Archive for September, 2013

noble conflictKaspar is a Guardian – pat of an elite peacekeeping force that protects the city and maintains the peace.  The guardians are humane and do not fight to kill, using blasters to knock their enemies unconscious and locking them up.  There is a bloodthirsty, viscous band of rebels who want to destroy the peace and take over the city.  At his graduation ceremony where he became an official Guardian. An attack is launched by the rebels and he meets a beautiful one – Rhea.

As Kaspar examines the attacks he begins to see a pattern forming and thinks he can predict attacks.  He digs deeper into the city’s history, helped by Sam – a cute librarian at the Guardian headquarters.  As he finds out information, he begins to question what he’s been told his whole life.  Rhea comes to him in dreams and he meets her again, learning more truths about his world.  Then the unthinkable happens and his world is shaken to its core…………..

A really enjoyable story, this book has a tight plot, plenty of action, and likeable characters.  You can feel Kaspar’s emotions – pride, grief, puzzlement, horror, and then understanding.  It was interesting to find out why the rebels preferred suicide over capture and a little scary to see how the truth can be remade.  I was sad about Rhea but think Kaspar made the right choice.

There’s a really good lesson here to not just blindly accept what you’ve been told but to question things.  I’m really looking forward to the next in the trilogy.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Go Fish – Al Brown

Posted: September 27, 2013 in cookbook, Review

go fishThere is an issue with fish and fish cookery – you have to buy local. Fish species vary widely across the world and although recipes for one species can be applied to a similar local species, it’s a whole lot better to buy a locally published book. For example, a fish cookery book from overseas isn’t likely to have the interesting selection of recipes for paua (abalone) that you’ll find here in “Go Fish”. I didn’t come across “Go Fish” when it came out in hardback, so I was pleased to see this paperback edition. My only New Zealand fish book used to be a slim volume from the 1970’s and I have to say that this is a huge leap forward, even for someone who isn’t “big on fish” like me.

There was a lot to like about “Go Fish”.  There is an excellent selection of recipes, organised roughly by biological phylum – first crustaceans, then molluscs, the majority for “fin fish”, followed by a collection of handy go-to recipes for sauces, batters and the like. The recipes are presented in the style I recognise from “Fresh” with the ingredients listed in groups at the top, but they’re not as “cheffy” and there’s plenty that only have a handful of ingredients. All the usual suspects are here… fish pie, fishcakes, fish chowder, fish and chips. There are clear instructions with step-by-step photographs for all those mysterious skills needed to deal with seafood. There are Al Brown’s fish tales. And the whole is lavishly illustrated.

Which brings me to those little niggling criticisms. A picture of the recipe is an aid to the cook, whereas an arty picture of a piece of random fishing equipment isn’t nearly as useful, and doesn’t tell me what those paua fritters should look like. The index isn’t as helpful as it might be – try looking up “chowder” or “fish cakes” and you won’t find them, at least not under those names. That said, the paperback is well bound and it does sit surprising flat on the kitchen bench.

Overall, this may well be the definitive book on New Zealand fish cookery and it’s certainly an excellent reference for anyone with the urge to go and cook fish. Not a finny business at all.

Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

DownMind – V.O. Blum

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Review, science fiction

downmindThis wasn’t an easy read, and it isn’t going to be an easy review. The idea that one person could somehow control the mood of the world is an unsettling, and dare I say, a depressing one. The idea is that certain extremely rare individuals unconsciously project what the writer terms “t-waves” – creating a contagious despair across the human population. Oh, and interacting with the physical world in odd ways, doing peculiar things to wooden panelling.

Which brings our hero into the tale, a botanic chemist from New Zealand named Foster Castle, who is called in to investigate a piece of oddly degraded wood that was formerly part of the wall of a mental hospital in Boston. He digs into the database and finds a similar specimen in Rio… and so it begins. All this set in a 2025 where things are (predictably) falling apart around the edges. So, it’s proper science fiction that takes a serious view of the future, something we don’t see nearly enough of these days.

I found Blum’s vision of a decaying future entirely credible, although the concept of the DownMind was a bit too unbelievable for me (and a bit too New Ageist, especially when the personnel of a Coromandel retreat get involved). His attention to detail is excellent, and he has certainly done an impressive amount of research. I suspect that his forays into religion and politics are likely to be unwelcome in certain dinner party conversations, and if you’re easily offended by such things this is not the book for you.

That said, he gave me an idea or two to think over… and that’s what this novella is really about. Read it for the ideas, some of them will blow your mind!

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui


the ocean at the end of the laneI was taken back to childhood in this novel – though not my childhood, except… It did remind me just a bit of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic science fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time”, which was one of my favourite books as a child, and I suppose that the comparison is inescapable. Both novels have child protagonists, both feature trios of strange ancient women, and both involve travelling to strange places – though Gaiman’s novel takes us even further than L’Engel’s, to realms outside of space and time. And I don’t doubt that this novel will also take its place among the classics of fantasy literature.

It’s quite beautiful, a book which can be read upon many levels like the very best of poetry. There are oceanic depths here, and I’m not just talking about the pond that is an ocean that goes deeper than imagination. That said, I’m not sure whether it’s a book for adults about childhood, or a book for children about adulthood, and I’m not sure that that really matters (except possibly to booksellers and librarians).

It is told from the point of view of an adult remembering events from his childhood, and I hope that doesn’t put the teachers of literature off using this novel in their classes, because I can see how much many young people would gain from reading and studying it. Expect there to be awards. I’m not going to go any further into what the novel is about; this is a book that needs to be experienced, and I suggest you go now, and find a copy so you CAN experience it. Do not wait for the movie… (There is one planned).


Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Police – Jo Nesbo

Posted: September 22, 2013 in general fiction, Review

policePolice is Jo Nesbo’s eighth Harry Hole novel, but retained a fresh feel to it throughout.

The story unfolds across several seasons, from the beginning of autumn, in deepest winter to the height of summer. The killings, like the investigation, happen in a methodical planned manner with little in the way of evidence for the investigators to work on.

Nesbo waits quite late in the story to bring Harry Hole to the centre of the story, staying with his former colleagues as they investigate this series of murders styled on relatively recent cold case killings. Harry doesn’t want to be involved: he is happy being a police instructor and knows, as a recovering alcoholic, that murder investigation is another of his addictions and will sabotage his relationship with Rakel. But after one murder that is too personal for Harry to ignore he succumbs to temptation and joins the task force.

Nesbo an excellent writer of murder-thrillers with misdirection a plenty; a string of potential perpetrators; and subplots and spare villains for later. As an added bonus dialogue and characterisation were not found wanting either, with even the lesser characters being a lot more than two-dimensional drawings.

Praise should also go to Nesbo’s translator, Don Bartlett, who has rendered this novel into English from Nesbo’s Norwegian the same year it was published in Norway.

Harvil Secker

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Simon

our new zealandCovering New Zealand’s birds, trees, sport, places, and stars, this is a book of small snapshots of kiwi life.  It shows the adventurous things we do in our leisure time; explains why certain dates are important to us; shows off the talented artists we have; and shares our favourite foods.

Some stereotypes are assumed – I’ve never jumped off a bridge with rubber bands tied to my ankles or been in a jet boat driven at high speeds at a canyon wall (yet) – but we all know someone who has and fits the stereotype.  This book is a beautiful celebration of New Zealand though, and shows the typical kiwi life.

Beautifully illustrated with glossy, full colour photos from a number of the country’s best photographers, these stunning shots showcase the best of New Zealand and remind us how why we live here.  This is the ideal way to showcase our home for friends and family overseas, so buy it and make them envious of you for living where you do!

Warning:  this book wiil make expats homesick.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

first crossingsThis book is based on the tv show First Crossings, which follows Kevin and Jamie as the re-create pioneering adventures from around New Zealand.  They use the same tools and eat the same foods as the original explorers, using their methods of exploration, such as using a handful of mountain grasses tied together with a shoelace as an anchor when abseiling down a cliff face.  This is the original way to abseil too, which basically involved a rope tied under your arms and letting yourself down the rope hand by hand.

The vivid accounts of the original journey with descriptions of the modern day experiences of Kevin and Jamie is fascinating to read and builds a better picture in my mind than the tv episodes.   I learnt a lot of stories I didn’t know – like why the ascent of Mt Cook was so urgent and exactly what Kelly Tarlton did.  The narrative switches between the perspectives of both men and gives us a good idea of their personalities, which are very engaging

I was never really gripped by the tv show, which featured a couple of guy who were nuts for not using modern equipment, but the book’s words paint a more detailed picture of what each adventure is like and the experiences they go through. I didn’t quite realise they actually did only wear authentic clothes, use authentic tools, or eat only food the early explorers did. I still think they’re nuts but awe-inspiring.  The early settlers were a tough breed, to do what they did with the resources they had.

