Archive for January, 2013

Gun Machine – Warren Ellis

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Review, thriller
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Gun-MachineOn playing back the 911 recording, it’d seem that Mrs. Stegman was more concerned that the man outside her apartment door was naked than that he had a big shotgun.

John Tallow’s partner has just been killed on the job as a police officer in New York City.  While examining the crime scene he discovers an apartment filled with hundreds of guns; on walls, on the floor, in every room.  Several guns are collected at random and test-fired, to reveal each gun had been used in an unsolved homicide in a 20 year span.  John is assigned the case and realises he will have to solve each shooting before he can find the killer.

Not a comic book fan I was a little dubious the author Warren Ellis would write a crime novel that would appeal to me.  I was totally wrong – this book is fantastic!  The opening sentence snagged my attention and never lost it.  The excellent storytelling tells a dramatic tale of the gritty world of policing and offers hope the good guys sometimes win.  The manipulations and reasons behind the murders are chilling once you figure it out.

The characters are so life like and interesting, with the CSU’s having so many quirks you’ve got to love them.  The killer is creepy, with the psychotic side of him becoming clearer as the story unfolds.  I saw the ending coming halfway through but on the journey there more sinister details emerged.

If you like psychological thrillers, read this book!

Mulholland Books

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

nz rugby kitchenA collection of recipes of the favourite dishes from some of New Zealand’s top rugby talent both present and past, this book is full of yummy goodness.  The players donated their cooking skills with royalties going to the NZ Rugby Foundation. The New Zealand Rugby Foundation is a charity that supports catastrophically injured rugby players, both financially and emotionally; and works with the New Zealand Rugby Union to communicate the message of safety first.

The recipes are simple and uncomplicated to make, while tasting great!  Easy to prepare, they are good for busy people who don’t have a lot of free time to prepare meals but enjoy food.  This book may inspire rugby mad kids to do the cooking, giving their parents a break!  The recipes are illustrated with stunning photographs of mouth watering food and there are candid shots of the rugby talent relaxing, preparing the dishes and enjoying them.

Some recipes are distinctly kiwi, like Buck Shelford’s Titi with Watercress and Kumara – Titi are muttonbirds, found in the lower South Island.  Other’s have a more international flavour, such as Adam Thomson’s Beef Fajitas and Smashed Guacamole.  Then there are the traditional staples, such as Victor Vito’s Beef Wellington or amole.  Then there are the traditional staples, such as Victor Vito’s Beef Wellington or Jason Emery’s Shepherd’s Pie.

NZ Rugby Kitchen has been chosen as a finalist in the Charity Fundraising category of the Gourmand World Cookbook awards.  The Gourmand awards are extremely prestigious and 154 countries participated in last year’s awards, entering books in 53 categories. All countries, authors and publishers — big and small — are given equal opportunity to enter.

Featured players include…

CRUSADERS

Mark Ranby, Management, Tom Donnelley, Ross Kennedy, Robert Fruean, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Ellis

HIGHLANDERS

Jamie Joseph, Coach, Doug Tietjens, Nick Crosswell, Jarrad Hoeata, Jamie Mackintosh

BLUES

Charlie Faumauina, Albert Nikoro, Jerome Kaino, Anthony Boric

FORMER BLACK FERNS

Melodie Robinson, Anna Richards, Farah Palmer

FORMER ALL BLACK’S

Sir Graham Henry, coach AB’s, 2011 RWC, BG Williams, Tane Norton, Waka Nathan, David Kirk, Marc Ellis, Buck Shelford, Sir Wilson Whineray, Buck Anderson, Jerry Collins, Chris Laidlaw, John Sturgeon, Sir John Graham, Pita Alatini, Rodney So’oialo

FORMER PROVINCIAL PLAYERS

Ben Castle, Ben Hurst, Jason Emery

REFEREE

Chris Pollock

CURRENT ALL BLACK’S

Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Zac Guilford, Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Conrad Smith, Victor Vito, Adam Thompson, Andrew Hore, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Keven Mealamu

CHIEFS

Wayne Smith, assistant coach & previous assistant All Blacks coach, Alex Bradley

HURRICANES

Frae Wilson

Random House New Zealand

Supplied for Random House

Reviewed by Jan

a dance with dragonsThe 998th Lord Commander of the Night Watch, Jon Snow has enemies within as well as outside the wall.  He’s made some decisions that are not popular.  Stannis has left the Wall to declare war on the North and claim it.

