What's Hot

February 2019
Life In A Jar
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 375
Virtually unknown in her native Poland, Irene Sendler's World War II exploits organising the rescue of Jewish babies, were brought to prominence in 1999 by three American high school students developing a play for a National History Day project in Kansas. In a poetic counterweight to the inhumanity of the Holocaust, this project demonstrated just the opposite: Protestant American school children celebrating the work of a Catholic woman saving Jewish babies in a Polish ghetto.

An edifying story of courage, unsung heroes and the inspiration of people working together to make a difference.

Comments from Groups:

The discussion our Book Club had after reading "Life in a Jar" was probably the most "in-depth" and stimulating we'd ever had. Although most of the content was appalling, there was an uplifting element also. Most definitely a recommended read. Amberley 001

Very moving. Christchurch 125

We had mixed opinions on this book. Several of us thought it was too long, but were pleased to have learnt the story. Hamilton 034

The group agreed that this was an "important read', and were grateful to have been exposed to Irena Sendler's story. Too much to talk about - however it was a very positive discussion. Christchurch 229

The story of Irena Sendler was of great interest, but most readers did not like the style, finding it too simplistic. There were mixed reactions to the story of the Kansas girls - some found this fascinating, others were bored by it. All agreed the wartime treatment of Jews was unfathomable and reprehensible, and that Irena and all those that helped showed great courage. We could not imagine ourselves in those circumstances, or know how we would act... Auckland 050

We were all very pleased to have learnt about Irena Sendler. The style of writing irritated some, but the total story was well worth the read. A fascinating lady; and we all wondered how we would cope in the same situation. It is a story that needs to be told, and all credit to the students and their teacher. Dannevirke 001

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, War theme, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Human Rights, Morals/Ethics, America, What's Hot, 2016 Titles, Poland

January 2019
Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 352
When widower Arthur Pepper, an entrenched creature of routine, plucks up the courage to sort out his beloved wife's belongings, he comes across an expensive gold bracelet that he doesn't recognise. Just what did Miriam get up to before their forty years of marriage? Tracing the provenance of each of the charms takes Arthur on an odyssey that reveals as much about him as it does about Miriam.

A delightfully eccentric and amusing story of self-discovery and the unexpected rewards of throwing off the shackles.

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Love story, Relationships, Uplifting, England, Light style, What's Hot, 2018 Titles

December 2018
Boys In The Boat, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2014
Pages : 392
Who would have imagined it; trounced by a university rowing team! At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, a crew of young American lads won gold, defeating the German team who were expected to win. This is the story of these working-class boys, particularly young Joe Rantz who rises from adversity to participate in this triumphant event.

Capturing the difficult economic and social conditions in the US at the time, and the rise of Nazism in Europe, this is a moving and inspiring piece of history given full rein in this detailed story. [Small font]

Comments from Groups:

This was an extremely popular book with our group.Five members gave it 10/10. We felt that we were in the boat with the men. The description was wonderful. It was an emotional story and also such an interesting historical record. Joe was such an amazing person who, despite such adversity, was never bitter. Ultimately it was a triumphant and uplifting book. Highly recommended. Christchurch 001

We all enjoyed this book despite the small print. Recommended by all. Good discussion held. Drummond 001

What a wonderful read. Most of our group had already read this and it was enjoyed again by all. If we had had this one before the survey ( to choose our favourite book) this would have beaten the others. An excellent, well written book. Winton 001

A very dense and verbose story using 10 words where one would do; it nevertheless told quite a compelling and interesting chapter in American social and sporting history. Essentially this was Joe Rantz's story, which was a pretty tragic one. It was amazing what he achieved when compared with his upbringing and circumstances.... Pukeko 001

We all loved 'The Boys in the Boat'. Some loved the detail about the rowing, others enjoyed the background stories of deprivation in the Depression, and the rise of Hitler. The photos added to the book's authenticity and enjoyment. A book to be highly recommended to others. Wellington 050

An excellent discussion. All enjoyed the book - some more than others. Small print not enjoyed. Enjoyed the history - led to greater understanding of the effects of the Depression. Author's style had us in the boat on tenterhooks. Ashburton 003

An excellent book. Provoked a lively and interesting discussion. Riversdale 001

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Historical, Human Rights, Inspirational, Morals/Ethics, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, 2017 Titles, Small font

November 2018
President's Hat, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 200
When Daniel Mercier's eyes alight on an abandoned black felt hat in a Paris restaurant, it's not just any old hat; it belongs to none other than President Francois Mitterrand. And that's not all: surprising things happen to wearers of the hat, so discovers Daniel and the next temporary custodian, and the next ...

Entertaining and charmingly nostalgic, this story of destiny is a delightfully whimsical Gallic adventure. Translated from the French.

Categories: Fiction, Relationships, Translation, Uplifting, France, What's Hot, 2017 Titles

October 2018
How the Light Gets In
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2013
Pages : 402
Although his enemies in the Surete are sharpening their knives, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Homicide Department gives the appearance of 'business as usual' as he goes about investigating the death of a woman who was once one of the most famous people in Canada. Moving between the isolated village of Three Pines and Montreal, the gentlemanly Gamache must solve the mystery of Constance Pineault's life while simultaneously uncovering the corruption festering in the Quebecois elite.

Quirky characters, carefully controlled tension and a lacing of subtle humour render this multi-layered story a most satisfying and enjoyable read.

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Relationships, Suspense/Thriller, Canada, What's Hot, 2017 Titles, Blind Foundation book

September 2018
Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 436
Single mum 'Rabbit' Hayes is coming to the end of her innings ... prematurely, it has to be said but that is not going to stop her making the most of what time she does have left. Gathered at the hospice in her final days are her friends and family, recalling and celebrating the life she has led to the full.

Tempered with Irish humour and the perfect balance of sadness and hope, this is a credible, heartwarming story of a reluctant but beautiful journey.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone LOVED this book! Hard to start, then hard to put down! 9/10 loved the characters (especially Molly); thought it a well constructed novel; a privilege to read, and admired the huge strength of their family bond. We thought the interaction brilliant, although thought their ethics questionable re not telling Juliet about her mother's imminent death. A perfect book about death and dying. Excellent! Whitianga 002

Categories: Fiction, Grief/loss, Humour, Inspirational, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, What's Hot, 2017 Titles

August 2018
Being Mortal
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2014
Pages : 282
According to Benjamin Franklin, 'in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes'. In this book American surgeon Atul Gawande addresses the first of these certainties and the death that awaits us all. Beginning with the history of residential care for the elderly and moving on to the issue of medical intervention, this is a thought-provoking analysis presenting these issues in an open and easy to read style.

Confronting the harsh realities of our mortality, this book is a springboard into examining our attitudes and expectations for our eventual demise, well supported by research and the author's professional and personal experiences in USA and India.

Categories: Non fiction, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Philosophy, Social commentary/perspectives, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, 2017 Titles

July 2018
Second Chances
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2012
Pages : 396
"Finn fell." Such simple little words to start a story, such simple words that belie the truth behind the event. Five-year-old Finn's fall from the first floor verandah of his family's Hawke's Bay home is shocking in its unexpectedness and a signal that all is not well in the McNamara household. Recently emigrated from the UK, expectations are being exceeded all round, except that is, for Sacha, and that's just teenagers for you ... isn't it?

This thought-provoking novel delves into every parent's worst nightmare with recognisable characters and setting, events that ring true, and a courageous exploration of the social issues that we face in our homes and communities.

Comments from Groups:

One of the best books we have read this year. We loved that it was set in the Hawkes Bay and that we could picture the landscape etc. It was a suspenseful novel, and many could hardly put it down. We loved the writing style, and identified with the mother's difficulty in not being able to tell the truth, and her torment because of it. Recommend highly. Christchurch 238

Everybody enjoyed Second Chances, and felt that the author handled all the various threads of the plot well. She touched on several very contemporary issues - drug abuse, child abuse, immigration and family dynamics - and held our interest throughout.. Katikati 001

Everyone loved our book this month. Most agreed it was the very best book we had read this year. We really felt that Norman's experience as a barrister gave her great insight into how real people deal with difficult circumstances. We thought she created a very believable family dynamic. As New Zealanders, we loved the way she saw NZ through the eyes of immigrants - the scenery, the generosity and friendship of the locals. Otorohanga 003

A well paced and well researched story. There was plenty to discuss with issues around migration, teenage difficulties and NZ drug problems. We recommend this book! Tauranga 015

This was an enjoyable read, with themes particularly familiar to some of the migrants in our group. An author to look out for. Timaru 016

Mixed reviews - some loved it, others thought it readable but not a great read, more of a holiday read. Wellington 120

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Community, Contemporary, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

June 2018
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 317
Loyal citizens one minute, enemy aliens the next, Bin Okuma and his Japanese-Canadian family are interned during World War II. Decades later and recently widowed, Bin, now a celebrated artist, returns to British Columbia, revisiting the memories of this period of his childhood and attempting to lay to rest the traumas of dislocation and injustice, including his being given away for adoption.

Distinguished by its delicate and unsentimental approach, this story explores a difficult episode of Canadian history, while reflecting on the challenges of loss and reconciliation.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone in the group loved this book - the descriptive language and the story. The best book we've had. [Auckland 277]

Thoroughly enjoyed by seven of our eight members. [Hamilton 007]

Brilliant writing. We all loved it and would like more of her books. [Auckland 189]

We all loved reading Requiem. It was a revelation to us that the Japanese community in Canada was treated so badly. The characters were sympathetically portrayed and it was beautifully written. [Queenstown 003]

Everyone enjoyed this book. [Hastings 010]

We all loved this book. Frances Itani is the best writer, and one we had never heard of before. A moving and exceptionally well written book. [Hamilton 029] This is the only book that our whole Book Club has loved and enjoyed. It is a book to be recommended to all. A must read. Christchurch 078

There was a unanimously positive reponse by our group to 'Requiem'. It was felt that the novel was well constructed, with amazingly descriptive passages, dealing with emotions sensitively. All agreed that it was well researched and instructive. We were ignorant of the Japanese internment camps in the USA and Canada, and knew little of the camp in Featherston. Whangarei 002

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Historical, Relationships, Canada, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, 2016 Titles

May 2018
Just Mercy
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2014
Pages : 335
Although he grew up in a poor black community in the American South, Bryan Stevenson is a Harvard graduate, a law professor and an influential and impassioned advocate for those at the bottom of the heap. With their fate resting in the balance, he established a legal practice, the Equal Justice Initiative, which has successfully defended many of those most in need.

