Thursday, December 11, 2014

Funny Girl - Nick Hornby published by Penguin/Viking

"Funny Girl - the much-anticipated new novel by Nick Hornby, the million-copy bestselling author of About a Boy Make them laugh, and they're yours forever...It's the swinging 60s and the nation is mesmerized by unlikely comedy star Sophie Straw, the former Blackpool beauty queen who just wants to make people laugh, like her heroine Lucille Ball. Behind the scenes, the cast and crew are having the time of their lives. But when the script begins to get a bit too close to home, and life starts imitating art, they all face a choice. The writers, Tony and Bill, comedy obsessives, each harbour a secret. The Oxbridge-educated director, Dennis, loves his job but hates his marriage. The male star Clive, feels he's destined for better things. And Sophie Straw, who's changed her name and abandoned her old life, must decide whether to keep going, or change the channel. Nick Hornby's new novel is about popular culture, youth and old age, fame, class and teamwork. It offers a wonderfully captivating portrait of youthful exuberance and creativity, and of a period when both were suddenly allowed to flourish. Fans of Hornby will love this book, as will readers of David Nicholls, Mark Haddon and William Boyd" - Booktopia

Being a Nick Hornby, I already had my imagined soundtrack picked out to accompany this book.  After all, this is the creator of "High Fidelity' and 'Fever Pitch' and 'About A Boy'.  Why wouldn't there be some music humming away behind each character and each scene?  And I had the singles loaded up, with a stack of pennies ready to go.  Martha and the Vandellas, Duffy, Lulu, the them tunes to 'Bewitched' and 'The Jetsons', The Beatles (Mod Period), Gerry and the Pacemakers and even 'Housewife's Choice' (from the popular BBC radio hour). My selection was spot on. 

'Funny Girl' sets itself in post War-60's England, and opens at a Maplins style Blackpool and then moves to an emerging  Austin Powers swinging London. Flower Power has not hit yet but The Beatles are packing for America, the Ed Sullivan Show, and Elvis will be returning to tour soon.  But this book is not about music.  It's about Barbara.  A knockout, smashing girl, with a large chest, long blonde hair and a full, peachy bottom, ready to be pinched.  She's just won a bathing beauty competition and has been told of the wonders of a full year's programme as reigning queen - kissing babies, avoiding the gropes of the mayor and no doubt endless beauty parlour openings!  Ahhhh!  Trouble is, she wants not a bathing beauty.  Barbara wants to be a Lucille Ball and models her self, a least internally on the maverick comedienne.  She has a hard time believing herself, when she has the looks of Dian Dors and Marilyn Monroe.  In fact she often gets mistaken for Sabrina, a stunning page 3 beauty who makes her crusts on her ample bosom and aerated mannerisms.  Sabrina (aka Norma Sykes) actually existed in real life (Hornby includes a photo of her doing her best to distract our gaze from the product she's trying to sell in the poster - a slide projector I think?).  The book cracks along at the pace of a 60's sitcom. 

Barbara meets her agent appropriately at the jewellery counter of Derry and Tom's (where many young ladies can catch their future husbands).  But he's entirely distracted by her looks and doesn't believe she'll become a serious actor.  He  does his best to send her to auditions where she'll fail in a ploy to wear down any dreams and hopes she'll eventually yield to the dark side of glamour photography!  But has other plans.  In a chaotic scene she arrives at the read through of a new pilot on the new fangled goggle box.  She also meets two, rather insecure, but talented writers - one gay and one who's pretending, unsuccessfully not to be (after all he's married and this is still a country where gay men can be locked up for their sexual choices).  That fact alone seems to breeze over Barbara.  She may be her own woman but she's oblivious to the sexual revolution smouldering away underneath her feet.  Tom and Bill are the archetypical Swan and Flanders types - or perhaps duplicate copies of Tony Hancock - the famous BBC comic of the 60's and 70's.  You can imagine them squabbling away over various minor points, in their tight 60's flannel suits, skinny ties and brylcream come overs.  I loved their wonderful restrained campiness, offset by Barbara's enthusiastic, ambitious drive.  In one afternoon she turns their horrid little domestic half hour TV show into a whole 13 part series.  And becomes the lead, to boot.  She changes her name to Sophie Straw and a star is born.  The book wants her to success, and without spoiling the story too much, she does.  There are sojourns into romance and friendship, the value of work and the optimism of the new decade.  The pace is, like I said before at the speed of a half hour episode-per chapter.  And the contents of each I s just right, too.  Not too taxing, with breaks commercials and tea-cup refills.

