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If you were a witch…

“The witchfinder’s sister” is Beth Underdowns’ debut novel based on the actual life of 1640s witch finder, Mathew Hopkins, as narrated by his fictional sister, Alice.

When Alice’s father is widowed, he quickly remarries as he has three sons and a daughter that need care.  His second wife has a son, but unfortunately, shortly after birth Mathew is burned in a fire. Scarred for life, he is a reticent child whose only friend is Alice as the three older sons have moved away.  Alice soon marries and moves to London, leaving Mathew to care for their mother, whose wits are addled.  Some years later, Alice is forced to return home when her husband is killed and she is with child – Mathew has inherited the family home on his mother’s death, and as the head of the household, now has authority over Alice.

In the intervening years, Mathew has changed a lot and Alice discovers he is now a feared witch finder. He has developed a method for identifying witches – such as refusing women sleep, tying them in uncomfortable positions for hours on end etc – which are effective at encouraging the women to confess their connections with familiars and the Devil.  Soon he forces Alice to be his assistant, examining the women for “marks” and supervising them during their, well, torture.  Alice doesn’t want to participate but she has little choice, being dependent on him for house and board.

As the story develops, the extent of Mathews ‘madness’ is gradually exposed until Alice is left in a very dangerous position that eventually puts her life in danger.  There is only one way out ….

This novel, based in fact and on “A confirmation of witchcraft and discovery” by John Stearne, gallops along at a steady pace, sprinkled with sufficient chilling incidents to put the reader on edge. The character development is very well done, and I definitely felt for Alice.

Those who like historical fiction, or are interested in paranormal events, will enjoy this book I think, as I did.  




ReAD to Win

Our ReAD to WIN Programme for High School students

Register from 4 December 2017

Teens! Now is your chance to win free stuff.  All you have to do is read library books to earn LIBcoins. There will be online challenges along the way to earn further LIBcoins.
The more you earn, the more you can spend at our online auction in January 2018.

For further details search @TararuaReadToWin on Facebook
#readtowin #dothemahigetthetreats


ReAD to WIN these prizes!



Share the love … from one pantry to another

‘Tis the season for giving… Tararua District Library is a collection point for local food banks during December 2017.

Pop into your local library with non-perishable food item donations, and give your community a helping hand (e.g. tinned vegetables, cereals, and other items).

Foods collected will be distributed as follows:

  • Dannevirke Library: Salvation Army Foodbank
  • Pahiatua Library: Pahiatua Help-n-Hand
  • Woodville Library & Service Centre: Woodville Pantry
  • Eketahuna Library & Service Centre: Eketahuna Foodbank


The last Tudor

In Philippa Gregory’s own words, “The Last Tudor” ‘may be the last novel about a Tudor woman that I write.’

The three Grey sisters (Jane, Katherine and Mary) were royal Tudor princesses descended from the sister of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor. They were cousins to Elizabeth I and rivals to her throne. “The Last Tudor” is separated into three sections. The first is told from Jane’s viewpoint, the second from Katherine’s and Mary has the final chapters.

Tudor England was rife with plots, treason and political rivalries. Women born into nobility and royalty were mere pawns in their families’ quests for power. Often they were caught up in treachery not of their own making or desire. Such was the case with the Grey sisters and Elizabeth I is shown to be as much a victim of plots and rivalries as her cousins. The difference was that, as Queen, Elizabeth had the power to do whatever she wished. She is shown as an intensely jealous but also insecure woman. She was spitefully unforgiving against her cousins and merciless in her persecution of their perceived rivalry. Truly, it is a miracle that English royalty survived after the Tudor period.

As always with Philippa Gregory’s books, this one is meticulously researched and extremely readable. Highly recommended.



Temporary closure

Our libraries will be closed for a few hours this Friday 17 Nov. 2017.  Our apologies for any inconvenience.

Libraries open at: Dannevirke 11am / Woodville 11.30am / Pahiatua 11.45am / Eketahuna 1pm



Brimstone is a movie starring Guy Pearce and Dakota Fanning.   Set in the North America frontier, in the days of the wild west, it’s ultimately the story of a young woman Liz (Fanning) who struggles to overcome severe adversity.

Liz is a mute, who lives in a frontier town with her farming husband, step-son and daughter. She is also the local midwife. A new Reverend comes to town, and Liz recognises him from her past … unfortunately, at that moment one of the congregation goes into labour, and Liz is faced with a difficult decision during the birth which results in her being made a pariah. The Reverend uses this as his excuse to inflict punishment on Liz … who he obviously has history with. At first, it’s just threats, but quickly escalates to extreme violence. Liz and her family are forced to flee but the Reverend is in pursuit.

Why does he have this hatred for her? We find out it’s not really to do with her midwifery skills at all. In fact, he’d had an altercation with Liz before in her past when she was working at a bordello, and she had fled from him then too. But that wasn’t their first encounter. As the movie proceeds, it seems unlikely that Liz is going to escape unharmed, but there are plenty of twists and turns in the tale.

The movie itself is divided into four chapters, but they jump around in time. That is, in chronological order, it’s presented as chapter three, two, one and four – and you’d think that this would be confusing or annoying, but it’s actually very intriguing, and easy enough to follow.

Personally I thought this was a great movie, reminiscent of ‘The Piano’ – hard to watch at times, but very well directed, superbly acted, and uplifting in places. I think it’s one of those movies that will stick in my mind for a while. My advice is don’t watch this movie if you’re faint of heart – it’s not gory as such, but it has some very cruel and sadistic scenes – R18 for a reason! But if you like the wild west, stories of triumph, drama, suspense, hope .. this is the movie for you. 4/5


sulfur: now chiefly in the phrases fire and brimstone, hellfire and brimstone, the torments of damnation to hell”

Mr Stink by David Walliams

This book is about a girl called Chloe, her parents and sister Annabelle and that is the Crumb family. So now introducing Mr Stink and Rosamund the bully this is what happens…..

Mr Stink is a wanderer and a vogabond and first gets seen by Chloe and about a week later she talks to him and soon the two become great friends, then another week after Chloe secretly smuggles him into their garden shed!

During all of this Mrs Crumb is running for president of the country soon she finds out what is going on and when she is invited to be on the television she fibs and pretends she was the one who invited him into the house but it was actually Chloe who did it. Something Chloe said was …………….why don’t you stick that idea up your bum (saying this to the current president. Then Mr Stink reveals his shocking past   but you will have to read the book to see what that is.

The end

PS This was my first time reading an e-book. I enjoyed this book because it was very funny and I read it in one night!

Written by Shawn aged 8

Children’s Summer Reading Programmes 2017

Summer Reading Programme  for children age 3 to school Year 6

Places are limited so you must book in your child. Registration opens by 20 November – check with your local library for dates. Programme runs 4 December 2017 to 12 January 2018.

Caregivers / parents must register the child.

Dannevirke Library is taking registrations from 2 November until places are full. 

This programme is designed to develop communication skills, confidence and self-esteem in children. 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. Four reports complete the programme.

Reports are limited to one report at a time, and up to two in any one week.  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 the programme is invited to our Finale to receive a certificate, free book, and enjoy some entertainment.

 iRead Programme  for children in school Year 7 or Year 8

Registrations open by 20 November – check with your local library for dates. Programme runs 4 December 2017 to 12 January 2018. Children may register themselves.

Dannevirke Library is taking registrations from 7 November until places are full.

Kids are required to write short reviews of library books that they have read (at their reading level).

Library staff or volunteers assess these reports; for every three reviews, they can select one new book as a reward. Some of these are the latest titles, and it’s possible to earn a maximum of four books.


Ngaio Marsh Award 2017 : best crime fiction

Dame Ngaio Marsh

The best New Zealand crime fiction finalists for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award in each category were as follows. Congratulations to the winners announced 28 October 2017 (who all receive a Ngaio Marsh Awards trophy and a cash prize) who are:





Nonfiction – Finalists

  • Double-Edged Sword (Simonne Butler & Andra Jenkin, Mary Egan Publishing)
  • The Scene of the Crime (Steve Braunias, HarperCollins)
  • The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie (David Hastings, AUP)
  • Blockbuster! (Lucy Sussex, Text)
  • In Dark Places (Michael Bennett, Paul Little Books)  WINNER

Novel – Finalists

  • Red Herring (Jonothan Cullinane, HarperCollins)
  • Pancake Money (Finn Bell, self-published)
  • Spare Me The Truth (CJ Carver, Zaffre)
  • Marshall’s Law (Ben Sanders, A&U)
  • The Last Time We Spoke (Fiona Sussman, Allison & Busby)  WINNER

Best first novel – Finalists

  • Dead Lemons (Finn Bell, self-published, available as eb00k)  WINNER
  • Red Herring (Jonothan Cullinane, HarperCollins)
  • The Ice Shroud (Gordon Ell, Bush Press)
  • The Student Body (Simon Wyatt, Mary Egan Publishing)
  • Days Are Like Grass (Sue Younger, Eunoia Publishing).