With one in three black men imprisoned in the USA, his plea for justice and mercy from their dysfunctional criminal justice system is compelling and powerfully argued. A disturbing but undoubtedly inspiring story. [Small font]

Comments from Groups:

This book provoked great conversation. We were all equally appalled at the state of the American Criminal Justice system and how there is so much discrimination against the African-Americans, women and the mentally disabled. We voted this our most challenging book this year. [Christchurch 196]

A very stimulating and timely read. This book should be read by everyone to remind us of our freedom and political choices. [Taupo 007]

For once were were unanimous - all thought it was a most stimulating, horrific account of the author's work. We were full of admiration for Bryan Stevenson - his perseverence, philosophy and humanity. This book colours our reading of 'events' in the US. [Christchurch 058]

All agreed that this was compelling and at times hard to put down as the content is so challenging. Lively conversation about racism. [Raumati 001]

General concensus - well-written and enlightening. Though at times horrifying. One member found it so distressing it affected her sleep. Bryan Stevenson's commitment to battling for his death row clients is inspiring in an unbelievably corrupt system. We learnt a lot! [Wanaka 005]

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Human Rights, Inspirational, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Political, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, 2017 Titles, Small font

April 2018
Where the Rekohu Bone Sings
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2014
Pages : 270
From the 19th century invasion of Rekohu (Chatham Islands) through to contemporary Aotearoa, this is the story of a truly New Zealand family: Moriori, Maori, and Pakeha. In order to have a life together Mere and Iraia with their irreconcilable difference in status, must leave their home and start afresh in Wellington. Twins Lula and Bigs, born a century later with their Maori and Pakeha heritage will have their own demons to grapple with, and binding them all together, an ancestral voice.

Bringing to light the history of Rekohu and the challenge of cultural identity, this is a unique and satisfying read.

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Love story, Maori, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, What's Hot, 2017 Titles, Blind Foundation book

March 2018
Song Collector, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 383
It takes the obnoxious antics of composer Harry Fox-Talbot's young grandson Robin to set Fox on the road to recovery. Recently widowed, he has been languishing, bereft without his wife Edie. But Robin, it turns out, is a musical prodigy and as his talent emerges, so too does Fox's interest in life. He starts composing again and is finally able to confront the long-standing family schism that began decades earlier when Edie was first introduced to the Fox-Talbot clan.

Threaded with wry humour and with a passion for music at its core, this gently written story of love, betrayal and yearning will captivate you to its very last note.

Comments from Groups:

Overall our group enjoyed this read immensely. We were unanimous in our appreciation of the clever way the author moved from one era to another in telling the story and found the storyline a delightful and interesting choice. [Auckland 332]

We really enjoyed this book. The descriptions of places and scenes were vivid, well written and drew us into the story. [Timaru 007]

The whole group enjoyed this book and we had a very good discussion about it. We'd recommend it to other groups. [Havelock North 005]

All members were delighted with this book. We were amazed at the quality of writing and depth of knowledge over so many areas by this young writer. Many members have recommended the book to family and friends. I personally rationed my last pages because I was so sad to finish it. [Mana 001]

We really enjoyed this one, it's beautifully written. [Morrinsville 002]

This was the first book for a long time where we all really liked it and read it thoroughly! I don't think it's a book for men though. [Russley 004]

We enjoyed the quality and range of the characters and their relationships that Solomons created. A most enjoyable read. Recommended. [Christchurch 148]

Categories: Fiction, Arts, The, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Relationships, England, What's Hot, 2017 Titles

February 2018
Beauty of Humanity Movement, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 294
Taken to the USA as a child, Maggie Ly is returning to her Vietnamese roots, both in her capacity as a curator and as a daughter seeking to discover what happened to her father, a dissident artist who disappeared at the time of the fall of Saigon. Back in Hanoi, Maggie is aided in her quest by Old Man Hu'ng a pho (soup) maker and Tu, a young tourist guide.
Gently paced and with an intriguing plot, this is a vividly exotic story that thoughtfully captures both past and contemporary Vietnam.

Comments from Groups:

We really liked this book. Many of the group had been to Vietnam & could easily identify with the imagery. Old Man Hung was a fabulous character. Bream 001

We really enjoyed the book-the insights to the history of Vietnam and the struggles of the people. We are so lucky to live in NZ. It was interesting to hear stories from members who had travelled there. Te Puke 001

Excellent book enjoyed by all. Great insight into culture & history of Vietnam. Amazing examples of resilience and self-preservation. Characters all beautifully developed as story progresses. Highly recommend. Auckland 280

All of the group thoroughly enjoyed this book in spite of the many tragic events that occur. It is beautifully written & Gibb's descriptions of the characters makes it easy to visualise them and their activities. We do not agree with the Daily Mail that it is a `funny` book, but definitely `moving and romantic`. Napier 016

Everyone liked the book; great to read about [a] different culture one might not know a lot of. Great to have the questions for discussion as they help to focus on special themes (culture, art, relationships, etc) Wanaka 014

Categories: Fiction, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Human Rights, Political, Vietnam, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

January 2018
Universe Versus Alex Woods
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2013
Pages : 408
In Alex Wood's short life, there have been two major life-altering events, and it's hard to say which will have the most effect: being hit on the head by a meteorite when he was ten, or, as a teenager, meeting his elderly reclusive neighbour Isaac Peterson while trying to evade the latest crop of school bullies. The unlikely friendship that develops gives Alex the sounding board he needs to sort out his philosophy on life ... and death. Astrophysics and neurology feature in this reckoning, as do God, Kurt Vonnegut and the vexed issue of assisted suicide.

This warm and engaging story is rich with humour, moral conflicts and intriguing characters tackling the important things of life ... and death.

Comments from Groups:

Our group enjoyed this read - a sweet coming of age novel. However, at its core there is a serious topic which was great for discussion. Would recommend. Christchurch 229

The book was a fast and fun read, which raised some interesting, and topical issues. Wellington 046

We all loved it: clever, funny and quirky. An amazing first novel. Some members even thought it was the best book we'd had for several years! And, of course, discussion ( on the various issues raised) followed at length. Auckland 009

We all really enjoyed this one. Most of the ladies wanted to take Alex home. It certainly gave us plenty to talk about. Morrinsville 002

Everyone in our group loved this book.The characters are so interestingly drawn: and the bond that grows between Alex and Mr Peterson becomes so strong and real, that it touched us all deeply.....Auckland 088

On the whole our group loved this book. Strangely, the discussion revolved around Alex's Asperger's rather than assisted suicide, which was a surprise. It was a complex, humorous and well written book. We look forward to the author's next book. The notes are excellent too. Nelson 023

This book had mixed reactions from the group - some loved it, and some found it hard to get into. Most found that it was an easy read, and enjoyed the characters of Alex and Mr Peterson. Dunedin 039

Everyone enjoyed this book. A book that deals with heavy themes such as bullying, drug use and euthanasia in a pragmatic and thought provoking manner. A funny book that appeals to all ages. Wanaka 013

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Humour, Morals/Ethics, Young narrator, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

December 2017
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2010
Pages : 202
Navigation is Joy Cowley's story. From her childhood in 1940s Foxton, to family life, marriages and international fame as a writer, Joy takes us on a candidly told and often surprising journey. She touches down constantly at her retreat centre in the Marlborough Sounds, where she writes passionately about the seasons and the natural world. Warm, sensitive and peppered with Joy's irrepressible love of life, Navigation is a relaxed and beautifully written memoir. [Taken from the book cover.] NZ Interest

Comments from Groups:

An easy book to read; it created much discussion. It encompassed many parts of her life, personal, creative etc and the part that surprised us all most was her spiritual, religious writings. There were several teachers in the group who all related well to much of her writing about her teaching of reading. The non teachers didn't find this as interesting. Overall, an enjoyable read. Akaroa 005

Thoroughly enjoyed it, easy read. Joy Cowley expresses herself well. An adventurous woman - obviously her life experiences influence her writing. One member loved the way Joy is so visual. Joy turned everything into a positive experience and was a woman who could see possibilities. The value of oral history was emphasised as a basis of storytelling. Carterton 001

Everyone was interested that it was a memoir but were also interested in getting a wider perspective of some of her life events. A lot of interest persisted from her hardship, how the community was supportive of everyone and this provided a lot of material for her stories. Everyone was impressed by the developing of school journals with New Zealand relevant stories. Auckland 166

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Literary, Relationships, Religion, Uplifting, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

November 2017
Mornings in Jenin
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 331
Palestine 1948. The Abulheja family are forcibly removed from their ancestral home in Ein Hod and sent to live in a refugee camp in Jenin. Through Amal, the bright granddaughter of the patriarch, we witness the stories of her brothers: one, a stolen boy who becomes an Israeli soldier; the other who in sacrificing everything for the Palestinian cause will become his enemy. Amal's own dramatic story threads its way through six decades of Israeli-Palestinian tension: it is one of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, parenthood, and finally the need to share history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has. [Taken from the book cover.] What's Hot - August 2013

Comments from Groups:

A very polemic book that deeply moved us and kickstarted a very lively and deep conversation. A real eye-opener to a little heard Pakistan perspective... Lower Hutt 006

Great book that changed our perspective on the situation in the Middle East. Auckland 208

Fantastic book. One of the best. People in the book feel very human and inspiring. Auckland 256

A very powerful, heart-wrenching novel. Taupo 007

Although enlightening, the book was crushingly, unrelentingly depressing. Heart-wrenching to see families holding on to hope and love in the face of extreme adversity. Queenstown 10

Everyone found this book upsetting and were moved by it. "Should be read by all" Martinborough 001

We nearly all agreed that this was a story that should be told, but we disagreed on how well the author had done it. Some of us thought that her language was poetic and spiritual, others thought it was embarrassing purple prose. Wanganui 011

The book had a big impact on everybody. Although in recent years we have heard more of the Palestinian side, this brought home the huge bias in the information we had back then. The poetic writing, the descriptions, the emotional impact, the trauma, the daily lives, the Persian poets - so wide ranging with great beauty and humanity. Napier 026

"Mornings in Jenin' was well received by our group. It was the first time any of us had really read anything about the conflict from the Palestinian point of view. One of our group had worked on a kibbutz and her input was interesting. A comment was made that the shuffling from first to third person wasn't a helpful technique, and that there were too many characters, but overall very positive feedback. Christchurch 395

An amazing book. So beautifully and poetically written about lives caught up in both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Great love, great sorrow - life and death in generations of families. All this without judgement or taking sides. We very much appreciated this book. Wellington 130

'Mornings in Jenin' was a great hit with the group. We found it a moving insight into the reality of the refugee experience. The characters were convincing, and heroic in enduring the circumstances they were forced into. Hamilton 029

We think this is a five star novel. Beautifully written and you feel as though you are living through it all. Tragic yet somehow beautiful. Highly recommended. Nelson 056

Mixed reaction, but the majority absolutely loved the book - others were 'sickened' by the sad story. A very grim tale! Very rich language, enlightening politically and we learned something of history we didn't understand before - gaining a different perspective. Some found it hard to get into, especially the names. Beautifully written - the turns of phrase and poetry. Christchurch 240

Fantastic book. Everyone agreed that it's the best book we have read over the last year. Clarkville 001

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

October 2017
Cutting for Stone
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 541
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash Orthopaedic surgeon. Orphaned by their mother's death and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles, and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined. [Taken from the book cover.] [Big read}

Comments from Groups:

All really enjoyed this book. Great characters, twin interactions and life experiences. Otokoroa 001

We really enjoyed this book and think that it is the best book that we have read this year. Nelson 012

Top scorer for our group-this is the way we like to learn about places and peoples we know about but little of. Those who had already read it, still raved and reminisced along with us. Auckland 063

The group really enjoyed reading this book-especially those of us with a medical background. It was not without faults and could have done with some editing, being rather rambling, especially at the beginning. It was as though the author could not leave anything out! Wellington 074

Impressed everyone and enjoyed by all-except for a couple who felt slightly squeamish over the surgical details! Thanks, as always. Hamilton 007

We mostly found this a very good read. Some found it compulsive reading. One member did not enjoy it at all. Great discussion. Whangamata 002

Most of us (8/10) enjoyed the book very much; comments ranged from magnificent through to moving, impossible to put down and full of wisdom. Those less impressed found it melodramatic and too contrived. The questions were numerous and not always easy to answer, but they generated an excellent long discussion around matters medical, and the nature of the various relationships in the story. It was generally agreed that Thomas Stone was an emotional cripple.Recommended for its generosity of story, setting and character. Tairua 001

The best book yet- we all loved it! A real saga with a fantastic level of detail. An interesting and informative book about Ethiopia and health issues. The characters are so alive and very believable. Good views on religion and sex in those times. The story was full of surprises , and the quality of the language was excellent. Thank you. Christchurch 240

The majority of our readers "loved" the book. The characters were well developed and the author made them vivid in his descriptions of their backgrounds and relationships with each other. Many readers enjoyed the medical detail as if they, too, were students. A worthy read! Nelson 058

Members of the group who persevered with the book were rewarded with a great read. Many were daunted however by small print and lots of pages - very wordy! Hastings 007

This book was a real hit. Two of our members have even purchased copies! After the gruelling first part, it develops into a beautifully written gripping story. The action covers both the tumultuous history of Ethiopia, and spreads out to India and the United States. The main characters are well-drawn and believable. The grimness is leavened by humorous passages. Lower Hutt 004

We all loved it. How unusual to read such detail about surgical procedures in a work of fiction! We all enjoyed the various cultural dimensions, and felt that the Ethiopian detail was really interesting. Opotiki 002

We had an enthralling discussion as several of our members are doctors' wives. Their husbands have been thinking more and more that bedside medicine is very important, and that their training was lacking emphasis on empathy and sensitivity. Richmond 001

A thoroughly engrossing long saga. A real "get your teeth into" story. Loved the character development, especially Hema, we felt as though we knew her. We felt the same about Sister Mary Joseph; even though she died at the beginning, she was still a strong presence throughout the book. Lots of surprises, sadness and a great portrayal of difficult political times in Ethiopia. The author touched on these issues just enough to influence the shaping of the story. Highly recommended for those who enjoy delving into the culture of other countries , and who are looking for a more in-depth and longer read. Blenheim 012

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Literary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Historical, Human Rights, Medical/Health, Relationships, Africa, Ethiopia, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

September 2017
Good Earth, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1931
Pages : 357
The classic story of Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan. This remarkable novel depicts the suffering and hardship of poverty and the struggle to achieve prosperity, as well as the strictures of tradition that shaped and controlled daily life in rural pre-revolutionary China. Pulitzer Prize winner.

Comments from Groups:

A wonderful read. Full on discussion. Some members decided to buy a copy to have on the book shelf. Te Pahu001

We loved the book. It's magnificent in its sweep and humanity. Wellington 050

A wonderful classic history of China. Easy to read and a great work of art from 1930's. Masterton 005

A very lively discussion on this book - without exception we all agreed this was excellent. Wellington 134

Deservedly a classic that holds up well from 1930's. Universal themes, very well written with 'real' characters. We had a great wide-ranging discussion. Lower Hutt 006

Great book which generated lots of discussion. It provided a window to another world, another time, and intriguing diverse human relations. Christchurch 124

We all loved this book. Pearl Buck's writing style captured the suffering and struggle in the countryside of pre-revolutionary China brilliantly. For many in contemporary China, the hardship and poverty hasn't changed. Wellington 066

All members enjoyed the story very much. All but three had read it years ago. Our discussion was wide ranging, but our collective knowledge of China was shared and commented on. We discussed the importance to Wang Lung of the "good earth". Christchurch 078

An interesting insight into life in pre-Revolution China. Although written over 80 years ago, it is a timeless piece and could be set in any patriarchal rural society. The characters were not very sympathetic, but complex and interesting. The conditions of life portrayed were brutal - childbirth, begging etc. Overall it was enjoyed by the group, and was a healthy discussion piece. Wellington 153

Great discussion - we all agreed we'd not do well as female partners in pre-revolution China! Takaka 003

Very easy to read - some of us had read it years before. Very good insights into the value of land for the earlier Chinese, and shocking to see the way women were treated as little better than "farm animals". In spite of O-lan's exceptional care of Wang Lung, she was still regarded as little better than a beast of burden....Dunedin 066

Loved it - every one of us ! Good old classic! Taupo 003

Most of us had read this book in our "younger days", and we discussed how our understanding of the issues had changed. We discussed the issue of land also, and how all cultures have a basic understanding of our dependence on the land, and the need to respect it. Feilding 002

This book followed a classic storyline ie/ a poor man wanting wealth, who becomes rich and unhappy, and gains a new appreciation for his humble beginnings. It was a very well written and compelling read. An excellent book enjoyed by all in our group. Tauranga 034

Categories: Fiction, Classic, Young narrator, China, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

August 2017
Sarah's Key
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2008
Pages : 294
Paris, July 1942. Sarah, a 10 year old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard - their secret hiding place - and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released. Sixty years later, Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, a journalist investigating the round-up. Sarah's Key is an emotionally gripping story of two families forever linked to, and haunted by one of the darkest days in France's past. [Taken from book cover.] What's Hot - February 2013

Comments from Groups:

The whole group adored this book and were moved by the suffering of the French children during WW2. Whiritoa 001

Loved the book...We acknowledge the suffering. Promise to tell our children. Christchurch 279

The book was easy to discuss because there were so many aspects to it... A tragic story – well written. Hamilton 026

It was a most compelling read and invoked a good discussion and interest in the movie. Te Pirita 001

Loved it - cried, despaired, learnt. New Plymouth 012

A great book, sad, ugly and it provoked a great deal of anger towards mans inhumanity. The character of Sarah was well drawn and we felt protective of her. Long discussion. Auckland 271

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Tragedy/disaster, France, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Jewish Culture

July 2017
House of the Mosque, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 431
Having lived in the house attached to the mosque for eight centuries, Aqa Jaan and his kin epitomise a devout Muslim family. However, change is in the air: the Iranian revolution is underway and the effect on the extended family is tumultuous. With its heady mix of revolution and relationships, politics and power, this story brings to life a slice of Iranian history imbued with the author's own experiences. A captivating snapshot of the last days of the Shah and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone in our group really enjoyed this book. Had a great discussion - talked so much about different cultures, religions, beliefs. Nelson 056

We all loved this book. A wonderful insight into Mosque family life and its sad transition into modernity and revolution. Christchurch 257

We all thought this book was very good. Great writing, evocative and a great way to get a bit of history. Wanaka 012

Everyone thought it was a very worthwhile read. Great discussion and a wide range of issues covered. Auckland 039

Really liked this book. It was a simple story told like a fable but incorporated real historical characters and events. Te Awamutu 003

A noteworthy book; it left a strong impression of Iranian culture on us all. Not all found it a comfortable read for style and content however. The Arabic storytelling style takes some getting used to. The way it trivialises some trauma, expands on some trivia, glosses over outrage...makes it harder to empathise with characters. Not all our group were comfortable reading of inequal and degrading treatment of females. Definitely a thought provoker veiled in a grim fairytale, with an insight into the revolution that overturned the Shah. Whitby 003

Everyone really enjoyed this book - the skill of the author in giving us a picture of the family of the mosque brought it all to life. Many of the group were surprised at how much they enjoyed it, despite initial misgivings. The family tree at the beginning of the book was very helpful at identifying the various family members and their roles. A very skilful blend of the personal and the political - we felt we gained many insights into that particular time in Iran's history, and the portrayal of the conflict between the Western influences of the Shah, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism....Matamata 001

Some people found it depressing, while others enjoyed reading about the history and culture. People really enjoyed the "grandmothers" who went off to Mecca and didn't return. Warkworth 006

The chance to read it was appreciated by all members - we learnt a lot. A moving account of how American influence and changes in Iran's political power left people completely disempowered, confused and disillusioned by the way age-old values suddenly no longer counted. Taupo 005

We found this a very good and sympathetic (although sometimes horrific) book about the unsteady transition from the time of the Shah in Iran, to the Sharia law state. Lots of characters, beautifully drawn. Dunedin 058

A couple of people really enjoyed it. The majority persevered and enjoyed it more at the end. Some thought it lacked the depth of description to 'see' and 'smell' the bazaar etc, and that it lacked a writer's 'voice'. Having said that. the discussion was robust and very interesting. Auckland 343

Very enjoyable read. Serious issues and historical fact written in a readable way, Timaru 016

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Faction, Family Saga, Gender Issues, Political, Religion, Translation, Uplifting, Iran, What's Hot

June 2017
Caleb's Crossing
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 318
Bethia and Caleb's friendship bridges a cultural divide: Bethia is the daughter of a Puritan minister and Caleb is the son of a Wampanoag chieftain. Set in the 1660s in Martha's Vineyard, this is the story of their friendship that pushes the boundaries and expectations of their respective cultures resulting in Caleb becoming the first native American to graduate from Harvard College.

