Book reviews: Xmas 2014

If you're looking for some great books for some summer holiday reading, Peta Stavelli has some recommendations.

Village of Secrets: defying the Nazi in Vichy, France

Caroline Moorehead 9780701186418-1-edition .default
Random House NZ, $40

During the Nazi occupation, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the other villages of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon saved several thousand people from the concentration camps. The story of why and how the villages came to save so many people has never been fully told – until now.

Caroline Moorehead travelled across the world to interview the few survivors, and searched archives to bring us the unforgettable testimonies of many of those involved in this extraordinary account. It is a story of courage and determination of a small number of heroic individuals who risked their lives to save others, and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny.

Another cracker from Moorehead.

The cutting edge – the story of Motorsport legend Rod Millen

Rod Millen and John McCrystal 9781775536208[1]
Random House NZ, $40

For the very first time one of New Zealand's greatest rally drivers and a hill-climbing superstar tells his inspiring story.

Rod Millen was a hero of New Zealand rallying in the 1970s and quickly established himself as New Zealand's number one driver and went on to do what very few Kiwis have achieved, finding podium success in American motorsport.

Millen is also a highly successful businessman. The Cutting Edge is Rod's story, in his own words, of a life lived pushing the boundaries, of record-breaking off-road driving, working at the forefront of motorsport technology, and of creating the ultimate petrol-head heaven, right in his Kiwi backyard.

A Bloody Road Home

Christopher Pugsley A-bloody -road -home
Penguin Group NZ, $70

A tome of a book comprising 624 pages of semi-gloss, fine paper; densely packed with fine print; numerous images; maps, charts and artworks; A Bloody Road Home is a specialist work – epic and exacting in its execution.

The book was commissioned and co-published by the Literary Trust Fund of the National Army Museum. Christopher Pugsley is one of the country's pre-eminent historians, with 10 books to his name. He specialises in military history. In this – his first book in 10 years – Pugsley has created the first ever single-volume history of the famous 2 Division of WW11; charting its trials and successes from formation in Egypt; through campaigns in Greece, Crete and North Africa; to the unfolding onslaught of battle as it was played out along the spine of Italy from Monte Cassino to Trieste.

Hot Pink Spice Saga

Peta Mathias and Julie Le Clerc 9781775535157[2]
Random House NZ, $50

I am a great fan of Julie Le Clerc. To my way of thinking, her cookery books are the ultimate inspiration for easy, tasty, nutritional fare. One of my favourite go-to books is Simple Café Fare, so any book to which she contributes is sure to find f(l)avour with me.

And, going by the cover alone, this collaboration with Peta Mathias is sure to turn heads. Inside, the colourful travelogue brings the diversity of Indian culture together with recipes drawn from regional cuisines into an enticing and mouth-watering package. I was delighted to find that gorgeous images throughout were also Julie's.

The Real New Zealand

Fay Looney The -Real -New -Zealand -300dpi
New Holland NZ, $20

Fay Holland's images are frequently licensed to Tourism New Zealand to promote this country. She has been a photographer for more than 35 years, and now aged 72 years Looney shows no sign of letting up.

This gorgeous wee book is a stunning visual reminder of the beauty of our country. It would make a delightful gift for someone overseas, or serve as a poignant reminder to an ex-pat of what they are missing.

Zone of Interest 

Martin Amis Zone -of -interest
Random House NZ, $38

What happens when we discover who we really are? And how do we come to terms with it?

Fearless and original, The Zone of Interest is a violently dark love story set against a backdrop of unadulterated evil, and a vivid journey into the depths and contradictions of the human soul.

Critic Richard Ford describes this book as "a tour de force of sheer verbal virtuosity". That alone should recommend it, if Amis was not already recognised as the best-selling author of an extensive body of work that includes 13 previous novels.

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