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A handful of reviews…

I’ve been collecting library books to take with me on holiday but over the weekend I decided that maybe 6 books would be a bit much. I wanted to read them and if I wasn’t taking them with me I had to start now, so I cracked into my pile.

I managed to find 4 brilliant books that I have sailed through in the last week. It’s a really eclectic mix of genres. I don’t have a favourite genre, or author. I will try any book that catches my fancy. But I have learnt through the years that if I want to read all the books I like I have to be honest with myself and stop if it doesn’t grab me. I had great fun reading and reviewing these four books.

‘Medicus and the disappearing dancing girls’ by R S Downie

I love historical novels. I always assume, rightly or wrongly, that the writer has done a lot of research for me and therefore I am getting both a story and a history lesson, and I’m all for multitasking. This book is set in Roman Chester, just as Hadrian becomes Emperor. It’s a mystery and a look into the everyday life in a Roman camp and town. It’s very relatable to modern life. The medical procedures seem so modern – cataract removal, amputations and the like. The characters are interesting if a little one dimensional. They certainly have similar problems to us, but it’s the window to another time that always interests me. The book is written as if set in the now and there is an element of surprise for the reader at things like the letter writing and postal service. I look at our current inability to get a letter from the UK to NZ in any reasonable time and marvel that the Romans had a system that seemed to work better and quicker. It’s a gentle and low angst novel with easy writing, that rolls along, carries you to a conclusion and a desire to know more of the characters life. Really, however much time passes, the trials and tribulations of day to day life are really not that different.

Jack Four’ by Neal Asher

I’ve been wanting to find a good science fiction novel for a while. I remember the dystopian novels of my teens and the stories of Harry Harrison, and I have yet to find something that is comparable. Times change and story tastes change too, and maybe my memory is not as good as I think it is. I sometimes find modern sci-fi too complicated and twisted for my brain to understand and I think the authors try to make it as complex as they can, in an attempt to seem thought provoking and intellectual. I need a book I can understand. I have almost no ability to imagine a scene or concept from books, so elaborate descriptions can limit my enjoyment.  To give you an earworm for the day, every time I see this author’s name I hear the Cornershop song in my head, brimful of asher, but that’s beside the point.

When I saw this book by Neal Asher, I was intrigued enough to have another go at the genre. I thought this was the first book in a series but research (ever a librarians friend) shows me that it is fact book 18 of a series with many characters around a central theme.

Jack Four is a clone who comes into existence with several others, devoid of memories or consciousness, but who finds he knows things that his fellow clones obviously don’t. I particularly liked that the author started the writing as if the clone was learning and thinking as he went. The writing was almost childlike and one dimensional and then as you progress through the story, his consciousness grows, and his ability to analyze and consider grows with the narrative. It’s subtle and you only realise it after you’ve been reading for a while. When I started I was disappointed in the writing style, but then I ‘got it’. There are some great twists and turns throughout the story, with an ending that leaves you wanting more adventures from the main characters. At times it is an adventure book, with lots of gory action, as well as being really farfetched but fun. But by mid-way it was unputdownable and certainly worth the read. So much so that I have earmarked some other Asher books to read, although sadly, not in the correct order, which is a little upsetting.

Strange Sally Diamond’ by Liz Nugent

I’m in an awesome book club, surrounded by more English people than Kiwis and it’s always a lot of pressure to find a book that we will all enjoy or at least have fun talking about. I am on the lookout always for my choice and I stress about the book until after the meeting. To be honest, the cover on this one interested me and the synopses intrigued me. It started out with a smile and a giggle. Sally is strange, straight forward, without guile, and has led a sheltered life with her parents. At age 42 her world explodes after she takes something her father said literally. This opens a can of worms no one saw coming, especially not the reader. From there we are taken on a difficult journey that is both uncomfortable and confronting. You will not like all the characters, you will not like decisions made or paths chosen, and you will not be very impressed with the ending but golly the journey through this book will make you stop and think. I read it in a day. I’m not sure how to frame questions for my book club but I will enjoy the discussions that will follow – it will be polarizing and there will be lots to say about the various characters. It is different enough from the usual thriller/mystery to set it apart and mark it as a good read. The reviews are all outstanding and I came away liking Sally more and more. Maybe simple and uncomplicated is the best way to go. I certainly would like to live without a filter sometimes.

Beggars Belief’ by Gerald Diffey

Sometimes you pick up a book for no other reason than just because. You read a passage or two and think, “hmm, that’ll do”. And when you sit down to read it properly you are blown away by the beauty, the prose and the overall feel of the words. Some people can pull you into a feeling, a memory or an idea with just a mix of letters on a page. I love this book. I may even buy myself a copy. Mr Diffey has written a book of anecdotes, memories and recipes that transport you, not to a place, or a different time but to a sense of joy, a feeling of life lived and a general sensation of happiness. I cried in happiness, in a memory of a happy time, unrelated to the story but nudged by the writing. There is no rhyme or rhythm to the writing, the book seesaws through the consciousness of Gerald and yet you are given a profound sense of peace and contentment. You don’t need to read this book from front to back, you can open it anywhere and get the same reaction. I am a bit old school, so follow the reading rules but I think this could be a book you tuck in your bag and dip into whenever you like. I’m seriously waxing lyrical with this one but its such an unassuming little book to look at and it could so easily be missed in the melee of bright covers and fancy titles. Maybe that’s the attraction, something hidden in a modest cover that holds such a rich centre. It’s not going to take long to read but I know it will stay with me far longer. I am going to drive everyone crazy telling them to read it. And then I shall panic that they won’t get the warm fuzzies I did, I want people to love this book as much as I do. But I have to remind myself, everyone’s reading journey is different and what one person gets from a book may be very unlike from what someone else gets. Nevertheless, let’s hear it for all the beige books out there that no one notices or borrows. They could be hiding more than you imagine.

Until next time. Corinna C.


Review: Mrs Jewell and the wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders

This historical novel is based on a true story, which makes it all the more fascinating. The General Grant sailed from Melbourne, bound for England, on 3 May 1866 carrying 83 passengers and crew. The main character, Mrs Mary Jewell, is a recent bride and her husband, Joseph, has signed on as an able seaman and she as a stewardess. Joseph spent some time in the gold diggings in Australia, and found enough for them to purchase a small farm in England so the future looks bright.

Unfortunately, on 14 May 1866, the ship wrecked on the sheer rocks of Auckland Island, to the south of New Zealand.  In the confusion and frigid waters, only 15 people survived – 4 passengers, and 11 crew (including Joseph and Mary, the only woman). After several days fighting the rough waters they managed to find a place to land. Then began a perilous and miserable 18 months on a group of islands offering little in the way of shelter and sustenance, far away from any shipping lanes and chance of rescue.

This fictionalised account focuses on what it must’ve been like for Mary, a lone woman amongst 14 desperate men. Especially in the mid 1800s when women had few rights. She could offer little towards their survival, and was a source of temptation. Sanders does a wonderful job evoking the bleak conditions, the unsavoury characters, and the behaviour expected of a Victorian era woman. One can’t help but be drawn into the story, and Mary’s plight.  Certainly, she must have been a very strong, resilient and determined woman.

Obviously, some of the 15 survived … or there would be no story to tell.  No one really knows the true story of what went on – there were even rumours of cannibalism – but Sanders writes a believable tale. To this day, the General Grant has not been located, although many continue to search for the wreck because of the purported $8 million of sunken gold.

If you like historical fiction with a dollop of action, angst and romance, this story will be enjoyable. It is also a finalist in the Ockham NZ Book Awards 2023 so it’s not just me that thinks it’s good!


Auckland Islands [source
C. Hewett
Mr and Mrs Jewel dressed in sealskin, survivors of the wreck of General Grant, Auckland Islands, 1866


The first inhabitants of this area were the Maori people, the Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui a Rua. They named it Eke = to embark upon, run aground + tāhuna = gravel bank, boulders or stones. As in, their waka (canoe) ran aground on a sandbank and couldn’t travel further. It was a good camping place, with Makakahi River providing water. [Source:]

To the south is the Wairarapa; to the north is the current Tararua District (back then, partly Wairarapa and partly Hawkes Bay); to the east is the Puketoi Range with the coast beyond, and to the west is the Tararua Range with Manawatu beyond. In the 1870s the area was referred to as part of Te Taperenui a Whatonga (the great playground of Whatonga) or part of the Seventy Mile Bush (or more specifically, the Forty Mile Bush which included Eketahuna and extended north to Woodville).

