My First “Book Watch” Column For The New Zealand Herald

A couple of months ago, Nicky Pellegrino, who edits the New Zealand Herald’s books page, contacted me after seeing my two-part summary of my 2012 reading (Part 1 | Part 2) to ask whether I would be interested in writing an occasional “Book Watch” column for the Herald on Sunday: short comments on 3 or 4 books I’ve read recently, with no restrictions as to the genres covered.

That seemed to fit pretty well with the fact that I keep track of my reading on LibraryThing, so I said “yes” – and here is my first column. Only the first three of these pocket reviews were published in the Herald, but as I really enjoyed Wolves Eat Dogs I have posted that mini-review here too.

Book Watch Column 24 March 2013

The Glass Harmonica, by Dorothee Kocks, published by Rosa Mira Books (2011) – see (US $7.00 ebook)

This novel by US author Dorothee Kocks was the first book published by Dunedin-based ebook publisher Rosa Mira Books. It is a beautifully-written story of Revolutionary France, post-revolutionary America, and the invention of pornography as a commercial genre. The central character Chjara, a Corsican virtuoso of the glass harmonica, is vivid and engaging.  I wasn’t always convinced by the actions and motivations of her American lover Henry, but that’s a minor flaw in this fine novel which was a pleasure to read on my newly-acquired Kindle.

Flaubert’s Drum, by Sugu Pillay, published by IP (2012) – see (NZ $15 ebook, $28 paperback)

Already an accomplished playwright and short story writer, Sugu Pillay is now showing her strength as a poet. Born in Malaysia, she now lives in the South Island. Flaubert’s Drum, which is her first poetry collection, is a very interesting and wide-ranging set of poems that moves between Asia and New Zealand, between epic and earthquake, between the turtles of Chendor Beach and the schist of Lindis Pass. I especially enjoyed the final section of the book, which does a lovely job of tying the book’s strands together. Technically accomplished and often moving poetry.

The Aviator, by Gareth Renowden, published by Limestone Hills Publishing (2012), book 1 of The Burning World series – see (NZ $6.99 ebook, US $15 paperback)

Gareth Renowden is best known as a journalist and science blogger – in particular, for the Hot Topic blog on climate change. With The Aviator, Book 1 of a planned series, he turns to science fiction. In a world in which runaway climate change proceeds unchecked, airship pilot Lemmy (no relation to Motörhead) and his AI and human companions tour the world from their base in the Marlborough Sounds, visiting the communities springing up in parts of the world made newly livable and experiencing the terrible consequences of runaway climate change throughout most of the world. If you like the great near-future science fiction novels of Kim Stanley Robinson, I think you will enjoy The Aviator.

Wolves Eat Dogs, by Martin Cruz Smith, published by Pan (2005), available from – see (from US $10.88 paperback)

Martin Cruz Smith made his name with his first novel featuring melancholy but determined Russian detective Arkady Renko, Gorky Park. This is the fifth Renko book, and it’s outstandingly good. Renko is the classic good cop in a bad place: dogged, incorruptible and determined on uncovering the truth whatever the cost to himself. In this book, the bad place is the Zone of Exclusion surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Smith does a great job of putting Renko in the path of the teeming wildlife and the secretive humans that live in the Zone. Highly recommended even if thrillers aren’t normally your thing.

11 thoughts on “My First “Book Watch” Column For The New Zealand Herald

  1. Wow, what a good review gig, Tim — congrats! And I love the way you capture the books you've read in a few short sentences. I especially like the sound of Flaubert's Drum — must check this out! Thanks for this, and I hope you keep posting your reviews here, in case we miss them in the Herald. Great stuff!

  2. Thanks, Michelle. It was a bit of a shock to the system to go from writing 1200-word reviews for Landfall to 80-word reviews for the Herald, but I enjoyed it. The column is on an \”as requested\” basis, but as & when it is requested, I will post them here too.

  3. Thanks, Helen! I'll keep posting them as long as the Herald keeps asking for them – they are fine with my posting them here once the column has appeared in the Herald.

  4. I like the reviews – and I also like meeting a variety of different publishers.

  5. Thanks very much, Daniela, Penelope and Johanna!I have just been asked to write my second \”Book Watch\” column for the Herald, so will post it here in due course – I hope there will be more to like 🙂

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