Blog Archives

The challenge of being, Tatjana Schaefer

The Falconer’s Daughter N K Ashworth RSVP, $25.00 ISBN 9780987658760 Being Magdalene Fleur Beale Random House, $20.00 ISBN 9781775537670 It almost goes without saying that novels for the young adult or teen reader are about the quest for personal identity.

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Posted in Literature, Review and Young adults

Consecrated ground, Ian Lochhead

Historic Churches: A Guide to Over 60 Early New Zealand Churches
Linda Burgess (Robert Burgess photographer)
Random House, $50.00, ISBN 9781775537335

Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design
Bill McKay (Jane Ussher photographer)
Godwit, $85.00, ISBN 9781775538363

One of the inexplicable paradoxes of the human condition is the way in which the religious impulse leads, irresistibly, to the creation of beauty, but also, with seemingly equal passion, to its destruction. Throughout history, buildings and works of art have been created to serve religion, only to be destroyed by reforming zealots who see such works as inimical to worship. The iconoclastic purges of the early Christian churches, the destruction of images and the demolition of monastic buildings during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and, in our own day, the dynamiting of monumental Buddha figures by the Taliban in Afghanistan, all testify to these contradictory urges.

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Posted in Architecture, Non-fiction and Review

Distance and familiarity, Lucy Prestidge 

To the Is-Land Janet Frame Random House, $30.00, ISBN 9781869411305 The first volume of Janet Frame’s autobiography was initially a bit daunting to me. Not only because it’s the work of one of New Zealand’s most celebrated writers, but because

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, YA Reviewers and Young adults

Reading, writing and arithmetic, Barbara Else

Speed of Light
Joy Cowley
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877579936

Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775537274

The ACB with Honora Lee
Kate De Goldi (drawings by Gregory O’Brien)
Longacre, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869799915

Three stars of New Zealand literature, three award-winning books, three very different approaches and audiences: how is any reviewer to manage this daunting assignment?

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature and Review

Boys’ own adventures, Tina Shaw

Singing Home the Whale
Mandy Hager
Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781775536574

Magic and Makutu
David Hair
HarperCollins, $25.00, ISBN 9781869509330

If these two titles are anything to go by, New Zealand young adult fiction is in good shape. These are two very different novels, although both integrate Māori culture into the storyline, and both feature a boy as the main protagonist.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

Dark places, Margie Michael

The Children’s Pond
Tina Shaw
Pointer Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780473274023

The Faceless
Vanda Symon
Penguin Books, $30.00, ISBN 9780143567202

I am Rebecca
Fleur Beale
Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781775535492

These books form a disparate collection apparently linked only by the words “compelling” and “thriller” appearing on the dustjackets of each, words which mislead and possibly confuse rather than inform. All three do have an element of suspense, and so become thrillers in the broadest sense, but the real link is that they are totally compelling in very different ways. Jennifer Lawn has identified New Zealand’s burgeoning crime scene, noting that our crime writers use fully realised local settings with confidence and it is, in part, the development of the settings which unites these three books.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Rhyming pleasures, Linda Burgess

Over the Hill to Greytown
Tania Atkinson (Viv Walker illus)
Wai Art Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473252526

Bruiser and the Big Snow
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $21.00,
ISBN 9781775534860

Toucan Can
Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877467547

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so Sophie, who was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen, spied Tom Thumb, who was in the cupboard. Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, and Alfie got in first and the door shut behind him. I’ll eat you up, I love you so. Your father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor. And into the water they fell. Frances will only eat bread and jam. Captain Najork came with his hired sportsmen. The cat from Brazil caught a very bad chill. “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ” said Scarface Claw. The little yellow digger will sort it.

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Posted in Children, Literature and Review

Moral force, John Campbell

The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk
David Grant
Random House, $50.00,
ISBN 9781775535799

I was 10 when Norman Kirk died. It was the first death I had ever registered. When the news came through, my parents became so silent (our house was never silent) that I remember it 40 years on: the radio and an absence. My memory also contains a physical location. It is the staircase between the living-room and our bedrooms. I am sitting on it, looking down, and my parents are below me at the big table. It is a photo in my head. An external sense, as if someone else was there to describe it, of me waiting for them to make sense of it all, as parents always do. But they can’t. I tell that story now because Norman Kirk’s death often seems to occasion the sharp remembrance of a closer loss, even in people who never met him. Mine is an almost story book recollection that I carry with me.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

The best kept secret, Stuart Baker

From Earth’s End: The Best of New Zealand Comics Adrian Kinnaird Random House, $60.00, ISBN 9781869799953 I’ve read comics since I was very young. I travelled into history with Asterix and to the moon with Tintin. But it wasn’t until

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Posted in Art, Graphic novel, Non-fiction and Review

The dark and dank, Eleanor Toland

The Demolition of the Century  Duncan Sarkies Penguin Books, $30.00, ISBN 9780143568902 The Mannequin Makers Craig Cliff Random House, $38.00, ISBN 9781775533849 The Wind City Summer Wigmore Steam Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780992257804 Traditionally, the gothic is a northern genre. The

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review
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