Settings across time: Our selection of newly acquired fiction

Image of Damien Hirst Sculpture at the Venice Biennale (via Pixabay) 

I’m a terrible cook, but if I could cook, I would see that as art as well, it’s how much creative energy you put into something.

Tracey Emin

As always when writing these posts, we are  on the look out for something a little bit different to talk about — and one of the books that caught our eye in this month’s recently acquired fiction was Tiepolo Blue. This debut novel from James Cahill is set partially in the British art world of the nineties, a time when British art was in the midst of revolutionary change.

Art and the art scene in Britain at the start of the eighties was staid affair until  a group of young artists from  Goldsmiths’ College, ably assisted by influential art collector, taste maker and investor Charles Saatchi, decided to shake things up. This group of art revolutionaries — subsequently called The Young British Artists — decided the time was ripe for change and unleashed a maelstrom of reinvention upon the art scene. They employed ‘shock tactics’ and became known for their use of disposable throwaway everyday objects, wild living, irreverence to the  establishment and both their entrepreneurial and oppositional approach to their art. They borrowed techniques and ideas from the Dadaists, the Surrealists and the sixties’ Pop Art movement, amongst many art movements, to power their ideas.

Their movement would launch the careers of some of the biggest artists of our time — artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, to name but a few. Although many have now entered the mainstream art world, becoming members of such institutions as the Royal Academy and winning major institutional art prizes such as the Tate Prize, the legacy of their revolutionary approach lingers on in the Art world internationally to this day. We hope you enjoy James Cahill’s debut novel and its setting!

Below are the links to Tiepolo Blue and our other selected titles this month:

Tiepolo blue / Cahill, James
“Cambridge, 1994. Professor Don Lamb is a revered art historian at the height of his powers, consumed by the book he is writing about the skies of the Venetian master Tiepolo. However, his academic brilliance belies a deep inexperience of life and love. When an explosive piece of contemporary art is installed on the lawn of his college, it sets in motion Don’s abrupt departure from Cambridge to take up a role at a south London museum. There he befriends Ben, a young artist who draws him into the anarchic 1990s British art scene and the nightlife of Soho. Over the course of one long, hot summer, Don glimpses a liberating new existence. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bitter orange tree : a novel / Alharthi, Jokha
” Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can’t help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Amir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhour left the Arabian Peninsula. As the historical narrative of Bint Amir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhour’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips and dreams mingle with memories.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bookseller’s notebooks / Barjas, Jalāl
“Winner of the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. After losing his job and house, a bookseller and voracious reader decides to live with the homeless people in his city and assuming identities of the heroes of the novels he has read.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bournville : a novel in seven occasions / Coe, Jonathan
“In Bournville, a placid suburb of Birmingham, sits a famous chocolate factory. For eleven-year-old Mary and her family in 1945, it’s the centre of the world. The reason their streets smell faintly of chocolate, the place where most of their friends and neighbours have worked for decades. Mary will go on to live through the Coronation and the World Cup final, royal weddings and royal funerals, Brexit and Covid-19. She’ll have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Parts of the chocolate factory will be transformed into a theme park, as modern life and the city crowd in on their peaceful enclave. As we travel through seventy-five years of social change.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The chosen / Lowry, Elizabeth
” One Wednesday morning in November 1912 the ageing Thomas Hardy, entombed by paper and books and increasingly estranged from his wife Emma, finds her dying in her bedroom. Between his speaking to her and taking her in his arms, she has gone. The day before, he and Emma had exchanged bitter words – leading Hardy to wonder whether all husbands and wives end up as enemies to each other. His family and Florence Dugdale, the much younger woman with whom he has been in a relationship, assume that he will be happy and relieved to be set free. But he is left shattered by the loss. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ghost Lover : stories / Taddeo, Lisa
“Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. On a quest to lose her virginity, a daughter tracks down her deceased mother’s old flame, the rugged, comically named Jon Deere. In these twelve riveting stories, two of which have been awarded the Pushcart Prize, Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Green Man of Eshwood Hall : a tale of Northalbion / Kerr, Jacob
“Eshwood Hall is a great English house surrounded by sprawling woods. In 1960, Izzy is thirteen, lives in the servants quarters and doesn’t go to school. Neglected by her parents, she spends her moments of freedom exploring the forest and the village beyond. The more she comes to understand the history of the place and her own situation, the stranger are the things she hears and sees. The most tantalising of these is the Green Man who inhabits the woods, and seems to know all about her, even those desires she has buried deep inside.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Roses, in the mouth of a lion / Rehman, Bushra
“Razia Mirza grows up amid the wild grape vines and backyard sunflowers of Corona, Queens, with her best friend, Saima, by her side. But when a family rift drives the girls apart, Razia’s idyllic childhood is shattered forever. In middle school, Razia befriends a new girl, Taslima, and they begin to chafe at the restrictions imposed on them in their tight-knit Pakistani Muslim community. Together, they embark on a series of small rebellions: listening to scandalous American music, wearing mini skirts, and cutting school to explore the city…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Bridget Williams Books: The Treaty of Waitangi Collection

