Rapid Reviews for August 2015


You will have noticed there are a lot of crime thrillers, creative arts, design and decorator books among the books I review. You’ve also probably noticed that there’s a regular turnout of narrative cookery books – those beautifully photographed, text rich “tomes” recounting family histories through food or lives lived for the knife and fork. Interestingly, like the internationally written “crime thrillers” I’ve learned more about people, their cultures and lifestyles through cookery books than I ever learned at school. On the way I’ve discovered that a lot of what I enjoy eating is the traditional “peasant or working class” food of an area. And I’ve learned that the best is often the simplest. This month I’ve read a cookery book that’s food focus is almost the complete opposite of that. It was a superb example of narrative and photography – I won’t be making many of the recipes. It reminded me that I wasn’t ecstatic over frog’s legs or escargot/snails which to my much younger palette tasted like garlic flavoured rubber bands. And yes, I shudder at the thought of tripe. Hope you’ve enjoyed our wonderful winter months – the first flower on the magnolia in front of the kitchen window has broken through and there have been bulb flowers in the paddocks for so long now the novelty has gone – here comes Spring!

random violence


Murders most foul. Johannesburg based so there’s the interesting insight into cultural and social divisions and the undercurrent of social violence. A good read.

ORIGINAL SKIN, DAVID MA Quercus London 2013

People really do these things. Content/behaviours expose the world of the up and comers and the middle class. It’s really about the prices paid. A good read


Another you won’t want to let leave your hands till you close the book. Murder, dying, death – again who’s not what they seem. An absorbing read.


Practising Jewish “Loo” Decker and sidekick Marge. A very chatty style, almost made for television dialogue. Some elements of the story seem improbably but who would have thought that someone would die in London from being poked in he leg with a poisoned umbrella. Despite some of the issues raised within the narrative I’d be putting this into the light but enjoyable category.

THE FALLEN, BEN SANDERS Harper Collins Auckland, New Zealand 2010

As an ex Aucklander I loved this realistic crime thriller as it dragged me all over my past and it’s exciting story. This is a YES book, yes you should read it. You won’t want to put it down so don’t start something you don’t have time to finish!

Love the dedication: “This book is dedicated to my parents who always made me read”

THE BOUNDARY, NICOLE WEBB University of Queensland Press, 2011

So believable to a former South Auckland legal aid lawyer. This is another YES. It’s stunning and believable. I think it loses its way a bit towards the end but then the reality of this book is the acceptance that the past remains totally in the present.

THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE, FERDINAND VON SCHIRACH (translated from the German by Anthea Bell) Little Brown, UK 2015 e Random House 2013

I had to read this in one go, it was unput downable. Its enthralling and entrancing. It’s something you should definitely read.

Down in the square a fat man was laughing; he wore a brightly coloured sweatshirt with the words International Golf Team embroidered right across the back. He was eating something out of a bag. His wife had no neck”

AUTUMN KILLING, MONS KALLENTOFT (translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith) Hodder & Stoughton, 2012

A worthwhile, detailed read with a flawed detective as its central star – this time the flawed detective is a female. A good winter read.


I loved the almost sparse descriptive style of writing: almost laid back Yet,I felt I could visualise all the characters in detail. Nothing in this book I could not put down was eventually what it seemed. An ironically, another fabulous, dedicated and determined female detective.

HUNGRY FOR FRANCE Adventures for the Cook and Foodlover, ALEXANDER LOBRANO Photography Steven Rothfeld Rizzoli International USA 2014

A friend once told me she didn’t look in shops with stuff she couldn’t afford to buy. I was taken aback because I always look at everything I can’t afford to buy and think how enriched my life is at someone else’s expense. The only time my “eat with your eyes” philosophy fell down was on Rodeo Drive – they lock their shops!

Alexander Lobrano and his photographer Steven Rothfeld have taken me on a comprehensive tour of the regions of France. While it’s clear Lobrano never ate at the place with the old downstairs toilets that encouraged you to try for the breath holding record and his prose is a bit “frilly”, I just loved this book.

Under a scrubbed sky tickled by a row of fluttering green poplars on the horizon I had no choice but to follow the prudent speed limit enforced by puttering tractors towing muddy mounds of potatoes”

Just close your eyes and you’re back in France. This man Lobrano has literally eaten his way through the regional cooking styles of contemporary France. He’s noted the food, the countryside and the people. It’s an excellent example of its “genre” – like television in a book. I did just wonder with all this eating if he was fat and/or broke?

Get this out (I’ve finally taken it back) for a very enjoyable tour de france – travel – food – France.

ROSEMARY BALU. Rosemary is the founding and current Editor of ARTbop.



Friends of the Tauranga Libaries are a group of people of all ges an from all walks of life who share an interest in books, libraries, life and literacy. We hold four meetings, most months of the year to explore these interests. We support the Summer Reading programmes both by securing grant money and also by helping with the setup and finales of the programmes. Money raised through our regular activities goes back into our libraries. A strong aspect of our work is advocating on behalf of the community with both the Library and the Tauranga City Council.

When you join the Friends of the Tauranga Libraries you are able to attend any of our meetings and will also receive our newsletters, Bookline, which comes out every second month. You will have opportunities to volunteer for the reading programmes and assisting with advocacy work.

Interested? Contact Friends of the Tauranga Libraries Secretary, Jenny Cook at cookhouse@clear.net.nz


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