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Hairy Maclary’s Bone

by Lynley Dodd

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had been thinking for a while that I needed some Hairy Maclary in my life – I’ve always loved this series, by one of New Zealand’s best known children’s authors! As I was reading this in a cafe in Reefton, I don’t have a copy to show the beautiful artwork & can’t give examples of Dodd’s economical yet descriptive language. Young children never tire of these books.

But I do have a picture of the cover!

This tale is about the crafty Hairy McLary receiving a bone from the local butcher – which he doesn’t want to share with his friends!


People of New Zealand

by Sam Moore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

To quote the back cover;

Sam Moore is the creator of the hugely popular Instagram and Facebook page “Ugly Kiwi” which went viral when he started posting images of classic Kiwi stereotypes.

Since I don’t do Instagram or (nowadays) Facebook this isn’t how I found out about this book. Sam appeared on (light) New Zealand news show The Project. They showed examples of his work & Office Jan;

captures perfectly a very typical Kiwi type. I know a couple of Jans that look just like her! So I had to read this book!

The artwork is probably in order drawn as the characterisations get stronger as the book goes along. The life stories on the lefthand pages for me don’t always hit the mark, but they are mostly positive – i.e. not snide. Sam loves his fellow Kiwis – and it shows!

If Sam ever claims his profile on Goodreads, I hope he uses this

Rating: 1 out of 5.

for his picture. That would be so meta!…

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Petticoat Pioneers: North Island Women of the Colonial Era

by Miriam Macgregor

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Long time reading but so worth it.

I started reading this back in March, & all the heartbreak & drama with Coronavirus makes that feel a lifetime away. But this book relates a different kind of hardship for the predominantly European women settlers(although there are some chapters devoted to Maori women and women born in New Zealand) travelling into a whole new world, usually bearing numerous children. Their lives were varied, but mostly experiencing extreme hardship. Some of the stories broke my heart – like Catherine (Kitty) Chamberlain’s toddler son dying in agony after a chemist put arsenic in the worming powder his parents had given him. No mention of any consequences for the chemist! But Catherine changed from a happy person to an unsmiling one. She later went blind. My heart indeed aches for her.

Kitty Chamberlain, with her mother, her son William & William’s son.

& for Elizabeth, pressured into a loveless marriage with the charmless William Colenso. I’m not going to relate everything that happened to her in this terrible, terrible marriage (if this was a novel I would have dismissed the story as too fantastic to be believed) but among other things, seven months pregnant with her second child, Elizabeth walked most of 130 miles over rugged hilly countryside (to be assisted by Mrs William Williams with the birth) at what is now Gisborne. This was in July, which is our winter. The Maori people with her carried her firstborn Fanny & carried her on the easier parts.

Elizabeth Colenso

I was thinking the story of Riperata Kahutia was happier, as she became an advocate at the Native Land Court, but she was cheated out of some of her land (Macgregor declined to state who the cheat was) and she died when only 48 (amazingly enough many of the women in this book lived long lives!) In spite of the earlier rip off, she owned more than twice the amount of land than she originally had by birthright.

Riperata Kahutia. I love her fierce, determined eyes!

Macgregor does mention the shortage of information & you can see she has worked hard on what she had. This volume is about the women of the Wairarapa/Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay area. Macgregor wrote another volume about the women from the Taranaki area. Another author, Barbara Harper, wrote about the women of the South Island. My NZ side of the family are from the Northern part of the North Island (in part I chose Elizabeth Colenso because she was born in Keri Keri) and I wish there was a companion volume for that area. Unlikely. The two volumes I know about are rarer than this one, so maybe they weren’t big sellers.

I chose three women. I could have chosen three other women at random and given excerpts from some amazing lives.

And after she moved to England in the 1990s I have been unable to find further information about Miriam Macgregor, (other than her year of birth) a remarkable woman in her own right. As well as New Zealand histories she also wrote for Mills & Boon & was a close friend of Essie Summers

I’m treasuring our past and reading about it.…

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by Vanda Symon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Vanda Symon was having some success in her home country of New Zealand with her crime novels, when she decided she would like to go for her PHD and for this reader she disappeared, although she was doing radio programmes and suchlike.

But Dr Symon has a powerhouse fan in Craig Sisterson, New Zealand crime fiction’s biggest fan (and now an author himself). Sisterson gave the publisher of Orenda Books one of Symon’s books and the rest is history. Or at least, a good leg up in Europe!

I’m guessing Symon is or has been editing her books for the European market, as the feisty Detective Constable Sam Shephard is a very Kiwi heroine and my (NZ) copy has a lot of Kiwi expressions – some like crib (holiday cottage) are only used in the South Island. It may be too much for foreign readers.When Symons writes about Port Chalmers and Dunedin (which I do know and love) and Aramoana (which i only know because of the Aramoana Massacre) I feel like I am walking along side Sam.

The looters at the start of the story make me think of the George Floyd riots in the States. (Pure coincidence this read came up now. Because of Lockdown I’ve had this library book for a couple of months, so I don’t think the library would allow me to renew it) The scene setting was great.

Most of the story was too, but I still think Symon puts a lot of her own opinions in Sam’s mouth. For example,Sam’s opinions of Otago student events the Toga Parade and the Undy 500 – cause of more riots) certainly sound like that of an older woman, as do Sam’s judgemental remarks on tattoos.

These minor failings – slow the story down, but don’t derail it. there is also quite a bit – always – about Sam’s personal life. Reminds me of Sue Grafton but Symon is a far better writer. However, I still don’t like her short chapters and think the story would flow better if the chapter numbers were halved

The ending was balls to the walls excitement! Symon put everything into her writing there. I loved it!

