Archive for October, 2014

nypd red 2

Detective Zach Jordan and his partner Kylie MacDonald are part of the elite NYPD Red squad that solves crimes committed against the elite citizens of New York. A vigilante serial killer is on the loose, tracking down and murdering people whose crimes have not been punished. After taping a confession of past crimes, victims are murdered and left in a HAZMAT suit in a public place. When his latest victim is a woman of vast wealth who had many influential connections, Zach and Kylie are assigned the task of tracking down HAZMAT killer.

With four seemingly unconnected victims they are stumped, recruiting more help from a pair of beat cops. After a potential fifth victim is identified, they are in a race against time to find her and stop the killer.

Zach is worried about more than the case though – Kylie has been acting strange recently and her secrets might implode on the case. Will they catch the bad guy in time to save the victim?

A very well plotted mystery with a lot of action, there are many ‘a-ha!” moments occurring with titbits of info I hadn’t seen coming. This can be read as a standalone book; I hadn’t read the first but quickly figured out who as who without being flooded with back-story. I was caught up in this book and eagerly await the next.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan


The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales31 short stories by 27 authors, including Joy Cowley, David Hill, Lyn McConchie & Dave Freer.

What will Santa put under your tree this Christmas? A present that growls? Or one that smiles? The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales – crazy Christmas adventures for the whole family! Christmas in outer space or at the beach, havoc in Santa’s workshop, monsters running amok, and mad scientists who turn Christmas into chaos.

Come along for the sleigh ride of your life, as these Twisty Tales weave their festive magic, whipping across New Zealand pastures, scattering fairy dust on the way to a Christmas BBQ!

YouTube Book Trailer:

Anthology Editors: Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller, A.J. Ponder

Illustrator: Geoff Popham

Authors:  Shelley Chappell, Michelle Child, William Cook, Debbie Cowens, Joy Cowley, Denise Cush, Marion Day, Simon Fogarty, Dave Freer, Peter Friend, Jan Goldie, David Hill, Tim Jones, Charlotte Kieft, Lyn McConchie, Eileen Mueller, Jeena Murphy, Lee Murray, Robyn P, Murray, Lorraine Orman, A.J. Ponder, D.M. Potter, Dan Rabarts, Darian Smith, Kerrie Anne Spicer, Anne Wilkins, Sophie Yorkston.

Publisher: Phantom Feather Press

ISBN Paperback :   978-0-9941155-0-8
ISBN Mobi:   978-0-9941155-1-5
ISBN Epub:  978-0-9941155-2-2
ISBN Pdf:  978-0-9941155-3-9

Publication Date etc: 1/11/2014. Paperback 224 pages. 10% of all profits from The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales will be donated to The Muscular Dystrophy Association of NZ.

Available: Good New Zealand book stores and on Amazon (ebook.) Wholesalers, retailers and booksellers, please order from Phantom Feather Press. Contact us here.

Pleasant reading this festive season!

from earth's end

The New Zealand comic strip and comic book publishing scene has seen more almost as many ebbs and flows as the tide. Adrian Kinnaird tries to cover as much as possible of the history of the earlier New Zealand comic writing and publishing as is possible, and in the process throwing up some often overlooked facts. The United States was the usual source of early comics in New Zealand, with daily and weekly strips appearing in local papers from at least the early 1920s.

Kinnaird notes that several local artists and authors garnered commissions in cartooning for comic strips before becoming famous in their preferred field: Rita Angus, under the name Rita Cook, drew for the Christchurch Press’s children’s pages, and author Avis Acres, as Thyra Avis Mary McNeil, drew and wrote The Adventures of Tink and Wink, the Star Babies in 1929 for the Auckland Star.

Due to the often dramatic style of storytelling in American comics, a censorship ban was imposed in the late 1930s, with British comic books filling the newsstand gap, and local offerings occasionally supplying the unsated demand. Censorship during the 1960s effectively nobbled the locally generated publication of comic books and aspiring artists were either forced into self-publication and possible prosecution or to move off-shore. The scene was only reborn in the late 1970s and has grown at rates dependent on the quality of the artists and their ability to be published.

