Book Review: Wellness – Small Changes for Big Results, by Jess Blair

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_wellness_small_changes.jpgOriginally from Queensland in Australia, Jess Blair along with her husband Adam and 2 sons have made New Zealand their home. Jess is a qualified naturopath and nutritionist. She has appeared on television and radio, done public speaking, written magazine columns and has her own blog.

Taking charge of your wellness is a way to ensure a healthy lifestyle and hopefully a longer life. Wellness is written with the idea that you read and take out of this book ways to change and improve your lifestyle. A lot of the information in this book has been published by other “experts” but I was very impressed with how much this book covers without preaching as though your life depended on drastic changes. A lot of the changes she suggests are common sense, but making small changes like something as simple as limiting screen time and caffeine before you go to sleep is great advice. She also talks about stress and how it can affect your body, even with the healthiest of diets.

We’re all human and no one diet works – in fact Jess says forget about the word and concentrate on actually living but limiting what is deemed bad food – don’t completely take it out of your normal diet. Use it like a treat – an occasional beer, wine or pizza is not going to hurt.

Wellness covers a number of topics from Jess’s journey to wellness, explaining exactly what naturopathy is, right through moving your body, a healthy home and a lifestyle plan along with meal plans with recipes.

I read this book with great interest as I am firmly of the belief you are what you eat and that your personality and how you react to stress impacts on your health. This is a very  well-researched and written book. I am pleased to be able to add it to my growing library of wellness and healthy living titles.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Wellness – Small Changes for Big Results
by Jess Blair
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995110496

Book Review: A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley, by Elspeth Sandys

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_communist_in_the_family.jpgRewi Alley was thirty-two years old when he decided ‘to go and have a look at China’, leaving family in New Zealand. It was 1927, he had always dreamed of a life in the army, but after returning from World War 1 he found little for him in New Zealand and after a stint at farming in the North Island left to check out the Chinese revolution.

Arriving in Shanghai, Rewi was soon employed as a fire inspector for the Municipal Council in the British International Settlement, before being promoted to a factory inspector. But he found this to be a ‘miserable experience’ with many of the workers ‘not more than eight or nine years old’ being beaten by the foreman ‘with a piece Of Number Eight gauge wire as a whip’. Ultimately it is the plight of the children as factory slaves as well as orphans of war and famine which give him the courage to leave his job and follow the dream of Gung Ho.

In 2017 Elspeth Sandys, a cousin of Rewi Alley, travelled to China with other family members to mark the ninetieth anniversary of Rewi’s arrival in Shanghai. In her book A Communist in the Family she follows that journey as well as including much of Rewi Alley’s life. A great deal of this comes from Alley’s own writing, letters home, poems, memoirs and other books he has written .

A Communist in the family: Searching for Rewi Alley is written with a great deal of detail and the reader feels part of the journey as the family travels from Beijing to the remote Shandan province on the border of Inner Mongolia, visiting many sites which were significant in Rewi’s life .There was also time for temples and marvelling at 18metre high gold Buddha before their guide would be calling them ‘Alley whanau! Attention please. Follow my flag. This way’…

Sandys has included photographs of Rewi and many of the people who were important in his life, as well as some wonderful photographs captured during the family trip in 2017. The page of Māori words and New Zealand slang at the rear of the book will be helpful for readers from other countries, and the End Notes provide excellent information for people wanting to do more research.

I found this a fascinating read, as Sandys’ beautiful descriptive writing had me feeling part of the journey through modern China, while Alley’s poems reminded me of the harsh history China has endured. It is a solid read but I found it particularly interesting. As New Zealand now has close links with China for trade, it will be of interest to many people.

Elspeth Sandys has published nine novels, two collections of short stories and two memoirs. She has written extensively for the BBC and for RNZ as well as for TV and film. Elspeth lived for many years in the UK but has been back in her home country of New Zealand since 1990.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley
by Elspeth Sandys
Published by OUP
ISBN 9781988531601

 

Book Review: Living among the Northland Māori – the diary of Father Antoine Garin, edited by Peter Tremewan and Giselle Larcombe

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_living_among_the_northland MaoriLiving among the Northland Māori reproduces Father Antoine Garin’s diaries between 1844 and 1846. Garin (1810-1889) was a French missionary priest in northern New Zealand (including in the upper Kaipara, the setting of these diaries), before settling in Nelson where he played a key role in ensuring provision was made for catholic education there and beyond, a legacy that has continued into the present.

