Book reviews: February 2017

The MCD team has selected the best of some recent inspiring reads

The Nix

Book -1

Nathan Hill 
MacMillan Publishers

Reviewed by Claire Smith     

Samuel Andresen-Anderson is a failed novelist facing financial ruin. He’s already spent his publisher’s massive advance, but given he pours all his free time into online role-playing games, there’s little chance of delivering the promised manuscript. Samuel also hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, in decades since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s suddenly reappeared having committed a politically-motivated crime that is gripping the nation and inflaming a divided country.

It’s here that Samuel’s publisher cuts him a deal. Write a scathing, tell-all takedown of his long-lost mother or be sued for the non-delivery of his original manuscript. So Samuel begins to investigate his mother’s life in the years before she disappeared. The story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s to New York during the Great Recession and back to the 1968 Chicago riots. Finally, the trail leads him to wartime Norway, home to the mysterious Nix that his mother told him about as a child, a spirit that can take the shape of a white horse, luring children to their deaths.


Flight Path

David Hill Book

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

In this offering, we follow the exploits of newly-qualified 18-year-old Kiwi bomb-aimer Jack, as he carries out his duties aboard a Lancaster bomber. The Second World War is nearing its end and the Allied forces have invaded France, while simultaneously carrying out heavy bombing raids into Motherland itself. Germany is severely on the back foot but is still managing to inflict damage where it can.

The story in itself is fairly mundane and the formulaic characters are all there, including the ‘tally-ho chap’s’ British Captain. However, in a similar vein to the war comics most of us read once upon a time, the book managed to keep me entertained through to the end with the simple but effective writing style providing a good base for the fictional story, while at the same time giving younger readers a taste of what was expected of kids back then. Virtual reality? Not a chance.


Lean in 15: The Shape Plan

Joe Wicks Book -2
MacMillan Publishers

Reviewed by Esha Chanda

A former personal trainer, Joe Wicks (aka the Body Coach) is an advocate of ‘calories are good for you’, but it comes with a disclaimer: calories are good only if you match it with regular workouts. In his second book in the Lean in 15 series, he busts popular myths of crash diets and that consuming fat is a sin.

His first book (The Shift Plan) focussed on reducing body fat, and the next in the series is all about shaping yourself lean. With his hero ingredients (such as coconut oil, avocado, broccoli ‘midget trees’, and feta cheese), he compiles a recipe book with 100 recipes (reduced carb, carb-rich, and snacks and treats) along with home workouts. While most of the recipes are easy to make within 15 mins (I did try a couple), Joe includes a few longer ones for more elaborate meals that you might want to keep for your weekend nights.


The Severed Land

Maurice Gee Book -3
Puffin NZ

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Well-known New Zealand writer Maurice Gee says he thought the story well had dried up, but somehow (and thankfully for us) out popped his latest offering. Don’t let the fantasy-adventure genre put you off though. It is quite good. Fliss is a young ex-slave, escaping three years ago from the warring feudal families who control a large part of the surrounding lands.

Her new home is a region of beautiful countryside protected by an invisible wall. It’s a place where many have tried to enter to no avail, except for Fliss of course. The powerful families want the extra acreage to pillage and will seemingly stop at nothing to plant their flag on the dirt inside the protective screen. However, things are not going well for the aged savant who keeps the invisible structure upright and it won’t be long before his mental power switch moves to the ‘off’ position. It’s up to Fliss to step up, step through the wall, and follow the savant’s instructions to find the wall’s saviour. She’s not on her own; taking an upstart she mistakenly rescued. He’s the key to operation, but if he doesn’t behave, it could throw the plans into disarray. It’s a top read and surely worthy of a continued series.


The Classics: The Greatest Films of The 20th Century

Alan Whiticker  Book -4
New Holland Publishers

Reviewed by Esha Chanda

The 20th century saw some of the best movies and film-makers in Hollywood. It also witnessed the transition of the film industry from the silent era to the advent to talkies. WithThe Classics,

Alan Whiticker takes you down memory lane to revisit some of the gems and the stories behind them.

Hark back in time as celluloid chapters unfold in the magnificent pages of this collection. The 400-page book gives a peek into the world of film-making, complete with a list of all major Academy Award-winning movies.

With more than 600 photographs, including rare images from the Mary Evans Picture Library and Ronald Grant Archive, The Classics gives film aficionados access to a comprehensive archive that highlights the rich history of film-making.


The Wild Side

Janet Balcombe  Book -5
Wild Side Publishing

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

In a tale of Kiwi country girl gone bad, this book has it all. Janet Balcombe tells her somewhat bizarre true-life story of rebellion, drugs, motorcycles, demons (real or imagined you decide) and mayhem before finally finding God. She traces the root cause to a bunch of schoolyard girls, who I would have personally named and shamed if it weren’t for those darn defamation laws.

Over some 30 plus years, we follow her slow descent into a certain kind of madness—which some people consider is normal life—complete with characters a lot of us can probably identify with.

Fortunately, she saw the light (so to speak) and Christianity turned her life around, with small miracles that paved the way through to production of the book.

Inspirational? Yes. Worthy of reading? Yes. Divine intervention? Maybe.

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