Archive for March, 2015

winners

Lily Thomas is a talented competitive skier aiming for the Olympics. A horrific accident on the slopes leaves the 17—year-old paralysed and forces her to let go of that dream. Trying to learn to live again, Lily meets Teddy, a young man even more badly injured than she is. Teddy teaches her about hope and encourages her to find a new dream.

Dr Jessie Matthews lost her beloved husband in an accident the night Lily was injured. A top neurosurgeon, she operated on Lily and was blamed by her father for causing his daughter to be paralysed. Bill Thomas is a wealthy widower and his daughter is his life. He is devastated as she loses all she dreamed of and starts on the road to recovery.   He grows close to Jessie and together they survive their tragedies and begin to heal.

The story is of a father and daughter overcoming life’s curveballs and creating new lives for themselves, providing hope for others along the way.

A typically sweet Danielle Steel story where everyone ends up happy. I’m in a wheelchair myself and it irritated me how people carried on like it was the most horrible thing ever to be confined to one. I’m not an Olympic hopeful skier with the future suddenly being snatched away from me though. A good book for when you want to have warm fuzzie feelings about triumphing against all odds.

Transworld Publishers

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

so anyway

Probably the best known of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus crew, John Cleese has worked in comedy since the early 1960s. In this, what I hope is his first volume of an autobiography, we follow the development of John Cleese from slightly bewildered and shy primary school child through socially awkward teenager and youth to budding thespian and the initial rungs of success following the launch of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Cleese grew up in and around Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and attended a steady progression of Public Schools before heading to Cambridge to pursue a law degree. He obligingly provides several interesting anecdotes from his schoolboy days, as well from his stint as a teacher at one of his former schools. The anecdotes and remembrances grow stronger and longer with his days at Cambridge and his friendship and professional relationship with Graham Chapman.

Cleese provides a broad insight into the forces, people, and circumstances that allowed him to progress from a prospective career in law to a successful career in comedy. He also explains the genesis of several well-known and much beloved Python sketches, many of which had their genesis at Cambridge. He also gives his insights and takes on the nature of comedy and how he believes his star characters, such as Basil Fawlty, should be interpreted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as did the people I lent it too. You will too.

Random House Books

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Review by Steve

Go Set A Watchman

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

 

Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She attended Huntingdon College and studied law at the University of Alabama. She is the author of To Kill a Mockingbird and has been awarded numerous literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Pnguin Random House have launched dedicated channels so do join the conversation using the hashtags #GoSetaWatchman and #HarperLee :

 Twitter:

www.twitter.com/GSAWatchmanBook

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/gosetawatchmanbook

Tumblr:

www.gosetawatchmanbook.tumblr.com

Instagram:

www.instagram.com/gosetawatchmanbook

 

  • William Heinemann was the original publisher of To Kill a Mockingbird in the UK (1960) and will publish Go Set a Watchman in hardback and as an ebook on 14th July 2015, Harper an imprint of HarperCollins will publish Go Set a Watchman simultaneously in North America
  • Sales of To Kill a Mockingbird are in excess of 40 million copies worldwide and it has been translated into more than 40 languages
  • For further information please call Yvonne Thynne, Head of Publicity, Penguin Random House New Zealand, Ph. 09 442 7461, or email ythynne@penguinrandomhouse.co.nz
  • Jpeg of cover image attached
  • William Heinemann is an imprint of Cornerstone Publishing, part of The Random House Group Ltd, based in the UK. The Random House Group Ltd is a Penguin Random House Company.

Scorpion Mountain

Here we go again… Flanagan has found a formula for young adult fantasy that clearly sells, but is seriously flawed by lazy world-building and in this case, dubious plotting. He splits the party and sends a group of just three individuals into the evil lair… If I was the game master they’d suffer for that, and the players would have trouble convincing me that those characters should survive. But this isn’t my game, it’s Flanagan’s and he’s way too nice to his characters. He even gives them water closets – which takes some justification in a pseudo-medieval setting. As does the architecture. Castle Araluen is described as a “mass of graceful spires, soaring turrets, flying buttresses and fluttering pennants”. Sounds more like Disneyland than anything reasonable in a low magic medieval fantasy world. Then there’s the decidedly modern Arabic menu including tomatoes in the tabbouleh (they’re from the Americas), and the gaudy clothes of the Hellenic corsairs – tricky with natural dyes. Most curious of all is the land yacht that Hal constructs from old chariot wheels and bamboo (not sure about finding that in pseudo-Arabia). I’d really like to see the Mythbusters investigate the feasibility of building such a thing.

All of this made it really difficult for me to suspend disbelief and actually enjoy the story. Which felt contrived and formulaic, especially the whole scorpion cult business in a world that seems otherwise quite lacking in religious beliefs. For what it’s worth, the scorpion goddess of ancient Egypt, Serket, was not at all evil, more a protector against venoms and poisons. And you have to wonder at Flanagan’s use of pseudo-Islamic terminology… the invented word tolfah for fatwa for example. I would have thought it safer to avoid anything remotely resembling the modern Middle East. And there’s so many other less well-known cultures to steal ideas from. It’s evident that his many fans continue to enjoy Flanagan’s work, but I’m afraid it’s just not good enough.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

the lost

James Patterson is an immensely popular author – he holds the the Guinness World Record for being the first person to sell 1 million e-books. Does that mean that he’s any good? I’m not so sure. Let’s assume in this collaboration that, as the senior author, he’s done the world-building and plot outline, and Emily Raymond has done the bulk of the writing. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve picked up the fifth (and last) book of a series, without reading any of the earlier novels. But, I still expect to get some kind of feel for the setting. Which isn’t much.

There is a City, somewhere in a dystopian future. Somewhere outside it is a desert where Horsemen come from. And that’s about it. There’s no infrastructure, and certainly no “rest of the world”, so how do all these people get fed? There is technology and there is magic, so this qualifies as urban fantasy – except for some reason the magic felt more like a super-power, giving a comic book quality to the whole thing. This might have something to do with the over-the-top no-limitations nature of magic in Witch & Wizard. Or it might relate to the way a major character submits to the excision of magic, having their power removed by machine-generated infrasound of all things. No, I didn’t understand why – why that would work, or why anyone with any kind of gift allow it to be arbitrarily removed.

The plot seems to be mainly about the recycling of old villains so the sibling Witch and Wizard can save their City from darkest evil (yet again, apparently). There are some good bits, some exciting scenes, and some excellent lines – for which I think we must thank Ms Raymond. I particularly liked, when the TV came on with ranting villain at 5am… “If this dictator business doesn’t work out, he’s got a great future as an alarm clock”. The fans seem to be divided, but to me this feels like a sausage of a book, made of bits and pieces, a link in a chain, churned out without much thought or care. And, frankly, I did not much care for it, either.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

archangels shadows

Finally Ashwini and Janiver’s story!

A gifted tracker, Ash has the ability to sense the secrets of anyone she touches.   Except Janiver.   The sexy Cajun vampire has worked by her side for years, infuriating and fascinating her by turns. Now they’ve been tasked to discreetly track down a sadistic killer who needs to be stopped, while their flirtation has turned into a serious risk to their hearts. But Ash has a terrible secret that threatens to destroy them before they’ve begun.

The archangel Raphael and his hunter consort Elena are dealing with the aftermath of a brutal war and the last thing they need is death – especially death that looks like the work of an insane archangel. It must be handled by those who can be trusted to stick to the shadows; Ashwini and Janiver.

There was a lot of fast paced action and several unexpected surprises that I did not see coming. There were the steamy scenes Nalini Singh excels at but also tender moments that were sweet and made the story touching. Of course the ending is a HEA but Ash’s secret was   handled very cleverly. Ashwini and Janiver have been in the background for years and I’m thrilled their story was finally told but there’s also quite a bit of Raphael and Elena and it was great to see them.

I hope Naasir is in the next book as we get to see a lot of him and I love the glimpses of his life and am dying to know more about his feral nature.

Gollancz

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

the pirates and the nightmaker

I’m not sure whether Norcliffe is channelling Robert Louis Stevenson or J.M. Barrie (or both) in this rollicking fantasy for older children set primarily in the Caribbean in the Golden Age of Piracy – the early 18th century. The historical background and geography are very well researched, and Norcliffe’s prose is a delight to read, beautifully evoking the style of days gone by. And he comes up with some great lines!

It begins with in the aftermath of a mutiny, and our narrator, a young loblolly boy, servant of the inebriate ship’s doctor, is adrift with the ship’s officers and their passenger, a certain Mr Wicker, in a jolly boat. Mr Wicker is no ordinary individual, he transforms our young hero into something no longer exactly human, an invisible flying boy with gorgeous green wings. This saves his life from the hungry men trapped with him in the boat, and also enables him to save their lives. Because among those few people who can see him is Sophie Blade, daughter of the notorious pirate, Jenny Blade, and he is able to enlist her help to rescue them. But it’s only just begun. Mr Wicker has a purpose, he means to find a certain astrolabe which has the power to bring night in the day. It’s in the hands of the Spanish, and he has a plan to retrieve it. Needless to say, that plan involves a certain invisible flying boy.

It was all going very well, until I got to chapter 18. Here, Mr Wicker takes the loblolly boy on deck and asks him if he knows his stars, and gets him to point out those he knows, including Sirius. He then instructs him in the use of an astrolabe, showing him how to point it at Sirius. So far so good. Then, he goes on explain that the astrolabe he seeks is designed to find Sirius even in sunlight and to say, “At this time of year, Sirius is directly behind the Sun”. Now, I’m not an astronomer, but I do know two things. First, Sirius is not in one of the Zodiac constellations, and so is never directly behind the Sun. Second, if you can see a star at night, it cannot be on the other side of the Sun from the Earth. I wouldn’t make an issue of it, if it wasn’t critical to the story, but it is, and it wouldn’t have been hard to fix. Personally I would have picked Antares in Scorpio – an easy constellation for a boy to know, and Mr Wicker could have had him pointing out Orion (which although not on the Zodiac, is also distinctive, and is almost opposite Scorpio). And Antares is a dying star, a red supergiant… which would have actually worked better in the story. Basically, when astronomy is critical to the plot, I’d advise the author (and/or his editor) to consult an astronomer.

Okay, so I got over it, rewrote that chapter in my head, changed all references to Sirius to Antares and carried on. The plot resolves itself neatly, people get (or don’t get) what they deserve, and there is a delightful twist at the end that really impressed me. I’d like to see the errors fixed in later printings, but I’d still commend this novel to older children, especially those who are interested in pirates. Definitely a more solid read than much of the fantasy fiction for young people being published at the moment.

Longacre

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Felix and the Red Rats review here