Archive for August, 2017

It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.

So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war.

The Massacre of Mankind has begun

 Gollancz

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

It’s 1920, 13 years after the Martian invasion Walter Jenkins described in The War of the Worlds, and Julie Elphinstone, Jenkins ex-sister in law, is working as a journalist in New York. But the world, or rather Europe, is not at peace. And the Martians signal their intent to invade again. Jenkins has read the signs and drawn his acquaintances back into maelstrom that an interplanetary war will be. This time it will span more than just Britain.

Stephen Baxter was authorised by the estate of HG Wells to write this sequel, and his choice of a new narrator was a bold but logical choice. Jenkins, after his contacts with the Martians was a bit of a broken reed. Julie, his sister in law, would’ve been well placed to spot his character flaws, and Baxter plays them beautifully. He also shows a side of Albert cook that would be a logical progression from that character’s interactions with the Martians.

The story is told in four parts, basically as the calamity unfolds, with obvious lulls in the action; war is not a constant assault but more a series of breathers interspersed with furious action. Interested parties abound. As before, the Martians seem unstoppable. Like wells, Baxter resorts to Deus ex Machina, which is both more and less satisfying than the original. How the Martians developed resistance to Terran pathogens is not adequately explained, especially as they had no samples to work with. And my gut feeling is that the UK would have moved heaven and earth to either prevent a European war or have one fought on its terms.

Baxter has done a good job in both creating and recreating the characters. What flaws there are can be mostly blamed on Lowell’s theories being truly out of date: Venerians indeed. I liked the story and its female narrator and recommend this to anybody who is a fan of HG Wells.

 

 

Advertisements

There’s nothing like a hearty soup to provide a nourishing midwinter meal.

This comprehensive cookbook contains every imaginable soup from Simon and Alison Holst’s extensive collection of tried-and-true recipes, with some ‘new favourites’ added for good measure.

Hyndman

Supplied by Hyndman NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui

It is exactly what it says on the tin, one hundred recipes for different soups from the Holsts. Only not from the tin, because the objective here is to make your soup from scratch. Some recipes are surprising quick to create, such as the Quick Pumpkin Soup, with just ten minutes cooking time. Others, like Granny’s Chicken Soup, involve hours of gentle simmering, turning a tough old bird into something delicious… There are some great ideas here, like the Nearly Instant Stocks. Although I was a little disappointed to find that my favourite Mulligatawny Soup is missing, there is a very nice Chicken Laksa. So, plenty of recipes and a good range. If you need to feed a crowd cheaply and nutritiously, there’s plenty to work with. And I’m told enjoying soup is so filling that it helps with losing weight.

I showed this book to one friend, and it disappeared for a week because she wanted to try one of the recipes, which must surely count as a second recommendation.

 

 

Twin boys grow up in the same family, in the same town. Dramatically different, they become bitter enemies, even as children: one good, one bad. One leaves his peaceful hometown, but when the prodigal son returns twenty years later, the brothers’ reunion will expose shocking revelations…

Bantam

Supplied by Penguin Random House

Reviewed by Jan

Peter loses his Wall Street job as a result of the financial market collapse. His wife moves back home to LA with his sons and suddenly he’s paying alimony and child support and looking for work.  He has a strained relationship with his twin brother, who was the golden child growing up, and heads back home to regroup and mend fences.

Michael is a small town doctor with a disabled wife, Maggie, he’s devoted too and a hoarde of elderly patients who adore him.   Eventually Peter and Michael make amends and regret the hatred they had shared for so many years.  Then Peter meets Michael’s son, Bill, in London and it turns out things are not as they seem.

Which brother is the prodigal son?

I usually rely on Danielle Steel’s book formula for a comforting HEA story but I did not enjoy his book at all.  I loathed the heroine for being a gutless wimp with no backbone and felt she played the victim.  Living in a 2 story house confined to a bed because your husband loves his family home?!  Missing out on your kids growing up because you’re confined to bed?!  Only going downstairs to join in family meals when your husband allows?!   Did she not see the big red flags waving about her husband?

I didn’t enjoy this book because I kept screaming at her to wake up; and think for yourself.

 

Inspired by a real newspaper story from 1930, An Uncommon Woman is an epic tale of duty, ambition, prejudice and love, from the pen of bestselling author Nicole Alexander.

A new world is waiting for her . . .

It’s 1929, and the world is changing. Cars are no longer the privilege of the rich. Hemlines are rising. Movies are talking. And more and more women are entering the workforce.

For Edwina Baker, however, life on her family’s farm in Western Queensland offers little opportunity to be anything other than daughter, sister and, perhaps soon, wife.

But Edwina wants more. She wants to see the world, meet new people, achieve things. For while she has more business sense than her younger brother, it will be Aiden who one day inherits the farm.

Then the circus comes to town. Banned from attending by her father, Hamilton, Edwina defiantly rides to the showground dressed as a boy. There she encounters two men who will both inadvertently alter the course of her life: pastoralist Mason with his modern city friends; and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape.

And when the night ends in near-disaster, this one act of rebellion strikes at the heart of the Baker family. Yet it also offers Edwina the rare chance to prove herself in a man’s world. The question is, how far is she prepared to go, and how much is she prepared to risk?

Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

In 1930’s Queensland, Edwina and her brother Aiden work the family the farm together, ruled by a strict and cold father.  Edwina wasn’t allowed to make decisions or even leave the  farm unless accompanied – he also refused to listen to her ideas at improving their land.
When the circus was in town, Edwina dressed as a boy and rode her horse to see the event.  There, she met the two men who would feature in her future in a big way. While she needed to hide her visit to town from her father, she feared what would happen should he find out…
I normally devour any epic historical fiction book by Aussie author Nicole Alexander but I just couldn’t get into An Uncommon Woman.  It started off too slow with a lot of descriptions and explanations and I got bored with it. I also didn’t like the heroine, finding her naïve and arrogant.

Try it yourself though, I may just be grumpy from 19 days without chocolate.

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery and capture. Under flooded London’s canals they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty – the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no further than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power

Pyr

Purchased from an Amazon Reseller

Reviewed by Jacqui

I probably should not review this book without first warning you that a physical copy might not be readily available, although Amazon has the e-book. But since I had already accidently acquired a second copy of the sequel, I thought I really ought to get hold of Cuttlefish and then read them in sequence.

Cuttlefish is very much a steampunk novel, but unlike most it is not stuck in Victoriana. Freer has created a solid scientific and alternate historical background, choosing as his turning point not the outcome of some momentous battle or treaty, but a simple pre-marital argument, which meant that the Haber process for the production of synthetic ammonia was never invented. And this changes the world. In the 1950’s when the novel is set, the world is still heavily dependent on coal, and global warming has drowned many of the world’s coastal areas. If there is a message here, it’s about consequences.

Enter our heroes. Clara must escape with her mother, a brilliant chemist who has discovered how to synthesize ammonia. Starting in Ireland they are chased by Mensheviks and Imperial British agents to London where they meet up with the rebels and smugglers who roam the canals of the flooded city. There they are taken aboard the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired sail-submarine. And there Clara meets Tim, a young half-Jamaican submariner, and initial dislike turns to eventual friendship as Cuttlefish battles her way to the other side of the world…

This is in many ways a simple and familiar story of young people finding themselves as they run into peril and adventure, escaping a relentless enemy. It’s the setting that makes it different, that adds both excitement and interest. Cuttlefish is a character in itself, a truly remarkable vessel, and her crew are a curious bunch as well. I can happily recommend this book to young adults, and to readers of any age who fancy something a bit different in the steampunk theme.

 

Teenager  Tim Ryan comes into his own as he  faces danger on a remote Australia island where magic lurks in land and sea.

Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way.  For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.

But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down drug-runners, sea storms, and worse, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.

Baen

Purchased from Amazon

 Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

There is something special about this young adult novel. It took me right back to my own childhood and those Arthur Ransome novels from the library. This is young adult literature the way it used to be written, all about growing up and finding yourself, and not so much about sex and drugs. Only it’s not exactly “Swallows and Amazons”, because there is something different about Tim Ryan… he has the blood of the fae in him, and even has a little fae following him around, trying to be helpful. Stuff happens around Tim, not all of it good.

As a result of one such incident, Tim’s mother sends him away from Melbourne, and off to Flinder’s Island. Yes, that’s the island where Dave lives, and that island is a big part of this story. Here, Tim will discover who he is, and where he belongs; and a selkie may or may not get want she wishes.

I did enjoy this book. It is real in a way that many young adult novels are not, and yet fantastical at the same time. And the nicest thing is that you can give this book to your young teenager without worrying that they’ll get any unwelcome ideas… although they may want you to take them fishing.

Hyndman

Supplied by Hyndman New  Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

This is another remarkably useful little recipe book from the Holsts, in the “Everyday Easy” series, this time focusing on home-made sweets. They start with a proper kiwi recipe for salted caramels using condensed milk and golden syrup (instead of the undesirable corn syrup you’ll find in most). Really must give this a go!

There are several recipes for different types of fudge, then marshmallows, toffees, rocky road, chocolate crackles, lolly cake and lots of different kinds of sweet truffles. There are even lunchbox treats like “birdseed bars” which I will have to try (I like to make these things in paper muffin cases). I can safely guarantee that this book will come out and see a lot of use when it is time to make the Christmas treats.

The hidden advantage of a good book of home-made sweet recipes is that you know exactly what goes into them. Bought sweets, especially the cheap ones, are full of mystery ingredients that you’re better off without. My only complaint is to the publisher; the high cover price for such a slim volume is liable to put off many potential purchasers. But that’s a small quibble over another excellent collection.