Book Reviews May 2022

Sometimes nothing feels as good as curling up with a good book. This May sees some excellent fiction and non-fiction for you to get stuck into.

Navigation: Kupe & Cook
An Ocean In A Mind And A Mind On An Ocean

Kingsley Smith

Mary Egan Publishing

RRP $45

Kiwi author Kingsley Smith traces the beginnings of travel by boat as man migrated out of Africa and arrived in Sahul, Australia-New Guinea, 50,000 years ago. This fascinating study of navigation encompasses the origins in both literary and orality societies, especially those in Polynesia up to the time when Kupe made his voyage to Aotearoa. The skills that were originally developed navigating major rivers aided the development of oceanic voyaging, and Smith investigates how communication, writing and memory played their part in our navigation systems, with writing allowing for the production of books and maps; and orality societies developing intricate methods to aid memories. Two Pacific navigation systems are revealed; one, the Vaeakau-Taumako system, is the oldest in the Pacific. The other is the Tahitial system, which allows latitude and longitude navigation using Rua and Ana stars and the Pou pillar of navigation. This book is an impressive and valuable contribution to maritime studies.

The Last Summer

Karen Swan

Trade Paperback

RRP $34.99

Top bestselling author Karen Swan writes two books every year; one for summer, and one for Christmas. This is the first in an epic, sweeping historical series of five books called The Wild Isles, based on the dramatic evacuation of Scottish island St Kilda in the summer of 1930. In The Last Summer, the residents of St Kilda ask to be evacuated from their remote island home in the summer of 1930 in search of a better life on mainland Scotland. For 18-year-old tomboy Effie Gillies, the departure is bittersweet. She’s the best young climber on the island, as skilled and brave as any man. Her excellent knowledge of local bird life leads her to take up a position as curator of Dumfries House’s ornithological collection – and back into the arms of Lord Dumfries’ son and heir, Sholto. In St Kilda their love affair was irresistible, but in polite Ayrshire society, they are worlds apart. When a body is discovered on the island, Effie is implicated; can Sholto help her, or is Effie keeping too many secrets?

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Getting Closer: Rediscovering Nature Through Bird Photography

Paul Sorrell

Exisle Publishing

RRP $44.99

Many a motorhomer and caravanner has set off, camera in hand, ready to capture the next National Geographic shot of our native birds, only to return with nothing to show for their trouble but a sore back from standing still so long and a couple of blurry sky shots. Getting Closer is designed to teach you how to connect with nature by using a photographer’s eye. The book is an illustrated discussion of photography as a way of achieving greater intimacy with the natural world. With a focus on birds, the book is directed primarily at photographers, but is a great read for anyone interested in the outdoors. The author offers a simple, practical path for readers to begin to ‘rewild’ themselves, introducing hands-on techniques that enables readers to deeply connect with their environment, while learning to become proficient wildlife photographers at the same time.


The Winter Dress

Lauren Chater

HarperCollins Publishers

RRP $37.99

Jo Baaker, a textiles historian and Dutch ex-pat, returns to the small island of Texel, where she was born, to investigate the provenance of a 17th century silk dress retrieved by divers from a sunken shipwreck. Jo’s research draws her into the story of Anna Tesseltje, an Amsterdam laundress who became a ladies companion to the renowned artist Catharina van Shurman. The two women were supposed to be close – so why did Anna abandon Catharina at the height of her misfortune? And was the dress a gift, or did Anna come by it by less honest means? As Jo digs deeper to find out Anna’s secrets, her own past comes back to find her, leading to some uncomfortable truths. A riveting and intelligent read, The Winter Dress is inspired by the 2014 real-life shipwreck discovery of a dress that managed to survive, perfectly preserved underwater, for 400 years. It belonged to Jean Kerr, Countess of Roxburghe and lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, the consort of Charles I, and was lost when part of a royal fleet of 123 ships sank in bad weather while crossing from Dover to Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands in February 1642.

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Book Reviews: January 2021

Cracking Open The Nest Egg: How to Make Your Retirement Savings Last The Distance

Martin Hawes

Upstart Press

RRP $39.99

Most of us could do with some life lessons on how to save for retirement, especially in today’s economic climate. Working out how to achieve a regular retirement income is much harder than it used to be; historically low interest rates, plus longer life expectancy, means the old method of parking your money in a savings account and living off the interest is no longer an option. In this book, Martin Hawes, one of New Zealand’s top personal finance experts, guides us step by step through the process of how to safely create a regular income that will last a lifetime, and explains how to plan for the ‘decumulation’ of a retirement savings nest egg. Cracking Open The Nest Egg is financial advisor Hawes’ 22nd book on personal finance, and will help Kiwis take control of their financial future to achieve the kind of retirement they have always wanted.

Nothing But The Truth: Stories of Crime, Guilt and the Loss of Innocence

The Secret Barrister

Trade Paperback

RRP $39.99

If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on behind the wigs and gowns of a barrister, this is the book for you. Written by a junior barrister specialising in criminal law, and author of the award-winning blog of the same name, Nothing But The Truth reveals the real story behind the Hunger Games-esque contest for pupillage, the endlessly frustrating experience of being a junior barrister, and how a barrister ultimately gets to the Bar. Hilarious, often shocking and utterly compelling, the reader learns of the sometimes absurd traditions of the Inns of Court, where every meal mandates a glass of port and a toast to the Queen. The book tracks the Secret Barrister’s own journey from hang ‘em and flog ‘em, austerity-supporting twenty-something, to campaigning, bestselling, reforming author whose writing in defence of the law is celebrated on a global scale.

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