Surgeon’s wife lurches towards mortal danger in this stylish thriller

Second Life
By SJ Watson (Text)

After his huge success with debut novel

Before I Go to Sleep

, which was adapted into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, UK author SJ Watson follows up with another slick read about a woman in crisis who isn't sure who to trust. Julia Plummer was once a wild young thing but is now leading a vanilla life with her surgeon husband and Connor, the son of her wayward sister Kate, who they have been raising as their own. When Kate is murdered in an alleyway in Paris, Julia begins to learn more about who she really was and, in a bid to track her killer, enters her world, a louche one of virtual sex and casual encounters. Inevitably her relationship with a man she meets online progresses to something else. And inevitably things start spiralling out of her control. Too late Julia discovers she's risked more than she ever imagined. Watson saves his plot from predictability but only right at the end, with a twist I didn't see coming. This is a multi-layered thriller, suspenseful and filmic with a foray into


Fifty Shades Of Grey

-style sex. For me it went on a tad too long and, although I thought the finish brave, some will feel cheated by it.

Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook
By Rachel Khoo (Penguin Random House)

UK celebrity chef Rachel Khoo carries a notebook with her as she travels, cooks and eats to jot down inspiration and experiences. Since she's mixed-heritage and gets about a bit, her influences are wide ranging and the result is one of the quirkier food books around. I love how Khoo transforms humble ingredients into something special. Potato crisps become the foundation of a tapas dish with fried eggs and crumbled black pudding. Puffed rice gives fish a crunchy coating. Ribbons of courgette are turned into pasta. Rainbow chard (silverbeet) is used in a silky gratin. Asian mushrooms make macaroni cheese magnificent. There's even a dish inspired by a pot noodle. There are new discoveries to be made, including a Swedish staple called Smorgastarta I'd never heard of and lots of options for lighter dishes that make the most of vegetables. A lovely cookbook.

I'll Have What She's Having
By Rebecca Harrington (Hachette)

New York writer Rebecca Harrington spent more than a year dieting like a celebrity. She ate steak topped with peanut butter a la Elizabeth Taylor, drank two raw eggs whipped into warm milk like Marilyn Monroe, downed litres of Gwyneth Paltrow's green juice and Dolly Parton's cabbage soup and, for the most part, was very, very hungry. Harrington wrote about her celebrity dieting adventures in a series of columns for New York magazine and has now gathered them into a book that, while it is an exercise in total silliness, is also witty and fun. Harrington tortures her dinner guests with awful concoctions, loses weight then mysteriously regains it and loses it again, and shares all manner of food-related star trivia. It's as shallow as a puddle but if you're fascinated by Hollywood gossip and what other people eat, enjoy ironic writing and are in the market for some effortless entertainment I'll Have What She's Having is going to do the trick. Plus, it'll make you really happy not to be Victoria Beckham.

The Legend of Winstone Blackhat
By Tanya Moir (Vintage)

When an author manages to get inside the head of a 12-year-old boy and carry you along so you can't wait to turn the next page, that's the most skilful writing of all. Tanya Moir does write beautifully. Her similes and her occasional stream of consciousness as Winstone negotiates his way out of a constant run of tricky situations seem just right; her language sometimes stops you in your tracks and makes you want to read a passage all over again, simply to appreciate the wordplay. The story follows Winstone, who has run away from home and is living from hand to mouth in the remote back country of Central Otago, stealing from trampers' huts and vehicles, and saving tidbits for a wild kitten that has followed him "home" to his cave. Interspersed with his tale of survival is the backstory of the upbringing of Winstone and his little sister Marlene, plus the story that is going on in his mind - the story that makes his bleak existence worth living - of

Cooper and The Kid

, two cowboys out of a composite Western movie who are on the run just like him.


• Review by Christchurch author Felicity Price whose latest novel is A Jolt To The Heart (Blackjack Press)
Mix It Up!
By Herve Tullet (Allen & Unwin)

Anyone who has read former art director Herve Tullet's Press Here to a group of pre-schoolers will know the power and magic of his simple style. Mix It Up! is Tullet's follow-up and it's equally beguiling. Working through each page, children are challenged to "tap the little grey spot", "gently rub the yellow" or even "shake the book really hard" - and by doing so, they are made to feel they are in control of things happening on the next page. Mix it Up! is another classic by Tullet.

• Review by Danielle Wright creator of award-winning children's books and the news site:
Life Drawing
By Robin Black (Scribe)

This beautifully written first novel follows Augusta as she and her husband Owen navigate their new lives in the country. They are trying to leave behind the fast pace of city life and an emotional betrayal that threatened to destroy their marriage. When Alison moves into the empty house next door, Gus is drawn into a new friendship but Owen is suspicious of the new woman and of the demands being placed on Gus as she also struggles to deal with her father sinking into dementia and the recent death of a beloved sister. Emotions are stretched to breaking point when Alison's daughter comes to stay. Highly recommended.

• Review by Tracey Lawton who owns Matakana's The Village Bookshop.

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UK writer Kate Riordan is the author of The Girl in the Photograph (Michael Joseph)

The book I love most is ...

The Go-Between

by LP Hartley because it's so heartbreakingly sad and beautiful.

The book I'm reading right now is ... I've just finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I devoured it in two days.

The book I'd like to read next is ... I'm about to embark on the second of Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Bring up the Bodies.

My favourite bookshop is ... Daunt Books on Marylebone High St in London. It's Edwardian, with lots of lovely wood and big windows.

The book that changed me is ... Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I read it when I was about 12 and loved everything about it. I still reread it at least once a year. Rebecca is the reason I wrote the kind of book I did.

The book I wish I'd never read is ... Susan Hill's The Woman In Black when I was on my own late at night. I had to keep the light on after that.