In the 1870s, Sir Julius Vogel began a new scheme to open up the interior of New Zealand. Many of the workers employed in this scheme were Scandinavian immigrants, who arrived on the ship “Forfarshire” in Wellington Harbour. Although there were Europeans in the general area from 1870, it wasn’t until late 1873 that the township was officially “founded”. The Scandinavians took up residence in Eketahuna, which they briefly called Mellemskov (Heart of the forest), and began the difficult job of clearing the dense forest, with the goal of eventually linking Wairarapa with Hawkes Bay.

A large area of the Forty Mile Bush was opened for settlement after 1893 and soon small communities were established around Nireaha, Newman (2 miles north), and Hukanui (7 miles north).  The railway, 141 km (88 miles) from Wellington, reached Eketahuna in 1889, but didn’t extend further north to Woodville until 1897.

Within a few years, a thriving community existed. There was a public school, a post & telegraph office, a railway station, Masonic lodge, Court house, solicitor’s office, and hall. The newspaper ‘Eketahuna Express‘ launched 1894 and published until 1939. In 1896 the ‘Eketahuna Minstrel and Dramatic Society’ offered local entertainments. The Bank of New Zealand branch opened twice a week. Doctor J. H. Murray-Aynsley set up a surgery. There were many trades – coachbuilders, wheelwrights and blacksmiths, tailors, tobacconist and confectionary shops, hairdressers, tent maker, jeweller, plumber, boot/shoe makers, butchers, several general stores, bakers, a chemist and a livery.

There was no shortage of accommodation either. The Eketahuna Hotel, a modest 20 room establishment, was the first in the town, run by Frank Pelling. In 1883 John Carter purchased an existing hotel which was renamed Carter’s Temperance Hotel, with 40 rooms available at 6 shillings a day. The Railway Hotel (run by Mrs Lowe) was near the station, and had 18 rooms. There was also the Club Hotel and the Universal Hotel.

“It cannot fairly be said that Eketahuna strikes the stranger as one of the earth’s beauty spots, and yet on a closer acquaintance it is not difficult to find really beautiful natural scenery. Quite close to the town winds the Makakahi River, and the great basin it has scooped out for itself … is being cultivated, and is, of course, most fruitful ground, the soil being a rich alluvial deposit with a substratum of shingle.” [Source: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand]

Aerial-Eketahuna-Wairarapa-Eketahuna looking North by Steve Bicknell

Eketāhuna has become synonymous with the stereotype of a small remote rural New Zealand town. It is a very small village of about 4.15 km2 (1.60 sq mi), with urban residents numbering approximately 400 as at 2023. However, it is still an important service town to the surrounding rural farming area, which covers about 892km2 (344sq mi). It’s a great wee wonderful town, filled with friendly locals who are proud of their town and heritage. Also, nearby is Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, a sanctuary for native wildlife (chiefly birds) located on a remnant of the 40 Mile Bush. On March 10-12, 2023, the town is celebrating 150 years of European settlement.

There are several publications about the town, such as “A goodly heritage: Eketahuna and Districts, 1873 to 1973″ by Irene Adcock or ‘Eketahuna: stories from small town New Zealand” by Peter Best. Many images can be found at Digital NZ


Review: ‘Win’ by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben, like Robert Crais, wrote a series with a main protagonist and his trusty, slight crazy side kick. Throughout both these authors early books the side kick provided support, insight and a touch of rule breaking, but stayed very much in the back ground. Robert Crais evolved this character into the arguably more interesting Pike, who now has his own series of books, which I have to tell you are very much worth checking out. Not to be outdone Harlan also wrote a book about the side kick.

From earlier books I remember Win as being possibly a sociopath or at least a psychopath, but also an interesting if somewhat two dimensional character.  In this book he takes the lead, never apologizing for his wealth, privilege or lack of caring for the bad guy. Even if you haven’t read any of the Myron Bolitar books (why haven’t you?), you will enjoy this book.

If you like a well written, whodunnits, with twists, turns and depth, here you are!. I don’t think there is anything Mr Coben hasn’t written well. If you don’t know this author, or Robert Crais, expand your authors today. I read this book in one night. It is a fast paced unputdownable book. Just the thing for a weekend.

by Corinna C.

