Celebrating New Zealand’s Ockham Book Awards 2019


This week I had the honour of attending the NZ Ockham Book awards. The awards promote excellence in and provide recognition for, the best books published annually in New Zealand. We are a country rich in literary talent and I hope you will buy one of these books and support New Zealand literature.




The audience erupted in applause when Fiona Kidman, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, the richest prize in New Zealand literature $53,000, for This Mortal Boy, she had tough competition from the  extraordinary Vincent O’Sullivan, Lloyd Jones and Kate Duignan.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, the Royal Society Te Apārangi, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.

Next week I will be reviewing my personally signed copy of ‘This Mortal Boy’ my congratulations to Dame Fiona Kidman.


Beyond the Sea – Paul Lynch

Beyond the Sea – Paul Lynch Beyond the Sea by [Lynch, Paul]

This review is based on an advance copy of Beyond the Sea provided with thanks from the author Paul Lynch , Netgalley and Oneworld publications.

Sometimes a book stands out and arrives at the moment that you need it. When I began reading Beyond the Sea I was immediately transported into the world of Bolivar, a Fisherman and his panga boat Camille. Hector joins the South American fisherman and together they face the challenge of survival. But it isn’t only about survival it is an exploration of what it means to be human. It is choices and consequences, thoughts and actions, reality and the hallucinations we create to make meaning.

Paul Lynch weaves words in a way that mesmerises and I was in awe of the way each sentence held its place in this richly woven epic sea adventure. Its simplicity and brevity rich in detail, with writing that captures the movement of the sea. Starting first in the small village where we explore the ordinary world of Bolivar, the fishing village, rich with vivd imagery. Getting to know Bolivar a simple fisherman was like meeting a new friend, with wisdom that resonated and thoughts that caused me to reflect on life, its meaning and its meaning for Bolivar. Hector added a new dimension and their interchange and exploration was both pleasant and haunting. Then the sea and the way it came to life swallowing everything in its path, and its challenges even in stillness.

“How an hour becomes a life.”

Beyond the Sea is one of those special stories that sit with you long after you put the book down.

5 Stars for Beyond the Sea, Paul Lynch  

Book Review by Lisa Bell



The Light Keeper; Cole Moreton



This review is based on an advance copy of The Light Keeper provided with thanks from the author, Netgalley and Marylebone House. This novel is strong on deeply emotional triggers around infertility, abuse, rape, suicide, death and depression.

The Light Keeper is a story with many interlinking threads all based around a lighthouse and its Keeper teetering on the edge of a bold and dramatic landscape that provide the setting for the many stories in this book. The stories weave around the lives of those lost and broken some of whom come to end their lives at Beachy Head. We meet Jack whose wife Sarah has gone missing and we meet a cast of characters in his search for her including the lighthouse keeper.

In the copy I received there were a range of formatting and copy issues which made it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the story. This definitely affected my initial impressions and also detracted from the flow of the book.

The premise of the story is good and there was some prose that I enjoyed very much. At times the characters did not feel fully developed and their actions and reactions were at odds with the impression’s I built over time getting to know them. There were moments I wanted more details to really take me into the current lives, and there were times that unnecessary and repetitive reflections and backstory detracted from the pace of the novel.

There were opportunities to develop and fine tune the Guardians so they didn’t seem so disjointed from the story, and without giving any spoilers there was scope to heighten tension and create a sense of urgency around the reason why there were so many suicides. The mystery surrounding them conflicted with the search for Sarah and was confusing.

Overall I liked the premise of the book and aspects of it were strong, however the plot at times did not feel connected and some chapters felt like short stories within the setting and not part of the overall plot.

If you enjoy darker fiction and you have the frame of mind to explore daring subject matter then this thought provoking novel may be worth reading.

3 Stars for The Light Keeper by Cole Moreton


S J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

It was so exciting to receive S in the post today.


There is something special about opening a book and finding treasure inside. Letters, photo’s, postcard, notes and even scribbled notes on a napkin. There are even websites dedicated to sharing how to read this epic book.

Check it out HERE

A Good Fall – Ha Jin

In his first book of stories since The Bridegroom, National Book Award-winning author Ha Jin gives us a collection that delves into the experience of Chinese immigrants in America.

A lonely composer takes comfort in the antics of his girlfriend’s parakeet; young children decide to change their names so they might sound more “American,” unaware of how deeply this will hurt their grandparents; a Chinese professor of English attempts to defect with the help of a reluctant former student. All of Ha Jin’s characters struggle to remain loyal to their homeland and its traditions while also exploring the freedom that life in a new country offers.

Stark, deeply moving, acutely insightful, and often strikingly humorous, A Good Fall reminds us once again of the storytelling prowess of this superb writer.


The Wish Child



Amazon Review – “An incredible piece of writing…takes us inside the minds of the children and their families with such tenderness, humanity and psychological astuteness that it creates an understanding of why they loved and followed Hitler.” * New Zealand Listener * “Compellingly gentle and empathetic…one of our ‘must read’ novelists. It is a book difficult to put down and deserving of more than one reading.” * Otago Daily Times (NZ) * “A brilliant novel, with a cohesive and persuasive vision of human beings under stress, a subtle prose-style and a major grasp of things that really matter.” * Reid’s Reader blog (NZ) * “I love this book… I love the way, at this critical point in the world, when fundamental human values are violated, The Wish Child reminds us with grace and understated wisdom of a need to strive for universal good. I ached as I read. This novel is unmissable.” * Stuff (NZ) * “This novel is remarkable for its authenticity, this is a fiercely determined act of imagining… Heart-rending.” * North and South (NZ) *


The Good Neighbour

The Good Neighbour

Named by Harper’s Bazaar as a book that could be the next Gone Girl.

From a phenomenal new voice in suspense fiction comes a book that will forever change the way you look at the people closest to you…

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?