Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

A comprehensive guide to all 15 New Zealand National Parks, with bird’s-eye view maps. Wild About New Zealand: Our National Parks is based on the Natural History New Zealand-produced television series made to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the New Zealand’s first national park.

This comprehensive book with magnificent photographs and lively text, digs deep into what each of New Zealand’s 14 national parks, and the Hauraki Gulf marine park, offers the visitor. The generous sections on each park include an overview essay that covers the park’s history and outstanding natural features, compelling interviews that give the ‘character’ of each park through profiles of people who live work and play in the parks, a helpful ‘visitors’ guide’ of ‘The Five Top Activities’ in the park and what to do if you have one day, 2 u 3 days, or 3u5 days, also fantastic bird’s-eye-view maps that show the key points of the terrain

Mostly written by outdoor adventurer Gus Roxburgh (the TV series appealing presenter) and generously illustrated throughout with outstanding photographs by Jason Hosking, Wild About New Zealand is both an entertaining and useful guide as well as being a stunning celebration of New Zealand’s amazingly diverse national parks.

Published by Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

New Zealand has 14 National Parks and it has been 125 years since the first at Mt Tongariro was established, (beating the USA by 26 years). These areas have been both sanctuaries for wildlife and areas of economic boom for tourism. In this book you get a history of each park, first-hand experience from locals and top tips for a tourist interested in visiting and partaking in the activities available in these areas of great natural beauty. No matter how long you visit for there are activities listed for the a one day visitor or for those who stay longer.

 

Wise, tough, heart-breaking, funny, this compulsive love story is about facing your demons.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, but that’s when things really fall apart.

I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .

*this book contains adult themes and is suitable for readers aged 16+*

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Trying to fit in to a new town, Rebecca goes to a party, gets drunk and goes for a walk on the beach to clear her head, when she is raped.  She doesn’t tell anyone as she fears being labelled a slut.  Her new cute neighbour likes her but he is friends with her rapist.  He can’t understand why she doesn’t want to go to places with him where she might run into his friends and thinks it is him that is the problem.

This was a tough book to read but but very well written and not graphic.  It covers the hard-to-talk-about topics of rape, self harm, and suicide in a natural way.  The main character got on my nerves after a while with the way she constantly put herself down, she annoyed me and I didn’t really like her.  But then again I’m not this book’s target audience and can’t relate to a lot of the aspects (thankfully).  I really enjoyed the ending – it as a plot twist I didn’t see coming.  I love endings like that!

This is a beautifully written book that deals with some serious issues New Zealand doesn’t really talk about.  It is well worth reading and I’m recommending it to my cousin’s daughters.  The contact numbers at the back for agencies that offer support for the issues raised was a caring touch.

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
– Introduction by Gardner Dozois
– “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie – A Red Country story
– “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
– “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
– “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
– “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
– “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
– “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
– “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
– “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
– “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson – A Cosmere story
– “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
– “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
– “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
– “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
– “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon – An Outlander story
– “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
– “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
– “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
– “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
– “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
– “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story

Published by Harper Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins

Reviewed by Steve

While Gardner Duzois and George R.R. Martin are better known for fantasy/science fiction anthologies and writing respectively, they have collaborated here as editors of a collection that purports to be about dangerous women. The range of fiction collected is very broad – historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, crime, and fantasy/science fiction. Most of the authors I had heard of, but there were one or two new faces and they didn’t disappoint.

I could discern no obvious pattern in the ordering of the stories, which may have been intentional. Historical fiction camped by science fantasy and crime fiction. Which meant I had to at least sample the style if I wanted to do a good job of reviewing. As well as the volume’s introduction, each author and story was introduced. A good idea as I doubt any but the most vociferous reader would know all of the authors and their genres.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories I felt didn’t jibe, primarily from the historical authors – when writing about medieval royalty, historical reality has to be contended with. That said, historical fiction, and Carrie Vaughn’s Raisa Stepanova could loosely be claimed as such, also produced a couple of winners in the above Vaughn piece and Diana Gabaldon’s Virgins. Jim Butcher’s Bombshells was an excellent piece of urban fantasy, and also gives hope to every Harry Dresdon fan alive (and maybe one or two of the dead, it is fantasy, you know). And while George R.R. Martin is frustrating all by not finishing the A Song of Fire and Ice saga, he is at least still alive and whets our appetite with the final tale in the volume, a prequel in that universe.

I enjoyed the anthology

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Published by Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

There are two important aspects to reviewing any novel; the story and how it is told. In the case of “Sleeping Giants” how it is told is so unusual, that I have to question whether it is technically a novel. It is certainly a work of fiction, but is written as a series of transcripts of interviews and reports, mostly involving a mysterious “Man in Black”. This gives a strange sense of remoteness from the characters and from events. The characters speak for themselves certainly, but the reader never gets inside their heads, to know what they are really thinking. If that style is going to irritate you, then don’t invest your time and money on this book.

Then there’s the story. Now, this is proper science fiction, utilising the well-trodden trope of alien artefacts, long buried on Earth, coming to the surface. Literally, in this case.

Where the author puts a contemporary spin on the story is to have various parts of the artefact spread around the planet, sometimes in less than easily accessible places, resulting in interesting political complications. I’m not entirely convinced by some of the events – the author stretches the long arm of coincidence a bit too far in places. And really the whole “backwards knees” thing is unnecessary (and most likely based on a common fallacy regarding avian anatomy). However, I did appreciate the references to both Biblical and Greek mythology (it is called the Themis Trilogy for a good reason).

0Overall, for me this book proved to be a solid win. There are negatives, but there are strong enough positives that it was an enjoyable read, and one I can safely recommend.

 

Zeus has punished his son Apollo–god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers? After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships–with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

It’s all about Apollo. Apollo is still banished from Olympus, still in the body of a pimply teen called Lester Papadopoulos and still on his quest to find the oracle that may have the answers to help him get back into Zeus’ good books. It’s all about Apollo. Accompanied by his friends he is traveling the mid-west, keeping an eye out for and battling monsters sent to destroy them all. It’s all about Apollo but not everyone loves the coolest of gods, ok, former god, and wants to help him as a matter of course because… he’s Apollo. It’s all about Apollo, however he may be beginning to just slightly be aware, that demi-gods and humans are not as, well, disposable, as he has thought up till now. It’s all about Apollo but in fact he is getting quite fond of these beings who are brave and loyal. It’s all about Apollo, but maybe getting in a big bowl of popcorn and slamming a few cold ones down as you watch a battle, where armies are tearing each other up in your name, from the comfort of Olympus, may not have been…..cool.

It’s all about Apollo but maybe it can be about others too?

 

Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister.

Fig Tree

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Born into a subsistence-level existence in North Korea, Yeonmi’s father, a smuggler of metals, is sent to a labour camp and her family struggle even more.  When he is released, he is a broken man and dies quickly and quietly, leaving the family with no future. Yeonmi and her mother cross into China, leaving her sister behind.

Once there, they are split up and sold several times, with Yeonmi becoming harsh and eventually trafficking other girls to survive. They became friends with another North Korean illegal immigrant and planned their escape.  Almost in South Korea, they are found by Chinese and Korean missionaries who arranged for their passage and papers.

Safe in South Korea, they enter a program to adjust North Koreans to life there.  After several years Yeonmi goes to Costa Rica as a missionary with an American group.   After publishing her story, Yeonmi and her mother are reunited with her sister, who had also escaped to China.

This gives an insight into how North Korea is more than just a repressive country ruled by a fat dude with a bad haircut that threatens to launch nuclear weapons every time he has a bad day.  The poop competition made me laugh though.  I had never thought about how defectors are integrated into South Korea and found the re-education program interesting.

Heart-breaking, horrific, yet inspiring; this is a powerful book that everyone should read.  It’s amazing how Yeonmi can still smile and fight for the humans rights of others.

Have you ever wondered why New Zealand’s plants and animals are so different from those in other countries? Why kakapo is the only parrot in the world that cannot fly, or why the kiwi lives here and nowhere else? New Zealand is an extraordinary place, unique on earth, and the remarkable story of how and why life evolved here is the subject of Ghosts of Gondwana.

The challenge of explaining New Zealand’s natural origins is picked up in this fully revised edition of the popular award-winning book. It presents the latest scientific research in highly readable form, highlighting studies that reveal the deep historical background of our landscapes, fauna and flora – from ancient frogs and moa to delicate insects and the magnificent southern beech forests. It introduces the latest discoveries and resolves past issues like the ‘Oligocene drowning’ hypothesis. Exciting fossil discoveries are revealed and new scientific technologies and approaches to the discipline of historical biogeography are discussed – approaches that range from undersea geology to molecular clocks – and it inevitably draws attention to the debates and conflicts that distinguish different schools of opinion in this holistic branch of theoretical science.

This revision incorporates the results of 10 years of intensive scientific research and includes four entirely new chapters to: focus on ‘yesterday’s maps’ to draw attention to the ephemeral islands in our history that have possibly acted as stepping stones for terrestrial animals and plants but today have sunk into the sea; incorporate the author’s own special interest in an ancient group of ‘jaw-moths’, unknown and unnoticed by most people but with a strong message that New Zealand is part of the world when it comes to explaining where our fauna have come from; present recent research findings on our huge flightless birds, the ratites; and include New Zealand’s terrestrial molluscs into the story.

Ghosts of Gondwana identifies New Zealand as one of the most challenging places on earth to explain, but it’s readable, engaging style and revised illustrations render this often-controversial discipline of science into a format that is accessible to any reader with an interest in natural history and the unique environment of New Zealand.

Potton & Burton

Supplied by Potton & Burton

Reviewed by Steve

Ever wondered where the native flora and fauna of New Zealand came from? Were they here from time out of mind, or did they migrate from somewhere else? And where was that somewhere? George Gibbs, a former lecturer in Biology at Victoria University, tries to answer these questions. He also explains why it is so difficult to provide decent answers: a rather poor fossil record. However, there have been some new and exciting developments in Central Otago that Gibbs dips into.

Gibbs has divided the book into four sections: unique Aotearoa, seeking explanations, explanations for New Zealand life, and made in New Zealand. The section titles are obvious: New Zealand has a decidedly unique bioscape, from a scientific point of view this needs to be explained, some theories work better than others for different plants or animals, and there are the biota that that define New Zealand and nowhere else.

Thus Gibbs takes us on a journey through plate tectonics, the disintegration of Gondwana, the slow drowning of the mini-continent of Zealandia and the ridge islands that extended as far as New Caledonia, as well as the competing theories as to what happened here geographically speaking. Throughout the telling, it becomes obvious that New Zealand shares a considerable amount of its biological ancestry with Australia, southern South America, and the currently under-inhabited Antarctica.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Gibbs’s style is easy for the curious layman to follow, and key concepts are explained both verbally and with the aid of diagrams. By the end of it not only did I feel an almost instant expert, but was filled with a desire to contribute to the discussion. Buy it.