Book reviews: August 2014


The days have cooled and the time is right to curl up in a cosy place with a great read. The MCD team looks at some of the latest releases.

Real Fresh Gluten-free Food

Anna and Roger Wilde
New Holland NZ, $45 Real -Fresh -Gluten -free -Food

Nelson nutritionists Anna and Roger Wilde have become widely known through their best-selling cookbook Real Fresh Gluten-free Food. Responding to the increasing demand for information about healthy food, the couple have now updated their popular cookbook to make it even more relevant for those with special dietary needs. Every gluten-free recipe is now labelled as to whether it is also dairy-free or suitable for vegans.

The couple champions fresh, organic wholefoods, and raw ingredients. I'm a big fan of their philosophy that eating healthy food delivers optimum health, and their recipes are very enticing and suitable for everyone.

I particularly like their recipe for spicy Spanish breakfast migas, which combines chorizo with eggs and vegetables, and puts paid to the theory that healthy eating is boring.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

Anna McPartlin
Random House NZ, $37 Rabbit -hayes

Former stand-up comedian Anna McPartlin brings pathos and humour to her latest book about the final days of a young mother dying of cancer. If the last sentence pulled you up and caused you to reflect that humour and death should not belong in the same sentence – let alone the same book — McPartlin's refreshing novel may give you pause for thought.

The book opens as Rabbit Hayes is admitted to a hospice. Her family gathers around and the book moves between each of them as they come to terms with the death of their loved daughter/sister/mother/friend. The background narrative is the reader's question about Rabbit's one true love, Johny Faye, who alone among her loved ones is missing from her bedside.

I loved this book, which I passed on to a colleague who enjoyed it as much as I did.

Journey to a Hanging

Peter Wells
Random House NZ, $45 Journey -to -a -hanging

Part history, part biography, part social commentary, this fascinating book is about infamous events that shook New Zealand to its core.

In 1865, Reverend Carl Sylvius Volkner was the victim of a bloody murder. Kereopa Te Rau (Kaiwhatu: The Eye-eater) had been captured, tried, and sentenced to death when Sister Aubert and William Colenso — two of the greatest minds in colonial New Zealand — came to his defence.

Regardless, Kereopa Te Rau was hanged in Napier Prison. But even a century and a half later, the truth behind the events has not been established. In a personal quest, author Peter Wells travels back into an antipodean heart of darkness and illuminates how we try to make sense of the past, how we heal, remember — and forget.

The Marriage Game

Alison Weir
Random House NZ, $38 The -marriage -game

Bestselling historian Alison Weir brings all her knowledge of Elizabeth I to vivid life in a novel of intrigue, sex, plots, mysteries, and tragedies, amid all the colour and pageantry of the Tudor court.

Their affair is the scandal of Europe. Queen Elizabeth presents herself as the Virgin Queen but cannot resist her dashing, but married, Master of Horse, Lord Robert Dudley. Many believe them to be lovers, and there are scurrilous rumours Elizabeth is no virgin at all.

The Marriage Game is a dramatic, complex, and deeply poignant tale of intrigue, love, and loss. At its heart is our greatest Queen and the emotional truth of one of history's most extraordinary love affairs.

The Most Dangerous Animal of All

Gary L Stewart with Susan D Mustafa
Harper Collins NZ, $25 The -most -dangerous -animal

Gary L Stewart went searching for his biological father, only to find the man he had spent a decade looking for one was one of America's most notorious killers.

This a is a shocking, yet fascinating, memoir of one man's deeply personal search. Combing through government records and news reports and through conversations with his father's relatives and friends, Stewart turns up a host of clues, including forensic evidence, identifying his father as one of the most infamous (and still-wanted) serial killers in American history.

NZ Wildlife

Steve Trewick and Mary Morgan-Richards
Penguin Group NZ, $35 NZ-wildlife

Evolutionary biologist Dr Steve Trewick and colleague and co-author biologist Dr Mary Morgan-Richards have come together to create NZ Wildlife, which offers a fascinating window to our natural history in a book that informs, educates, and leaves the reader with a sense of wonder.

This book is accessible, well-illustrated, and thoughtfully designed with a hardwearing easy-clean protective jacket, so the reader can easily use it as a field guide.

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