Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gool by Maurice Gee

OK I admit I haven't read Salt, and so perhaps I shouldn't even be reviewing Gool, but here goes. I found the beginning was strained, but that's often the case with book number two and most particularly, I found it difficult to get into because of the language. It was too simplistic, almost as if Maurice Gee was too scared to write words of more than two syllables and I found that stultifying. Of course, once underway, the plot was great and the ideas were of the callibre that they stayed with you, developing slowly into larger ideas -- that would be completely ruined if I telegraphed them in this review.

So instead of posting a review right away I talked to other people about their reaction to this book, given that mine wasn't exactly what I had expected, because you see, I LOVED Maurice Gee's Half Men of O series, and I know this man can write -- not just, ah that's nice, he's a New Zealander and the writing's ok., but Fiona Kidman -- this is a national treasure -- can write.

And the big thing that they all agreed on was that the writing for Gool and Salt was very simplistic - which is absolutely great if you want to be able to make sure a whole class will be able to read the book, but for the upper end of the market, for those children who read widely and are sensitive to style there's a certain something lacking. In fact in some ways this is true fantasy science fiction of the traditional kind where the plot is terribly important and the writing is merely a scaffold for the ideas --ideas that seem greater than the sum of their parts.
Anyway, if you liked Salt, you'll probably like Gool, some of the locations and characters are obviously revisited and there's nothing like going back and revisiting a world you love and finding hidden depths and dangers -- and the human spirit to confront them.
Review by Alicia Ponder

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Gone-Away World - Nick Harkaway

Interesting book, the brilliant writing dragged me along even though at first I wasn't that engaged by the story. Something was missing. Something was wrong, and I couldn't figure out what it was until about half way through, when suddenly it clicked. This isn't fantasy, or science fiction it's political in the same way that Animal Farm is a rubbish Fantasy/Science fiction story, but a brilliant political commentary. Ok, I dare say if you liked Animal farm you'll hate this because in every other way they are completely different, but if you're going to get the best out of this book, that's the way to read it!

Have fun reading

And a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

from Alicia Ponder and everyone at Rona Gallery

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Celebrate - A Calender of Cakes for Special Dates - By Annabel Langbein Illustrated by Annie Hayward

A book to be treasured, "this beautiful book will become a compact treasury of your favourite cake recipes and the most important dates in the lives of family and friends - An heirloom to be passed down through generations."
The Illustrator, Annie Hayward will be exhibiting "Twelve New Myth Paintings" originals from the book in Rona Gallery between the twelth and twentyfourth of December.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Francis Hardinger, Gullstruck Island

Yes, the next Francis Hardinger book is coming soon. It should be here sometime January and I have to say - I couldn't wait. I had to read the preview. And for just a moment I thought I was going to be disappointed. Partly because the first ten pages seemed a little slow, but mostly because the wonderfully dense prose has lightened to something easier to read and I missed that sinfully dense experience.
First impressions are often deceptive and I admit I was deceived. Francis Hardinger has done what few authors can, re-invented her prose to best suit the story she is telling. With treachery and danger all around Hathin must convince others her sister has special powers, although she has only ever showed signs of being vegetative.
Treachery, murder, escape and revenge lurk within the pages. These must all be faced along with the concomitant forces of greed, envy and distrust by adversaries both outrageous and fantastical and there is a quiet cleverness that is reserved for the main character, quiet as dust, strong as hurricane, determined to right the terrible things that are happening to her people. Can she do all this, keep her sister alive and not become a soulless killer who lives only for revenge? Read on, adventure awaits.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Congratulations to Peter Friend for pulling off a win in the Jack Lazenby competition.

