From our reviewers

By Siobhan Harvey (Otago University Press, RRP $25)

Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page
Selected by Siobhan Harvey, Harry Ricketts and James Norcliffe (Godwit, RRP $45)

Both reviewed by Naida Mulligan

Siobhan Harvey is an internationally recognised poet who has been critically acclaimed through receiving or being shortlisted for many awards. Most recently she won the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2013 for her Cloudboy collection.

These poems share what life is like with an autistic son. The point of view is Cloudmother's, and she first compares her son to all kinds of clouds. The second section covers him going to school, often heartbreaking in the difficulties that are met.

The last two parts are entitled Meditations of a Cloudboy (Without Drugs), and Cloud Manifesto. Finally, there is one poem in the Epilogue, Upon Medicating My Son. These poems could really speak to parents of autistic children, making them feel less alone, that someone else understands the range of difficulties and emotions they are going through. They are also a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn about autism.

What a gorgeous, eye-catching book Essential New Zealand Poems is. It is cloth bound with a built- in bookmark and includes some evocative photographs among its pages.

The three editors, all NZ literary giants themselves, have chosen 150 poems from 150 Kiwi poets since the 1950s, to make it a contemporary collection. The reader can agree or not with the choices made.

A wonderful book to read from cover to cover or just to dip into when the whim takes you.

The Madness of Hallen
By Russell Meek (

Reviewed by F Mulligan

The Madness of Hallen is the first instalment of a four- book saga - The Khalada Stone series. The stones themselves hold the memory and power of an ancient warrior leader. Supposedly lost in the mists of time, they have become a legend remembered by few and believed in by even fewer.

Ohrl, the main character focus, is a young man who feels that his life is really just beginning. He has a loving family, friends, a girlfriend and has been accepted to train with a renowned sword master. This is not to last as people are searching for the stones. When their search brings them to Ohrl's home town, his family's link to them becomes apparent. His brother, Faerl, is kidnapped and Ohrl's destiny is changed dramatically.

Set in a low tech imaginary world, the story refreshingly has no elves or magical animals. There are the very handy 'firelights" and, of course, the magical mind powers of the stones themselves, but most of all it is an engaging storyline with characters who grow on you.

The blurb tells of the stones' origins and the basic premise of the story to come but it does not do the opening novel justice. Indeed it could almost be off-putting. So ignore it, for if you enjoy the fantasy, swords and sorcery genre, this is a series you may wish to read.