Lucy Dillon – All I Ever Wanted

Cover of All I ever wantedCaitlin and Eva have something and nothing in common. They’ve both lost their husbands. While Eva is the poised, business-like widow of a celebrity actor, Caitlin is a free spirit who dropped out of university to have a child, and is seperated from Eva’s brother, Patrick.

When Patrick volunteers Eva’s pristine, designer house for fortnightly visits between Patrick and his children Joel and Nancy, Eva is forced out of her comfort zone of grief and into facing her future without Mick, her famous husband.

Nancy, only four, is carrying a secret. Unable to speak since the separation, Nancy thinks it was her wish that made her father go away…

All I Ever Wanted tells the story of how this family is broken apart, then brought together by a common goal: to get Nancy to speak again,

Lucy Dillon writes with an eye for physical detail and emotional nuance, she skillfully relates the feeling of a parent unable to help their child, the frustration of a couple unable to communicate and the pain of Eva’s childllessness. She notes the personality traits that make us unique, and the ways in which we understand and misunderstand one another.

I was swept up in the often moving journey of her characters. A little gushy towards the end (I’m not normally a romance reader) this is a powerfully written book.

All I ever wanted
by Lucy Dillon
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781444796049

The Atomic Weight of Love

Book cover of The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J ChurchThe Atomic Weight of Love is the debut novel of Elizabeth J. Church and I hope we see a lot more books from her. This book is an ideal Christmas present. It appeals to a wide audience and will make a great holiday read and is not without a little racy love interest.

Meridian has won a place at the University of Chicago where she studies ornithology working towards a graduate degree and eventual doctorate. Just as her wings are opening and she starts to glimpse new horizons she falls in love with a college professor two decades older than herself and her wings are clipped.

It is written in a memoir style following Meridian as a woman growing up in the 1940s through the fifties and sixties into the seventies and the emergence of women’s liberation. You will find yourself reflecting at times how so much has changed yet still remains the same.

Meri marries Alden and follows him to Los Alamos where she attempts to fit into the group of ex-academic wives she meets there. It is the era when a wife is expected to follow their husband and make the best of it. She struggles to be a good wife while salvaging something of her studies by continuing to study Crows, having left her graduate study dreams behind her.

The novel’s dual strands, the place of women with the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, and the atomic bomb with its resulting anti-war Vietnam and Korean war movements, almost splits it characters by gender over its two themes.

Some of the characters could do with more development – they feel a little clichéd. It seems women have little to say on war in this novel and men little say on the home front. Even for the times this feels a little stretched. She skims over the women who Meridian meets in Los Alamos except her best friend Belle, a strong woman who urges her not to minimise herself yet when it comes to the crunch still tells her to stay in her marriage and try to make it work.

That being said bird studies draw amusing parallels between human and bird society. Each section of the novel starts with an ornithological reference “A Parliament of Owls”, “A Deceit of Lapwings, “A Murder of Crows”. When Meridian meets Clay, a young hippie ex-marine about two decades younger than her, it seems they are about to repeat past mistakes. Her husband seems not to understand her sacrifice while her lover urges her to soar again.

Read the novel to find out if she does.

It is an enjoyable debut novel with a poetical style and reminds me of The Guernsey Potato Peel Literary Society, The Light between Oceans and The Shipping news. If you like nature and have a slightly scientific bent you will enjoy it and even learn a little physics on the way.

The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008209292

Together We Read Worlds Apart

World’s Apart Together We Read allows readers across Australia and New Zealand to borrow the eBook Worlds Apart simultaneously for free.

For a two-week period beginning today, you can borrow the eBook Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll. There will be no waiting for this popular modern family story.

Worlds Apart is about two women, cousins and best friends, who are worlds apart and one secret that changes everything. As two women desperately try to find their place in this world in Ireland and Australia, a shocking family secret comes to light, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ber Carroll’s novel is a story about modern-day women, their relationships, family dynamics, conflicts and ambitions.

Together We Read is facilitated by the OverDrive platform for eBooks and eAudiobooks.

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A glut of literary cookbooks

Cover of Dinner with Mr DarcyAs so often happens with me, I recently spotted a single title that lead me down a library collection rabbit hole that I’ve only just scrambled out of.

The book in question was Dinner With Mr Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen. My interest was piqued. I had a sudden appetite to know – what other literature could I consume, literally?

I seemed to recall my sister attending a Cover of A feast of Ice & FireGame of Thrones themed party in recent years that featured some Westerosi cuisine along the lines of Sansa Stark’s beloved lemon cakes. And sure enough, I found the very book, A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook.

And well, from there it was cookbooks all the way down. And being that it’s winter and nobody really wants to go out much, I wonder if putting on a bit of a shindig with themed eating might not be the way to go? If that tickles your gastronomic fancy, then have I got the reading list for you!

