Skip to content

Celtic Empire

It’s been years since I’ve read a Clive Cussler book. Once upon a time, I was obsessed with them and had collected them all. Then I realised that the plots were actually really formulaic and I got sick of them. Nothing has changed about Cussler’s writing style, BUT I still enjoyed reading this book for a light diversion.

In my opinion, most Cussler books are predictable – it always starts with an historical event ; then there is an action sequence where Dirk Pitt saves a woman ; then the historical event and a current day event intertwine in an action-filled story that usually involves a global threat. But in the end, the day is saved!

In “Celtic Empire”, an Egyptian Princess flees Egypt after her father, the Pharoah, dies from a plague that is affecting hundreds of males. Meanwhile, in the current day, Pitt saves a scientist who has been attacked after taking water samples from an area where the local population is very ill. It turns out that the two are inextricably linked. Pitts son and daughter peel off in a side-adventure trying to track down the remains of the Egyptian Princess while Pitt and Giordino focus on preventing a modern-day genetically engineered plague from being unleashed on the world. A plague with very far-reaching consequences.

If you are a long-time Clive Cussler fan, the 25th instalment in the Dirk Pitt series won’t disappoint.





ANZAC Day Thoughts

I see them now, the Great War vets on Anzac Days gone by

when I was just a youngster, curious, wondering why

they looked so very sombre, lifeless, lost and sad.

“They’re getting old, not many left,” the comment from my dad.

They did look old, but how could I begin to understand

that as they shuffled into line behind our Sally band

the unshared vivid memories of things they’d seen and done

were flooding back to strangle them beneath the Autumn sun.

I can’t imagine more than just a fraction of their pain

but were it possible for me to live my life over again

on Anzac Days I hope I would approach that sombre crew

and tell each bloke, in gratitude, “I will remember you”.


© Murray Orchard (2018)

#BigLibraryRead join the global bookclub!

“Homes” by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria – just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy – soccer, cousins, video games, friends. Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone – and found safety in Canada – with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.

Join the #BigLibraryRead  April 1 – 15, 2019




Midnight in Chernobyl : the untold story of a nuclear disaster

MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL by Adam Higginbotham

It’s a wonder this book doesn’t glow in the dark. The cover declares “Midnight in Chernobyl” to be “a masterpiece,” and for once the dust-cover blurb is accurate. Higginbotham’s meticulously researched* dissection of the Chernobyl disaster reads more like a novel. *(About a quarter of the book consists of notes, glossary etcetera). As I turned the pages, I found myself frequently shaking my head and muttering “they did WHAT?

On the night of April 25–26 1986, Reactor Number 4 at Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, ran out of control and exploded during a test. The reactor reached a temperature of 4,650 degrees centigrade – almost the as hot as the surface of the sun – in the seconds before it burst. The subsequent explosion demolished three of the four walls and the roof of the reactor containment building, leaving the reactor core exposed to the night sky…a nuclear volcano which spread a massive cloud of highly toxic material over huge expanses of Ukraine, Russia, Scandinavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East and West Germany – fallout was recorded in France, and as far away as Scotland.

Higginbotham begins a detailed record of this terrible event with a succinct analysis of the moribund Soviet system, historically tagged the Age of Stagnation, which produced a series of gigantic nuclear power stations. The huge reactors were fatally flawed in their design, and slapped together in slipshod fashion to impossible deadlines. Chernobyl is the most infamous of these ‘disasters waiting to happen.’ Higginbotham skilfully draws the reader along to the inevitable.

We meet the tireless, dedicated plant director Brukhanov, who (before he built the Chernobyl station) built Pripyat, a large town nearby, to house the hundreds of plant technicians and workers and their families. Pripyat remains a ghost town, stripped by scavengers of anything of value, now overgrown by mutated nature.  We are introduced to many of the players, from the blinkered and dictatorial men in the Kremlin, to the station technicians who attempted to cope with the event as it unfolded, and were irradiated, many of them fatally, in their efforts to ascertain the extent of the calamity. We read of the heroic helicopter pilots and firemen who flew into the updraft of lethal radiation to drop sacks filled with sand and lead pellets, in a vain attempt to smother the exposed core.

An example of the carelessness involved in the disaster; at the time the reactor exploded, blowing highly toxic core material over a wide area, two off-duty staffers were spending the night fishing in one of the reactor coolant ponds. Apparently, these ponds were inhabited by unnaturally huge carp. The two men heard a series of heavy thumps, which drew their attention to the Reactor 4 building, which then blew apart before their terrified eyes. They were knocked off their feet by a radioactive shock wave. As they lay there, staring disbelievingly, they saw a “strange, cold glow” emanating from the shattered building. It’s not recorded if they took any of the freakish carp home to Pripyat with them as they fled.

Technicians and firemen, courageously attempting to gauge the extent of the damage, saw “…a shimmering pillar of ethereal blue-white light, reaching straight up into the night sky, disappearing into infinity.”

That’s scary enough, but perhaps scarier is Higginbotham’s record of post-explosion governmental cover-up, denial, blame-shifting and outright lying which followed. The technicians on duty at the time, despite being blameless, despite risking their lives in attempts to minimise the damage, were blamed by their superiors. Plant director Brukhanov received ten years’ confinement in a penal colony, simply “…because the plant director…was ultimately responsible.”

Irradiated Pripyat was eventually evacuated, its inhabitants dispersed. Many ended up in Kiev. They found that their children were shunned at their new schools, because it was believed they were radioactive. This notion was dismissed by the authorities. Then someone checked the kids, and found they were radioactive.

Despite the grim and tragic subject, I recommend Midnight In Chernobyl highly, it’s a real page–turner. You may not need your reading light on.


Reviewed by Keith Smith


YOLO bookclub for kids

Book club for children aged 8 to 12 years starts again from 11 February 2019.  Sessions as below. Talk about books you love (not compulsory, so don’t worry if you’re shy) and do other fun stuff too.






Dannevirke : Monday 11 February, 4-5pm ; 4 March ; 25 March.

Pahiatua:  Monday 11 February 3.30-4.30pm ; 4 March ; 25 March.

Eketahuna : Thursday 14 February 3.15-4.00pm ; 7 March ; 28 March.

Woodville:  Tuesday 12 February 3.15-4.00pm ;5 March ; 26 March.

THEMES:  each session has it’s own theme 

(1) share your holiday reading ; (2) tell us about a book another YOLO member chose for you ; (3) create something from a non-fiction book (artwork, tasty treat, poem, origami, etc).

Charlaine Harris creates Gunnie Rose

Charlaine Harris, of the Southern Vampire/True Blood series, has created a new world. “An easy death” is set in an alternate reality where the US government was overthrown early on, and America was divided up. Now, there is Brittania, Texoma, New America, and the Holy Russian Empire (HRE) where deposed Tsar Alexei established his new realm.

There is a curious mixture of technologies. E.g. transport is by foot, horses, wagons, cars, buses and trains. Some people have electricity and regrigerators,  but other people like like the poor of the pioneer west.  Weapons are rifles, pistols and magic. It’s probably around the 1930s I reckon.

The storyline itself is quite enthralling. Lizbeth Rose, aka Gunnie Rose, is the nineteen-year-old daughter of a Texoma woman and a passing HRE wizard who raped her. Therefore she has slight magical abilities. She makes her living as a hired gun, escorting travelers and guarding people. Out on a job, her crew is ambushed, and so she is eventually forced to accept a less-than-desirable job accompanying two HRE wizards on their mission to find a living descendent of Rasputin. It turns out that their blood is the only kind that can successfully be used in transfusions to save the Tsar from his blood disease.

Secretly, Lizbeth realises that she herself fits the bill. But she keeps that to herself, sticking with the wizards in the hopes they will lead her to a half-sister, and perhaps an Uncle. An Uncle who may have witnessed her murder her father … an Uncle that needs killing.

The whole novel is a bit of a rollicking western-adventure-mystery with a dash of magic and romance in it. Much like the Sookie Stackhouse stories I suppose. So if you liked those, you’ll like this. “An Easy Death” is the first in the new Gunnie Rose series, but it still works as a standalone novel too (in case you want to dip your toe in).

7/10  Natalie

Little Ears toddler storytime : Term 1, 2019

Crimson Lake, where the crocodiles are mean…

I have not read any of this author’s books before but I was hooked from the first. Australian crime fiction author Candice Fox writes excellent characters that grab you straight away. These are good summer reads that hold a bit more bite than the normal fluffy pastel beach reads. If you’ve got nothing on this weekend, I highly recommend you pick this author up (after I’ve finished, of course).

In ‘Crimson Lake’ Ted Conkaffey is a man haunted by a wrongful arrest and the repercussions of the charges he faced. While found not guilty, his case polarised a nation and his notoriety means he is a man on the run. Ending up in the fictitious Queensland town of Crimson Lake he meets another misfit, Amanda Pharrell, a young woman who spent 10 years in prison for murder. Ted and Amanda make an unusual team of private investigators, solving crimes in their town, while also working through their own trauma and history. In the first book, they are looking for a missing bestselling author.

Candice Fox

I really like Ms Fox’s writing style. Her books are easy to read, even if the subjects are not so easy to hear about. I liked Ted straight away although I find Amanda a hard character to like. The descriptions of the Queensland rain forest and wildlife are excellent. The side characters are well described and the plot twists keep you on your toes, even for a last page reader like myself. I am already on the second book “Redemption Point” and look forward to the third, “Gone by midnight”.   



Podcast : “How to raise a crime writer”


Seven riveting women…

I recently took home a rather large book, the first in a series by Lucinda Riley.  These books have been here for some time, but I have never been tempted to read them.  That is until one of our lovely customers came to the counter, in search of another in the series.  Intrigued by how good they found the book, I read the blurb on the back, but was still a little unsure.  Had I browsed the shelves and read the blurb without any recommendation,  I would not have taken it home to read.  But, something was telling me to give it a go, and boy, I’m glad I did.  I read the whole book in a weekend (granted, a nice dose of sunshine helped.  Nothing like reading a good book while soaking up the sun’s rays, good old vitamin D).  Anyhow, I digress…

The series is called the Seven Sisters which is also the title of the first book. Pa Salt, who recently passed away, adopted six daughters from different parts of the world. Their names are loosely based on the star constellation, The Seven Sisters of Pleiades, adding another dimension to this story.  They all lived a privileged and secluded childhood in a beautiful house called “Atlantis” on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.  Pa Salt passes away, and is apparently buried at sea, before the sisters all had a chance to say goodbye to him.  They all come home to Atlantis, where they discover that Pa Salt has left each of them a clue as to where they came from. 

The first book is based on the first sister – Maia – and her journey to find her past.  This takes her to the city of Rio de Janiro, where she discovers her story, which goes back in time to her great grandmother, Izabela Bonifacio, whose encounter with the famous sculptor Laurent Brouilly, changes her life.  The story gives a fascinating insight into the history of the famous “Christo” statue on the hill in Rio, designed by architect Heitor da Silva Costa.   Actually, it makes me want to go to Rio de Janiro!  I love how books take you away to different places and cultures.  This was a fantastic read, and I look forward to the second book in the series, The Storm Sister.

You may wonder about the series title – The seven sisters – when there are only six adopted sisters.  The seventh sister was never adopted, as Pa Salt claimed he could not find her.  I’Not sure where the series is going with this, as there are currently 5 books in the series, one based on each sister.  I assume there will be another book coming, on the sixth sister, and then maybe another after that, to address the missing seventh sister?  And then there is the overriding question on the identity of Pa Salt, what he did (he was very rich) – and how his story ties in with his adopted daughters.  There are many layers to this story, and anyone who enjoys a good read, combined with a bit of history is sure to love it.




Poetry Group 2019 – Dannevirke Library

Do you enjoy writing or reading poetry? Then this is the group for you! Come along and join a fun group of like-minded people to discuss poems, create and enjoy. Each meeting has a theme to guide the discussion (listed below). Tea & coffee provided. Look for the reserved table!

Where: Dannevirke Library, 1 Station Street, Dannevirke NZ

When: Last Friday of every month, 10am to 11.30am (excluding December)

25 Jan : Haiku
22 Feb : NZ poetry
29 Mar : Share your favourite poem
26 Apr : Writing poetry – share your tips
31 May : Write a poem based on something you do every day
28 Jun : Try an experimental form of poetry
26 Jul : Why poetry?
23 Aug : National Poetry Day
27 Sep : Old vs new poems
25 Oct : To rhyme or not to rhyme?
29 Nov : Write a poem from your younger self, looking at your current self
Dec – no group

Bird box … a review (no spoilers)

The Netflix adaptation of ‘Bird box’ by Josh Malerman has been news lately. Like many, I watched the film before reading the book – although a colleague of mine read it before watching it.  Interestingly, she found the TV characters portrayed quite differently than she imagined them, and I spent the entire time whilst reading the book, imagining the TV characters, and thought they fitted the book characters well!

‘Bird box’ is an apocalyptic story which begins when an invisible ‘invasion’ by some sort of creature occurs all over the world – it’s not clear whether these are extraterrestrial or not. Any human that sees them goes mad, and commits suicide. American woman Malorie is pregnant, and during the chaos, she finds her way to a house that is taking in survivors. There, her pseudo-family live hidden inside the house, with the windows tightly covered. After a time, several others are admitted into the house – there is danger in that, as they all have to shut their eyes when opening the door … the invisible creatures could get inside.  They also have to leave the house to forage for supplies.  No spoilers here so I won’t tell you what happens ; suffice to say that it’s not all smooth sailing, and eventually some survivors have to leave the house for good and undertake a perilous journey to find a safer place.

I found the book slightly different in places (e.g. Malorie suffered an injury at one point) but on the whole, it was about 95% identical. Actress Sandra Bullock, who stars as Malorie, certainly did the role justice, in my opinion.  It’s well worth reading the book to deepen your understanding of the story. Enjoy!



Mortal Engines

Although a children’s fiction book, “Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve, is so original that it will also interest teens and adults who like science fiction. I found it enjoyable and intriguing, full of action and adventure, and new ideas.

Over a thousand years ago, in what was known as the “60 Minute War”, mankind almost destroyed itself. Since then, the remaining humans have had to become nomads, roaming the lands searching for food.  To assist with this, they figured out a way to take their homes with them by putting their cities onto treads – known as Traction Cities.  The cities, such as London, are of various sizes. When they sight another city (or town, village or suburb) they capture it and capture the people for slaves, and use its resources and components to keep their own city going. Many of the residents have only ever known this life. However, there is a group known as Anti-Tractionists, who believe it’s time for mankind to live on the land in stationery cities again. They live behind a large wall, designed to keep the Traction Cities out.

Tom, a young Historian from London Museum, prevents a newly captured girl called Hester from assasinating the Head Historian, Valentine.  He and Valentine chase her, but she jumps off the city – and instead of being grateful for his help, Valentine shoves Tom off too!  Luckily, they escaped being crushed by the treads and there begins the adventure as Tom & Hester try to get back onto London – Tom because it’s his home, and Hester because she is determined to finish off Valentine, who murdered her mother, an archaeologist.  She had a component that London wanted to make itself the supreme City and deal with the Anti-Tractionists. All this while they are being persued by

Meanwhile, Valentine’s daughter Katherine joins forces with Bevis, a young engineer, to discover why Hester wants Valentine dead. And then to thwart the horrific and diabolical plan they discover.

Peter Jackson has just released the movie of the same name.  It will be interesting to see if he continues on with the remaining four books in the series.  – Natalie


The week before Christmas…and…the night before Christmas!

Twas the Week Before Christmas

A Holiday Recollection

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas and all through the house
Nothing was ready, which bothered my spouse.

The stockings weren’t hung – they were still in the attic.
(My neighbor’s were up, but then she’s a fanatic!)

The children were all flying in in three days.
Which is why I was praying for long flight delays,

While hoping they’d manage, somehow, to adapt
To the fact that their gifts were unbought and unwrapped.

My tree seemed to lean at a precarious angle,
Unadorned, wih its lights on the floor in a tangle.

I hadn’t bought groceries or baked any pies.
I meant to of course, but oh my how time flies!

My Christmas card envelopes still weren’t addressed,
And my white linen tablecloth hadn’t been pressed.

At Christmas I’m usually more energetic,
But this year I was gloomy and quite apathetic.

This procrastination was really insane,
This putting things off had caused a migraine.

So I downed Ibuprofen and curled up in bed
While visions of shopping malls danced in my head.

When out from the den there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter!

Away through the kitchen I flew like a flash,
Tripped on an old house shoe, and knocked over the trash.

When what with my wondering eyes did I see
But a mess that was caused by no one but me.

A huge box of ornaments, trinkets and more
Had spilled all its contents out on the floor.

Oh why had I placed it so high on that shelf?
I cried when I saw it, in spite of myself.

A major disaster was this one – and how!
Well dash it all, dash it all, dash it all now.

There was nothing to do now but clean up the mess,
How long it would take me was anyone’s guess.

I might as well tackle the job, and I knew it,
So I poured me some cocoa and got myself to it.

I’ll start with this tinsel, I said with a shrug,
Its glitter’s embedding itself in my rug!

As I wound up the silvery stuff round my finger
I found myself pausing a bit, just to linger

Recalling my Mamma’s aluminum tree
With its rotating light wheel in colors of three!

I next picked up ornaments many years old
Of dried macaroni, spray painted gold.

