Archive for August, 2013

food truck cookbook 2It is a rare thing indeed that I get a book to review not only before its embargo date, but also before the series has even finished on TV. And I am very happy to give the latest offering from the Food Truck a big thumbs up!

The recipes featured on TV are all here – at least all the ones that worked (and one of the things we love about the series is that things don’t always work, and there’s a lesson in that). And often they’re in improved versions. For example, the pretzels in the German episode turned out hard and dry, so there is a softer version here that I am going to have to have a go at. (Along with the quick sauerkraut and the Japanese cabbage salad. Definitely a change from coleslaw!)

While this is not necessarily a beginners’ cookbook, it is an excellent addition to any collection, featuring an eclectic selection of recipes from a variety of cultures. It’s worth purchasing for the healthy Pacific Island recipes alone. The overall theme is healthier fast food, and it would be so nice to see takeaway vendors taking some of these ideas on board. But the point is to make your own, at home; and by and large, the recipes presented here are approachable by the average home cook, the ingredients easily obtained, and the result something the family are likely to eat. There are exceptions – the Banh Mi recipe looks tasty, but there’s nearly fifty ingredients spread over three pages! On the other hand, it is a case of first, bake your Vietnamese baguettes, and then prepare three fillings and a sauce. This is one of the things I like about Michael’s approach, it’s that he’s very thorough and likes to start with raw ingredients. Besides, a lot of the sub-recipes can be used for other dishes, especially the sauces.

The book is well illustrated – on those occasions when the picture isn’t next to the recipe it’s not far away. There are also lots of photos of the Food Truck, and of real people enjoying the food. It sits reasonably flat on the bench, though for recipes near the beginning or end it will probably be necessary to use the bookstand.

Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

all hell let looseWorld War Two gets the Max Hastings treatment, which is a broad sweep military history with a light leavening of diplomatic history and background. This does not mean that battles and campaigns are analysed for the brilliance of their tactics, but rather he examines the flow of armies and comments on how certain battles or engagements affected the flow of the war. One is not buried under a welter of names and units scurrying across the landscape. Instead, one gets the impression Hastings is grading the campaign as a whole and noting outstanding successes or failures: Polish campaign, Wehrmacht B-, Polish D+, Britain and France DNS. Generally, Hastings mauls the performance of the British army, which rarely rose above inept until the end of 1941, while praising the performance of the German (and Japanese) soldiers. Hastings is no dictatorship fanboy, but notes that the Nazis and IJA extracted greater dedication and commitment from their soldiers than the democracies. Hastings also praises the US navy, which he feels more or less won the war in the Pacific.

All Hell Let Loose spans 26 chapters, 680 pages of text and over 750 pages total. There is enough war to fill them. It is not all bombs and bullets, and the civilian administration gets a bit of a once over too. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of Hastings’ presentation: while we learn plenty about the iniquities of British, German and Japanese colonial administrations, Dutch, French and American are barely touched. Nobody should feel smug when it comes to military administration. Each nation’s military was entirely parochial when it came to the distribution of largesse and supplies. Barely a thought was given to occupied civilian populations.

That said, I had few complaints with Hastings’ analysis. He did tend to repeat the negative stereotypes concerning the Red Army, particularly concerning disregard of casualties. The Soviet leadership was well aware it didn’t have a bottomless barrel of manpower, and Soviet generals were continually exhorted to reduce losses and avoid costly frontal assaults. There is ample on British, German and the US decisions, but rather less on Italian, Japanese and the Soviet ones, while Vichy France and the Axis allies are given very cursory treatment. The Holocaust is allowed a chapter that explores the broader Holocaust that was Nazi racial policy.

In my opinion, he has managed to balance the themes correctly while not giving undue weight to any one facet or even personality. If Britain was given more weight than may appear reasonable, Hastings is British and the British had the largest empire to administer, defend, retreat from and ultimately grant freedom to, during World War Two.

Hastings declares in his introduction that while he’ll be generally following the events of WWII, he’ll not repeat anecdotes from previous histories, such as Bomber Command or Nemesis. He also promises to try and include the human angle. I’m not familiar with either title, but the anecdotes used seemed fresh and the human angle given worked well. Worth the read and not at all too military.