The decade wears on, the British public fall head over kites in love with her, not realising that she's become a strong female lead at a time when women were only just emerging back out of the post war shadows.  I found the whole book just washed over me, e a comfortable, familiar re-run.  The kind you get out from the library on a cold afternoon, by the box set.  Hornby uses sweet images to illustrate point, but I still had to resort to Google occasionally to find out who he was referring to as his references were both familiar and obscure at the same time.  I did love the way he avoided too many cliché's.  If this ever becomes a film, then I'd caution directors to choose the more obscure or realistic images of this period.

Like I said at the start, the soundtrack was ever present.  And so are the voices.  Each character, especially Barbara/Sophie's is strong and eligible.  Her presence is also believable.  It would be much easier to portray an uglier Sophie trying to find her self confidence.  This is a revers: a Pretty, luscious Sophie has to battle sexism, bigotry and maintain her dignity.  This is Hornby's first book since Juliet, Naked, which was heavier than this one.  Think of this as a switch in channel, not to the BBC light programme but still to a happy place like Jones or UKTV. 

Hornby's books always conjure up a sweet cadence of music and relationships - not the crazy way out variety, but the familiar and the natural.  This time Barbara/Sophie is quite a calculated person, with a voice that defies her outward appearance.  She's the thinking man's crumpet and the literally dreamboat too.  But this is still that light-hearted touch that Hornby has, perfect summer reader, I'd venture.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

