Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm blogging backwards for Xmas. It's the first Xmas Book list!

Yes, indeed, people.  This is the first f several book lists you NEED to consult before heading out with you Xmas list!  This year I've listed them into categories, as you'll see below.  Not the usual 'for Dad', or 'for Nana' type nonsense.  this one is a little more suitable for Groove's discerning readership..

For Social Historians.

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History
by Rhonda K. Garlick

"Certain lives are at once so exceptional", goes the blurb, "and yet so in step with their historical moments, that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person."  Coco was a traitor, a spy, a collaborator, a bitch, a cold callous evil and calculating pariah on the rich and powerful.  She came from nothing and she made an empire out of every failure.  Or was she?  She not only re-invented fashion - she made elegance and Women's place in that social dialogue important. She did what she did. Unapologetic and utterly beguiling.  Garelick takes us down a trail re-written a few times in the past but this time places her in the middle of the transient and turbulent history that evolves around the first 3 quarters of the last century - from poverty to an economic dynamo and a fashion icon.  The photos and the insights are new, and given that it's hard to revisit that well trodden path and leave new footprints - that's remarkable!

Vivienne Westwood
by Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly
Kelly opens this book with his own introduction, hastily written under a work table at a Westwood show.  Between the model's legs and a forest of outrageous garments - both in price and taste - he observes Westwood's nigh on obsessive control of her works as she primps her charges for the runway.  He reflects on her methodical work ethic as she plans a show - that time when she removes herself from charities and business to create that special moment hat only the elite press and richest of the rich will ever see.  And he contemplates how a woman who practically invented Punk - the mouthpiece of the social classes in the 1980's (and later the most radical and political fashion movement of the 20th and 21st Century to date) could create clothes for the very people that she loathed and sneered at through her youth.  In reality, Westwood later chimes in, she didn't.  The mere fact that she was creating and eternal cycle of subversive, underground inspired, rebellious styles that always challenged the normalities of the establishment and end up being the coveted possessions of the elitist members simply shows her unique and inspiring personality and her larger than Johnny Rotten personality.  She is twisting the norm.  Westwood is way more than just the Teddy Boy revival, and the bondage suits, SEX - the shop or safety pins and ripped clothes (she didn't actually come up with those it turns out).  For the first AND only time this is her own words about her, about what she really is, was and wants to be.  It is history unfolding and breeding!  God will Save the Queen.  Fuck that. Save Vivienne Westwood instead!
For Eco-Braniacs.
Time and Time again by Ben Elton
If you had one chance to change history - where would you go? What would you do?  Who would you kill?  I haven't quite finished this one yet but I can tell this isn't your histo cowboy novel.  This is not the time traveller's wife.  thank god!  following his return an x-soldier returns from WWI battles to discover he's the loneliest man on earth.  He knows know one and that is a scary thing.  But what if you could re-invent everything that brought you to that point?  Our protagonist Hugh Stanton must somehow go back in time, to stop that famous assassination in Sarajevo, to somehow make it all be different.  Somehow make the mass suicide and the madness stop?  But what consequences will come of this.  Marty McFly faced the same predicament.  this time there's no Delorian or hoverboard.  I really want to finish this.  So bugger off for now.  After 7 November you can find out for yourself! 
Elton is, as always a superb and thoughtful, protagonist writer.  I'm loving this and always have enjoyed his stuff. I recommend it!

For that plane trip or beach sitting
Confessions - The Paris Mysteries - by James Paterson
Believe it or not not everyone wants Ellie Catton, brilliant as she is!  Sometimes a good romp is fine as!  So...Her parents are dead...and her sister and she's next.  And it's happening in Paris! The city of her dreams and fantasies!  After trying to figure out the mysteries that have torn her family apart, Tandy Angel (yes, I know!) longs for a fresh start.  Nahhh! not likely! She goes to Paris (like we all can do that!).  But the ghosts and the spectres follow her.  the past catches up and reveal terrifying , lethal secrets.  Obviously this is a miniseries waiting to be produced. It's a cheap thrill.  But why not.  Perfect for the beach! Love it!

For the kid Book Geek
Skuldugery Pleasant - The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy
This the ninth and final book in the series. Landy has confirmed that the ninth book will be about the Darquesse vision that was forseen in Dark Days and set in motion during Last Stand Of Dead Men.  He completed the book in May this year.   Aparently a A Black Edition was produced with a  limited to 1000 copies hidden in Waterstones Stores (UK bookseller).  RK Rowling never thought of that!   I read this one and wondered why I'd never heard of those before it!  Why has this been a secret!  I'm not a 13 year old book freak.  Ask them to explain it.  I couldn't possibly explain!  

For the Factulicious!
The 60th Anniversary Guinness Book of Records 2015
No beer commercials any more but the whizzy graphics are neat.  The whole feel would suit a 15 year old boy, the layout the feel but in this day and age are these irrelevant facts any good?  Absolutely.  By the way my version of the accompanying app didn't work.  there was no 3D for me.  but I had the review version and it could have still been in prototype.  Now Who when the first solo Antarctic traverse by a woman made?  November 2011 by UK adventurer Felicity Aston on skis no less!   In this there are a huge number of Commonwealth records, perhaps emphasising the power of the Empire, in spite of many other nations.  Maybe the Guinness influence remains? 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

If the author’s name is familiar then that’s because she’s a two time Man Booker prize winner.  Her first was for the 2009 novel Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of Henry VIII.  Her second Booker came in 2012 novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.   Mantel’s the first woman to receive the award twice.  The third installment to her Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, is set to be published in 2015. 

This collection of short stories is not, however, historic in the usual sense.  It does, at times meddle with recent historical characters but in different ways to her swash buckling and mind behind the title story was originally commissioned a couple of years ago by the Telegraph.  The topic was, obviously, polarizing.  Anyone growing up or around in the 80’s remember, in vivid 80’s yellowed colour the TV footage of miner’s strikes, hunger strikes and factory closures, the handbag and the venomous serpent teeth and the patronizing accent.  She was the most hated woman in England.  She event inspired an entire music/cultural movement: Punk.  If it were me, well!  And that’s the story.  This collection begins with the intrusion of a male – in Sorry to Disturb – when a business man in a claustrophobic Middle Eastern country bursts into the apartment of an Ex Pat Brit.  That time a ‘friendship’ develops.  The final story is another interruption, when an assassin fakes his way into a woman’s flat pretending to be a plumber.  A strange Stockholm syndrome relationship develops over cups of tea and sympathy for the cause.  The IRA shooter is only interested in his quarry.  But then so is the flat owner.  She’s not really a victim and she’s not really aiding or abetting either.  So what is she?  I love this simple dilemma.  It just seems to arrive, announced wanting attention, uncontrived.  And sometimes leaves, unresolved.  Like life.

Not all of these are like this.  Comma, for example is a fleeting is about childhood cruelty metamorphosing into the narrator’s own child.  “Harley Street” has slight lesbian overtones in a professional setting.  Winter Break is like the Madeline McCann case in reverse, implicating a childless couple in the murder of a child in the picturesque Greek Islands.  Then there’s the most disturbing.  The Heart Fails Without Warning constructs a final scenario of a spectral girl holding a ghostly white dog, out of an anorexic teenager growing doglike hair on her face.  This is juxtaposed against her father's interest in porn featuring naked girls on dog leads. It’s all perplexing.  Mantel likes to twist our perceptions and play with our expectations, tease our assumptions and throw them back in our faces.  From Saudi to Greece she travels on paper to play out her scenarios.  None of these are big enough to build a real novel around, too fragmented but perfect for short, punchy vignettes. 

This is not the placeholder until Mantel gets her latest installment finished next year – or whenever.  Some of these have been lurking around since 2009, published and unpublished.  But short stories are like itches that need to be scratched.  They are small distractions, that when effectively administered to are most satisfactorily dealt to.  That said, this collection is a near on perfect scratching session.  Irritations aside, it’s a fine collection – short and perfect for train journeys, lunch breaks or those moments you try to snatch to relieve those intellectual irritations.  But look out for installment #3 of the bigger novel if you need longer appeasements.                  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Al Brown - Depot Eatery - Biography of a resteraunt (with recipes) - Random House

Depot Eatery is has been one of Auckland's favourite restaurants, and has been since the day it opened.  It's a bit of a landmark, even featuring in Paul Thomas' new Tito Ihaka novel Fallout, and now here is its stunning cookbook. The posh café is not overly precious or pretentious - and the book reflects perfectly Al Brown's attitude towards food: go for in season, cook it well and enjoy with friends. This book is subtitled 'The biography of a restaurant' features quite a bit about Brown writing on his philosophy at the Depot - why Depot has achieved iconic status among New Zealanders.  He wanted to recreate the feeling of being at a Kiwi bach. 

There's also a retro feel with mismatched old crockery and chairs and there's always a feeling of generosity, of sharing the fish you caught that day, of enjoying meal times with the whanau and neighbours.  Even the sugar bowl are 'Tohearoa Sugar' - appropriated from the original soup cans. 

And so this is the feel and the design aesthetic that Al wanted to recreate with Depot never forget that Al is a highly trained chef. So while the food looks simple, everything is top quality and the flavours are out of this world. His dishes favour the unusual - using cheap cuts of meat and fish but cooking them with skill and talent.

There are 'cheffy moments' like squid ink pasta, tempura oysters with wasabi and smoked Kahawai potatoe cakes.  Who knew that you use milk in pasta making ?  And there are also simple recipes that really shouldn't be in a cook book because, honestly they are no brainers.  How you perfect them on the other hand should.

With Christmas coming, I'm not blushing when I tell you that this is a handsome with a stunning book.  I'd be well happy to have it in my kitchen! 

Hanging in the air - the way bricks dont!

The Frood - The authorised and very official history od Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The introduction of this wonderful tome is written by Doug himself and could of been an excerpt from his own irreverent last will and testament.  It's a rambling, pun-filled rant - much like Adam's books.  The HHGG was always one of my favourite bits of the Eighties - partly because it tore down the seriousness of the Miner's Strikes, the bland paleness of the Muldoon era, and the silly-ness of the New Romantics.  He was like Monty Python for our generation - with all the in-jokes and geeky quirkiness that our parents puzzled over and many of our peer (those outside this literary cliché) shunned in ignorance.  Adams was our anti hero. 

As a wise ape once said - space is big, really big.  And so was Adams - his brain was like Dr Who's Tardis - but possibly without the affinity to crash on a regular basis.  Who else could have invented the answer to life, the universe and everything!

Like many biographers Jem Roberts chose to announce his new work in the most overbloated rant on on his blog.  He wrote "

Douglas Adams would have honed this long and flabby blog entry down to about fifty words. This is why he can with relative safety be called a genius, and I can be called something else. Nonetheless…
This is to announce the forthcoming publication of my third book, THE FROOD: A COMEDIC HISTORY OF DOUGLAS ADAMS’ HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. Or at least, this is a displacement activity when I should be writing my third book, THE FROOD: ACHODAHHGTTG. It has the full official blessing of Adams’ family, agent and estate, and will be published by Preface in the autumn of 2014, to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the release of Adams’ first novel in the trilogy of five (or six now, lest we forget, which is one of the issues this book will mull over)."

He goes on to rant that his previous book on Blackadder was written entirely in secret, not announced until it was ready for publication.  and. consequently was only purchased by a man in Sussex with three cats, called Simon.  His blog rabbits on for about an hour trying to find some kind of cohesive way of getting to the point - and that is Douglas Adams was really cool, really clever and just plain interesting.  This book will tell you more, but be warned, like Roberts and Adams, it's an irreverent read that does not take the fast track, facts are accurate way to explaining anything about Adams.  So approach with caution.  If you really want to know about Douglas Adams - consult Wikipedia - at least you know it's an official lie!

Extracts from an abandoned draft of a Hitchhiker's Guide are included after they were discovered amongst the papers in his Cambridge archive.  Unfortunately, Adams died in 2001, aged 49, leaving behind him seven much-loved novels and three co-authored works of non fiction including my favourite The Meaning of Lif. The Salmon of Doubt, published posthumously in 2002, was a collection of fragments and part of an unfinished novel culled from his hard drive, but Jem Roberts, who was given full and exclusive access by Adams' family to his papers, found a treasure trove of unsuspected work within the boxes and boxes of material housed in St John's College.

A selection is included in The Frood, from cut extracts from the first Hitchhiker's Guide novel, The Dentrassi and Arthur's Reverie (yes are we all glad that particular title didn't stick!), to extracts from the "lost" draft of Life The Universe and Everything, including one on "Inter-Species Sex".
"The Salmon of Doubt was taken from the hard drive of all Douglas's many different Apple Macs," Roberts is quoted in various interweb sources "Nobody had ever thought about a paper trail though. Douglas Adams was the king of new technology, and people probably thought he'd had a huge bonfire of all his papers. But there are boxes and boxes of notebooks, lots of typescript stuff, paper printed from the computer … it was just an enormous job."

There is "an enormous amount of material out there that has never been seen before", Roberts writes in The Frood. As well as Life, the Universe and Everything, the biography will feature an alternative original pitch for Hitchhiker, a lost rough script for the second television series, and further scraps of unused material, with names like Baggy the Runch and The Assumption of Saint Zalabad.
The Life, the Universe and Everything draft, Roberts said, has "whole chapters where the characters are doing different things – different ideas he never got round to using, [such as] chapters written from Arthur Dent's point of view".

Of course, none of this stuff is finished", he's added. "It's very important to contextualise this material properly … and I understand people thinking that this is raw material and he didn't want it to be seen. I spend part of the book asking what Douglas would have wanted …but I think it's wonderful that we finally get to read some of this stuff."

The book is authorised by the Adams estate and Douglas Adams' family.  ""It would be ridiculous to pretend that Douglas Adams' life and work has gone unexamined since his dismayingly early death at 49, but throughout the decade since the last book to tackle the subject, the universes Adams created have continued to develop, to beguile and expand minds, and will undoubtedly do so for generations to come," said the publisher

As Adams put it: "any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

And if you were wondering just who this Jem person is...then here's a wee note or two on him.  He was born in Ludlow, studied in English, Film & Television at Aberystwyth University.  A lifetime in magazines led to the honour of writing his first book, the acclaimed Clue Bible: The Fully Authorised History of the Sorry I Haven't a Clue.  It was followed up by a book on Blackadder.  This is his third book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An interview with Paula Green

Today the Kid interviewed Paula Green about her new book A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.
The best New Zealand poems for children, collected by star New Zealand poet Paula Green and illustrated inventively by Jenny Cooper. This exciting collection is truly a must-have for every home, school and library. Bursting with wonderful poems that will make you laugh, cry, nod and ponder, this book is beautifully illustrated and makes a perfect gift book. With a handsome modern design, it will make poetry fresh and alive to a new generation. There are poems by all the big names in both children's and adult writing, from Margaret Mahy and Hone Tuwhare to Denis Glover as well as some fresh new poets.  
Useful Links
Today Paula is setting off on a poetry tour to celebrate poetry for and by children, my two new books (The Letterbox Cat with Scholastic and A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children with Random House) and my blog NZ Poetry Box. She will I will be keeping a travel diary on my blog over the month. Where: Gisborne, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Tauranga, Papamoa and Auckland Who: Elizabeth Smither, Apirana Taylor, Anna Jackson, Maria McMillan, Richard Langston, Adrienne Jansen, Belinda Wong, Fifi Colston, Melanie Drewery, Rachel Bush, Fiona Farrell, Gavin Bishop, Bill Nagelkirke, Greg O’Connell, James Norcliffe, Helen Jacobs, Doc Drumheller, David Eggleton, Sue Wootton, Jenny Powell, Elizabeth Pulford, Kyle Mewburn, Brian Turner, Wendy Clarke, Pauline Cartwright, Peter Bland, Elena de Roo, Tessa Duder, Stephanie Mayne, Claire Gummer, John Parker, Siobhan Harvey, Tamsin Flynn Te Papa Wellington, Puke Ariki New Plymouth Wainui Beach School, Ormond School, Matawai School, Egmont Village School, Woodleigh School, Frankley School, Ngaio School, Adventure School, Te Aro School, Brooklyn School, Karori West School, St Brigid’s School, Lyall Bay School, Pakakariki School, Kapanui School, Newbury School, Khandallah School, Pauatahanui School, St Joseph’s School Nelson, Russley School, Fendalton School, Cobham Intermediate, Kirkwood Intermediate, Ilam School, Lyttelton School, Paparoa School, Medbury School, Freeville School, Redcliffs School, Selwyn House School, East-Taieri School, Columbia College, Remarkables School, Arrowtown School, Queenstown School, Golden Sands School, Maungatapere School, Kamai School, Gladstone School, Richmond Road School, Ellerslie School, Freemans Bay School, St Kentigern’s School, Cornall Park District School, Upper Harbour Primary School, Royal Oak Primary School, Westmere School Taranaki Libraries, Eltham Library, Wellington Libraries, Porirua Library, Nelson Libraries, South Library, Dunedin Libraries, Queenstown Library, Tauranga City Library, Auckland Libraries, National Library Muir’s Bookshop Gisborne, Poppies New Plymouth, New Plymouth Paper Plus, Children’s Bookshop Wellington, Page & Blackmoore Nelson, Canterbury University Bookshop, University Bookshop Dunedin, Paper Plus Queenstown Airport, Children’s Bookshop Auckland Events open to the public involving local authors and children:


