After a daring chase across the globe, Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland have brought Clara’s scientist father’s secret formula to Westralia. Here, much of Australia is simply too hot to be habitable by day. Duke Malcolm, of the Imperial Security Service, transports Claras rebel-father to a prison in Eastern Australia, hoping to bait her into attempting a rescue. Clara looks to Tim for help, only to find he has fled a racist incident into the desert. She takes a burrowing machine know as a “steam mole” in search of him. The two head to Eastern Australia, where they discover an invading force with plans to take Westralia.

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Published by Pyr

Purchased from Bookwyrms (some time ago)

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

This is the sequel to Dave’s young adult novel Cuttlefish which I reviewed recently, and features the continuing adventures of Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland. Tim, along with the crew of the Cuttlefish, is stuck in Westralia, while the submarine is repaired. He takes a job working on the steam moles, digging tunnels to the mines north of the Tropic of Capricorn where it has become so hot that the trains must go underground. Only it all goes wrong, and he escapes into the desert… Meanwhile, Clara’s mother is poisoned by an Imperial agent and is sick in hospital. Clara learns that her father is incarcerated in Imperial territory in Queensland, and sets about attempting a rescue. When she finds Tim is missing, she steals a scout steam mole and follows him out into the desert.

I think you can see where this is going. You get a rollicking steampunk adventure, with a touch of romance, set in the Australian desert. It’s a lot of fun. The star of the show, however, is not the characters, but the steam mole itself. Dave does a masterwork job of creating this wonderful steampunk device, making it thoroughly believable.

The story ends happily for all concerned, save the villains, who get what they deserve. Perhaps it’s a bit simplistic for some, but I found it a good read, and one I can happily recommend to young and old, especially if they are fascinated by unusual mechanical devices.

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When nine-year-old Vicki Wilson’s beloved lease pony is sold, she is heartbroken. Her family doesn’t have much money, and she is desperate to have a pony of her own so she can keep riding.

Then Vicki has the chance she has been waiting for, to tame and train her own wild pony! How will she earn the trust of her beautiful new chestnut? And will Dandy ever be quiet enough for her to ride at Pony Club or compete at Ribbon Days?

This story is inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years, where Vicki, Kelly and Amanda Wilson first encounter horses in the wild and learn what it takes to make them champions.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

This is a book from Kelly Wilson of the Wilson sisters who starred in Keeping up with The Kaimanawas. A family who have devoted their life to horses, they compete in show jumping as advocating for wild horses around the world.  This is done by taming and raising awareness about the plight of the American Mustangs, Australian Brumbies, and specifically the beautiful wild Kaimanawa horses near their home. They also run Showtym Camps, riding camps for young riders.

The sisters rescue and tame wild horses and this book, written at a young adult level is loosely based around a story from Vicki Wilson’s childhood. The family could not afford to buy fully trained ponies and if the children wanted to ride they had to learn to train horses from scratch.

Dandy the wild mountain pony must be properly trained and tame enough to compete at Pony Club and Ribbon Days. No easy task, as you have to be a special person to gain the trust of a wild horse and gently lead it to be good around other horses, as well as the small matter of being able to ride and show jump with it!

Fortunately most horses in a proper, caring, training environment, enjoy learning and love showing off. But there is always a risk when you start with a wild pony. Especially as Dandy was the first wild pony the sisters got to train. For all her courage and determination and skill, will Vicki be up to the task?

This is very well written and a very kiwi story that will inspire and delight.  Pony mad teen girls will love this book and their mums will enjoy it too

Published by Hyndman

Supplied by Hyndman NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

This is another collection of a hundred practical and useful recipes from the Holsts, this time focusing mainly on dinners. It begins with salads, many of which such as the Chicken Caesar Salad would make a more than adequate (and healthy) lunch. The sandwiches, wraps and burgers are more what I would serve for dinner with some sides, and I have to say that the Mediterranean Meatballs in Pita Pockets are going to happen for dinner in this house sometime soon. Then there are pasta and rice dishes including a couple of nice risottos, and a Baked Vegetable and Macaroni Cheese which looks like a good way to smuggle extra vegetables into the diet. There are curries and chillies, vegetarian meals, seafood and meat dishes, finishing up with an “Easy No-Knead Pizza” which is made pretty well exactly as I make my home-made pizza (only I do tend to knead the dough a bit).

All in all, this is an excellent collection of recipes you’d actually use. My only real quibble is that it could have benefitted from a page or two at the back devoted to making easy home-made versions of bread products such as burger buns, pita bread and wraps, which are used frequently in this book.

Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trails – began as a vision to inspire people to experience New Zealand’s great outdoors by bike.

This book is stuffed full of useful information on the different trails – how to get there, what you will see, level of difficulty, things to take, places to eat and places to stay. There is fascinating background information on each area – its history and the local flora and fauna – as well as on the ride itself. This new edition covers several new sections of the trails, and provides updates on any on-going construction work.

There is also a highly practical section full of advice on choosing the right bike, gear to take, cell phone coverage in the different areas, weather and the best times of year for each trail, environmental care and useful websites.

Written by New Zealand’s top cycling writer, the book is aimed at family groups and first-time cyclists as well as more experienced groups. It’s accompanied by colour photos, elevation profiles and maps of each trail.

This new fully revised edition also provides an introduction to Tour Aotearoa which goes from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It’s a 3000-km length of New Zealand ride, taking in many of the Great Rides, and connecting them together with the safest and most enjoyable roads and tracks available. The route is fully open to the public. It can be done in one highly adventurous hit, or divided up into shorter lengths and completed over a period of time.

Don’t put your bike on the bike rack without this book!

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

The New Zealand Cycle Trail, Nga Haerenga, now includes over 2500 kilometres (over 1500 miles) of cycle paths and trails. This guide has 22 custom-built Great Rides and the Tour Aotearoa cycle route from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

I suggest you keep this book in a waterproof bag as you ride. Not only does the text explain clearly where to go (you would have to work REALLY hard to get lost) but each route has suggestions for food, accommodation, shortcuts and detours. What is most fascinating just by itself, never mind as a cycle trail handbook, are the “Trail tales“ that relate the history and natural and cultural stories of your route. They explain the heritage of what you are seeing as well as the rare flora and fauna along the way.

Using this book you can plan your whole trip and most importantly, it tells a cyclist what they need to know to plan safely. Not just start and end points but riding distance, time (averages) and grading, as trails vary from flat and smooth to rough and steep in the middle of nowhere. Included are 3D maps and elevation profiles.

The guide advises on fitness level required, skill level and how likely you are to meet other riders, their speed and how much room you will have to manoeuvre. The surface is discussed, you may be fine riding on concrete but how are you on volcanic ash? Also included are advice about the best type of bike for the trail and where to hire some.

Food and accommodation advice is given. Some places have lent their names to be listed along with phone numbers and websites where applicable. You should still book ahead in most cases and be mindful of closing times for food outlets but if you call or email, you should manage. This is the 2017 edition but always call ahead.  Where appropriate the guide lists cell phone coverage.

Occasionally you will come across the “Off Yer Bike” section under Shortcuts and Detours, which mentions walking trails or walks around the more picturesque towns.

A useful thing to have is the ‘How to get there’ sections where the Guide recommends weekend escapes and gives transport options and ideas on how to reach the start points of the routes.

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

Century

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Napoleon “Nap” Dumas is a detective in a small New Jersey town.  He’s been searching for answers for the last fifteen years, since his senior year in high school.  Nap’s twin brother Leo and his girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks in their hometown and the exact cause of death was never determined.  At the same time, Nap’s high school girlfriend, Maura, disappeared.  He never got over losing all three of them at once and has never been the same.

Fifteen years later, Maura’s finger prints are found at the scene of a crime in a nearby town.  Nap is sure this is linked to what happened to his brother and is determined to uncover the truth.  The journey is dangerous, twisted and full of surprises.

Based on true events, the story is a wild rollercoaster ride that leaves you breathless and is unputdownable.  The story is full of intrigue and suspense with some humour and romance added in, not formulatic in any way, and the writing flows well.  An excellent stand-alone thriller; if you’/’re a Coben fan, you’ll love this.  If you haven’t read his books before, you’ll become a huge fan. Highly recommended.

When Baron Morgarath escaped to avoid punishment for treason, an uneasy peace fell on Araluen. But the Rangers know Morgarath will be planning his next move. King Duncan must prepare for war.