A selection of book covers from the Bridget Williams Books Treaty of Waitangi Collection

Log in to Bridget Williams Books Treaty of Waitangi resources with your library card

Did you know that your library card gives you access to numerous collections from the award-winning New Zealand publisher Bridget Williams Books? Today we’d like to draw your attention to their outstanding home for online resources regarding the Treaty of Waitangi.

Bridget Williams Books’ Treaty of Waitangi Collection is broken up into different subtopics to assist your learning journey. You might like to start with one of their foundation texts, such as What Happened at Waitangi? by Claudia Orange. Following on from there, you could dive into BWB’s history resources to gain a deeper understanding of the historical context in which the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. One useful text for this might be Redemption Songs by Judith Binney. After that, BWB has also provided a commentary selection, which includes publications such as New Myths and Old Politics: The Waitangi Tribunal and the Challenge of Tradition by Sir Tipene O’Regan. 

To access this Bridget Williams Books collection, simply head over to our eLibrary resources and scroll down to find Bridget Williams Books. Follow that link to access the collection. You will need your library card number and your pin to login. Happy reading!

Creative inspirations to kick off the New Year: New hobbies and craft books

As we usher in the New Year, seize that fresh opportunity and reclaim the promise of a more creative life. Get excited for your first easy weekend makes as we round up this month’s crafts and hobbies books! We think you’ll find a project below to uplift your spirits and enhance the comfort of your home — whether you choose to practice mindfulness through the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy, or prefer to read about cherished travel stories captured in intricate crochet patterns. Also included, some more general inspiration. Have a browse!

Shodo : the practice of mindfulness through the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy / Takeda, Rie
“The ancient Japanese art of calligraphy is more than just a decorative skill; it is a revolutionary approach to mindfulness. This book is a beautiful introduction to Shodo, which shows how the movement of a brush channels energy through the body and mind, uniting both in harmony. What results on the paper is a true depiction of the present moment, a movement towards a more peaceful mindfulness. Shodo expert and professional calligrapher Rie Takeda shares the history, philosophy and craft of Shodo. Decorated throughout with her stunning art, Takeda begins with the basic brushstrokes, and builds up to drawing complete kanji, beautifully nuanced in both appearance and meaning. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Crochet journey : a global crochet adventure from the guy with the hook / Roseboom, Mark
“Crochet Journey: Crocheting and travelling… these two passions have been brought together by talented designer Mark Roseboom — aka The Guy with the Hook — in this exquisite crochet book. Mark has traveled extensively in the last ten years. He has seen and learned from the different cultures, religions and ways of life. Travelling made him the person he is today. And it’s the same with crochet. Each design in the book is inspired by a cherished memory and takes you on an adventure through the wonderful world of crochet. The patterns feature full written instructions in US crochet terms, charts, and Mark’s tips for success. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The complete beginner’s guide to embroidery : everything you need to start creating today
“In Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery, you can experience this for yourself. Regardless of if you’re a needlework novice or a seasoned sewer, we’ve laid out all the tools and techniques you need to get started.” (Catalogue)

P.S.– we made this : super fun crafts that grow smarter + happier kids / Domesek, Erica
“A concise set of easy-to-construct crafts for parents to create with their children. Working with childhood play and learning professional Laura Felt, Domesek includes crafts that are marked with codes to show the cognitive, physical, or social-emotional skills the activities emphasize. Most of the projects involve materials easily found around the house [and] incorporate ideas for expanded elements of play and participant improvisation”–Library Journal.” (Catalogue)

Dress code : unlocking fashion from the new look to millennial pink / Hyland, Véronique
“Everything–from societal changes to the progress (or lack thereof) of women’s rights to the hidden motivations behind what we choose to wear to align ourselves with a particular social group–can be tracked through clothing. Veronique Hyland examines thought-provoking questions such as: Why has the “French girl” persisted as our most undying archetype? What does “dressing for yourself” really mean for a woman? How should a female politician dress? Will gender-differentiated fashion go forever out of style? How has social media affected and warped our sense of self-presentation, and how are we styling ourselves expressly for it?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Karl Lagerfeld unseen : the Chanel years / Fairer, Robert
“”Casting a new light on one of the best-loved chapters in fashion history, ‘Karl Lagerfeld Unseen: The Chanel Years’ illuminates key Chanel collections and creations from behind the scenes. From discreet client fittings in rue Cambon’s immaculate black-and-beige salons to previously unseen backstage moments that show models, hairdressers, stylists, make-up artists and Karl Lagerfeld himself at work, Robert Fairer’s stunning and high-energy photographs capture the elegance, glamour and spirit that defined Karl Lagerfeld’s shows for Chanel.”–Publisher’s website.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Recent additions to the Māori Collection

A wide range of books have been added to our Māori Collection over the past few months across a variety of subjects – have a browse and add them to your to-read list!

Te Ōhākī Tapu : John Stuart Mill & Ngāti Maniapoto / Ormsby, Maurice
“Te Ōhākī Tapu – the Formal Pact – was made between 1882 and 1885 by five tribes of the Rohe Pōtae (King Country) led by Ngāti Maniapoto, with the colonial government which needed land for the main trunk railway line. The iwi sought access to the wider money economy, European agricultural technology and development finance. The influence of Utilitarianism – and of its proponent John Stuart Mill – is evident in Te Ōhākī Tapu, as it is in the 1835 Ngā Puhi declaration of independence and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Unlike the Treaty, Te Ōhākī Tapu took place in the context of an established New Zealand legal system and a parliamentary democracy. Although the government did not honour the Formal Pact, Ngāti Maniapoto did, even to the point of going to war on behalf of its erstwhile enemies. The Utilitarian basis of our public policy is still apparent today. It explains the marked difference in approaches to lawmaking between New Zealand and countries such as Australia and the United States.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A fire in the belly of Hineāmaru : a collection of narratives about Te Tai Tokerau tūpuna / Webber, Melinda
“Remarkable stories of twenty-four inspirational tupuna of Te Tai Tokerau.” (Catalogue)
Read more about this title over on the Auckland University Press website

