February Picks

Debbie and Jan have been reading:

Isaacson, Walter (2011) Steve Jobs.  Little Brown.  Based on 40 exclusive interviews with Steve Jobs , and more than a 100 interviews with friends, family, colleagues, adversaries, and competitors, this book chronicles Steve’s life and passion  for perfection and his manic drive to control and revolutionize digital technologies and  product excellence. An extraordinary and inspiring read;  this masterly biography is filled with learnings about innovation, imagination, character, values and leadership.  Highly recommended.  Rating: 10/10.

Jan’s been reading:

Gregory, Philippa, David Barrow, Michael Jones (2011)  The women of the Cousins’ War; the Duchess, the Queen, and the King’s Mother. Simon & Schuster.  Insight into the lives of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville, amd Margaret Beaufort, the inspirations for Philippa Gregory’s fiction series, by Dr Gregory and expert historians of the period.  Fascinating accessible read.  Rating: 9/10.

Weir, Alison (2011) Mary Boleyn; the great and infamous whore. Cape. Mary Boleyn is remembered as Henry VIII’s mistress, and sister of his second wife, the tragic Anne Boleyn.  Alison Weir explodes much of the mythology around Mary, and her extensive forensic research finds Mary undeserving of her posthumous notoriety.  Riveting read and comprehensive biography.  Rating: 9/10.

Angela’s been reading:

Keynes, Randal (2001) Annie’s Box; Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution.  Fourth Estate.  Charles and Emma Darwin’s first daughter, Annie, died in 1851, when she was just 10.  Annie’s demise, devastated the great naturalist.  Annie’s box is the writing box, unearthed by  great-great-grandson Keynes, in which were stowed a few childish relics and tribulations recorded by Charles Darwin in notes and letters.  This correspondence forms the core of the author’s intriguing family portrait.  Rating: 8/10.

Graham, Peter (2011) So brilliantly clever; Parker, Hulme and the Murder That Shocked the World. Awa Press. The brutal, premeditated murder of Honorah Parker in 1954 in a lonely park by her 16-year-old daughter Pauline and Pauline’s 15-year-old friend Juliet Hulme made shock headlines around the world. International media flocked to New Zealand to follow the trial. Still today, the murder remains one of the most intriguing  criminal cases of all time.  Interesting, very well researched.  Rating: 9/10.

Barb’s been reading:

Ondaatje, Michael (2011) The Cat’s Table. Knopf. A young boy journeys by ship from Sri Lanka to England in the 1950s. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly ‘Cat’s Table’ with an eccentric group of grown-ups and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another.  Highly colourful, great fun, although becomes slightly fantastical.  Highly recommended. Rating: 8.5/10.

Eugenides, Jeffrey (2011)  The Marriage Plot. Fourth Estate. Madeleine Hanna is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different men, intervenes.  Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce?  Well written novel of today, good ending.  Rating: 8/10.

Jan Mc’s been reading:

Meyers, Randy Susan (2010) The Murderer’s Daughters. Sphere. Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday she lets their estranged father into the house, and he murders their mother, stabs her sister, and tries to kill himself. For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a spectre in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make.  Recommended. Rating: 8.5/10.

Ann’s been reading:

James, PD (2011) Death comes to Pemberley.  Faber.  The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered.  Not a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Forced happy ending,  Rating: 7/10.

De Vries, Susanna (2008) Desert Queen; the many lives and loves of Daisy Bates. Harper Collins.  Daisy Bates reinvented herself from humble governess to heiress-traveller and ‘woman of science’. She would become one of the best-known and most controversial ethnologists in history and one of the first people to put Aboriginal culture on the map. This along with her colourful private life has made her subject to a number of biographies over the years.  A fascinating story but very poorly written, researched and edited. Rating: 6.5/10.

Roz’s been reading:

Palmer, Wayne (2011) Ghosts of the Waikato. Self-published. Set in a Waikato psychiatric  hospital in 2065, this futuristic whodunit follows the fortunes of psychiatrist Janet Riley  who tries to discover why her patients keep mysteriously dying. First novel. Tied together very well in the end. Rating: 7.5/10.

Hayward, Bruce W, Graeme Murdoch,  Gordon Maitland.  (2011) Volcanoes of Auckland; the essential guide. Auckland University Press.  Through authoritative text, newly commissioned maps, spectacular new aerial photography, and large numbers of contemporary and historic illustrations, the book brings to life the nature and culture of the region’s volcanic life. Interesting.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Carol’s been reading:

Dench, Judy (2010) And furthermore. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. From the moment Judi Dench appeared as a teenager in the York Mystery Plays it was clear that acting would be her career. Trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama it was her performance in her twenties as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s memorable Old Vic production that turned her into a star.  Told with humour this delightful autobiography reflects on the life and roles of  this phenomenal actor  Easy to read, with lots of pictures.  Rating: 8.5/10.

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