As alluded above, New Zealand comic strip authors/artists often moved overseas to pursue work, with Noel Cook being one of several who made the move to Australia. Cook was responsible for the first SF strip, Peter, for an Australian newspaper in 1923 and beating Buck Rogers by five years. Kinnaird punctuates the history of New Zealand comics with vignettes of important local comic creators, such as Martin Emond, Harry W Bennett and Dylan Horrocks. As well as the use of New Zealand comic material for other than pure entertainment. Who out there remembers the promotional eco-warrior, Captain Sunshine?

The book’s strength is the almost encyclopaedic approach Kinnaird has taken to the New Zealand version of the genre. I say almost, as Kinnaird admits there are gaps in what could be researched due to loss of material, a problem attributable to the variable regard most had to the medium and the often small production runs many early publications had. In the second section of the book, Kinnaird tries to provide an indicative range of examples of local talent from as broad a range of eras as possible. Due to the recent explosion of published material, work from the past two decades tends to predominate. Many of these are designed to interest the reader in searching out and accessing more of the various artists’ works.

Kinnaird has produced a book that should satisfy most readers’ tastes regarding New Zealand comics. It is a staggering 450 pages, and has an appropriately eye-catching cover. To my mind the one failing is his deliberate exclusion of more recent New Zealand comic strips, covered by an apologia in the form of a postscript claiming he wished only to focus on New Zealand graphic novels. Considering the historical section, this is an interesting and perhaps hypocritical admission. However, every genre has its snobberies and this omission in no way detracts from the excellent work that Kinnaird has produced.

Godwit Books

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

power play

Fiona Carson is a powerful CEO of a multibillion-dollar high-tech company and savvy and organised solo mother. She lives a solitary life with only her children for company and the occasional blind date, her ex-husband having decided he wants a domestic goddess instead of a smart, successful woman with a better career than him. Logan is an investigative reporter assigned to interview her for a business magazine and they slowly become friends.

Marshall Weston appears to have the perfect life; a loving wife of 30 years, 3 gorgeous talented children, a high powered job that has seen him become a corporate bigwig; but under the surface it’s slowly falling apart. Marshall has a mistress and twin 7 year old daughters in another city that he sees every week when he flies there on business. His mistress knows all about his family and he’s promised her he’ll leave his wife and marry her when his youngest child finishes high school. Then his conservative company finds out about the affair and gives him an ultimatum; the mistress or the wife but not both.

Fiona and Marshall’s stories are told concurrently and the book looks at family secrets and how power is used by different people. There were a few unexpected twists but I was satisfied by the ending overall. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who wants a HEA. A delightful read from the queen of romance and a good way to spend to spend a few hours.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan


A covert mission in 1993 saw Nick Stone hiding in the jungle preparing to assassinate an untouchable Columbian drug lord. At his side was a brash young DEA agent Dino who was acting as his spotter. After Nick pulled the trigger, he went closer to make sure of the kill and was spotted by the man’s wife and young son, who imprinted his face on their memories.

2012 finds Nick in Moscow, semi-retired and living with Anna who is pregnant with their baby. When their son is born though, he is dangerously ill and Anna is in hospital with him, unaware the doctor, who helped save the baby and a friend, has been kidnapped. Nick sets out to find her; travelling first to Moldavia to investigate the sex industry, then following the trail of girls being trafficked to Hong Kong for black market organ donors.

Posing as a wealthy Russian businessman desperate to buy a kidney for his wife, Nick meets with the local contact but things don’t go well and he’s made. A lot of action and violence follows and a new lead emerge, sending Nick to the US where he meets up with Dino, now a broken man and meth addict.

This is  a fast paced thriller that has a lot of twists in the story. Nick Stone is his usual dangerous, resourceful self and this is another exciting read featuring him. The ending sets it up well for the next book and I’m dying to see what happens next.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

the incarnations

***3 out of 5 stars

Asked to review Susan Barker’s The Incarnations, I jumped at the opportunity. English-Chinese literature, that is English language studies of Chinese culture, by writers such as Amy Tan, Pearl Buck, Jung Chang, Xue Xinran, and New Zealand’s own Suzanne Gee and Eva Wong Ng, have always intrigued me. And since The Incarnations was written by a writer who, like myself, has a Chinese mother and European father, I was even more compelled. How would Barker’s perceptions of Chinese culture compare to my own? The only way to find out was to dive right in.