The colour photos accompanying each story show what each journey is like and are breathtaking, highlighting the beauty of New Zealand.  Tribute is paid to the cameraman, Murray Milne, who completes each journey backward and looking through the camera viewfinder.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

coldest war This is the second of the Milkweed trilogy (or Milkweed Triptych as the publisher prefers). It’s approximately 20 years since the War ended. Stalin’s armies made it further west, thanks to the eidolons, and Paris is a divided city. Britain is slowly sinking into decay, and is home to Reinhardt, and eventually Gretel and Klaus who manage to escape from their own little Gulag. William Beauclerk has escaped from the self-loathing he ended Bitter Seeds on and has acquired a wife, Gwendolyn. Raybould Marsh has a son to replace the lost daughter, but the boy is a broken vessel and has wrecked the Marshes’ marriage. Marsh is sinking faster than Britain when news of Gretel and Klaus’s escape reaches what used to be Milkweed.

As with Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War changes perspective every few pages. This helps link the various threads. Gretel and Klaus surviving in Britain. Reinhardt attempting to make a battery so as to use his talent. Marsh recovering some purpose as he is recalled to Milkweed, and Will’s fall from grace as his treason is discovered. This may be the second of a trilogy, and usually they’re the weak link, but I preferred this volume to the first book. Whatever it was that didn’t work in the first does here. It is as though Tregillis had to write the first in order to get warmed up.

The action flows. The Soviet villains are mostly off camera, lurking menacingly in the shadows as villains should. Soviet Willenskrafte agents can use more than one talent, and have modern equipment. And the real monsters, the eidolons, only appear briefly. Marsh is no longer the all brawn action hero, although he still tends to think with his body. Reinhardt may hunger for revenge for a long dead Reich, Klaus has matured. He can almost contemplate a life not serving a state.

The key figure of Gretel is as enigmatic as ever. Her talent, clairvoyance, is the McGuffin for the whole story, and we finally learn what she is plotting at the end of The Coldest War.   It is so simple (and obvious if you sit and think about it) that if volume three, Necessary Evil, is half as good as the Coldest War it shock be a cracking good read. Tregillis annoyed me with Bitter Seeds but all is forgiven as he has repaid the debt with interest.


Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

A Charming CrimeJune Heal runs her late mother homeopathic business, A Dose of Darla, and is busy updating many of the remedies the store carries when she blows her garden shed up.  The local cop, childhood friend Oscar Park, advises her to open a shop as she’s outgrown her booth at the flea market.  Asked by a strange woman to sell her remedies in her store, June travels to 20 minutes to the town of Whispering Falls.  While there she discovers a shop called A Dose Of Darla and becomes determined to uncover her mother’s secrets.

Oscar Park has accepted a law enforcement job in Whispering Falls and he applies to move there with June.  On his first day a body is found floating in the pond, strangled underwater and clutching June’s charm bracelet.  Now he and June have to track down a killer.

This story was cute and fun to read.  It has sweet characters you can’t help but like and the plot is about finding your home and love, with an intriguing mystery thrown in.  New clues emerge all the time and I only figured out whodunit at the end and was shocked.  A charming world to visit.

Supplied by author

Reviewed by Jan

Poppet – Mo Hayder

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Review, thriller

poppetDetective Inspector Jack Caffery is looking for a woman who has been missing for three years.   He knows he is searching for a body as he knows she is dead and who killed her.  He just doesn’t know where the body is and wants to find it so he can return her to her family.

A senior psychiatric nurse, AJ LeGrande works in the Amberly Secure Unit and is worried.  A power cut leads to a series of horrific events the patients blame on the ghost of a dwarf.  Worried about his patients and convinced something evil is happening, AJ asked Jack to investigate.

Very clever plot with two stories going at once, this is a delicious creepy tale.  Slow for me at first, I couldn’t put the book down by halfway through and stayed up far too late to find out what happened in the end.  The evil doer’s identity was a surprise and I only saw it coming after it was spelt out and what happened after – in the woods – made me both happy and sad.

The sixth book featuring Jack Caffery this is the fourth in the Walking Man series.  It’s not necessary to have read the rest of the series to understand what is going on, I hadn’t but wished I knew more of the back story.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan