Archive for October, 2013

Sacrifice – Will Jordan

Posted: October 31, 2013 in Review, thriller

sacraficeAfter a Black Hawk helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan, Ryan Drake and his elite Shepherd team are brought in to find and rescue the lone passenger, a CIA operative.  Held hostage by a fanatical insurgent group lead by an old enemy Ryan thought he’d killed years ago, the CIA agent holds information vital to the ongoing conflict.  The team arrives to investigate and the action starts.

The plot is very clever, with many twists and turns and uncertainty who to trust.  It moves at a fast pace and needs concentration to remember who does what.  I haven’t read the previous book and quickly picked up the threads of previous stories, so it’s not necessary to have read it, though the stories it tell seem good.

I had no idea of who the bad guys were until the ending or even that they were bad guys.  A separate story to the book’s main one was resolved, and I wish I’d read previous books to uncover more to the story.  I really want to know what happens to the good guy who turned out to be a bad guy who was a good guy and look forward to the next book.

Century 2013

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

quick mealsThis is a handy little book for those who lead busy lives and don’t have the time or energy to cook elaborate meals.  There is a handy list of pantry essentials and Simon has used these core ingredients throughout the book.  The recipes are in weekly blocks and you can use this menu plan to plan ahead and make shopping easier.  Of course, you can create your own weekly plan by arranging recipes in a way to suit you.

Included are hits and variations you can try on the basic recipe.  These are ways to add flavour and sometimes give a recipe a whole new twist.  Simon has included tips that remind you to think ahead and save some time when cooking.  Also listed are recipes for side dishes like potato wedges, salad dressing, and coleslaw and tips on how to cook rice.  Easy to follow and informative, this  is a handy guide for when you come home after a long day and want something quick and easy to make that tastes yummy.

Hyndman Publishers has kindly supplied two copies of this cookbook for giveaways.  To be in the draw leave a comment below and winners will be drawn on Thursday 7 October.  Open to those in New Zealand and Australia only.

Hyndman Publishers

Supplied by Hyndman Publishers

Reviewed by Jan

Blue – Brandy Wehinger

Posted: October 26, 2013 in Review, young adult

blueIt first started in Australia, a tourist became a zombie and soon others were infected.  The country was soon desolate of humans and the infections spread worldwide, forcing humans to fight for survival.  Communities were formed that lived high above the ground – zombies can’t climb – and some people became Gunslingers, defending humans and killing zombies.

Katie is a Blue, a rare half-zombie/half-human hybrid.  She has been alone for decades since the zombie infections started.  The regular zombies leave her alone as she doesn’t have a heartbeat.  She   saves Elliot, the son of a community leader, from certain death and he falls for her, leaving to be with her.  Furious his son consorted with a zombie, the father orders him to be hunted down by Gunslingers and returned to face judgement.

Xavier lives in a community nestled in the treetops, where his best friend is Jessy, the daughter of two Gunslingers. He is asked to write to Rose, Elliot’s sister, to get to know her before their arranged marriage.  Jessy leaves the treetops and is trained to become a Gunslinger, finding a friend in fellow Gunslinger Virgil.

Lukas is bitten by a zombie and the treetops healer amputates his Arm to try to stop the infection.  He changes to a Blue and slips away to wander far away.  He is taken captive by Gunslingers who think he is Elliot.  Katie and Elliot stumble across him and vow to rescue him but in the process Elliot is captured too.

The story is told from the points of view of many characters in short sections. The world is described well and interesting, most of the action happens at the end of the book though.  It shows the corrupting effect of power and how if you treat someone as a monster they become one.   I really enjoyed this book which was a pleasant surprise as I think zombies are icky.  The romance was subtle, a relief as I don’t really want to think about human/zombie sexy time. I look forward to the sequel and finding out what happens.

The cover art is very striking, by the cult artist Misery.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Nthe alloy of lawow, you’ll have to understand that I haven’t actually read the original “Mistborn” trilogy, though I’m certainly encouraged to do so by this novel. The original trilogy was essentially medieval high fantasy, but Sanderson has rolled the clock for “The Alloy of Law”.

It’s three hundred years later, and technology has advanced in the way it usually doesn’t in fantasy novels. However, this book is not your typical Victorian Steampunk novel, having a much more Wild West feel. There are lots of guns, there are lawkeepers, and there are train robberies. There is also the “magic” of Mistborn, which if you haven’t read the other books, has more a flavour of psionics, maybe even superpowers. Is this another case of science fiction in fantasy dress? I’m not sure.

As for the book itself, there’s plenty of action, some of it spectacular – there’s even a running battle on top of a train… The heroes are complex enough to be both interesting and memorable, and the primary villain’s motives are sensible and insane at the same time. As for the villain behind the villain…  that really would be telling. Definitely worth reading.


Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jacqui

screaming staircaseRapier-wielding teenage ghostbusters! Isn’t that enough? I suppose you’re going to want a proper review.

Firstly, Stroud comes up with an elegant excuse for teenagers being the protagonists of a mystery thriller, and getting themselves into life-threatening situations. They’re young enough to see, hear and otherwise sense the presence of ‘Visitors’ otherwise known as ghosts, and old enough to be able do something about it. Such as find the source, the object or location through which the ghost enters the world and neutralise it.

Secondly, he can write exciting, funny, scary and evocative prose; the sort that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading. It’s a tad formal, almost Victorian in tone, which had me confused as to when the novel was meant to be set. I was also left wondering just how old the personnel of Lockwood & Co. actually are, which may be a deliberate ploy on the part of the author, in order to broaden his potential audience.

Certainly I’d be happy to give this book to any child from about twelve years of age who was looking for a good scary ghost story, but have caution with younger ones or sensitive children, you might well give them nightmares. Oh, and it’s a fun read for adults, too.

Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

the princess and the foalHaya is a princess of Jordan, her father is the king.  After suffering the loss of her adored mother, she is tremendously quiet and sinks into a depression and doesn’t show any joy in life.  Desperately worried her father   searches for a way to make her smile again, and gifts her a two day old foal for her birthday.  Haya is responsible for the foal and if she lives or dies which she takes seriously, sleeping in the stables to give her nightly feeds.  The foal thrives on her attention and Haya names her Bint Al-Reeh, Daughter of the Wind in Arabic, Bree for short.

Haya spends the next few years learning to ride so that when Bree is broken in she is ready to teach her.  Finally the day comes and they love being with each other.  Then Haya learns she is being sent to England to continue her schooling, leaving behind her beloved home, family, and Bree. At first desperately lonely, Haya makes friends and learns to showjump, showing a natural talent for it.  After her grief at her mother death finally shows she is sent back home where she is determined to win
The King’s Cup.

Based on the life of Princess Haya of Jordan, an international showjumper who represented Jordan in the Olympics, this book is a must read for any pony-obsessed girl.  There is a triumphant ending and lots of horsey speak, and a young girl beating macho mean.  It’s good to see how Haya made her own rules in a male-dominated society and her father, the king, obviously adored her.  An awe-inspiring woman.

HarperCollins Children’s Book

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

the ways of the worldJames ‘Max’ Maxted served as a pilot in WW1 and intends to set up a flying school on his aristocratic family’s land. His father, Sir Henry Maxted, is in favour of the idea but his brother Ashley, who will inherit everything, is not.  Sir Henry is a former diplomat and is asked to meet with delegates in Paris in 1919 to determine the outcome of the peace process.  While there he falls from an apartment roof in a dodgy part of the city.

Ashley and Max travel to Paris to find out about their father’s death and deal with the red tape to get his body home.  Max is unsatisfied by the official explanation and determined to find the true cause of his father’s death.  His fried Sam Twentyman, who Max is setting up his business with, travels to Paris to help and the action begins!

Though slow to start with the story gets exciting and a breathtaking adventure follows.  The plot is cleverly constructed, an espionage novel that shows the decadent side of Paris society in the late 1910s.  Factual history merges with the fictional story and you can see the setting as though you were there.  Max is a brave, determined hero and Sam is a likeable sidekick, engaging and courageous.

The book is gripping, with lots of twists, double-crosses, triple twists, and clever manipulations.  I’m really looking forward to the next in the trilogy.

Transworld Publishers

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan


never go backJack Reacher has finally made the journey from snowy South Dakota to Virginia.  A former military policeman, his destination is the headquarters of his former unit, a sturdy stone building near Washington DC.  He wants to take the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner.  He likes he voice on the phone and wants to take her to dinner.  The officer at the desk isn’t her though.  She’s been arrested for treason and Reacher is also in trouble, accused of a sixteen year old assault.

Reacher gets recalled to the army to face the charges, plus a different case against him.  Trying to find out who’s behind the charges, he quickly realises it goes very high up the chain of command.  He breaks Susan out of a military prison to find out more about the charges and break the conspiracy.

Good plot, lots of action, a little steamy stuff, this was an entertaining read.  I loved Reacher showing how tough he was – fighting a group with both hands behind his back, disabling two of the goon following him while on a packed commercial flight with no one noticing – awesome stuff!  Susan was cool too – I just killed a man.  Help me get rid of the body!

The ending was typical Reacher and the series looks set to continue.

This can be read as a standalone as you are subtly filled in on background details.  I highly recommend this book for Reacher fans.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

blood songA scribe opens the book journeying on a ship while recording the story of The Hope Killer.  The Hope was the popular heir to the Emperor’s throne, much loved by his people until he was slain in battle.  As The Hope Killer tells his story to the scribe, we see it in flashbacks.

Vealin Al Sorna was a young boy when his mother died and he was not close to his father, the King’s Battle Lord.  One day his father takes him to an imposing guarded gate and leaves, having given him to the Sixth Order, soldier who are defenders of the faith.  The Order takes in boys to train as soldiers and Vaelin grows up there with his brothers.  The trainees take tests every year pass to the next level of training or die trying.

Michael J Sullivan recommended this book so I had to read it and it was well worth the time it took.  A very large book, the story is an epic fantasy that tells the story of how a boy became a legend.  The plot is strong, with many twists and turns and ‘of course’ moments.  The characters are engaging and there is a loyal dog – awww.  The ending had some interesting revelations and I look to continuing The Hope Killer’s journey.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy epic fantasy tales.


Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Refuge – Jackie French

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Review, young adult

refugeFaris is a refuge fleeing his war torn country on a boat carrying him to Australia.  The boat is struck by a freak wave and sinks, leaving him struggling to survive.  Then he’s washed ashore to the Australia he’s always dreamed of; with kangaroos and orange trees and blue skies.  On a nearby beach he meets a group of young people who have all come from different places to call Australia home.  The group all come from different time periods but are a family.

As he leaves the island to battle to survive the sinking, he is determined to survive and join his father.  We follow his struggle to adapt to his new life and make friends.  Then he gets a letter from a nun, inviting him to meet her.  What he learns solves the mystery of what happened to the other residents of the island.

I found this book odd at first as I didn’t understand what the island was and didn’t ‘get’ it.  I enjoyed the stories of each person and eventually I realised the island was a safe place each retreated to when deciding whether to survive during their perilous passage to make a new life for themselves.  This is a very interesting look at the migration to Australia over the years and offers an up-close look at modern boatpeople and why they undertake the journey.  You can’t help but think differently when you see individuals rather than a faceless mass.

I liked the ending and finding out what happened to everyone.

Angus & Robertson

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan