Blog Archives

Timeless and timely, Hannah Marshall

Winter Of Fire (25th Anniversary Edition)
Sherryl Jordan
Scholastic, $19.00,
ISBN 9781775435983

A dismal world where the sun has disappeared is the backdrop for Sherryl Jordan’s hard-hitting and powerful novel Winter Of Fire. Back in print 25 years after its initial publication, Winter Of Fire blends a strong, rebellious protagonist with the difficult themes of slavery, sexism and pollution, to create a powerhouse of a novel with ideas that still stand strong today.

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Posted in Imprints, Review, Young adults

It’s in the detail, Trevor Agnew

The Cat From Muzzle Sally Sutton (Scott Tulloch illus) Puffin, $20.00, ISBN 9780143773085 Bess The Brave War Horse Susan Brocker (Raymond McGrath illus) Scholastic, $28.00, ISBN 9781775435563 Home Child: A Child Migrant In New Zealand Dawn McMillan (Trish Bowles illus)

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Marking time, Maggie Trapp

When It All Went To Custard
Danielle Hawkins
HarperCollins, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775541417

The Julian Calendar
William Henry
Marsilio Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780958235556

What a difference a year can make. The plots of Danielle Hawkins’s When It All Went To Custard and William Henry’s The Julian Calendar both take place over exactly one year – just enough time to immerse readers in a rich story and see them through to the other side. While not the 24 hours Aristotle prescribed, these novels remind us that a year as a unity of time can still prove a useful device for portraying a full narrative arc.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Challenging, touching, persuading, Janet Hughes

How I Get Ready
Ashleigh Young
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 978176562367

The Dangerous Country Of Love And Marriage
Amy Leigh Wicks
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408978

To The Occupant
Emma Neale
Otago University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781988531687

Judging a book by its cover would not be a cliché or a hazard, if so much design talent did not go into trying to make us do exactly that. Who, faced with a display of new books, has not followed the urging of the eye, probably at the expense of worthy competitors?

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Keeping it in the family, Tina Shaw

Necessary Secrets
Greg McGee
Upstart Press, $38.00,
ISBN 9781988516639

Loving Sylvie
Elizabeth Smither
Allen and Unwin, $37.00,
ISBN 9781988547114

Two recently-published novels explore inter-generational stories, yet there couldn’t be two more different treatments.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Here be gods, monsters and mortals, David Eggleton

Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold By Māori Writers
Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka (eds)
Penguin Random House, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143772965

In Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold By Māori Writers, the retelling of mythic stories is a communal activity, with one storyteller picking up where another leaves off, but then transmogrifying the story and often taking it in a completely new direction. Pū rākau means “tree roots”, and so these stories are an affirmation of the polytheistic animism running through the cosmology of the Māori world – Te Ao Māori – with story branching from story, and all interconnected to the main trunk of the mythology as part of a holistic continuum. Here be gods, monsters and mortals in tales of star-crossed lovers, of defiance and derring-do, of transgressive behaviour and comeuppance. These myths retold bend and blend genres, from the supernatural and fantasy to science fiction, ghost stories and magical realism – all this, the reclaiming and the repurposing, a far cry from the bowdlerised, even infantalised, interpretations found in the versions of A W Reed, Antony Alpers and other 20th-century Pākehā anthologists.

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Posted in Literature, Māori, Review

Warning and consolation, Mark Houlahan

Selected Poems
Ian Wedde
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408596

If you dine at Ian Wedde’s, the poetic indications are you’ll eat well. Among the many charms of this seductive, fatly packed Selected Poems are the number of food groups trailed before the reader, as if ready to serve. The pages are alive with pungent goat cheese and tinned ham, with green peppers and dolma, rice noodles with clams and mussels, February peaches, melons, oysters and a “pale jellied / half pear”. In some of Wedde’s poetry collections, food is more prominent than others, but the preoccupation with feasting on the good things of this earth is career-long. If you imagine a writer as a kind of chef, then Wedde is one with expertise from all over the writer’s menu: as cultural commentator and curator; as short story writer and the author of the great novella, Dick Seddon’s Great Dive; and, of course, as novelist. In all these genres, Wedde has prepared what Shakespeare calls a “great feast of language”; yet, if you allow the figure to extend, if genres were courses or food groups, it’s poetry that Wedde has served most regularly and faithfully, and it is Wedde’s status as a poet that this engaging volume presents to us so resonantly.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Doors and mirrors, Alex Mitcalfe Wilson 

The Chosen One
Joy H Davidson
DHD Publishing, $27.00,
ISBN 9780473448301

Harsu and the Werestoat
Barbara Else
Gecko Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776572199

The World of Greek Mythology
Ben Spies
Spies Publishing, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473455866

Fantasy has always mattered to me. I first sensed this around the same time I realised I was completely ill-adapted to my 1990s New Zealand childhood. I was a fat kid, a nervous perfectionist who was frightened of rugby and wanted to wear dresses. Most days, it felt like the sky was going to fall on my head. Luckily, I knew a few adults who were sensitive enough to notice my constant unease, and thoughtful enough to feed me stories. Those books were a magic door at the back of my wardrobe, the escape-hatch every lonely kid needs.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, History, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Well packaged history, Anna Mackenzie

Amundsen’s Way: The Race To The South Pole
Joanna Grochowicz
Allen and Unwin, $19.00,
ISBN 9781760637668

The Telegram
Philippa Werry
Pipi Press, $23.00,
ISBN 9780473462826

Amundsen’s Way delivers exactly what it promises on the cover: the story of Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole, and the manner in which it was shaped by his single-minded determination to lead the first polar exploration team to reach it.

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Posted in Children, History, Non-fiction

Blank spaces, Tim Grgec

The Farewell Tourist Alison Glenny Otago University Press, $27.50, ISBN 978198853129 All of Us Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos Landing Press, $22.00, ISBN 9780473451684 Louder Kerrin P Sharpe Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781776561964 Alison Glenny’s Kathleen Grattan Poetry award-winning

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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