Book Reviews

​​Book news, reviews and recommendations for library lovers.

I Owe You One ​

By Sophie Kinsella

 ​​A lovely light read by this well-known author, just the tonic for a cold, wet weekend! The main character is a young lady known as Fixie. She came by her unusual name

due to her "flaw", a uncontrollable need to fix things that aren't right. Fixie and her siblings are left in charge of the family business and it isn't long before the family

business is almost unrecognisable. Toss into this mix a dose of Fixie's love life, extraordinary meetings in cafes, and you have a recipe for a wonderful, humorous tale.

The characters are well defined, the story sets a good pace; altogether a good choice to while away some hours with.​

Also available in eBook and eAudiobook format
Reviewed by Rose

Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing​

By Daniel Tammet

There are certain book titles that immediately pull me in, that I simply cannot walk past on a shelf. This poetic and intriguing appellation, the idea of “animating words with our imagination,” as the author describes, immediately sets the tone for a fantastic nonfiction book about the weird and wonderful world of language.

The book is set up as an eclectic set of essays, each tackling some aspect of language- its pattern and evolution, its quirks and mysteries. Tammet begins with personal stories of his own life and covers everything from the history of the telephone to Iceland’s strict naming laws. Considerations of indigenous languages, language revival and politics are particularly resonant here in New Zealand, though he does not address te reo Maori itself. Readers may also find interest in the chapter on the prominent Australian poet Les Murray.

This book is exuberant and endlessly curious. Tammet is a deft writer with a few tricks up his sleeve; in his essay about a book written in the 1960s without a single use of the letter E, he quietly tackles the same task. He skillfully integrates history, biography, philosophy and more without getting bogged down in details or alienating the reader.

Best known for his memoir Born on a Blue Day, the author is on the autism spectrum, a savant and polyglot who speaks 10 languages and thus offers a knowledgeable background on them throughout the book. In discussing his numerical relationship to language as well as his synesthesia- that is, he experiences many sensory aspects such as shape, color, and texture associated with words- he emphasizes the idea that there is no “normal” or “correct” when it comes to language and that it is often our personal perspective that shapes our understanding.

All in all, this is a delightful book for a language nerd such as myself but with enough drawn from other subjects to inform and entertain any reader. Furthermore, this book allows us to explore these aspects of language and communication in our own lives, to appreciate the heritage inherent in our mother tongues, and to examine the ways in which our identities shape and are shaped by language.

How would you rate this book out of 5?: 5
Reviewed by Jessica

The Last Act

By Brad Parks

Here's a good one to get your teeth into over the coming chillier seasons! Full of twists and turns the author cleverly waits until you think you know what's around the next page, then "flip!" the story takes another twist  and you're off on another path.

The main character is a young man coming to the realisation that his love of live theatre has to conclude, as life throws him a curve ball and it is time to face up to responsibility. A chance meeting with an old school friend changes everything, and here is the opportunity to have one last throw of the dice. Combining acting and earning a solid chunk of money seems too easy. Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Solid characterisation, combined with a strong story line and delivered with good pace, results in this novel being one that you will loathe to put down. Another winner from Brad Parks.
Also available in Ebook format

Re​viewed by Rose

The Ruby Stories

By Penny Matthews

It is the 1930s, in the great depression. Everything seems to be going well for 11 year old Ruby; she lives in a big house with nice parents and even owns her own camera!

But then things change and her family has to sell their house and before long Ruby and her mother are sent to live in the countryside with her cousins and aunt and uncle - who she hardly knows, while her dad looks for work in the city....

A fun book for girls of all ages follows Ruby as she learns through happiness and heartache that no matter who you are, whether you are rich or poor we are all share the same feelings and deserve friends.
How would you rate this book out of 5?: 5
                                                         Reviewed by Isadora

The Alice Stories 

By Davina Bell

It is the year of 1918, at the end of the first world war, and twelve year old Alice dreams of being a professional ballet dancer. Can she make her dream come true?

This book is part of a fun, educational series of books called 'Our Australian Girl' and I would highly recommend it for girls of any age.

How would you rate this book out of 5?: 5
Reviewed by Isadora

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The Butterfly Roo​m by Lucinda Riley

Another great read from this very popular author , the Butterfly Room scans several generations which all link to the main character Posy.  Much loved and worshipped by Posy, her father studies butterflies. Following his passion, Posy is drawn into the world of Botany and butterflies. However, as usual, life throws up a large and shattering hiccup into young Posy's idyllic world and life as she knows it, changes dramatically.

