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


Short Story Collection 2017-2018


Over the next 12 months I am working on a collection of short stories as part of my commitment at the Creative Hub 30 week advanced fiction course with John Cranna.

While in Greece this year I walked a long narrow track to Homers Tomb on the island of Ios. It was there, as I gazed at thousands of cairns and built my own that I decided that each stone would represent a story.

Stacking of stones lies here as thousands of monuments across a vast open space for those who pass by, in honour of Homer and perhaps humble altars to celebrate his life and lasting influence to literature. Or maybe it is a simple sign of connection for those that visit as they gaze out from the high cliffs to the sea in an ordinary display of thanks and gratitude.

Like a simple pile of rocks each of my stories is about ordinary people in ordinary lives and we get a glimpse of how fragile and complicated the human life is, dependent on the view from which it is witnessed. Most of the others are building mountains with their epic novels.

I am building little rocks and stacking ordinary moments of life as a monument to the small stories and the ground upon which they stand. Its the small moments that witnessed individually and collectively have big impacts that can leave a lasting impression on our soul.

Advanced 30 week Fiction course – Creative Hub