Jane Goodall sows seeds of hope

Jane Goodall
Conservationist and author Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is coming to Christchurch!

This is the chance of a lifetime to hear the hero of many; a champion for animals in Africa.

Goodall is known for her work to save Chimpanzees. She has done this by living with them and sharing information about their plight with the rest of the world. Like Jacques Cousteau and Sir David Attenborough she is one of the early pioneers of conservation.

In her new book, Seeds of Hope, Jane champions the cause of plants. A spiritual call to humankind to avert the looming crisis in nature, backed with scientific authority. Jane reminds us that all animals are reliant on the delicate balance of flora and fauna, at risk from factory farming, destruction of habitats and genetic engineering.

Incredibly decorated, (thirty three awards at last count), Dame Jane’s accolades include the Order of the Golden Ark (1980) for World Wildlife Conservation, The Encyclopaedia Brittannica Award (1989) for Excellence on the Dissemination of Learning for the Benefit of Mankind), the Rainforest Alliance Champion Award (1993), the Commander of the Order or the British Empire (1995) and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science (2003) to name a few.

Sadly, An Evening With Jane Goodall, at the beautifully restored Isaac Theatre, has sold out. However, Seeds of Hope is available in several formats from Christchurch City Libraries.

New Books – 23 June

Hi there, some great looking titles in the box this week.

CoverKatey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Futurama, Married with Children) has written an autobiography! Grace Notes tells the story of Sagal’s amazing and challenging life (not the least having a baby, told as a series of essays. Christina Applegate hails the memoir as “a beautiful poem…you will be transported…and healed.” Follow Katey Sagal on Twitter @KateySagal

CoverWildlife enthusiasts will love this biography The Durrells of Corfu. Those who loved reading Gerald Durrell’s stories of the exotic island and equally exotic pets will enjoy this. The author, Michael Haag, was family friend of Lawrence Durrell, Gerald’s father. The book includes photographs, excerpts from stories and an epilogue on Lawrence Durrell’s writing.

CoverClive Cussler’s new book Nighthawk is the 14th installment of the Numa Files (National Underwater and Marine Agency Foundation). A highly advanced spaceship disappears over the South Pacific. Kurt Austin and NUMA scramble to find it, and its unstable cargo before other nations can discover it. Great reviews. Keep track of his series with Fantastic Fiction.

CoverThe Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson, is an Historic novel about a German family, set in Southwest Africa. When her sister Marguerite later goes missing after their return to Berlin, the mystery haunts Ingrid, but her search is interrupted by the onset of World
War I. His second novel, the story is described at atmospheric, accurate, elegant and engrossing.

CoverA Dog’s Way Home is another novel from W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog’s Purpose (recently on film). There are many wonderful tales of great animal journeys. In this story, Lucas has to give the dog he found as a puppy, as pitbulls are banned in Denver. Yet the bond between Bella and Lucas is so strong that Bella attempts a journey of 400 miles across Colorado wilderness.

CoverFamiliar Things is a bit of a gem. South-Korean writer Hwang Sok-Yong, is being hailed as ‘the most powerful voice in Asia’ (Kenzaburo Oe), this book as a ‘great political book’ (Critiques Libres).  Flower Island is a landfill, home to the poor who have been driven out of the city. Yet against the stark backdrop of reality, Ancient Spirits are about to reveal themselves…

Themis Files : Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods is the much awaited sequel to Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel’s first novel of the Themis Files series.

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OMG. After reading The Massacre of Mankind, Stephen Baxter’s sequel to H.G Wells’ War of The Worlds, this is too good to be true!

Once again, London is visited by Aliens. A whacking great Robot, piloted by almost-human beings. Except for their legs. They bend backwards. And their DNA…

Is it here to attack or protect us?  Or is it dissatisfied with the election? While the reader ponders this question, twelve more appear in the world’s major cities.

In Sleeping Giants we are introduced to a giant female figure, scattered in parts all over the earth. A machine, full of deadly possibilites. Our intrepid hero Dr Rose Franklin’s mission is to retrieve it – her – Themis; assemble her and learn how she works.

The Themis Files are written as a series of reports. Characters are interviewed, recorded or write in their personal logs, while the reader observes and absorbs the information, much as an invading intelligence might.

Neuvel has created some great characters here. In the partnership of the pilots, Kara Resnik and Vincent Couture, he reverses the roles. Kara’s character is a tough cookie, army-trained, who hits first, and wisecracks later. Vincent, scared of heights, self-doubting, is her voice of reason.

Rose Franklin is the scientist who first discovers Themis, falling into a hole and discovering a giant hand, glowing with an unearthly green light. Then there is Eugene, his unnamed Benefactor, and the consultant “Mr Burns”. The leaders of this enterprise aren’t quite what they seem.

Waking Gods introduces a new character, Eva (named after another famous robot or two). But that’s all I’m giving away.

Imaginative, unique and very human, this sequel was worth waiting for. I can see room for more. You’ll laugh, cry and be on the edge of your seat waiting for the Robots to move…

More Robots

New books for June

I love unpacking the new books from their boxes. These are my picks from the new book box:

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Dead Writers in Rehab is the second novel by British author Paul Basset Davies; also a writer for stage, radio, television and film. Protagonist Foster James wakes up in what he thinks is rehab. After a therapy session with several writers who are dead (Hunter S. Thompson, for example), he’s not so sure…

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman, is the story of Maggie, a maid in New York, who is left a house by one of her clients. She also inherits Edith, her former employer’s eighty-two year old mother. Erin Duffy recommends this as a book “you’ll want to devour in one sitting.”

John Grisham’s new offering Camino Island features the daring theft of five manuscripts belonging to F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novels. If you were a struggling writer, could you resist the offer to work with a historic manuscript, even if its origins are murky?

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Spaceman of Bohemia is the first novel by Jaroslav Kalfar. Highly recommended by Darin Strauss and Lisa McInerney, this is the story of Bohemian astronaut Jakub Prochazka’s ascent and personal journey through Space. With only an Arachnoid for company Jakub comes to terms with his relationships while he tries to find a way back home to his loved ones.

Tengoku, by Rae D. Magdon, is the story of a Japanese girl, Aozora Kaede, who runs away from her noble family, with only her wolf, Rin, for company. She is hired as a Yojimbo (bodyguard) for a young female Samurai, Homura Imari. The two share an adventure to replace Imari’s missing hand, confront Aozura’s past, and save the Empire of Akatsuki Teikoku from evil.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a prequel to Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It’s set a century-ish before Game of Thrones, when the Targaryens are still in power… Featuring Ser Duncan the Tall, and his young Squire, Egg – who is really Aegon Targaryen. With illustrations!

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The Walworth Beauty is a new release from Man Booker Prize shortlisted Michele Roberts. The Independent newspaper is hailing her as “one of Britain’s best novelists.” The Times goes further to describe her as descended from Monet, Debussy and Woolf. The novel follows two characters linked by the search for human connection, but separated by time.

I love the title of this one. (The Last Person to Call Me) Sweet Pea (Ended Up Dead) is a first adult novel by C.J Skuse, known for her writing for children and young adults. Rhiannon appears to be normal, living a normal life. She lives with her boyfriend and her dog, normal. She hates her job, normal. She is making a kill list, normal. Wait what?! The driver who cuts her off every morning. The guy who bruises her apples at the supermarket. Is this underestimated girl going to get away with murder?

80 years old : Citizens’ War Memorial (Cathedral Square)

The Citizens’ War Memorial is still there, hidden behind the cordon.

Citizens' War Memorial
Citizen’s War Memorial. 2007. Flickr File reference CCL-2013-01-15-DSC05887

The Citizens’ War Memorial has stood outside the  Christchurch Anglican Cathedral for eighty years. She survived the earthquakes of 2010/2011 undamaged.

On 9 June 1937 the statue was unveiled by Colonel S.C.P. Nicholls, after a service by Anglican Archbishop Julius.

Originally modelled in clay by local artist William Trethewey, the moulds for the statue were sent to England to be cast in bronze by A.B Burton.

There are six figures in the statue.

Seated with outstretched arms is a figure representing the Mothers of the Empire in an attitude of grief for her lost sons.

St George, in armour, is on the right, facing the Cathedral. He represents valour and protection. On the other side is Youth, holding a torch.

Above St George is Peace, who holds an olive Branch and a dove. Next to her is Justice, who is blindfolded and carries a set of scales, a symbol of balance.

The Angel at the top (my Dad’s favourite) is breaking a sword. She was to be called Victory, but it was decided not to name her.

