August Picks

Debbie’s been reading:

Seligman, Martin (2011) Flourish. Random House.  A new understanding of what it takes to reach life’s greatest goals. Seligman, psychologist and founder of the Positive Psychology movement, offers a new theory on what makes people flourish and how to truly get the most out of life. There are inspiring stories of positive psychology in action, and how optimism, motivation, and character can turn medicine on its head.  A powerful book about the impact of positive well-being and social intelligence.  Rating: 9/10.

Follett, Ken (2010) Fall of Giants.  Pan Macmillan.   Follows five families through the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women. It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. The story moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. Really good read.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Brooks, Geraldine (2006) March.  HarperCollins.  Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set during the American Civil War.  Tells the story of John March, known to us as the away father  in Louisa May Alcott’s  Little Women.  In Brooks’s tale, March emerges as an abolitionist and idealistic chaplain on the front lines of a war that tests his faith in himself and in the Union cause. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness in a Washington hospital, he must reassemble the shards of his shattered mind and body, and find a way to reconnect with his wife and daughters.  A 7.30 Bookclub favourite.  Rating: 9/10.

Ewing, Barbara (2003)  The Trespass.  Little Brown. London, 1849. At sixteen, Harriet Cooper has only one person keeping her from ruin, her older sister, Mary. Their father, Sir Charles, is obsessed with Harriet wishing she would act as his wife rather than his daughter.  It is Mary who keeps watch over Harriet’s bedroom door, but then Mary dies, and Harriet flees after her cousin Edward  to the new colony of New Zealand. Harriet manages to get herself on a boat bound for Wellington, but her father soon chases after her.  Really good historical read.  Rating: 8/10.

Patterson, James (2007) The 5th Horseman. Headline.  A young mother is recuperating in a San Francisco hospital when suddenly she’s gasping for breath. The call button fails to bring help in time. With help from the newest member of the Women’s Murder Club, Yuki Castellano, Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer discovers that this is not the hospital’s first suspicious case. Other patients have taken unexpected and devastating turns for the worse just as they’re planning to go home. Nice light read.  Rating: 7.5/10.

Jan Mc”s been reading:

Walker, Peter (2010) The Courier’s Tale. Bloomsbury, Reginald Pole, diplomat, friend of scholars, cardinals and artists, and cousin to Henry VIII, is first seen stealing into the Medici chapel at dead of night to catch a forbidden glimpse of Michelangelo’s masterpiece of funerary sculpture. But as the king’s representative in Italy, and an admired scholar himself, it falls to him to make the case for Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. And it falls to the hapless Michael Throckmorton to become Thomas Cromwell’s courier to Pole in Rome.  We see these famous events that saw England become a Protestant nation through the eyes of this luckless courier.  Recommended.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Julie’s been reading:

Lynch, Sara Kate (2011) Dolci di Love. HarperCollins. Violetta has a sixth sense when it comes to love which is why she is ‘spiritual leader’ of The Secret League of Widowed Darners, an all-but invisible army mending broken hearts in a hilltop town in Tuscany. Then Lily Turner arrives fresh from the boardrooms of Manhattan. She’s just found out that her perfect husband has been having the children she could never have right there in Montevedova, with someone else!  Silly, but quite nice.  Rating: 6.5/10.

Cannold, Lesley (2011) The book of Rachael.  Text Publishing. The year is 30 AD. The young preacher, then known as Joshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, has a sister. The Book of Rachael is the story of a fiercely intelligent child consigned by her sex to a life of ignorance and drudgery. But Rachael fights her destiny, secretly learning the forbidden skills of literacy from her father, Yosef, and her brother. And when she falls in love with Joshua’s closest friend, Judah of Iscariot, it even seems that Rachael will find happiness in her constrained world. Then a message comes from Joshua. He is on his way to Jerusalem for Passover. He plans to speak out in the Temple against the corrupt establishment… Intriguing, interesting twist with well-developed and plausible characters.  Highly recommended.  Rating: 9.5/10.

Cath’s been reading:

Quigley, Sarah (2011). The Conductor.  Random House.  In June 1941, Nazi troops march on Leningrad and surround it. Hitler’s plan is to shell, bomb, and starve the city into submission. Most of the cultural elite are evacuated early in the siege, but Dmitri Shostakovich, the most famous composer in Russia, stays on to defend his city.   At night he composes a new work. But after Shostakovich and his family are forced to evacuate, only Karl Eliasberg – a shy and difficult man, conductor of the second-rate Radio Orchestra – and an assortment of musicians are left behind in Leningrad to face an unendurable winter and start rehearsing the finished score of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony.  New Zealand author. Interesting read.  Rating: 8/10.

Lupton, Rosamund (2011) Sister. Little Brown. Nothing can break the bond between sisters … When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister’s life – and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice’s fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.  First novel.  Fabulous description of grief and familial grief – “whodunit” with  a twist.  Rating: 9/10.

Jan’s been reading:

Anderson, John (2010) Only two seat left! The Incredible Contiki Story. Great Gathering Co.   Entrepreneurial success story, from humble beginnings in the 1960s to an Australasian right of passage for young travellers. How a  simple idea with a starting capital of just £25 became a worldwide travel company and an internationally recognised ‘iconic’ brand name.  An inspiring story of boldness, risk and adventure, which should be listed amongst New Zealand’s successful brand stories.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Gruen, Sara (2005) Flying changes.  Harper.  Sequel to Riding Lessons.  Anxiety rules Annemarie Zimmer’s day – the fear that her relationship with the man she loves is growing stagnant; the fear that equestrian daughter Eva’s dreams of Olympic glory will carry her far away from her mother . . . and into harm’s way.  Annemarie struggles to make peace with her past, but an unanticipated tragedy  drastically alters her fragile world.  Good yarn.  Rating: 7.5/10.

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