The only Symon I haven’t read is her fourth Sam book I’m going to get to this one as soon as possible. For all my carping, Symon is one of the best authors I have found for introducing a kiwi flavour into her work. This was a great book for my personal challenge to read more books by New Zealand writers.…

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Heart of Coal

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Heart of Coal by Jenny Pattrick

I still haven’t settled on a rating for this book – I think the review will help me process my thoughts.

For me, the thing is the first book in this series The Denniston Rose was just such a great read. A real page turner that I was reluctant to put down.

I think Ms Pattrick had some idea how she wanted Rose, Michael & Bren’s story to continue, but she struggled to get the words on the page. Ms Pattrick seemed uncomfortable dealing with (view spoiler)[ the sexual abuse of Rose as a child (hide spoiler)]I came very close to giving up, but the book really picks up about a third of the way in. The rough, tough town of Denniston is Rose’s anchor and by the end of this book I understood that. But I think this book would be really hard to follow for anyone who hadn’t read The Denniston Rose first.

I was really ready for the book to be over by then, so in spite of parts of the book being really compelling reading I can’t go higher than 3.5★…

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The Denniston Rose

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Damn Denniston
Damn the track
Damn the way both there and back
Damn the wind and damn the weather
God damn Denniston altogether

J.T. Ward 1884

Last time I was on the West Coast, we went for a drive and my sister pointed out the site of Denniston perched high in the hills. As beautiful as the West Coast is, it is also a challenging, wet environment.

To this most inhospitable place came the fictional characters of the fierce Evangeline and her daughter, five year old Rose. Why did they come? Certainly no one would travel up the Incline in a storm and travel up a wagon on the tracks by choice!

The opening scenes of their arrival up The Incline is one of the best I have ever read and had me hungry to read more. I was totally enthralled by Rose (nicknamed Rose of Tralee by her new Denniston friends) and her strong will to survive and triumph. Rose’s flaws (among other things Rose is[ light fingered stop her becoming a Mary Sue character, her story is by turn inspiring and harrowing – I kept praying what was foreshadowed wouldn’t happen to this little girl.

Loved the ending and I now want to read the sequel Heart of Coal

I am already certain this will be one of my favourite reads in 2020.…

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Tōtara: a Natural and Cultural History

Tōtara: a Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once you get past the High School Science Class tone of the early chapters this book, about one of New Zealand’s most iconic trees, is both fascinating and readable.

My little town has both a suburb and a vineyard named after this mighty tree.

In spite of the tōtara’s iconic status, both Māori and Pakeha have done large scale clearances of this wonderful tree. Simpson laments this, especially in the case of farmland, where tōtara is actually a wonderful livestock shelter.

I gained a lot of knowledge from this book. My favourite was learning about the waka tōtara

Where Maori shaped a living tree into a waka. (canoe) Talk about planning ahead!

This book is lavishly illustrated and well worth the time spent perusing it.…

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Foggydale Farm Jam Sessions

Foggydale Farm Jam Sessions by Linda Hallinan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to be a bit soft with my rating for this book because…

✔ New Zealand Author

✔ Borrowed from the library so I didn’t pay for the book.

✔ The two recipes I have made so far (Blackberry Jam and Tomatillo Salsa) have been really good. I am still licking my lips after sampling the salsa.

I probably should have added more coriander (cilantro)* for a greener colour, but the taste is delicious.

As good as the Blackberry Jam is , it only had four ingredients and I could have got the recipe from anywhere. I really think, in spite of all the hassles picking the berries, Blackberry may be my favourite jam.

It is just that this book is trying to be too many things. Coffee table (and the black cover hasn’t worn well) gardening tips, pretty but largely irrelevant photos (Jamie Oliver has a lot to answer for!) chat about Hallinan’s family life. The gardening tips are ok, but for the rest I like my cookbooks to be cookbooks – i.e. they need to work for their place in my home!

But in winter I will probably borrow again to make the Peach (I’m going to be lazy and make the tinned version) or Cape Gooseberry Jams. I run a small Airbnb and am constantly on the lookout for new recipes.

* We will have a falling out if you try to tell me I should be calling the leaves cilantro – in New Zealand the whole plant is called coriander.…

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Book Review: Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer by Susan Napier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We have a couple of appointments today, so I was going to reread this Napier title during the inevitable hanging around in waiting rooms with no or terrible magazines in their lounge area. But I ended up gulping this steamy novel down last night.

Back when I was a voracious reader of Mills & Boon, Napier was my favourite of their authors. & this was my second favourite of her titles. But I’m thinking if I did reread some of the others…well, some would definitely stand the test of time better than this one!

Obviously, since I am giving it 4★ and read it at the speed of sound, I didn’t hate it. But the whole plot was based on the hero behaving like a creepy stalker and The Twist. (side note: I heard Ms Napier speak while she was working out the plot for this novel – so I was actively looking for this novel for a couple of years. Knowing The Twist didn’t spoil the book for me at all, but I can certainly understand other readers being annoyed at the spoiler filled reviews on Goodreads.) This was a very original idea at the time.

I’ve just finished reading

The Passionate Pen New Zealand's Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine by Rachel McAlpine

and Ms Napier mentions that the very short word counts on modern Harlequin Mills & Boon make it hard to do much plot or character development. This book could have used another 5k words I think, because most of the plot was the h & H snarling at each other. In spite of this, Grace and Scott were appealing both physically and in character. The sex scenes were pretty hot.

Weak resolution of a couple of plot strands, but still would recommend.…

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