Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

A groundbreaking history of the first, horrific day of one of the most notorious, bloody offensives of all time, from its inept planning to its disastrous execution.

It took several million bullets and roughly half an hour to destroy General Sir Douglas Haig’s grand plans for the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. By day’s end 19,240 British soldiers were dead, crumpled khaki bundles scattered across pasture studded with the scarlet of poppies and smouldering shell holes. A further 38,230 were wounded. This single sunny day remains Britain’s worst-ever military disaster, both numerically and statistically more deadly than the infamous charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava in 1854. Responsible were hundreds of German machineguns and artillery batteries waiting silently to deal death to the long-anticipated attack. Someone had blundered.

Working back from the “butcher’s bill” of mass casualties on the battlefield, to the inept planning in London’s Whitehall, the author penetrates the “fog of war” to explain how and why this was a human disaster waiting to happen. Told fully from both the British and German perspectives for the first time, this book sheets home blame for the butchery (a total of almost 60 thousand casualties) directly to widespread British intelligence and command failure. It further finds the outcome was very definitely a German victory over a so-called British defeat, and, again for the first time, identifies how talented German commanders mostly outclassed their opposite numbers and inflicted the galling bloodletting. Taking that terrible first day of battle as his focus, Andrew Macdonald casts new and damning light on the true causes of the disaster.

First Day of the Somme: The complete account of Britain’s worst-ever military disaster

Andrew MacDonald

HarperCollins

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

The Battle of the Somme during WWI got off to a poor start for the British army, resulting in their worst one day military losses ever. Naturally, this has attracted many authors and historians, New Zealand historian being the latest. His book benefits from examination of not only British but also German archival documents.

The Somme Offensive needs to be placed in context of the overall military and diplomatic situation of the war. MacDonald does this, as well as examining the geography and weather leading up to and on the day. Both were important. Equally important was the intelligence the Germans had gathered observing British preparations and interpreting the behaviour of the forces opposite them. If General Haig had wanted a surprise attack, events beyond his control prevented it.

MacDonald examines the first day of the battle from both British and German perspectives, with diary entries adding colour. The Germans, for their part, after suffering several days of bombardment, were itching for revenge. Surviving the bombardment depended on the quality of the German commander.

As a general rule, the day’s events are mapped out from north to south, although one British Corps is seemingly discussed out of order. The book would have been stronger to have this corps lead. Completion of objectives set by Haig improved the further south one went. This was due to a number of factors, not least German strategic appreciations. MacDonald also comments on and compares French performance during the battle with that of the British.

Military disasters are not usually due to one cause, and MacDonald goes to great lengths to prove this. He also examines the broader length of the Battle of the Somme, demonstrating that what started as tragedy ended as an Entente victory. For those interested in WWI, this is a worthwhile book and I thoroughly recommend it.

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Four kids on a quest to find the legendary Mines of King Solomon… and their parents.

Bick, Beck, Storm and Tommy are navigating their way down the Nile, from hot and dusty Cairo to deep dark jungles, past some seriously bad guys along the way.

They’ll need all their survival instincts just to make it out alive..

Danger Down the Nile Treasure Hunters #2

James Patterson with Chris Grabenstein

Arrow

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

The children of the Kidd family continue to hunt for their main lost treasures, their parents, missing while on a treasure hunting adventure. If the first book was all about pirates and the Caribbean the second moves the action to Egypt. The children follow the clues left by their parents through hot dusty Cairo, fetid jungle and dodge bad guys and uncle Timothy who may or may not be CIA, at every turn. He cannot understand why, if they are searching for Kings Solomon’s Mines, why are they after a Chinese Ming Vase?

MAnother exciting adventure in  the Treadsure Hunters series that kept me turning pages eagerly.

. he highly anticipated coming-of-age story of kick-ass super hero: Catwoman by international bestselling author Sarah J. Maas.
When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

In this third DC Icons book-following Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker-Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse, forming unexpected friendships and entangling herself with Batwing by night and her devilishly handsome neighbor Luke Fox by day. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull off the heist that’s closest to her heart?

Catwoman Soulstealer

Sarah J. Maas

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Gotham City is not an easy world to leave; the heroes always have something to prove and the villains always have someone to destroy. But not all heroes are admirable and not all villains are despicable. Sarah J. Maas’ Catwoman Soulstealer is the third in the DC Icon Series delving into unexploited backstory of one of our favourite anti-villains, Catwoman.

In true Gotham style, the setting is gritty and unforgiving of weakness in either the wealthy or the deprived. Selina Kyle uses her mental and physical agility to not only protect those she loves and survive, but to thrive. A woman of many enviable talents, her strongest skill is her humanity. In a world that cultivates mistrust and crushes hope Selina forges alliances will Ivy and Harlequin, two similarly broken dolls barely keeping the pieces together, to  pull a robin hood (or two) against the rich and powerful of Gotham’s elite and its underbelly.

Throughout the novel, the reader is taken on a well-crafted trip into a world we think we know, teased along the way with promises of a happy ending. We are not disappointed, and though we don’t get what we expect we get what we deserve, as just like in the real world, the Sarah J. Maas’ characters are complicated, their experiences shape them in unexpected ways and the ending is only the beginning.

Ever since working at the River Café for Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Jamie Oliver has had a serious passion for Italian food. Now, ten years later, Italy and its wonderful flavours continue to have a major influence on his food and cooking. In Jamie’s Italy, Jamie travels this famously gastronomic country paying homage to the classic dishes of each region and searching for new ideas to bring home. The result is a sensational collection of Italian recipes, old and new, that will ensure Italy’s influence reaches us all.

On the menu is an array of magical ingredients and Mediterranean flavours all combined in Jamie Oliver’s inimitable way. From Parma ham to Parmesan, from pannetone to panzanella, Jamie’s Italy will transport you to Italy or at least bring Italy home to you.

Jamie’s Italy

Jamie Oliver

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

This is the book that goes with Jamie’s Italy, his latest TV series, but rather than the episode by episode format, it begins in traditional fashion with antipasto and ends with dessert. The recipes are interspersed with pictures and stories from Jamie’s favourite Italian nonnas – I was quite touched by the story of the last Jewish nonna of Pitigliano, and by Jamie’s efforts to keep her recipe for Jewish Artichokes alive by including it in the book. There are plenty of pictures throughout, illustrating most if not all of the recipes; and a number of techniques are demonstrated in step-by-step format. It’s not really a guide to Italian cooking as such, it’s way too quirky for that, but it does cover all the bases – there are recipes for risottos, for pizzas, for gnocchi, and many recipes for pasta – including methods for making your own orecchiette and agnolotti from scratch.     Now, I know that Jamie Oliver isn’t everybody’s favourite celebrity chef, but I will say this, he does know how to write a good recipe, and somebody has thoroughly tested these. I didn’t have great hopes for the chocolate chickpea cake, but it sounded quirky and I knew my geeky friends would enjoy guessing the weird ingredient. I should not have worried, it proved to be one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made; still moist and tasty ten days later when I finished off the last little bit, forgotten in the tin.

The book itself is a fairly hefty hardback, which sits flat on the bench mainly by virtue of sheer weight. There are over two hundred recipes inside, many of them quite new to me at least, and some I doubt you’d find anywhere else. Not a book for beginners perhaps, but definitely one to expand your Italian repertoire.

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

Viking

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.