Archive for July, 2019

Julia is terrified by her daughter’s aggressive behaviour. Lily has changed from an angelic little girl into someone she is afraid to be alone with.

What scares Julia most, though, is that she knows why Lily is acting this way, but no-one will believe her. If she is going to help Lily, she will have to find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her to the shadowy back streets of Venice.

There Julia finds far more than just answers, and uncovers a heartbreaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation. And this discovery has put her in serious danger . . .

Playing With Fire

Tess Gerritsen

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Julia, a talented violinist, is scared of her 3 year old daughter after incidents when Lily turned extremely violent, killing the family cat and stabbing her mother repeatedly.  Julia realises Lily’s behaviourr changes from angelic to psychotic when she plays an original piece of music she found tucked inside a book of Romany tunes she bought in an antique store in Venice. The story starts to intertwine with that of Lorenzo, a young Italian-Jewish violinist in the 1930’s.

Julia enlists a friend to help her find out more about the music and they contact the antique store owner, who is murdered before they get answers.  Meanwhile Lorenzo’s story is slowly played out with the gradual erosion of freedoms for Jewish people.  Julia and her friend fly to Venice in search of answers, where they find out what happened to the composer of the piece of music.  The mystery deepens and soon Julia is in fear for her life…..

This is such a well-written book.   I really enjoyed the two different stories and how they weaved together at the end.  It was hard to read of the Italian family’s refusal to leave – “Mussolini’s a good man and won’t turn on us” – particularly as you know how it will end.  I was screaming in my head for them to run but it gives an insight into why many stayed.

The chapters are prefaced by a page with the name of the person who’s POV it is, so it’s easy to follow whose story you’re reading.  The plot is well thought out, with many twist and turns and the answers to a mystery revealed at the end.  Fans of thrillers will love this book.

READ IT!!!!!

Beginning with the inner city and harbour, the 100 poems move into the suburbs and parks, before heading to outer areas – and into the twenty-first century. Major New Zealand poets, visitors from offshore and stimulating newer voices have all been moved to record their responses to the steep streets and myriad people, the food and political energy, the cable car and cenotaphs, the wharves and, of course, the big weather.

Big Weather, Poems of Wellington (revised edition 2018)

Gregory O’Brien & Louise St John

RHNZ Vintage

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Big Weather, as the subtitle suggests, is a collection of poems about Wellington. It may be a small city but there is nothing small about the weather. The closeness of the hills and harbour heighten the appreciation of weather. The collection features about a hundred poets, but not all wrote poems: there is at least one piece of prose, as well as the obligatory introduction.

The poets (and their works) are a broad selection. While about ten percent are foreigners, and another twenty percent non-residents, the majority are Wellingtonians either by birth or by residence. I recognised a number of names. But all contributors have at least visited the city. The age of the poems varies from very late 19th century to a year before publication. The direct subject moves a fair bit; the weather, the hills, the city itself, the suburbs, the social life or cultural vibe, all make appearances.

As mentioned in the title, this is a revised edition, the first being published in 2000. Apart from a section labelled “Twenty-first Century”, there is nothing to indicate what has changed between editions. Unfortunately, one change that is non-textual is the death in 2009 of co-editor Louise St John. Which is sad.

Anyway, poems about Wellington. Buy it. And I’m not just saying that because it is my home town.

British gastronomy has a grand old tradition that has been lost over time. Now our most inventive chef is out to reclaim it. Heston Blumenthal, whose name is synonymous with cutting-edge cuisine, still finds his greatest source of inspiration in the unique and delicious food that our sceptered isle once produced. This has been the secret to his success at world-famous restaurants The Fat Duck and Dinner, where a contrast between old and new, modern and historic, is key.

Historic Heston charts a quest for identity through the best of British cooking that stretches from medieval to late-Victorian recipes. Start with twenty-eight historic dishes, take them apart, put them together again and what have you got? A sublime twenty-first-century take on delicacies including meat fruit (1500), quaking pudding (1660) and mock turtle soup (1892). Heston examines the history behind each one’s invention and the science that makes it work. He puts these dishes in their social context and follows obscure culinary trails, ferreting out such curious sources as The Queen-like Closet from 1672 (which offers an excellent method for drying goose). What it adds up to is an idiosyncratic culinary history of Britain.

This glorious book also gives a unique insight into the way that Heston works, with signature dishes from both The Fat Duck and the double Michelin-starred Dinner, which is ranked 7th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. With a beautiful cover illustrated by the genius that is Dave McKean, his illustrations throughout, and some of the most superb food photography you’ll ever see, Historic Heston is a book to treasure. You think you know about British cooking? Think again.

Historic Heston

Heston Blumenthal


Purchased from Book Depository

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

As some of you will know, I’m something of a fan of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, though I doubt I shall ever get to sit at one of his tables. More importantly, I have an abiding interest in culinary history, so when I saw this tome had been reduced to half price in the bargain shop at Book Depository I had to make that purchase. I say “tome” because it really is a hefty volume, over four hundred pages and two kilos in weight, so free shipping was very definitely a plus.