HarperCollins

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

walk me homeHaving abruptly moved with her sister Jen so their mother can be with her new boyfriend, Carly is fed up with adults.  After their mother was killed in a car crash, she feared they’d be separated and decides they should go home to their stepfather Teddie, the only real parent she’s had.   Carly and sister Jen start walking to California from the other side of the United States.  But Jen has a secret she hasn’t told Carly.

As they walk they encounter a lot of dangers, some bad people and are shown the kindness of strangers.  After being caught stealing chickens from an elderly lady in the middle of an Indian reservation, Carly agrees to stay and work for her for a week in reimbursement.  Jen loves the farm and wants to stay but Carly is determined to find Teddie.

An interesting story that shows different sides of people, the plot moves along quickly with just enough detail to describe things.  The characters are sympathetic and real, though a 16yr old thinking it would be a good idea to walk across the US?  Sure she has learning difficulties but really?  A good read to relax with at night.

Doubleday

Supplied by Random House

Reviewed by Jan

the house we grew up inMeg Bird’s mother, Lorelei, has just died and she heads to her cottage to clean it up, her daughter Molly in tow.  This is a massive job as Lorelei was a hoarder.  Meg’s siblings are due home for their mother’s funeral and to help clean the cottage.  The Bird family aren’t close and haven’t been together in the same place since one tragic Easter.

As Lorelei’s emails to a love interest reveal her memories of her family, the book jumps from present to the past and events are revealed, giving an insight into the children became distant from each other.

The Birds are a rather odd family and it was fascinating to find out the reasons why they were so dysfunctional.  This book was a fascinating glimpse into how starting in slow steps from having collections, someone becomes a hoarder and explains why it happens.  The plot was interesting and I found the jumping back and forth in time easy to follow – the dates at the beginning of each segment helped.

The characters were likeable and easy to become involved with. Meg’s forgiveness of Bill seemed a little too quick to me to be believable but everyone is different.  I liked the ending as the cleaning out seemed to banish ghosts and be the start of new beginnings for everyone.  A good book to read, enjoyable with an interesting story.

Century

Supplied by Random House

Reviewed by Jan

LAST CHANCE TO RUNAngelina Farentino hasn’t had much luck with men.  Betrayed by her father, she served time and then on being release, she accepted a legitimate job with Mason Lorde.  A distinguished businessman, Mason had tricked her into helping with his international art theft ring.  Escaping his security, Angel is now running for her life and desperate to contact the DEA.

Formally Special Forces, Zane Black runs an aircraft charter business, informing the DEA of suspect deliveries. He found her as a stowaway on his plane and helped her run, before she snuck away from him. Now she’s back and they’re both on the run, struggling to keep one step ahead of Mason while staying alive.

Lots of action, some smouldering romance, and interesting characters.   And a cute dog thrown in.  I’ve never read a book where the hero is an informant and it’s an interesting scenario.  I look forward to finding out more about the Orion Legacy behind everything.  A fun read with a good story.

I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

Posted: August 17, 2013 in Review, thriller
Tags:

i am pilgrimIn New York a woman is found floating face down in a bath of sulphuric acid, her teeth removed and the room spayed with antiseptic.  It was a textbook murder, committed the exactly the way described in an obscure forensic investigative manual written by a dead FBI agent.

Scott Murdoch doesn’t exist.  The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once was the head of a secret espionage unit for US intelligence.  Now disappeared into anonymous retirement he is tracked down NYPD detective Ben Bradley, who links him to the manual.

Someone has replicated the perfect murder the book described.    They conduct an investigation that takes them to the Turkish coast.  At the same time there is a huge threat against America, so huge only ten people know about it.  Scott must track it down, and with Ben’s help, neutralise it.

What a ride!  This took awhile to finish as the chapters are short and it’s easy to put down then pick up where you left off.  The plot is very clever, intricately wound and seamlessly slotting together.  As bits of the plot come together and there’s a new revelation, you think ‘of course!’. The ch0aracters are real and you quickly get drawn into their lives and ‘experience’ what is happening to them.  They are well developed and sympathetic. The action is constant and provides a glimpse into investigator’s lives and the intelligent agent mindset.  Its breathtaking how quickly the story moves along and is yet not rushed.