Inspired by real events, this remarkable story of Caleb's achievement casts light on the beliefs, aspirations and prejudices of an evolving society.

Comments from Groups:

An interesting and enjoyable book. The author took such a small thread of actual known fact and created a marvellous historical novel. `Caleb` became a person whose early death we all felt so sad about! Recommended. Wellington 041

We enjoyed this book and the insight it gave into the lives of both American Indians and the colonists. We admired the authors integration of her research into the story-it was so smooth. We reacted to the misogyny of the Europeans and were fascinated by the Harvard details. Those of us who hadn't read her other books were encouraged to. At least one member questioned the reality of Bethia's character (being so good). Ngongotaha 001

This was a great book, most of us rated it 8/10. Stimulating discussion-generated from very good questions. Rotorua 006

All enjoyed it except two. Thought provoking. Well researched and written. Language appropriate for the time. Could be a good choice for a book read on radio. Christchurch 009

Rather uneven - slow start then tried to compress a lot into the second half. Members were divided in their opinions which led to a lively discussion. Wanganui 008

Everyone enjoyed the book and the discussion covered many topics. her style of writing appealed to all. Motukarara 001

We unanimously voted this a good book...appreciated the insight into life in the 1600s. There is 'a lot to this book' and for such an unusual topic we found it held our interest the whole way through. Napier 021

Mixed reviews. A number of members found it difficult to 'get into' but were pleased they persevered. Auckland 105

All except two members enjoyed the novel. Very interesting and informative history. Characters well drawn and believable. Comprehensive research filled out the story round the real people. Blenheim 003

We ranged from very enthusiastic to those who had been unable to finish it due to disinterest. All acknowledged it was very well written, and described the Puritan society and its interaction with the local environment well, but it was too long and wordy, so some members skipped a lot. Wellington 117

A wonderful book; thoroughly recommended by all of the book group. We had a lively discussion about the role of women at that time, and the relationship between the indigenous people and the English...Taupo 006

We are glad we, as women, didn't live in this period!! The world hasn't changed much for some countries though. Auckland 013

Wonderful weaving of the social mores of the time. Beautiful writing and authentic scene setting, but not universally loved. Nelson 044

One of the best books we have had in the last year. The story of an Indian boy and a Puritan girl's friendship in the mid/late 1600's. It described the differences between their lives and religions, and how their lives changed when they got to Harvard - Caleb to study, and Bethia as an indentured servant. Christchurch 010

Half of the group found the book difficult to get into. The remainder found it interesting, with the language of the era cleverly done. The discussion centred around the oppresion of women at that time, then moved on to similar regimes in other parts of the world in modern times. Christchurch 317

Categories: Fiction, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Feminism, Historical, Morals/Ethics, Religion, America, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

May 2017
Thousand Hills to Heaven, A
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2013
Pages : 308
Many of the world's humanitarian efforts have been focused on Africa. How can those in emerging economies not just survive but thrive? And how can a country with scars as deep as Rwanda's be healed? These were just some of the questions dangled tantlisingly in front of newly weds Josh and Alissa Ruxin at a party on a Manhattan rooftop. Could they really make a difference in a country with such a troubled recent history? They had no idea but got on a plane anyway, determined to try.

In Kigali, Josh began working from the ground up to bring food and health care to the country's villages. Alissa drew on her foodie expertise, and together they opened Heaven, a gourmet restaurant overlooking Kigali and its famous hills. It's now an international dining destination, but getting there was tough. Josh and Alissa had to work with a staff that had never even eaten in a restaurant and had to form a true team from people whose relatives had fought one another less than twenty years before - all while raising their own three children in the centre of Africa.

In New York City, Josh and Alissa never could have imagined that their path to making a difference would lead not just to fields and clinics but to a kitchen and the best guacamole in Africa. Helping Rwandans create their own success, they have put in place a lasting model for achievement. Their efforts are deeply emblematic of the entire nation's stunning progress during the last two decades. Rwanda is today a country that proudly sees an end to poverty on the horizon and has, against all odds, moved from tragedy to triumph. [Taken from book cover.]

Comments from Groups:

A great read. Everyone found the book very interesting. We all learned a lot about Rwanda, and the book sparked a very lively discussion. Palmerston North 001

An interesting book that raises a lot of questions about aid to developing nations. Set in Rwanda, parts of the book are, not surprisingly, harrowing, but it focuses on the future, not the past brutality, and is a surprisingly positive and uplifting book. Christchurch 299

An excellent read. One of our members e-mailed Alissa at Heaven, and received an instant reply. They are still there, and their little boy is now 5 years old. Josh is working for a different organisation now. Great discussion. Stratford 001

We all thought this was an important and worthwhile read. It was shocking to read a little of the genocide in Rwanda, and also inspiring to read about the country's process of healing and recovery. Our discussion went in many different directions; so a very thought provoking read. As host, the recipes were great for supper!! We can recommend the "South of the Equator", and the Nutmeg cake! Mapua 001

We enjoyed the book. We found it an easy read, and it gave us a great insight into the country of Rwanda. For many of us, the book has inspired an interest in Rwanda and its history. Some of us found the constant reference to the USA as the gold standard quite irritating, and we have a slight cynicism towards the situation where the author was dealing with ongoing poverty, while his wife was angsting over quality food and service in the restaurant. We thought it was good that, although the book is set against the backdrop of genocide, it still didn't dwell on it, or allow it to overshadow the story. Pukeko 001

A thoroughly hopeful account of how aid can be successfully dispensed. Recommended by our group. Nelson 051

This book was enjoyed by our whole group. We enjoyed the writing style, and we liked that it wasn't wholly about the genocide but also showed the good that is happening within Rwanda. We learnt a lot about the Tutsi and the Hutu, and how much Belgium had to answer for by dividing the nation. We liked the food descriptions, and we would all like to visit Heaven for a meal, then go on to see the gorillas. Christchurch 196

Categories: Non fiction, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Environmental, Food, Human Rights, Inspirational, Medical/Health, Political, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Uplifting, Rwanda, Africa, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

April 2017
Light Between Oceans, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 343
Above all else, Isabel Sherbourne wants a baby. When in 1926 a dinghy washes ashore on the isolated West Australian island of Janus Rock where her husband Tom is the lighthouse keeper, it seems as if all their prayers are answered. That is, until four years later when baby Lucy is reunited with her mother requiring Tom and Isabel to face the devastating consequences of their actions.

With its exquisite descriptions of life on the island and its sensitively portrayed characters, this story engages the reader on all levels leaving them pondering the dilemmas of right and wrong and the power of forgiveness.

Comments from Groups:

Our whole group without exception enjoyed the book very much, and quite understand how it was voted top book across all groups in 2014. The detailed and descriptive passages , the believable characters and moving plot all make it a winner. We await her next book eagerly. Nelson 023

We all loved this book and many tears were shed! Definitely our favourite this year. Tauranga 036

Many thought it was a 'contrived plot', and wondered if the author's legal training led her to create an ethical dilemma, and then to construct a plot around it. Good discussion generally. Hurunui 001

This was probably the first book we've had that everyone in the group enjoyed. A well written and interesting story with lovely imagery - and Steadman created a moral dilemma that made it all but impossible to decide what was right and wrong. Christchurch 299

We enjoyed this book mostly because of the author's beautiful descriptions and use of language that conveyed the isolation so well. The plot, although predictable (that it would all turn to custard) was well constructed and held the reader's interest right till the end. Cromwell 003

This book ticked all the boxes for our group. Beautifully written, and a heart-breaking story with credible characters, all of whom were touched by the tragedy at its centre.... Dunedin 029

We all loved this book. A bit of a 'tear jerker' in the end. We all sympathised with the position they found themselves in, and understood both Isobel and Tom's different emotional positions. We liked Isobel's character less as the book progressed. Great read. Masterton 014

It made some of us cry. Some thought the ending was too tidy, and some found the book quite intense. But all found it an intriguing insight into history and a past way of life. Palmerston North 029

Great book, great read, enjoyed by all. Skilful, evocative writing, excellent plot, well planned and clever. We felt as if we knew and understood ALL characters' motivations, and felt for all of them, which is some achievement on the part of the author. Discussion covered motivations, moral decisions, emotional blackmail, effect on the child etc - a wide ranging discussion. Tauranga 009

This book won lots of plaudits from our group - it was praised for its language and its narrative. Some characters appealed more than others and that helped to generate an excellent discussion. If Margaret Steadman produces another book, we hope it would make its way into the BDS catalogue! Hamilton 003

This book was enjoyed by most of our group. A couple thought it over-melodramatic and didn't like the writing, while others thought it a bit of a page turner and found the issues it raised very interesting. A sad story in some ways, but the characters were motivated by love which clouded their judgement. The discussion centred on Tom's inability to go against what Isobel wanted, hence allowing events to overtake them with tragic consequences. The unusual setting (isolated island and lighthouse) and Tom's motivation for wanting to live and work there were interesting in that they helped us understand the characters' needs - Tom's to get away from the horrors of WW1, and Isobel's to find love. A good read. Auckland 037

We all enjoyed this book. The lyrical writing made up for the implausible elements of the story. As we are all mothers in our group, we had an interesting time exploring our views of the predicaments of Isobel and Hannah. Some felt that a re-telling of the story from Hannah's perspective would have been interesting. Auckland 107

Categories: Fiction, Grief/loss, Historical, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Australia, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

March 2017
No Great Mischief
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2001
Pages : 262
In 1779, driven out of his home, Calum MacDonald sets sail from the Scottish Highlands with his extensive family. After a long, terrible journey he settles his family in 'the land of trees' until they become a separate Nova Scotian clan: red-haired and black-eyed, with its own identity, its own history.

