Archive for December, 2018

For the very first time, eight of Lynley Dodd’s classic cat escapades are brought together in this delightful, handsome hardback gift book, complete with a ribbon.

“They sat in the firelight’s
welcoming glow,
hobnobbing happily,
ten in a

Furry Tales is a treasury of eight favourite stories featuring Lynley Dodd’s spirited and entirely adorable cats – Slinky Malinki, Scarface Claw, Pimpernel Pugh, Butterball Brown and many more. These marvellous tales will warm the hearts of Hairy Maclary fans – and cat-lovers – the world over,

It includes a readalong CD with each tale read by the fabulously entertaining Jackie Clarke and specially introduced with a personal anecdote from Lynley Dodd.

Inside the collection you will find these stories:
Slinky Malinki; The Minister’s Cat ABC; Slinky Malinki, Open the Door; Slinky Malinki Catflaps; Scarface Claw; Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers; Slinky Malinki, Early Bird; Scarface Claw, Hold Tight!

Furry Tales: A Tale of Cat Mischief

Lynley Dodd


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

First., we are introduced to the inspirations behind Lynley Dodd’s stories, with an array of cats that have touched her life being described.  We meet the original Scarface Claw and see who ispired Slinky Malinki.

Then there is a collection of eight of the famous stories, all with the beautiful artwork that illustrates the plot so well.  The readalong CD narrates each story, with the voice of Jacqui Clarke bringing each to life.

Lastly, all seven of Dodd’s cat heroes are pictured and described.

This is a fantastic book, bringing all of Lynley Dodd’s clever rhymes and awesome illustrations of cats together.  The heaviness of the hardback might be a little difficult for young children to manage without help but the CD allows them to follow along.

Merry Christmas!!!

Posted: December 25, 2018 in greetings

Empress of the Fall – Book One of The Sunsurge Quartet, the sequel series to The Moontide Quartet, which concluded in 2015.

The Emperor is dead – long live the Empress! Emperor Constant is dead and his rivals are scrabbling for power – but any misstep could plunge the land, already devastated by the shocking outcome of the Third Crusade, into a calamitous civil war. The Imperial throne is not the only one in jeopardy. Two brothers, imprisoned veterans of the Crusades, finally return home to find their father’s kingdom being plundered – but the price of regaining their birthright will have far-reaching implications for the entire empire. In the East, Sultan Salim, peacemaker and visionary ruler, faces his greatest challenge as his people demand an invasion of the West in retribution for the Rondian Crusades And lurking in the darkness, orchestrating both the power struggles and the inevitable conflicts, is a shadowy group threatening to destroy civilisation itself. Once more, Urte stands on the brink of cataclysm.

Empress of the Fall (Sunsurge Quartet Book One)

David Hair

Jo Fletcher Books

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

Part of the blurb for this novel tells the world that it’s “perfect to fill the gap before the next Game of Thrones”. I’m going to go a step further and suggest that you toss “A Song of Ice and Fire” into a suitable receptacle, and read this instead, because it’s altogether better both as a novel, and as a work of fantasy.

It’s better as a novel because the prose is very readable; it flows nicely, and vividly evokes the world of Urte. Because the characters are believable; those who turn to evil do so for credible reasons; the principle antagonist is very old, very powerful and quite mad. And because the book is very well-structured. It follows four groups of characters (if you include the masked servants of evil). There is Lyra, the titular “Empress of the Fall” who comes to the throne in autumn, after the Emperor and his entourage are killed in an attempt to destroy the Leviathan Bridge; there is Waqar and the magic-users of Kesh; and there is Kyric, a former slave who wants his kingdom back.  Remarkably, for the first novel in a quartet, it all comes to a grand climax, yet with a clever lead into the next part of the story.

It’s better as fantasy because the author has designed the world of Urte with great care and attention to detail. The magic system is one of the most elegant I’ve seen in a long time, and the consequences of having high magic in a low-tech world are worked out to an extent I’ve rarely come across. It’s a pity that the publisher didn’t include the maps in the proof copy I was sent, because the map is a very important part of world-design, especially when it is as intricate as this. But I was able to find the map for the previous series on the internet, which helped.

