Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

When Baron Morgarath escaped to avoid punishment for treason, an uneasy peace fell on Araluen. But the Rangers know Morgarath will be planning his next move. King Duncan must prepare for war.

Halt volunteers for a seemingly impossible task – climbing the deadly cliffs of the Mountains of Rain and Night and venturing deep into enemy territory to spy on Morgarath. Meanwhile, Crowley must ensure the Queen’s safety as she undertakes her own perilous journey for the sake of her unborn child.

Morgarath’s force of savage, inhuman Wargals seems unstoppable against Duncan’s depleted army. One wrong move could mean defeat. At the Battle of Hackham Heath, the fate of a kingdom will be decided.

Published by Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Flanagan didn’t exactly plan his world for a series of prequels. The placement of the plateau known as the “Mountains of Rain and Night” in the south-east of Araluen makes little sense geographically, and I keep wondering if they were present in the chronologically later novels that he wrote earlier. I’m also beginning to question numbers and distances in his world. King Duncan’s army takes on Morgoroth’s monstrous Wargals with barely five hundred men. There were at least six thousand English at Agincourt, and many more French. Medieval armies could theoretically march 15-18 miles in a day, so how close is Castle Araluen to Hackham Heath, if the King’s army gets there in a matter of days? There is no scale on the map.

That said, other details in Flanagan’s work are well thought out. His army needs to be fed and supplied (although what Wargals eat when they can’t get human is a mystery). The plot is straightforward. The Queen is having a baby, but meanwhile the Kingdom is under threat from Morgoroth’s beasts. The Rangers must scout out Morgoroth’s stronghold, protect the Queen, and then guide the King’s army into battle. And of course, it’s the Rangers who save the day in the end.

I find Flanagan’s prose very easy to read and enjoyable. If only he would create a new and wholly original fantasy world, doing a proper job of world-design, I could really get into his work. But he persists in writing more stories about the same world, and from what I’ve seen, even his fans are tiring of the similarities.

 

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They told Derek Calver that he’d find an odd bunch among the Rim Runners out on the edge of space: Refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission from the Survey Service, the Waverly Royal Mail and the Trans-Galactic Clip¬pers, and so on. But Calver didn’t mind; he said he was a refugee from the Com¬mission himself.

He might have added that he was a refugee from Derek Calver, the mistakes he had made, the opportunities he had thrown away, the dreams that had been lost. And there, aboard the Lorn Lady, the worn-out obsolete ship that, like most of the others here, had once been a proud vessel of the inner worlds, he found Jane Arlen, who called herself “Calamity” Jane and avoided men for fear of the disaster she was sure she would bring them.

One of Jane’s first questions when she met Calver was: “Are you a happy drunk?”

When he said “no,” she continued: “Then you’re one of us. You’ll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of eternity in a super-annuated rust-bucket held together with old string & …

Avalon Books (1961)

Reviewed by Jacqui

Among the better reasons for owning an e-book reader is that it allows you to access good old SF books which are long out of print. I’ve been meaning to read more of Chandler and thought I should start at the beginning, by re-reading his first novel. Now, while I do believe I do have a physical copy of The Rim of Space downstairs, itself quite elderly, I found the e-book convenient, especially when stuck waiting for medical appointments.

There is no doubt that The Rim of Space is quite old-fashioned in many ways. Chandler’s spaceships are classic rocketships, lifting vertically from spaceports. One of the adventures in this novel even involves a struggle to keep the Lorn Lady upright on planet in a storm. The crew is predominately male, except for “Calamity Jane” Arlen the Purser and Cook, and predictably our hero, Derek Calver, is male. But, that said, Arlen is no wilting pansy, she can stand up for herself. As does the novel. It is very much a sequence of episodes in the life of Derek Calver following leaving the Interstellar Transport Commission and the bright stars of the galactic centre for the Rim Worlds and the Lorn Lady. It should be simple classic pulp SF, but it isn’t.

First, Chandler’s background as a merchant seaman adds a realism rarely found in the pulps, not so much in the technology, but in the setting and in the ways people handle long voyages. Second, he has a fine talent for prose; the book reads very well. But most interesting are the insightful ideas slipped in here and there, sometimes well ahead of their time. Is it wise to sell technology to primitive cultures? What are the consequences? And then there is the rim ghost…

It’s great, rip-roaring stuff, science fiction of a by-gone era perhaps, but it’s still fun for a relaxing undemanding read, just what you need in that waiting room – just don’t expect too much political correctness…

Hitler is determined to start a war.

Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace.

The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there.

Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Hutchinson

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Simon

Munich, Robert Harris’s latest offering, is a political thriller set during the ongoing political foment of late 1930s Europe. The story is told from two points of view: one is Hugh Legat, a Foreign Office staff member attached to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s office; and the other is Paul Hartmann his counterpart and former friend in the German Foreign Office in Berlin. Paul is also a member of the anti-Nazi German opposition – resistance being too strong a word.

The latest crisis is Hitler’s proposed invasion of Czechoslovakia due to settle the Sudetenland transfer once and for all. That invasion is opposed by the British, French and Czechoslovak governments, and also by large parts of the German regime because the German army, and the German populace in general, is unprepared for war.

Munich the novel centres round the four day period covering the diplomatic negotiations, and attendant espionage efforts of the German opposition, held in Munich that prevented the outbreak of war in 1938.

I found the novel to be an easy and enjoyable read as it re-emphasised the personal nature of Anglo-German relations and the horror of another major European war held by most political leaders of the time.

 

It’s all down to who you trust. Aiden O’Hara has been head of the family since he was kid, and he’s going to keep it that way. Jade Dixon is the one who watches his back. Mother of his son. The one who makes him invincible. But Jade’s been in the game a lot longer than Aiden. She knows no one’s indestructible. And when you’re at the top, that’s when you’ve got to watch the hardest. Especially the ones closest to you…

Headine

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Reeva O’Hara is a fighter, pregnant at 14, she went on to have 4 more, all with different dads.  While she’s had a tough life, she loves her kids and they adore her.

Aiden O’Hara is the eldest and knows Reeva is a naive mess who attracts the wrong sort of men.   He steps up to look after the family and rises quickly in the London criminal underworld.

Jade Dixon is his lover, mother of his son, the only person he listens to.  In the underworld for much longer than Aiden, she knows no one is untouchable.

Aiden is a psychopath with no conscience though, and those closest to him know it.

This book is part of the successful formula of Martina Cole and enjoyable, though not her best work.  It kept me turning pages and the end was shocking to me as I didn’t see it coming.

A fun read.

Review of No Middle Name – Lee Child

Posted: September 6, 2017 in action, Review
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Jaack ‘No Middle Name’ Reacher, lone wolf, knight errant, ex military cop, lover of women, scourge of the wicked and righter of wrongs, is the most iconic hero for our age. This is the first time all Lee Child’s shorter fiction featuring Jack Reacher has been collected into one volume.

A brand-new novella, Too Much Time, is included, as are those previously only published in ebook form: Second Son, James Penney’s New Identity, Guy Walks Into a Bar, Deep Down, High Heat, Not a Drill and Small Wars. Added to these is every other Reacher short story that Child has written: Everyone Talks, Maybe They Have a Tradition, No Room at the Motel and The Picture of the Lonely Diner. Read together, these twelve stories shed new light on Reacher’s past, illuminating how he grew up and developed into the wandering avenger who has captured the imagination of millions around the world.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Review by Lee Murray

The bio at the back of No Middle Name says one of Lee Child’s “novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every 20 seconds’ and that they’re ‘published in over 100 territories’. So it stands to reason that a fair number of us are familiar with Child’s vagrant hero, the hard-living keen-eyed Marine Corps kid turned military cop. And true to form, this complete collection of short stories featuring Child’s iconic character comprises all the things we’ve come to love about the Child/Reacher franchise:

A bar. Pretty much every Reacher story has one, where the military ex-cop observes every misplaced floorboard, evaluating each shifty-eyed character leaning up against the mahogany before ordering a beer and maybe a cheeseburger. More than once he’ll have a chat with the downtrodden waitress, who typically talks too much, or perhaps says too little which, to an ex-cop, is a tell in itself.

A bus stop, train station, trail, or a road trip in a beat-up van. Child’s hero comes from nowhere, stops a few days, and then moves on to somewhere, which could be anywhere ‒ a fact which makes these stories both fleeting and fierce.

USA. Child’s writing reeks of America, its small towns, sprawling cities, and broken down street corners, and he does it better than most with dusty, weather-beaten worn-out observations which are so familiar they sparkle:

“The city was pitch black, still dead, like a creature on its back.”

“The vacation cabins were laid out haphazardly, like a handful of dice thrown down.”

 “They drove a long, long time in the dark, and then they hit neighbourhoods with power, with traffic lights and street lights and the occasional lit room. Billboards were bright, and the familiar night-time background of orange diamonds on black velvet lay all around.”

And this is Jack Reacher so we cannot go past the obligatory ‘what are you looking at?’ scene, where 6 foot 5 Reacher doesn’t provoke the fight but after weighing up the options and reminding us he doesn’t like running, takes down every two-bit thug in the vicinity. It’s part of his charm.

No story would be complete without the disenfranchised citizen who somehow needs saving, and naturally, Reacher, with no place to go and nothing to lose, is the only one to do it.

And finally, for every story there is the roundhouse kick of a finish that you simply didn’t see coming.

No Middle Name includes five Jack Reacher novellas and several shorter stories. Like Reacher himself, they’re good company for an hour, like taking a rest stop at a small town café to sip coffee and watch the bustle, before stepping back onto the Greyhound of our lives. Recommended.

A multi-award winning writer and editor, Lee Murray’s latest titles include the military thriller Into the Mist (Cohesion Press), and Hounds of the Underworld (RDSP) co-written with Dan Rabarts.

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.

 

 

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.