Book Review: Devolve – The Wolf, by Mike Hooper

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_devolve_the_wolfDevolve is the first in a series by a Christchurch author and is independently published.

The design is competent and professional, and the story matches. It is a dystopian/post-apocalyptic setting, where the people have been forced, by war, to live underground. Here they are ruled over by the amicable King Brown, who desires, above all, to be liked and admired by his subjects. Our main character is 4N, or Foren, and all of the characters follow a similar naming system. We have KC (Casey), an intelligent and caring girl; GO (Geo), belligerent and thorny; VC (Vici), kind, secretive and naive and many others, all students in Professor Will’s class. All students who are hoping to be chosen as part of the team that will venture upon to the surface in search of relics.

Foren is an orphan, and his greatest desire is to be a Cat – a surface explorer that seeks relics – like his mother. Although he is chosen for the team, it is instead as a Wolf, a protector and guardian. Together with five of his class-mates, he must breach the hostile surface, where the earth is poisoned and the water polluted, where merely breathing the air can kill.

Or can it?

Foren and his friends uncover not only a dangerous conspiracy, but enter into a deadly and violent game of survival. This is not a light read – there is a bloody body count and a few moments where I feared Hooper was channeling his inner George RR Martin. Filled with twists, turns and some rather unexpected surprises. A competent, and relatively easy read, with barely a dull moment. I look forward to reading more.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Devolve – The Wolf
by Mike Hooper
ISBN 9780473342814

Bookseller Kiran Dass gets ready to sharpen her skills in Denver, CO

Kiran Dass is one of two booksellers from New Zealand currently en route to Denver Colorado for the 11th Winter Institute conference, where she will be hobnobbing with booksellers from all over the USA and the world. The Winter Institute is run by our American cousins, the American Booksellers Assocation, and Booksellers NZ is very grateful to have our scholarships sponsored by Canadian eReader company, Kobo. 

We asked Kiran a few questions including why she does what she does for a living, what she is most looking forward to about the experience, and what she’ll be reading on the way there.

What made you want a career in bookselling?
If you’re doing it properly, bookselling can be quite mentally, physically and emotionally invigorating work! I find it stimulating and rewarding from so many different angles.

Every day on the shop floor brings the satisfying pleasure of being able to effectively engage in a dialogue about books with our customers. It’s quite a special relationship, and it’s built on trust, you know. Because when you learn about what sorts of books a customer likes, you are actually gaining quite a personal, intimate insight into who they are and what makes them tick. It sounds like such a cliché, but it’s true, there really is nothing quite as satisfying as being able to instinctively put the right book into a customer’s hands and introducing them to the book they didn’t even realise they were searching for. And they always come back. To be able to open those doors for readers is such a privilege.

Of course, Unity Books transcends being merely a bricks-and-mortar retail space. Bookshops are at the heart of any community. They’re where ideas are formed and shared and that’s the kind of place I want to be. Put simply, it’s the books and the people that make it for me.

Tell us the three main things you hope to get out of your attendance at the Winter Institute?

I think the conference will be a brilliant opportunity to connect with booksellers from around the world – there will be around 500 attendees. Over ten years I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working for two of the best independent bookshops in New Zealand, and so I’m looking forward to meeting and engaging with people from all different facets of the book trade in an international context. The conference this year seems geared towards best practices for booksellers, which of course is of interest – as a bookseller, I am always keen to refine and sharpen my bookselling skills and knowledge.

What sessions during the conference are you looking forward to the most, and why?
The Education for International Booksellers session will no doubt be fascinating and useful in terms of exploring trends in U.S. bookselling. I think it will be an interesting discussion led by a panel of experienced American booksellers who embrace adapting the fast changing challenges of bookselling. Americans are world-class at marketing any product, and at Unity we keep a keen eye on American literary trends so I think it will be an informative and valuable session.

Because I am interested in the wider arena of the book trade and the different relationships within it, the Economics of Publishing session will provide an insight into the financial and logistical realities of publishing and how this relates to bookselling.

The retail bookselling session looks like a practical crash-course on the essentials of opening a new bookshop or buying an existing shop. Let’s find out the nitty gritty of what this takes!

Backlist titles are one of my passions – those enduring personal favourites that you can really get behind, so I’m really intrigued by the Backlist Bookswap Party, too. To be honest, I just want to get to as much as I can during the conference, and to talk to as many different people as possible!


What do you know about the bookstore you will be working with while over there? What will be your focus as a take-away?
Book Soup! When I found out I was being placed in a bookshop in Los Angeles, I secretly (well, actually not so secretly!) crossed my fingers and hoped that I would end up at Book Soup because I have heard that it is similar in spirit to Unity Books and their stock looks absolutely amazing – my manager Jo is a big fan of Book Soup and described it as “Unity Books x 3!” And many of our customers who have been there come back raving about it. I think I did an excited little dance on the spot when I found out my Book Soup wish came true!

Of course, I am a huge music nut and Book Soup proudly proclaims that “Book Soup has been serving readers, writers, artists, rock & rollers, and celebrities since it was founded by Glenn Goldman in 1975!” To me, that sounds like just the ticket. They also hold a dizzying array of in-store author events which I am looking forward to observing – and amazing authors, too. They recently hosted a book signing for Grace Jones when her memoir was published. The idea of a week at Book Soup immersing myself in the culture and dynamic of the shop is absolutely thrilling. I’m really keen to observe and learn more about their bookselling practices and the nuts and bolts of the running of an independent bookshop in the States.

What are you planning to read in the plane on the way there?
Oh, I’m really excited about this one. I’ve been saving this book for months. Fortuitously and in a rare instance, I don’t have to read for reviewing purposes while I’m on this scholarship, which means I can read a book for my own pleasure and immerse myself without having to have all my critical faculties blazing from all angles and having to stop every paragraph to scribble down notes.
So I am taking Lucia Berlin’s extraordinarily singular and wonderful A Manual For Cleaning Women which I started over the Christmas break. To be honest, while I’m a huge fan of classic short stories by Richard Yates and John Cheever, I don’t tend to gravitate to short stories. But as soon as I read about Lucia Berlin and her backstory, I knew I’d love her before I even began. And two stories into this collection, I wasn’t wrong.

And of course, I’m looking forward to firing up my Kobo eReader!

Helen Wadsworth, from the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby, is the other recipient of Booksellers Kobo Scholarship to Denver. We will feature her answers to similar questions back on this blog tomorrow.

If you are just now wondering how on earth you get chosen to receive a Kobo Scholarship, let Cherie Donovan know you may be interested in applying for 2017 – she will make sure you get the form once applications are open in the next couple of months.

Winter Institute conference a welcome opportunity for Kobo scholars and industry leaders alike

The indie angle is Kobo scholar Jenna Todd’s focus as she heads off to represent New Zealand booksellers at the Wi9 conference in Seattle from 21 – 25 January 2014.
pp_jenna_toddJenna, manager of Time Out Books (above), and her fellow Kobo scholar Jared Raines, manager of Paper Plus Northland, were chosen from applications from all over New Zealand by a panel which included representatives of the Embassy of the United States, Kobo and Booksellers New Zealand.

pp_mary_sangsterMary Sangster (left), Chair of the board of Booksellers NZ, is also looking forward to going. ‘For us’, she says, ‘the conference will be about the sharing of ideas and experience on an international level.’ Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ, also attending, is keen to get ‘updated information on new trends and developments in bookselling, and uses of new technologies’.

The programme for the Wi9 conference, which is the American Bookstore Association’s
membership conference, is aimed at educating booksellers and enabling them cope and grow in an industry that is rapidly changing.

This conference will have a larger number of international attendees than previous ones, and there are several talks organised just for the International guests – Jenna is particularly looking forward to the bookseller panel discussion about current trends in the US market.

Jenna also comments ‘The programme is very overwhelming, there are so many things I want see. What stands out to me are the talks about independent bookstores; Ray Oldenburg at the Small & Independent Press Breakfast, and a talk called Independent retail in Seattle: Success Stories. Also, Geno Church is hosting The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking, and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing, and Dan Heath’s talk on making decisions- which I think will be relevant to my job at Time Out.
For Mary and Lincoln (right) , the conference will be all about connections with international bookselling associations. Lincoln says: ‘We are looking forward to meeting with booksellers, ABA staff and publishers to work through key issues such as sales tax on across border retail purchases, the changing scene of publishing and the supply chain, and kobo sales and service.’

With each day beginning with yoga, the conference is certain to be stimulating for both body and mind. We look forward to seeing the new ideas that our scholars, who are carrying on after conference with a week in a local independent Seattle bookstore, are able to bring home. We will see these ideas presented in the Booksellers NZ conference on 22 and 23 June 2014.

During the Wi9, keep an eye on the Booksellers NZ twitter stream for live tweets from Lincoln, as well as the Time Out Bookshop’s twitter and facebook accounts – Jenna has promised some photos as well.

by Sarah Forster , Web Editor

If you would like to register early for the Booksellers NZ conference 2014, please contact Cherie Donovan

The Book Fairy: Jenna Todd from Time Out Books, by The Gardens Magazine

This interview is reproduced in full from The Gardens, Issue 17, November 2013. The magazine covers Mt Eden, Epsom, Newmarket, Parnell and Remuera, and is available free at various places in these areas. If you want to learn more, go to (Photo: David Williams, The Gardens news magazine)

Jenna Todd, Manager of Time Out Book Store in Mt Eden, has won one of two Kobo Booksellers Scholarships that will see her taking off to the USA for two weeks. She speaks to Meg Williams about that, and her love of books, and where the industry is headed.

Where did you grow up?
Dunedin. I completed all of my schooling there. Then continued to finish a fine arts degree in photography at the Dunedin School of Art, but I also made a lot of ceramic work and digital installations.

What sparked your passion for books?cv_kristys_great_idea
I didn’t receive any siblings until I turned 20, so I grew up an only child. Books were really what kept me company growing up. I would read extremely fast but still manage to take everything in. I often would read absolutely anything—I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in primary school, John Marsden’s Tomorrow series was a favourite, The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and, of course, Judy Blume.

What’s your favourite book and why?
Right now, my favourite book is The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. I like a book that punches you in the stomach, and this does it. It also helps that I used to live in South Korea, and there’s nothing like reading a book with a familiar landscape.rocky_horror_picture_show

What’s your favourite movie and why?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My dad sat me down to watch it when I was about five and I watched it every weekend. Some may think that’s a little young, but I love how the movie never questions the character’s sexuality or their quirks—no-one says to Frank-N-Furter, ‘Why aren’t you wearing any pants?’ That’s the least of everyone’s worries.

What’s your favourite song at the moment and why?
Oh, there’s some great music around at the moment. Locally, my current favourite song is Glass Houses by Paquin. It’s wonderful synthesised, shoegaze pop. Best of all, it was recorded at The Lab down the road from the village. I just bought Kiran J Callinan’s album from Southbound Records, and I’m smashing Haim’s album Days are Gone on repeat at Time Out.

How did you first get into photography?
When I got my film back from standard 4 camp, my teacher told me that I was a good photographer. From then on, that’s what I wanted to do. I spent most of 6th and 7th form skulking away in the darkroom, as well as art school. At art school, our photography department was analogue based when I started and mostly digital when I left. I love film photography, but it’s difficult to use in my current nature of work. I photographed my first wedding using film—I would never do that now!

Your photography is primarily images of people, can you tell me why that is?
I guess I mostly shoot people because I am paid to! But it’s definitely what I prefer. Photography is a wonderful way to connect with people, especially when I’m outside of my familiar environment. I love documenting people and events like I’m not there. Most of my work is actually of musicians for promo shots and album art, which is always so interesting and challenging as I am less likely to have any boundaries in style and concept.

