Book reviews: July 2014

The days have cooled and the time is right to curl up in a cosy place with a great read. The MCD team looks at some of the latest releases.

Maori Tales of Long Ago

A.W. Reed
New Holland Publishers, $30 Maori -Tales

Alexander Wyclif Reed was born in Auckland in 1908. In 1932, he helped form A.H. & A.W. Reed, which went on to become one of New Zealand's leading publishing houses. He also wrote more than 200 books, the majority of them reference works and popular accounts of Maori culture. Many of these are enduring books, some of them recently republished, including The Raupo Concise Maori Dictionary and The Raupo Book of Maori Proverbs.

Maori Tales of Long Ago is a facsimile of the original book, presented with the original delightful illustrations and colour plates by A.S Paterson. Hopefully it will go on to delight and educate further generations of New Zealand children.

Gutter Black – a memoir

Dave McArtney
Harper Collins NZ, $45 Gutter _Black

Reviewed by Deals on Wheels editor Randolph Covich:

For those under forty years of age, Dave McArtney, Harry Lyons, and Graham Brazier were the backbone behind Hello Sailor. These guys were one of the biggest rock bands in the late '70s and '80s and I recall seeing them playing many times at venues around Auckland in their heyday.

This book confirms a lot of my suspicions about their wayward lifestyle. The wandering tale follows McArtney through his eventful life to a point where it appears he found some sort of inner peace. Unfortunately for him, it didn't seem too long, as he was to die aged 63.

The book is definitely a collectable for Kiwi music fans, and contains many interesting photos. I wasn't too keen on the poems and personal musings that popped up throughout, but that is really just a personal gripe, and I'm sure I'll get over it before too long.

Instant Kiwi – New Zealand in a nutshell

Rosemary Hepözden
New Holland Publishers, $20 Gutter _Black

As a Canadian-expat resident in New Zealand since 1969, the author can no doubt remember what it is to be both an outsider and an Instant Kiwi. She is well qualified to compile a chatty guide for newcomers to all that is Godzone.

Among others, this book contains chapters on famous Kiwis; how to be mistaken for a Kiwi; a year in the life of Aotearoa; and there's a lovely little breakout record of the first impressions of newbies and a collection of curious facts. These include the number of sheep for every New Zealander (seven), the average age of first-time mums (28), and the number of claims made to ACC in 2013 for accidents relating to jandals (213).

Light, informative, and enjoyable, this book should find a ready audience.


Hugh Howey
Random House NZ, $36.99 Sand

Reviewed by Bauer Trader assistant editor Rachel Middleton:

Sand came in the wake of the Wool series, Hugh Howey's bestselling end-of-the-world trilogy, and unfortunately, Howey's depth of storytelling didn't shine through as it did his previous novels.

Sand is another take on the 'after the end of the world as we know it' subject matter, but instead of the nano-technological warfare of Wool, he tackles… something else. What that 'something else' is, is never explained, but it sees humankind hundreds of years in the future, living in a world dominated by sand — the world as we know it today buried beneath hundreds of metres of the stuff.

Revolving around one family's struggle to survive after their father leaves them in search of a better life, the story takes the reader, via matter-displacing, vibration-energy technology, deep beneath the surface of the sand, treasure hunting for riches but also for world domination.

Under Magnolia

Frances Mayes
Harper Collins NZ, $35 Under -magnolia

Frances Mayes is probably best known for her very personal memoir of travelling to Italy after the breakup of her first marriage, and buying an old villa on impulse. That book, Under the Tuscan Sun, was a runaway bestseller and was later made into a film starring Diane Lane.

Mayes has subsequently written many more books on her life in Tuscany, where she still resides part-time. Having identified Mayes so strongly with all things Italian, I was sceptical about her latest book — a memoir of her childhood growing up in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Instead, this riveting memoir reminded me that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The author would have been hard-pressed to invent a family as chaotic and colourful as her own. And all of these indelible characters are set against a steamy and suffocating Southern background — repressed, refined, and rigid — makes for one hell of a tale.

This real-life read put me in mind of the great fictional romp about growing up in a dysfunctional Southern family: Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Highly recommended.

Little India at Home

Photography by Sean Shadbolt
Penguin Group NZ, $40 Little -India

As far as I can tell, having not as yet cooked from this book, the authors have made every effort to demystify the list of authentic ingredients which make up an Indian pantry and to also offer cooking tips for home kitchens that do not have clay pots or tandoori ovens.

Among the many fabulous recipes is a straightforward one for that wonderfully versatile Indian cheese, paneer. If you have not eaten at a Little India restaurant (these are nationwide), I can highly recommend the experience. I am a sucker for its lamb madras.

Now I can also look forward to trying this at home.

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