Go Set a Watchman
By Harper Lee (William Heinemann)
Until now, US author Harper Lee had published only one novel - the much-loved classic To Kill A Mockingbird. The release of this book has been surrounded by controversy. Lee is now aged and infirm and her long-time protector is dead, so it has been referred to as a "money-grab". It is, in fact, an early draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. In this version, Scout Finch is grown up and living in New York. She returns to Maycomb County to visit her family and discovers that everything she once had faith in has changed - including her lawyer father Atticus. There has been a lot of discussion about how in Go Set A Watchman Atticus is a racist. I don't think that's exactly what Lee intended. She meant for this novel to be a discussion about the issues facing the South at the time and that's what it is in a heavy-handed sort of way. There are flashes of brilliance but for the most part this is a clumsy, flawed piece of work - as first drafts by debut writers tend to be. As a staging post on the way to a golden, shining piece of literature, I guess it has interest but Lee's editor knew what she was about, this draft shouldn't ever have seen the light of day. My advice is don't bother with it. Re-read To Kill A Mockingbird instead.
Meatballs: The Ultimate Guide
By Matteo Bruno (Murdoch Books)
There is no food more comforting than a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. From the founder of Melbourne's Meatball & Wine Bar comes a host of ideas for delicious little balls of protein. There are self-saucing meatballs filled with beef jus, a version based on slow-cooked beef short ribs, another stuffed with segments of bone marrow. There are meatballs in a fancy licorice and red wine reduction and others that will help you use up leftover veges. There are Asian-inspired balls fragrant with ginger and recipes using chicken, turkey, rabbit, goat, salami and even seafood or vegetarian options. You could live on a meatball diet for weeks and never get bored. With high-end photography and a mix of rustic and gourmet dishes, plus ideas for sauces and sides, this book is a surprise hit.
Please Mr Panda
By Steve Antony (Scholastic
)Manners and sharing are at the forefront of this charming and amusing picture book for young kids. Mr Panda has a tray of delicious-looking doughnuts and he's offering them around, but not to everyone. There are a couple of magic words involved in getting a sugary treat - good old please and thank you. Fun illustrations help stop it all getting too preachy and author Antony encourages those reading aloud to put on a grumpy voice for the character of Mr Panda. I imagine most children will be keen on a follow-up visit to a doughnut store.
The Abrupt Physics Of Dying
By Paul E Hardisty (Orenda Books)
Canadian-Australian Paul E. Hardisty has burst on to the crime scene with this searing tale that digs up the dirt on oil companies operating in Third World countries. Clay Straker is a combat vet working as a hired gun engineering consultant for big oil in Yemen, adapting facts and appeasing locals to keep the dollars rolling in. When his driver and friend is kidnapped by a notorious terrorist, he must investigate the cause of a local sickness to save the life of a man who saved his. Joining forces with an enigmatic journalist, Clay is forced to confront the realities of who he's become, and the powerful people he works for. Hardisty brings Yemen to vivid, sweat-inducing life on the page, crafting a superb thriller, powered by exquisite prose. Evocative and extremely thought-provoking, The Abrupt Physics Of Dying is full of fascinating characters and insights and heralds the arrival of a tremendous new voice who straddles the border between popular thriller and weighty literature.
• Review by Craig Sisterson who blogs about crime fiction at kiwicrime.blogspot.co.nz
A Vintage Wedding
By Katie Fforde (Century)
Katie Fforde's latest novel centres on Rachel, Beth and Lindy, who are looking for new beginnings in a small Cotswold country town. The three form a close friendship within hours of meeting and decide to set up a business organising stylish and affordable vintage weddings. The central characters are all likeable, with traits many readers would recognise in themselves or their sisters, friends or mothers. There's the creative, resourceful Beth, OCD accountant Rachel and solo mother Lindy. The romances, though important in a book that has "wedding" in the title, are secondary. What grips your attention is whether these three different women will manage to make this business succeed. By the end of the novel, you'll want to live in the Cotswold village and join in the community fun. A typical Fforde novel that is heart-warming and easy to read, but a little predictable.
• Review by author Felicity Price whose latest novel is A Jolt To The Heart (Blackjack Press).
By John Larkin, ( Penguin Random House)
The 17-year-old protagonist of The Pause is standing on the edge of a train platform about to jump . . . but then, he pauses. What follows is a series of flashbacks and forwards, as well as different realities - one dealing with the ramifications on his loved ones if he took his own life and the other if he didn't. Mostly, it's about how good life can become if you hold on, how misunderstandings can easily be forgotten and how much of a positive impact a person can have on others in their lives, just by staying alive. Author John Larkin wrote the book after dealing with his own mental health issues and reading a newspaper article about a man in a similar situation who decided not to pause. This is Larkin's love letter to life now he's feeling better and also his plea for others to hang in there. It is his second novel aimed at the Young Adult market, although some of this book's plot - parts dealing with failed marriage and the loss of a child - would suit older readers. The Reading Group questions at the end of the book make it ideal for a classroom setting where the topics of mental health and depression can be explored in a safe environment.
• Review by journalist and author Danielle Wright.
Nicky's best read
The Australian Writers Centre offers online courses on everything from blogging to writing popular women's fiction. Its website also features a blog with interesting interviews and podcasts to inspire writers to crack on with their projects. Go to writerscentre.com.au
Peter Feeney directs Between Two Waves, playing at Auckland's Herald Theatre from August 4 to 15.
The book I'm reading right now is ... The Bush by Don Watson.
The book I'd like to read next is ... The one my wife is reading, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
My favourite bookshop is ... Unity Books in High St. I haven't dropped in for years, but it is so good to know it is still there.
The book that changed me is ... Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell painted a horridly plausible future that completed my conversion into a greenie.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... Storyteller JDF Jones' 2001 biography that exposed my childhood hero Laurens Van De Post's very clay feet. He turned out to be a fraud, fantasist, liar and serial adulterer.