Book Review: The Knot Impossible, by Barbara Else

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_knot_impossibleThe Knot Impossible is the fourth book in Barbara Else’s award-winning series, ‘Tales of Fontania’. As enchanting and richly told as the previous three books, it introduces a new story to the Fontania saga, and to the history of the world which the author has so skillfully created.

Rufkin Robiasson is the son of a famous family of entertainers. When his family go travelling to perform around Fontania during the summer, Rufkin stays behind because of his terrible stage fright. He is sent to work in a salvage yard among the cave lizards and scrap-metal ship hulks.

When Rufkin comes to the rescue of a small boy they soon discover is named Vosco, a series of events are triggered, and he and his new sort-of friend Nissy embark on a dangerous adventure at sea. The outcome of their mission will determine the fate of Vosco, themselves, and the kingdom of Fontania. Rufkin, who has always feared the stage, is now the centre of the kingdom’s attention – he must fix the problems of the past if he wants to save his future. 

While reading The Knot Impossible I was completely enthralled by its steampunk theme and amusing storyline. The characters are genuinely charming and the plot has been cleverly thought out – it’s guaranteed to be unlike any story you’ve read before. It’s a tale of peril, cave lizards and queens – a perfect read to enjoy during the remainder of the summer holidays.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

The Knot Impossible
by Barbara Else
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776570041


Using Facebook for customer engagement works for Atlantis Bookstores

Article supplied

Atlantis Books opened its first shop in April this year and it already has another two stores. Co-owner Fraser Newman puts a lot of their success down to social media.

“This is a very powerful tool for booksellers,” Fraser says, “In the past booksellers laboured over newsletters and reviews in newspapers. Now we can reach our customers instantly at any time of night or day – and it is fun and interactive.”

Atlantis Books has seen its following on Facebook boom with over 2,900 likes already. Fraser says, “We’ve noticed we can say something on Facebook and immediately we’ll notice people coming into the store responding to it. I cannot overstate the case for good social media engagement.”


Facebook, at least for Atlantis, has until now replaced the need for newsletters and other forms of advertising, though they still market heavily in local newspapers in their three cities.

“Newsletters are good for a certain demographic. But you only get to send one out once a month or so, people rarely read them and you don’t know who you are targeting.”

Targeting is a major factor in Atlantis Books’ success on Facebook. The page’s ‘Insight’ feature allows staff to see who is on the page. They can then shift their focus appropriately. Fraser sometimes sets goals when he sees the demographics moving too far in one direction. For example, when the balance of under 24 year olds shifted too far toward female fans, Fraser carried out a drive to appeal to male under 24 year olds as well.

“This keeps us grounded. We want to be a mainstream, mass market bookshop for the average punter. Our Facebook page has to reflect this. Therefore our goal is always to have a good bell-curve distribution for our demographics. It is never going to be perfect though. Younger people are on Facebook more than older, and females are more likely to engage on a page than males.”

Another thing to look out for are Facebook rules.

“A lot of people miss these,” Fraser says, “But Facebook can actually be quite strict. There are rules around images, advertising, give-aways and competitions. People need to be familiar with these and not be lax on following them. As your page grows people will notice when you break the rules and dob you in. There is nothing worse than planning a promotion and then having Facebook pull the plug on it.”

This is important because one of the most successful ways to grow followers on a page is with competitions.

“Dollar for dollar competitions do more for a page than anything else. Sometimes we’ll have 100+ people enter a competition and we sell a lot of the same book afterwards because people are sad they missed out.”

The key to a good competition is a worthwhile prize (no reading copies thank you!) and a decent question people have to answer in order to get some engagement with customers. It is also important to remember that the prizes should not be just fiction but reflect the different areas of the shop.

“Too much of the book industry is geared up for fiction sales,” Fraser says, “But they are only a small part of total sales. Your Facebook page should reflect this.” (below is a selection of comics available at their Whakatane store.)

comicbooksAnother way to get people engaged is with open ended questions or fill in the gaps. Social media users love to share their ideas, even if no one else is really listening. So simply chucking discussion points out there can really get people going.

At the end of the day though success on social media comes down to having an attractive online personality and putting in the hard work.

“Don’t just just put up photos of your new releases,” Fraser says, “People want substance and a little fun.”


Article supplied by Fraser Newman, Atlantis Bookstore

Book Review: Bird Murder, by Stefanie Lash


Bird Murder is available now, at selected bookstores.

Birds of a feather flock together, or so they say.
And Mākaro Press bunches three first-class poets in its Hoopla Series. Stefanie Lash, an archivist from Wellington, is the fledgling of this group, with Bird Murder her first collection.

Lash’s collection evades pigeonholes. Perhaps it is best pegged as a poetic thriller (indeed, the cover does cast it as ‘crime’). But Lash resists conformity to any one mode. Bird Murder flitters between legalese and the natural sciences, between steampunk and colonial New Zealand history. Norse and Greek references couple with local geography.

The work is a hodge-podge of elements, but by no means a mess. Imagery is integrated. The ‘not-quite-fictional’ setting of Tusk and its colourful inhabitants are vivid and convincing. Yet the reader is torn between feelings of repulsion and delight. There is something both exquisite and abhorrent about this other-world. The ‘pretty bird’ becomes ‘grotesque’ in death, and there is something oddly artful about the ‘creamy intestines’, the ‘teacup of blood’.

Bird Murder is in turns haunting and hilarious. It is verse as storytelling. However, this is no linear tale. Rather, each verse acts as a clue to the overarching narrative. Characters are sketchily rendered. Birds, birdmen and human forms move in and out of view. There is an element of theatre in the movements of characters − the maid stands at ‘stage right’, people adopt the ‘contrapposto pose’.

This is theatre at the ‘World’s End’. One senses the credits have fallen, and Tusk is a world in its death-throws. The slaying of the huia bird, an almost magical entity, is symptomatic of such breakdown. And in the dystopian dim it seems ‘no good can come of seeing faces fully after dark’. The huia, once taxidermied, is purged of its magic − ‘the actual animal is released’.

In Bird Murder, Lash has gifted us fairy-tale and caution. A bird in the hand is worth nothing if it is dead. ‘No man should revel in extinction’. But Lash’s tone is not didactic. Her style is more ‘show’ than ‘tell’. Lash invites us into a world rich with imagery – from the anatomical to the culinary.

This is poetry with guts.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morton

Bird Murder
by Stefanie Lash
Mākaro Press
ISBN 9780473276492