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  • Lihue Mill (Book Review)

    Lihue Mill

    Regardless of the long-term social and environmental impacts of the sugar industry in Hawaiʻi, there is no argument that sugar production played an important role in shaping the culture and communities of our island home. This is evident in the one hundred fifty years of sugar processing along Nāwiliwili Stream that formed and shaped Līhuʻe into the thriving city and county seat that it is today. Kauaʻi journalist Jan Tenbruggencate brings this history to light in Lihue Mill: One Hundred Fifty Years of Sugar Processing Along Nāwiliwili Stream, a book cataloging the lifespan of the mill through an abundance of photographs, a distinct history, and narratives from former employees.

    Unlike many of the major towns in the state, Līhuʻe was not built around a bustling harbor, as the town is located inland, along a stream between two plateaus. Lihue Mill recounts the story of sugar in Hawaiʻi, focusing on the birth and growth of the mill in Kauaʻi and its influence on the town’s growth from sparsely populated woodlands into a bustling economic town. Tenbruggencate’s history of the mill is both detailed and precise, providing an expert insight into the history of the sugar industry and most notably its production, detailing sugar producing innovations, early adoption of technologies, and the development of fuel sources contributing to Lihue Mill being one of the most advanced sugar processing facilities in Hawaiʻi.

    This narrative provides an informative backdrop for the centerpiece of the book: its extensive collection of archival photographs. Beautifully constructed, Lihue Mill is fully deserving of the Honorable Mention it received in Excellence in Design at the 2012 Ka Palapala Pookela Awards. Photos spanning from 1865 to the present visually recount the humble beginnings of the mill and its surrounding community, and the industrious growth as both the mill grew in size and the town surrounding it grew in importance as a direct result.

    Punctuating this collection of historical photographs and reporting are ten oral history interviews with former Lihue Mill employees, written as narratives, providing a much needed injection of the human element to the book. After all, the stories of the people who worked at Lihue Mill are an integral piece in the history and community of Kauaʻi, and thanks to Lihue Mill, their stories and this history will not be lost with the mill’s closing.

    Lihue Mill: One Hundred Fifty Years of Sugar Processing Along Nāwiliwili Stream
    Jan Tenbruggencate
    Pahio Development & Lihue MS, 2011
    Hardcover, 116 pages
    ASIN: B00HBL8S96

  • The Hawaii Movie & Television Book (book review)

    Hawaii movie television

    The scenic islands of Hawai‘i have long been the subject and location of many television and movie productions. Ed Rampell and Luis I. Reyes have compiled a unique reference book for screen enthusiasts in The Hawai‘i Movie and Television Book: Celebrating 100 Years of Film Production Throughout the Hawaiian Islands (Mutual Publishing, 2013). It’s their third collaboration of island cinematic history following the previous books Made In Paradise: Hollywood’s Films of Hawaii and The South Seas and Pearl Harbor In The Movies.

    The title is a bit misleading, since the book focuses primarily on Hollywood films and television shows made in Hawai‘i from 1995 to the present but was published with the subtitle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first made-in-Hawai‘i feature films. There is a great deal of history in this book, don’t get me wrong, it really does cover one hundred years… just not in as much detail as the disproportionately longer (much longer) sections about the new Hawaii Five-0 and the movie The Descendants.

    Still, early chapters provide an overview of the start of South Seas Cinema and a quick look at the history of Hawai‘i crime fighting television serials. The ‘Made in Paradise’ chapter, which is the bulk of the book,  has pictures, production info and critical commentary on 100 years of projects in chronological order starting in 1913.

    Particularly fun for visitors and locals alike is the chapter on filming locations. I know I’m not the only one who tries to recognize/find landmarks in a movie or show that’s filmed here. This book features some of the most popular locations across the major islands from Kualoa Ranch to Hanalei Bay.

    A book about moving pictures should be visually engaging and this one is. Retouched, four-color vintage pictures, movie posters and other memorabilia decorate the pages. It can look a bit mish-mash but that’s part of it’s charm with a variety of images: nostalgic, candid, behind-the-scenes, and promotional. Authors Rampell and Reyes have truly curated a book that would please any film buff.

    The Hawai‘i Movie and Television Book is a comprehensive look at the scope and impact of the Hawai‘i film industry and a look at how movie-making in the islands has evolved and developed. I was very happy to see info about independent, documentary and student films (not just major motion pictures and network television shows) and mentions of our internationally known film festivals. There is also coverage of films about Hawaiian life made by native Hawaiians and local filmmakers.

    For those who are interested in learning more about Pacific film history, L.A.-based film historian Ed Rampell, who formerly lived in Hawai‘i is also a co-founder of the South Seas Cinema Society, an Oahu-based fan club/film society.

    The Hawai‘i Movie and Television Book: Celebrating 100 Years of Film Production Throughout the Hawaiian Islands
    Ed Rampell and Luis I. Reyes
    Mutual Publishing, 2013
    ISBN: 9781939487025
    Softcover, 208 pgs.

  • Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Kii (Book Review)

    Cacy and Kiara and the Curse of the Kii

    You don’t see many local chapter books for children published regularly, so anytime Misty and I come across one, we are always eager to see how well it stands up and helps advance the genre. Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Kiʻi by Roy Chang is an intense yet fun and humorous children’s novel that brings together Hawaiian geography, legends, themes and more.

    In this thrilling adventure, two sixth-grade cousins–brash Cacy and book-smart Kiara–embark on a field trip with their different schools to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. While there, they are accidentally cursed by an ancient kii they stumble upon. This curse will bring about complete destruction of the land if the duo do not trek across the park to a nearby heiau before the sun rises on the next day. To make matters worse, an antagonistic collector of artifacts sets her evil henchmen on their trail in order to add the kii to her collection of rare, mystical antiques.

    Roy Chang creatively fabricates a world of mystical wonder where Hawaiian spirits and deities come alive, taking active roles in helping (or hindering) the quest of our female heroes (girl power!). I thoroughly enjoyed Chang’s framing of the story within a class trip, providing the narrative expositional license that gives young readers brief, yet educational explanations of Hawaiian geography, history, and myths and legends. For example, the use of Hawaiian words peppered throughout the pages teaches young readers such things as different lava flows (Aʻa vs. Pahoehoe), Hawaiian place names, mythical creatures, and much more.

    Though the book runs a bit long at 416 pages, the story moves at a brisk pace as Cacy and Kiara are constantly running in and out of precarious situations with a wealth of characters, including ʻaumākua, the goddesses Pele and Hiʻiaka, and a tribe of Menehune. Aiding in the narrative is Roy Chang’s charming manga-style illustrations, which helps punctuate the notion of this novel being an epic comic book come alive.

    Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Kiʻi is a fun and fantastical addition to our wealth of local literature and an especially needed book within the roster of local children’s novels. I look forward to reading and seeing more of Roy Chang’s work, including maybe another adventure for these spunky young heroines.

    You can preview the first three chapters of the book here! This book is recommended for ages 9 and up.

    Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Kiʻi
    written and illustrated by Roy Chang
    BeachHouse Publishing,
    416 pages, Softcover
    ISBN 1-933067-47-0

  • Writing the Hawaii Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story (book review)

    Writing the Hawaii Memoir

    No plot, no problem! 30 days to a complete manuscript! Publish your own Kindle bestseller!

    I’m no stranger to the market of these writing/publishing guide books. In the ever-long quest to improve my word-smithing skills I’ve purchased, borrowed, downloaded and read through my fair share of books on the craft. Books with lengthy chapters on plot, scene, character, syntax, pacing, voice, conflict… you get the picture.

    It’s an educational way to procrastinate from actually writing anything. I mean, I can’t possibly work on my book until I perfect parallel sentences, dammit! Right?

    In reality this is very counterproductive. I’ve learned that the best writing guides are short and sweet, filled with less examples of what your writing should look like and more motivational ways to create and organize what your writing will look like. Well…

    Writing the Hawaiʻi Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story (Watermark, 2014) by Big Island resident and national best-selling author Darien Gee, is everything that’s good about how-to books on writing without all the pedantic fluff. It’s well organized and concise while managing to be encouraging and clever in that gracefully fun way that only Gee could manage.

    It’s a fast read, with just enough advice and examples to provide guidance and support without bogging you down. It answers basic questions about publishing and copyright so that you feel more confident about taking your stories further. It’s also pretty. I love that the cover resembles a composition book, visually reinforcing the theme that this isn’t a book on writing, it is a book OF writing, with over 25 different writing exercises that help you get to the basic roots and emotions of your story.

    Writing the Hawaiʻi Memoir offers a variety of exercises but the best ones appeal and apply to local culture, like the bento box analogy and worksheets that help you fill and structure your story. I think what I love most is that this is truly a book about Hawaiʻi writing, about encouraging people to share and record their moʻolelo by providing tips from local authors and books (favorites like Lee Cataluna, Mark Panek, Bob Buss, Stuart Coleman, Craig Howes, Frances Kakugawa, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Christine Thomas and more). And the appendices cover other types of life-writing like autobiography and oral history.

    Writing about real-life events can be daunting, but Gee helps you to tell your story in the clearest and best way possible. This really shouldn’t surprise me since Darien Gee has been teaching memoir writing workshops in Hawaiʻi for years. The first time I met her was at a memoir writing session of the National Pen Women’s Hawaiʻi Conference and I’ve been a fan ever since! But more valuable than anything else, Writing the Hawaiʻi Memoir encourages you to write. Write your stories, long or short. It doesn’t have to be grand or historic. It just has to be.

    You can WIN a copy of the book by writing a six-word memoir and entering here. And check out Darien’s website for downloads, links and other info.

    For more details on thise book, or packages to help you publish your memoirs and family histories locally, visit Legacy Isle Publishing.

    Writing the Hawaiʻi Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story
    Author: Darien Gee
    Softcover, 144 pp
    Watermark Publishing, May 2014
    ISBN-13: 978-1935690535

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