Peter Friend is a contributing poet in Richard Ponder's Caught on Canvas and I feel it is only time before he becomes far better known as a master of the short story, despite his style being somewhat different from traditional NZ writing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It is always compelling when an author takes the real world and twists it into something frought with otherwordly danger. Cassandra Claire has done exactly this, a world every bit as rich as the one Harry Potter inhabits, and just like that world it is highly derivative of many similar stories that have been before, building layer upon layer of the familiar into a rich tapestry that is as comforting and familiar as it is exciting.
This is a teenage book of angst as much as it is of vampires and werewolves and otherwordly creatures, that has many people comparing it to Buffy. And on the surface this would be right, a girl gets caught in a world where people are trying to destroy bad supernatural creatures. To me though it was far more reminiscent of Stephenie Meyer's first book in the amount of teenage angst it manages to dredge up.
Did I enjoy it - well, yes I did, and certainly more than Stephenie Meyer, but not nearly so much as my niece who is perfectly situated in the demographic this book was designed for - thirteen to eighteen year olds.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
While Faerie Wars is not the perfect book, it's a great read. And there is something for everyone, real life, fantasy, adventure, kittens in danger, a prince who rescues animals, and a terrible threat to the faerie kingdom.

It begins with Henry for a chapter. He's just an ordinary boy, with an annoying little sister, and he earns money tidying the house of an eccentric pensioner . Then for a long time Henry is abandoned while we follow the exploits of the faerie, Pyrus, as he goes about getting himself into trouble. Just as Henry is almost forgotten the two collide and Henry and the eccentric pensioner have to help Pyrus return to his Faeire kingdom so they can unravel the plot to wrest the throne off the Purple Emperor. It's fun, it's fast, and while it does not have the lyrical beauty of an award winning book it's one of those novels that has children sitting up under the covers and reading through the night.

Overall very absorbing, fast, and perfect for ten plus.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Y Fiction

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan

Finally someone who knows how to spell faerie properly -- Faeire wars is a most charming and absorbing book. Review coming soon.
Appologies for few reviews at the moment from me as I'm very busy, I should be able to get back to at least a review a week very soon. Hopefully others will also be filling in over this time.
Alicia Ponder

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Shadowmarch & Shadowplay - by Tad Williams

Every so often I take a deep breath and immerse myself in what can only be described as Epic Fantasy -- with capital letters.
Yes, the cover does not lie, this is such a book, and yes it has fairies and gods and strange races with odd names that might as well be called dwarves and selkies and borrowers. Yes borrowers, bless him. I loved the borrowers growing up, and these truly perfect little people remind me of their vigeur, sans the overly cutesy angle.
The story begins with the threat of the fairy shadowline moving near the kingdom of Southmarch. The king has been kidnapped, and the world they had been a small part of is now threatened, not only by an evil ruler who believes he is a god, but by an incursion of fairies. Not the nice, sweet ones many people grew up with, but big, nasty, dangerous ones.
A fiesty princess -- yes of course there's a fiesty princess otherwise why would any girl ever pick up such a book? -- is kept pretty busy even as her twin brother is beset by nightmares and unsurprisingly eventually finds himself on the wrong side of the fairy "Shadowline." Notice the Capitals. High Fantasy, after all seems to demand them.
Anyway, I'd love to make this a complete book review with an ending, but it's impossible. The series isn't finished -- and wont be for some time by the look of it -- so I can't help but wonder if I've started this series a little too early, on the positive side Tad Williams is relatively young, so he's unlikely to die before writing the last book -- unlike David Gemmel and Robert Jordan, on the negative side this could turn into another of those, "walking, walking, walking," epics where nothing heappens as the publisher and author take all the money they can. There was a small section in the middle of Shadowplay where I was terrified this was about to happen, enough to make me think it didn't quite get the stronghanded edit it deserved, especially as I was thrown out of the story too often by typographical errors.
Still, I can't help but feel the gandness of this is Tad Williams at his best, at his peak of writing, and he's never been a slouch, the plot so far is strong, always keeping me reading from one chapter to the next. In the end I can only surmise the weaknesses are only those that can be expected in this strange genre where writers aren't thinking in hundred pages, but in thousands. And the strengths are those that can possibly only be appreciated by people who aren't immediately put off fiction because there might be fairies and gods and ... doesn't Shakespeare have such things? --
Anyway if you love fantasy, and just can't get enough, or you want your fantasy-loving teenager to be invisible for several days, this is the series you're looking for. Plenty of blood and gore and violence for the boys - without straying too far into graphic realism, but most of all there is a cast of definite characters, a sense of adventure, and of our protagonists rising to enormous challenges to cope with events that, despite their best efforts, keep spiralling out of control.
Review by Alicia Ponder

