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Aotearoa NZ's independent voice of fishing, hunting & outdoors

Book reviews: June 2022

4 min read

Pick of the month

Solo: Backcountry adventuring in Aotearoa New Zealand
Hazel Phillips

Massey University Press
Reviewed by Tony Orman

In 2016, disillusioned with “what Auckland had become”, Hazel Phillips headed for the hills and spent three years wandering as a free spirit around Mount Taranaki (Egmont), Ruapehu the Kawekas, Fiordland, Arthurs Pass, and a few other wilderness areas. “I left – packed up my whole life except for a tramping pack, boots, and ski gear – and cut a fast-track south,” she says.  She wore out three pairs of boots in the time.

The book features her rambles but also often intriguing history of areas and particularly wilderness adventurers before her, sometimes tragedies that underline the respect mountains and wilderness demand. At the same time, her own philosophies and emotions, plus her experiences add a strong personal touch overall.

It’s a well-produced book, amply illustrated and written in an engaging manner. An absorbing read.

More good reads

Seventy Years’ Worth of Travel
Pat Backley
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and in this instance, the saying is true – well somewhat anyway. This series of short yarns follows our intrepid traveller as she journeys through many parts of the world and at times provides some good tips for those who choose to follow in her footsteps decades later.

While the trips are somewhat interesting, what our writer fails to cotton on is that anyone can write a travel guide, but the real interesting stuff is what’s happening in the background, such as her relationships with family and friends, especially her two (or is it three?) ex-husbands and what cemented her decision to move across the world to live in New Zealand. While she only lightly touches on these subjects, the book would have been so much more if those stories had been included. Nonetheless, it’s a good light read that won’t tax the brain cells too much.

If That’s What It Takes
Les Allen
Illustra Press
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Debut novels will either reel you in or smash you to the floor, but unfortunately, this was the latter of the two.
Things start in Northern Ireland early 1970s, as a soon-to-be ex-SAS sharpshooter defies orders and pumps bullets into a couple of lawbreakers. Exiled to New Zealand, with a new identity, he makes a new life near Whangarei, yada, yada. At this point or somewhere around there, we suddenly step ahead maybe 10 years or so and a whole new character takes centre stage, as do a number of others in quick succession. It soon becomes a bunch of rambling yarns with 20 or maybe even 30 characters – I lost count. Our original SAS guy now only pops in on the odd occasion. It’s all very bizarre and could have been so much more if the author had sourced a professional editor for advice and Google to get simple facts right.  

Dinner Express
George Georgievski
Pan Macmillan
Reviewed by Lisa Potter

Bestselling author George Georgievski specialises in fuss-free food with a focus on time-saving tips and clever hacks for pimping up often overlooked pantry staples.

Dinner Express is packed with meals that can be knocked together with maximum speed and minimum stress. Plus, advice for helping with planning, preparation, shortcuts, and bargains.

Choose from salads and hidden veggie hacks to mighty mince meals and recipes just for meat lovers.

If you’re after a super quick winter pick-me-up, try the Barbecued Vegemite Beef Ribs. Lip-smackingly rich and good, this can be cooked on the barbecue and serves four (or two if you’re feeling greedy).

With more than 60 dinner (and lunch) recipes to choose from, it’s a feast of inspiration for food-tired brains.

The Anomaly
Hervé Le Tellier
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

This could have been so much better and I’m hoping any movie-maker who picks up the rights does the story justice. Essentially, an airliner flying from Paris to New York hits the mother of all storms, and in the process, the aircraft and all the people onboard get duplicated – memories and all. One plane lands as per normal and the second plane lands some three months later.

You have to admit, that is not a bad base for a story, so why didn’t Steve rate it, you ask? Well, there are some really good sections to the book, but I felt the writer tried to get clever, philosophical, and academic, which all just became an unnecessary distraction. Not a bad ending though, I’ll give Hervé that.


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