The North is still teaming with suspicion with distrust and making nice with enemies.  The Fry’s still have weddings, despite them hosting the Red Wedding.  Bolton’s son is preparing to marry Arya

Cersei gets her trial and punishment from the High Septon and I now feel sorry for her.  Her uncle Kevan returns to look after Tommen, who is being influenced by the Tyrell’s.  After turning his back on Cersei, Jamie is involved in brokering peace on terms rewarding Lannister allies.  Tyrion ends up as a slave in a marketplace near Daenerys.

Dorne sends its Crown Prince to find and marry Daenerys as part of an alliance agreed to years ago.  Dany is busy fighting a war though and about to marry to bring peace to her city.  Her dragons are not happy with being caged.

Briane now as another quest despite being hanged in the last book.  Or was she?  No, he can’t be dead!  Will he stay dead?  I have a theory how ColdHands is but need to wait to see.  I want to know how the task Davos was given turns out, despite Davos being officially dead.

This book was 1117 pages but not long enough.  Mr Martin, please finish The Winds of Winter.  I need to know!

HarperVoyager

Supplied by Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

a feast of crowsThe Night Watch has won the battle but is still fighting the war against the Others.   Nothing is said about Jon but we follow Samwell Tarly on a quest, with a mother, a baby, and a 103 yr old blind man.

The country of Dorne was pulled into the plotting for the Iron Throne, with the Martell family plotting for vengeance for their dead.  They have Myrcella as a hostage and according to Dornish law; she inherits the Iron Throne now Joffrey is dead.

Lord Tywin was slain by his son Tyrion, who is fleeing his sister’s wrath.  His brother Jamie shows more honesty and honour than in previous books and he’s more likeable.  Cersei and her schemes are shown in more detail and she’s currently in a silent war over Tommen, the 7yr old boy king, with his wife Margery, whose father is a Lannister ally.

Briane was on a quest to find Sansa, who’s hiding in the Eyrie with Petyr.  Some of his plotting is finally revealed, though I think he’s got a few more schemes up his sleeve.  Arya has left the country and is hiding in Pentos pretending to be someone different.  The war for the North has ended but new rivalries have risen.

I was constantly surprised in this book – she came back from the dead, he was banished, she was killed, who IS he? I was happy that Cersei’s manipulations are finally exposed and she gets what she deserves.  An interesting read, lots of action and unravelling of secrets.  You learn more of the story of the series.

HarperVoyager

Supplied by Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

storm of swords 2The Night Watch is still fighting the Wildlings, who were shown the Wall’s weaknesses by Jon Snow.  Returned to his brothers, Jon is now Lord Commander of the Night Watch and leads his men in defending the Wall from attacks.

Lady Catelyn finally leaves her sons side and lets him concentrate on fighting a war.  Robb has deeply offended one of their allies though, breaking a pact to marry a daughter of theirs in return for support for his war.  Arya has been found by the Hound, who keeps her safe to ransom back to her mother.  Arya still wants him dead for killing her friend though, but bides her time.  Sansa finds an unexpected ally at court, though she still longs for a knight in shining armour to come to her rescue.

Freed by his father’s men, Jamie now rescues Brienne from death in a bear pit and is occupied with furthering Lannister interests.  Joffrey wed his bride and all of Cersei’s schemes seem to be falling into place.  For a short time.  Ha!  Stannis is still gathering support for his bid to reclaim the throne and ignores his advisors.

Daenerys prepares to fight for her city’s survival against the Yunakai forces.  She battles friendly enemies inside the city as well as the foes outside.  Meanwhile the dragons grow.

I did not see the Red Wedding coming and was shocked at the betrayal.  Something was confirmed that I always suspected but I was surprised at the instigator behind it – though it’s obvious now.  Treachery, betrayal, and cold-bloodness feature strongly in this story.  Good characters do bad thing (Stannis), bad characters do good things (the Hound), and characters who do bad things make you like them (Jamie).  You definitely need to read the previous books in order to grasp who is who but book 3 (both parts) is a must read, weighing in at 607 pages.

HarperVoyager

Supplied for Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

storm of swords 1The Night Watch is fighting the Wildlings while its men plot against their brothers.  The Others give them a ferocious battle, which only a few survive.  Jon Snow spends time among the Wildlings, fighting his former brothers after having renounced the vows he made to the Night Watch.

Brianne of Tarth has been tasked by Lady Caitlyn to rescue and release Jamie Lannister, so he will then release her daughters, held hostage by the court.  She doesn’t know that Arya escaped and has fled to find her and Robb, while Sansa ends up forced to wed.  Bran and Rickon have fled the ruins of Winterfell, separated to keep them safe.

Daenerys Targaryan fights a few battles while trying to find a safe place for her children and three dragons.  Stannis is greatly influenced by the Red Priestess and honours her god by giving sacrifices to the flames.

Lots of action, intrigue and adventure, with alliances made and broken and loyalties bought.  The characters are growing and you understand more of their motivations.  Book 3 is split into two books, this is the first and a manageable 623 pages and easy to hold.
HarperVoyager

Supplied for Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

a clash of kings 2The same three stories continue to interweave, with new characters being introduced and the threads growing to include new places/situations. There’s a lot of action happening with lots of battles, fighting, and political manuverings. You need to pay close attention when you read this book as there are so many characters it’s easy to lose track of who’s who and what’s happening.

Beyond the Wall an army is assembling, of Wildlings, shapechangers, giants, and other scary creatures.  Led by Mance Ryder they plan to break through the Wall and conquer the Seven Kingdoms. The Night Watcch are the only things standing between them and the kingdom.

Robb Stark has been crowned King of the North and fights the various armies fighting for Joffrey Baratheon.  Lady Catelyn has joined him, providing advice at the command centre of Robb’s armies.  Arya has disappeared from King’s Landing on the day Ned was executed, joining the latest intake of recruits for the Night Watch.  Sansa is held hostage in the palace, still engaged to Joffrey, the one who ordered her father beheaded.  Theon Greyjoy is the former ward of Ned Stark, trusted as an envoy by Robb.

Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of the Regent Queen, has been made the Hand and chief councillor to the young King Joffrey.  He plots, schemes, punishes traitors, all while avoiding Cersei’s manipulations – she wants him dead.  He also has the best line when leading a charge against Stannis’s men – “What brave men…let’s go kill them”.  Robert’s two brothers, Stannis and Renly, both claim the throne as their own.  Davos is the Onion Knight, a former smuggler loyal to Stannis.

Daenerys Targaryn is the daughter of the king Robert overthrew and is moving slowly to build an army to reclaim her rightful throne.  She has three dragons that are slowly maturing and is learning who to trust and how to outwit those that just want something from her.

I recommend reading TGOT before this, to get the background of the story.  More scheming and a lot of action makes the plot move fast.  I thought it was funny that Robb was fighting a war with his mummy.  We weren’t told where his teddy bear was.  The violence against women was a bit to much, don’t read if you’ve got no paitience for that sort of carry on.  Being 913 pages in paperback form, I found it awkward to hold a book this big, maybe an e book would be easier?

I think a drinking game should be made from the SOIAF series.  Every time a woman is raped, assaulted or violence used against her, a shot should be consumed.

HarperVoyager

Supplied for Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

a game of thronesThe men of the Night Watch guard the giant wall of ice that keeps the kingdom below safe from wildling raiders, outlaws, and scarier things.  They have learnt of the return of the Others, unseen for thousands of years.  The Others are dead men come to life, who can’t be killed by sword or dagger.

The Starks of Winterfell are one of the northern-most families of the kingdom and Lord Eddard Stark is the Warden of the North.  He’s summoned by King Robert, a close friend, to become The Hand Of The King, the second in charge of the throne.  Ned reluctantly travels to King’s Landing to take up the office of the Hand, taking his daughters, Sansa and Arya, to experience life at court.  His sons – Robb, Brandon, and Rickon – remain at Winterfell with their mother, Lady Catelyn.  Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, travels to the Wall to join the men of the Night Watch.

Daenerys is the daughter of the mad king who was overthrown when Robert came to power.  Raised in exile along with her brother, they’ve spent years trying to find the support to raise an army to reclaim the throne.  Her brother trades Dany in marriage to a Dothraki khal to get a 50 000 strong army of Dothraki warriors.  Dany gets three petrified dragon’s eggs.

These are the three interconnected storylines that form TGOT.  They are woven together very neatly, with each chapter being told from the perspective of a different character.  I thought Ned was an idiot for warning Cersei he was going to tell – how could he think she’d meekly slink away.  Sansa was a drip, thinking life was like a romantic tale.  By the end she showed some strength, even if it wasn’t sticking a knife in Joffrey’s ribs.  Other characters, like Joffrey and Cersei, need a discreet execution and some others, like Lysa Arryn, need a good smack.  There was a lot of violence, especially toward women, and young girls being considered as adults sexually, which was disturbing.

The book is 790  pages, and very little of that is spent on battles or scenery, or even a resolution to the plot. Instead it’s densely packed with the thoughts, feelings, schemes, and observations of the characters, and you’re unlikely to avoid getting very emotionally entangled to at least one of them. The combination of this with the brutal setting makes you genuinely cheer whenever a sympathetic character finally accomplishes something positive, or groan with dread when another character makes a tragic mistake.  It’s a big book to hold in paperback form and you may find it easier in an e book version.

The tv series was very faithful to the book (and had Sean Bean) and I look forward to the next season (sadly Sean-less).

HarperVoyager

Supplied for Broderick Wells

Reviewed by Jan

In Pineiro’s Sins Of The Flesh Liliana Carrera assists her brother in rescuing Caterina Shaw from Wardwell Laboratories (fringe scientists who perform truly abhorrent experiments on humans). Six months later, where this story picks up, Liliana is working in a newly set up facility to work on finding a cure for Wardwell’s patients. When the FBI brings in Jesse Bradford he is suffering from an extremely rare – not to mention wholly disturbing – bone disease that was responsible for abruptly ending his football career. Liliana is tasked with finding a way to reverse the damage.

This is one very violent read that is not meant for the squeamish or faint of heart. Poor Bradford! The hero seemed to spend a good chunk of the novel being beaten, drugged, blackmailed, threatened and tasered. In fact, when Carrera first meets Bradford, his so-called guardians (are they or aren’t they FBI agents?) have just beaten, tasered and drugged him (not necessarily in that order) so his behaviour is somewhat erratic and violent. Not a great start to any relationship, really, not by any stretch of the imagination. Add to that the fact that the hero can be a bit of a tool at times (explained, I guess, by the fact that he’s trying to keep his secret to protect those he loves) and I’m surprised Liliana finds anything likeable about him at all. But she does which is just as well for the storyline.

This is like Fringe (the tv series) only with romance and fans of Lora Leighs Breeds series will enjoy Pineiro’s Sins books. Me? I’m too squeamish to read further than this one. What people will do in the name of science is grotesque and even the romance angle doesn’t entice me.

Grand Central Publishing

Supplied by Hachette

Reviewed by Tosca

A mercenary, Mick, is hired by a company to hunt down the person who committed the horrific murder of one of their scientists. The killer is Caterina, a woman who tore the scientist to pieces barehanded. It turns out the company was carrying out an experimental treatment to repair optic nerves damaged by her terminal brain cancer. They also used patients as guinea pigs to try out genetic manipulations. After capturing Cat, Mick starts to doubt she carried out the murders and is baffled by her super strength and ability to change her skin colour to blend with surroundings. He enlists the help of his doctor sister to treat Cat while he finds out why the company wants her dead.

There is a little too much testosterone floating about, with Mick and another psycho mercenary hunting Cat and trading barbs. While the story was slow to start with, I became very interested in the scientific what-ifs the author explored. What if scientists genetically altered people to have super strength and multitude of talents, such as the chameleon ability to blend into the background? What if they created superior soldiers or thieves that were for sale to the highest bidder? What if a good technology is perverted for profit? And she used scientific advances, such as green fluorescent proteins being crossed with cats, creating cats that glow in the dark. Scary.

Grand Central Publishing

Supplied by Hachette

Reviewed by Jan