The King's Curse
By Philippa Gregory
(Simon & Schuster)
Once again, Philippa Gregory mines the rich vein of the English Tudor court and the long-running enmity between the Yorks and Lancasters. This time she focuses on Margaret of York, cousin of the ruling King Henry VII and married to Sir Richard Pole, to enable her to fade into comparative obscurity away from the court. The King's Curse takes up her story in 1499, when she is pregnant with their fourth child, and from then on we are engrossed in Margaret Pole's roller-coaster life as her fortunes change with the whim of the King - first Henry VII then Henry VIII.
This is not the Henry we read about in history classes; this is a man whose bad luck in finding an heir causes him to become a paranoid who kills indiscriminately, ruling a kingdom living in fear. The King's Curse is a gripping read, although slowed by the enormous cast list.
• Review by Christchurch author Felicity Price whose latest novel is A Jolt To The Heart (Blackjack Press)
Lists Of Note
Compiled by Shaun Usher (Canongate)
Most of us keep lists of things we have to do and remember. But who would have thought of creating an entire book of them? British author Shaun Usher has spent years burrowing about in archives, museums and libraries seeking out intriguing, historic and curious lists and compiling them in this odd but fascinating volume. From musician Johnny Cash's to-do list ("Not smoke, kiss June, not kiss anyone else"), to Gene Autry's cowboy code, Chrissie Hynde's advice to chick rockers and a list of suspects written by president John F. Kennedy's secretary hours after his assassination, the book is a trove of things you never imagined you'd want to read but suddenly find entirely fascinating.
Here you can discover what a 10th-century monk or the inventor Galileo had on their shopping lists, the Sicilian Mafia's solemn rules, satirist Thomas Nashe's eight kinds of drunkenness, a list of predictions for the year 2000 from sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein and much, much more. There are 125 lists in all and they span thousands of years. Some provide advice that is still worth taking, others give a snapshot of lives gone by, are informative or simply fun to read. It's a book to dip in and out of whenever there's a spare moment to fill with entertainment. In my opinion there should be a copy in every doctor's waiting room.
A River Rules My Kitchen
By Tony Smith (HarperCollins)
Combining stunning New Zealand landscapes with recipes for wild food makes for a cookbook that will more than satisfy those it's aimed at - hunters and fishermen. Tony Smith is a chef and outdoorsman who is keen on fishing and game hunting but since he's also travelled and developed a love of French, Italian and Asian food he transforms what he catches into sophisticated dishes. Smith takes us to the Canterbury High Country and shares recipes for Thai venison salad, Nepalese-style tahr meatballs and wild goat curry. From Tongariro there are trout dishes and from Whanganui wild pork and eel. There's lots of fish with an Asian feel, suggestions for vegetable side dishes and a section on jellies and sauces.
For those of us who aren't rugged hunters it might be a challenge to source meats such as pigeon and black swan, but many of the recipes could be adapted for meat more likely to be available in your local butcher. A charming culinary journey through our own country, a celebration of its produce and our enduring link to the land.
By K.T. Medina (Allen & Unwin)
The most compelling character in K.T. Medina's tale of bloody murder and intrigue is the sweaty, fetid back country of Cambodia. Which is not to say the book's cast of human characters is unengaging, it's just that the city of Battambang, its surrounding minefields and local superstitions, along with Cambodia's bloody 20th-century history, add a thick layer of atmosphere and tension to what could otherwise be a fairly standard thriller.
Tess Hardy's violent former husband, Luke, calls her - sounding scared - from Cambodia where he is working as a mine clearer. Two weeks later Luke is dead and a mysterious package in the mail sends Tess to Cambodia to uncover what happened. From there the story moves from one bloody incident to another, all blamed on the White Crocodile, a mythical bringer of death. This is a fast-paced ride, given extra grit by Tess' fish-out-of-water perspective and the often brutal environment.
• Review by Auckland freelance journalist Kerri Jackson
By Philip Temple (Font Publishing)
A strongly relevant novel from acclaimed New Zealand writer Philip Temple, MiStory seems even more chilling in light of this year's spying claims.
Its plot has New Zealand becoming a surveillance society, wrecked by climate change and financial crises. Our unnamed main character is very much in the mould of the "Kiwi bloke", driven by the sudden loss of his partner to work with the Movement, fighting to bring back a fair way of life. Temple poses some tough questions and even tougher scenarios of what our future might hold.
• Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
Apple And Rain
By Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
Apple's mother reappears after an 11-year absence and brings with her a half-sister named Rain.
Thirteen-year-old Apple's life is turned upside down when she is taken from her sheltered existence (under the wing of her God-fearing Nana) to one where her mother leaves her in charge of her younger sister for days on end. Apple eventually sees through her mother's ways, accepts her best friend's betrayal, and finds love in unlikely places.
• Review by Danielle Wright creator of award-winning children's books and the news site: newsmummy.com
Nicky's best read
If you dream of writing a book and need a pep talk check Elizabeth Gilbert's website (elizabethgilbert.com). The US author, most famous for the biographical Eat, Pray, Love, reveals what she knows about her craft under Thoughts On Writing.
New Zealand actor Lisa Harrow performs in At the Wake until December 6 at Auckland's Herald Theatre.
The book I love most is ... Shakespeare's Complete Works, which sparked a love that has shaped my life's work.
The book I'm reading right now is ... The Sudarium Trilogy by Leonard Foglia and David Richards, a rip-roaring tale of a conspiracy to genetically engineer the Second Coming.
The book I'd like to read next is ... Toxin Toxout by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, about the chemicals we absorb.
My favourite bookshop is ... The Yankee Bookshop in Vermont.
The book that changed me is ... A mystery adventure I read when I was 12. The words on the title page: "Go to the heart of danger and there you will find safety" became the maxim for my life.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... None.