Read more about the winning entries here

Where do we come from? Where are we going?

Dan Brown, author of the DaVinci Code, has released a new title called ‘Origin’. Once again featuring Professor Robert Langdon, this time the action occurs within a two-day period.  Langdon is in Spain attending an event orchestrated by his former student, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch is a well-known magnate who is at the forefront of technical invention, and he has discovered something that he says will change the fundamentals of human existence. Something that involves the origin of our species.

A few days prior, Kirsch secretly revealed his discovery to three important religious leaders, to get their opinion on the impact of his discovery. By the evening of the event, two of the three have mysteriously died, and Kirsch doesn’t get through his presentation unscathed either.  The hostess, the beautiful Ambra Vidal (who also happens to be engaged to the Spanish Prince) and Langdon, with the help of Kirsch’s artificial intelligence ‘Winston’, race through the night to complete Kirschs’ presentation and ensure that his discovery is made known before his enemies destroy it forever.

As usual, there are a number of codes and puzzles to solve, hindrances and enemies to avoid or defeat.  In my opinion, although I enjoyed the science behind it and the ultimate “discovery” was very interesting and relevant, I felt the plot was simpler than normal with fewer twists and turns than Browns’ previous books –  or am I just learning to recognise his writing formula?  Nevertheless, worth the read because I always learn something from Professor Langdon and his exploits, and they certainly make you ponder…



“The Chemistry Book: from gunpowder to graphene, 250 milestones in the history of chemistry” by Derek B. Lowe

‘The Chemistry Book’ is one of a series of ‘milestone’ publications by Sterling Books. To date the series includes maths, physics, medicine, space, drugs, psychology, biology, engineering and law. From the few books that I have perused, all of the books in this series seem worth reading.

Derek Lowe

This is certainly the case with Derek Lowe’s Chemistry Book. Lowe is an industrial chemist, with nearly 30 years’ experience in various medicinal projects. My early impression was that he is a good researcher and writer, with a level of knowledge that only an industry insider in any given field tends to have. Lowe’s writing is so good and well-informed, that I thought he must have other publications worth reading. Indeed he does. He has columns in Chemistry World, and he has a popular blog, In the Pipeline which is so well written, even hilarious, that his writing is accessible to any educated person. The trick is to dance over the difficult terms and just enjoy the intellectual journey. Good writers like Lowe make this possible, hence their importance in science education. Something always sticks from this process: our brains make that possible. Getting educated is the main challenge, in a world so awash with information that it is difficult to differentiate signal from noise. This is where The Chemistry Book and its kind come into their own. You don’t have to be a chemist to get something out of it. I’m not and I read it from cover to cover.

Some basic markers of a good non-fiction book are: Contents – which should facilitate broad navigation; Introduction – which should give a good overview, with navigation pointers; Notes and Further Reading (or references) – which is probably the most important and should point readers to primary sources and areas for further exploration (poor referencing can be a major red flag); and a comprehensive Index – which should facilitate pinpoint navigation for specific items or subjects.

Derek Lowe’s book scores well in all of these areas. Indeed, while perusing his ‘Notes and Further Reading’ section, I spotted The Disappearing Spoon. I promptly borrowed and read it from cover to cover, delaying the Chemistry Book review by months. This created a conundrum in that the details of Lowe’s book are not fresh in my mind. But for review purposes, perhaps that’s not a bad thing. As time goes by, what sticks in our minds is the impact of various things we’re exposed to, with smatterings of cues that unexpectedly pop up for the remainder of our lives, leading us back to the original source. Lowe’s book is of that calibre.

