Title 1: Slipping into Paradise: Why I Live in New Zealand by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Title 2: Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand by Alexander Elder

Genre: Non-fiction

Blurb: A travelogue is a film, book, or illustrated lecture about the places visited by or experiences of a traveller. Both Slipping into Paradise and Straying from the Flock are both touted as New Zealand Travelogues but neither really fitted their descriptions.

1. Slipping into Paradise: Why I Live in New Zealand by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson:

I had very high hopes for this book, I thought to myself who could be more convincing of how wonderful New Zealand is than someone who has chosen to live there after being in so many other countries in the world. Sadly, I did not see Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s paradise all I saw was a person pontificate about anything and everything to with New Zealand. In fact he often mentioned the fact that he has written other scholarly books to prove what an intellectual person he was. There is an expression in Australia ‘You’ve got tickets on yourself’ and this author certainly did on many occasions throughout the book. Mind you, to be fair, I did find out some interesting facts, and some of Masson’s descriptions were amazing, but I was taken aback by the frequent negativity of his opinions about a country that the he was supposed to be touting as paradise. I certainly understood very quickly that politically he is very left of left and this coloured his views on a range of subjects over and above why you should visit New Zealand. The best chapter in the book was actually the very last one where he actually wrote about travelling through New Zealand and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have been happier if the rest of the book had been about this rather than what turned out to be little more than lectures on fauna, flora and history of New Zealand, some of which was interesting but most had my eyes glazing over. And, strangely, in the first half of the book, Masson went into the psychological differences between various nationalities around the world to prove why New Zealand was a great country; I can’t help but think it was a bit rude to stereotype a whole nation. Overall I think the blurb was a bit misleading when it likened it to Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence

Rating: D – Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish whatever redeemable aspects there were to this book, they were not fleshed out enough for me to truly enjoy it.

For more about the author – Click Here

2. Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand by Alexander Elder

This was the second book that I purchased before our trip to New Zealand later this year. We have been there on two previous occasions and love it, and always ken to pick up a few tips about places to visit that we may not have been before. To me the title implied that Alexander Elder was not going to follow the flock, he was going to do things differently. Not so…his idea of being different was to use home stay accommodation rather than back packing, caravanning or motels. STRAYING FROM THE FLOCK was easy to read, but was mostly about the deficiencies of the places he stayed and the often derogatory opinions about the people he stayed with as well as some of the tour guides he dealt with rather than his experiences. He set the tone from his first night in New Zealand, right down south on Stewart Island where he bad-mouthed his host whose only crime seemed to be taking Alexander in without a booking and not gushing over him. Then he was less than impressed with a woman who seemed nervous of a strange man arriving late at night while her husband was away – I’m sorry, I’m on the woman’s side. To be fair though, if the woman was nervous on her own, then maybe she shouldn’t make bookings while her husband was away, but Alexander should not have been scornful. He glossed over some of the tours he went on and sites he saw but concentrated on his opinion of a tour guide operator; this happened earlier on in the book when he went on a glacier walk where Alexander recounts the conversation but says nothing about the walk such as the views, the beauty – anything! OK you didn’t like the man – but what did you see that is what I want to know!

Rating: D – Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish whatever redeemable aspects there were to this book, they were not fleshed out enough for me to truly enjoy it.

For more about the author – Click Here

Title: Time Square: The Shift

Author: S.W. Lothian

Genre: Children’s/YA Historical

Opening lines: ‘…Imagine that you’re a bird, flying high above the mountains below…’

Blurb: How would you feel if your dad is a part-time archaeologist who has a tendency to discover things. One day, he comes home from an expedition with a crusty old relic, and dumps it in the basement. You’d probably think everything would be fine and dandy, but that’s where you’re wrong. Because that’s precisely when all the trouble started. It’s 1930, and Lewis and Eva Hudson are a couple of twin teens with just such a dad. Then, on a chilly wintry day in Washington D.C., the three of them mysteriously disappear into thin air, without a trace.

My thoughts: TIME SQUARE opens in 1930 with Dr Rex Hudson battling his way through the jungles in Peru to get to an ancient ruin!! In the ruins he finds a small obelisk that many other archaeologists have searched for but never found. He takes it home and puts it in the basement which is where it is sitting when Eva and Lewis along with their younger brother Thomas race home after school. They can’t see why their dad is all excited by what looks like a dirty old rock and Thomas soon wanders off upstairs. But Eva, Lewis and their father start cleaning the rock and vanish. Thomas hears them call for help and thinks at first they are playing a game of hide and seek, but when he can’t find them he raises an alarm and the police arrive – but there is no sign of the missing family members and no clues. The house gets locked up and Thomas goes to stay with his Aunty Grace.