These preschool creations so clunky and brittle
Were gifts from my children, back when they were little.

I picked the next ornament up and I tarried,
Twas on our small tree the first year we were married.

It was made out of plastic (we hadn’t much money)
But we hung it together, just me and my honey.

I then saw our manger scene under the table
Mary and Joseph and the crude little stable.

I’ll never forget what a tempest was tossed
The year baby Jesus was mysteriously lost.

He seemed to have vanished right into thin air!
I know, for believe me – we looked everywhere!

In toy chests, in closets, in pockets and sofas,
In Cheerios boxes and old penny loafas.

We searched high and low til at last he was found
Asleep in the doll house, safe and sound.

A letter to Santa with Lauren’s wish list
In 5-year-old scribble caused my eyes to mist.

A few tacky knickknacks I should have re-gifted,
But with each decoration my poor spirits lifted.

Who knew such a chore could bring me such pleasure?
Each item I touched held a memory to treasure.

So what if the tree was still naked and bare?
If I didn’t make mincemeat would anyone care?

Who cared if the stockings remained in the attic?
(Well, maybe my neighbor, you know – the fanatic.)

Though the stuff still remained on the floor where it scattered,
I now had the secret of what really mattered.

So next time the holidays have you all stressed,
Revisit your memories – I’m sure you’ll be blessed.

May your days all be merry, and joyful and bright;
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!



What’s on? Kids activities during Summer 2018/19.

 “The Amazing Read” Summer Reading Programme  for children 2 to 10 years

The programme runs from 3 December 2018 to 18 January 2019. There are still places available. Parents must register the child*.

Children are required to do a short verbal summary (‘report-in’) of a library book to library staff or volunteers, who will discuss and encourage. Reports are limited to one report at a time, and up to two in any one week (e.g. one report on two different days).  Rural children may report via email (written) if they are unable to visit the library. Children receive a small incentive gift after each report, and may complete a fifth bonus report if they wish.  At the end of the programme, each child who has completed four reports, is invited to our Finale to receive a certificate, free book, and enjoy some entertainment.


iRead “Reading Adventure” Programme  for children school Year 7 or 8

The programme runs from 3 December 2018 to 18 January 2019. There are still places available.  Parents or children may book a place*.  Kids are required to do written reviews of library books that they have read (at their current reading level and ability). A booklet is provided for this. Library staff or volunteers assess these reports; for every three reviews, kids can select one new book as a reward (up to 4 books), and also earn auction vouchers. There are extra challenges throughout the programme to earn more auction vouchers. Everyone who completes at least three reviews can use their vouchers to bid on prizes at the Finale.  * You can book by telephone or email too – as long as the paperwork is completed before the programme starts. 


Little Dog Barking Theatre Group – “Twinkle” suited for children aged two to eight. Duration is 45 minutes.

  •  Dannevirke Library :    9 January 1.30pm
  •  Woodville Library :       9 January 10.30am
  •  Eketahuna Library :    14 January 3.15pm
  •  Pahiatua Library :       15 January 10.30am

Kids learn to knit before winter!  Dannevirke Library only:


Zappo – magician extraodinaire!

One of the best children’s entertainners in NZ. Don’t miss this amazing free performance.

  •  Eketahuna Library :   Tuesday 8 January 2019 –  3.15pm to 4.15pm
  •  Pahiatua Library :      Wednesday 9 January 2019  – 10.30am to 11.30am
  •  Woodville Library :    Tuesday 15 January 2019  –  2pm to 3pm
  •  Pahiatua Library :      Tuesday 15 January 2019  –  4pm to 5pm

The impossible boy

‘The Impossible Boy’ by Leonie Agnew is set in an undisclosed European country in the midst of civil war. Six year old Benjamin is caught in a train explosion and his parents have disappeared and quite possibly died. Ben has an older childhood friend, Vincent, who takes him under his wing and finds an orphanage for him to live in. However, Vincent is mysteriously different. He is not possible. The orphanage is overcrowded with children to the point where as soon as they turn fourteen a child must leave and take their chances on the wartorn streets.

‘The Impossible Boy’ tells how the children cope with extreme stress and hardship. They resort to criminal activities in order to survive. It is a story of adversity, courage, friendship and belief.

Written for Year 7/8 and older children (11+), this story is disturbing, thought provoking and, above all, an amazing read. And yes, it does have a satisfying ending.

PS (The Impossible Boy won the David Fickling Master of the Inkpot Award 2015 and the Storylines Notable Book Award 2017)