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Have you been to the land of Sinta?

First in the Kingmaker Chronicles, this is the fantasy debut by American-born Parisian, Amanda Bouchet. The main character Cat is a young woman of about 20 who is masquerading as a soothsayer in a circus to avoid detection by the Alpha Fisa (or Queen of the land of Fisa).  Why? Because she can do more magic than just fortune-telling. She is a once-in-two-centuries “Kingmaker”, whose magic is wild and unknown, and promise-of-firecan elevate a person to Alpha of their land, or even all the lands.  If she is caught again, she will be forced to use her abilities, and remain imprisoned for a lifetime.

Then along comes the very attractive warrior Beta Sinta (the second-in-command of the land of Sinta) who senses that Cat is more than she seems, and kidnaps her. On their journey back to the castle, Alpha Fisa tracks her down and attacks their party twice. Both times, Cat discovers magic she didn’t know she had. By the time they reach the castle Sinta, her loyalties are as confused as her feelings towards Beta Sinta.  Will she thrown in her lot with the Sintas? Can she escape Alpha Fisa forever?  And what has Beta Sinta become to her?

This is one of those novels that worms its way into your mind, and makes you think about the characters for weeks after finishing.  Bouchet did an excellent job of realising the characters, and world-building. Although it falls into the fantasy genre, anyone who loves a romance will probably like this even if they don’t normally like fantasy. It includes plenty of action, conniving and humour.  I’m chaffing at the bit to read  the second instalment, Breath of Fire, which is already out.    8/10



Royal rivalry

Philippa Gregory has, once again, meticulously researched her latest title “Three sisters, three Queens” and focussed on Henry VIII’s two sisters – Margaret, Queen of Scots and Mary, Queen of France – and his first wife – Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England. 

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory

The book is told from the viewpoint of Margaret, Queen of Scots and describes the dysfunctional sisterhood and great rivalry the three women shared. To be a woman in the 16th century was to acknowledge and accept the superiority of men in all areas of life. The book describes how the three Queens struggled to exert their independence while at the same time surviving political intrigue. They were in constant conflict, yet called on each other for support in their times of greatest need.

 A fascinating read and highly recommended for lovers of English history. 


Reviewed by Nikki

High Hitler! How drugs fuelled the Third Reich

‘Blitzed: drugs in Nazi Germany’ by Norman Ohler is an amazing book which rather defies description…principally, it’s a meticulously researched look at its subject, drugs in Nazi Germany. But it’s so much more, metaphorically. For me, it neatly encapsulated all the degeneracy and evil of that terrible twelve years of human history.

Initially, Blitzed describes the process of the drugging of practically the entire population of Germany. The Germans were at first willingly and later forcibly manipulated into a situation of unspeakable horror, all the while bombed out of their brains, (as well as their homes). Cynically, the fledgling Nazi regime launched a War On Drugs, (sound familiar?) but this was mere window-dressing.

blitzedNorman Ohler documents the process of this national doping, principally with an amphetamine drug marketed as Pervitin. This substance was manufactured in industrial quantities, and was freely available throughout much of the late 1930s. If the government says it’s OK, then it’s OK! Pervitin became vitally necessary during the war years, particularly for Hitler’s armed forces in the Third Reich.

On the home front, housewives gobbling amphetamine-laced chocolates fairly breezed through their domestic chores. Workers, faced with ever-increasing demands for the war effort, could never have coped without their little white pills. And of course the dictator’s soldiers and airmen would never have performed as astonishingly well as they did – at first – without Pervitin and a number of other uppers.

Ohler basically re-writes the story of the Nazi blitzkrieg, which the world witnessed with horror when France fell after only 11 days fighting. According to our author, who presents comprehensive evidence, this infamous military campaign consisted of the German land forces, right up to senior commanders, running amok in an amphetamine-crazed, almost random and ad-hoc assault on France.

Sure, the invasion plans were followed, but these plans were so quickly outstripped by unstoppable speed-soaked soldiery as to become practically redundant. Little wonder the hide-bound French commanders and politicians had absolutely no answer to it. They were never in the game, even though the Wehrmacht was in many departments poorly-equipped and inferior, compared to the mighty armies of France. And this was only the beginning.

