Em and the Big Hoom
By Jerry Pinto (Penguin Random House)
Indian novels tend to be sprawling, colourful and chaotic affairs. Em and the Big Hoom is some of those things but not all. Essentially, it's a study of mental illness and one young man's attempt to understand what is going on inside his mother's faulty mind. If that sounds as if it might be heavy going, it's not. But neither did I find it as howlingly funny or wildly comic as the quotes on the jacket promised. Em and the Big Hoom are the nicknames of the mother and father in this fragile family who live crammed together in a tiny flat in Bombay. The dialogue-heavy story tells of the couple's courtship and the warping of Em's mind. She is a volatile, often inappropriate and yet ultimately charming presence and, yes, some of the mad things that come out of her mouth are funny. The toll her manic depression and suicide bids take on her husband and children is artfully communicated by Pinto, but the structure of the story, and the way he rambles around his subject in conversations and recollections, makes for an unfocused read. Pinto is a journalist and apparently this debut novel is at least partly autobiographical, which explains the authenticity of his insights. It may not be the best book I'll ever read about mental illness but it is sure to be one of the most affectionate, irreverent and original.
Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking
By Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale (Murdoch Books)
According to this book, Turkish is one of the three great cuisines of the world but only the Turks know it. Anatolia does the food justice. It is a thing of beauty filled not just with recipes but history, culture and folklore. It surely has to be the next best thing to going there. Vivid photography of people and places is combined with wonderful feasts. In the far east of Anatolia, breakfast can run to 41 courses and here they are shared with us - glorious brioche stuffed with potato and chilli, clotted cream with rose jam, minted yoghurt balls and pistachio pancakes, poached eggs in garlic yoghurt and paprika. For lunch there are the traditional soups, stews, breads and pastries, as well as lighter versions of classics like the eggplant dish Imam Bayildi. There are sweet delights for afternoon tea, a wealth of ideas for mezze plates (you'll never serve store-bought hummus again). And of course dinner, the most important meal of the day, which will have you cooking ancient Ottoman seafood dishes. Anatolia really is a foodie's delight.
Feel Good for Life (Penguin Random House)
By Claire Turnbull
These days, healthy eating is a fraught business as, one after the other, foods we've long enjoyed are demonised and new fads embraced. So this Auckland dietitian with her plain-speaking and sensible approach to everyday nourishment is a breath of fresh air. Once a dysfunctional eater herself, she shares her secrets to a healthier, happier life. There is a lot about eating well but Turnbull also looks at other aspects of self-care and encourages us to tune into ourselves, and why we eat and think the way we do. It's interactive, with lists and diaries to fill out and exercises to try so readers can really drill down into their own behaviour. And the tone is friendly and encouraging rather than bossy big sister. Whether you want motivation to get out and exercise, to add more vegetables to your diet, to get your body back in balance or boost your mood, Turnbull is brimming with excellent, realistic advice. Plus there are recipes at the back " you have to try the Biba bliss balls.
The Whale Savers
By Linda Roberts and Bruce Potter (New Holland)
With its hyper-realistic images, the blending of Maori language and a very contemporary feel, this is a book Kiwi kids will easily identify with. It's educational but the story of a whale becoming stranded on a beach and the whole village, led by Tama and his Nan, rushing to save it, is involving and emotive. At the back there are interesting whale facts as well as a glossary of Maori words and phrases. A really cool little picture book for kids aged 4-7.
The Shark Party
By Janet Colson (Escalator Press)
A psychological thriller set among the beautiful people of New York, The Shark Party is the debut novel from New Zealander Janet Colson. Carla lives with Nathan, a wealthy art collector and expert, and she struggles to fit in with his art world friends. A chance meeting with an independent filmmaker starts her questioning her relationship but Nathan has no intention of letting her get away from him. I had some real problems with the characters but still found it fast-paced and well-written enough to keep me interested in finding out what happens next (if a little disbelieving).
• Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
by John Flanagan (Penguin Random House)
Australian John Flanagan is the author of the international bestselling series Ranger's Apprentice, and Brotherband is a spin-off. The first story is set in Skandia and our young hero is Hal, half Skandian, half Araluen. Every year the Brotherband competition is held between the boys as they train to be warriors. Hal and his best friend Stig have to make the best of things despite being outcasts and as the competition continues, they pull together a group of misfit boys who become very close and show everyone else what can be achieved by becoming a team. There is a strong maritime theme in this series and once again Flanagan creates such a vivid world that it's hard not to be drawn in.
• Review by Tracey Lawton of The Village Bookshop in Matakana.
Nicky's best read
The books section of the UK's
website is a trove of interviews, news, blogs, talking points, lists and quizzes. There's a space for readers to post details of what they're reading and what they think of it and heaps of reviews of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Lauraine Jacobs is an Auckland food writer and has edited the new A Treasury of New Zealand Baking (Penguin Random House).
The book I love most is ... Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Food. She set the bar for modern food writing as she described the warm flavours of the Med for post-war Britain 65 years ago.
The book I'm reading right now is ... The Most of Nora Ephron. It is a wonderful collection of her most witty and perceptive writings.
The book I'd like to read next is ... Zen Under Fire by Marianne Elliott, the co-owner of Mexican restaurant, La Boca Loca in Wellington.
My favourite bookshop is ... The Village Bookshop in Matakana. It is a total gem with a terrific selection of books.
The book that changed me is ... Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. It absolutely changed the way I thought about Africa.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I really was intimidated by all that violence.