her doorstep.

This was a good read, well written and an interesting story with plenty of twists and turns to keep things moving forward at a rapid pace. The setting was beautifully described and the challenge of living in a remote part of New Zealand laid out well.

The description of the Christchurch earthquake made me cry, as it brought back the same feelings the characters had watching it on tv, waiting for news, and hoping loved ones were safe, and finding out someone you knew was a casualty.

A must read for modern romance fans.

Bantam

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

raising steam

Nothing yearns to be something, and small entrepreneurs are complaining of the distance and travel time between Ankh-Morpork and the food sources. Enter Dick Simnel, whose father had disappeared in a cloud of pink steam and shrapnel after a furnace accident, a lad armed wi’ a flat cap and Iron Girder, a furnace that moves. On tracks. In Harry King, the waste merchant’s yard. There’s also a problem with factionalism among the Dwarfs. Not all are happy with the settlement Lord Vetinari imposed on them and the Trolls at Kroom Valley.

This is Terry’s 40th (and penultimate) Discworld novel. It is a multithreaded tale, with Dick Simnel, the Goblins, Moist von Lipwig and the Dwarves all facing various challenges. For those that haven’t guessed from the title, the tale is ostensibly about the arrival of rail transport on the Discworld, and the demand is driven by the wealthy of Ankh-Morpork for fresh produce from their fisheries and market gardens. So naturally the opportunity for international incidents abound. A competing thread is the disaffection one faction of Dwarves has for the Kroom Valley settlement. This has Lord Vetinari concerned. More than Moist von Lipwig is when The Patrician has charged him with securing the smooth implementation of various rail routes. And we learn something interesting concerning the Low King of the Dwarfs.

The story seamlessly flips between the various threads as rail travel comes to the Discworld. To my taste, the story lacked a little focus with so many competing threads it was difficult to decide which was the primary tale – the rail road, Dick Simnel or the threatening war among the Dwarfs. An enjoyable read, it probably isn’t Terry’s best. But then, it isn’t his worst either. Good, lightweight Discworld fun.

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve