Book Review: The Empty Coffin, by Gary Moore

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_empty_coffinIn Gary Moore’s debut thriller set in Auckland, crime is a burgeoning reality. Its imprints are challenged, yet coupled with obscurities, thus seemingly perpetuating the endemic pattern of wounding and wrongdoing.

Six-year-old Kerry Preston, an abducted girl, is found unscathed and unaffected by her tormentor. Constable Mary Clarke is shocked to find the child speaking to her like a grown-up and divulging Mary’s past life  all before resuming her juvenile self. Later, while crossing through a sports field one evening, fourteen-year-old Dean Bradley is murdered for his brand new sports shoes. Bradley’s murderer, Tom Heke, is on the run. He steals his friend’s mother’s money and joins the members of an ethnic gang, the Black Mamba. The big mystery lies in the disappearance of Bradley’s body from undertaker Ken Tamati’s funeral parlour.

Moore’s debut novel portrays just about every societal ill: murder, rape, theft, and gang violence, and dysfunctional families and communities. Each chapter in the novel opens with a radio network news broadcast, featuring reports and updates on crime and local politics all over New Zealand’s busiest city. The paths of the media, police and victims converge at the pursuit and question of “the Rainbow Man,” a mysterious saviour who punishes the violent attackers of several victims. A common detail in these victims’ contrasting accounts is the nebulous figure’s ability to heal the victims with a dazzling blue light, thus removing all pain and fear. While police try to gather information on this ostensibly supernatural being, the media circulates the public’s thought that it is the Second Coming.

The Empty Coffin is a superb debut thriller: action-packed, original and hauntingly intense. Due to its mature themes, this thriller would be suitable for older readers.

Reviewed by Azariah Alfante

The Empty Coffin
by Gary Moore
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473388959

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Book Review: Slave Power, by Raewyn Dawson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_slave_powerSlave Power is the first in The Amazon Series, and introduces a new voice in the Young Adult market. It is a tale of friendship, of determination, of love, and of dedication. Set in the historic world, and around the Black Sea, it follows two very different girls, brought together by unfortunate circumstances.

The fifteen-year old heroine, Melo, is one of the most talented Riders in the Wild Horse Tribe. Her prowess, combined with her compassion, has stirred the jealousies of older beauty, Mithrida. Envious, and devious, Mithrida hatches a plan to remove Melo from the tribe, a plot which results in Melo falling into the hands of slave traders. Here she befriends a young girl, Atalanta. Atalanta’s family, and her entire tribe, fell to the slave traders, many slaughtered, others captured.

They are taken to a isolated island to train as fighter-slaves. Here, Melo meets Sofia, a young priestess-in-training, and her older brother, Mati, captures Melo’s eye (and perhaps her heart as well). Whilst Melo helps to inspire and improve the spirits of her fellow slaves, the Amazon tribes must unite against the very real threat of the slave traders. Meanwhile, Mithrida, still plotting and planning for her own gain, forms an allegiance with the enemy.

The author has taught classical studies, so she knows her era well, and creates her world in evocative detail. With strong female role models, messages of compassion, kindness and finding value in others, “Slave Power” is an inspiration read for young adults, contrasting sharply with the more dark-world dystopia that currently floods the market. It promotes cooperation, and peaceful resolution. Romantic relationships are minimal, with the teenage heroine pursuing friendship first – a worthy message for the youth of today!

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Slave Power
by Raewyn Dawson
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473389376

Book Review: Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings, by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_feel_a_little_NZSharing our feelings is not only important for adults. The benefits of emotional literacy can be seen in children of all ages. This book is a collaboration by two people who addressed the need for this. It began as an online project where an emotion was featured each week. The poem for each emotion combines catchy rhymes with beautifully vibrant illustrations. There are 14 emotions in the book, a rainbow of expressions and images, that use colour to reinforce ideas. Following the success of the venture, the poems were gathered into this hard cover book which is best suited for 7-11 year olds.

While the poems are quite long and complex, they would make a useful starter as an educational focus. I could see myself in teaching, using a poem each week and basing activities on these. Movement, music and art would flow naturally from discussions about, “When I feel Sad”. In the home, the book might be read over a number of weeks allowing for family discussions about times when we have felt that emotion. I would struggle to read the whole book in a sitting, but do not feel this was the intended purpose of the authors.

Feel a Little is an exciting collaboration because it addresses the emotional needs of children in words and images. By choosing to publish these poems they will access a wider audience and be useful in many situations. My copy has already gone to my Grandaughter’s preschool who intend to use it in their programmes. That must be a sure sign of a successful book.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings
by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp
Published by Little Love
ISBN 9780473384456

Book Review: Double-Edged Sword – The Simonne Butler Story, with Andra Jenkin

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_double-edged_swordIn 2003, Simonne Butler’s violent partner, Antoine Dixon, high on methamphetamine, cut off both her hands with a samurai sword. Her hands were reattached in a ground-breaking marathon surgery and she spent the next decade healing her mind, body and spirit.

I started this book with mixed feelings as like many New Zealanders I had followed this story through the media and asked myself why had Simonne got herself into this situation, and why didn’t she leave the violent relationship? But after reading her story, I now understand how life circumstances shape our lives and how people can cling to the hope they can change others with love and support and hopefully the next day will be better.

This is a powerful book and Simonne shares her background growing up in a challenging household where a cycle of abuse was prevalent. Fed up with supporting her alcoholic mother, Simonne moved out of the family home and into a flat when she was twenty-one, and during that time met Tony, who was her friend Shasta’s boy-friend.

Tony began stalking Simonne, and their friendship grew as she explains, “Tony was so funny, determined and resourceful. He was so into me it was hard not to get caught up in it all. He was exciting and what seemed like a little dangerous.”

As the story unfolds, the reader is drawn into the life of the couple who are soon living together and Simonne learns that Tony is still married and concerned his wife will take their children to Australia. Life with Tony is erratic and at times dangerous, and while Simonne does attempt to leave him, he draws her back until she is too exhausted to be able to get away.

Simonne has not spared the reader in her description of the attack, its graphic detail is harrowing and you feel you have to read on. She has shared her life in pictures as well, wonderful snapshots of a girl growing up in New Zealand, photos of the surgery and then life post-surgery.

Simonne Butler is to be congratulated for being able to share her story in Double-Edged Sword. It is a must-read book for young adults upwards, as Simonne has vividly described many of the oppressive traits that abusers can exhibit.

It is also an inspiring read, as this brave woman overcame extreme stress and trauma to rebuild her life, taking it in new directions after graduating with a Diploma of Naturopathy from Wellpark College of Natural Therapies. In February 2013, she began a formal shamanic apprenticeship at the Medicine Woman Centre for Shamanic Studies after studying with a master shaman since 2006.

Reviewed By Lesley McIntosh

Double-Edged Sword – The Simonne Butler Story
by Simonne Butler, with Andra Jenkin
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN  9780473364359

Book Review: What does the sea sound like?, by Evie Mahoney

Available now in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_what_does_the_sea_sound_likeEvie Mahoney is a CODA, a child of Deaf Adults, born in 1945 the oldest in a family of six children, and one day her father asked her “What does the sea sound like?”

Although he had swum regularly in the sea he had never heard any sound as he was born without hearing , so Evie used her lips and hand movements to explain the small sound of “Swish ,swish, swish on the sand”.

This book is her story of growing up in Auckland in a mainly deaf environment as her mother also had limited hearing. Evie took on a lot of responsibility at a young age, making phone calls on a public coin-operated phone to the doctor, insurance company, dentist and other businesses. “Once the call was over she often had more questioLesley McIntosns than I could answer. Negotiating with strangers about something a child doesn’t fully understand was overwhelming and did not generate self –assurance in me”.

Sensitive to how hearing people outside that environment reacted to her family, Mahoney lived on the edge between two cultures and slipped naturally into the role of interpreter from a young age. Her way of communicating with the deaf was by lip-reading and improvised signs as she did not know formal sign language. The book is divided into three parts, the middle section is just seven pages outlining Mahoney’s early married life in Australia with two young children.

An autobiography is not complete without the family photos and the author has a included a wonderful selection from early black and white to a modern coloured photo of her family in 2014.

Having worked with people with disabilities for many years, I found this an interesting read. It is not a large book, just 150 pages and many of the chapters read almost as stand alone stories. It is somewhat repetitive at times, but that is not a bad thing, as it re-enforces the many issues the family had to face in a largely hearing world.

The inclusion of the italicized positives throughout the book serve as “a reminder that when feeling vulnerable, lacking confidence or feeling inadequate in some way, there is always an opportunity to make it better”. What does the sea sound like? will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys an autobiography or who works in the disability fields.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

What does the sea sound like?
by Evie Mahoney
Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473367718

Book Review: A Moment’s Silence – Stalking the Stalker, by Christopher Abbey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_moments_silenceI love a good thriller and when this one landed on my doorstep I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Martyn Percival is a New Zealander on holiday in the UK. He was travelling for 7 days on a British “Sampler Tour”. It is Sunday 7 May 1995 – a long weekend commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of VE day. His marriage of more than 30 years has broken up, he’s recently started up his own accounting practice after being made redundant, and he is now taking a well needed break.

A dusty Vauxhall Cavalier comes into view beneath Martyn’s window. Travelling on a bus has its advantages – you can look down on things and see things that perhaps you wouldn’t notice travelling in a car. The number plate of the Vauxhall J 842 MMP caught Martyn’s eye. As a child plate watching was his family’s travelling game. Families have their own games when travelling with children – it keeps everyone amused and entertained hopefully for hours. In Martyn’s case his fixation with numbers drove him to be an accountant. His coach creeps forward, grinding a few metres further up the hill. The car remains stationary.

