Archive for the ‘nonfiction’ Category

A Maori Word a Day offers an easy, instant and motivating entry into the Maori language. Through its 365 Maori words, you will learn the following:

– English translations
– Word category, notes and background information
– Sample sentences, in both te reo Maori and English

Exploring the most common, modern and contemporary words in use today, A Maori Word a Day is the perfect way to kickstart your te reo journey!

Raupo

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Lee Murray

I was delighted to review copy of A Māori Word a Day by Auckland University teacher and translator, Hēmi Kelly. A Kiwi writer myself, I’m keen to include more te reo in my work, so this one-a-day teaching tool comprising a selection of commonly used terms looks to be the perfect text to keep on my desk. The beginning of the book includes information about pronunciation and there is a handy index of all the 365 terms at the back. In between, each page is dedicated to a single word arranged alphabetically and printed in bold 14-point text with the English definition printed below. The text is surrounded by lots of white space to make the word pop. Finally, each word is used in three sentences to highlight its meaning(s).

But what’s interesting about A Māori Word a Day is the cultural story the words tell when viewed together with their definitions and their explanatory example sentences. For example, the first word in the book is yes, which makes sense since it provides an affirmative start to the book and to our learning. It’s a simple word; one we use multiple times a day. And surely it is culturally significant that when we turn to page 2, the second word is ice-cream? With a strong dairying history, New Zealanders certainly love their ice cream. Day 7’s lesson is an eye-opener. The word is arā, which I gather is somewhat like the French term voilà, meaning there, over there, there it is, there they are. But it’s the explanatory sentences which are the most revelatory:

Kei hea te raumamao? Arā, kei mua i tō ihu!

Where’s the remote? There, in front of your nose!

Arā tō tatou waka.

There’s our ride.

Arā te waha papā e haere mai ana.

There’s the big mouth, heading our way.

“There’s the big mouth, heading our way.” Already, I’m getting the feeling that Kelly loves the language and wants us to have fun with it. I particularly loved page 194 where the word is pani ārai rā or sunblock and the sample sentence is:

Pania tō mata kit e pani ārai rā, kei rite koe kit e koura.

Put sunblock on your face or you’ll end up looking like a crayfish.

Sometimes though, the lesson is sombre, for example on day 38, when we learn the word hiko:

I a au e tupu ake ana, karekau he hiko i tō mātou whare.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have power in our house.

This page includes a tiny vignette where we learn that the word ‘hiko’ or lightning, became the word for electricity when electric lights were introduced to the country in the nineteenth century. There are several such vignettes in the book, either to provide some social and historical context, or just some helpful tips. In Māori trousers (tarau) and hope (tūmanako) are always singular, for example.

But Kelly’s choices affirm that the language is alive and modern, like this helpful sentence on page 22:

Tonoa mai au hei i te Pukamata.

Friend request me on Facebook.

And this one, on page 126.

Kua wareware i a au te kupu huna!

I’ve forgotten the password!

A Māori Word a Day won’t teach you Māori, but it might inspire you to kickstart your te reo journey, which, it seems, was Kelly’s intent all along. And on that note, I’ll leave you with the entry on page 337:

Whāia ō wawata kia tutuki rā anō i a koe.

Pursue your dreams until you achieve them.

Lee Murray is a ten-time winner of New Zealand’s prestigious Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her titles include the bestselling military thriller Into the Mist and supernatural crime-noir Hounds of the Underworld (co-authored with Dan Rabarts). She is proud to have co-edited eight anthologies, one of which, Baby Teeth, won her an Australian Shadows Award in 2014. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Find her at leekiwi.info

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New Zealand has a huge range of backcountry huts, most of which are available for public use. Some can sleep 80 people, while others are tiny two-bunk affairs with not even room to stand up in. They are located in our mountains, on the edges of fiords, our coastlines and lakes, beside rivers, in the bush and on the open tops. Together they form an internationally unique network of backcountry shelter, and these huts, so often full of character and history, are fantastic destinations in their own right.

A Bunk for the Night offers a guide to over 200 of the best of these huts to visit. This inspirational book has been written by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint, the authors of the seminal, best-selling history of New Zealand’s backcountry huts Shelter from the Storm.

Featuring well-known huts from the main tramping areas in both the North and South islands, the authors have also scoured the country for other interesting huts in out-of-the-way places, such as those in the Bay of Islands, on Banks Peninsula, in the Whanganui hinterland, the dry ranges of Marlborough and Stewart Island/Rakiura. This is a wonderful smorgasbord of must-visit huts, and an essential book for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.

Potton & Burton

Supplied by Potton & Burton

Reviewed by Jacqui

The back country of New Zealand is sprinkled with cabins where a weary traveller may find a roof for the night (and sometimes little else). Some require booking and payment in advance, others are free to use. All this, and more is explained in the introduction.

The authors have selected some two hundred or so from the nearly thousand huts, most administered by the Department of Conservation, which they consider the best, and described them in some detail. Each description includes a heading with the location, the number of bunks, heating, and facilities.

This is followed by some paragraphs explaining what makes the particular hut interesting, perhaps something about the location, or about its history, and often how to get there. Each is accompanied by a colour photograph; and I suspect that is what will most likely draw people, especially those who are not trampers, to look into this book.

It’s obvious that this book is a labour of love from a trio of good keen kiwi blokes who really enjoy getting away from it all. It is not intended to be a book for those whose idea of travel involves aeroplanes and motor cars. This is a book for the person who hikes, who travels on their own two feet into the real New Zealand that lies far beyond the noise and the bright city lights. For me, the appeal is in the excellence of the photography and the stories.

The incredible true story of William ‘Bully’ Hayes, the so-called ‘Pirate of the Pacific’: a story that separates the myth from the man.

Famous throughout the Pacific, from the US to Australia and all points in between, Captain Bully Hayes has been the inspiration for writers ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson to James A. Michener and Frank Clune. Rousing films have been based on his life, and his name adorns bars and hotels all over the Pacific.

But the truth is both less noble and more intriguing than the myth. The Hayes of legend was a product of the popular press at the time, the construction of editors who were determined to create a romantic figure to feed their readers’ appetites. This, the first proper biography of this legendary nineteenth-century figure, simultaneously sorts the facts from the fantasy and recounts an amazing true story of a genuine rogue and adventurer, against the backdrop of the Pacific during the great age of sail and trade.

HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

William Henry Hayes, better known as Bully Hayes. A name famous, or infamous, across the Pacific. It’s hard to go far out there without tripping over some reference or other to him, sly asides of piracy, shonky deals, and the whiff of romance and swashbuckling. Every ocean has its ne plus ultra bounder, and the Pacific’s is Bully Hayes.

 The problem with any detailed account of Hayes is that there is a paucity of detail surrounding much of his life. Druett does the best she can with material, cross-checking gossip with known facts, weaving a tale that is both greater and less than the romantic melodrama attached to the name. It is likely he was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1828 or 1829 and served for a period in the US Navy. He is first reported regarding the capture of a notorious American pirate Eli Boggs near Hong Kong. The two salient features that remain are his charm, which many commented on, and his ability to escape creditors and have his shipping business arise like the phoenix when all seemed lost. Even his death was barely attested.

This is not to say that he always operated as a rogue, nor a seafarer. Hayes spent a considerable period in the New Zealand colonies, engaged in inn-keeping and entertainment before the fickleness of fortune drove him back to merchant shipping. He also had a number of wives. However, as divorce was a simple affair in the mid-nineteenth century, several of these relationships were probably bigamous. That said, he was no different to many in the colonies.

Druett writes with style and tries to keep the known facts foremost. Where this is not possible, she presents the accounts, discounts obvious contradictions before offering the most probable explanation. By keeping to this formula, Druett’s methodology is transparent, and we are informed of the hazards of biography where solid data is deficient.

I found this an enjoyable read and hope to see more of Druett’s work in future.

In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.

In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe’s pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland.

Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan’s porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India’s main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage.

A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.

Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Ever looked at the map and wondered why so many wars occur in certain places? Why empires, ancient and modern, craved control of certain geographic spots, or tried to deny them to their enemies? Robert D. Kaplan claims he has the answer: geography. Which actually isn’t a silly idea: geographic features, such as rivers and mountains, funnel movements and route planning. It is better explained by the subtitle – What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.

The book is divided into three parts: Visionaries, The Early Twenty-First Century Map, and America’s Destiny. Visionaries deals with how historians and commentators have constructed maps to explain geopolitics. The Early Twenty-First Century Map extrapolates various geopolitical situations and examines them as they may play out in the future. The interpretation, however, is through the lens of American interest. America’s Destiny examines the United States’ backyard, the Caribbean littoral and North America, and posits several scenarios to shock a more active governance of the region from Washington.

Make no mistake, this book is aimed at a US audience. My impression was this audience was not Joe Blow, but the decision makers. Due to the US-bias in the interpretive chapters, I found the earlier chapters on historical geopolitical concerns to be more interesting. This is not to say the interpretations were dull, just the seemingly relentless drive to explain what the US should do in territories well beyond its borders got tedious after a while. But that’s only my opinion.

