Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

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.

Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.

Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Church is no ordinary school. But Mia is no ordinary student.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.


Jay Kristoff


Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve Litten

Mia Corvere, daughter of a patrician in the city of Godsgrave, has her privileged life and family ripped from her when her father is executed for treason. She escapes her own death to be raised by a man connected to the Red Church, a school for assassins. Mia learns and is finally apprenticed to the Red Church, though surviving the journey to its gates was more of a challenge than she expected. All the while, Mia seeks revenge on the triumvirate responsible for her situation.

Thus unfolds an interesting and well told story, which owes more than a little to Baroque Italian city-state politics. Godsgrave has the feeling of Venice, with a bit of Florentine infighting thrown in. The world beyond Godsgrave, apart from the Red Church School, is almost entirely sketched. But this isn’t a problem as almost all the action takes place in three locations. The characters are generally believable, but most are a little two dimensional.

This is a complex story that either needed more than 400 pages to tell, or less padding of the main plot. Part of the problem is that there are about three separate plots going on, Mia’s revenge, a love story, graduation from the Red Church and a betrayal. Unfortunately, none was told well, though each was told adequately.

The setting was good, and the minimal magic enhanced the story. As did the politics of Godsgrave. I also enjoyed Kristoff’s footnotes, whereby he explains a story point a la Pratchett. A nice touch and often humorous. Nevernight is a good read but not a great read, though I do recommend it for those who like fantasy without demi-humans or much magic.

#15 in the multiple best-selling Ring of Fire Series.

It’s springtime in the Eternal City, 1635. But it’s no Roman holiday for uptimer Frank Stone and his pregnant downtime wife, Giovanna. They’re in the clutches of would be Pope Cardinal Borgia, with the real Pope—Urban VIII—on the run with the renegade embassy of uptime Ambassador Sharon Nichols and her swashbuckling downtime husband, Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz. Up to their necks in papal assassins, power politics, murder, and mayhem, the uptimers and their spouses need help and they need it quickly.

Special rescue teams—including Harry Lefferts and his infamous Wrecking Crew—converge on Rome to extract Frank and Gia. And an uptime airplane is on its way to spirit the Pope to safety before Borgia’s assassins can find him. It seems that everything is going to work out just fine in sunny Italy.

Until, that is, everything goes wrong. Now, whether they are prisoners in Rome or renegades protecting a pope on the run, it’s up to the rough and ready can do attitude of Grantville natives to once again escape the clutches of aristocratic skullduggery and ring in freedom for a war torn land.

1635: The Papal Stakes

Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon


Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

It’s always a nice feeling when you find something you really want to read on the library withdrawn shelf, and most anything published by Baen – certainly any of the 1632 series – comes into that category for me. 1635: The Papal Stakes is the third in the “Rome” or “Southern European” thread, following 1634: The Galileo Affair and 1635: The Cannon Law.

Those were complicated times without the introduction of a townful of modern Americans into the middle of what is now Germany. Some of those complications are far from obvious, like what should the Catholic Pope in 1635 do about decisions that the Catholic Church made much further up-time? Such as Vatican II? As a result, quite a few pages of this book are given over to theological debate… in between serious amounts of action involving protecting the Pope, hot-air balloons, and getting imprisoned persons out of the clutches of Cardinal Borgia…

It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this is a fine instalment in an alternate history series that I’m enjoying immensely.