Book Chooks

They're faster than a speeding bookmark, more powerful than the glue on the pricetag on the cover of your favourite book and able to leap tall paperbacks in a single bound ... and they read. A lot. Jillian Allison-Aitken and Nadine Hancock are the Book Chooks.

From our reviewers: General fiction

03:00pm 12 Apr 2014

Our reviewers take a look at general fiction books available now.

The Road from Midnight
By Wendyl Nissen (Paul Little Books, RRP $29.95)

Reviewed by Gaye Turner

New Zealand born Jane lives life in the limelight as editor of woman's fashion magazines in both Australia and then back in Auckland, New Zealand.

She marries Lawrence who features on news channels in New Zealand and is seeking his next news assignment in whatever way he needs to.

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Farmers' heritage: gritty determination

01:00pm 12 Apr 2014

ROSEMARIE SMITH

BOOK REVIEW: Carse Head & Crichton Park Farms: A story of the land and its people
By Margaret Pullar (Wrights Hill Press, $49.50)

Intergenerational histories are treasures for local communities, telling the stories of the people who built the present.

In this case the focus is on a farming enterprise, down and across five generations based primarily at Pukerau-Kaiwera-Waipahi, though also touching on Central Otago.

The founding matriarch, Otago immigrant Irishwoman Alicia McKenna, had a hard and tragic life after her Polish husband Frederick Trapski died as the result of a coaching accident, but she proved an exemplar for the stamina and skill settlers needed. Left with four children under age 9, she established the farm on the land her husband had only just paid a deposit for, and despite low produce prices, by the time of her own premature death in 1883 she had the debt paid off and her children's future assured.

Or as assured as a farming enterprise can be, for while a family story with this continuity on the land marks ongoing economic success, adversity is a major theme.

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The man behind the muppets

11:30am 31 Mar 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

BOOK REVIEW: Jim Henson: The Biography
By Brian Jay Jones (Virgin Books, RRP $40)

I grew up with Sesame Street and later the Muppets and it has to be said: Jim Henson was a genius.

This biography of the ultimate puppet-master, written by award- winning writer and biographer Brian Jay Jones, is a truly comprehensive read about the legend that was Jim Henson and has been compiled with unprecedented access to his personal files and with the co-operation of Henson's family.

Everyone has their favourite Muppet, with the furry little critters becoming almost real under the guidance of their creator and champion, Henson.

I remember the edge-of-the-seat drama back when Mr Snuffleupagus arrived on Sesame Street and the only person (or in this case, bird) who could see him was Big Bird.

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In Hobbit heaven

05:00am 28 Mar 2014

NADINE HANCOCK

BOOK REVIEW: The Hobbit - Desolation of Smaug, Chronicles - Art and Design
By Daniel Falconer (HarperCollins, RRP $60)

Weta Workshop extraordinaire, Daniel Falconer, has compiled this third book in The Hobbit Chronicles series and it is simply gorgeous. Beautiful to touch and to hold, it covers a myriad concept arts, design, illustrations, descriptions of set pieces and development etches of the second Hobbit film.

As you open the book, you notice each page, from beginning to end, is a journey in itself, with fantastic illustrations which draws in fans of Peter Jacksons' interpretation of Tolkien's world. One by one, each chapter covers the fantastic landscapes, characters and sets that audiences will have seen on film. There is Lake Town, Spiders and course the spectacular Smaug.

Tucked in at the end of this book is The Master's Portrait, an unexpected surprise of the despicable character which Stephen Fry portrays.

Falconer has not developed this book alone. He has gained the help of almost all of the production crew to ensure it keeps every Hobbit fan busy for hours. A book which can be absorbed in one big gulp, or nibbled at from time to time, this is a must have for any Hobbit fan.

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Just simply our story, unadorned

11:00am 27 Mar 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

BOOK REVIEW: A Short History of New Zealand
By Gordon McLauchlan (Bateman, RRP $30)

Being a relatively young nation, our history is naturally a tad shorter that that of some of the other countries on this planet but that doesn't mean there isn't a story worth telling.

In this new edition of the best- selling Short History of New Zealand, journalist, author and social commentator Gordon McLauchlan adds a few extra layers to the earlier version, with updates covering Helen Clark's years leading the country, John Key's rise, the Canterbury quakes and (of course) the glorious 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Sadly, there isn't anything on the equally glorious efforts of the Southland Stags securing the Ranfurly Shield for stints in both 2010 and 2011 but I suppose the author had to make some tough decisions when it came to this book: his brief was to write the history of New Zealand in fewer than 60,000 words.

New Zealand might be relatively young, and on the small side, but that's still one hell of a challenge to take on. This isn't the usual dry history that you might expect from an academic offering but instead tells our story in a slightly more chatty way.

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