The missing Hudson’s haven’t actually gone too far, they are in a place called Time Square which is the centre of all time, past, present and future. Time square is a portal to any period of history and it is located right inside the obelisk, in fact a whole society lives in there along with the time travellers who pop in and out. By moving the obelisk from its South American resting place untold damage has been done, a shift has occurred (similar to an earthquake in our world) and serious damage in Time Square will impact on our time, in fact it could result in time as we know it ending. Solutions have to found, and quickly, but before they can be enacted another huge shift occurs, Time Square is shaken, Time Square has been stolen. Who has taken it? How can they fix the problem? And how can they get back to young Thomas?

TIME SQUARE is the first in a trilogy and is very much aimed at younger teens and older children. There are lots of funny lines and a wide range of really quirky characters introduced to the reader. Dr Hudson is a well-meaning but clumsy but fortunately Eva and Lewis are very brave, and ready for adventure. Bring it on!

Despite the fact that I wasn’t in the age group that the book was aimed at, I really enjoyed the story and can see how kids would love it. Poo being flung, people being flung, walking talking statues being flung – such a lot of flinging – it is so much fun. And I can recommend it for kids from age 8 up.

Rating: C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (aka The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry)

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: Contemporary

Opening lines: ‘…As she steps off the ferry her phone rings …’

Blurb: A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he has isolated himself from all the people who live in his community of Alice Island. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. Something has to happen as he can’t go on like this.

My thoughts: To be totally honest THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY is a book where you think that nothing much happens then by the end you realise you have been so immersed in the story that you have been sucked in and are overwhelmed by emotion. It is at this point that you will realise the following quote is quite true:

“…We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works…”

A.J. Fikry is the owner of a small, independent bookstore on the tiny Alice Island in the Northeast of USA. The reader gets to know Fikry through a series of events (or a collection of works) that all take place mostly in and around his bookshop. He starts off a lonely recluse, cynical, depressed and cranky, who is still mourning the death of his wife, drinking and eating frozen TV dinners. The book opens with the arrival of a new publisher’s rep who gives him the pivotal push to get his life back on track even though the first meeting is far from auspicious. A combination of this meeting, the theft of a priceless classic book and the arrival of a little girl in quick succession means his life will never be the same again. Everything that happens in Fikry’s life he manages to link to his favourite books through quotes. In fact before he is dragged out to take part in life again he had retreated totally into his books and was constantly thinking about them, or talking about them. Gradually he realises that books can be incorporated into the real world and so this helps when the time comes to re-join it. To be perfectly honest, while Fikry is a very interesting character, he is not entirely likable and is a complete and utter book snob and very opinionated with it. He gradually understands that other people will like ‘worthless’ fiction and it won’t be the end of the world if he stocks books that appeal to the masses.

But “…no man is an island…” and once Fikry opens the door to the world he is joined by a wonderful cast of secondary characters ranging from the Publisher’s rep Amelia; his brother-in-law and sister-in-law; Lambiase the local police Chief and Fikry’s adopted daughter Maya who each play a part in bringing Fikry back to life and have hope again. I really enjoyed THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY and not just because the setting is a bookstore and books play an important part. I loved seeing how Fikry turned his life around from utter hopelessness to grabbing life with two hands. I loved seeing how the intricate sub-plots played out in the back ground – the links and the connections between characters. I also love the development in the reading habits of some of the characters over the years – like Maya starting with picture books and as the book ends she is reading quite meaty Young Adult books, Lambiase widens his reading repertoire and Fikry just becomes more accepting of people’s reading choices.

The highest compliment Fikry can pay a book is: “…Every word the right one and exactly where it should be….” I think Gabrielle Zevin has nailed it!

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to Algonquin Books and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Ronan’s Echo

Author: Joanne van Os

Genre: Historical

Opening lines: ‘…’Oh you’re here’…’

In 1906, after Bridie O’Malley’s mother has died her father takes her and her two older brothers to settle in Australia. She quickly makes friends with the identical twin brothers who lived next door, Denny and Connor Ronan, and by the time she is in her teens everyone is wondering which brother will be the one she marries. However, before a wedding can take place her brothers, along with Denny and Connor, march off to the Great War in Europe, all of them eager to get there before the action is over. Sadly only one of the four returns. Almost 100 years later Bridie’s great granddaughter is a forensic anthropologist and has accepted a job in France identifying the recovered Australian soldiers’ bodies which were lost in the disastrous WW1 battle that occurred at Fromelles. Imagine her surprise when her great aunt Hettie tells her that some of her own ancestors could be among the fallen.

