July Picks

Jan’s been reading:

Mantel, Hilary (2012) Bring up the bodies. Fourth Estate. Sequel to Man Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall.  By 1535 Thomas Cromwell is Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boelyn.  But Anne has failed in her promise to bear a son to secure the Tudor line.  At Wolf Hall Henry becomes enchanted by the plain, Jane Seymour.  Mantel explores this destructive period in English history, which threatens not only England but the career of Cromwell himself.  Gripping.  Rating: 9/10.

Barbieri, Heather (2012) The Cottage at Glass Beach.  Harper Collins. The infidelity of her politician husband, and constant hounding by the press, leads Nora and her two daughters to take refuge on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. This isolated island is a place full of superstition and magic, and the home of Nora’s childhood.  One night Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean and this sets off a train of events that finally enables her to chart her own destiny.  Enchanting – part fairy tale, part odyssey.   Rating: 8/10.

Martin, George RR (2009) A Game of Thrones. Voyager.  Book One of fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, now a TV series.  This is a tragic tale of treachery, greed and war that threatens the unity of the Seven Kingdoms. Martin unfolds this epic story of family ambition and conflict set in a world scarred by battle and catastrophe in the game of thrones, where you win or die. And in the bitter-cold, unliving lands beyond the Wall, a terrible winter gathers where the undead, the neverborn, wildlings make ready to descend on the realms of men.  Imaginative, ambitious and brutal.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Roz’s been reading:

Herbert, Christopher (2012) The Boiling Season.  Harper Collins. Set on an unspecified Caribbean island.  Alexandre is raised in the slums. Within only a few years, he rises from being a valet for an important politician to becoming caretaker for a derelict estate purchased by a wealthy foreign businesswoman. While the rest of the country copes with the rise of a brutal dictator, Alexandre oversees the restoration of a manor house and gardens. When his new employer sees a chance to turn the estate into a resort—Alexandre views the undertaking as the culmination of his dreams. But as the outside world starts to crumble around him, Alexandre must face the limits of the utopia he has created. Soon he is trapped in the middle of a war he has tried to ignore.  Good read.  Rating: 8/10.

Angela’s been reading:

Naslund, Sena Jeter (2007) Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette. Harper Collins. Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France. A very human Marie Antoinette invites readers to live her story as she experiences it. From the  gardens of Versailles to the  gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France, and finally the stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell.  Read with a sense of foreboding.  Irritatingly set in the present tense. Recommend.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Kissinger, Henry (2011) On China. Penguin. Kissinger  reflects on how China’s past illuminates its 21st-century trajectory, drawing on 40 years of intimate acquaintance with the country and its leaders.  Extremely well written and researched.  A view into the way the Chinese think.  Rating: 9/10.

Julie’s been reading:

Weir, Bronnie (2011) The top five regrets of dying. Balboa.  An Australian  palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days reveals the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. Idea good, with a central message “life is not a dress rehearsal”, but very self-indulgent.  Rating: 3/10.

Townsend, Sue (2012) The woman who went to bed for a year. Michael Joseph. The day her twins leave home for university, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she’s wanted to yell at the world, ‘Stop! I want to get off’. Finally, this is her chance.  Her husband who divides his time between gazing at the expanding universe, an unsatisfactory affair with his colleague and hanging-out in his shed, is not happy. Who will cook dinner? But word of Eva’s refusal to get out of bed quickly spreads and legions of fans are writing to her or gathering in the street to catch a glimpse of her. How to become a celebrity by staying in bed. Rating: 7.5/10.

Evans, Kim (2012) Treats from Little and Friday. Penguin.  Little and Friday’s two popular Auckland locations have addictive cream-filled donuts, buttery brioche, melt-in-the-mouth sweet tarts, and moreish savoury pastries. In this cookbook owner Kim Evans, a self-taught baker, shares the recipes for her most popular tarts, biscuits, savouries and cakes. Adapted for the home cook. Nurturing and approachable recipes.  Rating: 10/10.

Carol’s been reading:

Morris, Paula (2011) Rangatira. Penguin. Auckland, June 1886. Ngati Wai chief Paratene Te Manu spends three long days having his portrait painted by the Bohemian painter Gottfried Lindauer. Hearing of Lindauer’s planned trip to England reminds him of his own journey there, twenty years earlier, with a party of northern rangatira. As he sits for Lindauer, Paratene retreats deeper and deeper into the past, from the triumphs in London and their meetings with royalty to the disintegration of the visit into poverty, mistrust, and humiliation. Based on a true story.  Gripping, great story.  Rating: 9/10.

Tomalin, Claire (2011) Charles Dickens: A life. Viking.  Charles Dickens was a journalist, the father of ten children, a walker and traveller, a supporter of social causes, but most of all a great novelist.  At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character. Claire Tomalin,  paints an unforgettable portrait of Dickens, capturing brilliantly the complex character of this great genius. Rating: 8.5/10.

Cath’s been reading:

Mankell, Henning (2011) The man from Beijing. Vintage. From author of Wallander mysteries. In a sleepy hamlet in north Sweden, the local police make a chilling discovery; nineteen people have been brutally slaughtered.  When Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the massacre, she realises that she has a family connection to one of the couples involved and decides to investigate. When the police make a hasty arrest it is left to her to investigate the source of a nineteenth century diary and red silk ribbon found near the crime scene. What she will uncover leads her into an international web of corruption and a story of vengeance that stretches back over a hundred years.  Fascinating, think you are reading a whodunit but it unravels in an entirely different way.  Rating: 8.5/10.

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1 thought on “July Picks”

  1. On China by Henry Kissinger is a contemporary take on Chinese history and foreign policy. Good insight within a twenty-first century context.

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