The Incarnations’ primary overarching story is set in Beijing in 2008. Amid the frenzy of building, Olympic Security Volunteers spy on their neighbours, preparing the city to face the scrutiny of the world, but taxi driver Wang has other concerns. He has found a letter in the sunshade of his cab. Someone is watching him. Someone who claims to be his soul-mate, to have known him for over a thousand years. Other letters follow, relating Wang’s former lives, incarnations, in the Tang Dynasty; during the Mongol invasion; the Ming Dynasty; the Opium War; and finally the Cultural Revolution.

Writer-reviewer Chris Cleave describes The Incarnations as ‘wildly original’. Possibly. However, in my view, the novel’s structure is contrived. It is essentially a series of historical fiction pieces strung together using reincarnation—conveniently a Buddhist notion—as a plot device, in order to present those stories as a novel. Barker could just as easily have published this work as a collection short fiction without need for the disembodied souls, connected through all eternity by reincarnation, tying them together. The final twist of the ‘linking story’, intended to resolve the novel, seems, to me at least, too convenient and thus unsatisfying.

The Incarnations is an uncomfortable read, a novel which would normally would take me an evening or two to get through, took me ten full days to read. If I had been reading The Incarnations for myself, I would have put it down, but I had promised to review it, so I forced myself to finish. Why was it so hard? Because I am convinced other reviewers will hail this book as a literary masterpiece, and shower the writer with praise. Adam Johnson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2013, has already done so, calling it ‘the most extraordinary work of imagination you’ll read all year,’ while John Boyne say it is ‘erudite’ and ‘intriguing’. Yes, this is a well written book. There is no doubt that Barker’s imagery is stunning, provocative and hauntingly real. Nor can it be said that she neglected her research, spending four of the six years in which she wrote this novel living in Beijing itself, and some of that time in a Soviet-style apartment complex of Maizidan. Barker clearly knows her subject intimately. So why did I dislike this book so intently? Why did I find it superior and derisive? I believe it is the Eeyore nature of much of the English writing that exists about Chinese people, Chinese culture, and Chinese history. But whereas other writers offer a smidgen of hope, in the 1378 years spanned by her narrative, Barker has not pointed to a single moment of joy. All those years. Not one moment of joy. Jam-packed with rape, incest, torture, betrayal, murder and death, the novel is completely devoid of promise. Even the potential moments in which Barker’s central characters might find hope and redemption are tarnished with guilt, revenge, and treachery. Sure, all good literature requires conflict, yet Barker chose only to highlight the horror of her subject, making The Incarnations a bleak and deeply pejorative tale of China. It’s possible that the author is correct, that for those unfortunate enough to be Chinese, or indeed, to be reincarnated into Chinese culture, there is nothing at all of promise to look forward to there. For myself, I like to hope otherwise.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Lee


A four-time winner of Sir Julius Vogel Award, Lee Murray writes friction for children and adults. She lives in New Zealand with her husband and teenaged children.

Visit her website

A review of her YA novel Misplaced can be found here

Conclave, an anthology featuring her novella can be found here

war girls

This is a collection of short stories that explore how WWI changed and shaped the lives of women forever. From a courageous nurse risking her life at the Front; a young woman discovering intrigue in London; to a grief-stricken widow defending her homeland from foreign invaders, these stories show how the war affected all, no matter their nationality or class. The stories are from various authors, some quite recognisable names and show loss and grief, and hope overcoming terrible times.

I really enjoyed the different perspectives – some from those caught up in the fighting; those volunteering to help; those left behind; and from the people the Allies were fighting against. Very interesting as you don’t often get a glimpse into the life of ‘the enemy’. I really liked old lady in the 70’s recalling life after the war. I knew there was a shortage of men causing many women to never marry but she made it seem real, not just an abstract knowledge. I’d love to read more about her life too – becoming a journalist and being in the thick of WWII, she sounds a hell of a woman!

A very good book, well worth reading for another slant to WWI. It was nice to remember that women had guts and made sacrifices too, not just the courageous soldiers.

Andersen Press Ltd

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan