By Mitch Cullin (Canongate)
Generally I'm not in favour of franchises, particularly when it comes to books, and the current trend for borrowing the characters of long dead authors smacks to me of a lack of originality. However, I'm making an exception for Mitch Cullin's tale of Sherlock Holmes in retirement. Carefully constructed, sensitively written and saturated in sadness, it offers something different from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is now a very old man, living in the countryside where he occupies his time keeping bees, reflecting on his past and writing. His most faithful companion is the young son of his housekeeper, for whom he has developed a fatherly affection. The story has three strands; also telling of a journey Holmes makes to Japan and his recollections of one of his old cases. It's a poignant, and eventually tragic, tale, as the legendary detective struggles with the vicissitudes of old age and the slowing of his once quicksilver brain. Originally titled A Slight Trick of the Mind, this novel has had a name change to coincide with the movie adaptation starring Sir Ian McKellen. Its plot has distinct differences so, even if you've seen the film, it's still worth reading this atmospheric, rather literary book.
Whole: Recipes For Simple Wholefood Eating
By Bronwyn Kan (Beatnik)
Largely thanks to social media, there is a new kind of superstar in the foodie world. Devoted to wellness, rawness and wholefoods, they are busy Instagramming recipes, writing blogs, creating artisan products and opening cafes. In this book Bronwyn Kan has gathered ideas from 10 of the most successful. Included are Olivia Scott of Ponsonby's The Raw Kitchen, nut milk maker Sophie Carew, Jordan Rondel of The Caker and blogger Kelly Gibney of Bonnie Delicious. The book has a friendly, down-home feel and a variety of recipes with an emphasis on sweet treats bristling with coconut oil, almond butter and cacao. I remain unconvinced that any sort of dessert counts as healthy eating but am prepared to be talked round if it involves Buffy Gill's Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars or pretty much anything from Jordan Rondel.
The Wolf Border
By Sarah Hall (Faber)
Sarah Hall is a multi-award-winning author. Her writing is beautiful and her knowledge of wolves in this latest novel is astonishing. Rachel Caine has turned her back on her Cumberland home and family disputes, choosing to work with wolves on an Idaho reservation. She is summoned back to the Lake District by an eccentric earl who has a controversial scheme to reintroduce the grey wolf to the English countryside. As Rachel contends with public outrage, sabotage and scepticism - and a growing unease about the wealthy earl's real motivations - the tension builds. I would never have thought it possible to become totally engrossed and enchanted by a novel about wolves. But these magnificent wild creatures and the vivid landscape shimmer through the pages. With a background of political tumult, including the issue of Scottish independence, this brilliant book explores wilderness, wildness, freedom and independence in all its forms.
• Review by Carole Beu of Auckland's The Women's Bookshop.
Our Souls At Night
By Kent Haruf (Doubleday)
This beautiful novel is the last by Kent Haruf as he died late last year. Set in a small town in Colorado, we meet Addie and Louis. Addie's husband died years ago, as did Louis' wife. Their children have grown and moved away so each lives alone in their family home. The nights are terribly lonely. Then one evening Addie pays Louis an unexpected visit with an unusual request. People soon talk and Louis is initially troubled by this but quickly realises how Addie's companionship has revitalised him. This is a delightful and moving story about love and growing old with grace.
• Review by Tracey Lawton of The Village Bookshop in Matakana.
By Morris Gleitzman (Viking/Penguin)
Soon is the fourth book by Morris Gleitzman featuring the wonderfully hopeful Felix. Wonderful, because his world is extremely hard and heartbreaking, yet somehow his dangerous existence in a broken, post-war city doesn't get him down, or at least not often. His unshakeable honesty and belief in those he trusts shines through in this story of survival, friendship and love. There is immense appeal in the humour of the writing as we listen to Felix's thoughts and conversations. The gripping story involves an abandoned baby, the black market and discovering a Nazi doctor. Highly recommended for ages 11 and above.
• Review by Mary Wadsworth of Auckland's Pt Chev Bookshop and Resource Room.
Travel With Children
Travel is one of the most exciting things you can provide for your children, but where to go? This latest from Lonely Planet has the basics on 80 destinations, showcasing what children will love in places as different as China and Costa Rica. There are ideas plus warnings - such as looking for a blue flag in Spain to identify the cleanest beaches - plus children's books from each region to get the kids in the mood beforehand and ideas on souvenirs to look out for. It also covers practicalities, such as vaccination information and packing tips.
• Review by journalist and author Danielle Wright.
Nicky's best read
These days I don't read much poetry but I've been enjoying dipping into Wellington writer Janis Freegard's The Glass Rooster (Auckland University Press). Pithy and often humorous, this collection of poems explores spaces, from our homes and cities to deserts and damp places.
Nicky Hager, author of Dirty Politics, appears at the Tauranga Arts Festival on October 31 and November 1.
Full details from taurangafestival.co.nz
The book I love most is ... For adults Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. For younger people (and anyone else) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.
The book I'm reading right now is ... I Shall Not Die by Jamie Belich. It's a great read and I recommend it.
The book I'd like to read next is ... Recently, I read a book by Dunedin crime writer Liam McIlvanney called Where The Dead Men Go. Next I'm going to read the other in the series, All The Colours Of The Town.
My favourite bookshop is ... Unity in Wellington; a perfect bookshop and also kind supporters of my books.
The book that changed me is ... The Edmonds Cookery Book.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It's a great book but also profoundly depressing. It spread gloom over a few days of an otherwise beautiful holiday one Christmas in the northwest Nelson mountains!