Halt volunteers for a seemingly impossible task – climbing the deadly cliffs of the Mountains of Rain and Night and venturing deep into enemy territory to spy on Morgarath. Meanwhile, Crowley must ensure the Queen’s safety as she undertakes her own perilous journey for the sake of her unborn child.

Morgarath’s force of savage, inhuman Wargals seems unstoppable against Duncan’s depleted army. One wrong move could mean defeat. At the Battle of Hackham Heath, the fate of a kingdom will be decided.

Published by Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Flanagan didn’t exactly plan his world for a series of prequels. The placement of the plateau known as the “Mountains of Rain and Night” in the south-east of Araluen makes little sense geographically, and I keep wondering if they were present in the chronologically later novels that he wrote earlier. I’m also beginning to question numbers and distances in his world. King Duncan’s army takes on Morgoroth’s monstrous Wargals with barely five hundred men. There were at least six thousand English at Agincourt, and many more French. Medieval armies could theoretically march 15-18 miles in a day, so how close is Castle Araluen to Hackham Heath, if the King’s army gets there in a matter of days? There is no scale on the map.

That said, other details in Flanagan’s work are well thought out. His army needs to be fed and supplied (although what Wargals eat when they can’t get human is a mystery). The plot is straightforward. The Queen is having a baby, but meanwhile the Kingdom is under threat from Morgoroth’s beasts. The Rangers must scout out Morgoroth’s stronghold, protect the Queen, and then guide the King’s army into battle. And of course, it’s the Rangers who save the day in the end.

I find Flanagan’s prose very easy to read and enjoyable. If only he would create a new and wholly original fantasy world, doing a proper job of world-design, I could really get into his work. But he persists in writing more stories about the same world, and from what I’ve seen, even his fans are tiring of the similarities.

 

They told Derek Calver that he’d find an odd bunch among the Rim Runners out on the edge of space: Refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission from the Survey Service, the Waverly Royal Mail and the Trans-Galactic Clip¬pers, and so on. But Calver didn’t mind; he said he was a refugee from the Com¬mission himself.

He might have added that he was a refugee from Derek Calver, the mistakes he had made, the opportunities he had thrown away, the dreams that had been lost. And there, aboard the Lorn Lady, the worn-out obsolete ship that, like most of the others here, had once been a proud vessel of the inner worlds, he found Jane Arlen, who called herself “Calamity” Jane and avoided men for fear of the disaster she was sure she would bring them.

One of Jane’s first questions when she met Calver was: “Are you a happy drunk?”

When he said “no,” she continued: “Then you’re one of us. You’ll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of eternity in a super-annuated rust-bucket held together with old string & …

Avalon Books (1961)

Reviewed by Jacqui

Among the better reasons for owning an e-book reader is that it allows you to access good old SF books which are long out of print. I’ve been meaning to read more of Chandler and thought I should start at the beginning, by re-reading his first novel. Now, while I do believe I do have a physical copy of The Rim of Space downstairs, itself quite elderly, I found the e-book convenient, especially when stuck waiting for medical appointments.

There is no doubt that The Rim of Space is quite old-fashioned in many ways. Chandler’s spaceships are classic rocketships, lifting vertically from spaceports. One of the adventures in this novel even involves a struggle to keep the Lorn Lady upright on planet in a storm. The crew is predominately male, except for “Calamity Jane” Arlen the Purser and Cook, and predictably our hero, Derek Calver, is male. But, that said, Arlen is no wilting pansy, she can stand up for herself. As does the novel. It is very much a sequence of episodes in the life of Derek Calver following leaving the Interstellar Transport Commission and the bright stars of the galactic centre for the Rim Worlds and the Lorn Lady. It should be simple classic pulp SF, but it isn’t.

First, Chandler’s background as a merchant seaman adds a realism rarely found in the pulps, not so much in the technology, but in the setting and in the ways people handle long voyages. Second, he has a fine talent for prose; the book reads very well. But most interesting are the insightful ideas slipped in here and there, sometimes well ahead of their time. Is it wise to sell technology to primitive cultures? What are the consequences? And then there is the rim ghost…

It’s great, rip-roaring stuff, science fiction of a by-gone era perhaps, but it’s still fun for a relaxing undemanding read, just what you need in that waiting room – just don’t expect too much political correctness…