It is very much a book about cookery, as opposed to a cookery book. Heston leads the reader through a selection of historic British recipes from the medieval risotto-like “Ryse of Flesh” from “The Forme of Cury” to a thoroughly late Victorian “Mock Turtle Soup”. Each recipe has an illustration referencing the historic version, then a discussion of the historic context, followed by Heston’s explanation of how he modernised it for his restaurants, then the restaurant version and its photograph. So, there are recipes here, but no home cook is going to attempt Heston’s versions, they are impractical in the extreme, often requiring both ingredients and equipment unlikely to be found outside a high-end restaurant. If I wanted to attempt these recipes I’d be looking elsewhere (one of the earliest cookbooks in my collection, “Traditional Cooking” has a surprising number of them).

But that’s not the point. The culinary history is fascinating, and the food photography, especially in the “still life” shots, is totally amazing. If you’re into food history, you’ll find plenty to enjoy (if not to actually cook) in this book. I read it from cover to cover, a recipe or two at a time, with the weighty tome lying flat on the bed…

A boisterous bilingual board book that introduces littlies to colours with the help of Hairy Maclary and his friends!

A gorgeous board book with pictures of Hairy Maclary, Scarface Claw and other favourite characters created by Lynley Dodd to teach children their colours in Maori and English.

This special little volume is perfect for the young learner and helps to incorporate te reo Maori into everyday life.

Perfect for children ages 3 months to 3 years.

Hairy Maclary and Friends: Colours in English and Maori

Lynley Dodd

Pictures Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

These board books are perfect for bilingual children to learn their colours or to introduce anyone to learning Maori.

Each double page has a background of a colour – red, yellow, white – and both the English and Maori name for it – purple = waiporoporo, grey = kiwikiwi, green = kakariki.  Illustrations tie-in that colour with drawings of familiar characters from the Hairy Maclary collections that make you smile.  Keep an eye out for the other cute drawings that blend in the background.

As well as the usual primary colours of red, white, and black, the book features other colours like brown, pink, and orange, which is different to many learn-your-colours books.

A boisterous bilingual board book that introduces littlies to counting with the help of Hairy Maclary and his friends!

A gorgeous board book with pictures of Hairy Maclary, Scarface Claw and other favourite characters created by Lynley Dodd to help children learn to count from 1–10 in Maori and English.

This special little volume is perfect for the young number learner and helps to incorporate te reo Maori into everyday life.

Contains a full 1-10 counting chart.

Hairy Maclary and Friends: 123 in English and Maori

Lynley Dodd

Pictures Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

These board books are perfect for bilingual children to practice counting or to introduce anyone to learning Maori.

Each page features a number from 1 – 10 and is illustrated by a drawing with that many objects – 5 flowers or 9 bees.  Each has in Maori the number and object – e rima nga putiputi or e niwa nga pi – and the English translation – five flowers or nine bees.

The illustrations are full of familiar characters from the Hairy Maclary collections and bright and colourful.

As they are board books the pages won’t crumple and rip, making them ideal to be enjoyed by toddlers or for autistic children without a lot of mobility control.


Deep in the chalk, something is stirring. Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots – an old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, a blurring of edges.

Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land, her land.

There will be a reckoning . . .

The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchett


Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I found this too on the withdrawn shelf, much to my surprise. Shepherd’s Crown is, of course, the last book of the Discworld, completed just before Terry was to meet Death himself. Death does play a part in this book, both on a literal and philosophical level. It is the fifth book about Tiffany Aching, and a book in which Death comes – as he must to us all – and yet life goes on.

The book is complete, though not perhaps as finished as Terry would have liked. His writing technique, of writing scenes, joining them up and then re-writing and re-writing, has given us a complete work, but not as fully polished as it might have been. According to Neil Gaiman, one important scene in particular involving Granny, You the cat, and Death remained unfinished and was therefore omitted. But it is what it is, a deeper and more serious book than most of Terry’s work, a book about hope and new beginnings. And, yes, it is both funny and sad….

A lively, stimulating and engaging retelling of purakau – Maori myths – by contemporary Maori writers.

Ka mua, ka muri . . .

Ancient Maori creation myths, portrayals of larger-than-life heroes and tales of engrossing magical beings have endured through the ages. Some hail back to Hawaiki, some are firmly grounded in New Zealand and its landscape. Through countless generations, the stories have been reshaped and passed on. This new collection presents a wide range of traditional myths that have been retold by some of our best Maori wordsmiths. The writers have added their own creativity, perspectives and sometimes wonderfully unexpected twists, bringing new life and energy to these rich, spellbinding and significant taonga.

Take a fresh look at Papatuanuku, a wild ride with Maui, or have a creepy encounter with Ruruhi-Kerepo, for these and many more mythical figures await you.

Explore the past, from it shape the future . . .

The contributors are: Jacqueline Carter, David Geary, Patricia Grace, Briar Grace-Smith, Whiti Hereaka, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, Kelly Joseph, Hemi Kelly, Nic Low, Tina Makereti, Kelly Ana Morey, Paula Morris, Frazer Rangihuna, Renee, Robert Sullivan, Apirana Taylor, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Clayton Te Kohe, Hone Tuwhare, Briar Wood.


