Emma: A Modern Retelling
By Alexander McCall Smith (HarperCollins)
Retellings of Jane Austen's classics have become a literary sub-genre. We've had them with added zombies, we've had continuations, various characters' diaries, even an Austen murder mystery. Publisher HarperCollins has leapt onto the bandwagon with the Austen Project, commissioning best-selling authors to re-tell the tales in modern settings. So far, Sense & Sensibility has been re-imagined by Joanna Trollope and Northanger Abbey by thriller writer Val McDermid. Now it's the turn of the prolific Alexander McCall Smith to bring us a contemporary version of Austen's twisty, turny love story. In it, Emma Woodhouse is fresh out of university and living in her father's country mansion as she plans a career as an interior designer. Deciding she has a flair for matchmaking she begins to interfere in the love lives of those around her. For those who know the original Emma the pleasure to be had is seeing what McCall Smith has tweaked and where he has remained faithful to the original Emma. His droll, avuncular style rather suits the story but for a modernised version it doesn't feel especially modern. If anything it has an out-of-time quality to it, in common with the rest of his writing. English village life, rich people in big houses, governesses, young girls having the vicar over for tea - unfortunately none of it seems fully brought into the 21st century.
Josh's Backyard BBQ
By Josh Emett (Random House
It's barbecue season and around the land sausages are beginning to sizzle. For those who want a little fancier outdoor grilling, celebrity chef Josh Emett's latest cookbook provides encouragement and practical advice. Emett's children and friends feature a lot as this is family-friendly, feed a crowd food. Beefburgers with beetroot will get the kids eating veges. Lamb lollipops and kofta sticks are straightforward and shareable. There is lots of hand-held food perfect for summer gatherings, plus sensational salads (like tomato, Pimms and watermelon), interesting twists on grilled vegetables, sections on shellfish and fish and, of course, meat. Unlike Emett's previous offering, Cut, this is by no means a carnivore's cookbook. In fact, what's so great is that there is so much beyond the classic steak and chops.
Rooms to Love: Style Inspiration for Every Home
By LeeAnn Yare and Larnie Nicholson (Penguin)
The second book from this interior stylist and photographer duo is dazzlingly colourful. In fact if pared down, neutral and minimalist is your style then Yare's "more is more" approach is going to give you a headache. But anyone looking for creative decor ideas for a character-filled home will be find its pages packed with visual inspirational. Leading us from the oft-neglected hallway, through to the lounge, kids' rooms, teen retreats, home office, outdoor deck, laundry, kitchen and master bedroom, there are loads of ideas for using vintage kitsch and junk shop finds, or redeploying items you already own. Yare is a fan of mismatched crockery, a bit of clutter and drawing the eye away from the less fabulous areas of your home with the use of bold colour. Many of the rooms are quirky and bohemian, there's a real Kiwi feel and a focus on creating maximum impact with minimum spend. Yare is fairly economic with her tips - this is a book that's more about looking than reading - but what she does say is pithy and useful. Rooms to Love has the wow factor.
By Helen Brown (Allen & Unwin)
When the money market man you're married to leaves you for another woman, your daughter doesn't want to have a bar of you and the New York life begins to pall, what better therapy than to head for the back blocks of Castlemaine, Australia, to stay with your sister and lick your wounds. That's when Lisa Trumperton discovers the tumbledown family mansion is for sale. Despite the pleas of her sister and even the real estate agent not to take on the building, Lisa buys it and begins renovating both the manor and her life. Helped along the way by a hunky handyman, a one-eyed ginger cat and a friendly cockatoo, she tries to find happiness. The addition of a quirky cat - such a success in her best-selling Cleo memoir - enlivens this first novel by New Zealand-born author and columnist Helen Brown.
• Review by Christchurch author Felicity Price, whose latest novel is A Jolt to the Heart (Blackjack Press)
Dear Committee Members
By Julie Schumacher (The Friday Project)
A hilarious take on academia, Dear Committee Members is an epistolary novel (in other words, written in letters). Professor Jason Fitger is constantly called upon to write letters of recommendation for students, fellow academics and former girlfriends. The professor complies but turns every letter into a masterpiece of cynicism, digression and outrage, increasingly maddened as the book progresses. The ending is unexpected and movingly gentle. It's hard not to cheer the professor on. Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison, who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present
By Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)
There's a lot of longing in childhood, especially for things friends have that you "really, really, truly, truly want," as Cleo McCann, the main character in The Cleo Stories, says of a coveted necklace. What's special about the story is that Cleo's parents don't give in and buy the necklace for her. Instead, Cleo comes up with an idea and finds all the things she needs to solve the problem herself. In the second story of the book, Cleo is trying hard to find the perfect present for her mother's birthday. It reminds me of Maurice Sendak's Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, with a modern setting. This would be a rewarding reading experience for a five to six-year-old girl, who will be able to identify with Cleo's feelings and struggles.
• Review by Danielle Wright, creator of award-winning children's books and the news site newsmummy.com
Nicky's best read
Although it's updated only sporadically, An Angel At My Blog is worth a visit if you're interested in all things Janet Frame. It's the work of Frame's literary executor, her niece Pamela Gordon, who can be feisty in her defence of the author's reputation. At
she shares her news and views, and has the odd rant. It makes for interesting reading.
Chelsea Winter is a MasterChef NZ winner and food writer. Her latest cookbook is Everyday Delicious (Random House).
The book I love most is ... It's a tie between The Best of Alison Holst and The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.
The book I'm reading right now is ... I'm in the middle of two. Men from the Boys by Tony Parsons and Before the Fall by Juliet West.
The book I'd like to read next is ... Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
My favourite bookshop is ... Today, any bookshop is to be celebrated.
The book that changed me is ... My first cookbook, At My Table.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... Paullina Simons, A Song in the Daylight. What a cruddy ending!