Author Archive

Bad Reputation. The Unauthorized Biography of Joan Jett by Dave Thomson. Pub.Backbeat Books, 2011.

January 23, 2021 Comments off

” I love rock’n roll put another dime in the Juke box baby..” yes this hit for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts was one of my favourite rock songs not only of the 80’s but of all time. Jett had that attitude and a sneer that could curdle milk.

Joan Larkin entered the world of rock’n roll as Joan Jett via an impressario Kim Folley and an all female rock band called the Runaways. All the girls were 15 and 16 and they came from South Los Angeles which was the hub of American rock music.

This is a sort of biography of Jett but mostly a portrait of rock music in LA and later to London through the punk era and into the 80’s and 90’s and how Joan Jett evolved her musical image from rock chick to lesbian roll model. It is not a life story but it is bloody interesting. Her musical influences from Suzi Quatro to the Ramones is documented with many quotes from notable people of her era.

Sexuality has always been a huge part of rock’n roll and The Runaways her first band were portrayed more for their sexuality than for their music but good music is what they were all about. It is a sleazy story in parts but that is because of the male attitudes to a girl band that toughened Joan Jett up. You can read about the rest yourself and it is very enlightening.

When Jett formed the Blackhearts in the early 80’s she wanted guys in the band. She was sick of the all girl thing. Her image had toughened and I love Rock’n roll sealed her reputation for ever.

Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning made a film in 2010 called The Runaways that brings credibility to Joan Jett’s bands and music and women’s rights.

The Silence of Snow by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Black Swan, 2020.

January 17, 2021 Comments off

Two things hit me very quickly when I started to read this adult medical drama. Firstly how terribly difficult it must be to maintain a long distance romantic relationship. Secondly how frightening it is to expect young doctors to do 15 hour shifts when they are dealing with life and death situations in a hospital.

There are two main characters and things are going to get hot between them.

Jodi is in her late twenties, she is attractive but unsure of herself because she comes from a family of doctors and wonders is she doing the right thing for herself and everybody else. She is in a relationship with Fraser who lives in Dunedin while she works further north. It is nearing Xmas and because of work schedules and the demand from the hospital Jodi is unable to go to Dunedin to be with Fraser. He has visited her but their relationship is around bickering-why can’t you come down? you are always tired. That sort of thing.

Rory is slightly older, from Scotland with a smooth Scottish accent and a quick wit. The female doctors and nurses are smitten by him but he has a problem and a past. He is an anaesthetist and early in the novel assists Jodi in a desperate medical event. Rory deals with the pressures of work by self prescribing uppers and downers for however he feels. He is becoming addicted.

Rory is free and easy, drinks a lot and is slightly promiscuous because the women are available.

The first encounter between Jodi and Rory is sensual. Both feel the chemistry and it is a matter of time before they do the wild thing. Jodi has a relationship, Rory has a past and a problem. How can everything be resolved. Read it and find out.

Very well written in short chapters that have breaks for you to stop and reflect or get the tranquilisers out. The romance is hot and the medical events often disturbing. When Jodi and Rory have their first kiss, Jodi feels she is letting the wolf in and Rory feels his universe has been disturbed. One of the best devices Eileen makes is to provide the thoughts of the character in any situation written in italics. many of them will mirror your own thoughts.

I loved this novel, you will too. So what is the title all about? Well you don’t hear snow fall, until you are in the middle of a drift. Compelling reading.

She’s a Rainbow. The extraordinary Life of Anita Pallenberg by Simon Wells. Pub. Omnibus press, 2020.

January 12, 2021 Comments off

I have read many biographies of rock “n Roll stars and actors and most scratch the surface of their lives and give you little else, but this one on Anita Pallenberg ,I think got to the core of what she was like. It is both uplifting and tragic and ultimately the story of a woman who changed the world.

She was stunningly beautiful, with long legs, blond hair and a sexy European voice who dazzled when she walked into a room. She was well educated and well read spoke French, German Italian and English and was forthright in her opinions and ambitions. Her fashion sense was second to none and her Bohemian style dominated the fashions of swinging London and helped make London the centre of the modern cultural world. She was an actress a fashion model, a designer and she turned the Rolling Stones from “a band of suburban scruffs into a new breed of dandified lions”.

She first hit the scene as the girl friend of Brian Jones and their confrontational relationship is detailed in this book. The famous incident in Morocco in which Keith Richards rescued her from Brian Jones is told from many angles but the one sure thing is that Brian Jones never recovered from the split.

Life with Richards and the Stones is detailed from many sources but the truth of it is that it was based on drug taking on a huge scale. How she and Richards survived is beyond me but read it and see for yourself.

A highlight of the book for me is the chapter on the making of the film Performance, a cult film which after 50 years has still not recovered the costs of making it. Asked what her contribution to the film was Anita said “the sex”. She was right of course, it is the only reason a watched the film which I found awful. It did however have a powerful effect on all those that were in the film or associated with the making and promotion of the film. The biggest question posed of course was “did Anta and Mick Jagger do the wild thing?”. When Mick was asked he said the suggestion was too delicious to deny.

The tragedy of Anita’s life was of course drugs. She was addicted for much of her life and they stole the humanity from her. When 17 year old Scott Cantrell shot himself in her house Anita when asked about it said “I didn’t feel anything. That’s one of the wonders of drugs and drink”

One of the best overviews of life in the rock’n roll, fashion and film making world of the 1960’s and 70’s that I have read. If you miss this one you will kick yourself.

The Haka of Tanerore. Te Haka a Tanerore by Reina Kahukiwa, Illus by Robyn Kahukiwa. Maori translation by Ko Kiwa Hammond.

January 4, 2021 Comments off

Probably the best known aspect of Maori culture both here in NZ and overseas is the haka. Where did it come from? This is a creative interpretation based on the korero preserved in the traditions of Tupuna Maori. And a very interesting tale it is too.

Tamanuitera is the sun and he is a bit lonely and went down to Earth for a companion. He found Hine Takura, fell in love and lived where the sky merges into the ocean. While they lived there winter conditions existed in the land of Tane so Tamanuitera brought the sunshine back.

In the process he met and fell in love with Hine Raumati, they fell in love and had a son Tanerore.

Tanerore was a dancer and he began to dance and stamp his feet in rhythm. His mother liked his movements and learnt them herself and thus the first haka. Where the words came from I am not sure.

Robyn Kahikwa’s illustrations once again reflect Maori culture with the boy Tanerore a sight to see and there is a beautiful pohutukawa tree that springs to life when Tamanuitera returns to the land of Tane.

Great for teaching Maori legend and with bilingual text suitable for the teaching of Maori language.

The Standing Strong House. Te Whare Tu Maia by Reina Kahukiwa, Illus. Robyn Kahukiwa. Maori language translation by Greg Henderson. Pub. OneTree House, 2020.

January 4, 2021 Comments off

This is an excellent bilingual version of the story of a whare built by the Ngati Tu Maia people in honour of their kuia Kahurangi that lasted down through the centuries till the present day.

It begins with the ngati Tu Maia living on the land in balance with the birds and animals in Tane’s forests. Kahurangi with her white tui, is their leader until she dies and in her honour the tribe build a whare.

It is a magnificient building and in the centre is the heart post with a carved face and figure of a woman with a white tui in her hands. The people lived and used the whare and gave it it’s mauri or life force.

Settlers came to the land and built their towns and cities and the whare was swallowed up at the edge of a town. Then a homeless family living in a car are guided to the house by a white tui and the people refurbish the whare and it opens it’s arms to the homeless.

An inspiring story that brings Maori culture into the modern world.

Text is in both English and Maori with a glossary of translated words in the back.

As always Robyn Kahukiwa’s illustrations are spot on culturally and bring life to the story.

Answering to the Caul by Ted Dawe. Pub Mangakino University Press. 2020.

January 3, 2021 Comments off

This is a powerful novel in two distinctly different parts. The first part is titled Living with the Caul and analyses the life of Andrei Reti a boy who was born with a Caul covering his head. According to folk lore and superstition this will lead to him having an affinity with water with the possibility of drowning being unlikely.

Water does indeed have a great influence on Andrei as he survives drowning in the bath while a baby, and in other incidents in his life that affect his relationships with his whanau. He grows up with a sense of guilt.

However it is poverty and reading that by far have the biggest impact on his life. When your father is in jail and your mother is sick the world looks like a huge and lonely place. Poverty comes through the door and when Andrei’s mother dies he is shipped up to live with whanau in the north where poverty is a daily existence.

He adjusts and his only escape is books. He reads prolifically at a level far in advance of children his own age and this influence of reading is a major theme of the novel.

Up North he comes in contact with a wild family member called Dallas who is violent and on the verge of exploding every minute of the day. Dallas introduces him to the adult world and is to have a major impact on his life in the second part of this novel but you will have to read it to find out how. Needless to say Dallas regards the two factors that control his life as Whanau and utu. There is no room for aroha as Andrei tells him.

The story is narrated by Andrei and covers his early childhood and school up to high school. It then jumps into adulthood and the repercussions of his childhood and the Caul come to the fore.

Part two is another story as it is set in Thailand but I will leave that to you the reader. Needless to say there is an incident that reminds me of a novel by Michael Morpurgo involving elephants.

