Rapid Reviews: Christmas good reads


I start to panic around the 21st of  December.  What if I read all the books before the Library reopens?  What if the pile I’ve carted home are those “first line and then close efforts”  What if I’ve brought home only books I’ve read before?    In line with my new and streamlined policy towards life in general there are no bad or awful reviews.  If it’s that bad from the start it just goes straight to the pile by the door to return asap!   From one reader to another I wish you a happy holiday and lots of time lying still in the shade reading something that makes your brain and your heart sing! 

Missing, Presumed Susie Steiner The Borough Press London 2016

UK female detective, complex intertwining of realistic human, social and political issues. Love and happiness are not always where you look and of course, noone is what they seem. Get this out for the holidays before somebody else does.


Dead End Daniel Pascoe The Book Guild Leicestershire 2016

Not so sure about this one. Not entirely believable – so it will probably turn out to be true. It’s long but I wouldn’t put it in the same category of “gripping” and “readable” as the above. Still if you’re away at the beach, no wifi and needing a reason to avoid cleaning the bach windows – get this out

The Cairo Affair Olen Steinhauer Minotaur Books New York 2014

Middle Eastern intrigue. Americans abroad. Complex networks of spy and sex. Worth putting in the back pack but you’ll need to concentrate.


The Ghost Riders of Ordebec Fred Vargas Harvell Secker Paris, English translation Sian Reynolds 2013

Mythology, the supernatural and human nastiness flavour this rural French based narrative written and translated so well. It was only after I’d read both of the Vargas books that I discovered Fred is a she – explains a lot.

Dog Will have his Day Fred Vargas Harvill Secker London English translation Sian Reynolds 2014 “the lame devil” – history is always with us even if we keep our eyes tightly shut. Layers to unravel from an incidental fragment. Get both of these Vargas works and hide from others until you’ve had a chance to read them or you won’t get them back all holiday.


Every Bitter Thing Leighton Gage Soho New York 2010

Brasilia “a crime of passion” – threads of connection trickle out, significant religio-political issues develop. I think I’ve read this before but it was worth a second read. It’s not chick lit, it’s one of the heavier holiday reads – screams “pack me”.

The Fall of Light Sarah Laing Vintage Books, New Zealand 2103

A New Zealand book – makes a change from France, Cairo and Brazil. It’s not designated as a thriller or a crime story but in its own way it’s all of those things. Real life is often a crime. Take it along for the change of scene and pace.


Present Darkness Malla Nunn Xoum Australia 2014

More than a period South African detective story. Nunn evokes the reality of apartheid South Africa laced with realities of WWII and contemporary corruption. A must read but it’s not Harry Potter.


Summary Justice John Fairfax Little Brown Great Britain 2017   

Best read of this bunch. Resilience and redemption. Patient fact unpicking makes great reading.


The Resistance Peter Steiner A Thomas Dunne Book for Minotaur Books, New York 2012

How close the past is to current action. France during WWII. A lovely enjoyable easy read redolent of the palette of tragedy, corruption and bravery of the period. A great way to expose younger members of the family to Vichy history. Find a space to bring me along.


I am privileged to have access to a variety of libraries within my district.   I always bring home non-fiction books about everywhere and everything.  I am constantly amazed by what I haven’t seen around New Zealand.   Here’s a brief look at a wonderful book.  I’ve included a brief video as well.  Enjoy!


Marae Te Tatau Pounamu Muru, Robin & Sam Walters A journey around New Zealand’s meeting houses Godwit Random House, New Zealand 2014

The back cover says this book is “a magnificent tribute to New Zealand’s wharenui, big and small”. For me this book is much more (even though I mainly avoided reading the text). The images of the very different building and decorative style of wharenui took me on a New Zealand-wide journey – to places small and large I have not been and people I have yet to meet. This is a beautifully imaged book giving a tremendous insight into more than Maori architecture. It’s a book you want to stroke it’s so beautiful, entertaining and insightful. In its own way it also presents the issue of “Maori” style – look at the contemporary interpretation of Te Rau Aroha, Bluff. And, as I turned the pages I realised how many contemporary New Zealand homes now reference the covered forecourt of wharenui with their covered “outdoor” seating and entertainment area. Residing in the Omokoroa Library of Western Bays – I will bring it back before the holidays start but I want to turn the pages again.


TOI Art and Design Store Elizabeth Street Tauranga to 24th December 2017


Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


AND WHILE YOU’RE HERE; take a look at the Birgitt Shannon created video of the inaugural Affordable Art & Artisan Fair at the Black Sheep Bar & Grill Whakamarama 




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