First off, Dinner with Mr Darcy is not the only option for Austen fans as Cooking With Jane Austen covers similar Regency fare. Complete with food-related quotes from Austen’s work and with over 200 recipes there’s sure to be something to tempt even the most proud and prejudicial of guests.

Cover of Green eggs and ham cookbookFor kids (or the ravenous child within) there are a number of titles to choose including those inspired by childhood classics such as The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook and Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. Not to mention two volumes of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.

Or if you know a child who’d like fairytale-inspired food then you could try Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literacy CookbookCook Me A Story: A Treasury of Stories and Recipes Inspired by Classic Fairy Tales or Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook. Fans of Brian Jacques long-running children’s series will no doubt be interested in The Redwall Cookbook.

Cover of Fifty shades of chickenThose looking for something a little more adult might like Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in A Cookbook. I only hope is that none of the shades is “pink”. I also suspect the name of the author “F L Fowler” is a nomme de (poultry) plume.

Also for the grownups are the thirst-quenching literary themed cocktail recipes of Tequila Mockingbird, and True Blood Drinks & Bites.

Cover of The geeky chef cookbookMore pop culture than literary? Geeks of several flavours can explore their fandom through food with The Official DC Super Hero CookbookThe Geeky Chef Cookbook (covers Harry Potter, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Dr Who and more), and The Unofficial Harry Potter cookbook.

For those with more refined palates, Mrs Patmore’s kitchen secrets are revealed in The Unofficial Downton Abbey cookbook.

Cover of VoraciousIt’s comforting to know I’m not the only person to ever ask the “what books could I eat?” question either, in fact a book by a former pastry chef turned butcher asks just this…and what’s more provides some recipes in answer which can be found in Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books.

There’s also a photographic twist on the same idea in Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals which includes culinary creations from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Oliver Twist, and To Kill a Mockingbird among others.

Meanwhile, there are certain dishes or kinds of food that are, in my mind, inseparable from the fictional characters for whom they were favourites. I often think of the Famous Five when I enjoy a ginger beer, and should I ever find myself in possession of a rock cake I’m sure I’ll make the same association.

What food item from literature would you like to try the recipe for? Bags not Anne of Green Gables’ liniment* cake!

*Apparently very easily mistaken for vanilla extract when you’ve got a cold.

Cool Stuff from the Selectors: Fiction Picks

Here’s a selection of interesting fiction titles coming up.

Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover

Richard Russo Everybody’s Fool
He’s one of the most readable US authors and here he returns to the small town in upstate New York that featured in his first novel Nobody’s Fool (which became a memorable movie with Bruce Willis and Paul Newman).

William Shaw The Birdwatcher
Author of a very impressive crime fiction trilogy set in 1960s Britain returns with a tale of murder on the Kent Coast linked to The Troubles.

Rose Tremain The Gustav Sonata
Set in Switzerland and dealing with a young boy and his friendship with a young Jewish pianist at his school.

Anthony Cartwright Iron towns
An interesting state of the nation novel, set in his home town of Dudley, featuring an ageing footballer in a struggling team.

Mark Haddon The pier falls
A collection of short stories by the author of the bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The stories range from science fiction and Victorian adventure to one about a woman travelling to Mars.

“For Later” lately (5)

In an attempt to tame her ever-growing For Later list,  Robyn has decided to share with us on a regular basis the titles that she has recently added to her list. The theory being that, even if she doesn’t ever get round to reading them, she can perhaps do so vicariously through you… So please do share your opinions of her picks – are they worthy, do you think, of inclusion in that lofty list?

Added to the For Later shelf recently:

Pink Up Your Life: The World of Pink Design
Cover for Pink Up Your LifeEmbarrassing but irresistible. Who knew there was such a thing as Pink Design? I’m game though. “Pink for old and young. Pink for everyone!” Perhaps a pink feature wall is just what I need.

The Hollow of the Hand by P. J. Harvey
Polly’s poetry combines with the images of photographer/film-maker Seamus Murphy to tell the story of their travels around the world between 2011 and 2014. Harvey wanted to “smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with”.  Should be interesting.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Cover of City on FireOver 900 pages long – who am I kidding? But this highly hyped first novel is getting mentioned all over the show and the author looks to have good taste. He was in Vogue wearing a Comme de Garçons blazer; he likes Hilary Mantel and Patti Smith and he mentioned Philip Hensher‘s The Northern Clemency in an interview. And City on Fire has been called ‘a punk Bleak House‘.

The Face of Britain: The Nation Through Its Portraits by Simon Schama
Cover of The Face of BritainPortraits and Simon Schama seem like a good match; Schama has a lovely light touch with art and history. This book has been produced to accompany an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London where Schama considers what makes a successful portrait, grouping portraits from the gallery’s amazing collection into themes: Power, Love, Fame, Self and People. According to The Times reviewer Schama’s approach here is “not systematic but wonderfully compelling” and the book is “entertaining and idiosyncratic”. Let’s see about that.

