Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Assassin by Tara Moss [Jan]

Makedde Vanderwall went to Europe on a case in the last book and discovered a hit man after her, sent by the wealthy, powerful Cavanaugh family.  Now she’s missing, presumed dead by her loved ones and enemies.  She managed to kill the hit man and take over his life though.  Now she’s discovered a high price on her head and knows every hit man in Europe will be after her.  Besides, she has unfinished business with the Cavanaugh’s......

Andy Flynn, Mak’s former boyfriend, is heading up a criminal profiling unit and trying to adjust to life without her.  He’s chasing a sadistic murderer with similarities to the ‘Stiletto Killer’ and back in Sydney.  Then Mak reappears, with a laptop implicating the Cavanaugh’s in murder.  She’s determined to bring them down and needs Andy’s help.

Tightly plotted and with a lot of action, this book keeps you breathlessly reading in anticipation of finding out what happens next.  The ending was perfect.  Loved it.  It was a good ending to the series as well, with everything wrapped up nicely.  I had read the first in the Mak Vanderwall series but not the rest.  I was quickly able to follow the plot as Tara Moss gives enough back-story to enable you to understand what’s been happening, without causing the story to halt.

Title: Assassin
Author: Tara Moss
Published: HarperCollins, 2012
Series: Book 5 in Makedde Vanderwall
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Grammys 2014: The big winners

The Grammy's where on this past weekend! I'm sure you already knew that though what with NZ's very own Lorde winning 2 awards! If you're interested in who else won big on Grammy night then read on my friend.

Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves is thebombdotcom! I was so super excited when she won Best Country Song fro Merry Go Round and Best Country Album for Same Trailer, Different Park. This was so well deserved; Kacey is a brilliant song writer and her songs are so original and interesting. I think the fact that Kacey won over some of the more accomplished and well known nominees is a sign that the Grammy voters are ready for some more diverse and, dare I say, liberal content in country music.


Yeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah guuuuurl. No doubt that you already know that Lorde won 2 Grammys this year for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. We're all so super proud of her! It's so cool to watch her and her producer Joel Little go up there and represent NZ and even cooler to see the super proud look on her Mum's face! She didn't win any for her album Pure Heroine but it is brilliant so make sure you give it a listen.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

I have so much respect for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. It's so cool to see musicians who understand the responsibility and power they have to make positive changes in the world. During their performance of Same Love at the Grammys, 33 couples got married by Queen Latifah in the aisles of the audience! It was so cool to watch and when I saw Keith Urban crying at the end my little heart couldn't take it! If I had gotten married during that song I would start every conversation for the rest of my life with 'Beyonce was at my wedding'.

Macklemore won 4 awards including Best New Artist. 

Daft Punk cleaned up at the Grammys this year winning 4 trophies including Record of the Year and Album of the Year. Daft Punk are still pretty cool/terrifying so if you get a chance to listen to their new album Random Access Memories please do, I like it but I cant get past the fact that I think my girl Taylor should've won album of the year for Red. Whatevs, it's cool. The Grammys were so much fun to watch that I vote that they air the awards on New Zealand TV every year! If you get a chance also make sure you check out the Performances by Pink, Beyonce and Taylor Swift because they are particularly cool.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Review: Graham Henry - Final Word by Bob Howitt [Jan]

The autobiography of a remarkable man, this book gives us a look at the background and life of an interesting coach.  It begins with his schooling and how he became a PE teacher, and then charts his career coaching voluntarily until rugby turned professional.  He’s a man who does things his way and isn’t afraid to tell authority where to go.

This is a well written, enjoyable story of a remarkable man and a life t hat has been lived to the fullest.  An ordinary bloke, Graham Henry as given all to succeed and encouraged others to realise their dreams.  This is an intimate look at an inspiring man who tries his best and demands it of others.

It was really interesting to get a glimpse of the mentality of professional sportspeople and the best and worst aspects of games of rugby.  He doesn’t make excuses for losses, instead explaining why he thought they happened.  Not a rugby fan, I skimmed the rugby talk but enough stayed with me to prove interesting.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book.  Bob Howitt did a good job as co-writer and there were little snippets of dry humour throughout.

Title: Graham Henry: Final Word
Author: Bob Howitt
Published: HarperCollins, 2012
Reviewer: Jan

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Reading But Not As You Know It...

Picking a best book of the year or even a selection of best books is actually kind of hard, partially because I read so much and partially because 2013 was the year I veered a little - okay make that a lot - from traditional books.

Instead I have been reading  fanfic. Lots and lots of fanfic.  Which I adore.  Still that doesn't mean that I haven given up reading more traditional and accepted stories.  But even these I have been doing in slightly less traditional means.

Because e-books and audio dramas ARE THE BEST.  Like REALLY.  I have become a major convert.

One, because with e-books I can store hundreds and hundreds of books on one little device.  No more lugging around bags bursting to the seams with books - well not as much.  Instead I can pop in all the stories, books, music and audios that I could possibly get through on a device the size of a paperback.

Two, multi tasker that I am, I can now do housework, exercise, even do my work all while getting my latest story fix courtesy of all the audio dramas I now have.

Bliss.  Utter bliss.

So instead of giving you my best of best books for 2013 here are my picks for best stories.  Because really they are all one and the same. 

A series of murders [compact disc] : a Charles Paris mystery / by Simon Brett.

I adore Bill Nighy.  But I really adore him in these series of audio dramas done by the BBC.  Wonderfully funny as well as being detective stories, Nighy is glorious as Charles Paris, a sometimes actor, a womaniser, a man who drinks and smokes too much who seems to have a knack for getting involved in solving murders.  If only they would turn these into a TV series with him starring in them my life would be complete (well almost...)

Cabin pressure. The complete series 4 [compact disc] / written by John Finnemore.

I love Benedict Cumberbatch but that's not the only reason that I choose this as one of my favourites of the year.  After all any audio that makes you laugh so hard that it causes you to shoot drink out of your nose has got to be a winner... Trust me you just have to give these a go.
  Dark Eyes: An 8th Doctor Who Adventure

Sadly we don't have these at Auckland Libraries (hint hint hint to any audio selectors) but don't let that put your off in trying to hunt them down because they are well worth it.  If you had any doubts about Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor Who then listening to all the Big Finish audio dramas will completely change your mind. 
Pines / Blake Crouch

Thrillerly, sci-fiing Pines is one of those books where you just didn't see it coming.  Even better the sequel is now out AND it's being turned into a TV series, though I'm not getting my hopes up as they'll probably ruin the book completely.  As they do...
 Sleepwalkers / Tom Grieves

Another thrillerly, sci-fiing story. I'm sensing a pattern here but that's okay I often find that I tend to go through trends with my story intakes.
Wool / Hugh Howey

An online sensation that resulted in a book deal and a movie deal, Wool is the first in a series and is just my kind of thing.  Science fiction rules (as it should) and 2013 was the year of some great science fiction books.

And there you have it. Six stories that stayed in my head.  Not necessarily the best books of the year but ones that I enjoyed along with a huge range of others.  So why not check the above out as well as these other titles that I enjoyed through 2013.

City of Bones / Cassandra Clare
The Maze Runner / James Dashner
Best Served Cold / Joe Abercrombie
The Fault In Our Stars / John Green

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review: Lost Voices by Christopher Koch [Jan]

Set in Tasmania this book has three parts, telling the stories of Hugh Dixon, a school boy in the 50’s; his great great grandfather Martin’s adventures with a notorious bushranger in the 1800’s; and a return to Hugh as he makes a life in the 70s.

The first part is rather slow, telling us about Hugh’s best friend, his desire to be an artist, and his meeting with his great uncle Walter, an acclaimed lawyer, in order to get a favour for his father.  Walter creates a bond with Hugh, encouraging him to follow his dream of being an artist and acting as a mentor, introducing him to literature and new ideas.  This lays the ground work for the next chapter in Hugh’s life and introduces Martin, a relative Walter has long admired.

Martin longs to be a writer, rebelling against his father’s wish he be a gentleman farmer.  The setting is Tasmania in the 1800s, when it served as a penal colony for British convicts.  Liam Dalton escapes his prison sentence and returns to the gang of his fellow bushranger, the legendary Luke Wilson.  On his way there, he meets Martin who persuades him to take him to Luke and see if he’ll let him write down his life story for a newspaper.  Martin stays for a while in the utopian paradise Luke Wilson has created before the actions of an evil person force him out.
Jumping forward in time, Hugh’s story resumes.  Having left school, he works as a photo retoucher for a newspaper.  He reconnects with his childhood best friend and they are on their way to achieving their dreams of being artists. Then an evil person appears to shatter those dreams.  Hugh asks another favour of Walter, to help his best friend.

After a slow start, the plot heats up and more action occurs.  I’m glad I didn’t give up reading as this is a good book.  The contrast of good and evils is shown, and interesting questions are raised, such as can there ever be a utopia?  A thought provoking book, much different from my usual reads!

Title: Lost Voices
Author: Christopher Koch
Published: HarperCollins, 2012
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Questlove's Mo Meta Blues

Mo Meta Blues by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman.

Anyone who's a fan of music should read this book but especially if you're into hip hop. Questlove is a walking musical encyclopedia and his experiences in the music industry are nothing short of fascinating.

"You have to bear in mind that [Questlove] is one of the smartest motherf*****s on the planet. His musical knowledge, for all practical purposes, is limitless." --Robert Christgau

Mo' Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone's Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences--from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a.,the last hip hop band on Earth. Mo' Meta Blues also has some (many) random (or not) musings about the state of hip hop, the state of music criticism, the state of statements, as well as a plethora of run-ins with celebrities, idols, and fellow artists, from Stevie Wonder to KISS to D'Angelo to Jay-Z to Dave Chappelle ever seen Prince roller-skate?!?

But Mo' Meta Blues isn't just a memoir. It's a dialogue about the nature of memory and the idea of a post-modern black man saddled with some post-modern blues. It's a book that questions what a book like Mo' Meta Blues really is. It's the side wind of a one-of-a-kind mind.

It's a rare gift that gives as well as takes.

It's a record that keeps going around and around.*

*From Goodreads

Monday, 13 January 2014

Adolf in Blunderland

Adolf in Blunderland: a political parody of Lewis Carroll's famous story by James Dyrenforth and Max Kester

This book. Oh my! It is something that I discovered on our wonderful blog "Treasures from the Basement" and I am so pleased to have stumbled upon it. Auckland Libraries is one of only two libraries that hold this book in New Zealand (the other being Dunedin public library). I have searched online for a copy to purchase but have only been able to find second hand (as it is out of print) copies, with the lowest price being around $60 ! I have seen copies going for more than $100 too - this book is hot property !

It is hilarious and very, very pointed. It is a radio script from a BBC play that was broadcast in October 1939, but the hard copy version of it includes some extra parts that were deemed to be inappropriate by the BBC for airing. It is also a rather disturbing read in light of what occurred in the years following, the devastation of which no one could have predicted

The story follows Alice's adventures, as Adolf encounters the same characters she did, with some slight differences.

Some of my favourites are the Mad Hatter becoming the Mad Flatterer; the Doormouse is the Doormat - representative of the German population(!); the Mock Turtle is Mock Gurbles; the Caterpillar is Neville Chamberlain, allowing Adolf to take his choice of bites out of the mushroom cap in order to make him big again, with the cap resembling a map of the world.

Adolf in Blunderland is a great laugh but it is also chilling to think of the destruction to quickly come, one which the authors could certainly not have predicted.

If you are an Alice fan, or a political cartoon fan, or a history buff, or just enjoy a laugh, you must read this!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes [Jan]

Kirby Mazrachi was gutted and left for dead, her dog died defending her; now she wants to find the others.  The other victims of the man who did this to her.  She enlists the help of Dan Velasquez a former homicide reporter now covering the sports beat.  Divorced and twice her age, he’s cynical and word weary but growing convinced of Kirby’s crazy theories.  The killer they’re tracking is Harper Curtis, who has a list of names on the wall and a House with a chilling secret.

A time-travelling serial killer.  This is a great concept I haven’t read before.  I wonder if it is based on actual events, it would explain why so many murderers are never caught.  Kirby is such a strong heroine, a survivor who doesn’t give up.  Dan contrasts with her well, someone who gave up but is willing to try once more.  The characters are lifelike and you get a view of what they are like through the glimpses of their lives before they encounter Harper for the last time.

The plot is carefully thought out and there’s a lot going on.  The story jumps around to different time periods and POVs of various characters in short chapters.  This is a story that’s chillingly addictive and fans of thrillers will enjoy it.  Lauren Beukes has written two previous books I must track down and she’s been added to my must read list.

*not strictly sf/f but a time-travelling serial killer is close enough

Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Published: HarperCollins, 2013
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

I can see for miles and miles and miles...

As you probably know by now I love a lot of different shows but one show really got my attention in 2013 and turned me into a obsessed fan.  And by obsessed I mean OBSESSED. And yes it warrants capital letters. Because this show is that good.  And yes I am completely and utterly in love with it.  And it's all thanks to Tosca.  She's to blame. 100%

Of course this show has to share the love... just a little.  Because as in my usual obsessive way I am also addicted to other TV shows as well.

So what did you fall in love with in 2013?

Teen Wolf
That this show doesn't screen here in New Zealand is quite frankly gob smacking.  I just count myself lucky that I have awesome, amazing friends living in the USA who send me episodes.  Bribery really does work wonders.

Another new love and one in which my partner has also now become completely hooked on.

Marathoning the same show twice in the same year?

Yeah that's me.

Obsession really should just be my middle name.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a God.

And if you haven't seen him before (and surely you have) then you just have to check out Sherlock.  Because this show shows how good he really is.  Then again he is amazingly and awesomely good in everything I've seen him in

Person of Interest
This show just keeps getting better and better with each season. What started out as a procedural crime show has turned everything on it's head.  It's a crime show, an action show, a drama show and even a sci-fi show - well of sorts.  It's also brilliant.

Gutsy and raw and no-holds barred with great characters and great supporting characters too. Even the dog is awesome.

It took me a couple episodes or so before I really got into this show.  But once I did... well there was no going back really.

And yes in case you were wondering you can love both Sherlock AND Elementary.  Because both shows are wonderful and yet different to each other that making comparisons between them is just silly.

Give me a man with a gun and a bad attitude any day.  

Especially when it's a man like Raylan Givens.  US Marshall, sharp-shooter, straight talker with the worse taste in women.

That the Season 5 is about to start as got me all kinds of excited.  With shows like this and the ones above TV life has never looked so good.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Siege by Simon Kernick [Jan]

A group of terrorists plot to take over a London hotel, using violence and bloodshed to control the hostages they have. Wolf is the leader of a group of fanatics and they have ensured the head of MI6 is one of the hostages.  The rest of the group are Fox’s men, and he has a slightly different agenda.  As bullets fly some guests hide while others try to escape.  The rest are rounded up and hope they live through the night.

Scope has just assassinated several people and is on his way out of the hotel when the hotel is taken hostage and he is trapped.  He comes across Abby and her son Ethan and rescues them from immediate death, then stays to protect them.  Elena is the newly engaged hotel manager, planning to move to Australia she was handing in her resignation that day.  Martin has terminal cancer and is planning to commit suicide in a hotel room that holds a special meaning for him.  When the bullets start to fly, he discovers he doesn’t want to die that day.  Michael, the MI6 man, know secrets people would kill for.  There’s an interesting subplot with the officer on the ground that’s in direct charge of the police forces response to this hostage situation.

The plot unfolds rapidly, with points of view of different characters giving a perfect view of what’s happening.  The story is told in short chapters, usually ending in cliff-hangers that are exciting and teasers to devour the book in one sitting!  The story has masterful suspense where you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next thing to happen.

I loved the ending!  The good guys win, bad guys lose, and the dodgy hero’s motivations are revealed.  Brilliant.  Off to find other books by Simon Kernick.

Title: Siege
Author: Simon Kernick
Published: Bantam Press, 2012
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

I Like It, I Like It, I Like The Way...

I always feel just a little silly pulling together a Best list because really what is best to one person probably isn't to another then again I just love discovering what other people are into so as they saying goes if you can't beat them...

Certainly for me this year I have discovered so much new music courtesy of my bestest buds Youtube, Amazon's Music & Spotify that the choice of picking what I like was actually hard to narrow down.  There is just so much good music out there.

The following then is just a small taste of what I have been listening to during the past year.

Do I Wanna Know / Arctic Monkeys

I am seriously in love with this song. It's rock. Pure and simple.

Don't Save Me / Haim

A discovery from early 2013, I am just so pleased that they are now getting the attention they deserve with the release of their album, Days Are Gone.  Check them out at this year's Laneway Music Festival.

Call Me In The Afternoon / Half Moon Run

Completely unknown here in New Zealand, I've been a fan for awhile now.  I just wish they got the attention they deserve.

Blowin Smoke / Kacey Musgraves

I'm not a country and western fan but this song might just convert me.  If only all country music was this good.

Counting Stars / One Republic

Don't ask me why I like this song. Because I really have no idea.  Sometimes a song will just grab you - even if it's against your better judgement.

The Chapel Song / We Are Augustine

I came across this song totally by accident but I'm so glad I did.  It sounds a little like something that The Cure would have done way back in the 80's.  And of course being a Cure fan it's no surprise that I loved this song.

Stompa / Serena Ryder

I totally blame Suits for this one.  If it hadn't played on the show I probably would never have heard of it.

Night Visions / Imagine Dragons

Not a song but a album because I just can't stop listening to these guys.  They are that good.  Working Man is probably my favourite song  but I recommend that you also check out On Top of the World, It's Time, Fallen, Amsterdam and Radioactive.  In fact why not just listen to the whole album.