More Blogging Good reads for the Holidays

Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett - Published by Macmillan
For a rainy day at the batch I recommend this huge tome of a novel.  Follett never does anything small.  Entire forests fall to serve his imagination!  Dig in for a book that covers 1003 pages of newsprint! 
On the night of Aug. 8, 1974, many Americans gathered before their television sets to watch Richard M. Nixon announce his intention to resign as president of the United States. That moment is part of “Edge of Eternity,” the last and fattest instalment in Ken Follett’s 20th-century trilogy. And for him, the political is always very personal. So a man and a woman sit watching Nixon’s fall. They have been platonic friends for years. They cheer, and then they start kissing, and wind up having fantastic sex. (Duration: half a page out of 1,098.) This is Follett’s favourite way to keep history interesting
He has a limited line-up of other methods. And yet he has already drawn readers through the trilogy’s first two instalments of global upheaval. “Fall of Giants” swept through the Russian Revolution, the struggle for women’s suffrage, the upstairs-downstairs outrages perpetrated by Britain’s male aristocracy, the verboten love affair between an Englishwoman and a German spy, the new world opening to immigrants fleeing Europe for the United States, and President Woodrow Wilson’s worries about bringing America into World War I. That was tricky business, since “He kept us out of war” had been Wilson’s 1916 second-term campaign slogan.
To illustrate all this, Follett creates five families — Russian, English, Welsh, German and American — whose fates personalized historical events. Some of these fictitious characters had a way of being conveniently positioned very, very close to power; one American is on hand to awaken President Wilson during a night-time crisis and see him emerge from his bedroom wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. Throughout the series, real leaders of nations and movements have had an uncanny way of confiding their most personal thoughts to Follett’s handy aides and flunkies.
The first book was the most satisfyingly soap-operatic, with empires at stake and readers close to the action. The second, “Winter of the World,” covers World War II, and is necessarily more shocking. One of its most indelible scenes involves two Germans, Rebecca, 13, and Carla, a generation older, surrounded by vicious Russian troops. In an act of terrible courage, Carla persuades the soldiers to gang rape her but leave Rebecca alone.
Carla and Rebecca are alive and well as “Edge of Eternity” begins, in the year of  1961, living in East Germany - yet un-walled off from the West. Rebecca’s life takes an early gut punch when she learns that her husband, Hans, is a member of the East Germans secret police and married her only to spy on her family. Since people in these books tend to be either very good or very bad, Hans will pop up during the next thousand pages to torment Rebecca’s relatives now and then.
Follett quickly equates a loss of freedom in Germany with the situation of blacks deprived of civil rights in the American South. Whatever else one might make of this comparison, it introduces George Jakes, the mixed-race Harvard student whose grandfather, Lev, fled Russia in the first volume (and whose father, a white senator, likes George but doesn’t acknowledge paternity). George is a terrific character, and it’s not even a stretch when Follett makes him central to truly important historical moments. This book’s description of what happens to a bus full of Freedom Riders (George among them) in Alabama is authentically terrifying. Its descriptions of George’s heroism sounds credible, too.  It's an epic read all round, but worth it, like all Folletts.  An English master at work!
The Escape (John Puller #3) - David Baldacci - Published by Macmillan
I must confess I haven't had time to read this one yet but I need too.  Over the holidays I'm going to be under a tree with a G&T and this.  David Baldacci’s blockbuster #1 bestselling thrillers Zero Day and The Forgotten introduced readers to John Puller. A combat veteran and special agent with the U.S. Army, Puller is the man they call to investigate the toughest crimes facing the nation. But all his training, all his experience, all his skills will not prepare him for his newest case, one that will force him to hunt down the most formidable and brilliant prey he has ever tracked: his own brother.
It’s a prison unlike any other. Military discipline rules. Its security systems are unmatched. None of its prisoners dream of escaping. They know it’s impossible . . . until now.
John Puller’s older brother, Robert, was convicted of treason. His inexplicable escape from prison makes him the most wanted criminal in the country. Some in the government believe that John Puller represents their best chance at capturing Robert alive, and so Puller must bring in his brother to face justice.
But Puller quickly discovers that his brother is pursued by others who don’t want him to survive. Puller is in turn pushed into an uneasy, fraught partnership with another agent, who may have an agenda of her own.
They dig more deeply into the case together, and Puller finds that not only are her allegiances unclear, but there are troubling details about his brother’s conviction . . . and someone out there doesn’t want the truth to ever come to light. As the nationwide manhunt for Robert grows more urgent, Puller’s masterful skills as an investigator and strengths as a fighter may not be enough to save his brother—or himself.

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig - Published by Macmillan

“'The pill' is that rare invention that transforms the world. In this gripping book, Jonathan Eig tells how an unlikely group—Margaret Sanger, Katherine McCormick, Dr. Gregory Pincus, and Dr. John Rock—came together to achieve a scientific breakthrough and win acceptance for it in the face of intense opposition. The Birth of the Pill is vivid, compelling, and important.” (T. J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt)

This is an excellent, well-rounded look at the development of the oral contraceptive pill,  If anything be could be labelled the most controversial and revolutionary artefact of recent woman's history - then this would definitely be it!.  "The Pill,” author Jonathan Eig covers the political and social atmosphere of the era. He also delves into the backgrounds and lives of the major players. While there is not a lot of science in the book, what there is, is well explained. This isn’t predominantly a book about science, it is about history. Eig’s overall tone is conversational and the book should be accessible to those with no science background.   The larger than life characters pushing societal and scientific boundaries make the book a fun, fascinating read.  Books are written with a purpose in mind. Some books attempt to bring cold hard information; cut and dry. In such cases one might consider talented and obsessive lexicographers. On the other hand there are word-smiths with unyielding imaginations.

