Celebrate International Women’s Day with Stephen King’s Sleeping Beauties

Stephen and Owen King have gender issues.

Dooling is a place where people live on a knife edge; work hard, drink hard. Women around the world bear the brunt of this in their daily lives. Some have gone to prison for fighting back.

Tiffany lives in a trailer at the edge of a forest. She’s regularly beaten by the man who has enslaved her to drugs.

Superhumanly beautiful, a naked woman comes down from the forest and changes everything.

All over the world women succumb to an enchantment. (Or sickness depending on which books you read.) Falling asleep, they form moth-like cocoons around themselves. The women are not dead, merely sleeping.

Where has their consciousness gone? Wake them and you’ll find out – in a terrible bloody way. They turn into very angry zombies.

Lila is the local Police Chief. She loves her husband. Or does she? Suspicious of his love, resentful over the pool he made her agree to (first world problems, LOL), Lila has a choice to make.

Fighting the curse valiantly, (and not without the aid of some confiscated contraband), Lila eventually closes her eyes and crosses over… to the world beyond the huge tree in the forest; a world without men. The idea appeals to many – inmates like Jeannette, wives like Elaine.

Without their women, the men left behind get depressed, go nuts, drink and burn things. Some prepare for battle.

If Evie, the woman who began this series of events, is killed in the inevitable battle between good and evil, the women stay in the place beyond the Tree forever.

If she lives, they get to choose if they want to stay in what they have come to call “Our Place”, or come back to the world of men. It’s a difficult choice for some. (The honeymoon period only lasts about eight weeks according to S.K.)

There is a suggestion here that the characters are at war with Nature and God. Has Evie come from the Garden of Eden?

“Once I’m dead, the portal between this world and the land of sleep will close. Every woman will eventually nighty-night, every man will eventually die, and this tortured world will breathe an enormous sigh of lasting relief.” Evie, p.362

The tree motif is a great link to the world of faerie. Trees have been doors to other worlds (than this) in many stories. The Kings enchant the normal world with ‘fairy handkerchiefs’ (spider webs in the grass), clouds of moths, a snake, and a tiger…

Always an advocate for women (see Big Driver) this latest offering is well written, topical (the senior King jokes about Trump), and thrilling without being too brutal.

Stephen and Owen have crafted a riveting read with the characterisation that fans love him for. He even throws in a book group or two.

Suggested reading

Sleeping beauties
by Stephen and Owen King
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473665200

Inside the mind of a post-apocalyptic dog

At first I wondered how far a story from the point of view of a swearing cockney dog could go.

At least across post-apocalyptic London.

The Last Dog on Earth is told mostly from the point of view of Lineker the dog, but alternates between him and the journal of his cripplingly shy owner, Reginald Hardy.

Linekker calls him “Two-Plates.” Two Plates – Plates of Meat – Feet. Two Feet. Cockney rhyming slang is simple?!

I have to say of the two, Lineker is the most interesting. Once he got inside my head, I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to think like a dog:

“I’m skittering and sliding, halfway across the floor before I even know I’ve left my bed. And he’s rubbing his hairy face and scratching that huge arse of his, releasing that heavenly aroma of salt, peat and tripe that’s all for me and before he knows what’s happening I’m in the air and bouncing at him – bounce, bounce, bounce until he gets down and gives me a scratch…face-to-face so I get the sweet fog of his breath, a rich soup of saliva and half-digested food that’s been marinating beautifully for the last eight hours. And it’s too much, I just have to lick him…” (p.3)

The clever way that Adrian J. Walker describes a dog’s consciousness had me believing it.

Did you know that dogs can smell history? That explains why they take so long at lampposts.

That’s not all. Lineker reckons he can smell your dreams, too; memories; “the bone-bag abandoned on the moor,” and fear. Fear smells like voles.

Squirrels? Oil and eggs, of course. And spices – “like ants exploding up my nose” (p.4).

The good people of London have been betrayed by their affiliations on social media. The tension builds as Reg and Lineker attempt to take a little girl to safety, crossing the lines of two factions fighting for control and discovering a group of resistors.

But first, Reg has to get up the gumption to leave his secure little nest. And his fear of people touching him.

Walker uses a bird motif to great effect through the story. Poetic, this links events and is a vehicle for Lineker’s longing to escape the confines of regularity to explore the wildness of life.

Filled with “good bits” and “bad bits” poignant and pondering between small bouts of brutality, The Last Dog on Earth is also laugh out loud funny.

The Dog muses on the human condition since wolves came down from the hills to join the human’s campfires; his adoration for his master, and food, among other things:

“I stand on the brink of this new world of breakfast, trembling like a pilgrim father in the waters of Cape Cod. And then it comes and the smell smashes into me…my bowl’s on the floor and I’m in it, chomping it, inhaling it. By the time it’s done, I can barely remember who I am or what it was I just ate…”

Walker played with my expectations at the end, delivering a twisted conclusion. I could have (almost) killed him.

Happy Year of the Dog!

More dog stories

Two years gone: Celebrate David Bowie

Can you believe it’s been two years since David Bowie passed away?

Bowie was the king of media in many forms. A lot has been published since he died that genuinely and tastefully celebrates his life and influence on fashion, music and freedom of the spirit. Here is just a taste:

Cover of BowieBowie

This book is by Pat Gilbert, who has also covered The Clash. Its an in-depth analysis of Bowie’s music; his influence on genres such as glam and punk rock, reinvention of his image and stagecraft itself. Richly balanced with concert and backstage images, posters and tickets.

Bowie Unseen

Gerald Fearnley is the brother of a bandmate from Bowie’s early days. He shot the sleeve images for his first album, David Bowie, in 1967. Fearnley’s portraits are published here for the first time, perhaps capturing the transformation from David Jones to Bowie.

Cover of David Bowie: a lifeDavid Bowie

Dylan Jones is a well respected biographer with quite a list of names behind him. In this biography includes interviews with around 180 people who knew, loved and worked with him. Many of these tales have never been told.

When Ziggy Played the Marquee

This book captures Bowie’s last performance as Ziggy Stardust, at the Marquee Club in Soho. The year was 1973. Celebrated photographer Terry O’Neill caught the behind stage action as well as the show. At the time, nobody knew that this was to be Ziggy’s last show.

Cover of The age of BowieThe Age of Bowie

Bowie didn’t follow fashion, he created it. This book looks at how David Bowie’s freedom of expression influenced society; breaking down gender barriers in fashion, the way he perceived the world could be, and especially ways he could make music – ultimately becoming a defining figure of his age.

Cover of Bowie A to ZBowie A to Z

One for the scrapbook keeper. I admit I had one once! Chock full of facts from Aladdin Sane to Z for Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie on CD – Try this list for some albums you might not have heard before. Notable are BRIT Awards 2017 and the New York stage show of Lazarus.

What’s your favourite David Bowie album?

My first and still firm favourite album is 1980’s Scary Monsters.

The industrial sound of this album reflected post punk experimentation, also used by the Cure in Seventeen Seconds. Fashion, of course, broke down barriers and sales records.

The album that gets played the most at my place is Changes Two. Some of the best songs on that one, from John, I’m only Dancing, to Wild is the Wind.

My personal favourite. A cover of Nina Simone’s also beautiful version.

Don’t feel sad on the 10th January. Get yourself some great Bowie media, light a candle and celebrate the Chameleon. Or Love the Alien?

More Bowie

Mona Anderson’s tale of High Country life

A River Rules My Life has been re-released!

Originally published in 1963, Mona Anderson’s unique perspective of a woman’s experience on a South Island farm brings to life the High Country of days gone by.

Deep in the Rolleston Ranges, in the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, Mount Algidus Station is isolated between the mighty and dangerous Wilberforce and Rakaia rivers.

Mona crosses the Wilberforce as a new bride in the 1930s to start her life in this harsh environment. To get to her new home she must ride a dray cart for hours in a freezing wind – perched on top of all her worldly possessions – including a piano!

Mona’s observations of everything from errant cooks to brave horses are quite matter of fact and entertaining, while sad events are accepted as a part of life.

When World War II takes away many farmhands never to return, Mona and her husband Ron are stretched to do many jobs, and Mona has to muck in – feeding the men, and working alongside them – often on horseback.

Poetry and “back country” ditties pepper the tale, including one written by the author. Most notable are these lines written by a young hand leaving to join the Army:

Oh land of river, rock and spur / Of sunkissed hills and sky so blue / I, a humble musterer, Will ever leave my heart with you. / Tho I dwell beneath some distant sky / My memory will ever turn / To mates I knew in days gone by / And evenings when the camp fires burn. / For I am leaving you this day / To return again. But who can tell, / For good or bad. I cannot say.  Mount Algidus, I wish you well.

The charm of this book includes quaint “station names” for many local features; such as Bustmegall (Bust my gall) Creek, More-rain Hut and Boulderstone Creek (the Rolleston). Mistake ‘Hill’, at 7000 feet illustrates the Southern capacity for understatement.

Filled with thrills and spills (no-one is spared a dip in the Wilberforce), this book is a cornerstone of New Zealand back country life and a must for your holiday reading list.

More information

A River Rules My Life
by Mona Anderson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775541141

Fiona’s Christmas picks from the new book box

Looking for holiday reading? There are some wonderful books in our New Titles list.

Cover of Limit part twoLimit (part two) – This great science fiction novel by Frank Schatzing is the second part of the story, begun in Limit. The Chinese and Americans are competing for helium-3, an element to solve the World’s energy crisis…

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – This book by Jen Campbell is packed to the brim with magical and spooky short stories. Fairy tales in the true sense of the word. Perfect for Christmas reading!

The Rest of Their Lives – This is touted as an unlikely love story. Unlikely because the lovers are in their eighties! Brought together by the necessity of a road-trip to Switzerland, (I love road trip stories), the pair find there is still “life in their eyes”…

Cover of The stolen bicycleThe Stolen Bicycle – This beautiful book is by Wu Ming-Yi , a Taiwanese author and environmental activist famous for his books on butterflies. The Stolen Bicycle revolves around a writer, convinced that if he finds his errant father’s bicycle, he will find him. Entwined in this story are stories from the ‘oldest elephant that ever lived,’ and from soldiers who fought in the jungles of South-East Asia during World War II. And yes, there are butterflies!

Sleeping Beauties – This new offering by Stephen King and his son Owen might keep you awake at night. Affected by a strange virus, all the women in Dooling have fallen asleep. All except one. Meanwhile, the men have gone feral… My favourite author, always a go-to for the festive season.

And while we are waiting with bated breath for the new Ms Dr Who, how about this gem?

Cover of Dr Tenth Christmas surprise!Dr. Tenth – Part of a series of Dr Who Mr Men books, this is a real charmer. Also featuring my favourite Dr Who (David Tennant!). Our catalogue calls this ‘the greatest mashup in the Whoniverse. Woo!

Merry Christmas reading, folks!

International Volunteer Day: 5 December 2017

It’s International Volunteer Day today!

Volunteering is a rewarding way to make connections in your community.

It’s a great way to make friends, professional relationships, to do something interesting and challenging with your spare time.

Often volunteering leads to employment.

After finishing uni at Massey University, I worked as a volunteer. At Te Manawa, (The Manawatu Museum) I worked as a Visitor Host. Speaking to groups of children and guiding their experience in the Fantastic (live!) Fish display was challenging and fun.

Te Manawa also offered schools a ‘culture of the past’ experience where children could churn the butter, use a printing press, and do the washing the way it was done in the 1900s.

In Christchurch you can volunteer at Canterbury Museum.

While looking for work in education, I chanced upon ARLA (The Adult Reading Association). This group provided very good training for its tutors, and work with a variety of clients – I worked with three ESOL students from Northern China, and a really nice Māori kuia who had had a stroke and needed to re-establish her reading pathways.

In Christchurch, Literacy Christchurch (formerly ARAS Adult Reading Assistance Scheme) perform this function in the community.

I’ve heard of WWoofing, and now I’ve found their website. Wwoofers are welcome all over New Zealand. I know of a group in Rangiwahia in the North Island that uses them. REACT (The Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Trust) farm organically and grow wicker – being responsible for the Chinese Lantern Festival in Palmerston North. They also run groups in Wellington, making ethnic sculptures with delighted new artists.

Find other voluntary work services:

Take a trip down Twelve Mile Straight: Eleanor Henderson

The Twelve Mile Straight is as Southern as fried chicken.

Two babies are born at Cross Roads Farm – one mulatto, one white.

People come from miles around to view the babies – a miracle of nature. Born to a white woman, Elma, the children are said to have two fathers – one white; her fiancée, Freddie Wilson, – one black, believed to have been forced on her by Genus Jackson.

Genus Jackson is lynched without trial at the beginning of the book. Will those responsible get away with it?

Juke Jessup is hiding a still. His intentions towards Nan, the house girl, are less than fatherly. His own daughter Elma, is “fixin” to be wed to Freddie Wilson, the local cotton mill owner’s son. But when the twins are born, all hell breaks loose.

Cover of To kill a mockingbirdLike Light in August and To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a story of injustice for all. Racial segregation was still prevalent in 1930s Georgia, where African-American people were barely removed from slavery.

To say that women in this story get a raw deal is an understatement. Even the man pulling the strings in town, George Wilson, is not spared from the sufferings he hands down the pecking order.

Each character has a tale to tell in this riveting book. And they all have secrets. Dreams too – sometimes their dreams are all they have.

Nan has grown up on Crossroads Farm after the death of her mother, the housekeeper Ketty. She dreams of the return of her father, Sterling, but never loses sight of stark reality even while she fantasizes about the future:

She had long had a picture in her mind of his homecoming: he would come up the driveway in an automobile, a Pontiac or Chevrolet, with a licence plate that said MARYLAND. The dogs would go out to greet him first and she’d step out onto the porch. He’d be wearing a Sunday suit and a wide-brimmed hat, which he’d tip up to get a better look at her, and then he’d take off the hat and hold it over his heart, and his eyes would see and see her. And then she would know. She would recognize him. She would recognize her own face in his.

But she knew nothing happened the way you imagined it. That was how she knew it was real.

It’s not a question of whether the truth will out, it’s when – it slowly but surely leaks through the holes in the characters’ stories, gathering together to a flow as large as the local creek.

Eleanor Henderson writes with feeling, strong historical influence and an eye for a poetic phrase. Despite most reviewers’ perception of this as a tragic story, I was pleased with its conclusion.

I got lost on The Twelve Mile Straight. You will too.

Twelve Mile Straight
by Eleanor Henderson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008158699

Find more in our collection:

Climate Change is Real! says Orca: Idiot Gods by David Zindell

“I am the eye with which the universe / Beholds itself and knows itself divine.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn of Apollo

CoverDavid Zindell you have filled my heart to overflowing. This book Idiot Gods is different  – a lyrical story on climate change from the point of view of a whale. An Orca, to be exact, named Arjuna. With Conservation Week just behind us, this is the perfect summer read.

Neverness author David Zindell immerses the reader in the complex and deeply spiritual currents of thought from the mind of his unlikely hero. Deeply disturbed by a chain of tragic events in the ocean, Arjuna realises that humans are responsible for the breakdown and destruction of Earth. Or Ocean, as Orca call it.

Guided by the songs of the ocean and his ancestors that link him to all creation, Arjuna tries to communicate this to the human race. His attempts to raise the alarm land him in the ‘poisoned pools’ of captivity. Could this experience be part of his life’s song? Or the final bars?

“You want to be closer to our people – you even want our love! How, though, should you think that trapping us in the pools of the Sea Circuses of the world and feeding us dead, drugged food will result in feelings of amity and accord?” (p.276)

“Why can you not find such satisfaction through communing with other humans? Instead, you seek validation through swimming with us and slathering upon us effusive affections. If we respond in kind, or indeed in any way, you take that as affirmation of your own specialness and worthiness to be loved.” (p.276)

With a solid knowledge of oceanography – and a great imagination –  Zindell raises the issue of human hubris, assumed superiority, cruelty to each other and the creatures they share the planet with.

“I see an entire species that lives off itself. Like sharks devouring each other, you eat each other’s labour, money, time, sweat, tears, hopes and dreams.” (p.260)

The trials of life in a polluted sea are painted in stark detail: an ocean empty of fish, filled instead with ships waging war on each other and whales.

“And the bull-whales gather their women and whale-claves in a ring / When danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood / And range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat / Encircling their huddled monsters of love”.
D.H. Lawrence, Whales Weep Not.

The Orcas’ experience of madness and depression in captivity is told with a poignancy that I found incredibly moving. Can Arjuna communicate the things he desperately wants to tell us? Or could war with humans be the only solution?

Find more in our collection

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Love Letter to A Bookshop : New Zealand Bookshop Day – Saturday 28 October 2017

Bookshops I have loved, lost, and looted : a confession.

Write a love letter to your favourite bookshop – Dear Diary. I can’t send this to a Bookshop; I’m cheating on all of them! I have no control over myself. Wherever I go, I have to see the local bookshop. Where did it all start?

My first love was the Scholastic Book Club. Remember Lucky Books? Making my choices carefully from the brochure, I paid for them with my pocket money. I was so excited to see that pile of new books on my desk! I drove my family nuts with this one: Boo!

W. Carthew Bookseller And Stationer, Feilding Public Library, PHOTO_FDG_BUS_sh31.jpg

When I was a kid, Carthew’s Bookshop in Feilding was my door into the imagined world. They had the Beano… Carthew’s is no longer there, but the building remains.

Hopwoods Mitre 10 and Bennett’s bookshop, Broadway, Matt Ryan, 1988, Manawatu Heritage 2008P_Z5184_BUI_0970

Teen angst took me to Bennett’s bookshop in Palmerston North. The city store in Broadway, now Whitcoulls, had an impressive staircase. You could hide away in the quiet of the loft floor, which always had sale tables. Sale tables! Woo!

Bennetts University Bookshop at Massey Tiritea Campus was the place to get my set texts for English. This bookshop always had lots of neat little extras to look at and buy, like the Little Book of Calm. I’ve kept almost all of my Uni books…

Unity Books at the end of Lambton Quay was my Dad’s favourite bookshop. A treasure trove. Dad ordered a lot of books from there. I shared his love of David Attenborough, Jacques Cousteau and studied religion; making a beeline from the Beehive to visit whenever in Welly.

Moving back to the Manawatu for a bit I flirted with Poppies Bookshop in Feilding and had a co-dependent relationship with Bruce McKenzie Booksellers in Palmerston North. Nestled under Palmerston North City Library in George Street, Bruce McKenzie’s stock popular, classic authors, art and wonderful children’s books. Bruce supports local authors too, and hosts events! Glass of wine, anyone?

Since moving to Christchurch I’ve forged a relationship with Scorpio Books and I’m having an online affair with Book Depository.

I love to go to writers’ events. I’m like a moth to a flame. Scorpio are great supporters of literary events such as National Poetry Dayl. Btw they’re hosting the The Great Lit Quiz & Ngaio Marsh Awards on NZ Bookshop Day.