Canadian writer MacLeod says: "In many ways [the book] is about the loss of a way of being." A tale that frequently switches from the folkloric past of a Celtic immigrant family forced from the Scottish Highlands in 1779 to that of the present narrator, Alexander MacDonald, a Nova Scotia descendant.

Winner IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2001.

Comments from Groups:

What an amazing story. For once we were all in agreement, and had a great discussion around the relevant questions. We each found different passages in the novel that struck a chord, and this created further discussion. A book to be recommended. Isla Bank 001

We felt this book had beautiful, evocative prose. It was easy to visualise the scenery and the situations described. There was some debate about what the book was actually 'about'. Auckland 105

Very enjoyable - beautiful language. We enjoyed the repetition of vivid images - which didn't become mundane. We would have liked a little bit more about the history of Canada however. Wellington 008

We either liked it or not! We wondered if the pervasive sense of loss was either empathised with (or rejected) depending on one's own life experiences. Dunedin 061

A 50/50 split between 'likers' and 'dislikers' of this book. During discussion however, most thought the author's use of words was haunting - his descriptions evoking lots of discussion. Whangamata 001

We all enjoyed it. It's a great read - an excellent story with a clear style and lovely use of language. Wellington 050

Categories: Fiction, Award Winner, Historical, Social commentary/perspectives, Canada, Scotland, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

February 2017
City of Tranquil Light
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 287
Kuang P'ing Ch'ing, City of Tranquil Light, becomes the adopted home of Mennonite missionaries Will and Katherine Kieh. Set in the early 20th Century, this is the story of their mission to Northern China; their love and commitment to one another and the people they serve, and the faith that sustains them.

Told in alternating voices, this is a captivating read where hardships and challenges abound, played out against the backdrop of a country at war with itself. Based on the lives of the author's grandparents.

Comments from Groups:

The book was loved by the whole group - not often do we all like the book. A book of love - love for each other and their faith. Interesting look at the history of China at that time. An easy read, good writing, very believable characters. Auckland 116

Most members enjoyed the book. All commented on the devotion to the work and people shown by Katherine and Will. Christchurch 091

This book was a popular choice. We all thought the alternative voice structure was compelling. The picture of China was painted exceedingly well. The characterisation was great. Tauranga 016

All who read this book, without exception, enjoyed it enormously. We thought it beautifully and carefully written without sentimentality. A great read. Wellington 041

Worthwhile read and generally enjoyed. Considerable realism but disappointment that it was not a true account. Thought provoking. Lower Hutt 008

Everyone thought it was a good read. However some thought that the sacrifices and hardships the couples endured were more than intolerable and pointless, after China forbade all Christianity in the northern parts of China, in 1926. Havelock North 008

This book was enjoyed by all members. Most enjoyed the historical aspect and details of the differece in culture. The religious aspect of the story was not sufficient to deter our group from the enjoyment of the book overall. A strangely compelling read. Hikurangi 001

An interesting read for a group which includes a vicar and an atheist! A deeply expressive love story between two exceptionally brave people. Fernside 001

Although several of us approached this book with misgivings (not sure about religious theme), we all enjoyed the story, structure and empathy the author showed. One of the best books this year. Invercargill 002

Our group members enjoyed this book very much, particularly its style and the two voices giving us additional information. There was good insight into China's political history, and changing attitudes towards missionary and European intervention. We also liked reading the notes in the final section which gave us a lot of information about the writer and her grandparents' lives, which provided the source of her story. Doubtless Bay 002

We had a heated discussion about the zeal of the missionaries, and how they took incredible risks with their lives (and that of their families) in order to spread the word of Christianity. Christchurch 145

Categories: Fiction, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Historical, Inspirational, Love story, Relationships, Religion, Social commentary/perspectives, China, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

January 2017
Cove, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 255
Eking out a living on their patch of land, siblings Laurel and Hank Skelton keep to themselves until the arrival of an injured man breaches their physical and emotional isolation. Initially a source of happiness, his presence ultimately leads the trio into tragic conflict with their local community.
Set in North Carolina towards the end of World War One, this is a powerful story with hidden depths, perfectly matched to its setting and incorporating surprising true events that occurred in the area.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone in our group really loved this book. The writing was good and the story was so good. Highly recommended. [Raumati 004]

Six of us finished the book and we all loved it. We thought, although dark, this was one of the best books we've read this year. [Christchurch 238]

Enjoyed by everyone. Lively discussion - wide ranging. [Hamilton 038]

We all loved this book - very dark, but good writing. Could feel the cold and misery. Good writing, easy read. Surprised at the ending, didn't expect that at all. [Ashburton 016]

A great read, gripping, pacy and atmospheric. [Wellington 116]

The group was mixed. All enjoyed it up until a certain point but some felt it should have had a happier ending. Others were OK with the ending. Liked the writing style. Good book. Wellington 169

We found this book instantly engrossing. It was beautifully written, with complex issues of prejudice, superstition and a World War gathered into the simplicity of a tale of family and friendship. Within the sorrow and darkness, there was a thread of hope that we felt balanced the novel with a glimpse of human goodness. Auckland 166

A great read was the verdict on this novel. The setting is the Appalachian mountains, where its remoteness and inbreeding had led to a community riven with superstition and violence. We all felt great sympathy for Laurel and the appalling situation she found herself in. She is the epitome of grace under pressure. The cove itself was a character in the novel, and the descriptions of it sustained the atmosphere of dread and doom. Lower Hutt 004

We found the whole story quite depressing and sad. We were waiting for the happy ending....which didn't come. But it was interesting and not too long a read. Auckland 248

"Deliverance" country well delivered. We liked the way the writer disposed so simply of the main characters with such economy. The group liked the way the narrative "unpeeled". Excellent discussion and good questions. Christchurch 064

'The Cove' is a heartwrenching story of life in a small, quite isolated community where superstition is rife. The main characters are living a drab, subsistent existence with little to look forward to. The book was beautifully written, portraying not only the landscape, but also the hard life of its inhabitants. Our discussion was wide ranging and enlightening. We would recommend it. Paraparaumu 001

A very deep, hugely visual read. We were all totally immersed in the story, characters and the setting. We all felt we would like to read another one of his books. Te Pirita 001

Categories: Fiction, Love story, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Tragedy/disaster, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

December 2016
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 274
Mystic, visionary, musician, healer and saint ... Hildegard von Bingen was an unconventional woman of her time. Offered up to the Church as a child, she endured decades of seclusion before emerging as a courageous leader and founder of her own monastery.

Based on historical material, this richly imagined story brings to vivid life this extraordinary medieval figure, remembered today for her legacy of beautiful music, spiritual insight and her influence on modern feminist thinking. A fascinating and inspirational read.

Comments from Groups:

This fictional story of the life of Hildegard von Bingen, led to a lively discussion in our group that encompassed many aspects of the female role in society through the ages. Christchurch 390

Everyone in our group enjoyed this book - a 'wow' read. We felt the first person narration style worked well, and that Mary Sharratt had researched her subject very effectively. Several in the group did think there was a 21st century 'slant' to Hildegard's thoughts on sexual abuse - it didn't seem to fit with the 12th century likely awareness of these areas? All were keen to read other books by this author. Havelock North 012

We all loved this book...what a fascinating woman Hildegard was. This was well written, and able to put us in the mind of a medieval woman. Evocative description, and incredible detail of life at this time.The story gripped us from the first few pages, although dragged a bit at the end. It stimulated a great and wide-ranging discussion. Tauranga 009

We all enjoyed this book and had great discussions on the place of women in society, from the 1100s through to today. Also on power - power and the Catholic church, power and money, power and men. Tokoroa 001

This book precipitated more discussion than any other this year. Everyone was intrigued, but slightly frustrated about what was fact, and what was fiction.... Auckland 199

It is such a great story - wonderfully written. Great discussion about what women can cope with! Thanks a was just fascinating! Turangi 001

On the whole, this book was very much enjoyed and gave an easy-to-read illustration of the period. Characterisation was effective. Lively discussion and provocation to learn more about the music of Hildegard von Bingen, the historical backdrop and greater historical detail to ascertain whether her life was 'typical' of the times. Nelson 068

All but one of us completely loved this book - we felt inspired and in awe of the women of those times. Hildegard was such a feisty, courageous person despite the years of adversity. Most of the group would heartily recommend it. Not a hard read, and difficult to put down. Waikanae 010

Two members found the book very difficult to read at the beginning due to the emotional content, but persevered and all admitted it was fascinating. We all learnt so much about religion in that era. An incredible and mesmerising book. I've recommended it to a number of friends. Christchurch 088

We found the first half of the book difficult, but really enjoyed the second part. What a wonderful woman Hildegard was! Dunedin 058

During our discussion of 'Illuminations' we listened to the songs which had been composed by Hildegard von Bingen in the middle ages - an enchanting background for our group. We all agreed that our knowledge of the Crusades was slight - but most enjoyed this adventure and the picture painted of this remarkable Benedictine nun. Te Horo 002

Very divided opinions on this book. Some loved it and enjoyed the writing - others quite dismissive about author's approach to writing a novel about a real person. Greytown 001

Of those who read the book, several were very upset by it, and the remainder thought it was marvellous. An incredible life. Nelson 023

Our highest scoring book this year! Topped both 'The Healing' and 'The Spark'. We had a lot of discussion around the relationship between Hildegard and Richardis, Jutta and her brother Meginhard; the horror of being compelled to become an anchorite (how COULD her mother?), and our admiration for Hildegard's strength. Some of us have listened to her music for years, so it was lovely to read about her. Auckland 037

Some of us found this book disturbing, others found it riveting and inspirational. Well worth reading, however. Christchurch 009

Categories: Fiction, Faction, Historical, Religion, Germany, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, 2016 Titles

October 2016
Thirteenth Tale, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2006
Pages : 408
Margaret Lea, an antiquarian bookseller and sometime biographer of obscure writers, receives a letter from Vida Winter, "the world's most famous living author". Vida has always invented pasts for herself in interviews, but now, on her death-bed, she has decided to tell the truth, and has chosen Margaret to write her story. Living at Vida's country estate, Margaret finds herself spellbound by the tale of Vida's childhood some seventy years earlier. But is it really the truth? And will Vida live to finish the story?

Comments from Groups:

What a marvellous gothic romp to read! Perfect for a wet Sunday to read straight through...agreed we had to suspend our critical faculties. Auckland 016

All of us loved the book and couldn't put it down. Wellington 134

Good story - but not plausible in some areas. Ohope 004

Reminded us of great novels like 'Jane Eyre', 'Wuthering Heights' - full of suspense, mystery, fraught relationships. Kept us guessing and ending was not expected. Whangamata 001

Most of the members liked the book. Some found it a bit dark for their taste. We had a really interesting discussion as the book is fairly complex with lots of twists and turns to the story. Nelson 041

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Literature oriented, Gothic, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

September 2016
St Agnes' Stand
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1994
Pages : 201
An injured outlaw - heading for freedom in California - stumbles across the trapped survivors of an apache ambush: three nuns and seven orphaned children. Sister St Agnes, a resourceful woman, is convinced that Nat Swanson is sent by God to rescue them. Set in the mid-19th century.

Comments from Groups:

This book was a huge hit with the group. Gripping reading, emotionally powerful. The scenes of apache violence were too much for some to read and they had to skim over those sections.The story had pace and while a dense read, was a relatively quick one. Auckland 285

At first sight it appeared to be a Western and we were not sure about it but it was a fascinating book and led to lots of discussion. Our Methodist minister thought St Agnes was brilliant. Ashburton 009

Surprisingly everyone liked this book...The descriptions of the land and characters were excellent. Some discussion on superstition and mysticism. Auckland 164

Despite the unappealing genre (ie. Western) most agreed this was the best read of the year. Auckland 191

Thomas Eidson generated heaps of discussion and continuing email discussion. Must be good! Wellington 079

Well written and very easy to read and become absorbed in the story. Discussion was lively. Christchurch 136

Well liked by all except one who could not get past the graphic brutality. Generated a lot of discussion. Tauranga 026

The characters were fully drawn and we loved the 'Western' element. Mangawhai 002

We all loved it...great moments of anticipation. Several parts had the heart pounding with anxiety for the characters. Riverton 001

Categories: Fiction, Historical, Short read, USA, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

August 2016
Spark, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2013
Pages : 250
As with all mothers, Kristine Barnett wanted her son to reach his full potential, but in Jake's case, with an early diagnosis of autism, it looked to be a limited potential. Trusting her own instincts instead of the advice of the experts, Kristine undertook to nurture Jake's 'spark', focusing on what he could do instead of what he could not do, with extraordinary results. Teaching himself calculus in two weeks and at age twelve becoming a paid researcher in quantum physics, Jake's trajectory is impressive. So too are the hope and care Kristine has been able to give other families with children with special needs when she established a pre-school that espouses the very same approach.

This book is a truly inspirational page-turner that demonstrates the power of love to overcome adversity, and recognises that all children, whatever their circumstances, have untapped potential.

Comments from Groups:

A compelling read.. Lower Hutt 8

Inspiring.. Amazing. Auckland 078

A great book, would highly recommend this one. Provoked some great discussion from everyone. Kaukapakapa 2

Overall a fantastic first book for our group. Most members said it wasn't a book they themselves would have chosen, but all were really happy to have read it, and all of us have taken positive ideas from the book and implanted them into our family lives. Auckland 319

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Community, Inspirational, Medical/Health, Relationships, Science & Technology, Uplifting, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

July 2016
Rosie Project, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2013
Pages : 295
At first glance, Professor Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are unlikely to be regarded as the romantic couple of the decade. Don, a geneticist blissfully unaware he is on the autistic spectrum, initiates The Wife Project, (featuring a 16 page questionnaire), in order to find his perfect mate. Rosie on the other hand, is more interested in finding out the identity of her biological father and who better to assist her with this than an expert in the field of genetics.

What transpires is a highly enjoyable and refreshing caper that reflects on the universal desire for love and understanding.

Comments from Groups:

All of the group enjoyed the book - the writing, the characters and the humour. Several of our members are teachers who come in contact with students on the spectrum (like Don) taking things literally. A good read. Auckland 116

All but one person enjoyed this book, finding it informative and funny, but not necessarily believable. Our collective experience of people with Asperger's is that they find it much harder to change than Don did. Interesting book,interesting discussion. Thanks for including it in the scheme. Auckland 050

We all found "The Rosie Project" a delightful story, full of insights into the relational struggles of those with Asperger's and those relating to them. The style was very easy to read and included opportunities for reflection and giggles. Nelson 058

Most of our group enjoyed this book - some really laughed out loud. A little far-fetched in places, but a light, romantic comedy and easily read. Piopio 001

We all thoroughly enjoyed this book. We found Don and Rosie appealing characters. Apart from giving us all insights into Asperger's Syndrome, we were united in finding certain aspects hilarious, and the unfolding of Don and Rosie's love affair was touching and believable. Matamata 001

Everyone enjoyed reading this - although an easy book to read it stimulated an intense discussion concerning "misfits" in society, and the wide spectrum of degrees of autism and Asperger's. It was great to read a 'laugh out loud' book, and we had differing opinions on who Rosie's real father was!! Waiheke 001

Hands up all round for this wonderfully intelligent comedy, that also gives us insight into the life of someone who is 'different'. Christchurch 203

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Humour, Love story, Psychology, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Australia, Light style, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

June 2016
Blood of Flowers, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2007
Pages : 457
A young teenage girl narrates this story of life in 17th-century Iran and the difficulties she faces after her father's death. With no means of support, she and her mother become servants in their relatives' home. There, despite her gender, the young woman learns the art of carpet design but dowryless, she is pressured into a sigheh, or temporary marriage, in which a woman offers sexual favours in return for money. A haunting story of a young woman making a place for herself in a society indifferent to her plight. What's Hot - January 2013

Comments from Groups:

"What a wonderful read. 'Blood of the Flowers' was absorbed by our readers who totally enjoyed the author's writing and inclusion of the fables along the way... She [the narrator] is a character who will stay with us ... " Palmerston North 006

"We loved the great story richly told with wonderful descriptions of Persian life in the 17th century. We had lots of discussion about the position of women, attitudes to sex, harshness of life then, the food and value of rugmaking." Christchurch 143

"Entrancing story. Fantastic historical tale." Christchurch 229

Categories: Fiction, Historical, Iran, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

May 2016
Martian, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2014
Pages : 370
Astronaut Mark Watney has cause to be very grateful for his green thumbs. Stranded on Mars with limited resources and a long wait for potential rescue, being able to grow food could make all the difference. Fortunately Mark is an engineer as well as a botanist and he will need every skerrick of knowledge and resourcefulness he has to stay alive in the Martian environment.

This is a gripping survival story of nail-biting tension and plausible science so convincing that you'll be puzzled as to why you can't remember the coverage of the mission launch. [small font]

Comments from Groups:

A very positive reaction by everyone. Best book this year! Great discussion followed. Highly recommended. Whangarei 023

Half of our group really enjoyed this book, and the other half were lukewarm, but everyone had read it, which is unusual in our group! It was very technical at times, but not beyond the realms of possibility. It was thought-provoking in many ways. Christchurch 239

Several of us thought it was the best book we had read in a long time. Some did not enjoy it at all, finding it too scientific. Palmerston North 029

We all loved this book! It led to a great discussion of human nature and individual human worth. Personally, I had to keep reminding myself that it was not a true story! Auckland 236

'The Martian' scored a 7 out of 10 by those who finished the book. Our group found the story an interesting concept, a light read, and enjoyable particularly as unexpected things happened to the hero. Of interest was the manner in which Watney kept finding ways to stay alive, despite all sorts of impossible odds. Most found the ending poor and a "let-down'. The book highlighted the enormous logistics (and cost!) involved in such a mission, and the potential for massive problems if every contingency isn't planned for. A most enjoyable meeting. Christchurch 320

Loved it! Auckland 143

Those who finished the book enjoyed it. The discussion was animated and wide ranging, with an interesting variety of opinions. Some enjoyed the book more after seeing the movie, others vice versa. Most found the technical information boring. Northland 003

There was too much detail, however most really enjoyed the book and found it humorous. It would be a great book to introduce to College students, to gear them towards science studies. Mangawhai 001

Categories: Fiction, Adventure/Exploration, Dystopia/Futuristic, America, What's Hot, 2016 Titles, Small font

December 2015
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 296
When Harold Fry leaves the house to post a card to Queenie, a former colleague who is in a hospice, he has no intention of bypassing the postbox and hand delivering the message. But this is exactly what happens; hundreds of kilometres later, Harold has walked from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
This is not just a journey of weary muscles and blistered heels for Harold, but an opportunity for him to examine the twists and turns of his life, prompted in his introspection by the people he meets along the way. An insightful and heart-warming read. What's Hot - September 2013

Comments from Groups:

An outstanding book which evolved fascinatingly and, at times, unexpectedly...Our group gave it 'best read of the year'. Christchurch 043

We found it quirky and different - and unpredictable.Harold's journey to Berwick-upon-Tweed was something of a metaphor for one's journey through life. Wellington 036

Charming yet profound at the same time." Christchurch 202

The book was a heart-rending as well as a heart-warming read. It was a beautifully crafted story. Matamata 001

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Inspirational, Relationships, Uplifting, England, Light style, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

November 2015
Road Home, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2007
Pages : 365
Lev is on his way to Britain to seek work, so that he can send money back to Eastern Europe to support his mother and small daughter. He struggles with the mysterious rituals of "Englishness", and the fashions and fads of the London scene. We see the road Lev travels through Lev's eyes, and we share his dilemmas: the intimacy of his friendships, old and new; his joys and sufferings; his aspirations, and his hopes of finding his way home, wherever home may be.

Comments from Groups:

The characters were real people, the writing easy to read and the plot completed the circle with Lev returning home...made us want to read more of Rose Tremain's work. Queenstown 003

Everyone really loved this book. It was well written and the story gripping. Christchurch 185

An easy-to-read story with likeable characters. Nelson 027

Heart-warming story of human relationships...all about the journey and not the destination. Papamoa 001

We loved this book and all wanted to re-read later to get more out of it. Wanaka 008.