This is a reference book that is not only accessible to lay readers, but which any serious chemist will almost certainly have on his or her shelves for light reading and occasional ready reference. Astute teachers will point students to it, and astute students will find a smorgasbord of ideas to pursue, in chemistry, science, history, and more.

Chemistry is literally the stuff of life. It occupies the middle ground between physics and biology. In this book, you will find snapshots on the discovery and development of various substances, from those familiar to you to more exotic or specialist substances. Along the way, you’ll learn something of the development of science, some of the people involved, and the role of contingency and sheer happenstance.

For example, Ferrocene (pp.370-371) was discovered in 1951 as an unplanned by-product of research into another substance. Ferrocene is an orange-red crystalline solid, the investigation of which “set off a wave of organometallic chemistry research” and widespread use in chemistry, resulting in the 1973 Nobel Prize for a couple of independent researchers. Lowe notes that “it seems strange that such a widely applicable type of compound had been missed for so long”. It turns out that the chemical precursor of Ferrocene when “distilled through an iron apparatus was known to clog the pipe with some worthless yellow-orange stuff. Thus, a Nobel Prize was scrubbed out with a brush and thrown away”.

Such happenstance is found in more familiar, everyday products, like Gore-Tex, which is used in the textile industry. Gore-Tex is essentially expanded PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). Most plumbers, engineers, farmers, and handymen know of PTFE, either by that term, or the term ‘teflon’ tape, or just thread-seal tape. In 1969, American chemist Robert W. Gore “was working with rods of PTFE, trying to carefully heat and stretch them, but he wasn’t getting very far…after yet another unsuccessful run, he gave the next heated rod a furious yank in frustration, then watched in amazement as it expanded to nearly eight times its original length. The rod’s diameter hardly changed, though, and experiments showed that ‘expanded PTFE’ was like nothing anyone had made in the field before. It was about 70 percent air and formed of very fine fibers in a porous net”. Apart from textiles, this material has found use in “wire and cable insulation for electronics, medical devices including implants and sutures, and more”. It transpired that New Zealander John W. Cropper produced a similar material three years earlier, “but the company that used Cropper’s material kept it a trade secret, filing no patents”, unlike Gore.

The history of science is full of such stories, which contributes to its fascination. Lowe’s book has more examples than can be done justice to in a brief review. As noted above, there are gems to be found even in the ‘Notes and Further Reading’ section. Your best bet is to read the book for yourself.

Reviewed by Steve

What if you could set the world on fire?

‘The Fireman’ is a contemporary novel by Joe Hill, set in a possible future where a fungal spore has infected humans. The prevailing theory is that global warming melted the polar ice and the spore was underneath it.

Regular people call it ‘Dragonscale’ because when you catch it, your skin starts to show black streaks and get scaly.  That’s not so bad – the worst part is that it causes uncontrollable spontaneous combustion, and many thousands are dying.

Harper is a nurse,  volunteering at a local hospital. She wears full body rubber suiting, and is very careful to follow all safety protocols, because no one seems to know how the disease spreads yet. After the hospital burns down, she retreats to her home to hide out with her husband Jacob.  After discovering she is pregnant, she also finds black streaks… Jacob is furious, and becomes more paranoid as time goes on. Eventually, he decides they must commit suicide together, because there is no hope…

Fortunately, Harper manages to escape and is guided to a camp of infected by a mysterious stranger dressed as a fireman. The camp is full of long-time infected, who have found a way to co-exist with the fungus. They sing to it … and the oxytocin released brings them into a state of being they call The Bright. The fireman explains that the spore feels what the host feels, so if the host feels happy and safe, the spore doesn’t harm the host … it’s only when the spore feels exposed that it may combust and create ash, which is how it transfers to a new host.

Everything is going very well, until the leader of the camp is attacked. His paranoid daughter takes over, and Harper feels increasingly in danger. The fireman, Harper, and a few friends are secretly planning to leave but when their ‘conspiracy’ is discovered, the leader of the camp takes very extreme measures.  All hell breaks loose, but in the chaos Harper manages to escape. After an arduos journey, she and the Fireman finally make it to the famed CDC treatment facility on a remote island, where a cure is being sought. But it’s not what they hoped for….

I enjoyed this novel.  It’s not really a horror, more a dystopia and with plenty of action, but also drama and a touch of romance, I think it would appeal to both men and women.


Maths is Fun 2017 – holiday programme

Maths is Fun children’s programme for October school holidays is open for registrations on Monday 11 September 2017.  It’s for children in Year 1 to Year 8 at school (or homeschooled). Children learn to enjoy maths by applying it to create and have fun. Places are strictly limited so register quickly.

Age groups are separated into four age-appropriate separate sessions each, depending on school years:

Level 1 = school year 1 & 2 (half day)
Level 2 = school year 3 & 4 (half day)
Level 3 = school year 5 & 6 (full day)
Level 4 = school year 7 & 8 (full day)


Woodville Library

  • Level 1 : Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 October ; 10am to 12.30pm both days.
  • Level 2: Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 October ; 1.30pm to 4pm both days.
  • Level 3: Wednesday 4 October ; 10am to 12.30pm, then 1.30pm to 4pm.
  • Level 4: Thursday 5 October ; 10am to 12.30pm, then 1.30pm to 4pm.

Eketahuna Library –

  • Level 1: Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 October ; 10.30am to 12.30pm both days.
  • Level 2: Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 October ; 1pm to 3.30pm both days.
  • Level 3: Wednesday 4 October ; 10.30am to 3.30pm.
  • Level 4: Thursday 5 October ; 10.30am – 3.30pm.

Dannevirke Library

  • Level 1 : Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon both days.
  • Level 2: Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October ; 1pm to 3.30pm both days.
  • Level 3: Wed 11 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon then 1pm to 3.30pm (bring lunch/drink)
  • Level 4: Thursday 12 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon then 1pm to 3.30pm (bring lunch/drink)

Pahiatua Library

  • Level 1 : Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October ; 1pm to 3.30pm both days.
  • Level 2: Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon both days.
  • Level 3: Wed 11 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon then 1pm to 3.30pm.
  • Level 4: Thursday 12 October ; 9.30am to 12 noon then 1pm to 3.30pm.

A little white lie never hurt anyone…

Set in Australia, ‘Big Little Lies’ by Liane Moriarty is the contemporary story of three friends, linked because all their five-year-olds have started school together. The novel starts sort of at the end, with the police investigating a mysterious death at the school Trivia Quiz. As they interview parents, in flashback the story begins to unfold about the consequences of a new friendship between three women…

Madeline is forty, with a rebellious teenage daughter from her first marriage, and a young son and daughter from her second marriage to Ed. To complicate matters, her first husband has moved nearby with his new wife and their five-year-old daughter has started at the same school.

Celeste is the beautiful wife of an extremely successful hedge-fund manager, Perry, and they have twin five-year-old boys. They live in a huge mansion on the waterfront, and have so much money Celeste doesn’t know what to do with it all. On the surface, their life looks perfect, but as the story progresses, we come to know that there is a very dark secret.

Jane is twenty-four and she recently moved because she is looking for someone … hoping and yet, not hoping, to find him.  Unfortunately, on his first day, five-year-old Ziggy is accused of bullying a little girl.  He is ‘convicted’ by public opinion, even though he swears he didn’t do anything, and other children are instructed to shun him. Furious at this treatment of her new friend, Madeline starts a cold war with the other mothers and the school is soon divided. As the school term progresses, the shennagins of the mothers continue while Jane is quietly trying to uncover the real truth.

Meanwhile, Celeste takes steps to achieve a better future.  But it’s a fine line she’s walking, and the consequences end up being extremely dire.

Also produced for television by Netflix, starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley.

Poetry competition entry 2017: View from above

 View from Above

Stars burn their bright fires

Above a world of steel and wires

Concrete acres sound nature’s knell

Would anything burn if the stars fell?


Elegant moon, cool and aloof

Glancing down on the city’s roof

What does she see of beauty or note

In the human playground, the land we smote?


Regal sun all ablaze

Can’t melt the plastic we ditch in our maze

Finding its way to the warming sea

To choke the life that should be free


Celestial bodies I cringe beneath you

To think of how we’ve spoiled your view

The land so changed, the sea so sullied

Bounteous earth so stripped and muddied


What beauty then do we commit

Worthy of being heaven-lit?

Art must be our saving grace

For you to look on from yawning space


Amid destruction we still create

Two thirsts, it seems, we cannot slake

And with painted image and written phrases

We still look up and sing your praises



© Beatrice Hudson