Book Depository sell both new and used books online. And they don’t charge postage! A match made in heaven for a book addict.

Last but not least is the thing I have for second hand books. I like nothing better than a good rummage for a bargain. What if I found someone I could treasure?! Whether its the Cat’s Protection League, the Hospice Shop, the Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul, you’ll find me in the book section looking for Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, or that Mary Poppins I just can’t find for my collection.

Old flames back home are Trash and Treasures, who used to be in Rangitikei Street, and Star Bookshop in Cuba Street, Palmerston North.

Here in Christchurch I’ve discovered a comforting nest of rare jewels at Smiths, The Tannery Bookshop.

One of the books I treasure most is an old cancelled library copy of Witi Ihimaera ‘s Tangi. I can still see the pleasure on Witi’s face when he signed it for me at an author event in Palmy:

“My first book!” he exclaimed.

Dear bookshops, don’t ever change! I love that you take me as I am, and don’t judge me by my cover.

Lots of love,
A constant reader.

PS: Thanks to my love for you I’ve carted eight bookshelves worth of books with me all over New Zealand. My dream is to buy a bus and never pack up those books again.

Write a love letter to your favourite bookshop

Tomorrow Saturday 28 October is NZ Bookshop Day. Find out more:

How to survive the end of the world : Defender by GX Todd

I’ve sometimes wondered what life would be like if all I had left were the boots on my feet…

With recommendations from Lee Child and John Connolly, Defender is British author GX Todd ‘s extraordinary debut novel.

Defender is set in a dystopian future where most humans have succumbed to a disease that makes people crazy – hearing voices that tell them to kill others and then themselves.

In the first book of a four-part Voices series, Defender sets the scene as protagonists Lacey – young, cheeky but calculating and Pilgrim – tough on the outside but with a seriously soft heart – meet for the first time.

In Defender, Todd sets up the relationship of Lacey and Pilgrim, who she only knows as “Boy Scout.” Pilgrim’s character is world weary. He reminds me of Bruce Willis. Perhaps this is because he was The Last Boy Scout but I’m already imagining the movie.

Lacey is desperate to find people. But not so desperate that she doesn’t use her wits. Or the shotgun she’s very competent with.

Not at all stupid, Lacey is a young woman to be reckoned with. Pilgrim would do well to listen to her instincts. She soon finds that the escape and community she had hoped for will not be easily won: not all survivors want community; many want power.

Pilgrim dispatches these human predators with expertise. Pilgrim just keeps moving. Wary, he keeps to himself. He relies on his wits, avoiding others who could slow him down or worse.  He hasn’t counted on picking up two women and a cat in the first few chapters.

He keeps the Voice in his head to himself as well.

Over a glass of lemonade Lacey cleverly tricks Pilgrim into taking her away from the home town she’s been stuck in for seven years.

Some of the content in this book is brutal: it’s a brutal world – yet Todd conveys characters’ suffering with sympathy; the brutality is integral to the plot. Yet there is a layer of female self-awareness in the text. GX Todd writes with feeling without being sentimental. She writes with a mastery of language: her physical, descriptive passages are so well written that they aren’t flowery or wordy, but give the reader a clear perception of events:

(Pilgrim) eased lower into the seat, his eyes heavy-lidded. “Get off the highway at the next off-ramp…and don’t stop for anybody.” He sank down, down into the seat’s foamy embrace, until he was encased on all sides, as if lying in a plush, slumberous coffin.” (p. 130)

Chapters alternate between the points of view of the two main characters, often replaying a scene from each character’s point of view. Until the lines become crossed…

This book brings to mind Stephen King’s The Stand ; a classic post apocalyptic battle of good vs evil. In this story there is also a man collecting people he deems special to master plan…

It Defender also makes me think of Bird Box – another great dystopian story in which most of the world have not only been driven murderously crazy, but also blind…

Dystopia : a community or society that is undesirable or frightening …

by G. X. Todd
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781472233097