Book reviews: February 2015


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

Funny Girl

Nick Hornby MCD_books _1
Penguin Random NZ, $37

Hornby hones in on the vibrant 60s in this, his seventh novel, published during an illustrious writing career. The prolific popular writer has produced – among numerous others – works of fiction, screenplays, short stories and raw autobiographies about his own childhood and that of his autistic son. He is perhaps best known for the four novels which have been adapted for film. These include High Fidelity and the enduring classic About a Boy.

Funny Girl follows the life of Barbara Parker – the former Miss Blackpool of 1964 – as she breaks the mould of British female comics to take the small screen by storm. This is absolutely charming, undemanding and yet an intelligent read – a perfect companion for the holidays.

A River Rules My Kitchen

Tony Smith MCD_books _2
Harper Collins NZ, $60

This would have to be the ultimate hunter gatherer cookbook. For those more squeamish, the early full-page image of how to achieve a Denver leg might be more challenging. But don't be put off. More than 100 recipes have been photographed and styled with considerable elegance by Deborah Asprey.

For chef Tony Smith, the book pays tribute to his passionate love of the outdoors as he takes the reader on a culinary odyssey from the mountains to the sea. You will learn to get the best from a wide range of New Zealand game including venison and duck, as well as using honey and fish caught fish. Delish!

Depot – Oyster Bar Eatery

Kyle Street with Al Brown MCD_books _3
Random House NZ, $70

I've never been to Depot. There's always a crowd, and you have to wait in line to get a seat in that hallowed space. I don't do queues, but the fact there are long ones outside of Brown's eateries speaks volumes to me about the food within. Thank goodness, I do cookbooks, otherwise I may not have realised why Brown's food – and indeed his approach to food – inspires so many.

Chefs are passionate people. Brown's passion extends way beyond food as an harmonious blend of ingredients to the progeny, history and future of the ingredients. This holistic approach brings a conscience obligation to the cook to use all of the catch. As but one example I bring you: Southern fried snapper wings. Move over The Colonel.

150 years of rail in New Zealand

Matt Turner MCD_books _4
Penguin Group NZ, $80

Every once in a while – usually about once a year – a sumptuous book arrives and brings with it the unbridled joy of opening a long-anticipated present. 150 Years of Rail in New Zealand has become my new cherished book.

It is simply delightful, from its deliciously evocative black and white cover image to the myriad historic photos within. Each brings to life the heritage and history of New Zealand rail. Many, like that of the young Queen Elizabeth taken in Southland in 1954, will inspire nostalgic longings for the glory days of rail; its engines, buildings and magnificent bridges.

Heavenly Hirani's School of Laughing Yoga

Sarah-Kate Lynch MCD_books _5
Random House NZ, $38

Annie Jordan didn't want to go to India but when she did, she found that it was the life lessons which stuck, as the reader will find in this endearing new novel from New Zealand editor, a journalist and columnist Sarah-Kate Lynch.

It will reconfirm her to fans as a master humourist. Lynch is a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction who understands the human experience and creates a vivid world around her utterly believable characters.

1000 Juices

Deborah Gray MCD_books _6
New Holland NZ, $34.99

Yum. Juices and smoothies are succulent, easy and energy-giving sources of real food that you can feel doing you good. This gorgeous book gives a scarcely believable number and variety of stunning recipes to suit the seasons and most tastes. I even found a recipe for the breakfast smoothie I made each morning (after my daily run, if you would, dear reader) while an earnest teen – the breakfast orange protein smoothie.

Who knew that my healthy 70s breakfast was so fashion forward? If you have been meaning to include health-giving juices and smoothies into your day, this book is all the inspiration you will need. We'll let you off the daily run, though, if you like.

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