The author offers an extraordinary look at the utter foulness of the Nazi leadership. Ohler’s Nero-esque portrait of the degenerate Hermann Göring is unforgettable. We meet Hitler’s personal quack Dr Theo Morell, who within a few years turned his Führer from a charismatic, teetotal vegetarian into a shambling, raving, drooling junkie.

Morell also administered his snake-oil substances to most of the sycophantic Nazi hierarchy, who were keen to be as zonked as their beloved Führer. High Hitler! Herr Doktor Morell pumped an astonishing amount of drugs and bizarre substances into the veins of his Patient A, many of them of his own invention. An example: Morell once treated Hitler for dysentery with “…the steroid glyconorm, a hormone preparation that he had manufactured himself, which consisted of extract of cardiac muscle, adrenal cortex and the liver and pancreas of pigs and other farm animals.” When this didn’t quite do the trick; (“Fuhrer very irritable,” Morell reported that evening), Morell administered another of his own concoctions, the recipe of which is quite revolting.

Ohler provides a partial list of the goodies that Morell injected into his Führer over just a few years. The list runs to ninety-one different substances, many of them very potent psycho-active, consciousness-changing drugs. Ohler’s contention is that Hitler’s narcosis was directly responsible for his insane decisions as supreme commander, decisions which led directly to disasters such as Stalingrad, the second Ardennes offensive, and at the end, the infamous and malevolent Nero Decree.

This extraordinary book reads almost like a horror/fantasy novel. I had to keep reminding myself that this is not fiction. Blitzed was a best-seller in the author’s native Germany, and is surely required reading for anyone interested in recent history.

I’ll leave you with Ohler’s vivid and macabre description of Hitler’s final act; his marriage to Eva Braun, followed by their suicides. “After the ghostly wedding ceremony spaghetti was served, with tomato sauce on the side, hydrogen cyanide for dessert and a bullet in the brain from a 6.35mm Walther.” Blitzed is an absolutely mind-boggling piece of work, highly recommended.

See if it’s available now


reviewed by Keith Smith

The Pretty Delicious Café …

I found this book to be a charming read by NZ author, Danielle Hawkins.   Nothing too strenuous , just what is needed to delve into while on holiday. 

the-pretty-delicious-cafeSet in a small rural seaside town in New Zealand, the novel’s central character is Lia, whose twin brother is about to marry her best friend and business partner, Anna.  Lia and Anna run a busy little café, and if you like food, the recipes and food mentioned throughout the book are sure to have your mouth watering.  There are some really likeable characters in this book, such as the twins’ slightly vague, new-age, hippy-ish mum. The very Kiwi-ness of this book resonates – the loveable, but slightly dis-functional family and the quirky depiction of life in small town New Zealand where everyone knows everyone. And did I mention the food!! There are recipes at the back of the book which I will be trying.

There is also, of course, the standard dose of romance that comes with my idea of a good holiday read.  All in all, a great light-hearted warm fuzzy kind of book.    I would rate it 7/10.



Review : Colonia


“Colonia is an R16 movie based on a true story set in ‘Colonia Dignidad’ in Columbia.  Colonia masqueraded as a religious cult operated by lay preacher Paul Schafer (Michael Nyqvist), but in actual fact, it was the prison of Pinochet’s secret police.

 Air hostess Lena (Emma Watson) and photographer Daniel (Daniel Bruhl) are a young couple in love, visiting Chile, when they get caught up in the Chilean military coup of 1973. When Daniel is arrested for taking photographs, Lena tracks him to Colonia and joins the cult to gain access to the compound.  She endures the strict conditions for many months before discovering what has become of Daniel, and eventually making contact with him.  They plot to escape, but their plans have to be advanced when Daniel is scheduled for execution.  You’ll have to watch it to see what happens next…

 I found this movie to be thrilling but also definitely a love story.  The relationship between Lena and Daniel is lovely to watch, woven between the action sequences.  I think it would appeal to both men and women, as it has something for everyone. It was also informative – I’d never heard of Colonia before.  Definitely worth a watch.


A bag of books for $1

Have we got a deal for you!  Buy one of our sturdy calico library bags for $5, and you can fill it to the brim with sale books for only $1 extra.

BUT only until 1pm Saturday 31 December 2016, the last day of our current sale.  Location: Dannevirke Library foyer, 1 Station Street.  Open 9am-5.30pm weekdays, 10am-1pm Saturdays.


Normally, sale items are $1 per hardback, 50c paperback, $1 DVDs – so that’s a great bargain!

See you


‘Twas the night before Christmas…

A visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around, santa
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)

Remembering: ‘Truce’ by Paul Muldoon


It begins with one or two soldiers

and one or two following

with hampers over their shoulders.

They might be off wildfowling

as they would another Christmas Day,

so gingerly they pick their steps.

No one seems sure of what to do.

All stop when one stops.


A fire gets lit. Some spread

their greatcoats on the frozen ground.

Polish vodka, fruit and bread

are broken out and passed round.

The air of an old German song,

the rules of Patience, are the secrets

they”ll share before long.

An artist's impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches"

An artist’s impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”


They draw on their last cigarettes

as Friday-night lovers, when it’s over,

might get up from their mattresses

to congratulate each other

and exchange names and addresses.

– Paul Muldoon

Hitler triumphant!

For those of us who continue to be interested in World War Two and its many ramifications, you may be interested in a book called ‘Hitler Triumphant : alternate histories of WWII’, edited by Peter Tsouras.  This book is a series of what ifs?   For instance, what if Winston Churchill has not been called to Buckingham Palace and asked to form a government in those very first days of the so called phony war? What if Lord Halifax, Neville Chamberlains, right hand man had been asked instead? It was, as they say a near run thing since the Royal Family and many of Churchill’s own conservative party loathed him. But good fortune prevailed. What if Hitler had not, rather stupidly, gone to war with Russia, thus having to deploy tens of thousands of men and much weaponry to a second front? And what if having taken on the enormous Russian Army he had actually beaten them at Stalingrad and elsewhere?

This book contains clever such ‘what ifs’, alternative versions of the history that unfolded in fact. Written by military historians, these pieces are no airy-fairy fiction but are scenarios  based on facts and possible outcomes if different decisions had been made at the time. I found the alternative versions of recent history most interesting, maybe you will too.

Previously heard on Radio Eketahuna

Larry Gordon


Note:  there are many alternative or imaginary histories available at the library, about all sorts of subjects!

What’s on during Summer School holidays 2016-2017?

Children and caregivers are warmly invited to attend the following FREE events:

Little Dog Barking Theatre Company is performing ‘The Little Kowhai Tree’ at each of our libraries. The story is told and sung in both English and Te Reo Māori.  Little Dog Barking performances are full of music, sounds, song and action, and is a wonderful introduction to theatre for young children.  For more information, click on links.

Eketahuna 16 December 2016 10.30am

Pahiatua 16 December 2016 1pm

Woodville 16 December 2016 3pm

Dannevirke 16 January 2017 1pm


String Bean Puppets are performing at each of our libraries. Puppeteer Anna performs lyrical string puppet shows, raucous slapstick Pulcinella shows, with interactive walkabout characters. Her performances are enjoyed by all ages from preschoolers to adults. For more information, click on links.

Eketahuna  5 January 2017 3pm

Dannevirke 12 January 2017 3.30pm

Woodville  13 January 2017 10.30am

Pahiatua 13 January 2017 1pm


We are also running our Summer Reading Programme and iRead programme, and there are places available at present.
SRP booklet The SRP is based around children orally “reporting in” which develops communication skills, confidence and self-esteem.

A report-in is a short (5 minute) oral summary of the story, and library staff or volunteers will discuss the story with the child. Rural children may report via email (written) if they are unable to visit the library. Reports are limited to one report at a time, and up to two in any one week.

Four report-ins are required to complete the programme.  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, a Finale is held, and each child who has completed the programme will receive a certificate and free book.

iRead Programme for children in school Year 7 or Year 8

iRead is based around written book reports. Library staff or volunteers will read and assess these reports and after the completion of 3 reports, the child may select a free book to keep.iRead Children may do a total of 12 reports and receive a maximum of four free books.

After 3 reports, the child qualifies to go into our district draw to win an Android tablet!

What was Jack Reacher up to in 1996?

Jack Reacher is back and I for one am very happy. I am a diehard Lee Child fan and I eagerly await his latest release, in this series, every year.

night-schoolThis book is a prequel; usually I am a little wary of authors who start to write prequels, it smacks of a lack of imagination and a need to pad out a storyline for an easy buck.  There is method in Mr Child’s madness though. This is the 21st Reacher book and year on year our hero is getting older – we all still want the thinking man’s action packed story, but simple maths means that Reacher will not be as sprightly as in years past.  By setting this in an earlier stage of the characters life, we have a good action packed story that doesn’t detract from or change the history we share with the Reacher.

Set in 1996, I must admit I found it hard to reconcile the lack of knowledge of computers and the internet that the book portrays, in my memory we have always been computer savvy and I can’t believe that the year before my daughter was born we were quite so much on the back burner. Nothing detracts from a good Reacher novel though and this was a cracker. Mr Child is back on point and delivering a fast-paced original story. I must say that his story content has changed over time. There is a lot more personal involvement and some quite graphic adult storyline at one point. I was quite shocked where Mr Child led us, and I’m not completely sure it was necessary to the overall storyline but all in all this was a good read that I flew through in less than a weekend.

For all those Reacher diehards this is a keeper and for anyone who doesn’t know this brilliant anti-hero, start at the beginning and catch up. You will not be disappointed.

7/10 Corinna


Kaikoura Earthquake 2016

Just after midnight last night, 14 November 2016, I was forcefully shaken awake by an earthquake that saw me dive under the nearest table.  After what felt like 2-3 minutes of rocking and rolling, it abated and I checked online to see which North Island area had been hit.  I was quite astonished to find that this magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Hanmer Springs in the South Island, which is quite a long way from Dannevirke.  Shortly after, the string of large earthquakes continued with several strong quakes at Kaikoura and Seddon, and several smaller one’s throughout the North Island from Taupo, White Island, and in Taranaki.

This video shows what it felt like in Wellington, with three scared cats:



The initial earthquake was felt strongly over all of New Zealand, and the radio was abuzz with concerned citizens from Dargaville to Dunedin, as there was absolutely no word from the epicentre for quite some time.  Eventually, it was ascertained that many homes were badly damaged or destroyed, and sadly two people have been killed (to date). There are still people missing however, and an unspecified number of casualties. News is still forthcoming as access to some areas has been cut off by landslides.




Site of one fatality

Earthquakes of various severity have continued almost non-stop since last night as you can see on the Geonet monitoring site.  A small tsunami of 1-2 metres struck the East Coast of the South Island around Kaikoura shortly after the quakes also.

New Zealand is a country sitting astride two tectonic plates of course, so this sort of thing is expected. Not many New Zealanders haven’t experienced earthquakes, and accept that this is the price we  pay to live in this little bit of paradise (doesn’t mean we have to like them though!).  Kiwis are aware that a “big one” can hit at any time, and our Government continually advises us all to have grab-bags prepared and stores of food/water.  Lessons have been learned from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, but inevitably, complacency sets in until we are harshly jolted into reality again.

Historically, there have been many big earthquakes before. The largest ever recorded in NZ was magnitude 8.2 in 1855 – of course, the Taupo Supervolcano would’ve caused tremendous earthquakes but that was 27,000 years ago, before recorded history.  These days Taupo is very closely monitored so that the NZ population will have plenty of warning before the next event ; in fact GNS Science (geoscience) has a research base there.

We hope everyone is coping with this difficult situation, and that the people close to the epicentres are being safely cared for. Let’s hope that the situation settles down again soon. Kia kaha.


Addendum: both North & South Islands of NZ have physically moved from this quake.



If you like ‘Humans’, you’ll like this

Nnedi Okorafor is an American African author and a professor of creative writing at the University of Buffalo, New York. The Book Of Phoenix is the stand-alone prequel to his novel ‘Who Fears Death’.

book-phoenixThe Book Of Phoenix begins in the near future, with the world partially drowned by global warming, but human life continuing to develop despite this. Okorafor paints a picture of a high-tech culture in what’s left of Manhattan, which is home to Tower 7. This unique building houses a centre of human/cybernetic genetic experimentation, run by the pitiless Big Eye corporation.