Very very cleverly written by a terrific debut author.  I look forward to his next book.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

MistyEvans1I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask Misty Evans some questions about her new novel, Deadly Pursuit, and her life as a writer.

You’re a talented writer, having published stories in the romantic suspense, paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres, and winning tons of awards, including the Reader’s Choice Bean Pot Award for Best Romantic Suspense in 2010 and the ACRA Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Award for Best Romantic Suspense in 2011.  Where do you get your inspiration for stories from?

ME: Inspiration comes from music, TV, movies, even people walking down the street. I read a lot of nonfiction, and I have a vivid imagination. Those two ingredients combine to give me more story ideas than I could ever write down.

 How did you come up with the concept of the SCVC Taskforce series?

ME: I’d landed my first agent but she was having trouble selling the first book in my Super Agent series, and asked me to write a different type of romantic suspense. Something grittier, she said. I watched a bunch of Miami Vice reruns, some Bad Boys movies, and NCIS shows. What emerged was this idea of a violent crimes taskforce of DEA, FBI, Immigration, and other undercover agents pulling off sting operations and falling in love at the same time. Unfortunately after I wrote about 80% of Deadly Pursuit and ran it by my agent, she felt there was too much action and the characters were too dark. The story went into a drawer until recently when I saw the new TNT series Graceland, and decided the time was right to pull Cooper and Celina out of the drawer and publish their story.

 Celina doesn’t sit back and wait for rescue, she kicks ass.  What inspires you to write strong heroines?

ME: I’ve always gravitated to strong heroines, growing up on shows like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels. When I began writing, every female was strong and not afraid to what they believe is right, even if it means sacrificing their careers or even their lives. They may be scared on the inside, but they don’t show it.

 Which characters were particularly fun to write?

ME: What a tough question! I love writing ALL my characters, whether they’re super agents or witches or demons or just the girl next door. They’re flawed and damaged, and oh so fun to dig into. Male or female, every one of them has a good heart and wants to see justice done in the world. I think Amy and Luc are particularly fun, and the hero and heroine of my first Super Agent book, Operation Sheba, are still fun to write in the follow-up books of that series.

You self publish some of your books.  Why did you decide to do this and was it an easy journey?

ME: I’m published with Entangled Publishing, Samhain Publishing, and Carina Press (digital imprint of Harlequin), and I’m also self-published. I love self-publishing because I control the content, cover art, and marketing. My fans are voracious readers who read faster than I can turn out books, so it works to have some stories with publishers and some that I publish on my timeline to keep readers happy. There are pros and cons to both.

 What is a typical day for you?

ME: Coffee, take the dogs out, more coffee, write, get the kids up/off to school, exercise, write some more. Promo and emails in the afternoon, and family time/dinner/sports games in the evening. I have less and less time to write these days, but I still make the effort to get that in first. My fans are counting on me. I also offer a coaching service for writers, so I often have deadlines to meet for my clients.

Do you have any advice for writers?

ME: Believe in yourself and the story you have to tell. You know what it is and you’re the only who can do it justice. But…take workshops, set up a critique group, and keep improving your craft. Be patient with yourself and your books. You can’t hit a homerun the first time up to the plate if you haven’t swung the bat thousands of times and grown as a player. Same thing with stories. Write, write, and rewrite.

Describe the feeling in 25 words or less of how it feels seeing your name on your book.

ME: Awesome! There is a lot of emotion in seeing your hard work turned into something tangible. That feeling never goes away.

 Plug the book in twitter form (140 characters or less)

ME: Action, adventure, and hot romance in Southern California

Any plans to come to New Zealand one day?

ME: I’d love to take a trip to New Zealand some day! It looks beautiful and adventurous!

 

Thank you very much to Misty for taking the time to answer my questions in detail.  You can find out more about Misty on Facebook, Twitter, or visit her website.

 

Misty has kindly donated three ebooks of Deadly Pursuit to give away.  Leave a comment with your email address on this post by 15 August to be in the draw to win.