Book Review: Mistory, by Philip Temple

Available in selected bookstores nationwide.

I don’t read a huge amount of dystopian novels, mostly on the basis that the really good cv_mistoryones scare me. You can see how the circumstances could come about. Easily. I’m thinking of classics like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the World Began.

MiStory, by Philip Temple, definitely passes the scare test.

Here’s the setting. New Zealand, sometime in the not-too-distant future. Multiple catastrophes have occurred – climate change and coastal flooding, invasion of Australia, threats to New Zealand’s own security, other wars on other continents, pandemics, possibly some sort of nuclear attack. The government has created a state of emergency that has lasted more than a decade, and now actively monitor the minutiae of citizens’ lives through pervasive technology. Democracy is dead. The only form of news about events within New Zealand and from around the world is heavily edited propaganda.

Told entirely via the entries in a “paperbook” – part personal journal, part documentary – written by siblings John and Sophie, MiStory covers themes of loss, awakening, resistance and justice. The entries crack along at a great pace that keep you turning the pages – I devoured the book in three short sessions, and would have liked to have finished it in one!

John is trying to rebuild his life after the sudden death of his partner Annie, and still mourning their child who had died in a pandemic five years earlier. His sister Sophie is mysterious and unavailable, appearing and disappearing unexpectedly over the years. Why was Annie quickly cremated without an autopsy? What is Sophie really up to? And why has John been offered a new job?

MiStory isn’t perfect. Prime Minister John Locke and a Minister Brownleigh would appear to be thinly veiled digs at the current government, and regardless of your politics, the joke wore a bit thin. The English language has evolved a bit in MiStory’s world, and it can be hard to keep track of some of the new lingo, and some of the new spellings (although Temple’s play with words is very clever, once you get the hang of the new vernacular). The ending is a bit too neat – but it’s the journey to the ending that will have you turning the pages.

Recommended. Go buy it.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

MiStory
by Philip Temple
Published by Font Publishing
ISBN 9780473282042

Book Review: Catch That Plane! By Sally Sutton, illustrated by Sylvie Currin Korankova

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

Catch That Plane! is a picture book that combines a rhythmic text-style with high energcv_catch_that_planey illustrations to create a fun book that has been enjoyed by every child I have shared it with.

The book follows the journey of a family who are heading to the airport to catch a plane – and they’re late. The text is filled with wonderful descriptive words that create a sense of urgency: chasing, hustling, dashing, flurry, puffing, scooting. Fans of Margaret Mahy and Lynley Dodd will appreciate the rich language.

The illustrations are just lovely. Initially they look very simple, but they cleverly catch the wide range of emotions and situations you might see at an airport, and again, that sense of urgency is everywhere with subtle line emphasis. Each picture is worth closer examination – while the main family are getting swiped and scanned through security, at a distant desk an officer frowns while examining a bag, while the passenger radiates frustration and impatience.

The children in my class of 5-year-olds who enjoyed the book the most remembered their own trips, particularly if they had travelled recently overseas, because they remembered the bio-security beagles. They loved being able to relate their own experiences to the book and share what they knew. I can also envisage Catch That Plane! working really well as a pre-travel primer for children who haven’t experienced air travel before, to give them a sense of all the things that will happen before and after they board their plane.

My favourite 2- and 4-year-old boys also enjoyed the book; Mr 4 was all eyes as we read through the story, taking it in, while Mr 2 loved the pictures, pointing to things he wanted to know more about. For the child who is really into the story and wants to know more, there’s a great child-friendly glossary at the end of the story.

Highly recommended as a read-aloud book for 2 – 7 year olds.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Catch That Plane!
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Sylvie Currin Korankova
Published by Walker Books AU
ISBN 9781921720680

Book Review: The Dwarf who moved and other true stories from a life in the law, by Peter Williams QC

Available in bookstores nationwide. cv_the_Dwarf_that_moved

The remarkable title comes not from some sordid tale of gnome stealing, although I’m sure Williams has probably defended a fair few of drunken, pilfering students in his day. No, the tale is of an attempted murder on a circus performer, by his wife no less. A tale of intrigue, with humorous twist, trials and tribulations.

This is the lighter side of the anecdotal memoir of one of New Zealand’s most pre-eminent criminal barristers. Like Mike Bungay and David Baragwanath, Williams looms large in the public mind. And rightly, too. In his time in criminal defence Williams has seen it all and everyone. From early days when abortion, homosexuality and even fortune telling were offences to the more sensational cases of wrongful imprisonment and police corruption, Williams has witnessed the defining moments in our legal evolution.

