Archive for September, 2018

This landmark work answers two fundamental questions – how, and why, did the Holocaust happen?

Laurence Rees has spent twenty-five years meeting and interviewing survivors and perpetrators of the Holocaust. Now he combines this largely unpublished testimony with the latest academic research to create the first accessible and authoritative account of the Holocaust in over three decades.

Through a chronological, intensely readable narrative, featuring the latest historical research and compelling eyewitness testimony, this is the story of the worst crime in history.

The Holocaust

Laurence Rees


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Lawrence Rees asks two important questions: how, and why, did the Holocaust happen? By this, he does not limit himself to the treatment of the Jews, but all those subjected to the destructive genetic practices of the Nazis. Anti-Semitism, racial hygiene and a hierarchy of races were ideas that had been floating about since before World War One. The Nazis, under Hitler’s direction, took this to the (il)logical extreme: not only were they to be excluded from the Nazi society, they were to be removed from society and by death if necessary.

Rees plots the development of the Holocaust in 18 chapters, over 430 pages plus prologue, epilogue and endnotes. He follows a chronological sequence, examining the development of the various strands of the Holocaust as the Nazi party and then the Nazi state adopted and then promulgated its racial agenda. Rees also follows the two main strands of the Holocaust’s implementation: exclusion, and elimination, from society.

These two actions, exclusion and elimination, slowly developed in the Nazi state, even though they had been heavily foreshadowed in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Rees explores why this was, and why certain eugenics programmes were pushed harder than others. He also explores the reaction to these programmes, both in the Third Reich, its conquered and allied territories and the wider world. And why some of these programmes continued even in the face of Nazi Germany’s imminent defeat

Lawrence Rees is a respected historian with a considerable corpus of work, much of it devoted to WW2 studies. This is another fine volume from him: well written, well researched and well presented on a subject that fascinates as much as it horrifies. Buy it. Read it.

I thank Penguin Random House New Zealand for the review copy and apologise for the lateness of this review.

New Zealand’s Great Walks are truly world class. In a country blessed with hundreds of spectacular tracks to choose from, these are considered the best of the best. They pass through some of our most breathtaking landscapes – including golden sand beaches, ancient rainforests and high mountains.

New Zealand’s Great Walks: The Complete Guide is the only handbook anyone will need to experience these outdoor adventures. Each of the walks (and one river journey) is presented in a clear, user-friendly way, including:
– An overview and highlights
– Planning notes
– Track description
– Points of interest
– Other things to do in the area

Also included in the book is:
– A brief history of the Great Walks
– Conservation information
– Notes on how to prepare for your trip
– Useful websites and resources

Authored by expert outdoor enthusiasts Paul and Shelley Hersey and fully illustrated with maps and stunning photography, New Zealand’s Great Walks is the guide no keen adventurer can do without!

New Zealand’s Great Walks: The Complete Guide

Paul and Shelley Hersey

Random House NZ

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

I wish I had had this when I was a happy tramper many (many) years ago.

Having done some of these I was interested in the advice and descriptions given and that DOC now requires booking of huts and does not allow camping in your own tent, for the most part, along the tracks.

This lists the nine major walks you can do Lake Waikaremoana, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Whanganui River Journey, Abel Tasman Coast Track, Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Kepler Track and Rakiura Track.

It also has schematics of the route, notes on huts, highlights to see and experience, how to prepare for your walk, what to expect and some history of the route.

There are maps of the tracks and sumptuous photographs.

There are timings given for the walks but I would have liked to know the criteria for the speed and fitness level.

I was impressed with the Points of Interest and detailed descriptions of what you can see and experience on the tracks. Though I would have expected a little more about the flora and fauna.

For people who are not a member of a Tramping Club there are descriptions and photographs of the type of clothing and equipment that is suitable to take with you on these trips. I would have added the advice to contact a local Tramping Club for advice or to do practice walks with first.

An enchanting tale of magic, friendship and adventure for readers aged 9 and up – from bestselling author, Holly Webb.

Colette lives with her mother, making beautiful dresses for the rich women of Venice. She’s never known her father, and her mother won’t speak of him – but Colette’s embroidery moves and dances, and she’s sure that there’s magic in her blood . . .

And then Colette discovers the truth: her father is a famous maskmaker and a powerful magician. But when he’s ordered to create a mask that will bend others to its will, the magic becomes too strong for him to resist. Can Colette, with the help of a talking alley cat called Max, save him?

The Magical Venice books are all share the same beautiful setting, but can be read as standalone stories. The series includes: The Water Horse, The Mermaid’s Sister, The Maskmasker’s Daughter, and The Girl of Glass.