Saturday, September 27, 2008

YA Fiction

Juno of Taris, review by Joanna Ponder

I fell in love with Juno. The story of a twelve year old girl who tries to fit into the utopian society of Taris. Taris was established after a major upheaval in the outside world. Here there are many rules the inhabitants are expected to live by, but Juno can't help herself asking - why?
Juno is a carefully crafted novel, it moves along at a steady pace, and kept me entertained me every step of the way.
Richard really enjoyed it, and the declared it was a girls' book, and he is probably right, but obviously it has a wider appeal than just girls.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Congratulations to Jazz Kane, winner of the $20 gift voucher for September's plastic bag recycling draw.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sci Fi

Peace and War by Joe Haldeman

I could not help but notice this in the bargain bin section of Rona Gallery. Peace and War is one of the most celebrated Science fiction classics ever - originally published as "Forever War" "Forever Free," and "Forever Peace."

These books have haunted me since I read them almost ten years ago. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to understand what those veterans went through, or just to someone who loves science fiction that makes not only a social commentary but uses the known laws of physics as part of the underlying metaphore. And the basic premise is that people encounter aliens. Nobody is sure how the shooting started, but it has started, and the world goes to war to destroy the threat.

Only it's not that simple fighting bugs out in space, because this is one of the few Science fiction stories I've read where Einstein's relativity is a factor, and each time the soldiers return, not only are they coming home damaged by their experiences but the world is so changed they feel like they are not coming home at all...

Joe Haldeman was a Vietnam Vet and his storytelling isn't as polished as some, but the drama, and the plot, and the theme - and the sheer guts of this story, more than make up for a lack of fancy prose. Indeed it would seem out of place. There's a lot in this book, a lot of disturbing ideas about how wars are fought, and Joe Haldeman does not deny any connections with the Vietnam war, in fact when he was in New Zealand he described it as his therapy when he came back, his way of making sense of what happened to him, and I think that is why the books are so powerful and why they have been re-published again and again over the years.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

YA Fiction

The Alchemist by Michael Stott

The Alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel is still alive, his tomb lies empty -- and ready to exploit this is Michael Stott, author of -- well, The Alchemyst.

He does it well.

Josh works in Nick Flemming - sorry Nicholas Flamel's bookstore, his sister Sophie works across the road. It's something they only discover when John Dee, another character out of the past comes to steal the book that contains the secret of eternal life.

It's fast paced fantasy, and once started the story rolls onward with a breathlessness that doesn't stop. No seriously it doesn't stop - it just leaves you on a cliff-hanger so you can't wait to read the next book.

It's not the best book in the world, and doesn't hold a candle to "The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World" or "Verdigris Deep" at least not in terms of stylish writing, but in plot and knowing his market Michael Stott has done a superb job.

I found it fun, and so did Richard, once he got past the information about the famous historical figures and got into the plot. Recommended for about 12-13+

Thursday, September 04, 2008


This Sunday at Rona Gallery

Bernard Beckett talks about his new novel Acid Song, the internationally acclaimed Genesis.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Adult Fiction

Acid Song by Bernard Beckett.

Every so often I take a deep breath, focus really hard and attack the writing of a New Zealand author. Such exertions often bring mixed results, mostly because they are so mainstream oriented and I'm not. But I went there again, because Bernard Beckett is ostensibly a perfect science fiction writer because he's an ideas man, and I was pretty impressed with his award winning children's book. Anyway, Acid Song is quite a departure for Bernard Beckett, being his first adult novel.

