Book Review: A Southern Tale, by Joanne McDougall

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_southern_taleSammy is a Sea Lion, a very rare and endangered species. He lives on an island deep in the Southern Ocean.

As light filled the sky bringing warmth with the dawn,
Sammy woke up with a stretch and a yawn.  
Her tummy then rumbled, expressing a wish
that she leaps into the sea and go and find a fish.
Into the waves, she dove as they crashed against rocks,
causing foam and spray to be splashed.

Sammy swam far in search of food, arriving at her favourite place teeming with fish. Fish eating the plankton, penguins and dolphins and sea birds galore gather for dinner, trying to ignore the sea leopards lurking, waiting for their chance to grab a quick bite. Meanwhile, the sharks with glistening white teeth, sharp as a razor lie in wait, fancying a meal of sea lion.

I read this book to 2 ½ year old Quinn. She’s been to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea World so knows all about seals and penguins – telling me in no uncertain terms just what she thinks about the seals in this story being chased and perhaps eaten. It can be quite hard explaining to a small child about the food chain in the animal kingdom – suburban Auckland doesn’t quite cut it.

This is a great story with wonderful illustrations, to introduce children to endangered species and to try and make them a little more aware of what goes on in the great ocean surrounding our country.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Southern Tale
by Joanne McDougall
Published by Pegasus Art

Book Review: Real food, less fuss, by Lauren Parsons

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_real_food_less_fussThis is a bit of a one-size-fits-all volume for well-being, healthy eating, sensible meal planning and preparation, and kitchen and pantry stocking!!! So it aims to cover a lot of ground.

Lauren Parsons is a nutrition coach which means that she has a great deal of interest in getting people to eat healthy, nutritious food which does not take hours to prepare, and which generally does not come from a can or a packet. Those are good general principles for any home cook, and there are lots of useful tips throughout the densely-packed pages which will help in avoiding wasted food, simplify your shopping trips, planning your meals and more.

So far, so good.

The recipe section is small, consisting of less than 30 recipes in total, so it’s not really what I regard as a cookbook. In addition, one or two of the recipes are misleading: particularly the recipe for Harissa. Harissa is a Moroccan and North African spice paste which has chilli as its main ingredient. That’s the one essential ingredient for a good harissa, and it’s the one ingredient not listed in Lauren’s recipe. She does say you can add a bit if you need extra kick…kind of misses the point.

However, that aside, the recipes seem to be easy to make, and some offer variations for a few dietary requirements.

For people starting out and aiming to find out more about nutrition in general I would say it may be useful.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Real food, less fuss
by Lauren Parsons
Published by Live Well Publishing
ISBN 9780473361129

Book Review: To the Ends of the Earth and back again, by Maxwell C. Hill

Available in selected bookshops.

cv_to_the_ends_of_the_earthAs a teacher, I always challenge my students to ask questions, not to blindly accept what they are told, to read, to refute, to question and even to suppose. I found that reading To the Ends of the Earth did all of these things and presented a very challenging alternative view of the settlement of Aotearoa, New Zealand. I did not read the original version of this book, so in taking up the second edition, I had a bit of catching up to do.

The original book makes the suggestion that there were earlier settlers from Greek culture and later from the Americas. This new edition responds to further questions from readers linking designs and spirals of the Celtic peoples to the spiral motifs found in Maori tattoos. This allowed Hill to investigate these designs and draw further support for his earlier settlement suggestions.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs and maps, drawings and diagrams. I always enjoy seeing text fully supported with illustrations. The chapter headings follow a logical sequence of ideas from Pre-Maori Artifacts, to Different People, Maps, Voyages and Charts. Other research is added at the end as well as extensive supporting information.

I am not an historian and therefore do not feel it is my place to comment on the veracity of the book. It is an interesting work of supposition with supporting research and extensive use of other people’s ideas. Drawing these together in such a way goes a little beyond my academic ability, but appeals to my fictional fantasy. I have visited Malaspurna Strait in Fiordland. An isolated spot, said to have been visited by a Spanish navigator before the time of Cook. It was a great story and the truth seemed somewhat secondary as we sailed toward the open sea.