What do you do as manager of Time Out?
I make sure our team of 12 staff are all happy and are doing what we’re supposed to do. I’m passionate about high standards of customer service and encouraging customers to spend their money locally. Rostering, special orders, social media, window displays, a bit of book and card buying, going to conferences, delegating! I definitely don’t get to read while working.

Tell me how you feel about winning the scholarship.
As I write, it hasn’t been officially announced—so it doesn’t feel quite real. I imagine this is how you feel in the days before you cash in your winning lotto ticket. I’m very proud to be representing Time Out, the NZ book industry and Kobo at the Winter Institute, it’s great that young booksellers are being acknowledged and supported.

How long will you be in America for?
I’m not quite sure yet—but I think about two weeks.

What excites you the most about it?
The adventure! Also, meeting fellow booksellers and spending time in independent bookstores in Seattle and bringing back that inspiration to Mt Eden.

What scares you the most about it?
The long days at the Winter Institute while being jet lagged. Otherwise, I love travelling and I’ve travelled on my own many times—so I’m not nervous about that part of it.

What differences do you expect to see between NZ and American
independent bookselling?
The American book market is a bit ahead of us in terms of indie bookstores selling e-readers and e-books successfully, so I am curious to see how we can mimic that balance selling our Kobo e-readers and books while growing sales of print books. The ygreat thing about the American market is that many indie bookstores are thriving and I’m really looking forward to seeing it happen. Part of my scholarship is the opportunity to work in an American indie bookstore—so I will be gaining some first hand experience.

How has Time Out helped you in winning? Do you think you would
have won had you worked in a different independent book shop?
There are such wonderful indie bookstores all around NZ, but I don’t think I would have as much responsibility as I do at Time Out anywhere else. I am truly trusted by Wendy to do whatever I want with Time Out, and I think the scholarship panel could see that and knew that I would be able to implement any new ideas without any fuss. There are not many jobs that would allow me zip away for a photo shoot, or be okay with me napping on the couch upstairs after finishing a photoshoot the previous night at 2am. I am extremely lucky that I can pursue my two passions side by side.

Thank you to Gardens Magazine, for writing such a fantastic story about Jenna, and letting us reproduce it.

Email digest: Wednesday 14 August 2013

This is a digest of our Twitter feed that we email out most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sign up here for free if you’d like it emailed to you.

Book reviews
Book Review: Pat Hanly, by Gregory O’Brien & Gil Hanly

Book Review: The Intentions Book, by Gigi Fenster


True Stories Told Live – the XX Factor is in Auckland, tonight.

David Larsen is talking with Eleanor Catton at Takapuna Library, this Friday evening.

Authors dancing? No no… Books and bubbles for Kaikoura

Jo Seager launches A Bit of What You Fancy, at high tea events in October…

Book News
While the Australian National Bookshop Day is over, it is no reason to stop celebrating them. 

Which book would you pick for ‘Book Club in a Box!’ ‘The White Princess’ or ‘The River of No Return.’ Win here

Find Waldo a Shop Local success in US

Wendell Berry wins the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award   His #poetry

Kobo Glo E-Reader — A Bookseller’s Review

Frankfurt Book Fair is nearly here again – here is a preview from Publishing Perspectives

Awards News
Two new reviews of #nzpba books – The Intentions Book, and Pat Hanly

There are only 4 MORE DAYS to vote for your  #nzpba People’s Choice and be in to win $1000 in Book Tokens

From around the internet
Ever wondered what Shaun Tan drew as a child? Listen to the curator talk about his exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery

Because we know there are a lot of English majors excelling at bookselling

Happy Birthday to bestselling author Danielle Steel! What’s your favourite Danielle Steel novel?

Thug Notes takes on Hamlet…priceless

How to find reviewers for your self-published book…

What a great idea! How Cooking Can Encourage Your Child to Read