Mothers Grimm

by Danielle Wood (A&U)

Equal parts troubling and witty, the four stories and prologue that make up Mothers Grimm give a clear-eyed view of the world women find themselves a part of after giving birth. Wood takes Grimm's Fairytales as her inspiration. Her theme is the reality of motherhood - the expectations, the insecurities, the myths - and she lays it bare irreverently. In Lettuce, a first-time mother at a pregnancy yoga class compares herself to another seemingly perfect woman. Cottage is about a mother who pays the price of going back to work and putting her son in day care. Sleep tells of a young solo mum; Nag of a life of disappointment. This is not a sugar-coated view of marriage and babies. Some of the mothers here are judgmental and competitive; others harbour unrealistic ideals of what makes a good parent; many are destined for an unhappy ending. Wood is a Tasmanian author who says she's based these stories on her own observations since having children. They are terrifically well written and thought-provoking but may not be the most encouraging reading if you're considering starting a family.

The Clean Eating Cookbook & Diet

(Rockridge Press)

Clean eating is the dietary buzzword of the moment. But what does it actually mean? This no-nonsense book explains the fundamentals - it's basically about choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible - and offers eating plans plus 105 recipes to get you started. Thankfully, the tone isn't overly preachy and the philosophy isn't about starving or joining the ranks of the worried well but simply switching highly refined and processed foods with fresh produce. And while nothing on Earth will persuade me that it's a good idea to eat egg-white omelettes, the recipes are easy and many are ideally suited to fast, healthy weeknight meals. Kiwi cucumber salsa, roasted corn and black bean salad, peach beet salad - all would be flavourful accompaniments for the sesame maple salmon or the beef sirloin kebabs in herb garlic marinade. This is healthy food packed with flavour and you don't need to be a clean-eating zealot to enjoy it. Since it's American, the book often gives measurements in pounds and ounces but the ingredients used should be easily sourced here.

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100 Best Native Plants For New Zealand Gardens

by Fiona Eadie (Godwit)

Cover of 100 Best Native Plants for New Zealand Gardens by Fiona Eadie Supplied to the Herald on Sunday for use in HOS Living
Cover of 100 Best Native Plants for New Zealand Gardens by Fiona Eadie Supplied to the Herald on Sunday for use in HOS Living

Fiona Eadie looks after the grounds of Otago's Larnach Castle and is passionate about New Zealand native plants. This third edition of the popular gardener's handbook lists her current favourites. Her new list reflects gardening trends and shrinking sections and ranges from plants that prefer it warm and humid to those that like a good frost; easy-grow varieties to challenging but exciting. There are species here for everyone, promises Eadie. She begins with an introduction full of pithy gardening advice and then breaks the book down into sections on trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants and grasses, ferns and groundcovers. For each individual plant she includes buying advice, tells us its likes and dislikes, offers information on pests and possible problems, care tips, landscaping suggestions and details about similar species. This is a practical and friendly reference book. And if you think native plants aren't nearly as exciting as exotics, almost certainly Eadie will change your mind.

The Queen of the Tearling

By Erika Johansen (Bantam)

The first book in an intriguing new fantasy series combines elements of history with endearing and captivating characters. Kelsea is heir to the throne of the Tearling but she has spent her life in hiding. Now it's time for her to learn what being a leader means. The universe of the Tearling promises big things and Kelsea is a wonderful, strong female character. The Queen Of The Tearling will gain a lot of fans thanks to the news it's being made into a movie with Emma Watson and the producer of Harry Potter.

Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison, who blogs about books at www.bookiemonster.co.nz

Village Of Secrets

by Caroline Moorehead (Chatto & Windus)

Cover of Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead Supplied to the Herald on Sunday for use in HOS Living
Cover of Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead Supplied to the Herald on Sunday for use in HOS Living

Caroline Moorehead wrote the very popular A Train In Winter and has followed that up with this fascinating look at the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, who saved thousands of people from Nazi concentration camps. It wasn't just Jews they kept safe, but also resisters, freemasons and communists. The fugitives were also aided by the remoteness of the villages, and many made it across the border into neutral Switzerland. This is a story of courage and determination, of a small number of heroic individuals who risked their lives to save others, and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny.

Review by Tracey Lawton of The Village Bookshop in Matakana www.villagebookshop.co.nz.

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Bubble Trouble

by Tom Percival (Bloomsbury)

Bubble Trouble is about best friends who lose the plot when their competitive natures get out of hand. Any book featuring bubbles will always be popular with young children, and this one even more so because it features seven lift-the-flap bubbles - except one annoyingly falls open if you hold the book upright when reading). Bubble Trouble also teaches about the size of things - will the biggest bubble be bigger than a bear, a house, or even the whole world? The child I read the book to was confused that it had a house pictured as bigger than a tree, when the trees in her own garden were so much larger than her home. It's a nice story that will lend itself to plenty of slapstick pretend bubble blowing alongside the characters' attempts.

Review by Danielle Wright creator of award-winning children's books and the news site www.newsmummy.com