Book reviews: April 2015

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

Parenting by the Stars

Anne Marie Spicer and Paula Trubshaw Bkreview _1
Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand, $30

Hot off the press, Parenting by the Stars showcases parenting tips and insights from a wide range of well-known New Zealanders including chefs, business people, sports and TV stars and politicians. The book includes a quality collection of short, entertaining and interesting 'real life' parenting stories, along with family photographs and favourite family recipes from celebrities, media personalities and parenting experts.

More importantly, it champions the message that when it comes to parenting children of all ages there is no right or wrong path to follow. And that however you're feeling, others have been there and done that and you're doing ok. Launched during Dyslexia Advocacy Week 2015, all profits from sales of the book will go to supporting Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand.

Taking the Journey

Kelvin Cruickshank Bkreview _2
Penguin Books NZ, $40

This book was read by a colleague in two long sittings. She said it was so compelling she found it hard to put down. She laughed, cried and felt as if she had learnt a great deal from the book. What is more, she not only wanted to start it all over as soon as she had finished reading; she also went on a hunt for Kelvin's other books.

It really is worth reading Kelvin Cruickshank's books before you close your mind because our best-known psychic tries to answer questions that beset us all about life and death. Kelvin believes that connecting with spirit can lead to a life filled with love, hope and happiness.

A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler Bkreview _3
Penguin Random House NZ, $37

Author Anne Tyler has been described as the best of her generation. She certainly spins a good yarn and with more than a million books sold, her fans are many and include Anita Shrieve. A spool of Blue thread focuses on the fate of Abby and Red as the family gathers to make decisions on how best to look after them. They've all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself. From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out our own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions – the essential nature of family life.

Seven Letters from Paris

Samantha Vèrant Bkreview _4
Penguin Books NZ, $38

For lovers of Eat, Pray, Love comes another real life story from an American woman trapped in a toxic marriage, who took the courageous steps to change her life. Samantha Vèrant was just shy of 40, recently redundant and heavily in debt when she reached into her long ago past to find true love. True love, in this case was Jean Luc, a French rocket scientist who she had met in Paris 20 years earlier. Jean Luc is a true romantic who poured his heart and soul into seven letters after their short meeting. Samantha did not reply until she was encouraged by her best friend and former travel companion to look up the beautiful young Frenchman whose letters she has kept all those intervening years. God bless the net. Sam tracks down her man and almost as soon as she has pressed send she receives a reply from Jean Luc. Find out what happens next.

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins Bkreview _5
Random House NZ, $37

Looking for a good thriller? This might be it. Certainly Stephen Hawkings thought so. The book is narrated by an alcoholic character who yearns to be more than she is. Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough.

Now everything's changed. Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar.

Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook 
Bkreview _6

Rachel Khoo 
Penguin Random House NZ, $50

Nigella move over: there is a fresh young thing on the block with the same sass and class, yet with a truly original take on dishes you may have begun to take for granted. What about pasta pizza? Or cauliflower cheese burgers? Or seafood paella nests?

I love her fresh take on retro classics, both on screen and on the page; and the zesty way she illustrates her cookbooks.

In short, I think Rachel Khoo is fabulous.

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