Revolution - Russell Brand published by Century

"You are all going to die anyway" - claims the blurb in black and red cowboy font  - "So join the Revolution!"  "Revolution is change and I believe in change"  I can hear Brand's squeaky cockney voice trying to make all that convincing, like Anthony what's-his-name the self improvement guy.  Is that what Brand is trying to do, I wonder?  Nah!!!  

He has a very big topic: "We all know the system isn’t working. Our governments are corrupt and the opposing parties pointlessly similar. Our culture is filled with vacuity and pap, and we are told there’s nothing we can do: “It’s just the way things are.” Exactly what system is this?  Oh, humanity.  Well, yeah - probably not!
Lawrence O'Donnell's clarion, insightful interview with Russell Brand about his new book "Revolution" underscores an inescapable reality. The oligarchic "way things are" is a done deal. The apparatus to dismantle the "military-industrial-[congressional] complex" (Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address) has been long since neutered. The usurpation is complete and irrevocable, leaving but one option. Drop out as completely as possible. The understanding, tolerance and love Brand rightly promotes is wholly intolerable to the merchants of greed, class hatred and proxy theocracy. If you don't like having this fascist agenda crammed down your throat, stop voting, stop shopping at WallyWorld, stop gorging at McDonald's, stop buying useless crap, stop subsidizing the very forces that hold you in their iron grip. In short, stop being an instrument of your own demise. Get out of the stock market. Hit them where it really hurts, in bank assets. Now more than ever, less is more. What if they held an election and nobody came? I don't know. Let's find out. It's the only viable option left.

No nonviolent revolution has ever fully succeeded. Sooner or later all came to violence when the rapacious powers that be could no longer coerce belligerent peasants. Both Gandhi and MLK were assassinated. Does that tell you anything? Yes, people will again be brutalized and die. Many more will live marginal lives without the purported blessings of plutonomy and freedumb. That's the price we pay to cast off brutes. In the end it's the only thing thugs understand because brutality is their preferred weapon. Remember Kent State. We of the '60s well understood this during the Vietnam/Civil Rights era and were ultimately suborned by banking interests empowered by creeping totalitarianism.  But I have to wonder - does anyone give a monkey's these days?

Quick notes: Books to Check out as well.

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2015 - Auckland University Press
On the web and the wireless, in magazines and journals, at prizegivings and pōwhiri, New Zealanders are talking and writing about the world right now. We’ve been producing essays and articles, speeches and submissions, tweets and travelogues – nonfiction, in other words. This book collects some of New Zealand’s best true stories from the past year or so together into an anthology.  Read more:

Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold - published by Penguin
The riveting true story—soon to be the subject of a high-profile film—of Olympic wrestling gold medal-winning brothers Mark Schultz and Dave Schultz and their fatal relationship with the eccentric John du Pont, heir to the du Pont dynasty.  The book was an entertaining read for those interested in the personality of John Dupont and what led to the crime. The first two thirds of the book, which dealt with the Schultz brothers wrestling careers, was mildly interesting but only wrestling or Olympic fans would find this stuff worth reading.The final chapters give an interesting look into schizophrenia, more than anything else.  Shultz  is not without faults. He had poor interpersonal skills growing up, and was too close minded about many things. He acted like a typical dumb jock. His brother and wrestling helped him to connect to the world in a healthier manner. Much of the book deals with his wrestling matches which many will find tiresome. There were a few interesting nuggets, such as his winning the gold medal in the Olympics.
He'd gone through a religious conversion (Mormonism) and several divorces where he admits to have lost his kids.  The book will give anyone who is interested in the movie, a deeper look into the reasons why the murder happened. It's a quick read, a real page turner at the end.  No doubt the movie will have to live up to the reputation!  

Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid Published by Hamish Hamilton

Remember the famous 'Letter From America" - Alistair Cooke.  Well, this is a sort of update to that.  From “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers” (The New York Times), intimate and sharply observed commentary on life, art, politics, and “the war on terror.” 


His writing has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as winner or finalist of twenty awards, and translated into more than thirty languages.

He was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.

Hamid provides a unique perspective as he explains Pakistan to Americans, and illuminates Pakistani attitudes toward the United States. In this collection of brief essays written between 2000 and 2014, Hamid also sought to effectively bridge the U.S./Pakistan divide by presenting suggestions for a path of action which would increase understanding and cooperation between the peoples of these two countries.

Hamid divided this highly readable anthology of brief articles into three sections – Life (with subjects including "Avatar in Lahore" and "On Fatherhood"), Art (with subjects including "How do E-Book s Changes the Reading Experience?" and "My Reluctant Fundamentalist") and Politics – the latter encompassing nearly half of this small, 225 page book, and providing the most substantial insight.

Pakistan is less than 1/12 the geographical area of the United States, but has almost 2/3 of the population that the U.S. has. The alliance between the U.S. and Pakistani military has resulted in undue hardship for millions of ordinary Pakistani citizens, increasing the casualty rate and homelessness resulting from terrorism/counter-terrorism attacks. The lack of a clearly defined border between Pakistan and Afghanistan contributes to the problem; the on-going conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir also feeds Pakistani instability and violence.

His articles are very short.  Economy of words and of time creates enough urgency to get your attention.  Written in a fairly informal, almost conversational style - illuminate the highly diverse, contradictory facets of Pakistan.If you choose to watch Al Jazeera instead of Fox News, then this is your cap of Char!

George, later a lawyer, winds up as the obligatory black face (or so he sees it) in Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s inner circle. Meanwhile, another of the book’s black characters winds up as one of President John F. Kennedy’s favorite girlfriends. The details of the president’s romancing come straight from Mimi Alford’s 2012 tell-all, “Once Upon a Secret,” right down to his fondness for rubber ducks in the bathtub. But it is one of Mr. Follett’s trademark maneuvers to link George’s destiny with this woman’s heartbreak on the day she has to be told that “my Johnny,” as she thinks of him, has been shot.
Mr. Follett is harshly critical of the Kennedys’ true commitment to civil rights, especially when that commitment became a political liability. But he never lets a political discussion bog down for very long. Over in the Kremlin, the highly placed Dimka Dvorkin (grandson of the first book’s firebrand Bolshevik) manages to be at the side of Nikita S. Khrushchev and every Russian leader to follow him, keeping readers informed about how Communist policies are working out. But he, too, has oft-described troubles with women to break up all that Politburo chatter. And he has risen to the role of mentor by the time a bright young reformer named Gorbachev comes along.
Also touched on here, pretty feebly: the evolving youthquake culture that began in the mid-’60s and peaked by the end of that decade. This book distributes space so unusually that Mr. Follett is nearly halfway through it before he gets past 1963; he devotes almost 200 pages to that year alone. But two cousins, a German and a Briton, form a rock band that’s supposed to be good, and there are unconvincing observations about the Hamburg club scene. Beatles albums are also dutifully mentioned. A long chapter on 1968 covers the tumultuous events of that year, which are enough to jolt George out of politics, at least for a while; the Vietnam War is seen at its worst. The Nixon flameout, the stirrings of a new conservatism and the Iran-contra fiasco all get their due. Mr. Follett makes a point of treating Ronald Reagan’s rousing statement “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” more as a grandstanding aside than a moment of glory. The book has strong opinions about why Communism collapsed, too.
“Edge of Eternity” does end on the brink. Its 2008 epilogue has the same people who watched so much other history unfold on television now watching Barack Obama’s election-night victory speech, which makes perfect sense in terms of the timeline Mr. Follett has chosen. A child asks: Why is an old man in the group so moved? The simple truth: “It’s a long story.”

Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide 2015

This will be a difficult book to review if you're not a seasoned wine buff.  Yet Cooper's pedigree in the industry is probably enough to instantly demand this is on your Xmas list.  As always he covers all the bases - reviewing the upcoming releases in every varietal and Cellar offering.  Wine is, I think, a very personal thing so it would be a challenge to criticise his palate and his knowledge without a real cannon of knowledge behind me.  That said I really enjoyed poking around in my local supermarket with this book, trying to determine which Sav or Chardonnay I should bring home.  But, let's face it, that is a boring approach.  The real joy is in checking all the new varieties on the horizon - the new stars to shine - like Wurtzer or Zweiiget or Marzeminc - all old world names looking for a new spot in our sun.  The book can be used in a multitude of ways: You can surf the good years in the Vintage chart, or check out each region and explore the surrounding vineyards, or you can just look up that bottle you gt for Xmas.  Cooper is a permanent fixture in our Vintner landscape for good reason.  Put this one on the list:  And don't forget to surf his website, too!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra - Be Mine Tonite National Tour

The Kid interviews Age Pryor about the upcoming shows and the debut album 9 years into their 'career'.

The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra Launch Be Mine Tonite

Festival fav's The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra are about to embark on a national tour in support of their debut, all Kiwi sing-along-able CD "Be Mine Tonight" which is due for release on iTunes and in stores on November 7th. The band has already been on the road and are just back for a quick home visit before heading back out again.  Taking a breather their recent excursion to China and Japan founding musician Age Pryor found a few moments to chat over the blower from his digs in Auckland.  Auckland, Age. Really?  Not Wellington? "Ah, yes.  I relocated up here about 6 years ago to teach music at Unitec part time."  But he's still a Welly at heart, he assures me. 

A few years ago Age led a number of projects including the Woolshed sessions, recorded on Jane Campion's Nelson farm and two solo albums.  These days his main focus is the 'Uke's' (as he calls them), with whom he plays and co manages with fellow musician Gemma Gracewood. "It's incredible," he remarks, "that the band is still together.  As such it's scattered to the four winds these days.  Some are back in Wellington.  I'm in Auckland.  Gemma's based in New York and there's another in Singapore."  Truly international locals!   

The band’s reputation has built up over the years based on a live show of madcap hilarity and spontaneous audience participation. But behind the hijinks is a finely-tuned musical group who've  have truly cemented their place on New Zealand’s entertainment scene. Their unique sound – a choir of gorgeous voices set to magnificent ukulele riffs and licks – is now in hot demand worldwide and they've long been the darlings of festivals and special events with tickets for their shows snapped up almost before they go on sale. The band's original line up has changed little over the years and includes session musicians, a member of twinset and occasionally Brett Mckenzie.

The last time I talked to Age must have been over 9 years ago, when the Uke's first was playing bars and Summer City gigs.  Right from the start the aim of the band was to be interactive.  Age relays tales of playing in morning cafe's and sending people off to their day happy and cheery having sung and boogied away to the Uke's interpretations of well-known songs, reinterpreted for the ukulele.  "The sign of a good song is that it can be played on a uke.  Like a school choir doing Beatle songs because their so easy to arrange.  Ukes have become the ‘new recorder’ - simple, interactive and easy to get into.  I read that we are in the Uke's third age.  The first was the 1920's, then the 40's and 50's when Pacific music was the rage.  And now there are a new generation of performers."  Uke music is everywhere - from the immensely popular Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain to the avant-punk of Amanda Palmer and the skilled quirkiness of James Hill, a favourite at the last International Festival of the Arts.  Hill also features on the new album.  James does a brilliant little solo on Aadarana's "wake Up".  "He recorded it in a hotel bathroom for us, when he was on tour, jammed into a tiny space."  Other guests on this all Kiwi repertoire include Amanda Billing (the recently deceased Dr Potts from Shorty Street). "Amanda's got a great voice, she does choir work too.  She's been in shows like Cabernet.  She'll be touring with us.  We got her to do vocals on "E Ipo" (an old Prince Tui Teka number)."  Although in hot demand by the likes of Fat Freddy's Drop and Neil Finn, of late, star vocalist Lisa Tomlins also found a moment to work o the project, with an old Aotearoa track: "Long Ago".  That one also includes Hawaiian uke specialist Pi’ikea Clark.  Age tells me that Pi’ikea is schooled in traditional Hawaiian music, "from the ones who were the keeper of the knowledge.  He is a really fine player and we really learned a lot from him traditional playing."

Recently the Uke's have toured Asia, opening them up to a whole new audience base.  "We found China very challenging, especially the language.  I don't speak Mandarin.  They don't speak English and even relying on gestures was hard because they do theirs different to us.  But we learned a lot.  Chinese audiences are very polite," Ages says.  Relying on a translator to convey their frivolous banter provided some extra complexities, too.  There were moments of blank-faced embarrassment. "Japan was different as we mainly did festivals and community events.  And English is not a problem.  Also the Japanese are less inhibited once they understand what you are doing.  They know about New Zealand.  So that helped."  So, how will Kiwi audiences react in the coming month when the Uke's arrive in their local halls and theatres?  One thing you can rely on - plenty of fun and hilarity.  "Be prepared to sing your lungs out - From Lorde to Sherbert, you'll know all the songs!"   

The Be Mine Tonight Album Release Tour:

8 Nov – Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin
9 Nov – Stadium Southland, Invercargill
10 Nov – Alexandra Memorial Theatre
11 Nov – Lake Wanaka Centre
13 Nov – Ashburton Trust Event Centre
14 Nov – Roy Stokes Hall, Christchurch – JUST ADDED!
15 Nov – Roy Stokes Hall, Christchurch
21 Nov – Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
22 Nov – TSB Showplace, New Plymouth
23 Nov – Great Lake Centre, Taupo
25 Nov – MTG Theatre, Napier
27 Nov – Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga
28 Nov – Wintergarden, Auckland 7pm SHOW SOLD OUT! 10pm show still available.
29 Nov – NZ Ukulele Festival
30 Nov – Turner Centre, Kerikeri
5 & 6 Dec – James Cabaret, Wellington

All ticket info can be found at


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Graeme Simpson

The Rosie Project author Graeme Simpson, on the rise of his book, why he wrote the sequel The Rosie Effect having promised himself that he wouldn't, progress on a film deal and why so many people have fallen in love with his unlikely hero, Don Tillman.

The CoffeeBar Kid had a chat to Graeme when he was in town last week

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 :

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reinventing Mother? The Groove Book Report: Modern Classics by Simon Gault

'The dishes that made it into this book are quite simply the ones every cook should have in their repertoire.'  In Simon Gault Modern Classics you'll find a modern take on culinary favourites from around the world. Traditional dishes such as Italian risotto, roast leg of lamb and seafood paella are updated with Simon Gault's signature five percent magic. Favourite desserts such as crème brûlée, apple pie and cheesecake are reinterpreted with unexpected and irresistible fresh new flavours.
Learn to cook the perfect steak and soufflé, be inspired to try new recipes from different cuisines, and master an array of timeless dishes that promise to become your new go-to classics.

This is Master Chef, Euro owner, Food Emperor Gault reinventing classics with pretty much no fanciness - just a bit of nous.  He does the mushroom omelette - is that actually a recipe? - and Pizza Magarita, Croque-Monsieur, and naughty Macaroni Cheese Chips (big in Canada), Peach Melba (my Mum's dinner party show off dish), Cornbread (a movie staple), Spaghetti Carbonara, Potato Gnocchi, and a 'Japanese Rissoto' (is that a classic.  Anyways, there are all the faves here, even good ol' bread and butter pudding.  Can I say these appear better than the originals our mothers taught us?  Well that comes down to a number of things:  Did your mother teach you to cook?  If she (or your day) did, then you don't need this, save your money.  But if se/he didn't then you could pick up a few tips.  Or maybe there's the opportunity to re-educate yourself or be reminded how to make Spag Bog the proper way! Not like your flatmate john does.  On, the whole it's a good idea.  But is it worth forking out large sums of bread for what is a well photo's Edmonds Cookbook with a celebrity endorsement?  Mmmmm Juries out on that.  I'll head back to the kitchen and try a few more recipes before I can answer that one!