Provoked a lot of discussion, especially remembering our first weeks in London far from home. Ending felt a bit too perfect. A light enjoyable read. Tauranga 019

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, What's Hot

October 2015
Other Side of the Bridge, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2006
Pages : 275
Set against the backdrop of northern Ontario's haunting landscapes, The Other Side of the Bridge opens with an unforgettable image of Arthur and Jake Dunn, two brothers whose jealousies will take them beyond the edge of reason, to a deadly point of no return. The sons of a farmer, growing up in the 1930s when a beautiful young woman named Laura moves into their community, she unwittingly propels their sibling rivalry to its breaking point.

Comments from Groups:

Majority of our group really enjoyed this book. Characters we could relate to. Good picture of rural life. Would recommend to other groups. Rawene 001

All enjoyed the book, particularly the evocative and descriptive writing. One member felt it was a 'small' story which led to a lively discussion as to [the] importance of family, life and death. May be on a small domestic scale, but is still huge - and events in the novel set against big events - Depression and World War2. Whitianga 001

We enjoyed the book and it created lots of discussion. It was great that it was written from a male perspective. The epilogue worked as an ending to tie everything together. It was very readable - took a bit to get into, but well worth persevering. Ashburton 013

This book was well received by all the members - that does not often happen. Great characterisation - excellent descriptions and we learned much too. .... Otautau 001

Unanimous approval of this book - one of our best reads. Gave a very good picture of life in a small community. Very well written. Christchurch 108

This was a great source of pleasure for almost all our members, who were impressed by the characterisation of the boys and young men and the way in which the author wove the themes that she had created. The only critical comments that arose in discussion were the negative portraits of the mothers, and the lack of development of the racist implications in Peter's inclusion as a significant part of the interactions...Palmerston North 002

Most enjoyed the book, and liked the Canadian setting - learning something about that country and their contribution in the War. A great depiction of characters - and some good twists and turns! Mana 001

Our group loved this book. The small details of a young man growing up were strung together in a way to expand on what could otherwise have been a very ordinary story. Christchurch 357

All enjoyed the book; fine descriptions of relationships between men and boys, siblings and parents. When set in a small remote town, this emphasises the acute differences and the way each person reacts to the other. Recommended! Masterton 005

This book was well received. Some people found it a little difficult to get into, but generally everyone enjoyed it, particularly her descriptions of the characters and the way she dealt with Canada's side of WW2. Our group found the lake scenes very real and could easily imagine being there. On average it received an 8/10, and everyone is looking forward to reading more of her work. Whitianga 002

Everyone loved the book - unanimous!! Some have read her other 2 books and recommended them. In fact, one member brought Crow Lake along to be passed around the group. We loved the notes! Timaru 007

Categories: Fiction, Relationships, Canada, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

Open: An Autobiography
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 386
It is shocking to discover that tennis great Andre Agassi hated tennis. With a refreshing degree of candour, this autobiography reveals the conflicted man behind the outstanding tennis career; the pitfalls on the path to maturity, the dysfunction and the success, and everything between. With its open and honest disclosures, this is a fascinating story that will appeal to both tennis fans and those who have never graced a court.

Comments from Groups:

Great easy to read book. The story flowed well. Provided plenty of discussion on sports people and their childhoods. Ashburton 13

Very enjoyable. Even non sports people enjoyed this. Ohope 5

Everyone thought the book was wonderful, incredibly well written. Christchurch 145

Those who were not interested in tennis found it rivetting and enjoyable. Auckland 37

Everyone enjoyed the book, some interesting discussion about the psychological aspects of being a top sports person. Christchurch 292

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Contemporary, Morals/Ethics, USA, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book, Sport

August 2015
Little Princes
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 308
A short stint in a Nepali orphanage develops into something far more for American Conor Grennan. The children turn out not to be orphans but trafficked children, abandoned or on-sold after their parents had originally paid for them to be taken to Katmandu for safekeeping so they would not be forced to join the Maoist army. Caring for the children is one thing, risking his life to reunite the children with their families is another, and Conor is there, boots and all.
Written with refreshing honesty, this is a captivating story that engages the reader every step of the journey to take these children home.

Comments from Groups:

Really well written - an autobiography that reads like a novel. Uplifting and inspiring. Auckland 255

This book generated much discussion within the group. Most were inspired by the transformation of Conor and his commitment to making a difference in the lives of another "stolen generation"! There was a variety of opinions on the style of writing but unity that this book was a great read for book groups. Richmond 005

Interesting and thought provoking. Raised some issues and controversy relating to methods of assisting poverty especially in the Third World. Dunedin 029

The group unreservedly and unanimously enjoyed this book. It seemed to have everything. Gore 001

A wide ranging discussion on how an individual can make a change. Leithfield 001

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Inspirational, Social commentary/perspectives, Travel, Uplifting, Nepal, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

July 2015
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2008
Pages : 533
A Swedish novel featuring crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigating a decades old disappearance of a child. He is helped by researcher Lisbeth Salander, a genius computer hacker, non-conformist, socially challenged individual and the girl with the dragon tattoo. The investigation and Mikael's simultaneous attempts to expose a corrupt industrialist become interwoven. This examination of individual and corporate corruption and disturbing family dysfunction combines the classic components of carefully crafted 'whodunnit' with the fast paced action of a page-turning thriller. Its imperfect but intriguing characters will have you thinking about them well after you have finished the last page. British Book Awards Winner, Crime Thriller of the Year 2009. What's Hot - January 2013 [Big read}

Comments from Groups:

"Certainly caused plenty of discussion! Most admitted to reluctance to read after starting the first few chapters and then found they couldn't put it down. One member had to go and buy the other two volumes." Hamilton 010

"Great crime story! Everybody got "˜sucked' into it – also members who hardly read crime stories." Turangi 001

"Evoked the longest discussion to date. Extremely well received – sequels sought." Napier 021

"A great read – fantastic characterisation especially Lisbeth – we admired her attitude and resilience." Nelson 034

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller, Translation, Sweden, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

Blackwater Lightship, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1999
Pages : 273
Ireland in the early 1990s. Helen's adored, younger brother is dying and the family find themselves gathered in the grandmother's house, together with two of Declan's friends. A story of an estranged family, painfully starting to communicate again. Told in a quiet and non-judgemental way. Shortlisted Booker Prize, 1999.

Comments from Groups:

Enjoyed by all. Most would like to read more by this author. Wanaka 016

An easy read - but really lots of layers. Not a happy story. Good discussion on changed attitudes towards Aids with education and relaxing attitudes and prejudices. Te Pirita 001

Generally enjoyed for its insightful characterisation. Some deliciously amusing dialogue. Thought provoking. Recommended reading. Auckalnd 134

Easy read. Active discussion, particularly around mother/daughter relationship and the style of writing. Napier 024

This book provoked one of the best and longest discussions we have had. While it is not an enjoyable read, it is a thought provoking one. Leigh 001

This book received the highest score of any book that our group has read. Easy read - deceptive depth. Greytown 003

We loved this book - the 'less is more' language and the themes of family and friendship. Great discussion. Auckland 226

Categories: Fiction, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Ireland, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

June 2015
All Quiet on the Western Front
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1919
Pages : 192
Remarque, who lost his German citizenship as a result of this work, powerfully portrays the agony and futility of war.

Comments from Groups:

All members liked this book. Very relevant. Northland 001

It's a must-read classic. Everyone was very moved by this great novel. Harrowing - what's changed? Hikurangi001

Everyone found this a very powerful novel that described the reality of war from a soldier's viewpoint - in graphic detail. It provided much discussion. Well worth reading. Waiau 002

Good discussion about war and families. Dunedin 079

Everyone read the book, many having read it long ago. Well worth the re-read. A marvellous book - terrible and grim subject. It should be mandatory reading for year 12-13 students. Nelson 003

The group found it harrowing. Some didn't finish it. Nevertheless we all found it very worthwhile in its descriptions of what the war was like for the soldiers. We all thought it was very well written. Waikanae 004

Really gripping. It made a deep impression on us. Discussion was lively, about war and innocent young men. Auckland 015

Categories: Fiction, Classic, War theme, Contemporary, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

April 2015
My Sister's Keeper
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2004
Pages : 423
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age 13 she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions and shots so that her older sister Kate can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and role that she has never questioned … until now.

Comments from Groups:

"Interesting". Very well researched by the author. Well written and we liked the structure - different fonts for each character.... Diamond Harbour 001

A couple of our group didn't like the author's style, but the rest of the group enjoyed the book immensely. It generated lots of interesting discussion. Nelson 042

Very lively discussion about ethics, families, mothers, illnesses. Thought provoking book. Rai Valley 001

Excellent discussion on moral ethics and stem cell research.... good insights into the stress of a dying child from all members of the family. Worthwhile reading - makes you think about a little known topic. Nelson 023

Everyone thought this book was a good read - thought provoking, with a twist at the end! Waipu 001

Categories: Fiction, Human Rights, Relationships, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

March 2015
Someone Knows My Name
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2008
Pages : 534
Aminata is twelve when she is kidnapped by slave traders from a village in Africa. Decades later, now an old woman, she recounts the story of her life. It is an epic journey encompassing three continents, plantation life, the Revolutionary War, a return to Africa and culminates with Aminata testifying in London to the Parliamentary Committee on the Slave Trade. With its historically accurate details and cast of vivid characters, this saga is a deeply moving exposé of slavery and the struggle for abolition. Winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. [Big read}

Comments from Groups:

Provoked comments about race situations today, also about the history of those slaves who worked for the British and went to Canada, then Sierra Leone. Auckland 223

Beautifully written. A sad story but not depressing. What a resilient Heroine. Enjoyed by most of the group, including male members. Matamata 003

We all enjoyed the book. Unusual, easy style of writing and good discussion questions and author commentary. Whangarei 008

Most people found this story to be very informative and harrowing in parts but always hopeful. Well written and held our interest. A wonderful woman! Akaroa 001

Everyone loved the book. Best book we have read in book club. Ashburton 020

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Award Winner, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Human Rights, USA, Africa, What's Hot

February 2015
As the Earth Turns Silver
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2009
Pages : 278
From the late nineteenth century to the 1920s, from Kwantung, China to Wellington and Dunedin and the battlefields of the Western Front - a story of two families. Yung faces a new land that does not welcome the Chinese. Alone, Katherine struggles to raise her children and find her place in the world. In a climate of hostility towards the foreign newcomers, Katherine and Yung embark on a poignant and far-reaching love affair ... [Taken from book cover.]