So too with this book. I have a number of family members keen to be next on the reading list. They all picked it up and were enchanted by the ideas and the visuals. I found it an engaging read.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

To The Ends of the Earth and Back Again
 by Maxwell C. Hill
Ancient History Publications

Book Review: Currents of Change, by Darian Smith

cv_currents_of_changeAvailable now in selected bookshops.

Well-written and deliciously addictive. This spine-chilling ghost story kept me up until midnight, until just past the point where it stopped being a ghost story and became something else…

Sara is a troubled heroine, fleeing from her past, but burdened with self-doubts and shattered esteem. It is hard for her to trust, to open herself, and thus she protects herself with a wall of angry, sharp retorts. Her family home, in the isolated township of Kowhiowhio, Northland, provides the sanctuary she needs, but it brings with it darkness too. And not just because of the lack of electricity.

Sara’s sharp but endearing personality, her fragility edged with razors, make her an engaging heroine, and her friendship with general-all-round-good-guy neighbour, Nate, with his frank and generally cheerful nature, a good counterpoint. His sister-in-law, sharp, almost vicious, Moana adds a welcome dose of conflict and thrown into the whole weave is Great Aunt Bridget (long dead, but not at rest), a dark family secret, an adorable kitten, an almost-as-adorable little girl and an extremely unpleasant estranged husband.

This is an engaging read, although the sudden twist from ghost story to something else entirely derailed me for a heartbeat or three. Despite this, I would consider it a damn fine read.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Currents of Change
by Darian Smith
Published by Wooden Tiger Press
ISBN 9780473318109

Book Review: The Ghosts Of Moonlight Creek, by Sue Copsey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_ghosts_of_moonlight_creekSue Copsey brings us the third installment of the ‘Spooky Adventures’ series which follows the adventures of Joe and Eddie, the ghost hunters. Although I have not read the two previous books in the series, The Ghosts Of Young Nick’s Head and The Ghosts Of Tarawera,  I would love to!

When Joe, Eddie, Beckie and Anastasia are called to a location near Queenstown by Anastasia’s father ,the famous movie director Roberto Johnson. They think it’s just for a summer vacation on a movie set, but someone or something is terrorising the set and delaying the filming. It’s up to Joe and his ghost-hunting team, to find out who is destroying the film, and stop them. Only it’s not like a mystery they’ve solved before.

I enjoyed this book not just because it is based in Otago, but because of the spine-chilling storyline, and well-described characters. I would recommend it to any Kiwi child who loves a good ghost story. WARNING: DO NOT READ AT NIGHT!!

Reviewed by Isabelle Ralston (14)

The Ghosts Of Moonlight Creek
by Sue Copsey
Published by Treehouse Books
ISBN 9780473359461


Book Review: Ruby and the Blue Sky, by Katherine Dewar

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_ruby_and_the_blue_skyWell, this is an interesting thing. A self-published, cause-driven novel by a first-time author. Clearly Katherine Dewar has a message she wants to get out. She does that quite effectively but as with a lot of self-published books, there could have been a good deal of copy-editing which would have improved matters.

Ruby, of the title, is a punk-rock singer/songwriter who is conscious of the effects our consumerism, amongst other things, is having on our planet. Fired by a spur of the moment and seemingly throwaway line, she finds herself the spokesperson for serious counter-political action. Throw in her band, the group who come together to help in the activism, her mother who is on her own counter-cultural path and a die-hard weird religious cult with a desire to clean up the world, and you have quite a lot of potential. However in my opinion it misses the mark.

Ruby is fairly credible, as is her mum. But many of the other characters are sketchy. Salvador does not work for me as a character – too confused, too easily manipulated. The anonymous organisation backing him is doubtless based on various religious cults, and seems to buy in to the preconceptions and misconceptions surrounding such organisations.

I am not sure what readership was in mind, and really that does not matter, except that I am not sure to whom this will appeal. The writing style is a bit clunky, with moments where it’s actually quite good. But those moments are not enough to rescue the book.

It is one of those books which, as a professional librarian, I would hesitate to recommend to readers\, because it’s not well-enough constructed and it is so clearly pushing a point of view.

If the writing were better crafted, I think it might have worked. As it stands, I think it lacks the wow factor.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Ruby and the Blue Sky
by Katherine Dewar
Published by Ruru Press
ISBN 9780473345501 (UK)

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