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Brave writing, Charlotte Simmonds

The Walking Stick Tree
Trish Harris
Escalator Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994118646

A Small Blue Thing
Julie Hanify
Submarine, $35.00,
ISBN 9780994123770

The Case of the Missing Body
Jenny Powell
Otago University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781877578311

What Does the Sea Sound Like?
Evie Mahoney
Mary Egan Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473367718

My friend Uther once called a play A Show About Superheroes, partly as a ploy to get non-theatre people into theatres, under the logic that there are people who will go to anything if it is about superheroes. Similarly, there are people who will read any book on certain topics.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

What’s a New Zealand novel? Sue Esterman

Enemy Camp 
David Hill
Puffin, $20.00, ISBN 9780143309123

Bernard Beckett
Text, $26.00, ISBN 9781922182753

Open Your Eyes, Jackson Ryder
Rudy Castaneda Lopez
Escalator, $30.00, ISBN 9780473295691

It has been interesting to read three such different but compelling books. All three writers are New Zealanders, but only one book is identifiable as a New Zealand novel. I mention this only because there was a session at the recent Writers Week in Wellington during the Arts Festival where I was expecting a robust discussion about what constitutes a New Zealand writer but unfortunately that didn’t happen. So the question is still there, but I don’t think I can address that in this review except through an occasional comment.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, Young adults

Of one kind and another, Simon Hay

The Pounamu Prophecy
Cindy Williams
Rhiza Press, $28.50 ISBN 9781925139457

The Seer’s Wolf
Barbara Petrie
Bridgidada Press, $33.00 ISBN 9780473318154

Helen Margaret Waaka
Escalator Press, $30.00 ISBN 9780994118615

Cindy Williams’s romance The Pounamu Prophecy is the story of Helene and James finding their way back to each other after the spark has gone from their marriage.

As a romance, it’s not a book which asks readers to do much work. The characters are largely stereotypes, events require minimal interpretation, and life has clearly visible meaning. (Plot spoilers follow.) The book’s gender politics are likewise a product of the genre: it is Helene rather than James who needs to learn and change, and what she needs to learn is not to put her career ahead of his.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

From near and far, Pip Adam

The Shark Party
Janet Colson
Escalator Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473295141

Run Thomas Run
Kate Carty
Escalator Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473295240

The Silver Gaucho
Jackie Ballantyne
The Doby Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473275259

In a lot of ways, these books represent work from distinctive places. All three are produced by publishers with interesting back stories. The copyright pages of The Shark Party and Run Thomas Run state that “This book was taken from manuscript to bookshelf by students of the Whitireia NZ publishing programme”. Escalator Press is an exciting development in the already successful and highly praised course which offers students hands-on experience in all aspects of publishing. There’s an article on the Whitireia website by Jd Nodder, a student on the project team for The Shark Party, which reflects on the process, offering a unique insight into the act of publishing. The Silver Gaucho is published by The Doby Press which is also the name of the publishing house where the protagonist of the book works. This creates all sorts of interesting echoes for the reader and plays with that wobbly line between narrator and author, “real” and real world. The acknowledgments include a thank you to Geoff Walker who “encouraged me to join the publishing revolution”.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Writing on the high wire, Sue McCauley

The Score
Adrienne Jansen
Escalator Press, $28.00,
ISBN 978047325328

The Virgin & the Whale
Carl Nixon
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775533757

I’m Working on a Building
Pip Adam
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780864738981

When more than one book is featured in a review, does the order in which those books are first read have an impact on the reviewer’s perceptions? I’m hoping it doesn’t. But I can’t quite rid myself of the feeling that, had I read them in reverse order, I might have felt better served.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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