This is Williams’ chance to spill the beans on some of his biggest and most public moments with a rich and wise collection of memoir, anecdote and forensic analysis of the trials of Ronald Jorgensen, Arthur Allen Thomas, Mr Asia, James K Baxter, Winston Peters and many more cases (both celebrated and obscure). Whilst he was always fearless, astute and compassionate, Williams does not shovel the proverbial muck. The temptation to draw a line, now he’s retired, and to slash out at our legal system or reveal the real truth behind might be there but it’s kept in check. Williams, ever the gentleman, is perhaps fading slightly as his battle with cancer takes some of the edge off the blade, but he is still fair.

This is more an insight into our past more than a Nicky Hager-style assault. In a country as small as New Zealand it would be hard to get away with a true Legal Babylon anyway, and who would read it? Williams leaves a legacy of anecdotes that remind us why we need lawyers like him − fair and fearless. From a tale of a stolen red bicycle, his student days boarding, a mysterious fist through the Judas hole, to the dynamiting of the High Court in Wellington, many of the stories are both tall and true. In some cases truth is stranger than fiction, so an open mind also goes a long way.

Williams, now 79, has a keen legal mind but also empathy for justice, for all. He questions the growing length of sentences and to what end this has occured. He writes about the erosion of restorative justice in favour of the conservative hard line that bails up the serial criminals with the first timers and asks how this will rehabilitate anybody. Behind the wig, Williams has trod the same streets as us and he thinks like us, although his gaze has come across many sights more unseemly than we should bear, and he wonders if we are becoming dehumanised to the aims of our justice system. Perhaps we are more agnostic or complacent or dismissive.

In his own words, “My fond hope in writing this book is that it may have at least a tendency to humanise its readers by granting a deeper understanding of the legal process and the characters involved.”

It’s not Rumpole of the Bailey, but it is a good and thoughtful read. Court adjourned!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Dwarf Who Moved And Other True Stories From A Life In The Law
by Peter Williams QC
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775490845

Book Review: The Great Game of Kiwi Tag, by Curt Boring

Available at selected stores nationwide.

This is Curt Boring’s first boocv_the_great_game_of_kiwi_tagk. Growing up in Taupo, Curt had access to the great outdoors and made the most of it. The inspiration for this book came from a trip to Rainbow Springs – seeing the Kiwi’s in their enclosure he made a joke to a friend that they all looked as though they were playing tag.

When I pulled out this book to read to my granddaughter, Abby, who is 3 years old, I did wonder if she knew what playing tag was all about. She knew all right and insisted later on in the day (nighttime, when all good Kiwis are up!) in playing tag with her Pa. After he played a few games he collapsed, exhausted.

This is such a lovely story. Tama, Billy, Milly, Pete, Kit, and Gordon were Kiwis with very big feet. They lived in a zoo on the edge of town. When night fell, this was their time to play. They hustled and tussled like cats in a bag, to see who was “it” for the GREAT GAME OF TAG. They counted to 10 and then the GREAT GAME OF TAG would go on all week.

The madness that follows is an enchanting story of the mischief they created wherever they went. Monday Gordon chased Pete through the big Baboon tree, and as he tagged Pete he cried out with glee, “Now it’s your turn to be “it,” but he’d spoken too soon. He’d made enough noise to wake the Baboon.” And so, throughout the night, each day of the week, zoo animals are woken from their dreams. At the end of the week, a meeting was held to decide what to do with these big footed menaces.

Abby was so enthralled with this story she wanted to keep this book. I have a delivery to make after this review is done. A little girl wants to play tag with her friends and wear her poor Pa out with her glee and enthusiasm.

Well done Curt, this is one grandparent who will be looking out for further offerings from your mighty pen.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Great Game of Kiwi Tag
by Curt Boring
Published by Curt Boring
ISBN  9780473292270

Book Review: Kindness and Lies – Relationships that Make a Life

Available in bookstores nationwide.

Lisa Scott is a columnist for the Otago Daily Times and NEXT magazine, and a featurecv_kindness_and_lies writer for North & South and NZ Life & Leisure. Lisa lives in Dunedin with the “Economist”.

Lisa explores, through her writing, relationships with the people that have either been in her life, or still are. From mothers, mothers-in-law (sometimes rather tricky), daughters (I especially loved this section!) fathers, step-fathers, to grandparents, aunties, ex-husbands, and uncles. She also explores her friendships with friends and lovers. This is a book that will make you laugh, and at times wonder where the writer is going with some of her observations.

Lisa pokes fun at more or less everybody who has crossed her path over the years. She doesn’t paper over the sometimes tricky relationships that are FAMILY. She also is very courageous in facing her own failings, which she puts right out there. This includes her appearance, and the embarrassment of rather large boobs that developed when she was a young teenager; also her failings as a fashion icon (join the club).

Lisa quotes with gay abandon the Economist and her many and varied friendships with some well-known personalities. She has plenty to say on other friendships along with the lows and highs; how many handbags we should have and, of course, not forgetting the shoes. Yoga pants, though, I can’t get my head around – and no they don’t look great on everybody – sorry Lisa, they just don’t!

Thank you, Lisa, for an entertaining read. While I don’t regularly buy magazines, I must keep an eye out for your columns in the future, and enjoy chuckling away at your observations on life.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Kindness and Lies – Relationships that Make a Life
By Lisa Scott
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869538637

Gold Pin Win for publishers of Taka Ki Ro Wai

web_TAKA-KI-RO-WAI_Cover_Tania&Martin_2013_PROMOOn Friday night, Tania & Martin from Tania & Martin design, attended the 2014 BEST Design Awards at the Viaduct Events Centre, Auckland, along with 998 other people, in the hope of winning recognition for their design of Taka Ki Ro Wai.

The BEST Design Awards are unique in the way they honour design. Run by the Designers Institute of New Zealand, they don’t have a singular award for first, second and third. They award as many places as they believe deserve it in a section − or not at all if the standard isn’t met.

For our section, the Nga Aho Award, there were actually three gold pin winners, a silver and two bronzes from a field of eleven finalists, with the judges acknowledging the high standard within the category. The gold pin, their equivalent to a medal, went to ourselves, Studio Alexander, and architectural firm JASMAX (the architects most notably recognised for Te Papa Tongarewa) who for this nomination, had designed the building Te Uru Taumatua for Tuhoe in Taneatua). From amongst the three gold pins awarded, one supreme category winner was chosen as the purple pin winner, which was richly deserved by JASMAX.

We received our pin together with a winners certificate from Te Puni Kokiri Tamaki Makaurau head Pauline Kingi.

Though it was Tania & Martin in attendance, the application was about Taka Ki Ro Wai, and the collective strengths of the team responsible for it’s creation.

Author Keri didn’t accompany us this time, as she is due in Auckland this coming weekend for the Toi Maori Maori Writers Hui 2014, but we called her soon after the announcement and shouted the good news down the phone over the loud celebrations going on in the background.

Attending these events is essential to keep people talking about Taka Ki Ro Wai, because you’re nothing if you’re not in the news. While you create the book with the hope that it will be liked, awards such as this and the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards are the kudos that provide impetus for book sales.

As we’d like to produce more books like this one, the book itself needs to sell to help make that happen. That was why we targeted these awards. Without them, we could be faced with boxes of books gathering dust. This is a push to get the remaining copies of the book out into new homes and into the hands of eager readers, both the young and older, the fluent and the learner.

Submitted by Martin D Page, designer of Taka Ki Ro Wai, by Keri Kaa

Book Review: Fives & Twenty Fives, by Michael Pitre

cv_fives_and_twenty_fivesAvailable now in bookstores nationwide.

Author Michael Pitre wanted to bring to life the stories of the manual work that goes into a war – a depiction beyond glossy Hollywoodised combat. Fives & Twenty-Fives achieves its aim brilliantly, telling an honest & compelling story of the realities of a heroic platoon through the grisliest period of the Iraq War.

Pitre’s experience as a Marine in Iraq lifts Fives & Twenty-Fives from a tale to an account as it follows a US Marine platoon carrying out ‘route clearance’ in Iraq in 2006. Routinely rolling out into the sandy roads around Fallujah, each time the road repair convoy halts, the Marines immediately secure the five metre radius around their vehicle. Once cleared, they secure a twenty-five metre radius. Check your five & twenty-fives: get safe. Their task is to repair potholes created in the road by exploded-IEDs to allow smooth mobility for the Coalition of the Willing. The catch: insurgents use the potholes to plant new bombs – 647 times from 647 holes. Lured out to repair, the platoon sit as targets, firstly to new bombs planted in curb-stones, and next to snipers & jihadists as they work against time pouring concrete into potholes under the scorching Iraqi sun.

Pitre’s writing style is skilfully economical & uniform in a way that matches the novel’s military setting. As Fives & Twenty-Fives executes the reality of the Iraq War, Pitre’s characters & character interaction is equally on the mark. While Iraq in 2006 is the focus of Five & Twenty-Fives, the novel is set in 2011, flickering between Lieutenant Donovan, Lester ‘Doc’ Pleasant & interpreter Dodge’s memories of Iraq & their present day lives. As Pitre threads us back and forth between Iraq (2006) & Louisiana (2011), the internal struggles of men coping with a world after Iraq are painted. Donovan is deemed a hero by a Google search on his name, yet the weight of responsibility for the harm his leadership has caused sits heavily on his shoulders. Doc Pleasant, sent home from Iraq with ‘general discharge,’ is scarred like a schizophrenic animal, struggling to find employment, move out of home & sustain relationships. Further afield, Dodge is living in Tunisia on the eve of the Arab Spring, once again being sought for his English ability to help a cause that is not his own.

Fives & Twenty-Fives is a gripping & important read, giving a crisp insight to the physical reality of today’s wars & the conflicts war haunts its participants with.

By Abbie Treloar

Fives & Twenty-Fives
by Michael Pitre
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781408854457