The beginning of Acid Song stumbled around with a deliberate incoherency, enhancing the theme of a frayed, but intertwined destiny, with all the characters bathed in a social acidity that has them so disconnected from their feelings and their relationships. This theme was enhanced by the characters themselves being quite male-centric, as though the only purpose for females was to in some way define the men and provide them with something to ogle. Well, I like to think that this was a deliberate comment on society, and that the ambitious female documentary host on her big break was demonstrating a kind of modern shallowness -- that she was not simply a cardboard character. Easily enough she could be both, I suppose, even as she was also the glue, or more accurately the hinge around which all the bigger, "more interesting" characters took their cue.

In the end, the interesting part of the book wasn't the characters, however enjoyable, and insightful they were. The interesting part about the book was an idea. The idea of a fraying society busily trying to hide socially unacceptable facts, even as the loose knot of characters and their lives fray around the edges and are left indelibly etched by the lack of support and respect that truth and honesty fail to gain. Not just generally in society, but most particularly in the educational and academic worlds.

A must read for everyone in education, and not just for the wonderfully sad-funny resignation letter that is never posted. Well written, well paced, and of course most interesting for anyone who wishes to understand how science and society sometimes clash, and how most important and influential ideas are often released against the tide of the status quo.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Congratulations to Pam Cassells, winner of the $20 gift voucher for August's plastic bag recycling draw.

Monday, August 18, 2008

YA Fiction

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg

Ostensibly this is a book for children. And why not, after all the two main characters are children? Only they're not. They're adults in children's clothing, and like all the characters in the story they are kind of dusted off and placed in the same raggedly careless fashion any item might be when cleaning out the attic.

At eighty it is almost as if Koningsburg has forgotten what children are like. But that hardly matters, she herself almost acknowledges this. Better yet if the book hadn't been marketed for children at all. It's for librarians and teachers and schools, aspiring art critics, and literary awards, it's for those people who were never young or who enjoy writing that you could frame and put on a wall.

Not that the book is quite full of quotes as such, because most can't quite be lifted from the text and maintain their full import like, "Selective forgetting is the first symptom of Austrian amnesia " (harks back to all the nazis protesting their innocence, but seems equally applicable to American politics today.) & the very funny when applied to pink bubblegum and priceless art, "whatever happened to the unposted laws of civilized behaviour?" Only "Ninety percent of who you are is invisible" seems to work all by itself.

This is a clearing out of the attic book. A search to find amazing treasure, only to discover there is 90% of any character, real or fictional that you will never see, and mostly it is not about children at all but about an old diva who has sung for the last time, and even as her precious home is being dismantled, she is putting on one last show, a real life performance so that the main character (and the reader) can understand a bit more about that "mysterious edge of the heroic world," about the past and the present and the secrets that lie just beyond that ten percent of the known world.

I'm not entirely sure about who this book is for, I'm not even entirely sure that I liked it, maybe it was just a bit too much like cough syrup for my liking, maybe the promised treasures just turned to so much dusty plastic under careful scrutiny. I'm not sure, but I do know that Joanna would say that this is all because I haven't quite grown up yet and, after all this was a book for adults. Never mind, Peter Pan awaits, and growing up is something that only children aspire to.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Review by Joanna Ponder

The book rep told us, 'you've got to read this, we're really excited about it and it's your cup of tea!'

Cup of tea? Breakfast, lunch and dinner more like. I loved it, I didn't want to finish it. I'm still think about the wonderful mix of history and humanity, and all delivered through exquisite letters that work to form a whole story you can't forget.

Set in Guernsey just after the second world war, the book deals with the German occupation of the Channel Island. Juliet Ashton wjho lives in Chelsea is a writer of witty columns and has just had a book published and is about to set forth on a promotional tour. She starts receiving letters from members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society who admire her work. They come to reveal the personal stories of a range of fascinating characters who belong to the society. And her own story becomes part of their story.

It is a heart-warming and moving tale. Sweet and funny. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't like it. Perfect for gifts for mothers and mothers-in-law! I think I'll make a cup of tea and read it again.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Verdigris Deep by Francis Hardinge -

Verdigris Deep by Francis Hardinge is unmissable, its crisp clear text and darkly edged brilliance is somewhat akin to a stained glass window, or the most perfect of summer apples as the wicked juice dribbles down your chin. And then the sweet, sweet core. It's harsh funny, clever, and a rollicking yarn so just ignore the trite, somewhat bland cover. Once I picked it up I only put this book down once!! There's no doubts it's a five star read for 12+
Review by Alicia Ponder

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Congratulations to Sophie Brathwaite, winner of the $20 gift voucher for July's plastic bag recycling draw.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Congratulations to Montana Award Winners - Hooray Mary, and of course the winner Charlotte Grimshaw.

We at Rona Gallery would like to congratulate all the winners of the Montana Book awards,

Most especially the overall winner, Charlotte Grimshaw for Opportunity - although Richard would like to say that he hopes the next edition will be published in bigger print!

And of course, Mary McCallum, (who is usually found in Rona Books on a Thursday) won the Society of Authors best first book AND readers' choice award for her novel, The Blue.

Anyway we've been very excited for Mary and we can't wait to see her next novel, which is apparently in the making, but very early days yet. Her blog is and it's always packed with news and events and books and excitement.

Congratulations also to the other winners:

Janet Hunt: Montana Medal for non-fiction and the environment category for Wetlands of New Zealand - A Bitter-Sweet Story.
Editors Piripi Walker and Huriana Raven: Short story collection Te Tu a Te Toka: He Ieretanga no nga Tai e Wha won the $5000 inaugural Maori language prize for .

Janet Charman: Poetry, Cold Snack
Judy Siers: Biography, The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor.
Hilary and John Mitchell: History, Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka Volume II: Te Ara Hou - The New Society .
Gregory O'Brien: Reference and anthology, A Nest of Singing Birds: 100 years of the New Zealand School Journal

Lifestyle and contemporary culture: Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku with Linda Waimarie Nikora, Mohi Rua and Rolinda Karapu.
Bill Hammond: Illustrative, Jingle Jangle Morning by Jennifer Hay, with Ron Brownson, Chris Knox and Laurence Aberhart, designed by Aaron Beehre.
Jessica Le Bas: Best first book award for poetry, Incognito.
Alan Clarke: Best first book award for non-fiction: The Great Sacred Forest of Tane - Te Wao Tapu Nui a Tane: A Natural Pre-History of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This post is by Alicia Ponder.

Friday, July 18, 2008

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Pop-Up Book of Invasions

Review by Mary McCallum: It didn't win the Montana NZ Poetry Award today but it's still gorgeous. I got it for my birthday and fell in love with a poem that it fell open to which began 'A book is like an/egg...'

Another firm favourite already is Midden which begins: 'Words are piled deep/ here. Middens of /language, dungheaps/ of song...' Farrell is talking about Ireland, the home of her ancestors.

Her publisher AUP says:
The Book of Invasions - Lebor Gabála Érenn - is a compilation of manuscripts describing the very specific discovery of Ireland ('on the fifteenth, on a Saturday') following the Creation and the Flood. The Pop-Up Book of Invasions is Fiona Farrell's poetic response to a six-month stay in Ireland as inaugural recipient of the Rathcoola Residency for Australians and New Zealanders in County Cork.

'Part travelogue, part family record, part song and myth and history rewritten, this collection revels and laments in equal measure in a landscape deeply inscribed with narrative. The poet also remembers her Irish father now dead who emigrated to the Antipodes and all the many migrations or 'invasions' of the past and the present. A beautifully constructed, thoughtful, topical and original book.'

My mother who has Irish ancestors too read it in an evening and couldn't stop talking about it when I saw her. She loved the poem about Farrell's daughter who had dreadlocks not unlike the matted multi-coloured hair of her ancestors. She especially liked the wonderful notes at the end which fleshed out the poems.

Highly recommended.

And now I'd better go and read Janet Charman's Cold Snack. She was announced today as the winner of the Montana NZ Poetry Award.

But first a tribute to the young poets who came to the Gallery today and wrote some wonderful poems around the theme of the beach. Amelia, Clem, Naomi and Xanthe's poems are on the wall for people to read. Their names sound like a poem on their own!

