The Tim Jones Review Of Books

When people ask me what I do, writing-wise, I don’t usually answer “book reviewer”. All the same, I do write the occasional book review, and this year I even ascended to the giddy heights of a feature article about one of my favourite authors.

Here are some of the book reviews I’ve had published in the last few years, plus that feature article.

In Belletrista

Belletrista is an online magazine dedicated to reviewing and writing about books by women, especially books in translation. You can find out more on its About Us page.

Though all the books are by women, a number of the reviewers are men, and I contribute occasional reviews. There are some great reviews and articles on the site, and I encourage you to check it out.

Feature article:

Be Careful Out There, Be Careful in Here: The Dangerous Worlds of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya


New: Deathless, by Catherynne M Valente

The Topless Tower, by Silvina Ocampo, translated by James Womack

There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers

The Word Book
, by Mieko Kanai, translated by Paul McCarthy

Selected Prose and Prose-Poems, by Gabriela Mistral, translated by Stephen Tapscott

Kalpa Imperial, by Angelica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula Le Guin

The Secret History of Moscow, by Ekaterina Sedia

In Landfall Review Online

The Landfall Review Online gives the literary journal Landfall the chance to review the books it doesn’t have space to review in its print issues. I have written one review for them:

The Unsuspecting Huia: a review of Mr Allbones’ Ferrets, by Fiona Farrell

That’s All, Folks (till 2012)

And with this list (which I’ll make into a page on this site, and update it as new reviews comes out), I exit regular blogging mode and enter January weekly blogging mode.

Look out for my “What I Read In 2011” post, in which I complain about how little reading I’ve got done and then admit I’ve actually read more books this year than last year, and for my “What I Listened To In 2011” post, in which I reveal that a new band beginning with W has joined Warpaint in the pantheon.

Merry Xmas if you celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays if you don’t (or even if you do), and a Happy New Year, everyone!

What Readers Are Saying About “Men Briefly Explained”

Readers are saying some very nice things about my new poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained.

Here are three comments from people who have read the collection:

Tim, your book arrived this morning, and I’m having to FORCE myself to stop reading and get on with the work I need to do. I am especially moved right now by “The Problem of Descendants”. It’s a magnificent book. – Johanna Knox

By the time you reach the third age of man you want to turn to the toddler pages and live the whole book again – Rachel Fenton

By turns poignant, insightful and laugh-out-loud funny, Tim Jones brings his trademark dry wit to a great new poetry collection. Thoroughly enjoyable! – Mary Victoria

This reviewer and this reviewer have said nice things, too.

We are approaching a time of the year when many people give gifts, so if you would like to buy a copy of Men Briefly Explained, here’s how to do it:

In Person

You can order Men Briefly Explained through your local bookshop. Please tell them the title, the author name, the publisher (IP/Interactive Press) and (just for good measure) the ISBN, which is 978-1-921-86932-7. They should have no problem getting hold of it.

Or – even simpler – just email me at and I will make sure you get a copy.


Here you have a wide range of options:

Go on – you know you want to, and based on what other readers have said so far, you won’t regret buying a copy.

Voyagers: More Good Reviews, Another Award Nomination

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology co-edited by Mark Pirie and I that was published by Interactive Press in 2009, is continuing to make waves – or, if you prefer, ripples in the fabric of space-time. Here is a roundup of the latest news:

More Good Reviews for Voyagers

Joanna Preston has given Voyagers a good review in the May issue of “a fine line”, the magazine of the New Zealand Poetry Society. Joanna says:

More than 70 poets have work in Voyagers; from major luminaries like Fleur Adcock, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and A.R.D. Fairburn, to protostellar entities like Katherine Liddy, Seán McMahon and Meliors Simms. Most are represented by only one or two poems, the vast majority of which are typical modern NZ free verse lyrics. They range in tone and mood from wonder (as in Nic Hill’s ‘Somewhere Else’), through gleeful weirdness (Helen Rickerby’s ‘Tabloid Headlines’) and ‘Martian’ strangeness (Tracie McBride’s ‘Contact’ and Jane Matheson’s gorgeous ‘An Alien’s Notes on first seeing a prunus-plum tree’), to the bleakness that has long made dystopian fiction one of science fiction’s classic concerns (Fleur Adcock’s brilliant dystopian epic ‘Gas’ being one of the collection’s highlights).

You can read the full review, other reviews, and sample poems, at the Voyagers mini-site.

Hot off the press comes Patricia Prime’s review of Voyagers in Takahe 69. Patricia ends this comprehensive rand generally positive review by saying:

… [there are] probably more contributors concerned with the insights into science fiction than we could have imagined from our community of poets.

Award Nominations

Voyagers is a finalist in the “Best Collected Work” category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand’s local equivalent of the Hugo Awards. My thanks go to all those who nominated Voyagers! The awards ceremony will be at Au Contraire, the 2010 New Zealand Science Fiction Convention, held in Wellington in August, which I’ll be attending. There is a strong lineup in “Best Collected Works”, and all the other categories – it’s a good guide to the present strength of science fiction, fantasy and horror in this country.

As previously reported, “Two Kinds of Time”, by Meliors Simms, is a nominee in the Best Short Poem category of the Rhysling Awards 2010. The Rhysling Awards, established in 1978, are the international awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry. Meliors’ poem appears in the 2010 Rhysling Anthology, and the winners and runners-up will be announced at ReaderCon in Boston in July 2010.

Voyagers cover

You can buy Voyagers from as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or from New Zealand Books Abroad, or Fishpond.

You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

It’s 3am. Do You Know Where Your Reviews Are?

Random House New Zealand recently sent me a package outlining the publicity and marketing they’ve done for Transported (which you can buy online from Fishpond, New Zealand Books Abroad or Whitcoulls) to date. It was nice to get this – a continuation of the very good service I’ve enjoyed as an author from Random House – and it was especially good to see all the print reviews that Transported has received collected together. There were even reviews I didn’t know I’d had: Diane McCarthy of the Bay Weekend (Whakatane) said that:

The stories certainly live up to the title with each one transporting the reader to a new reality …. These [stories] will leave you pondering their deeper meaning long after the last sentence has dropped you back in your own particular reality.

In the Timaru Herald, Abby Gillies said:

The stories are diverse, linked only by real, developed characters whose circumstances are challenging them to react. Let these original stories lead you to unexpected places.

To date, Transported has been reviewed in the following New Zealand newspapers:

Bay Weekend
Wanganui Chronicle and Daily Chronicle (Horowhenua)
Nelson Mail
Timaru Herald
Taranaki Daily News
Marlborough Express
Southland Times
Otago Daily Times

and in the magazines Craccum, the New Zealand Listener and Critic. Interviews or articles about the book have appeared in the Southland Times, Dominion Post, and Marlborough Express, and also on Radio New Zealand and Plains FM. (Plus, of course, the online reviews: see the Transported page on my web site for links to these.)

I’m very grateful for all these reviews, but I also notice an interesting pattern: nearly all of them are in provincial papers, with only one in a metropolitan paper. Transported has not been reviewed in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch or Wellington (though, in the latter case, the feature article is pretty substantial compensation).

Of course, that’s entirely the prerogative of these papers, and they do — sometimes — still review New Zealand books, but am I alone in the impression that they review fewer New Zealand books than they used to, and give those they do review less space? The change has certainly been marked in the Dominion Post, where it’s now quite rare to see a New Zealand book reviewed in its book pages.

I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that books pages have been transferred from the newspaper proper into glossy lifestyle supplements — and the books reviewed are chosen as much for their lifestyle-supplementing qualities as their literary interest. Am I wrong?

More about Transported

Book Review: Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Cazalet Chronicle (The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off)

Elizabeth Jane Howard is an English author, born in 1923. I picked up her autobiography Slipstream: A Memoir at the Clyde Quay School Book Fair earlier this year, enjoyed it tremendously, and have subsequently read her best-known books, the four volumes of the Cazalet Chronicle: The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion and Casting Off.

The four books follow the members of the Cazalet family – a large, ramifying upper-middle-class family living in southern England – during the ten years from 1937 to 1947. The Light Years opens with the shadows of war beginning to fall on the family and their servants. By Casting Off, the war is over, and the world into which the characters emerge has changed fundamentally.

The Cazalet household, which sees out the worst years of the Blitz in rural Sussex, consists of matriarch and patriarch the Duchy and the Brig; their three sons, Hugh, Edward and Rupert, their wives Sybil, Villy and Zoe, and their children; their servants; and several outsiders whose lives and fortunes become entwined with those of the family.

Over the four books, Elizabeth Jane Howard gives us the chance to get to know all the family members, and the outsiders; but the central characters are three of the children, Louise, Polly and Clary, who are girls in their early teens at the beginning of The Light Years, and women in their early twenties by the end of Casting Off. Casting Off ends in marriages rather than deaths, and thus the series may be accounted a comedy; but the comedy is often painful, for marriage in these books is just as likely to end in adultery, bitterness and divorce as it is in happily ever after.

The great strengths of The Cazalet Chronicle are its delineation of the characters of these young women and their parents, and of the way in which the social changes wrought by war and its aftermath affect their lives and their post-war prospects. The actual conduct of the war is largely off-stage, and the portrayal of the male characters, especially of the younger males, is less rich — though the three Cazalet brothers, and Rupert’s friend Archie, are distinct and complex characters.

From reading Slipstream, it’s clear that elements of The Cazalet Chronicle are strongly autobiographical. Howard appears to have parcelled out her own experiences between Louise and Clary. Knowing this didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the books, however. There’s something Tolstoyan about the complex cast of inter-related characters and the background of conflict, and though these books lack the philosophical depths of Tolstoy’s masterpiece, Howard’s core characters are no less memorable than those in War and Peace. The Cazalet Chronicle really is that good.

Wellington Blogger Offers Modest Giveaway!

I covered several reviews of my poetry collection All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens in a recent post. Another review has since appeared, in Issue 63 of the Christchurch-based literary journal Takahe. In his review, James Norcliffe looks in detail at the three sections of the book – Inside, Outside and Farside – and concludes that:

All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens is a most enjoyable read, full of intelligent poems intelligently arranged so that they set up echoes and conversations. Although at times there is the slight clunk of contrivance, there is more than enough here to surprise and satisfy.

Slight clunks apart, I’m pretty satisfied with this as a summary.

There’s a lot to like about Takahe. It’s a handsomely-produced magazine, featuring striking, full-colour front and back covers with artwork by Phil Price; it contains an extensive reviews section, the centrepiece of which is a long review of the latest collection by Stephen Oliver, Harmonic; and it is full of high-quality fiction and poetry.

I have a couple of poems in this issue, and the editors kindly sent me two contributors’ copies. I’m offering one of those copies free to a good home. If you’d like a copy of Takahe 63, please email me at timjones (at) with your postal address. I’ll send a copy to the first person who responds, and post a note here when I’ve done that. UPDATE: We have a winner – thanks for getting in touch, Rod Scown!