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Dwarf Who Moved And Other Remarkable Tales From A Life In The Law - Peter Williams QC

The remarkable title comes not from so me sordid tale of gnome stealing, although I'm sure Williams has probably defended a fair few of drunken, pilfering students in his day.  No, the tale is of an attempted murder on a circus performer, by his wife no less.  A tale of intrigue, with humorous twist, trials and tribulations.  This is the lighter side of the anecdotal memoir of one of New Zealand's most pre-eminent criminal barristers. Like Mike Bungay and David Baragwanath Williams looms large in the public mind.  And rightly, too.  In his time in criminal defence Williams has seen it all and everyone. From early days when abortion, homosexuality and even fortune telling were offences to the more sensational cases of wrongful imprisonment and police corruption, Williams has witnessed the defining moments in our legal evolution. This is William's chance to spill the beans on some of his biggest and most public moments with a rich and wise collection of memoir, anecdote and forensic analysis of the trials of Ronald Jorgensen, Arthur Allen Thomas, Mr Asia, James K Baxter, Winston Peters and many more cases (both celebrated and obscure).  Whilst he was always fearless, astute and compassionate, Williams does not shovel the proverbial muck.  The temptation to draw a line, now he's retired, and to slash out at our legal system or reveal the real truth behind might be there but its kept in check.  Williams, ever the gentleman, fading slightly as his battle with cancer perhaps takes some of the edge off the blade but still fair.  This is more an insight into our past more than a Nicky Hager style assault.  In a country as small as New Zealand it would be hard to get away with a true Legal Babylon anyway, and who would read it?  Williams leaves a legacy of anecdotes that remind us why we need lawyers like him - fair and fearless.  From a tale of a stolen red bicycle, his student days boarding, a mysterious fist through the Judas hole, and dynamiting of the High Court in Wellington there are some tall and true. In some cases truth is stranger than fiction, so an open mind also goes a long way. 

Williams, now 79, has a keen legal mind but also empathy for justice, for all.  He questions the growing length of sentences and to what end they will be.  He writes about the erosion of restorative justice in favour of the conservative hard line that faces up the serial criminals with the first timers and asks how this will rehabilitate anybody.  Behind the wig, Williams has trod the same streets as us and he thinks like us, although his gaze has come across many sights more unseemly than we should bear, and he wonders if we are becoming dehumanised to the aims of our justice system.  Perhaps we are more agnostic or complacent or dismissive.  "My fond hope in writing this book is that it may have at least a tendency to humanise its readers by granting a deeper understanding of the legal process and the characters involved."  It's not Rumpole of the Bailey, but it is a good and thoughtful read.  Court adjourned!

The Target - David Baldacci (Will Robie#3)

The mission is to enter one of the most secretive countries and extract the adopted family of an America-friendly North Korean General.  Meanwhile an equal adversary, an assassin borne and bred in the much feared labour camps of that country is plotting to take out the members of the First Family.  Enter into the mix CIA agents Will Robie and Jessica Reel.  Mix in some Southern White Trash Neo-Nazis and a disgruntled CIA high-Chain of command and you've got yourself an overcomplicated spy thriller packed with good 'ol cartoon violence, exaggerated egos and a ridiculously large amount of unnecessary blood and gore.  Of course only the baddies die.  There are a few unresolved issues pertaining to previous books (this is #3 in an on-going series) but in reality this one is still self contained.  There's not much I can add other than it's a story for the moment.  I was never on the edge of my seat - but it did entertain me during those train journeys to and fro to my much more mundane day job.  I can fantasise a little, can't I?  Here's the blurb :

The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel.
Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.
As they prepare for their mission, Reel faces a personal crisis that could well lead old enemies right to her doorstep, resurrecting the ghosts of her earlier life and bringing stark danger to all those close to her. And all the while, Robie and Reel are stalked by a new adversary: an unknown and unlikely assassin, a woman who has trained her entire life to kill, and who has her own list of targets—a list that includes Will Robie and Jessica Reel.

“Baldacci has been on a hot streak for the past few years, and ‘The Target’ continues the trend. This isn’t a garden-variety thriller or even a garden-variety Baldacci. It’s among his most exhilarating books yet.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Baldacci knows how to get readers to turn the pages, and he’s in top form here.”
–Associated Press
“Many scenes in this tale would be unreadable, were it not for Mr. Baldacci’s brilliant use of language, his vivid supporting characters and numerous sudden and unexpected plot twists…[Baldacci] doesn’t let the action sag at any point…In [Chung-Cha], Mr. Baldacci has created one of his most memorable characters…”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“As ever, Baldacci keeps things moving at express-train speed…the one will whet appetites for the next appearance of his agent hero.”
Daily Express (UK)

More at:

David Baldacci published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996. A major motion picture adaptation followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 28 novels; all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries; over 110 million copies are in print worldwide. David has also published four novels for children. He has received numerous accolades for his writing; most recently, he was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame and received the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award.

A lifelong Virginian, David received his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law in Washington, D.C.

While David is involved with several philanthropic organizations, his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s Wish You Well Foundation®. Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family and adult literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of literacy and educational programs. In 2008 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch Feeding Body & Mind, a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, more than 1 million new and gently used books have been collected and distributed through food banks to families in need. 

David and his family live in Virginia.

Speed of Light – Joy Cowley

There’s no question that any novel by Joy Cowley will make you think and suck you in.  She’s not only a great story teller but a clever narrative architect.  A simple tale of a boy whose life is surrounded by chaos is visited by a mystery, only he doesn’t comprehend the meaning or the rationale.  Not yet initially.  It’s that classic building of layers on layers until the tensions explode. 

Jeff is a boy from a privileged household. But his family are not perfect.  His brother is holed up in a Thai prison for drug smuggling.  His loving, but promiscuous sister is constantly blurring the lines and pushing the boundaries, despite looking out for her little brother – when it suits her.  His father is the archetypical rich dad – grumpy, business obsessed with a real estate deal that goes foul, and blind to what’s happening in his own world – to his own family.  His mother works, if only to escape boredom of a rich captive lifestyle. 

Jeff can’t rely on anything – except mathematics.  Numerology and mathematics are the only truths he knows.  That interplays with a mysterious woman who appears in his garden during a storm.  She reappears again and again.  She passes on strange messages, indicating that she is not who she appears to be.  Everyone else passes her off as a strange deluded old lady but Jeff is not so sure.  Is she an angel?  Or something else? 

Cowley’s interplay between the false façade of adult authority and a child’s interpretation of reality is highly imminent here.  It’s wonderful to see how, as the story plays out, the adults all fall over each other as the main character, Jeff, remains true to himself to pull it all together.  It’s a story that will appeal to boys who don’t necessarily want to blow everything up.  Perhaps they might want to spend some time dealing with the complications of growing up without the puberty blues.  In many ways this tale is very real and ordinary.  To mean that gave it more authenticity.  I also enjoyed the bus trips and walks that Jeff took around the city of my childhood, Wellington.  I particularly enjoyed the tiny insignificant details and that breathe life into this story and inflate it just enough to carry it along.   It’s a delightful understated story. 

Underlying is the morals of hope, when adults are too obsessed to understand their children.  It’s not an original theme but it’s one worth revisiting.  If boys, who notoriously shun any emotive, sensitive literature can be encouraged to pick up this book then there is some hope of getting through and perhaps changing a destiny or two.  Perhaps there is something.  So how do we make that happen?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Adventures of the CoffeeBar Kid Rattle Special

Link here to listen to the show :

This is a special show featuring new releases from Rattle Records. 
Established in 1991, Rattle continues to be the pre-eminent art-music label in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Our aim is to provide an inspirational platform for the extraordinary diversity and quality of musics unique to this country, and to bring this rich sound-scape to the wider world. Our carefully curated catalogue is generously dotted with award-winning albums, and all of our releases have garnered high praise from critics and music-lovers the world over.
Not limited to classical, world or jazz, Rattle albums transcend boundaries of time and place. This is new music for open ears, music to engage the head as well as the heart.
Go to www.rattle

Link here to listen to the show :