Book reviews: March 2015


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

Books _March _1

More Fool Me

Stephen Fry 
Penguin Group, $55

I wanted to like this book, not least because I love Stephen Fry. He is a giant of man in so many senses – an actor, comedian and literary genius who's every word can make a logophile go weak at the knees. To those in the know – I had to look it up – a logophile is someone who loves words. That would be me. And, up to a certain point, I loved this book which is a racy, gossipy and honestly-told memoir of Fry's extraordinary life. It includes details of his homosexuality and his 15 years of cocaine abuse.

All good so far, in so much as Fry, the consummate English gentleman, tells his truth while refusing to compromise others. Valour being the better part of discretion, I got this, but the point at which he lost me was when he went from the middle of a manic episode in the here and now to suddenly reading his diary entries from the 90s – all of which were far less engaging than his contemporary works.

Born to Fly

Bill Reid Books _March _2
Random House NZ, $40

For three generations the Reid family has flown helicopters. From aviation pioneer John Reid, to his son Bill, and on to the third generation Toby, and his wife Rachael – all have carved a niche in new fields of helicopter flight.

John Reid was a WWII fighter pilot, test pilot and a pioneer in the use of helicopters in industry from the time of his return to New Zealand in 1961. Bill Reid began flying in the early 70s during the heydays of dangerous deer culling operations. He has since flown helicopters in almost any situation it is possible to imagine their use from dramatic rescue missions to film-making.

Now the baton has been handed on to Toby and Rachel and the pair have turned their sights to adventure tourism. This is a multi-generational story of Kiwi courage.

Jo Seager Bakes

Jo Seager with images by Jae Frew Books _March _3
Penguin Random House NZ, $55

I love Jo Seager's cookbooks. To me they are some of the best of the many in this genre I receive for review each year. It's not the baking, although this gorgeous book might yet make a baker of me. No, it is the superior design of Jo Seager's cookbooks which gets me every time one is so gratefully received.

As with her recent cookbook, Italia, the publishers have chosen a nostalgic design for this book which brings together the best of her baking recipes. You may have gathered from another of her wonderful cookbooks, You shouldn't have gone to so much trouble, darling, that Jo is mostly about maximum gain for minimum pain.

That approach works for me. And I am sure it will also work for you.

Marae – Te Tatau Pounamu

Muru, Robin and Sam Walters Books _March _4
Random House NZ, $80

Bishop Muru Walters is an Anglican minister, master carver, poet, broadcaster and former Maori All Black. His son Robin is a photographer, filmmaker and director at Curious Films. Robin's wife, Sam, is a photographer. The book was compiled by one family as they travelled the country for three years documenting wharenui from the ancient to those with bold contemporary designs.

Each wharenui is intensively photographed; with detailed shots of their carvings, kowhaiwhai panels, tukutuku panels and much more. Many are photographed during an event, the images conveying a rich sense of life and activity. It's a book for all New Zealanders to treasure.

Hook, Stitch and Give

Kat Goldin Books _March _5
New Holland NZ, $40

Following on from her best-selling Crochet at Play, Kat Goldin offers patterns for easy-to-make presents and home-crafts. The patterns includes something everyone will love, from shawls inspired by the knitted designs of the Shetland Isles, as well as jumpers, beanies and slippers to homely cushions, placemats and coasters.

The instructions are easy to follow and the patterns are up to the minute. Little wonder Ms Goldin is enjoying such wide acclaim as an author, blogger and presenter.

Heart of the Mackenzie

Matt Philp Books _March _6
Random House NZ, $50

Mackenzie Country is a fascinating place. Vast brown plains stretch as far as the eye can see before coming to rest at the foot of scree slopes, slate-grey in summer and snow-capped in winter. The magnificent whole is dotted with lakes of unimaginable blue, while all of this big country is contained under a bright expanse of sky – so pure it is the World's largest dark sky reserve.

In this land of contrasts sits Glenmore Station, where fourth generation farmers, the Murrays, have built a thriving heritage in a land where just surviving can be against the odds. Glenmore was the first farm to supply merino wool to New Zealand's iconic Icebreaker brand. This book tells the amazing Glenmore story.

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