Review: The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey

What a great read! A Gothic tale set on an Otago farm written by New Zealand author, Catherine Chidgey.

Catherine Chidgey

Tama the magpie – short for Tamagotchi – narrates the story of Marnie and Rob on their Otago farm. Tama is Marnie’s surrogate baby. She rescues him when he falls from the nest. Taking him in following the tragic end to her own pregnancy. Nurturing him, teaching him, loving him. He is her friend and confidante.

Rob is a hard man. A champion axeman with nine gold axes on the wall and hope for a tenth in the up-and-coming carnival. He desperately needs to win.

But the farm is failing…Marnie tries so hard to lift Rob up, to tell him it’s going to be OK – that’s it’s just the season, the weather, the economy, that things will pick up… but things are not picking up. And Rob’s reaction to this is brutal.

Tama, the great observer and mimic, tells the story using all of the language he hears around him. He is the hard-done-by farmer, the television detective, the mother, the sister, the tourist. His narration is dark, ironic. He is thoroughly entertaining and completely lovable.

I read this book over a weekend. I’m a slow reader but it’s an easy, if disturbing, read. I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Becky Manawatu’s “Aue!” – as though this is a pakeha version of that. I enjoyed Chidgey’s observations of people – perhaps especially the mother – what an awful woman! I like the style of writing. She isn’t vague – she doesn’t leave you wondering “what went on there”. She’s not trying to be deep and meaningful, and the story hits home more effectively because if this.

If you can cope with Tama’s mimicked profanity, this is a great read.

by Peggy M.

Review: Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke

Claire Emerson is not having a great time at the 60th birthday party her daughter-in-law has organized.  The only good thing is when her little grandson gifts her a beautiful pendant that doubles as a magnifier.  Which is lucky because her grandson takes her four pairs of reading glasses home with him (she doesn’t need them now she has the magnifier!).

While reading the paper with the pendant, she sees a strange address appear – but it’s not visible without the pendant.  “That’s it”, she thinks, “I’ve got dementia”.  But with nothing better to do, she takes a walk to this strange address and finds a hidden cottage in the woods, protected by high gates with a gargoyle atop. When the gargoyle comes to life and uses the pendant to open the gates, she puts it down to the sudden dementia.  Even more so when a gorgeous werewolf greets her, and says that she is now Crone – one of a select group of four witches who serve the Morrigan – and he is her protector.

Cover image

Apparently Claire has always been a witch, but she didn’t know it.  Or maybe she did, and didn’t want to admit it. In either case, turning 60 has released more power and she has been chosen by the Morrigan to protect the Earth. The only trouble is, she has no idea how to use her power or even what her powers are. And her enemies are not going to wait for her to find out.

The gargoyle and the wolf have their work cut out because Claire is a stubborn woman, and she doesn’t intend to stay under their protection at this cottage. Which, I might add, is actually a castle on the inside. After all, she left Merlin, her cat, home alone! Events only escalate from there.

This paranormal novel is the first in the Crone Wars series.  It was a fun read, fast paced, and I enjoyed it. A touch of action, magic, humour and sexiness. Highly recommended if you enjoy authors like Darynda Jones or Nalini Singh.

by Natalie R.

Review: Kika and me: how one extraordinary guide dog changed my world by Amit Patel

How would you feel if you were told you might go blind due to a medical condition just after you had qualified as a doctor?

“Kika and me” is an amazing book about how Amit Patel’s life was changed after he lost his sight, almost overnight. After learning to cope mentally with the changes in his life, he began to regain his confidence moving about his world with his white stick.

Then when he signed up for a guide dog, his life would be transformed for the better. Amit quickly realized how the rest of the world treated visually impaired people or VIP’s, and how much anger and impatience was aimed at his guide dog. The results gave him focus and a will to change the perception and treatment of VIP’s on the public transport system in the United Kingdom, as well as opening up buildings and places of worship for the visually impaired.

He is a fierce campaigner for better systems, greater understanding and more sponsorship of guide dogs.

Throughout his journey he was supported by his wife and family, and was determined that his son would never miss out on experiences because his dad was blind.

This book is a full of joy, tears and determination. One man’s journey of understanding and his refusal to be limited by his disability. At the end of the book Amit talks about his drive round the Top Gear race track in a reasonably priced car. It is humbling to not only see the faith he had in his co-driver but also the faith his co-driver had in him.

Watch the video of the lap or see how Kika works.

by Corinna C.

Cover image.

Author review: Kate Quinn

I’ve been enjoying Kate Quinn’s books. I started with The Alice Network, which I found in our Libby audiobook collection, but we also have it as an e-Book and a print book.

Ms Quinn’s earlier works are about Rome. She has a series The Empress of Rome which I haven’t read. In her later novels she writes about women in wartime – women in dangerous situations, putting their lives on the line for their country. Her works fiction loosely based on fact.

The Alice Network was an actual spy ring, run by the Queen of Spies, Louise de Bettignies in France during WWI. Quinn’s Alice Network takes Eve, a spy from that network and teams her up with Charlie, a young American socialite searching for her cousin who went missing during WWII. The story switches between the current setting of 1947 and Eve’s WWI experiences. It tells of the knife edge on which the spies balanced and savage treatment of those exposed. It adds a little romance to help the medicine go down.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the narrator on the audio book is great.

The same narrator reads for all of Quinn’s books, so her voice becomes quite familiar. I am now on my third, The Huntress having listened to The Rose Code.

The Rose Code tells a story of the women of Bletchley Park, the famous home of Britain’s WWII codebreakers. Three women from completely different backgrounds give us a wider view of wartime Britain. But it is after the war that things come to a head and the women reunite in the hunt for a traitor who they’d thought was one of their own.

The Huntress is a Nazi war criminal. A murderous woman determined to hide her past. She is in turn hunted by a tiny group of three who want to see her brought to justice. It follows a female Russian pilot, a member of the Red Army’s legendary Night Witches….. I am still in the middle of this, so that’s all I can say for now!

If you like a good war story…

If you like stories about fearless women in tough situations…

If you like to experience all this from the safety of your armchair…

I recommend some Kate Quinn

By Peggy McConnell

Kate Quinn

Review : Ed Kemper, conversations with a serial killer : the shocking true story of the Co-Ed Killer / Dary Matera (Sterling, 2021)

True crime is of great interest to a lot of people, myself included. Why?  It’s fascinating to get into the mind of monsters, and also, a great way to learn how to avoid becoming a victim! This book is a biography of Edward “Big Ed” Kemper, a 6’9” tall, 280 pound killer (2.06m tall, 127kg) who landed in prison at the age of 25.

As a fifteen-year-old, Ed shot and killed both his grandparents, and spent six years in a mental institution. Seemingly ‘cured’ he was released and successfully had his record sealed. He coped in the real world for nine years, and then began killing again – picking up college girls who were hitchhiking (this was the 1970s) and murdering them, then raping their corpses, beheading them (and keeping the heads for a while), and dismembering/discarding the rest. He claimed to have cannibalized some also. Ed wasn’t very careful – he was physically conspicuous, drove a large bright yellow vehicle, carried body parts around in full view (in boxes and bags) and didn’t even attempt to obliterate any forensic evidence. He kept trophies in his room.  But even so, it was a shock to everyone who knew him (except his family) when he confessed. After all, he was a police groupie, hanging out in with local law enforcement in their favourite bar. He seemed mild mannered and cheerful, a gentle giant.  

At the time these crimes were committed, there were other serial killers active in the area, and it was also during the time of the Manson Family. But Ed’s claim to fame is that he “taught women not to hitchhike” as he said he picked up hundreds, but only chose a few to murder, often in pairs.

Ed gave himself up, which is fortunate because he had left the State where he’d murdered 10 people and was on the lam – no one had any clue that he was a murderer. But he stopped in a small town and called the police. In fact, he was so determined to confess that he called them three times because they thought he was a crank caller. They only believed he was the real deal when he told them to go to his mother’s house, where they found her body and that of her female friend.

After a trial in which his defense tried to paint him as insane, he was found sane, guilty and sentenced to eight life sentences. He has been declined parole many times, often at his own insistence. However, he has been a model prisoner, assisting the FBI at times and also recording hundreds of audio books for the blind. And he’s still in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville at the time of writing in early 2023, after 50 years confined, and is now 73.

If you want to really get inside the mind of someone truly depraved, but also highly intelligent and cognizant enough to understand themselves at least somewhat, this is an excellent read.

by Natalie

Christmas Colouring Competition 2022

For residents of Tararua District, NZ, only. **NOW CLOSED**

There are two categories – age 12 & under ; age 13 & over. Win the prize & the glory!

Download the PDF form (double sided) and return to your nearest Libraries Tararua by 9 December 2022 (or scan it to Remember to include your name, age and contact details.

WINNERS as judged by public vote

Dannevirke: Natalia Paterson, Owen Paterson, Bella Rainey, Sophie Waller

Woodville : Eve Sowry, Pearl Cunningham, Wyatt Erskine-Neill 

Pahiatua: Chelsea Mack, Stenson McDonald, Jemma Aitken, Isla Sims

DANNEVIRKE: entry by Owen Paterson
DANNEVIRKE: entry by Sophie Waller
DANNEVIRKE: entry by Natalia Paterson
WOODVILLE : entry by Pearl Cunningham
WOODVILLE: entry by Eve Sowry
WOODVILLE : entry by Wyatt Erskine-Neill
PAHIATUA entry : Librarian Wyn (left) with 13+ winner Chelsea
PAHIATUA entry: librarian Wyn with one of the winners, Isla Sims.

Unfortunately, we do not have copies of the entries of the other two Pahiatua winners.

14th Annual TDL Children’s Book Awards Quiz: 2022

On Wednesday 28 September, we enjoyed being able to hold our annual children’s quiz in person again. The questions were all based on finalist books from the NZ Children’s Book Awards. Teams from Eketahuna, Woodville and Pahiatua met at Pahiatua Library, and northern teams at Dannevirke Library.

Last years winners, Ruahine School, fought valiantly and got top marks of the northern group, but were overtaken by this years winners, Eketahuna!

Eketahuna Yellow team got 51 points, Ruahine Reading Rangers 44, and Eketahuna Black team 40. The Champions will receive an individual book prize, books for their school, and possession of the trophy for a year. Congratulations! And thank you to everyone who participated, including the parents, teachers and library staff involved.

Eketahuna School yellow team – the 2022 Champions!
Runners up – Ruahine School
All the southern teams at Pahiatua Library
All the northern teams at Dannevirke Library
Pahiatua School team
Woodville School team

Review: ‘The long weekend’ by Gilly Macmillan

“Three couples. Two bodies. One secret”.  Now that caught my eye!  This novel is about three couples who decide to spend a weekend away in a remote converted barn, in the English countryside. At the last minute, all three husbands pull out for the first night so the three wives head off to spend Friday night up there alone.  When they arrive, they are greeted by a gift with a note from Edie, another wife from their group whose husband died recently – she says she is not coming as she knows she’s not welcome, and by the time they read her note, one of their husbands will also be dead!

Not knowing whether this is a cruel prank or not, panic ensues and two of the women head out into the cold stormy night to find a cell signal, to no avail. Trapped due to the brutal weather, they don’t know what is going on with their husbands. The situation causes some of them to unravel.

Meanwhile, Edie’s seventeen-year-old daughter requests an early pick-up from camp due to anxiety. She is collected and taken home, presumably by Edie, who is annoyed because her carefully crafted alibi is ruined. Also, there is a body in the boot…

Back at the barn, one of the wives has set off again, down the flooded and rutted hill track to find the farmhouse. After a harrowing journey she manages to alert the authorities to what is going on. By the next morning, all the wives are heading home where they find two of the husbands. But at least one of those husbands has a secret…

There are at least three twists in this book, and characters who aren’t who you think they are. Except for the unusually abrupt ending, I enjoyed it very much.  If you like thrillers, especially ones where you can’t guess the endings, this is for you! 8/10


Review: “Lily: a tale of revenge” by Rose Tremain

For some reason, I’d never read a book by Rose Tremain before.  Which is odd, because I do like historical fiction and she’s a famous author. In any case, recently I listened to a podcast about Jack the Ripper, so when I saw this title, it piqued my interest as it is set in the 1880s too. Immersing myself in that time period appealed, so I dove in and I’m glad I did.