Friday, July 11, 2008

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Street without a Name

Our book of the week is Kapka Kassabova's wonderful new travel memoir. Born in Bulgaria, Kassabova settled in New Zealand as a teenager, published poetry and two novels, and has moved to Scotland.
In A Street Without a Name she chronicles her family's life on the muddy outskirts of Sofia under Communism in the 1980s, and how she felt returning to her homeland as an adult.
The writing is curious, funny, unflinching, and poignant, capturing the absurdities and idiosyncracies of this hidden country to the north of Greece. Kapka the small girl asked why everything in Bulgaria was so ugly, Kapka the adult tries to understand why that was so.
This book is for anyone who wants to know more about Europe's newest member or who simply wants to spend time with the perfect travelling companion. (Review: Mary McCallum)
Street without a Name. Childhood and other Misadventures in Bulgaria. By Kapka Kassabova (Penguin) $28

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Congratulations to Liz Everiss

Winner of the $20 gift voucher for June's plastic bag recycling draw.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Caught on Canvas and Painted days

Caught on Canvas and Painted Days - by Richard Ponder
(The painted days colour - is the more accurate colour for the books)

And today we're offering our readers
the pair for only $50

Caught on Canvas showcases
wellington, the city,
and wraps it
Richard Ponder's artwork.

Painted Days is that book nobody should be without
a calender of occasions,
adress book

and general infromation
christmas card list
family tree
notes and quotes

Friday, May 23, 2008


Congratulations to Matt Harrison, Winner of a $20 voucher for
this month’s plastic bag
recycling draw.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stephanie Meyer, Author of the immensely popular "twilight series" has an inimitable style that draws you into the story.
In, "The Host" society has been over-run by aliens who take over human bodies, but Melanie is a fighter, she refuses to just fade away. Her love beomes a central holding point of the story, and the only way she has of keeping her indentity until she finds that she is not the only one trying to fight back.
A highly enjoyable read, and although I did not enjoy this as much as the twilight series, it's still a must read for any Stephanie Meyer Fan.
$32 only, Mon 19- Mon 26 May

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wendy's Pick
Hunting and Gathering $22.50 this week only, until the 19th of May or while stocks last - you know the usual disclaimer -- although you will be able to order it.
O.K. Yes, it's been made into a movie, but as with nearly all really good books the movie doesn't hold a patch on the book.
Quirky and endearing French novel about three disperate characters, Camille, an artist who is working as a cleaner.
Philbert, an erudite French aristocrat who sells postcards for a living and Franck, an angry chef, who loves his grandmother dearly, but could otherwise be described as womanising and cantankerous.
This is the story of how they come to care for one another as a family and regain their faith in humanity.

Monday, May 05, 2008

book of the week

Of course we're all very excited about Fiona Kidman's coming over on Thursday morning, but I thought it was about time we did something different with this blog, and started instituting a book of the week. And I did wonder about the book I'm currently reading, "An arsonists guide to writer's homes in new england" but decided that was probably in poor taste - however fun and interesting the book has turned out to be, besides I'm at home and I'm not sure how many copies we have left.

So Darwin Road it is,

RRP $34.99 but Just $30 for the day of thurs 8th May-and possibly only if you ask for Alicia. I'm not sure if we're giving that to everybody yet and although this isn't technically a week - the next one will be.

Have fun, people, and if you're reading this before sun 11 May - don't forget that's mother's day, and I know I'm going to be expecting my breakfast in bed. Also I'd appreciate it if anybody out there has an idea for a great book of the week you can leave me a note or just tell me, and I'll try and make sure you get a good price for a whole week.


Alicia Ponder of Rona Gallery

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fiona Kidman - At The End of Darwin Road

We're all very excited Fiona Kidman has agreed to come and visit us on Thursday May the 8th, to talk about her new memoir "At the End of Darwin Road" with Mary McCallum in ...

We're looking forward to seeing you here and sharing a slice of New Zealand literary history with this most distinguished New Zealand writer.


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