The Taxidermist's Daughter
by Kate Mosse (Orion)
If it's atmosphere and mystery you're after then Kate Mosse's latest novel has them in spades. The UK writer (not the supermodel) who is best known for her best-selling Languedoc trilogy has set her latest story beside the remote mudflats and saltmarshes of Fishbourne in West Sussex. The year is 1912 and Connie Gifford, the taxidermist's daughter of the title, is a young woman with problems. Her once-successful father has become a hopeless drunk and the family business is foundering since taxidermy has fallen out of fashion. Having lost her earliest memories in a childhood accident, Connie is increasingly troubled by fragments of them returning to her. As she struggles to make sense of these recollections a gruesome discovery is made in the stream that runs through their property - the corpse of a woman strangled by a taxidermy wire. As well-respected, wealthy men begin to disappear, it becomes clear that all these things are linked in some baffling way but exactly how is teased out through the slow build of the story. This is a dark and menacing tale of perversion and revenge, grotesque at times and with the gory details of taxidermy running through it to amp up the atmosphere. For the most part, the pace is sacrificed for ambience and then there is a bit of a scramble at the end for the big reveal and to tie up the loose ends. But despite this unevenness The Taxidermist's Daughter is an evocative and dramatic read.
The Biba Years
By Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel (V&A Publishing)
Biba was the brand that reinvented mainstream fashion in 1960s swinging London and Barbara Hulanicki was the designer at its helm. This book celebrates the era and her stylish contribution to it. It is rich with fashion images from the period, as well as full-page shots of some of her most memorable, maddest and wearable outfits. Hulanicki's story is detailed in the text, from her childhood love of colour and clothes through to the beginnings of Biba, its tremendous success and eventual decline. It's a nostalgia trip, a reminder of a time when fashion still had the power to shock and awe, and there are lots of insights into the struggle of running a design and retail business. But it's going to be dedicated fashionistas who find most to relish within its pages. Even those who weren't alive when the first Biba Boutique opened in 1964 - or those too young at the time to remember - will find this slice of style history fascinating. Fabulous stuff.
SPQR is an institution on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd, where it has been serving great meals and throwing legendary parties for more than 20 years. The food is modern Italian with a New Zealand twist, the thin-based pizza is arguably the best in town and there are classic dishes that have been on the menu for as long as anyone can remember. Now many of them are gathered in this appealing cookbook, including some of my own favourites: the snapper fillets with saffron risotto, the Italian fish stew and the wickedly creamy chicken fettucine. Most restaurant-linked cookbooks have recipes so complex your head swims just trying to read them. But the food here is simple and achievable. There are no lengthy ingredient lists and some of the pasta and meat dishes would make ideal speedy weeknight dinners. With a strong leaning towards seafood and a small but perfectly formed dessert section, SPQR's book is the next best thing to eating there.
The Dinosaur That Pooped The Past
by Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter (Red Fox)
Most kids like poo jokes almost as much as they like dinosaurs so the third offering in the Dinosaur That Pooped series can't fail to entertain. It's the rhyming picture-book tale of what happens when Danny and Dinosaur are catapulted back into the past on a time-travelling rope swing that immediately snaps and traps them there. Despite the help of three friendly baby dinos, they can't find their way back and danger is mounting. Fortunately Dinosaur has recently eaten a lot of over-cooked vegetables and he brews a plan ... and a you-know-what. It's a silly, fun, laugh-out-loud adventure with no worthy messages or hidden life lessons. Kids and adults will love it.
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
by Rachel Joyce (Random House)
Rachel Joyce's debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry turned her into a best-selling author. She describes The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy as a "companion" rather than sequel or prequel to that first book. It explains the complicated relationship Queenie had with Harold Fry and his son David, before sending the final letter that sparked his 965km walk to be near her one last time. Her infatuation with Harold is revealed and her odd friendship with his son provides a back-story to her role in the first book. It wouldn't work read in isolation to it but, for fans of Joyce's writing, it provides another dip into Harold and Queenie's bittersweet tale.
Review by Danielle Wright, creator of award-winning children's books and news site: newsmummy.com
Voyages in America
by James Robinson (James Robinson)
Writer James Robinson turned his observations on life in America into a successful blog, which he has used as the basis for a book that combines a good dose of humour with well-considered views on life as a Kiwi in the US. Robinson has a good eye and ear for people, and for the absurdities and serious issues facing the country that overwhelmingly dominates the rest of us. He never allows himself to be weighed down by cynicism and has produced a highly recommended read.
Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz