Archive for April, 2015

Prisoner of the Black Hawk

As readers may have noticed, I have a certain fondness for a good map. So, when I saw a young adult fantasy series called “The Mapmaker Chronicles”, I rather thought that it might be of interest. And I have to say that Australian writer A.L. Tait has done a pretty fine job of creating a novel twist on the sailing ship story. He’s wisely taken it fully to a fantasy world, so it’s quite clear that his map is not our map. But sadly, there are no maps in the book. I do think the story could have been greatly enhanced by the inclusion of maps detailing the progress of the Libertas and her crew.

The background is a race to map the world, with the central character being a young map-maker aboard one of the ships. There is a prize for each captain, and Captain Zain is sailing for his freedom. Which is ironic when our young hero, Quinn the map-maker, is captured by Gelynions, and caged below decks… and then they are attacked by pirates! It’s all a lot of fun, and I’m sure this series would be greatly enjoyed by older boys, in particular.


Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui


The middle volume of a trilogy is often the tricky one, for writers, readers and reviewers. Sanderson pulls it off neatly, with a story that has a clear beginning, a middle and a truly spectacular ending. But that isn’t the striking thing about this book. What I found truly memorable was not the characters, although they continue to develop in interesting ways, nor the plot, although it was well-structured. No, what remains in my mind is the setting. This is Sanderson’s Babilar, Babylon Restored, the city of New York reinvented through Epic power, and it’s quite astonishing. Weird, beautiful, and truly imaginative. Yes, I know that this is background, but it is what grabbed me. Not that there’s a problem with the story, it’s action-packed and lots and lots of fun. We learn a great deal more about Epics, their weaknesses and the source of their powers – but not so much that I’m not really looking forward to the next book!


Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Review of Steelheart here

Least We Forget……

Posted: April 25, 2015 in war


A Treacherous Paradise

Hanna Lundmark escapes the terrible poverty of her life in rural Sweden by marrying a sailor and joining the crew of his Australia-bound steamship as a cook. Unfortunately he dies soon after and is buried at sea, leaving Hanna with the freedom to start her life afresh. When the steamer docks at the African port of Lourenco Marques she jumps ship.

Hanna reserves a room in a run-down hotel and settles back to observe the intrigues of a small African town and the dynamics between the white settler and the native population. Embroiled in a series of events which lead to her inheriting the most successful brothel in town, Hanna is determined to befriend the prostitutes working for her and change life in the town for the better but the distrust between blacks and whites, and the shadow of colonialism, lead to tragedy and murder.

Based on the true story of a Swedish woman who ran the most famous brothel in Mozambique, this is an interesting historical fiction that has a crime angle to it. It didn’t grip me, though the true story it’s based on sounds interesting. Try it for yourself.

Harvill Secker

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

If I Should Die

Territorial Army veteran Joseph Stark was badly wounded in an attack in Afghanistan that killed the rest of his unit. Returned to the normality of civilian life, he’s a Trainee Detective in Greenwich and does his best to ignore his army past, which is difficult when they keep calling. Seriously injured, Stark relies on painkillers and booze to keep him going but has consented to some hydrotherapy, where his therapist is an extremely attractive blonde.

A string of random attacks on the homeless occurs and the investigation soon links them to a gang of wanabe thugs. Even with CCTV and cell phone videos the police can’t prove anything though, and then one victim dies and it becomes a murder investigation. Then there’s another attack but this time the victim fights back…..

The storytelling is so vivid, the characters are so real, you can’t help but be drawn in. The plot is very strong and leads you to think one thing before suddenly – boom – you’re totally mistaken. This book is so well written and compelling, a fantastic debut novel that I could not put down. I am really looking forward to the next book!

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Gallipoli 1915 – 2015

Posted: April 19, 2015 in war


blackpeak station

Charlotte Black is the fourth generation of the Black family to farm Blackpeak Station, a farm in the rugged high country of the South Island. Wanting to own the station Charlotte runs into a few problems, she has an older brother and a father who believes that daughters run families, not farms.

After her father dies Charlotte faces many struggles to keep her dream alive, including ending things with her first love Rob. She resigns herself to never having romance in her life, as the station came first.   Then the handsome, suave Luke turned up on her doorstep.

This was a good read, well written and an interesting story with plenty of twists and turns to keep things moving forward at a rapid pace. The setting was beautifully described and the challenge of living in a remote part of New Zealand laid out well.

The description of the Christchurch earthquake made me cry, as it brought back the same feelings the characters had watching it on tv, waiting for news, and hoping loved ones were safe, and finding out someone you knew was a casualty.

A must read for modern romance fans.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

raising steam

Nothing yearns to be something, and small entrepreneurs are complaining of the distance and travel time between Ankh-Morpork and the food sources. Enter Dick Simnel, whose father had disappeared in a cloud of pink steam and shrapnel after a furnace accident, a lad armed wi’ a flat cap and Iron Girder, a furnace that moves. On tracks. In Harry King, the waste merchant’s yard. There’s also a problem with factionalism among the Dwarfs. Not all are happy with the settlement Lord Vetinari imposed on them and the Trolls at Kroom Valley.

This is Terry’s 40th (and penultimate) Discworld novel. It is a multithreaded tale, with Dick Simnel, the Goblins, Moist von Lipwig and the Dwarves all facing various challenges. For those that haven’t guessed from the title, the tale is ostensibly about the arrival of rail transport on the Discworld, and the demand is driven by the wealthy of Ankh-Morpork for fresh produce from their fisheries and market gardens. So naturally the opportunity for international incidents abound. A competing thread is the disaffection one faction of Dwarves has for the Kroom Valley settlement. This has Lord Vetinari concerned. More than Moist von Lipwig is when The Patrician has charged him with securing the smooth implementation of various rail routes. And we learn something interesting concerning the Low King of the Dwarfs.

The story seamlessly flips between the various threads as rail travel comes to the Discworld. To my taste, the story lacked a little focus with so many competing threads it was difficult to decide which was the primary tale – the rail road, Dick Simnel or the threatening war among the Dwarfs. An enjoyable read, it probably isn’t Terry’s best. But then, it isn’t his worst either. Good, lightweight Discworld fun.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

A Fatal Tide

Gallipoli, 1915, and Thomas Clare is hunting the murderer of his father, a rural Queensland policeman. The trail began in Barambah Aboriginal Mission Station and continued to Turkey, and the only way for Thomas and his friend Snow to follow it was to enlist. And the story of Breaker Morant is bound up in it too. As is a piece of evidence probably written by Lord Kitchener.

Sailah deftly weaves a tale of deduction, replete with homages to Arthur Conan Doyle, misdirection and political military shenanigans going back to the Second Boer War. His characters are a believable bunch of youthful Australians with a scattering of imperial nationalities thrown in. The war and the fighting serve only as a backdrop to the story, not its central theme.

I enjoyed this story, which was a page-turner, with the name of the murderer not revealed until the final act. There is an enjoyable subplot concerning whether Breaker Morant acted under written or unwritten orders prior to his court-martial and execution. Those interested in his case should check any of a number of on-line encyclopaedias to confirm details. I have the impression the story is the beginning of a series of adventures featuring Thomas and Snow.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Review by Steve

the slaughter man


A wealthy family has just been gruesomely executed inside their exclusive gated community, their youngest child abducted. Detective Max Wolfe is assigned the job of hunting down the killer and bringing him to justice, aided by his homicide team. Quickly forming a theory that the family was targeted because they were too perfect, they are stunned when the crime’s M.O. matches one of 30 years ago. Could the killer be the same man?

The Slaughter Man had done his time and is now old and dying though. Could he really be back killing families? Could this be a macabre tribute by a copycat killer – or a contract hit that is intended to frame a dying man?

Then another boy disappears……

Again, I couldn’t put this book down and was a zombie the next day due to lack of sleep.   The story was told in three parts and the plot was fast paced and very very clever. Full of twists and turns, most of which I didn’t see coming, despite being a crime novel devotee. The ending was satisfying and wrapped things up nicely. Max needs to change jobs if he plans to keep his promise to Scout though.

Read it, the series is excellent but you don’t need to have read the first to get lost in this.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Read my review of The Murder Bag here