However, these diaries are his insight into life in Northland when it was still very much a Māori land, when British government in New Zealand was confined to a few settlements. The rivers of this area were its highways, figs of tobacco were its currency, and tapu and tikanga Māori were its law and lore.

The threat of warfare over breaches of tapu was a fact of life, and figures like Hone Heke loomed large in Māori and Pākehā minds. The book includes a speech by Garin on the Northern Wars, and his diaries illustrate how Māori and Pākehā had observed these storm clouds gathering on the horizon.

Garin’s diaries describe a corner of New Zealand not heavily populated today, but whose rivers were once densely populated by Māori pā and kāinga, a short paddle and hike from key colonial centres. And because this book takes place in an area that retains a certain mystery, Garin’s descriptions of its people and places sweep readers away, as most will have no preconception of them.

Garin paints a truly vivid picture of life in frontier Northland – its food, weather, the Māori routes Pākehā were beginning to tread. We trudge with Garin through swamps and impenetrable forests, we settle into makeshift accommodation on overnight trips and dig into impromptu hangi, and on the way home we hear the songs Garin diligently notes down as he glides along rivers that are mostly smooth but sometimes wild enough to interrupt his jottings.

But just as Garin lulls us into this missionary idyll, we are awoken by the gunshots that once echoed through the north to mark deaths, celebrations, or coming war parties, or by the torrential rain pounding on our precarious shack, while we await a more permanent home – a lengthy process that seems unbelievable in the shadow of seemingly endless kauri forests.

The diaries are full of humour, affection, and sometimes tension. We chuckle as Garin battles his protestant counterpart on points of scripture and worry with him about the diplomatic implications of missteps in translation between French, English and te reo.

Garin’s love for his new flock is evident and noted by his Māori neighbours. Unlike many other protestant and catholic missionaries, Garin spends (and records) nights and days in local kāinga, administering medicine (when tapu allowed it), acting as a trade intermediary, and teaching and learning too. Garin was fluent in the Māori language and its customs, enabling him to convince both impressionable youths and powerful rangatira to join his flock.

As Garin relates each day’s events, we follow the peaks and troughs of local dramas and intrigues. But his diary also immerses us in a deeper contemplation of the changes underway as he wrote, challenging our preconceptions of early encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

As well as his own inner thoughts, Garin also faithfully reproduces conversations with Māori, often in te reo, providing a valuable glimpse into how Māori of the time saw their changing surroundings.

Surprisingly for a Catholic priest, and demonstrating Garin’s open-mindedness and curiosity, there are detailed discussions of the workings of Māori beliefs, of the now unimaginably intricate system of tapu and its governance of the Māori world. Ironically, the diaries may offer a more accurate glimpse into traditional Māori beliefs than a cool academic study ever could.

Another fascinating titbit is Garin’s tracing of non-verbal forms of Māori communication, the codes and symbols that would guide travellers in the forest or keep track of who was winning in an argument, a form of written language few Pākehā might suspect Māori ever had.

Garin’s diaries are never dry (either in climate or in mood) and are an engrossing read I will frequently return to. This is a taonga of a book, and its few but stunning paintings and images highlight rather than saturate Garin’s written portrayal of his life in the Kaipara. It is a remarkable doorway into early New Zealand that will leave the reader feeling that these eloquently told (and excellently translated) experiences have become their own.

Reviewed by Paul Moenboyd

Living among the Northland Māori – the diary of Father Antoine Garin 1844-1846
edited by Peter Tremewan and Giselle Larcombe
Published by Canterbury University Press
ISBN 9781988503028

Book Review: Beyond the Stethoscope, by Lucy Mayes

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_beyond_the_stethoscope.jpgBeyond the Stethoscope features 25 doctors’ stories, including one by author Lucy Mayes’ husband. It is an unusual book, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and it’s hard to know how to describe it.

The stories are from both male and female doctors predominantly from New Zealand and Australia (there are two overseas doctors also), and the stories are in some instances extremely personal. Some are beautifully written and a joy to read, but others are quite hard to follow and their narrative is not clear.

The book reads like a series of academic papers – each written by a doctor with a different viewpoint on an issue, even if there are some overarching themes that attempt to tie them all together. As each voice is different, it’s hard to get a cohesive whole and this is evident as you move from one story – and one style of care – to the next.

Several names are familiar (in fact one doctor was at my local practice a year or so back) and many stories are incredibly moving and enlightening. Medicine has changed so much in the past 50 years and it’s obvious it’s not just patients getting frustrated with waiting weeks for appointments and then having their concerns packaged into 10-minute slots. It’s quite confronting reading that the doctors don’t enjoy this style of care either, that they want to know more about their patients and assist their journey to wellness, not just treat the illnesses they present with.

As someone who has had great doctors and not so great doctors (and who is currently changing practices after being assigned her fifth doctor in seven months), it is heartening to hear that some doctors are fighting back and embracing other ways of treating patients. I hope their efforts catch on and the idea of wellness over illness becomes the norm – although sadly I don’t think the Chinese system where a doctor is paid to keep a patient well and not paid when they are ill will ever catch on here!

One of the most moving stories is actually by Mayes’ husband, Dr Richard Mayes. His caring nature is evident, and the demands placed on doctors quite horrifying. He’s very open about the pressures he faced and how he dealt with them and I hope his story inspires others to say ‘enough is enough, something must change’. I want to see a doctor who cares about my wellness and who tells me what I need to be doing to keep well. I don’t want to be dosed with pills when a recommendation to get more exercise and eat and drink healthily may be all that’s required to ‘cure’ my ills.

I finished this book after being discharged from a couple of days in hospital that resulted from being overprescribed antibiotics, so I’m keen to hear stories from doctors who care and want the system to be changed for the better. I hope if nothing else, this book will mean other voices will join them in calling out for change.

The fact some stories are very well written and others are not makes me wonder if Mayes interviewed each doctor and then typed up their notes or whether the stories were supplied ready to go. Either way, some judicious editing would have avoided instances where homophones mean the wrong words have been used and where words are missing from sentences.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Beyond the Stethoscope – Doctors’ stories of reclaiming hope, heart and healing in medicine
by Lucy Mayes
Published by Heart Works Press
ISBN 9780648182726

Book Review: How to Escape from Prison, by Dr Paul Wood

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_how_to_escape_from_prisonPaul Wood was convicted of murder and imprisoned at age eighteen spending the next eleven years in Mt Crawford, Paremoremo, and Rimutaka prisons.

He has recorded these years in a recently released book How to Escape From Prison, a harrowing read of a young man’s journey with drug addiction and violence before his escape from his “mental prison’ enabled him to complete a degree while still in prison.

A mental prison Wood explains is a ‘set of distorted or misguided beliefs that condition our view of ourselves and the choices available to us, that prevent us from seeing clearly what we might achieve if we chose to live freely.’

Growing up in Wellington, Wood progressed from fighting with his brothers and dropping out of school, as well as becoming caught up in the drug scene before killing his drug dealer with a baseball bat, three days after the death of his mother.

How to Escape from Prison records Paul’s life behind bars and the people he meet inside who encouraged his road to redemption and the completion of a masters degree in psychology. He commenced further study for a doctorate while in prison completing this on his release and graduating on 2011.

The writing style is simple and easy to follow although the graphic detailing of the drug taking and prison life is at times overwhelming and I felt enormous relief as Paul Woods found his pathway to freedom through study. He said, “Once I discovered reading, I began to read voraciously”, and throughout the book he has included many quotations from books which assisted in his rehabilitation. His Five Steps to Freedom outlined in part two of the book include good advice and strategies to help people escape their mental prisons, and he has also shared “a list of things that assist in the development and exercise of self-control” which he calls “Willpower 101”.

