Bookmarks: A selection of short reviews

A selection of short reviews.

One for cat lovers

A collection of almost 50 stories by people who have adopted cats, Feline Friends, Tales From the Heart (Exisle Publishing) highlights the work of the Cat Protection Society of New South Wales. The society, an independent charity based in Sydney, has been caring for cats since 1958.

From tiny orphaned kittens to cats abandoned to life on the streets, thousands of felines have been saved by the society's members.

The stories in the book have been written by people who took in the cats. One of the most cheering is told by a woman who was suffering severe depression. She took two ginger cats that might otherwise have been destroyed: they gave her a reason to get up in the morning and eventually turn her life around.

Illustrated with attractive photographs and printed on quality paper, Feline Friends is not a book to read in a sitting, but one for cat lovers to dip into at odd moments.

- Gillian Vine

Poetry full of shock and drama

A Man Runs Into A Woman (Hue and Cry Press, pbk) is Wellington poet Sarah Jane Barnett's debut collection of poetry.

This is an honest, zealous and dark little book. Barnett looks closely at people in a series of poetic vignettes.

Part of this book gathers a series of nine distinctive poems exploring the gap between heartfelt last words of Texas death row inmates, and the grim police reports of their crimes: "David Long"

... At first the women are white,
but at the climax they run crimson,
peach,
and shreds of other colours.
They are halved tangelos.
She crawls towards the
neighbour's tool shed, her arms
parting like strings of spit.
Her sister scratches his muzzle,
whining
on the stairs, please dear god
please.
He takes the long way back.

A Man Runs Into A Woman is stunning, stormy, snappy and accessible without hiding anything from the imagination. If you like your poetry full of shock, drama and statements, rather than soft whispery bits, this is the one for you.

- Hamesh Wyatt


NZ thriller perturbing

New Zealand author Paul Cleave is described as a "crime writing sensation" on the cover of his sixth thriller novel The Laughterhouse (Penguin.)

Whether readers find reading his stories a good sensation or a bad one is problematic. His books leave me uncomfortable, and the title of this one is derived from deliberately leaving the S off the front of the second word.

Theodore Tate is again his detective hero cum tough guy and the setting once again is Christchurch, but not entirely as we know it. The earthquakes are not mentioned, but the city is certainly being rebuilt; and it seems to be portrayed as full of villains and prostitutes, and the roads almost certainly ruled by boy-racer gangs.

The police are shown in the worst possible light right at the start of this serial killer mystery and there are buckets of blood and horrors for those who like such goings-on.

Kidnapping children, as well as adults, and asking a father to choose which of his three children should be killed first is indeed gruesome.

This story should really have been set in some bigger metropolis overseas, where murders are more frequent. And the staccato construction of many present-tense sentences, such as "I stepped over the blood" rather nagged me after a while.

- Geoff Adams