The Maskmaker’s Daughter: Magical Venice #3

Holly Webb

Published by Orchard

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Loved it! I needed something light and magical, and this fitted the bill, perfectly. I read it in a single day. But then, it is a short novel, intended for young readers.

The setting is a magical version of renaissance Venice, a Venice that never was, rather less sordid than the reality as suits a younger readership. There are distinct advantages to a pseudo-historical setting 7for your fantasy. People generally know a bit about the background, and you don’t have to come up with a map. But you do have to think about how much magic you want to infuse into your setting, and what impact that will have on the culture of the place. Venice is in many ways a good choice; a maritime city, trading in many directions, and geographically unique. I’m not entirely sure that Holly Webb has entirely thought out the historical implications of all that magic…

The story was complete in itself, although it forms part of a series sharing that setting, together with some peripheral characters. The central character is a girl named Colette, who lives with her seamstress mother. From the outset, it is evident that her mother is ill and before long she dies. Leaving Colette in a difficult and vulnerable position. Should she go with the Countess whom she does not trust? Or to the orphanage? Just as she is preparing to run away, the father she thought was dead appears to take her away to his mask-makers workshop. And there is magic… Colette can sew magic into in the very fabric. Magic that she has inherited from her father. And there are cats…

I enjoyed this immensely, and I’m sure many young girls from intermediate school age up would love it too. As would many older ladies (and gentlemen) who count themselves as still young inside. Now I shall have go find the rest of the series. Oh, and the cover is not only a lovely work of art, it fits the story perfectly.

A book of wit, wisdom and golden tickets from the world’s greatest storyteller – Roald Dahl.

From advice on finding magic and thinking nice thoughts, to the importance of frequent whizzpopping, the writing of Roald Dahl is filled with wit and wisdom and advice for little people growing up – and big people growing down.

How not to be a Twit and other Wisdom from Roald Dahl


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

The audience for this book is unclear from the start. Whether it was an attempt to reach an audience of adults nostalgic about their favourite Roald Dahl, or to entice younger readers to give Roald Dahl stories a go, this book missed its mark twice.

The extended explanations for each section (starting with the introduction) makes a mockery of Dahl’s wit for, though the book may be attempting to channel his linguistic dexterity, it fails. Then when it comes to the division of the book, once again any adult who has read Roald Dahl, who fell in love with his stories, would be disappointed, and those who are unfamiliar with his writing would be put off from every cracking a spine. Both the sections and the selections of Dahl witticism are shallow and unimaginative, in complete disrespect of the person they are supposed to be honouring with this publication. For someone who has read every Roald Dahl novel, and a number of his short stories, it was confusing why there were numerous quotes from some stories but none for others. Even more confusing were the quotes chosen, many did not hold much (if any) wisdom and often did not seem to fit within the section it was placed.

I am not against showing insight into an author’s cannon of work (I love ‘The Wisdom according to Pooh’) but this is not that, if that was the intention. My suggestion is that if you love the work of Roald Dahl go read your favourite story again or try one you missed. If you have never read Roald Dahl my favourite was James and the Giant Peach.

From the top ten bestselling author of Middle School and I Funny comes a brilliantly original new adventure series, jam-packed with action, humour, and heart!

The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and travelling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean. But after their parents disappear on the job, the kids are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives.

They’ll have to work together to defeat dangerous pirates and dodge the hot pursuit of an evil treasure-hunting rival, all while following cryptic clues to unravel the mystery of what really happened to their parents – and find out if they’re still alive.

Treasure Hunters: Treasure Hunters #1

James Patterson with Chris Grabenstein


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

Bick, Beck, Tommy and Storm are searching for their parents who have gone missing while on a treasure hunting job. The Kidd family are full time treasure hunters but not all is as it seems and treasure hunting can get you in a heap of trouble. There are Caribbean pirates, gold, cryptic clues and an evil rival to contend with in the search. And then there is Uncle Timothy. Do they dare trust him? How much and is he really their uncle and how is he connected to the CIA? Is he all he seems? A cracking good story told in the “children out of any parental control” style of  the books I grew up with; if Arthur Ransome, the Famous Five, Pippy Longstocking and Rick Riordan had a baby…..

On an ordinary morning in her village, Talia Ridgetree has no idea the adventure she is going to be captured on and taken for, nor does she have any inkling to the looming mystery of her past. With the cast of a powerful spell from the evil forces of the Blood Wizard, Talia must embark on a journey with an assorted cast of companions, from the village she calls home, to an elven forest. In the company of a pompous wizard, a strong woodsman, an herbal master, and a royal elven wizard, Talia finds herself in strange lands among strange magic.