It isn’t often that I find a fantasy brick as enjoyable as this one; it’s been quite a while in fact, and I think I can safely commend this series to lovers of the genre, as one that will satisfy and yet leave the reader ready for more.

Once upon a poop . . .

Our fearless heroes are back!
Danny and Dinosaur are convinced that a damsel in distress needs their help… the only problem is, they aren’t sure where she actually is.

So they set off through Fairy Tale Land to track her down, but things don’t go exactly to plan…

Can Dinosaur make it through Fairy Tale Land without eating everything in sight?

And do all princesses really need to be rescued?

Packed with prehistoric cheekiness, punchy girl power and, of course, lots and lots of poop!

The Dinosaur That Pooped A Princess

Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter, illustrated by Garry Parsons

Red Fox

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

More from Danny and his dino pooper friend!

Danny is on a quest to save a princess and he and his dinosaur end up in Fairytale Land.  After being pointed in the right direction by the Gingerbread Man, they meet a variety of other fairytale characters – Three Little Pigs and Prince Charming among them – and trolls, orcs, and dragons.  Finally they find the princess’s castle, only to realise they can’t reach her.  Then the dinosaur comes up with a plan………….

The plot unfolds in rhythmic sentences that are a lot of fun to read aloud.  The illustrations are awesome, bright and colourful with much detail.  The ending is very cool and how all fairytales should end.

This is another brilliant book in the series and I urge you to collect the set.  I love the cute cover quote from a 6 yr old fan “I like that he poops, but how does he wipe his bum?”  My 4 yr old test reader is now 7 and still loves this series and her mum is happy as she can enjoy the story now Brooke can read by herself.

Discovered picking pockets at Coxford’s Corn Market, fourteen year old Sin is hunted across the city. Caught by the enigmatic Eldritch Moons, Sin is offered a way out of his life of crime: join the Covert Operations Group (COG) and train to become a spy. At Lenheim Palace, Sin learns spy craft while trying not to break the school’s Cast-Iron Rules. Befriended by eccentric Zonda Chubb, together they endeavour to unmask a traitor causing havoc within the palace. After an assassination attempt on the founder of COG, Sin realises that someone closest to him could be the traitor. With no other option, Sin is forced into an uneasy alliance with the school bully, Velvet Von Darque.

But can he trust her? And will COG try to bury him with the secrets he discovers? Secrets, spies and steampunk gadgets abound in this fantastic adventure story!

The Traitor and the Thief

Gareth Ward

Published by Walker Books Australia

Purchased at Conclave 3

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I am not sure what I was expecting when I embarked on this young adult novel, but it wasn’t a steampunk school story. It doesn’t start out that way… It starts out with a boy named Sin, who is just another street kid in an alternate England. Or so it seems. Then he’s caught and sent to a school for young spies, tasked to find the traitor in their midst. And it all goes down from there… deep into intrigue and dark and dastardly goings on.

I loved the word-play, and the way the author uses language to give each of the main characters a distinct voice. The world is well-realised, better than many steam-punk fantasies I’ve come across. And the plot rollicks on at a cracking pace. It’s a fun book, and I’m certain that many a young reader would enjoy it immensely. This book definitely deserved its SJV, and I look forward to seeing more from Gareth.

From the bestselling author of I Am Number Four, United As One is the final, hugely thrilling novel in the utterly gripping Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore . . .

It is the end.

And the final battle will commence . . . with Earth as the battlefield.

If they stand together, if they are united, if they are one . . . there will be a slim chance of victory.

The Mogadorian invasion has come to Earth, and they have all but won the battle for our planet. Their warships loom over our most populous cities-like New York City, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing, and New Delhi-and no army will risk making a move against them. The Garde are all that stand in their way . . . but they are no longer alone in this fight. Human teens from across the globe, like John Smith’s best friend, Sam Goode, have begun to develop Legacies of their own.

The Garde have always known there is power in numbers. If they can find these new allies and join forces with them, they just might be able to win this war. The time has come for the Garde to make their final stand.

True power lies in the numbers . . .

United as One (Lorien Legacies #7

Pittacus Lore aka James Frey and Jobie Hughes


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

It’s never easy to get into the seventh (and apparently last) book of a long-running serial, and in this case the authors seem to be almost deliberately making it difficult for the new reader. There is absolutely no introduction, and not much explanation of what is going on until page 50, where there is a conference with some military personnel who get to clarify the situation. It doesn’t help that the writers have chosen to narrate the story in first-person present; indicating a change of narrator only by changing the font. There is nothing to inform the reader who is talking, or where and when. It may be stylish, but this is one majorly confusing literary style that desperately needs to go out of fashion.

Another problem is the writers’ scientific illiteracy. If you’re going to write science fiction of any sort, you need to know enough astronomy not to make statements like “the fleet isn’t capable of another intergalactic trip”; using the word ‘intergalactic’ when you really mean ‘interstellar”. Or at least employ a proof-reader who does know some basic astronomy.

On the positive side, I did like the character of General Lawson. Nice change to see military officials who aren’t totally unsympathetic in a story like this. Only he gets very little screen time; most of that is centred on our more-or-less interchangeable gang of teenagers. The underlying premise of the Lorien Legacies is essentially Aliens v. Teenage Superheroes (who are also aliens or alien-afflicted). This results in a great deal of somewhat implausible and overblown action beginning around p200 when the big attack on the alien base commences. It rapidly becomes extraordinarily violent, and quite gruesome. Yet another reason I would not recommend this series to actual teenagers.

There is a surfeit of teenage angst, and that never fails to irritate me – why can’t it be old people that get the superpowers for a change? Honestly, it’s all been done before and done far better. The kids seem to have gone nuts over this series, it’s very popular, and I’m inclined to wonder if that’s partly because for them these ideas might seem new and exciting. But I’m old enough to have grown up with psionics done right, with Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, and Larry Niven (remember “The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton”?). I’d suggest to anyone interested in this sort of thing that they chuck the “Lorien Legacies”, and pick up something like McCaffrey’s “Talents” series. Far superior.

An intimate look at Wellington’s beloved Cuba Street – the place, the people, the food.

More than just a cookbook.

Cuba Street has many faces. Restaurants, cafés, record shops, fashion outlets — and the bucket fountain. Cuba Street has iconic status in Wellington – its colour and character over the last few decades have made it a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. From the late lamented Matterhorn and Mighty Mighty, to Midnight Espresso, Logan Brown and Ombra, the street is filled with places and people worth remembering.

Beth Brash is a Wellington-based foodie and blogger. She knows the local food scene extremely well, having been the manager of the popular Beervana festival and now programme manager for Visa Wellington On a Plate. She and her photographer sister, Alice Lloyd, spent a summer capturing the essence of Cuba Street, visiting all the eateries and off-beat shops, with Alice taking the photographs and Beth researching, interviewing and gathering recipes. The fascinating result is The Cuba Street Project.

The Cuba Street Project

Beth Brash & Alice Lloyd

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Wellington’s Cuba Street, named for an early settler ship, has always been a little bit different. From humble beginnings as one of Wellington’s markets, it has morphed through light industrial, back to trade and retail, but always with a few eateries thrown in. It is still the heart of the city’s Red-Light district, though now prostitution is legal it just becomes more bohemian. And then there’s the Bucket Fountain….

Beth Brash has written a book, kindly illustrated with photos by Alice Lloyd, that celebrates the food culture of Cuba Street. While the street is decidedly bohemian, tending to working class, several of Wellington’s most famous fine dining restaurants were or are established on this street; Orsini’s and Logan Brown to name but two.

Beth takes a leisurely stroll up from where it begins, opposite the Fowl House (Wellington’s Town Hall) through Cuba Mall before finishing on the lower slopes of Mt Cook suburb. Along the way she investigates the history of each location chosen, talks to the current inhabitants, then cribs a recipe or two off them. It’s part cookbook – did I mention that? And there are some really good recipes in here. The sources vary from a coffee shop operating out of a converted shipping container to Logan Brown, coffee shops to Malaysian. What is interesting is how tight knit the Te Aro/Cuba Street hospitality industry is

I got to review this book because I’m originally from Wellington and am familiar with the geography and people. In fact, I’ve had protracted conversations over the course of many months with several of the people interviewed and can thoroughly recommend Beth’s assessment of both the Cuba Street and the eateries. It’s all about the food and the sense of community. Bloody good book, bloody good street, bloody Bucket Fountain (but don’t you dare remove it).