Geraldine Brooks in Christchurch on 18 November – Toppling the hero…

Make sure not to miss this on Wednesday 18 November at 7.30pm – WORD Christchurch and Bookenz, in association with Hachette NZ, are proud to present an evening with Pulitzer prize-winning writer Geraldine Brooks, in conversation with Morrin Rout.

Cover of The Secret ChordHuman nature being what it is, we place certain personalities on pedestals only to vilify them on later occasions, normally when they have no right of response as they have departed the earthly world. Very rarely do we internalise why this situation arises, but usually the social barometer (public opinion) swings from left to right with alarming rapidity and then finally settles down somewhere in the ‘middle’ when a humane account i.e. their follies and their strengths make them more human.

Geraldine Brooks’ latest novel The Secret Chord based on the life of King David set 1000 BCE is a work of fiction, but reading it we have access to a creditably flawed and complex individual. His childhood is harsh but he survives it with an arrogance and self-belief system that is truly amazing. He is a tyrant and murderous despot who, having vast armies at his disposal, eventually becomes King.  He is loved as a figurehead by his subjects and his soldiers; yet his wives have reason to both love and fear him, and his children plot against him and betray him in their adulthood.

It’s a fantastic, hugely enjoyable epic story and lovers of historical fiction will probably race to get their copies.

Other works by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks can be found on our library shelves and on the library eBook and eAudiobook platforms (including our latest downloadable eAudiobook platform BorrowBox).

New Zealand Book Week & the Rugby World Cup!

It’s New Zealand Book Week and the final of the Rugby World Cup. How will we cope? What will we read? I’ve got it covered, so just relax and enjoy the ride.

Leading up to the game.

Cover of On top of everythingCover of No second chanceCover of CollisionCover of The demolition of the century

Followed by.

Cover of Running towards dangerCover of Heart of obsidianCover of Sacrifice

Opening play.

Cover of Final retributionCover of SoonCover of TrifectaCover of Trust no one

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Cover of Cross fingersCover of FalloutCover of The PredictionsCover of The journey

Half time sustenance.

Cover of Chocolate for breakfastCover of Blood wine and chocolateCover of Recipe for lifeCover of A sandwich short of a picnic

And, of course, the back-up plan.

Cover of A jold to the heart

How will you make it through the week?

Go, the All Blacks!

Shells, books and Lego: cool stuff from the Selectors

No matter where you are the world, you will never be far from a mollusc.

cover of Spirals in TimeHelen Scales hasn’t met a mollusc she didn’t like. Her book Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells is a passionate ode to shellfish, part travelogue, part natural science with plenty of story telling to make the humble mollusc a thing of wonder.

Inspiration of bookIntent on pushing the boundaries of book publishing, Inspiration of Book showcases 150 of the most imaginative and innovative books ever made, including a corset book, pop up books, books made of seeds, books within books, books made from shells, fabric… the list goes on. Don’t be put off by the cover; it’s rather dull considering the joys that await inside! Our selector had this to say:

I wanted to personally own every book they showed.

Beautiful LegoBeautiful Lego 2: Dark is just that – beautiful! This book showcases an array of pieces ranging from lifelike replicas of everyday objects and famous monuments to imaginative renderings of spaceships, mansions, and mythical creatures. A great companion for those of you who managed to attend the Kidsfest event Brickshow.

David Mitchell Über Novelist

Portrait of DavidMitchellDavid Mitchell uber novelist is addictive, it’s official.  Cloud Atlas stays with you long after you have read it, and makes you question the way the world works, what it could become and the part individuals play in that. The series of ethical journeys the characters traverse through the book explore how people prey on each other and corporations prey on societies. The themes of interconnectedness and cause and effect heightened by reincarnating the main character.

Cover of Bone Clocks by David MitchellNow after reading The Bone Clocks – only my second David Mitchell novel – I begin to see his recurring themes of power, communication or miscommunication and connectivity. The consequences of random and considered actions we all make on a daily basis underlies much of his work, such as Holly Syke’s young actions.

David says his work explores how random or crafted connectivity powers reality. His skilled craftsmanship blends several different genres into one great novel in The Bone Clocks going from the realism to futuristic and fantasy elements, sometimes it feels like you are reading several books at once. The different styles – together  with the different voices to narrate each section – mean you’ll need to keep your wits about you so you don’t miss that crucial references, but I’ll give nothing away.

This author really loves language. You see that he finds it an ally, a trusted friend, and it is a joy to read – but sometimes he criticises himself.  The character and novelist Crispin Hershey’s ideas make you think the author himself he is having doubts about novel’s structure, or is he just making us think?   You can imagine I am very excited  to see him at WORD Christchurch tonight (Sunday 17 May).

Fans can follow breadcrumbs to pick up on references to characters from other works, tying them together.  Search out his fan site for insights into his works.

Here are some clips: