Book reviews: April 2017

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

Dancing on the Tundra
Emma Stevens B-
Emzel Books

Born in Christchurch and raised in Whanganui, author Emma Stevens’ life changed dramatically in her late 40s when she met and married Gary, the principal of an Inupiaq school in the Arctic Circle, Alaska.

In the final of her trilogy, Emma is adjusting to ‘city life’ in a small hub city in southwestern Alaska. Gary is now the superintendent of nine Eskimo village schools. As a bicultural coordinator,

Emma flies to remote village schools to work with local teachers and organises a spring festival, uniting villages in a huge dance celebration.

Emma shares the challenges and demands of managing a busy school in an isolated environment where temperatures can plummet to minus 80 below freezing and access to the outside world depends on the weather. And when a health crisis makes living far from emergency medical care a life-threatening risk, Emma and her husband must eventually decide whether to leave their beloved bush Alaska and return to New Zealand.

I Quit Sugar: The Ultimate Chocolate Cookbook
Sarah Wilson B-1
MacMillan Publishers

Who says giving up sugar means giving up chocolate? Fear not chocolate lovers, as it’s not only possible to have the best of both worlds, it’s also utterly delicious.

You may have already heard of bestselling author Sarah Wilson, thanks to her hugely popular I Quit Sugar website and books. In The Ultimate Chocolate Cookbook, Sarah incorporates her mindful, sustainable, and economical practices to ditch the guilt and shows us how to quit sugar without having to quit chocolate.

Learn how to start your day right with chocolate for breakfast, get great ideas for mid-afternoon boosts, makeover ‘naughty’ classics and love them, and discover show-stopping ideas for friends and parties.

From breakfasts and smoothies to brownies, cakes, and even chocolate risotto, the book is packed with guilt-free goodies that will make your mouth water. There’s even a sugar-free Easter section!

Slow Cooked
Allyson Gofton B-2
Penguin Random House

Like it or not, winter is coming. And while I’m not really a fan of winter per se, there are some aspects of it I love. And slow cooked food is definitely top of the list. There’s just nothing more comforting than the aroma of a hearty casserole or a simmering curry as it fills the house on a chilly evening.

If you’ve been thinking about dusting off the crockpot, you’ll love Allyson Gofton’s latest cookbook. Slow Cooked is packed with a tasty selection of hearty meals that will satisfy the whole family. The meals are traditional, but often with a modern twist, and cooked in the oven or slow cooker. From pulled Turkish lamb with pomegranate to lemon delicious pudding, each recipe is tasty, satisfying, and economical.

Allyson also gives great tips on choosing the best meat cuts and practical tips on getting the best from your slow cooker or oven.

Surrounded by Spirit
Kelvin Cruickshank with Donna Fleming B-3
Penguin Random House NZ

In his seventh book, bestselling psychic and medium Kelvin Cruickshank shares incredible stories of life, death, and moving on.

Kelvin says his purpose in life is to pass on messages from spirit in the hopes of easing people’s grief. He explains spirit is much like the wind—although we cannot see it, we know it exists. We can feel it and we can see the effects it has.

Kelvin’s books are a way of sharing all he has learned through helping people to connect with their loved ones, many of whom have died suddenly and without the chance to say goodbye.

Surrounded by Spirit features readings with some particularly special Kiwis, including Jonah Lonu’s brother as well as others Kelvin met through his Soul Food shows.

You’ll be moved by their stories of hope, courage, and forgiveness and learn to enrich your life journey even in times of loss.

The Mother’s Promise
Sally Hepworth B-4
MacMillan Publishers

If you’re a fan of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes (as am I), you’re sure to enjoy Sally Hepworth. In The Mother’s Promise, we meet 15-year-old Zoe who is struggling to live with crippling social anxiety. With no other family to speak of, Zoe and her mother Alice have always been a team of two, never needing anyone else—until Alice gets sick.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two near-strangers: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, her social worker. As the lives of the three women become inextricably tied, a chain of events is set into motion, forcing them to confront their deepest fears and secrets.

This heart-warming read explores courage and resiliency in a bittersweet story that takes readers on an emotional ride. It’s a great Sunday afternoon read; just be sure to have some tissues nearby. 

The Truth about Language
Michael C. Corballis B-5
Auckland University Press

Ever pondered how human language evolved and where it came from? So has author Michael Corballis. He describes language as ‘the elephant in the room’, ‘the jewel in the crown’, and even ‘the ghost in the machine’. He also admits that, despite the fact we all possess it, no one really understands how it works. 

Michael has published 11 books and more than 400 articles and book chapters on topics such as memory, language, brain asymmetry, and human evolution. In The Truth about Language, he takes on what has been called the hardest problem in science—where did language come from and why do we like it so much?

From God to Chomsky, many have suggested that language arose suddenly in a way unable to be explained through ordinary evolutionary processes. Michael argues otherwise. His journey into the world of language and linguistics is both broad and insightful and results in an illuminating and fascinating read.

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