As the stonebearer of the Talisman of Hope, Talia must find her inner strength and courage to tolerate the magic and mysticism around her. Questions assail her of who she calls family, who she can trust, and what she can ultimately believe. In the face of pending war and tragedy, Talia struggles to be true to her heart and soul as she treks to faraway lands in search of answers, all the meanwhile fending off the wickedness of the Blood Wizard, battling unimaginable beasts, overcoming biases, and freeing captured creatures.

The Stonemason’s Curse: Talisman of Hope Book One

Janet Bradley

Published by Austin Macauley Publishers

Supplied by Austin Macauley

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I did try. I got about half-way through this work before I simply gave up. I found myself looking wistfully at the to-be-read pile, and then at this book with distaste… altogether too often. So, the challenge for me as a reviewer is to figure out just what was so very wrong with it. And it seems to me that there are four main issues.

First, world design. This is a very Tolkien-esque high fantasy, with elves, little people, and so on. But where was the map? There has to be a map. It also felt very derivative. Changing a few race names isn’t enough to create an original and vibrant world. That said, there were some interestingly dangerous monsters… the Stonemason and the poisonous Sillatour in particular.

Second, the plot, such as it was. It was very linear, essentially a chase sequence. But all the locations seemed oddly close together. I really would have liked to have seen a map – it’s a staple of the genre, for good reason. It also felt odd that the principle MacGuffin, the talisman, was introduced as simply sitting on a shelf in the wizard Brymble’s house, among a row of orbs (who knows what happened to the rest of them).

Third, there are the characters, especially the elven prince Ivus. I don’t mind a bit of romance in my fantasy, but this character is an arrogant lecher chasing every skirt he sees, including one of the party members… and he’s meant to be a good guy! Many of the party were undeveloped, and lacking in personality. Even Talia, the lead character, seems more of a petulant teen than anything else. Oh, and more female characters in the party would have helped the dynamic work a whole lot better.

Fourth, there’s the actual writing. I can forgive a lot if a book reads well, but this didn’t. On a very basic level there were the missing commas, the poor punctuation of speech, and even the occasional spelling mistake. More importantly the choice of words was often stilted, and it lacked the rhythm and flow that characterises good prose.

There is quite possibly a decent fantasy tale buried in this novel somewhere, but it’s struggling to get out. A good solid rewrite, losing about half the verbiage would help; as would a hard editing to find and fix all the errors. I can’t really recommend the work, but you never know, it might be just me.

In this exciting sci fi graphic novel, Helen is kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas and finds herself in the year 2355. Humankind has been enslaved by giant ‘Peace Balls’ – and Helen holds the keys to their destruction . . .

Kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas, Helen is thrust into the year 2355 — a ruined future with roving gangs and ‘Peace Balls’, giant humming devices that enslave and control people’s minds.

The Go-Go Ninjas have one goal — to destroy the Peace Balls. They believe that Helen knows how.

Can Helen use her knowledge of the past to help them save the future?

An electrifying graphic novel by award-winning authors.

Helen and the GoGo Ninjas

Ant Sang and Michael Bennett

Illustrations by Ant Sang


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Dylan Howell

‘’Helen and the gogo ninjas’ is a 2018 graphic novel by co-authors Ant Sang and Michael Bennett. This novel tells a zany time-travel adventure with a crazy dystopian future and a dark truth about what price peace comes with.

Kidnapped by time-travelling ‘go-go ninjas’, Helen is brought to the year 2355 where she discovers that mankind has been enslaved by floating ‘peace-balls’ and these ninjas believe that she knows how to save the world.

I enjoyed this graphic novel. As an avid comic book fan I don’t always get the opportunity to enjoy an illustrated text that has a fresh idea. I can safely say I have never read a book like this. How often do you have an apocalyptic, time-travel action novel? Even though it was a short read, it provided a compelling story with excellent drawings with vivid and distinct images that leave a lot to the imagination. The story moved quickly but gave enough dialogue to keep me completely in time with the events in the story. There was not a moment when I was confused.

I would recommend this as a light read or to help a child get interested in reading. I certainly enjoyed it, however I would consider the age of a potential reader  as at points the action can get mildly violent or grim. So if you aren’t comfortable with blood and the idea of dismemberment or slavery, this may not be the book for you.  Read this book with caution.

That being said, I went back to read this book several times, the story and pacing was so light it was easy to pick up, but seemingly impossible to put down because the events happen so fluidly.

Dylan Howell