On the whole, this is a good book, and I can recommend reading it.

Season’s Greetings

Posted: December 25, 2017 in nonfiction

In The Good Dirt, landscape designer Xanthe White goes beneath the surface to reveal the secrets to successful gardening. As the title suggests, this book is all about the soil we find in our garden and more particularly how we can maximize its growing potential.

If you’ve ever wondered why some plants thrive in one location but struggle in your own backyard you’ll be likely to find explanations in the soil below. Xanthe White examines the five main soil types found in New Zealand and offers advice on how to get the best from each one by working in harmony with nature.

Complete with ingredients guides for each soil type and ideas and design features to enhance its fertility, this is an essential companion for anyone looking to establish a new garden or improve their existing one.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Okay, now this is something different. It’s a gardening book, and I have a few of those; but it’s also intended to be a science book. It is a book about the science of soil, specifically about New Zealand soils, which are notoriously deficient in a whole bunch of nutrients.

Now, I’m hardly an expert in the field, but I do have a background in both science and education, and I have to say that this work is somewhat inadequate in both departments. The author is a landscape gardener, and clearly very experienced in her field, but I can sense a certain lack of depth to her understanding of the geology and chemistry that underlie soil science.

The book is organised by the types of soils; but what is missing is the section at the beginning that describes soil types, how they come about, and how to tell them apart so you know what you’re dealing with. I have misgivings as a science educator when terms like pH are used without explanation, because I know that many people have forgotten what chemistry they learned in high school, and some won’t even got far enough to have come across that concept.

There’s a lot of wordage given over to anecdotal material, which might be interesting, but isn’t always relevant. It all seems a bit superficial.

If you’re looking for the good dirt on New Zealand dirt, this book might entertain you for a while, but I think you’d soon be looking elsewhere for something more solid.

Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trails – began as a vision to inspire people to experience New Zealand’s great outdoors by bike.

This book is stuffed full of useful information on the different trails – how to get there, what you will see, level of difficulty, things to take, places to eat and places to stay. There is fascinating background information on each area – its history and the local flora and fauna – as well as on the ride itself. This new edition covers several new sections of the trails, and provides updates on any on-going construction work.

There is also a highly practical section full of advice on choosing the right bike, gear to take, cell phone coverage in the different areas, weather and the best times of year for each trail, environmental care and useful websites.

Written by New Zealand’s top cycling writer, the book is aimed at family groups and first-time cyclists as well as more experienced groups. It’s accompanied by colour photos, elevation profiles and maps of each trail.

This new fully revised edition also provides an introduction to Tour Aotearoa which goes from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It’s a 3000-km length of New Zealand ride, taking in many of the Great Rides, and connecting them together with the safest and most enjoyable roads and tracks available. The route is fully open to the public. It can be done in one highly adventurous hit, or divided up into shorter lengths and completed over a period of time.

Don’t put your bike on the bike rack without this book!

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

The New Zealand Cycle Trail, Nga Haerenga, now includes over 2500 kilometres (over 1500 miles) of cycle paths and trails. This guide has 22 custom-built Great Rides and the Tour Aotearoa cycle route from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

I suggest you keep this book in a waterproof bag as you ride. Not only does the text explain clearly where to go (you would have to work REALLY hard to get lost) but each route has suggestions for food, accommodation, shortcuts and detours. What is most fascinating just by itself, never mind as a cycle trail handbook, are the “Trail tales“ that relate the history and natural and cultural stories of your route. They explain the heritage of what you are seeing as well as the rare flora and fauna along the way.

Using this book you can plan your whole trip and most importantly, it tells a cyclist what they need to know to plan safely. Not just start and end points but riding distance, time (averages) and grading, as trails vary from flat and smooth to rough and steep in the middle of nowhere. Included are 3D maps and elevation profiles.

The guide advises on fitness level required, skill level and how likely you are to meet other riders, their speed and how much room you will have to manoeuvre. The surface is discussed, you may be fine riding on concrete but how are you on volcanic ash? Also included are advice about the best type of bike for the trail and where to hire some.

Food and accommodation advice is given. Some places have lent their names to be listed along with phone numbers and websites where applicable. You should still book ahead in most cases and be mindful of closing times for food outlets but if you call or email, you should manage. This is the 2017 edition but always call ahead.  Where appropriate the guide lists cell phone coverage.

Occasionally you will come across the “Off Yer Bike” section under Shortcuts and Detours, which mentions walking trails or walks around the more picturesque towns.

A useful thing to have is the ‘How to get there’ sections where the Guide recommends weekend escapes and gives transport options and ideas on how to reach the start points of the routes.