Suddenly the Cavalier accelerates into view, squealing across the median line. Martyn cranes his head for a better view. The coach inches forward right alongside the grimy maroon Vaxhall. The car’s rear ledge has been removed and what appears to be a large metal-framed black box fills the boot space. On its top lies a grey flat moulded case, too large for a violin. The lid is sprung partly open, half-covered by a tartan travel rug. Two automatic weapons can now clearly be seen. One is a rifle with a folded metal butt embedded in foam in the case. The other – a smaller machine gun lies loose on the box top. Martyn points them out to a fellow passenger who confirms his suspicions. Definitely not AK-47’s, but some sort of assault weapons. Horrified at what he’s seen Martyn gets his camera out and clicks off a few frames.

After finishing the tour, Martyn hires a car to explore areas he visited on his recent bus trip. Sitting in a pub recommended to him by the B & B where he is staying in the Cotswolds, the television flashes up a bombing of Commando Memorial in Scotland, which he had visited on his bus trip. A memory of that day comes back to Martyn with sudden realisation that the Vauxhall Cavalier was parked in the vicinity – he can’t get the Vauxhall’s number plate out of his head – J 842 MMP. After some deliberation Martyn decides that he must report what he has seen, with the photos he took as further evidence.

What Martyn doesn’t know is a rogue IRA operative is on the loose – one Linus Calleson. Calleson 8 months earlier had put a plan to his superiors to blow up the Commando Memorial in Scotland on 11 November 1994 – Remembrance Day. His superiors put this plan on hold as peace talks had been held. Linus was bitterly disappointed but decided to go ahead without their support. To go against orders would be treason which carries only one penalty – death.

What follows is real a boys own annual story (well perhaps a grown up version) – the IRA, bombings, sex, murder, romance and of course not forgetting the villain Linus, with Martyn being in the thick of being stalked by Linus for being a “nosey bloody tourist”.
The characters and story flowed with actual events being slotted into make this even more believable and very realistic. The characters all have flaws making them even more human.

This was a gritty story that had me struggling between life commitments and finishing the book. This is the author Christopher Abbey’s first book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Moment’s Silence – Stalking the Stalker
by Christopher Abbey
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473361891

Book Review: To the Ice and Beyond, by Graeme Kendall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_to_the_ice_and_beyondIn 2005, New Zealander Graeme Kendall set out on a solo 28,000 mile journey to circumnavigate the world in his yacht. To the Ice and Beyond tells the story of his amazing journey, the planning, the execution, and what he saw and experienced along the way.

The intrepid New Zealander was 60 years old when he set out, and it had long been a dream to sail around the world. Becoming financially secure early on in his working career, he was able to custom build his yacht, the Astral Express, for the journey and pay for the trip himself.

Graeme was happy to finance the dream, “Money should buy you time – it’s no use having one without the other. Money is always there to be made, time isn’t. Money should give freedom, not be an obsession. Make a little and spend a little, that’s my philosophy.”

Graeme plotted his course with much forethought, intending to set out from New Zealand over Australia to the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, up the length of the Atlantic Ocean through the Northwest Passage in Canada, dropping back down into the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, back down through the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. The toughest parts would be navigating the notoriously stormy Cape of Good Hope and the ice-prone waters in the Northwest Passage.

Preparations included a gun in case of a polar bear attack, weekly packs of dehydrated food prepared by a nutritionist, 140 litre tank and several bottles of emergency water, with a plan to capture rainfall along the way. Graeme used GPS, ice charts, satellite communication, and regular weather reports – modern technology that gives modern sailors a reduced risk advantage over early explorers.

His company in the wide blue oceans would be migrating birds flying alongside the boat. He saw a blue whale and a large 1.5m turtle in the waters. Huge 50,000 tonne container ships would silently glide through the waters transporting unknown product from China to America. He would be wary of pirates around Angola and sail well out into the ocean to avoid trouble. One of the best nights of the trip was seeing a group of 30 dolphins around his boat, with luminious phosphorescence clinging to their outlines – a lightshow to beat all light shows.

Graeme grabbed snatches of sleep where he could, sometimes a couple of hours nap, sometimes a 5 minute catnap, and 6-8 hours when he needed to. He would always set his radar and weather alarms to wake him up should trouble be approaching. Graeme kept exercise in the programme to keep the legs fit, with yoga and squats.

The Astral Express was caught up in Hurricane Harvey off the coast of the United States, and it makes for chilling reading as Graeme describes trying to keep the boat from rolling in the gale force winds and huge choppy swells. The power of the ocean and Mother Nature is terrifying as you imagine yourself out there. It makes you realise solo sailors need guts of steel to survive such encounters.

To the Ice and Beyond is a great read for adventure lovers, the detail behind organising such a mammoth trip is interesting and Graeme answers all the questions you might have over the course of the book. It’s a great book to have on the bedside table as the adventures he faces as he sails around the world channel into lively and limitless dreams for the reader.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

To the Ice and Beyond
by Graeme Kendall
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473353278