Here’s my June Book watch column from the New Zealand Herald:
Janis Freegard is an excellent New Zealand poet who features an alter ego called Alice Spider in many of her poems. This US-published chapbook brings together a number of the Alice Spider poems. Their characteristic tone is wry and sometimes surreal, but don’t be fooled: Alice is a character who goes for what she wants and gets things done. It’s a joy to read such sparky poetry.
Laura Solomon is a New Zealand writer whose work tends towards magic realism: stories in which fantastic events take place in an otherwise realist world. It’s a style of fiction most closely associated with Latin American writing, but in this collection Laura Solomon uses it to make what might otherwise be low-key stories ‘pop’, as they say in Hollywood: her characters, many of them girls and young women, show their mettle when confronted with bride-seeking sea monsters, angels, and men who howl for the moon, among other unsettling factors. Well worth reading.
I enjoyed this entertaining novel about a large troll and a small flying Eleniu who are partners in the City Guard of a trading city with six sentient races. While there’s nothing especially original in this fantasy world, it makes a good backdrop to the murder investigation which is at the foreground of the story. Although I felt the villain, one of the most intriguing characters, was kept in the background a bit too long, I had a lot of fun reading this story – enough that I’ve now bought the second book in the series.
It took me a little while to warm up to this collection by Christchurch poet Karen Zelas — I felt as though the poems were keeping me at arms’ length — but once I got used to her quiet but insistent style, I enjoyed these sharply-observed poems about relationships, travel, family, and life in post-quake Christchurch. There is a lot of poetic technique, and many years of thought, at play here.