Edited by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka

RHNZ Vintage

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Lee Murray

A beautifully presented volume in which Māori writers retell local lore and mythology, if the mission of Pūrākau is to give new relevance to familiar stories, then it is certainly a success. It is a fabulous collection, richly told in vibrant and varied voices. The table of contents reads as a who’s who of Māori writing, with stories and poems, both original and reprints, from familiar names like Patricia Grace, Tina Makareti, Robert Sullivan, Hone Tuwhare, and Apirana Taylor. There are, however, one or two stories from newer writers, or at least new-me writers, which I welcomed, although perhaps the editors’ might have taken this further, providing more space for emerging Māori writers less well known in mainstream literary circles. That said, the works offered by those involved are diverse and engaging, and nicely balanced, so perhaps the project’s focus was more about content than the mix of creators. With several black and white images to accompany the text, and, in some places, rather innovative formatting, the book is divided into seven parts, and works within each focus on a distinct theme: Ancestors, Sea to Land, Mythical Beings, for example. Convenient groupings, although I am not sure why the editors have elected to separate the stories in this way other than perhaps to demonstrate they have spread their nets widely. Some explanation for their decision might have been helpful. In any case, none of that matters because the stories and poems in this volume are simply stunning. More than one resonated for me personally on several levels. It was a pleasure to re-read Patricia Grace’s Moon Story again, for example, and D.avid Gear.y’s [author’s spelling] RPG-lit retelling of Rarohenga and Reformation is inspired, irreverent, and highly entertaining. I can see teachers hauling this one out as a way to engage young readers with a culturally significant text. I expect it’ll end up on a NCEA paper somewhere down the line.

The chapter focussing on Pounamu was particular favourite. It includes a beautiful Keri Hulme poem ‘I have a Stone’ and stunning short story by Nic Low, entitled Te Ara Poutini. I hadn’t come across Low’s work before, although the Australian-based Ngāi Tahu writer clearly has some form with his provocative short story collection Arms Race named Listener and Australian Review Book of the Year in 2015. His story in Pūrākau, is a speculative one, a delightful blending of primeval legend with modern-day narrative, the latter tracing the journey of Poutini with his beloved Waitaiki on a monorail bus-tour no less. In this story, the past is immediate, with the author cleverly using AI learning as a literary device which allows the story’s protagonist Āhua to reach into the past and resolve a conflict that has endured for twenty-three generations. Beautifully told in gorgeous prose which fantail-flits between the time zones. Low’s feisty main character is rounded and real, no mean feat in a tight wordcount. I loved the drama of this bite-sized speculative thriller.

One of the most striking stories in the collection is Īhe and Her by Frazer Rangiihuna, a retelling of the story of Rotorua’s Īhenga and the patupaiarehe blended with bad break-up mojo. It is unapologetically in-your-face. In language that is vivid and visceral, Rangihuna plucks the mythological out of the forest and dumps it in the present: in the pub, in the smoko room, ‘in the corrugated lean to at the back of the wharekai’. A bad decision made in an unguarded moment. Who doesn’t know the pain of that? Rangihuna’s story is a highlight. The biographical notes at the back of the book say Rangihuna is writing a novel. I can’t wait to read it.

Lee Murray is a double Bram Stoker Award-nominee and multi-award-winning writer and editor (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows). The author of the Taine McKenna military horror series, and several novels for children, she is also the co-author of the Path of Ra supernatural crime-noir series (with Dan Rabarts), and the editor of ten anthologies of dark fiction. Lee lives with her family in New Zealand where she conjures up stories from her office overlooking a cow paddock. Read more at She tweets @leemurraywriter

A lively anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, celebrating the birds of Aotearoa.

On the skyline
a hawk
languidly typing
a hunting poem
with its wings.
– Hone Tuwhare

New Zealand birds have inspired mythology, song, whimsical stories, detailed observation, humour and poetry. There are tales of shooting and taxidermy as well as of admiration and love. From the kakapo, kokako and kaka to the sparrow, starling and seagull, both native and imported birds have been immortalised in print.

This is a varied and stimulating selection from the flocks of New Zealand writers who have given our birds a voice. They have brought extinct birds back to life and even enabled the kiwi to take flight on the page.

Bird Words: New Zealand Writers on Birds

Edited by Elizabeth Easther


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Birds have always inspired the world’s writers to wax lyrical.

For many New Zealanders, our native birds hold a particular appeal, from our national icon of the kiwi to the cheeky kea, the melodic tui, and the graceful fantail.  In the Maori culture birds are a link between earth and sky, connecting mortals with their gods.

This anthology came about after Easther noticed how much New Zealanders revere their native birds and how beautifully we write about them. The collection features some of New Zealand’s best-loved and well known writers, with 62 works of fiction, essays and poetry, as well as obscure historical writings and less well known pieces.

Illustrated with delicate black-and-white watercolours by natural history illustrator Lily Daff, this book is very pretty and is an impressively wide-ranging collection of New Zealand writing, authors and styles and topics.