The book is very readible, with short chapters, and much to say about school life and poverty. It is very descriptive and brings back old kiwi english with terms like cackhanded, which made me smile. Then there is the description of a current scone made by his aunt that is described as “not a food but a landform, something between a boulder and a cow pat”.

This novel would go well when read in conjunction with Tim Tipene’s White Moko which is reviewed earlier on this blog. This New Zealand in the raw.

Grandkids by Des Newton. Self published 2020.

January 2, 2021 Comments off

This is a picture book that can be enjoyed by both the young and the old. It is only 13 pages long but says so much about the relationship between grandparents and grand children.

Why do we have grandkids? Tell me what they’re for…..swinging on the curtains and messing on the floor.

They eat us out of house and home, leave their toys all over the floor and backyard and test our patience to the full. But we love them and wonder what they will become and we know that when it comes to technology they have the better of us.

The illustrations reflect the reactions old people have to their grandkids and our happiness when they are in bed for the night.

I would like to see this story spread over 26 pages to give more power to both written text and illustrations.

Categories: Uncategorized

Time To Remember by Janna Ruth. Self published 2020.

December 24, 2020 Comments off

Trauma can have lasting effects on your mental and physical health” This novel written in late 2020 started out to show the effects of earthquake trauma on children at the tenth anniversary of the first quake that hit Canterbury in the early morning of September 4th 2010.

Janna Ruth is a best selling German author who was in Christchurch through all the Earthquakes but the traumatic events that are the Covid 19 pandemic needed to be included in the story as well. She does this successfully in a very compelling novel to read.

Josh and Nathalie are her two main characters and both were 10 years old when the first earthquake hit but it was the February earthquakes that affected them the most.

Josh and Nathalie both attend the University of Canterbury and both are involved in writing articles and publishing the Student newspaper Canta. At the start of the novel they dislike each other intensely and both are involved in relationships within their social circle. Nathalie suggests a special piece on the tenth anniversary of the quakes in which students are asked to write stories of their experiences and Josh is particularly vitriolic at her suggestion. Why? Read it and find out.

Trauma of the earthquakes is at the heart of Josh’s problems as it is with the behaviour of many of the characters in this novel. In many ways it is a love story which explores the fine line between love and hate.

The lockdown because of Covid helps consolidate opinions and situations. Very much an exploration of student relationships which add much of the drama to the novel. I can tell you no more except to say I lived in Christchurch through the earthquakes and attended University of Canterbury.

This novel was real enough to me. One character says this “We lost my mum. One of those white chairs on the lawn was hers”. Of course the words “EQC stinks” will ring true for many people.

A novel to remember.

Pages & Co Bk. 3 Tilly and the Map Stories by Anna James. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

December 21, 2020 Comments off

The magic of reading is to the fore in this third part about Tilly and Oscar who are bookwanderers. That is the skill of being able to enter into a book and relate to the characters and the action that happens.

Librarians are a power crazy lot, at least in my experience, and the Underwood siblings are trying to squash bookwandering by binding source editions in the British Underlibrary. This has an effect in other countries like France and USA and stops book wandering unless the source edition of a novel is kept outside of Britain.

Tilly and Oscar have some clues to a theory that a supreme power called the Archivists, who are elusive, have the ability to halt the shenanigans of the Underwood’s. The clues lead them to a book in the Library of Congress in Washington so off they go in secrecy to meet Orlando and Jorge at the library. Adventure and treachery await them.

Well written with the characters of Oscar and Tilly having good values and personal character. My favourite part is when they bookwander into Midsummer Night’s Dream and meet Titania, Oberon, Puck and Bottom. Should they stop the love potion being given to Titania? Read it and see. We also meet Shakespeare himself. Where there’s a Will there’s a way.

Fans of the series will love it and it leaves a few plot lines open for another book.

Santa Jaws by Mark Sperring, illus. Sophie Corrigan. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

December 17, 2020 Comments off

Shelly the shark is feeling festive at Xmas and decides to open a Santa grotto for all the little fish to visit.

Sharks are not the most trustworthy creatures in the sea and there is a certain amount of fear and hesitation about.

Shelly dresses up as santa and gets into the spirit of things. Sid the squid is enthused about meeting santa claus but can he trust a shark? Read it and see what happens.

Sophie Corrigan’s illustrations are a treat. The characters of Sid and Shelly are perfect especially the shot of Sid when after getting all enthused about meeting Santa, discovers he is a shark.

Lovely ending from a shark Santa who has never seen or built a snowman. Perfect for the summery Southern hemisphere where sharks are always in the minds of swimmers.

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