The author has painted her characters well, she has chosen strong storylines and blended them beautifully to achieve a spell binding novel. Roll on winter and settle down with this book - you'll need a long weekend to immerse yourself in this dazzler.
Reviewed by Rose

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​A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino​

This new offering by a favourite author is a great read!  Beautifully written with a light hand, you as the reader, are transported to Italy. This time in the South, and to a tired, but enchanting village.  Do you have a spare Euro? For the cost of less than a cup of coffee- you could own your own Italian villa! Who could resist that? Three people couldn’t, and although all with different backgrounds and partners, begin their journey to Montenello.

While the storyline is a little predictable, the telling is charming and very readable. The characters are clearly drawn, and the description of the the food is……mouth watering! 

Well worth an Autumn afternoon next to a crackling fire, and perhaps a beverage of your choosing? 
Reviewed by Rose

Slice Of Heaven by Des O’Leary

Slice of Heaven is a fantastic book which reflects South Auckland to the extent that you can almost smell the taro cooking.  It follows the press-ganged members of the Junior Boys Softball Team from Manawahe East High School as they make life choices, try to find a way through the conflicting messages of their communities and learn about each other.

My favourite part is when two characters discover neither of them like being labelled an ethnicity they are not (I’m Vietnamese NOT Chinese…. I’m Tongan NOT a Samoan)with one going onto find out what an orangi-tangi (his words) is.

The scenes jump off the page and ring true for those of us who’ve ventured into the cultural melting pot of South Auckland.  Des O’Leary has managed to create what he set out to… a book that is about people like us.  I highly recommend this, not just for teens but for all kiwis.
                                                            Reviewed by Jessica

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The Pretty Delicious Cafe by Danielle Hawkins

This is a great weekend read - funny, witty and cleverly written.  Set in small-town NZ, the story follows Lia and her best friend Anna as they embark on being cafe owner/operators.  Which would be stressful enough without an ex-boyfriend who won't go away, a handsome newcomer with a complicated background and a wedding to organise.  Lia and her twin brother share a special psychic connection which they both try to brush-off until it becomes a matter of life and death!
Reviewed by Sue 

The Music Shop.jpgThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Another gem from this popular author! Prepare to be transported to another time, when vinyl records were making way for the CD. Frank has been raised on music - all genres - by his now departed mother, who had her own unique way of raising her son. She taught him how to LISTEN to music; he figured out how to listen to people, and how to give them the right song for them.
Frank’s friends and colleagues are an odd group that each has their strengths and their weakness to battle.
Together, they are a wonderful interesting and feisty family. Into this family wanders a visitor, a woman who takes Frank’s breath away - something that has never happened to him!

I loved this book, found it difficult to put down and nearly cheered out loud at the flash mob scene!! Well worth reading at any time of the year!
Reviewed by Rose

Vintage Springtime Club.jpgThe Vintage Springtime Club by Beatrice Meier

Philip has returned to Cologne, from years working at a health clinic in Mali. He runs into university day’s friend, Ricarda, just as she’s found out she needs to move out of her flat for major structural repairs. On impulse he invites her to join him and elderly dachshund Ralf in a flat-share. And so she agrees.
The other flat-mates are grumpy, cigarette-smoking Harry, who was part of the same group as Philip, Ricardo and Ricardo’s late husband, quiet Eckart, who moves in along with his late wife’s tombstone, and lively Uschi, a meat specialist whom Ralf adores.
This is such a fun read, part romance, poignancy and laugh out loud humour. The characters aren’t perfect (who gets to sixty without some quirks) but as their lives mesh together you come to appreciate each of them. If you’re over a certain age, you will definitely appreciate this read.
Reviewed by Trish

The choke.jpgThe Choke” by Sofie Laguna

This is another winner from the award winning author, Sofie Launa. If you enjoyed “The Eye of The Sheep” I am sure you will find this book much to your liking.

The story is centred around Justine who is dyslexic but nobody knows and seemingly cares even less. The Choke is a narrow part of the Murray river, a strong Influence on Jussy’s life. Her pop is her main caregiver but with his own battles a hangover from the  Burma Railway, her upbringing is less than satisfactory. To say her family is dysfunctional, is an understatement!

I couldn’t put this book down, the author has an uncanny ability to weave the reader into the spirit of the story, her reputation of empathy and originality is well founded.
Reviewed by Rose 

The Reckoning 175 x231.jpgThe Reckoning by John Grisham

This spell binding tale is one that is truly hard to put down! The author takes you back to the days following the end of World War II and life in the sleepy town of Clanton, Mississippi and the lives of a normal family caught up in the aftermath of war.

Pete Banning is the central character and it is his story that is so fascinating. Following his epic ventures, the reader is conveyed to the Philippines and the harsh reality of war.  His actions upon returning home stun his hometown and leaves everyone (including you) puzzled and looking for an answer.

Characters are solid, the author once again delivers a fine tale set in beautifully descriptive landscapes, and keeps the reader enthralled.

Reviewed by Rose.


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Born scared by Kevin Brooks

When one thinks of a Christmas story they probably think of a cosy, warm hearted story filled with Christmas cheer. This year I choose read something a bit different – a psychological teen thriller that takes place on Christmas Eve.
Thirteen-year-old Elliot suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. He is terrified over almost everything. Elliot claims to remember his birth and his twin sister Ellamay, who died at birth. He has internal conversations with Ellamay.
It is Christmas Eve, there has been a snowstorm, and there has been a mix-up with Elliot’s medication. Elliot’s mother sets out leaving him home alone after Elliot’s aunt, who agreed to collect the medication from the pharmacy is late and unreachable by phone.
We also see two robbers dressed in Santa suits and the office Christmas party, which sees a bank manager on a drug-fuelled bender that involves a police chase.
All these elements connect together for a gripping, tense, intelligent exploration of mental illness with an explosive ending.
Reviewed by Graeme

What light 175.jpgWhat light by Jay Asher

Jay Asher’s holiday romance What Light is a light read (pun intended) for the festive season.

The novel is narrated by Oregon teenager Sierra, whose family own a Christmas tree farm. Every year since she was a baby her family have shifted south to a California town from Thanksgiving until after Christmas to sell their Christmas trees.
Sierra has to leave behind her Oregon friends Rachel and Elizabeth. But for one month of the year she gets to see her holiday friend Heather.
Business has been struggling. Sierra overhears her parents discussing this being their last season in California.
Sierra meets Caleb, a cute messy-haired boy with perfect dimples. Caleb has a dark past, which causes Sierra’s parents concern. They are also worried about Sierra being heartbroken when they have to return to Oregon.
Despite the rumours surrounding Caleb, Sierra is drawn to him and sees the good in him.
Similar to Asher’s successful Thirteen Reasons Why, the novel touches on how one moment can change a family and the effect that resulting rumours and gossip can have. What Light is a more optimistic story though.

Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why are best not to compare the two novels as they may be disappointed as What Light is quite bland in comparison. Remember it is a light holiday romance.

It has all the elements of the holiday season – Thanksgiving, a Christmas Parade, Christmas Eve Mass, cookies, candy cane stirred hot chocolates, Christmas sweaters, gift giving, charity, and visits to Santa at the mall.  This is the perfect light read to get one in the mood for Christmas.
Reviewed by Graeme

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A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski

This is the story of four retired or soon-to-be-retired women, who have met for more  than 10 years as part of an online book club. They've never met in person until one of the women suggests they do so. She invites them to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains for a month. They're each asked to bring a book which will teach the others more about her. They have a week to read each of the respective books chosen while also spending time getting to know each other. Each Sunday they discuss one of the books.

Best fiction I read in 2018!
Reviewed by Abigail

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The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller

If you love the TV show Gilmore Girls then you will love the book The Late Bloomers Club by Louise Miller,
It tells the story in the first person of Nora Huckleberry who is running her family's diner in the town of Guthrie. She has a sister Kit who flitters in and out of Guthrie. The sisters inherit a neighbour's property complete with a dog called Freckles who goes missing immediately after his owner's death. 
The sisters are trying to decide whether to sell the inherited property and if so who to. Nora is also focused on finding Freckles as well as managing the diner while Kit is busy making movies.
This is definitely a feel-good story and a great summer read!
Reviewed by Abigail

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Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

This latest offering from Ms Moriarty is a cracker! As the title suggests nine people of varying ages and backgrounds meet in the confines of a health spa. Most of them are complete strangers
And all have an interesting story to tell. However, the Spa is not as they had thought it would be, resulting in testing situations and confessions spilling like large raindrops.
The characters are clearly defined and cleverly interwoven into a fast moving and thought provoking story. Does the Spa heal them? Do they find the answers they are looking for? Maybe the
unconventional therapies have more use than people think? Or maybe not?
A good sized book, just the thing for a long seasonal break, and most definitely to be enjoyed with your favourite tipple and an enormous box of chocolates!
Reviewed by Rose

Page reviewed: 08 Jun 2020 9:15am