Outside the Lines
By Amy Hatvany (A&U)
What is normal? And what if you don't fit in with society's idea of it? Those are the issues raised by US author Amy Hatvany's thoughtful and compelling new novel. Outside The Lines is a father/daughter story with a difference. The father, David, is a troubled man. His struggle with mental illness has ended his marriage to Eden's mother and traumatised her childhood. Now Eden is an adult and David has disappeared, preferring to live rough rather than take medication and fit in with the world. Deciding it's time to track him down, Eden turns sleuth. Her search takes her to a Seattle homeless shelter where she begins to reconsider her attitude towards those who live on the streets and where she meets a man who helps her.
This is a story of difficult relationships and how people can reject the things you most want for them. There's romance, of course, and lots of heartache but, for the most part, Hatvany gives plot cliches the swerve and has produced a sensitive and insightful story about mental illness, love and forgiveness.
By Antonia Murphy (Text)
I can imagine rural New Zealanders rolling their eyes at Antonia Murphy's account of the ups and downs of her family's first year as lifestylers. Terrorised by alpacas and goats, wallowing in several types of poop and failed attempts at self-sufficiency, Murphy and her husband, fellow American Peter, discover the reality behind the dream of countryside living. They move to Purua, near Whangarei, in search of a simple existence. With a developmentally delayed son who is prone to seizures, they already have their hands full. Nevertheless, they start filling their rented property with a menagerie of animals they appear to have little or no control over. Murphy is funny, tirelessly self-deprecating and unafraid of disgustingly graphic animal anecdotes which makes for an engaging read. Plus it's always interesting to look at New Zealand from an outsider's perspective and her take on laconic Kiwi farmers and small communities is thoughtful and amusing.
Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story
By Philippa Werry (New Holland)
This children's book focuses on the history of our national day, from the signing of the Treaty to the controversies and protests over the years that have followed. Its simplified and succinct text covers all the main events, places and people involved in the Waitangi story and even the not-so-young may find it a useful memory-jogger. Vintage illustrations and old photographs keep things lively as Wellington writer Werry covers royal visits, flag designs, feasts and celebrations, plus she gives us an understanding of why the Treaty was signed and how February 6 is so important. The final chapter is devoted to the present day, sites of significance to visit in the Bay Of Islands and places to celebrate Waitangi Day. An approachable and easily digested read, this would be a useful gift for new New Zealanders who want to gain a quick understanding of their adopted country's past, and for children aged 8-12.
Pop Goes the Weasel
By MJ Arlidge (Penguin)
The second book from UK author MJ Arlidge to feature DI Helen Grace, Pop Goes The Weasel is an addition to the well-populated crime/police/thriller genre. Someone is brutally murdering seemingly strait-laced family men and Grace has to find out who, plus deal with some dark issues of her own and pick up the pieces from the events detailed in Arlidge's debut, Eeny Meeny. Admittedly, the author uses some well worn tropes but his characters have little touches that make his books rise above the pack. Pop Goes The Weasel is not without flaws but fans of the genre will be well pleased.
• Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison, who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
The Here and Now
By Ann Brashares (Hachette)
Eighteen-year-old Prenna has come from a place very different from America in 2014. Born in a future where things have gone terribly wrong for the human race, she is one of a group of refugees who have fled to the past. The community of time travellers has 12 rules to avoid contaminating the world they now live in. Unspoken, but understood, is the fact that those who do not obey will be dealt with. Prenna begins to realise everything she says and does is monitored by the leaders of the community. This is a problem as her best friend, Ethan, is an outsider. When Ethan encourages her to talk to a mysterious vagrant who has a surprising interest in physics and time travel, the seeds of rebellion are sown and the two youngsters set out to change the future. Brashares has written a story about love and having the courage to risk one's life to do the right thing. The time travel aspect is intriguing. I suspect it is aimed at the young adult reader but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an easy and thought-provoking read.
• Review by Victoria Elmes, an Auckland teacher of English and classics.
We Should All Be Feminists
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate)
From the author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, this small booklet packs a powerful political punch. Adapted from her famous TEDx Talk, she begins by explaining how loaded with negative baggage the word feminism is. She then gives simple but startling examples from her life and experience, in Nigeria and in the US, of ways in which men rule the world and women are made invisible. "Each time I walk into a Nigerian restaurant with a man, the waiter greets the man and ignores me." She gives an example of a woman colleague being over-ridden when raising an important point in a meeting, only to have the same point listened to and praised when raised by a man. Adichie declares we must raise our daughters and our sons differently to free them from the weight of gender expectations. For women and men who do not understand, or who feel threatened by the idea of feminism, Adichie's clearly expressed, everyday examples will be an epiphany.
Review by Carole Beu of Auckland's The Women's Bookshop. womensbookshop.co.nz
Tom Bishop is assistant director of Auckland's 52nd Summer Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night's Dream
(Feb 14-March 7).
The book I love most is ... The Last of the Wine, The Left Hand of Darkness and So Long, See You Tomorrow.
The book I'm reading right now is ... Keith Wrightson's Earthly Necessities, a wonderful book of English economic history.
The book I'd like to read next is ... Invisible Romans about the lives of non-elite people in Roman history.
My favourite bookshop is ... Classic and Suchlike on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd.
The book that changed me is ... In high school, Shakespeare, especially King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream, changed the way I felt about language and myself.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... I never finished Edna O'Brien's In the Forest because its descriptions of child abuse and child murder left me stricken, horrified. I had small children at the time.
Nicky's best watch
The BBC's World Book Club invites top authors to talk about their work and posts the clips on its website,
. Archived are interviews with writers like
PD James and Kurt Vonnegut. There's the opportunity to send questions to authors for future interviews. Coming up is Anne Tyler.