In 1850, a tiny baby girl is abandoned in a park on a frigid winter’s night. Saved by a police constable, he delivers her to the London Foundling Hospital where she is christened Lily Mortimer. Her first six years are happy, living with a loving farming family, treated as a little sister by the three sons.  Unbeknowst to her though, at the age of six she must be delivered back to the Hospital, where she will work for the nurses and be trained for a life of service. Obviously, this separation was fraught for both sides and left young Rose traumatized. It was made that much worse by the attention of a particular nurse, Maud, who was not only perverted but sadistic. She took a particular interest in young Lily.

After a miserable childhood, teenage Lily is fortunate to have secured a place in a wig making emporioum and she embarks on a quest to trace her biological mother. Along the way, she is assisted by the police constable who found her as a baby, and by her employer.  During this process, she visits the Foundling Hospital again where she is horrified to discover Nurse Maud still present. There seems little choice but to exact revenge, even though it may ruin the rest of her life …and for the rest, you will have to read it yourself!

This was a very well written story, true to the era, and sprinkled with interesting historical facts. Lily was a sympathetic character, and I hope that she may appear in a future tale.

If you like historical mystery, or sagas, this one will satisfy you.


Taituarā — Local Government Professionals Aotearoa SURVEY

The role of the public library and librarians has changed considerably from being a book lending service  to providing a range of services,  programmes, events, and collaborations with a range of stakeholders and partners. More libraries are becoming vital community hubs providing access and support to community members, with innovation being the key to attracting  new readers to the library. 

Taituara has established a partnership with Public Libraries NZ (PLNZ) to improve  how public libraries demonstrate the value that their contributions make to their communities.  

Please take this survey which asks different questions, depending on whether you use the library or not.   

Survey Link (allow 5-10 minutes)

The individual results  will be fed back to each council which should be useful in future planning. The full report will not list individual results. Thank you.

2022 Poetry Competition : Winner

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who submitted a poem to our competition. We had 26 entries, and the standard was very high. Secondly, congratulations to the winner, Shirley Silvester (Woodville) for her poem, ‘Eccentric’. Our judge, Dr. Chris Gallavin, had this to say about it:

“Brilliant!!! Not least of which because my favourite quote is that of John Steward Mill (of the only reason to criminalise human behaviour is to protect against harm to others fame), The greatest danger of our time is that so few of us dare to be eccentric JS Mill, On Liberty, 1885.

This is great – it actually has a strong Roger McGogh or Billie Collins feel to it. After the first stanza I had wondered whether the great line ‘just because I’m eccentric’ was going to be the rolling conclusion of each stanza – a stanza or two later and I thought it should be – two more and I was like, no, it doesn’t need it.

Like a good McGough or Collins or a Denis Glover the whimsical quickly belies a powerful punch – whilst not, perhaps, to the head, but just as visceral as one to the gut. Like the fly-like-a-butterfly fools you into not realising that you are simultaneously being swung at by challenging fists that fly just beyond one’s nose. I love this – I love the pedigree within many of the great poets – it is of a very particular style and flow – which, for me, gives it a grounding in solid, dependable foundation – again belying its seeming frivolity. Well done.” 


When I’m sixty-five or seventy

I’m going to reinvent myself

as an eccentric.

I won’t have to worry about losing my job. They won’t stop my pension

just because I’m eccentric.

At last I can do what I want.

I’ll start in a small way, with

harmless little things like

wearing odd socks in clashing colours

or my old overcoat in the surf.

I will make a crazy hat from a Union Jack. I’ll eat chocolates for breakfast

and order dessert before main course

at a fancy restaurant.

Then I’ll work up to something bigger,

bursting into song at the supermarket

or dancing at the doctor’s surgery.

Well, maybe not that, it could be risky.

I might learn to play the alpenhorn.

My house will have a mural of Noah’s Ark

on the side wall

and a miniature Stonehenge in the back yard.

I’ll hold a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

among the dolmens.

Journalists will clamour for invitations.

Finally I’ll collect a hundred and one

different sorts of wind chimes

and hang them all on the front veranda.

When the southerly blows it’ll drive the neighbours insane.

My gentle revenge for the Boom Box.

Whatever I decide to do

You can bet

Someone will try to stop me.

I’d better get started soon.

© Shirley Silvester