From our reviewers: November 24

From The Southland Times book reviewers.

The Uninvited Guests
By Sadie Jones (Chatto & Windus, RRP $40)

Reviewed by Maree Field

In 1912, the somewhat crumbling - but still very respectable - household of Sterne - is preparing for the birthday of Emerald Torrington, on the verge of turning 20.

With family secrets tucked away in dusty closets, her brother Clovis being impossible, her mother being mysterious and lofty and youngest Torrington Smudge planning her Great Undertaking, the last thing Emerald needs tonight are the passengers of a rail disaster turning up needing shelter.

There's something off about the train passengers, as Emerald, Clovis and co discover very quickly. They can't put their finger on what, however, and then another passenger shows up, one who's there to cause as much chaos and misery as he can before he moves on.

The Uninvited Guests is billed as a ghost story. And it definitely gives off the right ambience - isolated country house, a crumbling family and suddenly a house full of guests who are acting not at all like guests.

Atmosphere aside, I kept waiting for something to happen. The guests are undeniably spooky and it's no twist really to say that they were dead before they showed up at Sterne. What's twisty and interesting, however, is the extra uninvited guest, who has targeted Sterne, and the lady of the house in particular, for reasons of his own.

I could definitely put The Uninvited Guests down and walk away. It didn't exactly send shivers down my spine, but it was certainly atmospheric.

Crafty Girls' Road Trip
By Ann Packer (Random House, RRP $35)

Reviewed by Lisa Meyers

This book is essentially a travelogue. The author takes you from the other end of New Zealand to here (Invercargill) checking out all the craft places there are in the spots she visits.

Any crafter on an escapade would find this book useful. Take the book and when in a location be assured that if it's in the book Ann Packer has had a thorough examination of the place.

She lists the shops organised into regions that sell all manner of crafting essentials for patchworking, embroidery, knitting and spinning. She has also included suggested inspiring spots and places for coffee or to stay.

Each region covered is illustrated with a map.

Included is a catalogue of useful events,blogs, books and magazines that I found interesting, and know I will be referring back to.

Plus there are instructions for 10 craft projects. I especially liked the idea for a Snazzy Snail Mail envelope which gives instructions on how to make a professional looking envelope from recycled paper such as old atlas pages and sheet music.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and won't be without it on any of my travels throughout New Zealand.

There is still the odd corner left untouched. Te Anau is not mentioned and I know my favourite wool shop is there.

However, having said that, for the places she has visited the information given is superb!

I would recommend this book to any crafter to take and go on your own Crafty Girls' Road Trip.

The Brain Sucker
By Glenn Wood (Walker Books)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

Evil genius Lester Smythe hates goodness and has devised a machine to suck it out of people. His plans to rid the world of politeness and manners is on track until his henchmen run into Callum, his gran, and his best friend, Sophie. When Gran's golden goodness is stolen, it is up to wheelchair-bound Callum and crazy inventor Sophie to get back Gran's goodness, and defeat the evil that is Lester. Written in the modern kids' book style, it's a fair read.