RONAN’S ECHO by Joanne van Os is a very, very good story. Spanning a century the story of how WWI impacted one family through 4 generations of women is a compelling read. I was hooked from the very first page, however Joanne does not rush her story, and neither did she drag it; the pacing, the story, the character development is all spot on. Added to this are the family secrets and the twists and turns which gradually come to light and do not feel forced or leaving you scratching your head. So much information is given about WW1 as well, facts that I was not aware of. Gallipoli and the huge number of losses incurred over the few months that it dragged out for is the focus of ANZAC day in Australia. It became a symbol of Australia’s new national identity, a coming of age as a nation. However, Fromelles was much bigger as far as Australian losses went, there 5,533 casualties (with over 2,000 dead) in just ONE night. In fact this toll was equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and the Vietnam War put together. It was a staggering loss and Joanne has managed to convey the horror and violence of the war without generating into pages of gore. She summed up the bravado, the fear and the senselessness of what occurred. Joanne also managed to convey the fallout of the war on the participants, and those left burning the home fires. The survivors were changed forever and their struggles had a ripple down effect on future generations. RONAN’S ECHO is an absolute ripper of a read.

Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

For more about the author – Click Here

Ronan’s Echo is book # 15 for AWW2014

With thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia and the author for my copy to read and review.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read and open to a random page:

* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week comes from the Young Adult Historical adventure story TIME SQUARE: THE SHIFT by S.W. Lothian, the first in a series.

Background: Imagine this. Your dad is a part-time archaeologist who has a tendency to discover things. One day, he comes home from an expedition with a crusty old relic, and dumps it in the basement. You’d probably think everything would be fine and dandy, but that’s where you’re wrong. Because that’s precisely when all the trouble started. It’s 1930, and Lewis and Eva Hudson are a couple twin teens with just such a dad. Then, on a chilly wintery day in Washington D.C., the three of them mysteriously disappear into thin air, without a trace. Throw in a weird and mysterious rival with a point to prove, add a looming disaster that threatens to break time itself, and pretty soon they’re smack bang in the front seat of a roller-coaster to doomsville.

The teaser I have chosen describes the incompetent ‘mysterious rival’ and his much smarter side-kick.

“…Dressed completely in an ingenious black disguise, Sultan, and his sidekick, Leonard Paxton, sneakily peered from the confines of their racy-red getaway car…The sun was setting and the light outside was fading. Under the cover of dusk, their cunning black clothing would allow them to access the house without being seen. The fact that everything was coated in crisp white snow hadn’t occurred to Sultan. So, in reality, their blackness against the snow would actually make them more visible…”

March Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my March reading wrap-up:

Total of Books Read in March was: 12

Of these: 2 were a Library Books, 7 were E-books and 3 were from my physical TBR pile

Then: I discovered 8 ‘new for me’ authors (i.e. the first time I have read their work).

And: 7 of the books read were written by Australian authors.

Best Book of the month:

I had 4 ‘A’ reads this month and they are all different genres, and each of them worthy books to recommend. My top book for March though, has to be RED WOLF by Jennifer Dance, another book that I started reading and could not put down until finished. A very emotional read indeed. However the other 3 ‘A’ reads were super special too, so FRONTIER INCURSION by Leonie Rogers was the best Science Fiction book; DEAD, ACTUALLY by Kaz Delaney was by far the best Mystery I read and the best non-fiction was MISTER OWITA’S GUIDE TO GARDENING by Carol Wall.

Least Favourite Book(s):

As usual I must explain that I say ‘least favourite’ because my lowest ‘score’ still means it is very readable, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish. I don’t have one of these every month – but this month I do and the dubious honour goes to DEATH OF A POLICEMAN by M.C. Beaton. I have to say I was very, very disappointed with the book. I have been a fan of Hamish Macbeth for years and always like to visit my long-time fictional friend – this time I didn’t recognise him and thought that maybe the time has come for Ms Beaton to finally say goodbye to the highland cop.

General Summary:

As usual I read a wide range of genre this month as I am a very eclectic reader. The genres I read this month were firstly 3 non-fictions, which is very unusual of me with a few more on the horizon for next month! The other genres were Romance, Paranormal, Historical, Science Fiction, and a Mystery. Some were a blend of more than one genre, and half were Children’s or YA focussed.

