By Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House)
There is a real purity to Patricia Grace's fiction. She may be New Zealand literary royalty but her writing is not about showing off her finery. Chappy is her first novel in a decade, a heartfelt, spirited tale and an absolute joy to read. Troubled 21-year-old Daniel is sent from Europe back to New Zealand to stay with his grandmother, Oriwia. He spends his time piecing together the life story of his mysterious Japanese grandfather, Chappy, coaxing memories from Oriwia, and from Aki, his uncle by double adoption.
Although the story is centred on him, Chappy remains its most elusive figure and the trials of the indomitable Oriwia and the travels of big-hearted Aki dominate. It's a huge story in some ways, taking us from New Zealand to Hawaii and Tokyo, and through wartime, but it's in its smallness that Chappy is most beautiful.
In the sections Daniel narrates, Grace doesn't do much of a job of nailing an authentic 21-year-old's voice but then I don't think she's even trying to - her style is timeless. This is a must-read novel about love, hard work, sacrifice and old-fashioned Kiwi baking.
A Free Range Life: Winter Goodness
By Annabel Langbein
The latest from best-selling Kiwi foodie Annabel Langbein is a sort of book/magazine hybrid and there's lots going on in its pages. Since it's dedicated to winter food you'll find stews, pies, soups and roasts plus shots of roaring fires and crisp, sunny days on the shores of Lake Wanaka where Langbein has a cabin. Also, slightly inexplicably, there's a final section on India, which doesn't really seem to fit with the rest but looks very pretty. As well as being the go-to for time-saving meal solutions over the colder months, Langbein has come up with several interesting salad-in-a-jar ideas for healthy workday lunches, recipes to inspire you to cook your own takeout-style dinners plus kid's party treats and classic puddings reinvented - right now I'm torn between the ginger coconut fruit crumble and the pina colada cheesecake.
If you're looking for fast, nourishing and no-fuss food, there's plenty here and Langbein keeps things practical with an eight-week meal planner and ideas to save cash and keep the pantry stocked.
By Jason Chin (Andersen Press)
The concept of gravity is introduced to younger kids in fun and simple fashion in this picture book. Illustrations are traditional in style with lots of spacemen, planets and rocket ships making this especially appealing to boys. Chin does a pretty good job at explaining what gravity means in very few words but at the back there's a more detailed section that science-loving older sisters and brothers can use to find out more. Even parents may learn something - I did.
The Heat of Betrayal
By Douglas Kennedy (Hutchinson)
Writing from a woman's point of view doesn't always come easily to a man, but after the first few chapters of The Heat of Betrayal, it's immaterial because once this book gets into the action, there's absolutely no putting it down. Robin's relationship with her second husband Paul improves markedly when he persuades her to escape the confines of her accountancy business and take off with him for a month in Morocco. After a shaky start, the holiday seems idyllic. But then Paul disappears and the concerns she's always had about his past are realised as we follow Robin's roller-coaster pursuit across the Sahara desert. Several unexpected turns keep you guessing, ending in the ultimate decision she has to make - just how far would you go to save your own life? And how much danger should she risk to save Paul from himself? It certainly makes you think. Review by author Felicity Price whose latest novel is A Jolt to the Heart (Blackjack Press)
The Doll's House
By MJ Arlidge (Penguin)
The Doll's House returns readers to the complex world of Detective Inspector Helen Grace, her internal demons and the dark crimes she is charged with investigating. The book opens as a young woman wakes up in a dark, cold room that is completely unfamiliar to her. Meanwhile the body of a young woman is discovered on a remote beach. Quickly it becomes clear that these crimes are calculated and continuing. This is MJ Arlidge's third DI Grace book and it's a step up from the previous outing, doing a better job of handling the timeline and plot details. Several character-driven subplots are at work here but the centre of the story is definitely DI Grace. She is intriguing and I'm looking forward to seeing where Arlidge takes her. A quick, tense read.
Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison, who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
Girl in a Band
By Kim Gordon, (Faber)
Artist and musician Kim Gordon is best known for her indie band Sonic Youth and her long-lasting marriage to its front-man, Thurston Moore. She was the cool, together face of 90s grunge in contrast to the car-wreck female stars of the time. Her memoir, Girl in a Band, seems a cathartic experience for Gordon after the break-up of the band and her marriage when she packed up her troubles and hired a place on Airbnb so she could write.
It covers her early years as a Californian teen, her struggles with a schizophrenic older brother and the awakening of her artistic nature through mentors, motherhood and marriage. It's honest, showcases a bygone time and proves Gordon has plenty more to offer.
Review by journalist and author Danielle Wright
Nicky's best read
Better off Read is a mostly audio book blog from NZ writer Pip Adam in which she podcasts in-depth discussions about books and other writing. It's a bit like an online book club: