Archive for July, 2017

The remarkable story of New Zealand’s wildlife sanctuaries and how they are stemming the tide of extinction.

It is too soon to say that extinction is over in New Zealand. Where there is no pest management in the forests and parks we are losing native species at an ever alarming rate. But a revived national consciousness of critical species decline has given new hope. Scientists have responded with pioneering techniques to help clear offshore islands of introduced pests, providing havens for dwindling populations. In the wake of their success, the same strategies and techniques of predator control have now been applied on the mainland. Sanctuaries have appeared all over New Zealand, with thousands of volunteers answering the call to help support and run them.

Paradise Saved tells the gripping story of how we are turning back the tide of extinction. It is a celebration of pioneering science and a national survey of the sanctuaries, little and big, that are protecting native species and reintroducing them to areas where they had once been extinct.

It covers over 130 sanctuaries, with up to date information on where to find them, how to visit and how to do your part.

Random House

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

New Zealand has had its share of ecological disasters. Possums, rabbits and gorse, to name a few but New Zealand’s wildlife sanctuaries are slowly clawing back habitats that have been ravaged and establishing population of threatened species on islands or fenced or isolated areas, where predators cannot get at them. This has become an effective strategy, which has been only made possible by the volunteers who give of their time and expertise. While birds still struggle on most of the mainland, the islands and sanctuary areas are turning back the tide of extinction.

 

irector Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick examine the dark side of American history, from the beginning of the twentieth century right up to the Obama administration. They ask whether America’s involvement in countries around the globe really reflects its much-vaunted democratic ideals, or self-interested action for poliitcal and economic gain. The Untold History is a meticulously researched and shocking picture of the American Empire, and its influence on the century’s defining events.

Ebury Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Every country has a myth that its citizens usually subscribe to. In the United States’ case this is that they are the champions of liberal democracy and democratic freedoms. In this political history, Stone and Kuznick offer a view at odds with this myth by examining the behaviour of several administrations during key events of the twentieth and twenty first century. It is safe to say that the myth does not survive unscathed.

Oliver Stone is well known as a movie director, and is known for his views on the American involvement and conduct in the Vietnam War. Peter Kuznick is a history professor at American University, Washington D.C. with a speciality in Nuclear Studies, often taking a position critical of the American myth. They also assert that the United States is an imperial power, de facto if not de jure.

After the introduction, which lays bare their thesis, the book delves into Wilson’s presidency which they see as being a starting point of US imperialism. It then follows Roosevelt and The New Deal, Truman and successive presidents to Obama. Stone and Kuznick examine the degree various presidents were at the sway of their advisors and whether they had their own agenda regarding foreign and domestic policy. They also point out that US politics is frequently dominated by powerful lobby groups, whose ends and means are often in conflict with the American myth.

This book does a good job of presenting its case; that the American myth is just that and the United States administrations frequently pays lip service to these core ideals. It also explains why North Korea is dogmatically opposed to caving to US pressure. It is a welcome antidote to the Whiggish interpretation of US history that is often paraded before us.

Read this book. Alternatively watch the TV series it engendered.

 

What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls reinvents fairy tales, inspiring children with the stories of 100 heroic women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams

Particular Books

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

A diverse grouping of one hundred women – from different backgrounds, religions, disabilities, ethnicities, sexualities – is featured in this collection of one page bios.  Each story is illustrated by a female artist from all over the world and all show how brave and determined these women were/are.

There are a few famous names – Michelle Obama, Malala, Venus Williams – but most are women I’d never heard of – a 19th century Colombian spy, the first female doctor in Mexico, an African woman who pretended to be a man to work in the mines, the first taqtooed lady in US carnivals.

This is a must read, not just for girls but boys too, my 60+ aunt couldn’t put it down.  It tells stories of strong women who had the courage to be a bit different and follow their dreams.  Each story being one page also encourages slow readers.

How this book was born is so cool.  The two authors are entreprenurers who understand how important it is for girls to grow up surrounded by female role models. It helps them to be more confident and set bigger goals.  They realized that 95% of the books and TV shows they grew up with lacked girls in prominent positions, so decided to do something about it.  They started a crowd-funding campaign, called for tales of inspirational women, and created Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.  Now Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 is being vrafted and I can’t wait to read it.

This is the guidebook of Te Araroa: New Zealand’s Trail, a continuous trail running from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Thirty-five years in the making, the trail officially opened in late 2011. The book maps the 3000-kilometre trail in 40-kilometre sections, with maps by leading map maker Roger Smith of Geographx.

Author Geoff Chapple is a modern-day visionary who took the concept of a continuous trail running the length of New Zealand and turned it into a reality. Chapple, the founder of the trail, complements the maps with a running commentary describing the landscape, the flora and fauna encountered along the way, as well as the special features of particular parts of the trail. Photographs of the trail illustrate each section.

Each of the nine regional sections opens with a stunning 2-page 3D map. A short introduction describes the history of the trail as well as the variety of New Zealand’s landscape along the way: forest, farmland, volcanoes and mountain passes, river valleys, green pathways and the urban areas of seven cities. This book is an accessible guide both for those who only want to walk parts of the trail and dedicated trampers who intend to walk its entire length.

Random House

Supplied by Random House  New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

113 walks from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Does what it says on the box, er, cover. A great resource for all trampers and walkers in general, this book lists walks that you can do through urban and park landscapes to proper tramping walks on bush and coast, where you would need to gear up. Gives you a bit of the history about the track as well. It’s all part of a notional trail that goes from Cape Reinga to Bluff. You can walk it, this book shows you how.

 

Sharon Murdoch, 2016 Canon Cartoonist of the Year, is a bold new voice in New Zealand cartooning. As the regular cartoonist for the Sunday Star Times and the Press, she provokes and delights readers with her witty and often hilarious observations, and her hard-hitting and insightful social and political analysis.

In Murdoch, Melinda Johnston’s commentary sets the cartoons within their historical context, while her introduction locates the work within New Zealand’s cartooning history. Featuring over 150 full-page cartoons, which highlight the breadth and depth of Sharon Murdoch’s work, this book will entertain and educate any reader with an interest in New Zealand’s contemporary social and political history.

Potton & Burton

Supplied by Potton & Burton

Reviewed by Steve

As a working cartoonist, Sharon Murdoch has been around for over 20 years. As a political cartoonist, the timespan is considerably shorter. And as an editorial political cartoonist… Melinda Johnston provides the text that puts the selected cartoons in context – when a topic is hot, cartoons need no explanation, but several years later, even key players may need to be re-identified.

The book covers the range of Murdoch’s career: Munro the Cat from the crossword page of the Dominion Post, cartoons for the Xhosa Community and Child Development Centre when she worked in South Africa, commentary cartoons, and political cartoons. Her style is distinctive and more caricature than, say, Tom Scott or Neville Lodge who preceded her at the Evening Post.

What sets Murdoch apart from most other New Zealand cartoonists is both she is a woman and is of Maori, Ngai Tahu, descent. This gives her a different perception of events. Frequently, Murdoch will draw a strip cartoon, instead of a single frame, which allows a narrative instead of a one line. Again, this is a departure from the norm for political cartooning.

A book of cartoons is naturally going to be a quicker read than a series of essays. Johnston’s text is not intrusive and the selection of cartoons is good. I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend it to anyone.

Three thousand years ago a war took place that gave birth to legends – to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. It was a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War?

Now is the time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

Thrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For the Most Beautiful reveals the true story of true for the first time. The story of Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans’ High Priest, and of Briseis, princess of Pedasus, who fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

This is apparently an attempt to write the events of the Iliad from the point of view of the female characters… to re-write an ancient story of war as romance. The problem with this is that Homer doesn’t give you a lot of female characters to work with. So the author decides to choose Krisayis (Chryseis) as her central character. The problem with this is that Chryseis has a tiny role in the Iliad with no connection to Troilus, and her story wasn’t developed into the romance of “Troilus and Cressida” until medieval writers got hold of it. So, we’re already several steps away from Homer.

And that was only part of what irritated me… Maybe it’s just that I’m not into love stories. Or maybe it was that the attitudes of the characters seemed strikingly modern. Or simply that I read too many of Mary Renault’s excellent historical novels when I was young, which set the bar too high. But I failed to get past the first few chapters of this work, before casting it aside in annoyance. I suspect others like it better, but for me it was definitely opportunity lost.