My Australian authors this month were 4 of the new-for-me authors Patricia Wrightson, Leonie Rogers, Fiona Palmer and Phil Cummings as well Juliet Madison, Michael Robotham et al and Kaz Delaney. Just to clarify an Australian author is defined by me as either an Australian born author no matter where they live and write in the world now, or an author who currently lives and writes in Australia even though they may have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 8 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were my Aussie authors Patricia Wrightson, Leonie Rogers, Fiona Palmer and Phil Cummings along with Carol Wall, Anne O’Brien, Jennifer Dance and Jennifer Barclay. I would happily read all of these authors again.

Finally, some Interesting book related links that I’ve come across this month:

Someone said the worse thing they could to this book worm “They’re just books!”:


Bloggers spread the word:


Confirmation I am not alone in my habit of being a mood reader:


So without further delay – here is the list of books that I read during March:

A = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

Frontier Incursion by Leonie Rogers – YA Science Fiction

Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney – YA Paranormal Mystery

Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall – Non-Fiction

Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance – YA Historical

B = Really Good Read

February or Forever by Juliet Madison – Romance

The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson – Children’s Fantasy

The Empty Nest by Fiona Palmer – Romance Novelette

Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings – Children’s Historical

The Scandalous Duchess by Anne O’Brien – Historical

C = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

If I Tell You… I’ll Have to Kill You by Michael Robotham – Non-Fiction

Falling in Honey by Jennifer Barclay – Non-Fiction

D = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

Death of a Policeman by M.C. Beaton – Mystery

So onward to April – Whoo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies will I discover this month?

Title: The Scandalous Duchess

Author: Anne O’Brien

Genre: Historical Romance

Opening lines: ‘…The water that had swamped the courtyard overnight, thanks to a sudden storm, soaked my shoes…’

Blurb: It is 1372 and the recently widowed Lady Katherine Swynford presents herself for a role in the household of merciless royal prince John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, hoping to end her destitution. But the Duke’s scandalous proposition leaves her life of pious integrity reeling. Seduced by the glare of royal adoration, Katherine becomes John’s mistress. She will leave behind everything she has stood for to play second fiddle to his young wife and ruthless ambition. She will live in the shadows of the most powerful man in England in the hope of a love greater than propriety. But soon the court whispers – whore, harlot, vile temptress – reach the ears of not just John’s bride but his most dangerous political enemies. As the Plantagenet prince is accused of bringing England to its knees, who better to blame than shameless she-devil Katherine Swynford? Dragged from the shadows, Katherine must answer for her sins.

My thoughts: Royal scandals are not confined to the current history of bare-bottomed princes and topless brides; they have been with us since royalty began; and the love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt was the hugest scandal of Plantagenet era. In a world where sin was blamed for every little thing that went wrong, Katherine and John were sitting ducks to be attributed the blame of all the kingdom’s ills. There were a lot of ills too – the Black Death, The Peasants Revolt and the failure to capture Castile to name but a few. There is not a lot of historical evidence on the details of Kathrine’s life, so working within the few historical facts that are known, author Anne O’Brien was able to let her imagination run free against a background of mediaeval politics and bring to life a wonderful love affair in a time when love matches were not the norm and political alliances were a necessity to survival.

Katherine Swynford had been brought up with the royal children under the care of good Queen Philippa; as a result she leads a life of integrity and dignity. She also served as a lady-in-waiting to Blanche – the first Duchess of Lancaster. With this experience behind her she petitions John Plantagenet for a position in his household serving his new Queen as she is now a widow and her stately manor is falling apart around her ears. He agrees, but only on the proviso that she becomes his mistress he assures her that he loves and adores her and will always respect and support her. She succumbs as she has always had feelings for him. Together they defy everyone, they break all the conventional rules, they have four children together, and, despite all the condemnation of their relationship (especially that of his wife) the two stay true to each other until he is in a position to marry him and make their children legitimate.

Anne O’Brien has brought a very believable Katherine to life on the pages, despite the danger she follows her heart and is torn between her love for John and her love for God, a constant battle between her conscience about committing adultery and her desire for John. She is not afraid to love him and neither is she afraid to speak her mind and berate him when needed. She is also incredibly brave and resilient as she is blamed for being a temptress, whore and for the political unrest that is plaguing England so death threats are made. I was enthralled by the story and swept along with the political machinations that were occurring outside of the relationship. For some twenty-five years their relationship continued, although occasionally battered by events and separated a couple of times for the good of England, their love never wavered for each other. The story gives believable reasons as to why a pious and moral, widow, with a strong sense of duty to her children would put her reputation and more importantly her immortal soul at risk to love a man who belonged to another. And, of course, it is through John and Katherine’s descendants that the Tudors become the ruling house of England.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to Harlequin Australia – Mira for my copy to read and review.


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