Big Eye enslaves people and ruthlessly experiments on them, producing high-tech prosthetics and even nanotech methods of procuring eternal life, which it sells to the world’s elite for mega-billions. Our heroine Phoenix is a product of this technology. She’s only two years old, but has the body and mind of an adult; actually she’s a super-woman, with unimaginable powers. Once Phoenix attains full knowledge of her capabilities, she realises that Tower 7 isn’t her comfortable home, it’s a prison.

Along with her friends Saeed and Mmuo, Phoenix devises a destructive escape from Tower 7, the story takes off, and so does Phoenix herself, pursued by the dreaded Big Eye. Phoenix and her friends begin a war against Big Eye, and become terrorist outlaws, hunted around the world.

Nnedi Okorafor has a stripped-down style, she employs short sentences and chapters, and often addresses the reader personally. Her main characters are African and Arabian, and a large part of the story is set in Africa. Phoenix is the most original book I’ve read in 2016, (so far), and really defies categorization. Part sci-fi, part folk tale, part horror, part parable…this book will be interpreted differently by every reader. Personally, I found it a compulsive page-turner.


Reviewed by Keith Smith

Kids Summer Reading Programmes 2016

srp-2016-page-1Our Summer Reading Programme is designed for children aged 3 to 10 years (or Year 6 in school) to give a spoken “report” on books, which develops communication skills, confidence and self-esteem.

Registrations open 14 November, and finish when the (limited) places are filled. The programme folders will be given out from 21 November, and the SRP (report ins) start from 5 December 2016.  Parents must register their children  – children may not self-register.

A report-in is a short (5 minute) oral summary of the story, which the child gives to library staff or volunteers.  Our expectations of report-in quality depends on the child’s age and personality – we want to make reading fun, not scary!  It’s a discussion about the book basically, we don’t expect a speech.  Rural children may send written book reports via email if they are unable to visit the library.

Four report-ins are required to complete the programme, and children receive a small incentive gift after each report. They may complete a fifth bonus report if they wish. At the end of the programme, a Finale is held, and each child who has completed the programme will receive a certificate and free book.

Reports are limited to one report at a time, none on Saturdays, and up to two in any one week. If you are traveling, you can report in at any other East Coast library participating.

For more information, please contact your local library.


iread-2016The iRead programme is for kids in Year 7 or 8 at school.  They are required to do written book reports, which develops communication skills, confidence and self-esteem.

Registrations open 14 November, and finish when the (limited) places are filled. The programme booklets will be given out from 21 November, and the SRP (report ins) start from 5 December 2016.  Children or parents may register for this.

A written report is usually a summary of the story in the child’s own words.  Our expectations of report quality depends on the child’s age and reading level – we want to make the experience fun, but also develop literacy skills.  Rural children may send written book reports via email if they are unable to visit the library.

After every 3 reports, the child may choose a free book to keep  – up to a maximum of 4 free books. Every report also allows the child to enter our district draw for a free tablet.

For more information, please contact your local library.


Both these programmes are provided with support from the Eastern & Central Community Trust.


The Moon – an owners’ workshop manual

‘Moon: from 4.5 billion years ago to the present’ by David M. Harland (2016)

moon-workshopHaynes Owners’ Workshop Manuals are reputable, usually covering vehicles. This makes one about the Moon eye-catching. It does not disappoint. It is not just comprehensive, but easy to read. Even its graphics of such things as lunar movement and related mechanics are understandable.

In reviewing the development of our understanding of the Moon, Harland touches on its huge influence in human culture. We see the history of idea development; the overlap between the history of astronomy, technology, science and religion; the distinction between science and ideology; and the social context of these.

This book should appeal to a wide range of people, from casual readers to students of areas such as astronomy; geology; the history, philosophy and sociology of science (they inseparably overlap); and more. For those who grew up with the ‘space race’ and lunar exploration, this area is well covered, right up to recent findings.

There appear to be some errors from the editing phase (e.g. p.66), but otherwise the only criticisms I might have are that it lacks an index – which is ironic, as Haynes car manuals have indexes – and a list of further reading. However, in the age of the internet, neither reduces the information value of this book.  Find it in the library here.

reviewed by Steve