Peek through the fence surrounding Christchurch Cathedral at this wonderful statue. It’s still there amongst the weeds…

Further information

Queen’s Birthday 2017

Queen’s Birthday – Monday 5 June – is Queen Elizabeth II ‘s official birthday. In New Zealand we have a public holiday on the first Monday in June. Libraries will be closed on Monday 5 June.

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The Queen’s birthday is actually 21 April, when she turned 91. Celebrations are held in the first weeks of June, which also mark the anniversary of the Coronation sixty-four years ago on 2 June 1953.

King George II began the tradition in 1748. He was born in November and decided it was too cold to hold parades then, so he decided to celebrate an official birthday in summer, when the weather would be much better.

In Great Britain the Trooping of the Colour will be held this year on Saturday 17 June. This is a parade of the Queen’s Household Troops, followed with an inspection by the Queen.

This year in New Zealand there will be several gun salutes in Wellington to mark the Coronation (2 June), the Queen’s Birthday (6 June), and Prince Phillip’s 96th birthday (10 June).

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To mark the occasion I’ve selected my favourite media on the Queen: Fiona’s picks : Queen Elizabeth II.There’s a great mix of biography, photography and, streaming video and DVD.

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Enjoy!

Dorothy Must Die!: The End of Oz

“What did you do with the girl, Princess Ozma?” asked Glinda; and at this question everyone slowly bent forward and listened eagerly for the reply. “I enchanted her,” answered Mombi. “In what way?” inquired Glinda. “I transformed her into — into — “Go on!” Glinda said. “To a boy! “―The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)

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The End of Oz, 4th title in the Dorothy must die series

Dorothy Must Die! is a young adult fantasy series by Danielle Paige; a new take on The Wizard of Oz, (which itself had many sequels). The End of Oz is the last (4th) book of the series.

I love how this series turns the Dorothy myth around. Dorothy and her cronies have turned BAD; corrupted by power and magic. The ruby slippers, for instance, may have come from a not-so-pro-Oz source…

It’s up to another girl, Amy Gumm, to wipe her out. Amy has been plucked from Kansas in a trailer tornado, and flown to Oz by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. In this story she is flown on the Yellow Brick road, across the Deadly Desert, with her her boyfriend Nox, and her arch enemy Madison.

Why have they landed in Ev, Kingdom of the Nome King? And why have they ended up at the gates of Princess Langwidere’s palace?

Many familiar characters are revived in the series, including Mombi (the Wicked Witch of the North), who first appears in The Marvellous Land of Oz, a book I remember reading in my childhood.

With peer rivalry between the two female protagonists, and the angst of teen relationships, this novel addresses some teen experiences using the realm of fantasy. It’s hip, using the kind of language teens speak today and references to recent teen culture (there’s a Punk-Goth Munchkin…)

Will Ozma ever be restored to her rightful place on the throne of Oz? Read on…

The End of Oz
by Danielle Paige
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780062660237

Douglas Adams: 25 May is Towel Day!

“Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

After having spent a few weeks Time Travelling this month, you can be sure I kept my towel handy.

Towel Day, 25th May, is a day to Celebrate the life of Douglas Adams, who left us for the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul on 11 May 2001. I hoped he was just spending a year dead for tax reasons.

Cover of The Long dark tea-time of the soul Cover of The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy: the original radio scripts Cover of Wish you were here: The official biography of Douglas Adams Cover of The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy eBook

Adams is the inspired writer of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, first broadcast by the BBC Radio in 1978.  A cult following was inspired by the series and its characters, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Marvin the paranoid Android and Slartibartfast.

Adams’ inventive use of language, his imagination and humour have immortalised his writing. Using fantasy as a vehicle, Adams explores very human issues such as shyness, meeting women, rain, politics and the demolishing of houses to build motorways – or hyperspace byways.

Douglas Adams also penned three episodes of Dr Who (The Pirate Planet (1978), Destiny of the Daleks (1979) and City of Death (with Graham Williams, 1979); The Salmon of Doubt, the Dirk Gently series, and created the game Starship Titanic, based on a book he wrote with Terry Jones (Monty Python).

I love English wit. Its as stinging as English rain…or indeed Christchurch rain.

Anne Enright : Lyrical Words from The Green Road

I could almost be in Dublin right now. It’s 13 degrees and in the freezing rain I bike up to the beautiful Piano venue on Armagh Street, for the last event of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Anne Enright, first Laureate for Irish Fiction, is here to talk about her book The Green Road.

Cover of The Green Road Winner of Irish Novel of the Year, The Green Road is a family saga, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Great American Novel,’ The Town and the City. Is this Enright’s Great Irish Novel? Well she did get her prize…

Family, says Enright, are a common focus in many of her novels. The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, is about a family of nine who reunite for a funeral. Other common themes are the drinking father, the difficult mother, and the death of a parent or sibling.

There’s nothing brings a family together like a good funeral.

Often splitting her stories between characters before gathering the threads back together, Enright insightfully examines different perspectives of a common experience or issue.

The Forgotten Waltz, (a lyrical story about a love affair), is more introverted. Both lyrical and ironically funny, it follows Gina as she navigates her way through an affair, and the death of her mother. Apparently it has long been illegal in Irish culture to talk in the first person: “It’s not about you…!”

Enright is part of a new canon of Irish writers who “write what they like”. She discovered women writers were overlooked in Ireland, and figured no-one would read her… so wrote for her own pleasure.

The landscape is a strong character too. Quietly dominating the prose at times, foreshadowing perhaps a storm to come in story:

“The sky was full of weather.” (The Green Road).

Enright felt she could not write about it at first but remembered a connection with the cliffs around County Clare.

Anne Enright looking like she’s about to say something (Photo by Ali Ng)

Enright is the first to say that she doesn’t want to be “abouty”. She means that she doesn’t want each book to be about the same theme, though issues do inspire her. The drinking father persona of Ireland, the difficult mother…

When asked what inspired the story for The Forgotten Waltz, I was blindsided by her answer: the economic boom and bust of Ireland… the dishonesty and financial fallout of the affair being a vehicle for Irish investment in a failing property market… So there you go.

Enright‘s narrative voice charms the reader from the first paragraph. After a week of reading The Forgotten Waltz, my mind was speaking in brogue. So it was a pleasure to hear her read Hannah’s trip along the Green road with her Da, and the dramatic scene around Holy Thursday dinner.

Her observations of human experience have been described as an unblinking eye. I see it more as winking. Like the Catholic Church, (nurturing, but subversive, ‘you can’t get out of it” she says,) her work is poignant, with the humour that comes along with the dramas of life.

Further information

The WORD on Time Travel with James Gleick

“Quid est ergo tempus?” “What then is time?” (Augustine)

When did Time begin? Was it the Creation, or Big Bang? Is it just an Illusion, a construct of man? Who coined the phrase “Time Travel?”

Cover of Time Travel by James GleickFor the answers to these and many other questions on Time Travel, James Gleick is your man. Come along to his WORD Christchurch session at the Piano on Tuesday 16 May, 6pm to hear him talk about his book, Time Travel: A history.

I’m so excited. I’ve always wanted to find out how to Time Travel. I could get so much more done.

My first memory of a Time Travel story would have to be the Time Tunnel. Yet as I look back it’s an element in so many stories – the Pevensies always came back to the same moment they left (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), The guys in Land of the Lost travelled, and then I read The Time Machine.

H.G. Wells is arguably the master, although he was no Newton. Yet he raises a theory (mirrored by Ben Elton in Time and Time Again) that Time exists only in the memory: “There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it.” (p.8).

Susan’s student, Penelope, in Terry Pratchett’s The Thief of Time, asserts that “Its always now everywhere, Miss.”

Cover of Isaac NewtonGleick, a Harvard graduate, explores not just story in his book, but scientific theory also, from the concept of Time to the idea of travelling at will through it. He has also written a book on Isaac Newton.

Time Travel: A history, has a formidable index, and an indispensable book list of stories, anthologies and scientific works on the nature of time and travel.

After a small survey of colleagues and friends I’ve come up with some questions for Mr Gleick. Feel free to ask one at the event. (They won’t let me ask them all!)

  1. Can you meet yourself in Time and not cause a temporal reaction?
  2. Can you move through Space as well as Time?
  3. Did the Time Tunnel guys EVER make it home?
  4. What was the outcome of Predestination?
  5. If you kill yourself in time will you cease to exist in other dimensions?
  6. Can you kill your mother/father yourself and not cause 1.
  7. Why can’t Dr Who fall in love?
  8. If the future hasn’t happened yet, can you only travel backwards?
  9. Can you travel back/forward to wipe someone out and change the future?
  10. If light can split into particles and waves, can a person be at two places in Time?

Time travel fans will want to check out my lists of –