Paul Wood lives in Wellington and is a motivational speaker and leadership and personal development specialist. He contributes regularly to the media and works with charities that focus on helping young men avoid prison or reintegrate on release. How to Escape from Prison is an inspiring read and valuable resource for anyone needing help to fulfil their potential and turn their dreams into reality.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

How To Escape from Prison
by Dr Paul Wood
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN‎: ‎9781775541196

Book Review: High Adventure, by Mike Allsop

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_high_adVenturey.jpgMike Allsop realised at an early age he had ambitions not to be ordinary. No person could be ordinary that dreamed of becoming a pilot – yet he had no idea how he was going to achieve this goal.  Luck is not something that falls off a tree, it’s something that is either in our souls before we are born or comes out of extraordinary sheer determination to achieve.

An airline pilot, a mountaineer who sees adventure as part of everyday life.  Mix this up with a wife and two children and you have a set of parents that decide their children are going to part of this exciting journey.

Mike and his wife Wendy decided that on each of their 3 children’s 7th birthdays Mike would take each of them in turn on an adventure into the Himalayas.  This became a ritual in the family with each child planning for months beforehand what they wanted to get out of this wonderful adventure.  The challenges and the people they met that became life-long friends.  Because of the success of these trips he and Wendy decided he would also get each child to plan an adventure to celebrate their fourteenth birthdays.

I absolutely loved this book.  Mike’s enthusiasm and writing ability took me every step of the way of each of his and his families various adventures. What a wonderful bonding experience each child in his family had.  I highly recommend this book to any reader that loves adventure in any shape or form.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

High Adventure – The Adventure Doesn’t End When You Become A Dad
by Mike Allsop
A & U New Zealand
ISBN 9781760633622

 

Book Review: Meltwater, by Suzanne Ashmore

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_meltwater.jpgSuzanne Ashmore’s Meltwater is a fractured and deeply personal novel, accurately hailed as a powerful ‘homage to storytelling’. Meltwater depicts the abusive childhood of Elizabeth and the lingering effect of that trauma following her through life. However, the novel in no way follows traditional methods of storytelling. Elizabeth has thirteen different ‘selves’ created to bury and protect their host, Elizabeth, from memories of her abuse.

This creates a splintered telling of Elizabeth’s life, as she jumps from memory to memory – some detached, some inconsistent, some uncontrollable, others passionate. Ashmore herself describes Meltwater as ‘rhizomatic’ – something with no single beginning, “always in the middle, between things, inter-being.” This perfectly describes the fluid nature of the novel – there are loose ends which are not tied, there are people who move in and out of Elizabeth’s life, people who are not mentioned again. Ideas start and stop, they flourish and they die. The ebbs and flows with Elizabeth’s emotions, aches with her confusion and exhaustion as she loses pieces of her past.

Elizabeth’s thirteen ‘selves’, particularly the narrator of the story and the ‘secret keeper’ Beatrice, steal memories to protect her from her trauma. This leaves large gaps in Elizabeth’s sense of self, especially as she grows older and longs to remember. There is a constant and fatiguing struggle within Elizabeth and her parts that are “born out of chaos”. From headstrong Lydia who always says what’s on her mind, to flirtatious Jessica longing for someone to love, and to love her – they all ‘take control’ of Elizabeth when life gets to be too much.

This means Elizabeth is, at times, detached from herself and her life, unable to ground herself. As memories are uncovered and moments unfold, she is lost, both literally and in her mind. At times, the memories are blurred and full of echoes, other times they are clear, silent, or in slow-motion.

Though detached, the descriptions in Meltwater are visceral and moody – from the hanging “paper-thin” Southern Alps to the tears of Taranaki, Ashmore’s prose is beautifully constructed. She paints on the page through Elizabeth’s thoughts, much like the art she later goes on to create.

There will be times in Meltwater where you need to put the book down – where Elizabeth’s pain is overwhelming. That in itself is compliment to Ashmore’s powerful yet graceful style. Meltwater is chilling, haunting, but most of all it is a brave and triumphant journey of a woman freeing herself from her past.

Reviewed by Susanna Elliffe

Meltwater
by Suzanne Ashmore
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473472313