Thursday, 31 October 2019

It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal

In the fictional world of private eyes; sassy and quirkiness often go hand in hand. Add a serious touch of prickliness tinged with a no-nonsense attitude, and you have PI-in-training and research assistant Nora Watts; the unlikely heroine in this the second book in Sheena Kamal’s detective series.

In the first book, Eyes Like Mine, Nora is looking for a missing teenager that she has a personal connection with. Continuing on from that story her quest sees her heading for Detroit to find information about her deceased father, spurred on by a chance encounter with a veteran who served with her father. As Nora starts unravelling the mystery behind her father’s suicide she unexpectedly uncovers details on her mother, the woman who abandoned Nora and her sister when they were very young. And then, as is the norm with Nora, trouble follows her. Trouble that is trying to kill her.

Back in her home town of Vancouver, former police officer turned private investigator and Nora’s old AA sponsor Jon Brazuca is doing some investigating of his own. Hired to investigate the drug overdose of a billionaire’s pregnant mistress, his mission takes on an ominous twist that leads Brazuca to believe Nora is in danger.

The two narratives of Nora and Brazuca run alongside each other and although the reader knows they must link up it takes some clever plotting to bring them together with a satisfying conclusion. However like all good crime series there are some incomplete story lines that the author addresses with a final chapter titled Letter to the Reader.

For me one of the stars of the series is Nora’s dog Whisper. With one look Whisper can convey extremely complex messages to any humans he comes into contact with. This stray turned loyal companion deserves his own series and delivers some of the few lighter moments in this otherwise psychologically suspenseful story.

If you like strong flawed female heroines that despite their faults grow on you; then start first with Eyes Like Mine, you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Miss Moneypenny

Cataolgue link:  It All Falls Down

Friday, 18 October 2019

Busy as F*ck: 10 on-the-couch sessions to diagnose, explain and treat busy as f*ck people everywhere, by Karen Nimmo

Busy Is our new normal! …when did busy become a badge of honour?!...

So says clinical psychologist and writer, Karen Nimmo, who has produced a DIY approach to therapy for our frenetic times. The book is intended to be a roadmap through all the stressing and striving, a support to create a life more meaningful.

Karen’s latest title is a very enjoyable and engaging read, and so darn relatable.

I loved the upbeat buzzy pink cover, the “edgy title” and the laugh-out-loud humour, which enlivens serious content, soundly based on extensive clinical research and experience. Because of course, what we all need to learn is how to mitigate the dangerous impacts of all this busyness on our health and well-being.

If we can learn to live life in a more focussed way, we can build resilience in ourselves, and model the behaviours to our children and grandchildren, who are likely to inherit an even more challenging world.

Busy as F*ck is a great first step in adapting the way you manage your life. A lifeline for the characteristically busy person with the to do list that never ends.

Other titles by Karen Nimmo include: Fish pie is worse than cancer (2015) My bum looks brilliant in This; the one true secret of lasting weight loss (2009).

Karen Nimmo will be in Hawkes Bay for the HB Readers and Writers Festival 2019. She will appear with well-known clinical psychologist and writer, Gwendoline Smith, and writer and commentator, Emily Writes in Busy Brains Calm Lives at the Victoria Spiegeltent 2pm on Saturday 19th October.

Posted by Sheryl Reed
HB Readers and Writers Charitable Trust 

Catalogue link: Busy as F*uck

Horse with Hat by Marty Smith

The power and mystery of the horse comes from the pen of one who has known them all her life. The fear, the danger, the thrill and the unpredictability of these animals is given an immediacy in Marty Smiths first book of poems, 'Horse with Hat’.
Interspersed with the horse poems are others with even more power. These poems give truth to the statement that 'children are great observers but poor interpreters'.
Marty's reflections on members of her family - parents, uncles, grandparents; have the innocence of the child but read with adult eyes contain some heartbreaking revelations.
‘Horse with Hat' was published in 2014 and won the Best First Book Award that year.
Marty Smith is Napier based, nationally respected and the natural fit to chair the opening event, 'Subversive Verse', at the Hawkes Bay Readers and Writers Festival which is part of the Arts Festival this year.
She is tasked with wrangling two high fliers in the poetry world, Okham Award winner Tayi Tibble and Poetry Slammer extraordinaire Sara Hirsch as they discuss the place of poetry in protest movements and counter culture and put the verse into subversive. 
It is bound to be unpredictable, opinionated and possibly a wild ride.
Join the fun.

Friday 18th October 7.30. Paisley Stage.
Book online at
Door sales available

Review by Josephine Carpenter

Catalogue link: Horse with Hat

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Rants in the Dark: from one tired mama to another by Emily Writes

When it came to others’ children. I was a supermarket tsk-tsker, an in-flight smirker, a café-going eye roller – and then I had my own kids…

When Emily Writes was a new mum having yet another disturbed night with her first son, little did she know that sharing her angst in an online blog would resonate with thousands of other parents around the world!

Now Emily is a well-loved commentator and writer of two magazine columns (New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and New Zealand Herald); as well as the author of two books. Rants in the Dark was staged as a national show this year; and this first book was followed by a sequel in 2018, Is it bedtime yet?

Emily has a wonderful talent for expressing what all parents find out the hard way – parenting is tough. Emily’s light-hearted and supportive style helps lighten the load and keep perspective on the challenges. She is reassuring and entertaining and doesn’t presume to give advice. Emily helps dispel the myth of the perfect parent and takes the pressure off by describing parenting as it actually is for her – raw, heart-warming, hair-raising, frustrating and exhausting!

Her approach respects that parenting is a unique experience and supports the line that we’re all in this together in this critically and fundamentally important role - to the extent that her second title is written in collaboration with other parents. Is it Bedtime Yet? is a collection of writings on being a parent in Aotearoa New Zealand, written by Emily Writes and Friends.

Emily Writes will be in Hawkes Bay for the HB Readers and Writers Festival 2019. She will appear with well-known clinical psychologists/writers, Gwendoline Smith and Karen Nimmo in Busy Brains Calm Lives at the Victoria Spiegeltent 2pm on Saturday 19th October.

Posted by Sheryl Reed
HB Readers and Writers Charitable Trust

Catalogue link: Rants in the Dark

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Book of Knowing: know how you think, change the way you feel by Gwendoline Smith

I wish I’d had this little book when I was growing up…

When clinical psychologist, Gwendoline Smith, added to her extremely effective online blog for young adults, (Ask Dr. Know) and wrote a handbook for this age group, she set herself a challenge! She had all the qualifications and experience but imparting her extensive knowledge of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) in a style palatable to today’s young people was the challenge. A challenge worth meeting, given the currently concerning state of the mental health of many young Kiwis.

The result is a friendly and welcoming bright yellow “toolbox” in the form of an accessible little paperback, packed with priceless tips to help you understand yourself better and learn ways to manage your feelings more effectively

Gwendoline’s writing is laced with humour and based on wisdom. Her key points are reinforced by many effective line drawings, illustrating how to separate out the situation from the interpretation of the event and the resulting feeling and behaviour.

With Gwendoline’s reassuring guidance, this is a golden opportunity for teens who are prepared to apply themselves to knowing themselves better, to build the invaluable skills to help them adapt and feel better about their place in this bewildering and fast-paced world.

Other titles by Gwendoline Smith include: Depression Explained: how you can help when someone you love is depressed (2002); Breast Support: if you or someone you love has breast cancer (2001).

Gwendoline Smith will be in Hawke's Bay for the HB Readers and Writers Festival 2019. She will appear with well-known clinical psychologist and writer, Karen Nimmo, and writer and commentator, Emily Writes in Busy Brains Calm Lives at the Victoria Spiegeltent at 2pm on Saturday 19th October.

Posted by Sheryl Reed 
Hawke's Bay Readers and Writers Charitable Trust 

Catalogue link: The Book of Knowing

Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble

Tayi Tibble is a force to be reckoned with. She crafts poems from words the way Hendrix plucked musical magic from the strings of his guitars. Other reviewers have said, “required reading for NZers”, “the talent is undeniable”, “breathtaking”, “book of highlights”, and, my favourite: “qweer n millennial n great”.

Tibble has been making waves in the New Zealand poetry scene in recent years. She is only 24, but this, her first book of poetry, reads like that of someone much older, despite the references to Kim Kardashian, Twilight, and The Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger. It seems to draw from a rich and deep understanding of relationships between all kinds of people, and between people and media. Every time you think you know what to expect, she surprises you.

The collection is a deeply personal discourse on colonisation, with a solid foundation and academic understanding of what it means to be brown, young, a woman, and navigating the world in your own skin. I say deeply personal, but that doesn’t mean every poem is about Tibble herself. She writes a variety of characters from different eras and different stages of life. Her recent experiences of high school and adolescence nestle comfortably next to poems set in the 60s and 70s.

Poūkahangatus is unafraid and powerful. You might not like every poem, but you will find something in this little book that speaks to you. I will treasure this collection and look forward to whatever Tibble comes out with next.

 Reviewed by Emma

Catalogue link: Poūkahangatus

Friday, 11 October 2019

Hangman by Jack Heath

So I’m not going to lie, I may have picked up this book because he’s coming to the festival. But I put the second one on hold because I loved the first one and need to know where it’s going. 

The main character is weird, super-smart, and hiding a part of himself from most of the world. When I described the book to someone who didn’t mind spoilers, they told me that he sounded like the TV character Dexter – crime solver but not a good guy.

With a personality that keeps him mostly isolated from his peers, Timothy Blake is a genius when it comes to analysing people – think Sherlock from Elementary – their gestures, what they don’t say. He works with the FBI on an under the table quid pro quo basis. When a 14 year old boy is kidnapped, the FBI bring Blake in to help them find the kidnapper.

I can’t really say more, without giving away major plot points, but while being a mostly unlikable person, (oddly enough, a number of the characters in this book are unlikeable) as a character I found him compelling and interesting. I have Hunter out now, and can’t wait to see how the new arrangement is going to work.

Trigger warnings: blood, guts, gore, language, adult themes.

Jack Heath is the author of thirty action-packed novels for adults and children including Hangman, Hunter and the Liars series. His books have been translated into six languages, shortlisted for numerous awards, adapted for film and optioned for TV. He lives in Canberra, Australia

Jack Heath will be appearing at the Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival Readers and Writers event, Crime Fiction Down Under, unpacking why we love crime fiction so much on Saturday 19th October, 5pm at Paisley Stage, Napier. Tickets available from

Reviewed by Li Ashfield 

Catalogue link:  Hangman