October Picks

Jan’s been reading:

Weir, Alison (2010) The Captive Queen; a novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hutchinson.  It is the year 1152 and a beautiful woman of thirty, rides like the wind southwards through what is now France, leaving behind her crown, her two young daughters and a shattered marriage to King Louis of France.  This woman is Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and her sole purpose  is to return to her vast duchy and marry the man she loves, Henry Plantagenet, King of England. A novel on the grand scale. It tells of the making of nations, and of passionate conflicts: between Henry II and Thomas Becket; between Eleanor and Henry’s formidable mother Matilda; between father and sons, as Henry’s children take up arms against him; and finally between Henry and Eleanor herself.  Great read. Rating: 8.5/10

Malane, Donna (2010) Surrender: some truths should stay buried. NZ Society of Authors.  Missing person expert, Diane Rowe, is struggling to make sense of her life.  The brutal death of her sister, followed by the death of her killer, leads Diane into her sister’s seedy past… and then there is the matter of a decapitated body.  Winner of the 2010 NZ Society of Authors-Pindar Publishing Prize.  Good writing and a cool central character. Rating: 8.5/10

Cath’s been reading:

Brettschneider, Dean (2007) Global baker. Random House.  Dean Brettschneider is a New Zealand  professional baker and patissier.  In this, his fourth book, Dean shares recipes for bread, pastries, cakes and desserts that reflect his broad international experience. The book includes extensive instructions on techniques and ingredients, and decoration tips. Although some recipes are complex, generally it is “baking made easy”.  Rating: 8/10

MacLauchlan, Gordon (2010) Loving all of it: eminent New Zealanders write about growing old. Random House.  The baby boomers are starting to reflect on ways to grow old well, and these 32 affecting pieces by prominent New Zealanders over the age of 65 serve as extremely strong pieces of autobiography.  The contributors include Wilson Whineray, Ranginui Walker, Brian Edwards, Hamish Keith,  and Tessa Duder.  Rating: 8/10

Debbie has been reading:

McCall Smith, Alexander (2000/01 ) Tears for the Giraffe/ Morality for beautiful girls.  Polygon. Tales from the the No 1. Ladies’ Detective Agency series (second and third books) which chart the further adventures of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s only – and finest – female private detective. Formulaic. Rating: 6.5/10

Bollman, Stefan ( 2008) Women who read are dangerous. Merrell. Artists have long sought to capture the intimacy and tranquility of reading in their work. There was a time, however, when female literacy was a radical idea, and women have certainly not always been free to read whatever they want, whether for pleasure or instruction. This  book presents a compelling selection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs of women reading through the ages. Rating: 9/10

Bonavia, Fulvio (2008) A matter of taste. Hachette.   Fulvio Bonavia fuses haute couture with cuisine with results that tantalize fashionistas and foodies alike. Step out in style in a pair of corn espadrilles. A tagliatelle belt makes for a delicious main course, but should always be worn al dente. Later, for dessert, you can dine on fruit-paste bangles and a cheese necklace, then dance the night away in a pair of aubergine slippers.  Rating: 7/10

Roz’s been reading:

Craig, Amanda (2009) Hearts and minds. Little Brown. Craig’s  five characters are outsiders, all aware of their insignificance in the mass of humanity that is London. They struggle to make sense of their lives, to find jobs, homes and love, with lives  constantly rubbing up against each other. She convincingly and carefully interweaves her narrative streams.  Evocative and delightful.  Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 Long List.  Rating: 8.5/10

Jenny has been reading:

McEwan, Ian (2010) Solar. Cape.  Climate change is chiefly an engineering problem to Michael Beard, the central character in McEwan’s new novel.  Beard is a short, fat, philandering physicist, his best days long behind him. A Nobel laureate for his early theoretical work, he sits on committees, lends his name and prestige to institutional letterheads, and fills the role of “Chief” at a research centre. His latest appointment, as head of the Government’s new National Centre for Renewable Energy, is already mired in a wrong-headed project to build domestic roof-mounted wind turbines.  He serves as the novel’s scientifically informed focal consciousness and as a quasi-allegorical figure.  Superb writing with lots of punch.  Rating: 8.5/10

Adiga, Aravind (2008)  The White Tiger.  Atlantic.  The novel takes a sharp and unblinking look at the reality of India’s economic miracle. Its antihero and narrator, Balram Halwai, is a cocksure, uneducated young man, the son of an impoverished rickshaw driver. By lying, betraying and using his sharp intelligence, Balram makes his ascent into the heady heights of Bangalore’s big business. 2008 Man Booker prize winner. Admirable book, but takes you out of your comfort zone.  Recommended also by Julie. Rating:  8/10

Julie’s been reading:

Lashlie, Celia (2010) The power of Mothers: releasing our children. Harper Collins.  Celia follows children born into families caught up in intergenerational crime, poverty and abuse, that are also victims of institutional neglect. She exposes the environment in which they live, where she believes the negative attitudes of many within our bureaucracy work against the efforts of the children’s mother to be the best mother she can.  Her message is that the children entering prison are our children, children born pure and full of magic, but who are let down over and over again by the system that should protect them. Rating: 8/10

Langbein, Annabel (2010) The Free Range Cook. Bateman. The companion cookbook to the TV series, Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook shares the secrets to cooking great food in a simple, natural way. Rating: 8/10

Carol’s been reading:

Pio, Edwina (2010) Longing and belonging. Dunmore. The book traces the origins of Asians and Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA) peoples in New Zealand.  A rich resource that explores the ethnic diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand today. It is a stimulating mix of hard facts, stories of adaptation by recent and older immigrants, and explores aspects of work experience and identity. Rating: 9/10

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