Te Maiharoa and the promised land / Mikaere, Buddy
“In 1848, eight million hectares of land in Te Waipounamu – the South Island – was purportedly sold for just £2000. Hipa Te Maiharoa, a charismatic prophet, in the 1870s led his people in the fight against the injustice of this land deal by occupying land they believed had not been sold. This ongoing battle against the Crown was waged with words – but eventually let to an armed confrontation in 1879. Based on interviews with kaumātua and extensive research, renowned Māori historian Buddy Mikaere tells the moving story of Te Maiharoa.” (Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksThe English text of the Treaty of Waitangi / Fletcher, Ned
“How was the English text of the Treaty of Waitangi understood by the British in 1840? With one exception, the Treaty sheets signed by rangatira and British officials were in te reo Māori. The Māori text, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, was a translation by the missionary Henry Williams of a draft in English provided by William Hobson. Despite considerable scholarly attention to the Treaty, the English text has been little studied. In part, this is because the original English draft exists only in fragments in the archive; it has long been regarded as lost or ‘unknowable’, and in any event superseded by the authoritative Māori text. […] Through groundbreaking scholarship, Fletcher concludes that the Māori and English texts of the Treaty reconcile, and that those who framed the English text intended Māori to have continuing rights to self-government (rangatiratanga) and ownership of their lands. This original understanding of the Treaty, however, was then lost in the face of powerful forces in the British Empire post-1840, as hostility towards indigenous peoples grew alongside increased intolerance of plural systems of government.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksKāinga tahi, kāinga rua : Māori housing realities and aspirations
“Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua surveys the many ways Māori experience home and housing across Aotearoa New Zealand. These accounts range from the broader factors shaping Maori housing aspirations through to the experiences of whānau, hapū, and iwi that connect to specific sites and locations. From statistically informed analyses to more poetic renderings of the challenges and opportunities of Māori housing, the book encompasses a rich range of voices and perspectives. Opening with chapters on the wider contexts – history, land, colonisation – the book moves through to focused, and often intimate, discussions of the relationships between housing, home and identity.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Mokorua : ngā korero mō tōku moko kauae = my story of moko kauae / Tikao, Ariana
“Mokorua is a revealing and emotional account of one woman receiving her moko kauae. Ariana Tikao grew up in suburban Christchurch in the 1970s and ’80s surrounded by te ao Pākehā. This book tells the story of Ariana exploring her whakapapa, her whānau history, and her language. This is one woman’s story, but it is interwoven with the revival of language, tikanga and identity among Kāi Tahu whānau over the last thirty years. Ariana’s journey culminates in her decision to take on Mokorua – her moko kauae – from tā moko artist Christine Harvey. Through Ariana’s words, te reo Māori text by her hoa tāne Ross Calman, and an intimate, moving photo essay by Matt Calman, Mokorua reveals the journey of one woman reclaiming her Māori identity.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksTe Motunui Epa / Buchanan, Rachel
“‘This is a story about the power of art to help us find a way through the darkness. It is about how art can bring out the best in us, and the worst. The artworks in question are five wooden panels carved in the late 1700s by relatives in Taranaki.’ Commissioned, created, mounted, dismantled, hidden, found, sold, smuggled, on-sold, advertised for auction, withdrawn from auction, touched, judged, debated, locked up, hidden, found, re-sold, returned. This stunning book examines how five interconnected archival records, Te Motunui Epa, have journeyed across the world and changed international law, practices and understanding on the protection and repatriation of stolen cultural treasures. By placing these taonga/tupuna at the centre of the story, Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Atiawa) present a narrative, richly illustrated, that provides a fascinating and rare account of art, ancestors and power.” (Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksThe best of e-Tangata. Volume two
“A thought-provoking set of Māori, Pasifika, and tangata Tiriti writers combine in this celebration of some of the best writing from E-Tangata. Traverse a landscape of contemporary and historical issues through the lens of a mother’s loss, a man’s hard-won expertise, a homesick student abroad and with the knowledge that all good things begin with ten guitars. These writings exemplify that grief and hope go hand-in-hand in the pursuit of justice and the reclaiming of identities in Aotearoa and the Pacific.” (from Bridget Williams Books)

Unfinished business : ki hea āpōpō / Curtis, Toby
“The late Te Arawa leader sets out his life from poverty to knighthood with frank views on education and racism. Knowing that he was unwell, over the past year the late Sir Toby Curtis worked with long-time friend Dr Lorraine Berridge McLeod to record his life and views on key areas from his stellar career — especially Māori education and leadership, and his experience of racism.” (Catalogue)

January’s New Music for Te Awe: Part 3…


via GIPHY

Statler: Well, it was good.
Waldorf: Ah, it was very bad.
Statler: Well, it was average.
Waldorf: Ah, it was in the middle there.
Statler: Ah, it wasn’t that great.
Waldorf: I kind of liked it.”
-‘The Muppet Show’.

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries (I also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library. We pick out some interesting titles across a range of music genres, and try to limit our reviews to a few lines only. Can we encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? [Ed. This is probably unlikely at this point]. Do we actually know anything about new music? Or, are we just too old to understand what most of this is banging on about? Read on to find out…

Here is part three of our new music picks for January. You can catch up with Part 1 here & Part 2 here.

Wrap it up : the Isaac Hayes and David Porter songbook
Mark: What can you say about the songwriting genius of Isaac Hayes & David Porter. The architects of Stax Soul, they created a sound that still sounds fresh and inspiring today, creating classic tracks that are continually covered by black & white artists and frequently crop up on modern movie soundtracks. Like most entries in the Ace Songwriters series, this presents some familiar songs in versions by different artists and some some rarer less familiar tracks. The mix of races, decades, & musical styles on display here is really a testament to the universal truths of these timeless songs.

Neil: If you are a fan of soul music, or indeed want to just dive into its many splendored past, then this lovingly curated compilation of classic soul anthems is a great place to start. There is one unifying link that joins all the tracks on the release, and that is they were written by the legendary writing partnership of Isaac Hayes and David Porter over an incredibly productive four-year period between 1965-1969. Many of the songs were huge hits at the time, and some remain on the core soul tunes canon to this day. A total treat.

The hardest part / Cyrus, Noah
Mark: The name may make you think…hang on, and you’d be right as Noah Cyrus is Miley Cyrus’ youngest sister, and ‘The hardest part’ is her debut full-length album following 3 EPs. This is very different from the music her sister makes, full of shades of pedal steel & banjo’s, and the strong songwriting of someone forging their own path and musical identity after overcoming a battle with substance abuse. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but the songs dig into the emotional complexities of heartbreak, recovery & family bonds with sincerity, she has a lovely expressive voice. Just an impeccably executed set of acoustic country/pop songs.

Neil: ‘The Hardest part’ is the debut album release from actress/ singer Noah Cyrus ( She started her acting career at the age of two and voiced Ponyo in its English version). It’s an album of focussed, mellow, acoustic guitar-pop, often in places evoking the Laurel-Canyon singer songwriter tradition. You can, from listening to the album, tell that Noah extends a vigorous attention to detail in both her lyrics and musical delivery. The songs deal with a raft of subjects and emotions, and are often tender and vulnerable . It is a fully formed work in all aspects and went on to earn her a Best New Artist nomination at the 2021 Grammy’s.

Devotional / Lord (Musician)
Mark: Vocalist and violinist Petra Haden (one of the daughters of late Jazz-bassist Charlie Haden) has had a remarkably eclectic musical career, from early days as a member of cult LA pop band That Dog, to an all-vocals tribute to a classic Who album, to collaborations with Bill Frisell & Mark Kozelek (Sun Kill Moon). Her latest collaboration is with The Lord, the Doom-metal project of Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) & Goatsnake. Just when you think there is nothing that you haven’t heard before, something like this will come along. A stunning suite of wordless, swirling, ethereal vocals, set to doom metal laced with heavy Indian classical influences. Intense, terrifying, meditative, hypnotic, gruelling yet life affirming. Music that almost impossible to describe, but achieves a lasting emotional response.

Neil: So, ‘Devotional’ by The Lord is not a Christian rock album, as the cover and title might suggest. It’s by the musicians who previously released Forest Nocturne an album inspired by Horror film soundtracks, so inspirational Christian album it is not. ‘Devotional’ is also very unlike its predecessor ‘Forest Nocturne’, though it does share a common widescreen, almost polymesmeric, quality. ‘Devotional’ is symphonic doom metal created from interwoven drone guitar and trance like chanting. It has an almost ritual Buddhist quality, in its slowly unwinding repetitive quality and you can also detect the influence of Indian music too. A strange and unusual piece that in its own way is compelling.

She said / Starcrawler
Mark: The 3rd album from these L.A retro-rockers, following 2019’s Devour You. Starcrawler obviously decided that what was lacking in modern music was a band who were dedicated to recreating the sound of Hole, circa Celebrity Skin. If that sounds like a criticism, its not, as this is just awesome fun all round. Huge riffs & catchy songs pay homage to Hole, Kiss, Joan Jett’s Runaways, and lead singer Arrow de Wilde (actually her real name) seems to be having so much fun channelling these glam influences that it becomes something a little better than just pastiche.

Neil: Starcrawler unashamedly channel the dual spirits of 70’s hard rock, and the back to basics 80’s punk of bands like the Runaways. ‘She said’ is their third album, and it’s full of catchy, anthemic, chant songs and glam-rock inspired guitar hooks. There’s definitely a couple of pages from the Black Sabbath or Alice Cooper guitar riff manual in there. Great fun. think Suzi Quatro as channelled by modern day heavy-rock L.A. musical YOOF.

Alpha Zulu / Phoenix (Musical group)
Mark: The well reviewed ‘Alpha Zulu’ has been seen as a late career highpoint for the French synth-rockers. Their 7th album is a super slick affair that also retains an emotional core, being both a post Covid album and also a response to the 2019 death of the band’s frequent collaborator and producer, Cassius member Philippe Zdar. Full of pulsing synths, disco-tinged bangers and plenty of pop hooks, the band deliver their most consistent set of tracks in years in an album that easily sits next to their 2009 Grammy winning breakthrough Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Super danceable & catchy. A great return.

Neil: French Indie pop band Phoenix have been on the go for a while, and ‘Alpha Zulu’ is their seventh album release. When they first broke through in France they were hailed as the band that’s going to save French pop music, and to a large extent this has proved to be the case, as they’ve won the Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammy Awards and had a string of hit albums and huge critical and commercial success. To fire up their creative energies for this album, they hired a studio in the Musée des Arts décoratifs, in a wing of the Louvre during the Covid pandemic of 2020, stating that they ‘wanted to create something beautiful in a deserted museum’. The resultant album is euphoric pop outing, deceptively simple, with lush production and a fizzy synth pop vibe, with the lyrics providing a supporting role in creating the overall atmosphere rather than being at the fore.

Pigments / Richard, Dawn
Mark: New Orleans singer Dawn Richard was formerly a member of projects helmed by P.Diddy, before moving on to become a leading figure in the alternative R&B/Electronica scene, and Spencer Zahn is an NY multi-instrumental Jazz musician. They have collaborated previously, but this is their first full length album. Intimate, slow, floaty minimalist chamber Jazz that occupies a similar meditative space as Nala Sinephro’s Space 1.8. The low register bass, string washes, lush orchestration and subtle electronics all give the music a dreamy reflective tone, as it transitions from vocal sections to mellow ambience.

Neil: ‘Pigments’ by Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn is a beautiful and relaxing meditative work, that weaves Dawn’s flexible and evocative voice in and out of the surrounding music like the ebb and flow of a spring tide. The supporting music is neo classical in tone, with strong modern mellow Jazz elements. There are sparkling moments, moments of vulnerability, and a lot of very subtle, nuanced and delicate transitions amongst the washes of synths, voices and Saxophones. A very atmospheric release.

1969 / Driscoll, Julie
Mark: Julie Driscoll is an iconic English singer who worked with Blues-pop act Brian Auger and the Trinity in the late 60s. In the 1970s she married Jazz musician Keith Tippett, and her vocal work became more experimental & avant-garde. Two of her albums have been reissued recently, ‘1969’, which came out of the late 60’s Canterbury music scene, and 1976’s more experimental Sunset Glow (under the name Julie Tippett). This is firmly in the folk-Jazz-rock mould, but performed within a more stricter ‘pop’ format, aligning with the then current wave of female singer-songwriters. Her voice is quite soulful and the songs represent the themes of the time, revolving around the quest for social, political & personal freedoms. Like a lot of the spiritual, freedom & protest music of that time it has held up surprisingly well & still resonates today.

Neil: Julie Driscoll is perhaps best known for her cover of Wheels on fire, which became one of the defining tracks of the British psychedelic-era in rock music. And also, the theme tune to ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. Julie Driscoll’s ‘1969’ was originally released in 1971, and whilst there are trappings of the flower-power scene to be heard here, the album is much more expansive, experimental and varied to be so easily pigeonholed. Despite its age and genesis, the album stands up remarkably well, and not just in a historical context, but also in a modern one. Some of the reasons for this include the experimental folk-jazz, played by many leading musicians of the Canterbury scene of that time, as well as the quality of the song writing both lyrically and musically. And one of the key factors in this is Driscoll’s voice itself, which is powerfully full of emotion at one point, and wistfully nuanced the next.

Roya / Liraz
Mark: Liraz is musician and actor Liraz Charhi, an award-winning Israeli-Persian singer & actress and ‘Roya’ is her 3rd album. 2020 predecessor Zan (Woman), involved online collaborations with Iranian musicians, but this time she risked recording together live in a secret studio space in Istanbul with female musicians from Tehran. The album serves as a tribute to the women of Iran and the ongoing power of their struggle, mixing six Israeli musicians with five Iranian performers in a melange Middle-East grooves, meets 70s funk, sophisticated 80s pop, analogue synths, orchestration & traditional Iranian lute, tar, violin, viola and guitars.

Neil: ‘Roya’ by Liraz largely is a dialog on many levels between the artist and her sisters (in the widest sense) in Iran. The album would be deemed controversial and banned by the ruling authorities in her homeland for a whole host of reasons, such as recording it in the neutral territory of Istanbul to allow her to use six Israeli musicians and five Iranian ones. Not to mention the lyrics are about solidarity and empowerment. That said, the music isn’t heavy in any way, it’s more a joyous and upbeat celebration of what this movement stands for. An up tempo mix of infectious seventies disco, crossed with modern psychedelic sounds, and all created through the lens of Iranian and the Middle-eastern sounds using instruments such as the Tar and the Lute mixed in with the drum machines and synths.

Scandal, heartbreak, and gunslinging mayors: New popular non-fiction

It’s a new month and as per usual we have a plethora of shiny new non-fiction books awaiting their readers. For those interested in all things local, you might be intrigued by Downfall, a dramatic tale about Whanganui mayor Charles Mackay, who was mired in scandal after shooting the blackmailing poet D’Arcy Cresswell. We also have A History of New Zealand in 100 Objects which – much like it says on the tin – uses a range of historical relics as a base to examine fascinating, important and odd moments in our history, perfect for those who prefer to dip in and out of a book.

Looking further abroad, Sally Hayden’s depiction of the North African refugee and migrant crisis in My Fourth Time, We Drowned is a stellar piece of journalism, exploring the terrible impact of international politics on individual lives. Mike Rinder’s story of how he rose through the ranks of the Scientology church, and how he subsequently escaped, is another chilling read which reveals the inner workings of this powerful and controversial organisation. Then for fans of Dolly Alderton (or for anyone who’s feeling particularly nosy, or who happens to be craving a bit of good-humoured advice) we have Dear Dolly, a curation of letters from her agony aunt column.

Downfall : the destruction of Charles Mackay / Diamond, Paul
“In 1920 New Zealanders were shocked by the news that the brilliant, well-connected mayor of Whanganui had shot a young gay poet, D’Arcy Cresswell, who was blackmailing him. They were then riveted by the trial that followed. Mackay was sentenced to hard labour and later left the country, only to be shot by a police sniper during street unrest in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. Mackay had married into Whanganui high society, and the story has long been the town’s dark secret. The outcome of years of digging by historian Paul Diamond, Downfall shines a clear light on the vengeful impulses behind the blackmail and Mackay’s ruination.” (Catalogue)

My fourth time, we drowned : seeking refuge on the world’s deadliest migration route / Hayden, Sally
“Reporter Sally Hayden was at home in London when she received a message on Facebook: “Hi sister Sally, we need your help.” The sender identified himself as an Eritrean refugee who had been held in a Libyan detention centre for months. From this single message begins a staggering account of the migrant crisis across North Africa. Hayden’s book is based on interviews with hundreds of refugees and migrants who tried to reach Europe and found themselves stuck in Libya once the EU started funding interceptions in 2017. It is an intimate portrait of life for these detainees, as well as a condemnation of NGOs and the United Nations, whose abdication of international standards will echo throughout history. But most importantly, My Fourth Time, We Drowned shines a light on the resilience of humans: how refugees and migrants survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dear Dolly : on love, life and friendship : collected wisdom from her Sunday Times Style column / Alderton, Dolly
“Since early 2020, Dolly Alderton has been sharing her wisdom, warmth and wit with the countless people who have written in to her Dear Dolly agony aunt column. Their questions range from the painfully – and sometimes hilariously – relatable to the occasionally bizarre. Without judgement, and with deep empathy informed by her own, much-chronicled adventures in love, friendship and dating, Dolly leads us by the hand through the various labyrinths of life, proving that a problem shared is truly a problem halved.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A history of New Zealand in 100 objects / Phillips, Jock
“The sewing kete of an unknown 18th-century Māori woman; the Endeavour cannons that fired on waka in 1769; the bagpipes of an Irish publican Paddy Galvin; the school uniform of Harold Pond, a Napier Tech pupil in the Hawke’s Bay quake; the Biko shields that tried to protect protestors during the Springbok tour in 1981; Winston Reynolds’ remarkable home-made Hokitika television set, the oldest working TV in the country; the soccer ball that was a tribute to Tariq Omar, a victim of the Christchurch Mosque shootings, and so many more – these are items of quiet significance and great personal meaning, taonga carrying stories that together represent a dramatic, full-of-life history for everyday New Zealanders.” (Catalogue)

A billion years : my escape from a life in the highest ranks of Scientology / Rinder, Mike
“Mike Rinder’s parents began taking him to their local Scientology center when he was five years old. In the 1980s, Rinder became Scientology’s international spokesperson and the head of its powerful Office of Special Affairs. He helped negotiate Scientology’s pivotal tax exemption from the IRS and engaged with the organization’s prominent celebrity members. Yet Rinder couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that something was amiss. In 2007, at the age of fifty-two, Rinder finally escaped Scientology. Overnight, he became one of the organization’s biggest public enemies. In A Billion Years, the dark, dystopian truth about Scientology is revealed as never before. Rinder offers insights into the religion that only someone of his former high rank could provide and tells a harrowing but fulfilling story of personal resilience.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dinner in Rome : a history of the world in one meal / Viestad, Andreas
““There is more history in a bowl of pasta than in the Colosseum,” writes Andreas Viestad. From the table of a classic Roman restaurant, Viestad takes us on a fascinating culinary exploration of the Eternal City and global civilization. He finds deeper meanings in his meal: he uses the bread that begins his dinner to trace the origins of wheat and its role in Rome’s rise as well as its downfall. With his fried artichoke antipasto, he explains olive oil’s part in the religious conflict of sixteenth-century Europe. And, from his sorbet dessert, he recounts how lemons featured in the history of the Mafia in the nineteenth century and how the hunger for sugar fuelled the slave trade. Viestad’s “culinary archaeology” is an entertaining, flavourful journey across the dinner table and time.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The modern bestiary : a curated collection of wondrous creatures / Bagniewska, Joanna
“From the familiar to the improbable, the gross to the endearing, The Modern Bestiary is a compendium of curious creatures. Arranged by elements (Earth, Water, Air), it contains well-known species told from new, unexpected angles, as well as stranger and lesser-known creatures. Then there are the ‘aliens on Earth’, such as tardigrades, tongue-eating lice and immortal jellyfish, creatures so astonishing that they make unicorns look rather commonplace. Written by a zoologist with a flair for storytelling, this is a fascinating celebration of the animal kingdom.” (Adapted from Catalogue)