Comments from Groups:

An enchanting read. A very special book. All members enjoyed the read and would recommend highly. Dunedin 006

Beautifully written. Good read. Interesting historical era. Auckland 122

Good first read for book club. A little depressing but great for discussion. Paraparumu 002

We agreed the writing was beautiful and could see that it had been written by a poet. Several of us had read it before and were very happy to reread it. Nelson 007

A superbly written novel - very evocative of early NZ and its narrow-mindedness. Nelson 003

The characters felt authentic, the author's research was thorough - what an amazing and accomplished 'first novel'. Dunedin 061

We all enjoyed this book;its history, cultural setting, location and poetic, gentle writing. Wellington 018

One of our favourites to date. Author did a good job of combining NZ history and views into an interesting and engaging novel. Gore 007

Such a glorious book - sparse, lyrical and poignant. Our group was unanimous in our enjoyment of this book, and we probably had our best ever discussion. Auckland 094

An interesting and easy read of a well-written book, which was enjoyed by everyone in the group. The NZ author has used language romantically, producing wonderfully evocative characters and scenes. The cultural contrasts between the Chinese and New Zealanders led to to excellent discussions, about both the late nineteenth century and the present. Christchurch 010

Our discussion was lively. The group thought the couple's relationship would never have been able to develop fully due to the prejudices of society, and therefore wasn't as interesting to read about as it might have been. We all thought we learnt a lot about how Chinese people were treated in early 20th century NZ, and about some of our country's more shameful past immigration policies. Auckland 322

A relatively simple story with not too many characters,short chapters and very well written. The sensitive handling of the love between a Chinese man and a NZ Wellington widow in the early 20th century was gently portrayed. Our group found the book a delight to read. Wellington 117

This novel promoted a most lively discussion about immigration and related topics. We loved the poetic economy of language and the rhythmic flow of sentences. Hamilton 024

What a fascinating look at early 1900's Wellington, and the relationship between the locals and the Chinese community. The racism was normal for the time, as was the lack of womens' rights. We had a great discussion and all enjoyed the book. Masterton 013

We were impressed by this book - beautifully written and dealing with the issues of the day with sensitivity and skill. The author successfully combined historic facts with the story of the fated relationship. It had contemorary relevance also. Dunedin 029

Everyone enjoyed this book although they all said it was slow reading. We had an interesting discussion about it. Christchurch 356

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Award Winner, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Relationships, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

November 2014
Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, A
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2006
Pages : 336
When two estranged sisters discover that their elderly father, a Ukrainian war refugee and expert on tractors, is planning to marry a young Ukrainian woman, they put aside their differences, and embark on a spirited campaign to stop him. But as the hostilities mount, old family secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of all. In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage - a grand history of the tractor.

Comments from Groups:

A likeable book which had a myriad of undercurrents and interesting characters with different perspectives on each other. Worth reading. Te Awamutu 003

Lively discussion. All agreed they learnt more about tractors than they thought they would. Interesting family dynamics. Cromwell 005

We loved this book. Most found it funny and the main characters although appearing rather over- the-top were at the same time believable. Palmerston North 006.

Great book with a cast of amazing characters. Funny, sad, annoying yet we took them all to our hearts, even the Dad. Auckland 271

Hilarious, really enjoyed the lighthearted style and exaggerated characters. Northland 002

So many topics covered - historical events, care of the elderly, growing old, immigrants, family relationships and, of course, tractors. Tauranga 034

We particularly enjoyed the clever juxtaposition of 'tractor history' and the colourful plot with larger than life characters. Picton 002

Categories: Fiction, Humour, Relationships, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

September 2014
Thread of Grace, A
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2005
Pages : 430
In 1943, Claudette Blum and her father are among thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing over the Alps towards Italy to find safety. Although the Italians have split with Hitler, the Nazis seize control and the country becomes a battleground. Using oral and written histories, Russell tells the little-known story of those who sought refuge in Italy during the final phase of World War II, and of those who risked all to help them.

Comments from Groups:

It's a really good book and has opened our eyes to part of WW2 that was unknown to most of us. Dunedin 062

This book got the 'thumbs up' from all our group. Well researched. Tauranga 015

Our favourite book of the year so far. Mostly it took us awhile to read as we got confused by all the places and characters, but it was well worth hanging on as it all came together in the last third or so of the book. Auckland 107

A structured story, meticulously crafted. Carterton 001

Extremely well written. Loved all the characters, how they interlaced. Fantastic story - shame about the circumstances - but inspiring how they survived and the Italian peasants took them in. Winton 002

Quite confusing at times but an amazing story of courage, misery, fear, comradeship and the neverending toil of the Italian people to overcome the worst of the war... Christchurch 011

We all enjoyed the different 'take' on the Holocaust. None of us knew anything about the Italian scenario of WW2, apart from the fact that Kiwis were there. Auckland 133

Gems of wisdom on practically every page and very funny unexpected bits. Whangarei 017

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Faction, Inspirational, Italy, What's Hot

August 2014
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2010
Pages : 313
This is a story of friendship, family and the influence of the past on the present. The appearance of a character from a previous novel Landings, establishes the setting of 1960's Samoa, a melting pot of approaching political independence, family tensions, and challenges to 'fa'asamoa', the traditional Samoan way. Moving between Samoa and 1990's New Zealand, the author considers the weight of cultural expectations and the possible conflict between truth and love. A book to relish, rich in cultural and historical detail.

Comments from Groups:

Enjoyed by all, interesting to read about the Samoan culture plus the history of the islands. Auckland 58

A whodunnit with fragrance and warmth! Wellington 18

Generally agreed a great read. Jenny Pattrick has obviously done her research well and draws us in with her local knowledge of Samoan culture and language. Auckland 55

Another sterling read from the pen of this very engaging author. Masterton 10

Lively discussion covered many themes, cultural, secrets, family, generations, connections, life and its twists and turns. Wellington 130

The majority of the discussion group enjoyed 'Inheritance'; most scoring the book between 7-9/10. Members who had previously read 'The Landing' were able to identify more with the characters and their subsequent development in 'Inheritance'. Katikati 005

The book was enjoyed by some - the story-line and also the range of subjects it touched on. Those who didn't like it were not happy with the characterisation, and felt it was not well constructed. However, it generated a longer than usual discussion, so overall a good book for groups. Tauranga 016

Our group found the book enjoyable. Jenny Pattrick is good at teasing out historical facts and weaving them back into the narrative in a colourful and interesting way. The story had plenty of tension to hold the reader's interest. We felt we could almost feel the heat and humidity of Samoa, and almost smell the frangipani. Auckland 332

This book elicited great passion and dislike in our members. Her depiction of characters and her dialogue came in for the most criticism, with comments like 'cliched', 'unbelievable', and the dreaded 'Mills ands Boon!' We all agreed however that she can spin a rollicking tale, and excels in thorough historical research. We learned a lot about Samoa's past.... Raumati 001

All members of the group enjoyed the book very much. The strengths and weaknesses of the various characters made for interesting reading, and kept us all engrossed in the mystery unfolding. The background of the relationship between Samoa and NZ was an eye-opener for most of us - the bitterness felt by the islanders over the preceived treatment by the NZ government etc. We discussed the character of Jeanie and how powerless she appeared to be, but then she found the strength to break away from her husband's brutality. We also discussed how sometimes it is better to leave the truth hidden. Great discussion ensued from this book. Otorohanga 003

We all agreed that the book was good "story-telling" rather than a literary read, but we got caught up in the characters and wanted to know what happened next, so we were engaged. We thought the title was excellent, and explored some of the thoughts around 'inheritance' eg DNA, nature vs nurture etc. Auckland 335

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Family Saga, Love story, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Samoa, Light style, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 457
Village politics, family disputes, property developers, religious conflict, hunting, a golf club and a good dollop of snobbery, the quintessential English village of Edgecombe St Mary has it all. At the heart of the story is retired widower Major Pettigrew and his developing relationship with Mrs Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper. A light hearted and entertaining story with colourful characters and an underlying examination of stereotypes and cultural expectations.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone enjoyed this book, a rollicking good story with a diverse range of characters. Challenging themes set in a meaningful context. Morrinsville 001

Enjoyed the humour and good use of language. Otautau 001

Humorous, but with a serious message about racism and non-acceptance of newcomers. Those who grew up in rural England felt it was true of the England we knew. Mangonui 001

Laugh out loud funny in some places. Lower Hutt 004

Quite twee but enjoyable nonetheless. Nelson 17

A sweet take with undertones of racism and snobbery. Characters well developed. Auckland 050

The way social problems and clashes of cultures are presented here, shows the author is a wise woman. Some traditional values make our lives richer, others need to be changed when they no longer are true to our human development. Hamilton 034

We all enjoyed reading of Major Pettigrew. A gentle story of ageing, misunderstandings, long established traditions, family dictates, petty prejudices and communal life in a small village. The character of the Major was well drawn, and we loved his ascerbic dry wit. And we all love a happy ending. Whitianga 002

As anticipated, the group enjoyed this as a great holiday read. While the characters were caricatures and stock figures to an extent, the inherent humanity and gentle humour fleshed them out. The only jarring note we felt was the "heroic" rescue on the cliff at the end. Te Horo 002

Some of us thought that this book was wonderful; funny, clever dialogue, original similes and metaphors and a satisfying ending. Others considered it contrived, 'obviously' a first novel, boring and difficult to finish. The diversity of opinion was unusual and very marked. Possibly it is a novel that would appeal more to women than to our group, which is all men. wanganui 011

Thoroughly enjoyable - a laugh out loud experience! Well written with great characters. Christchurch 238

Beautiful book that everyone loved - highly recommended. If we had to mark every page that a gem was found, every page would be marked. Otorohanga 003

Three(female) members of the group thoroughly enjoyed the pace and themes of the book, while others felt that Helen Simonson had been away from England too long, and the kind of East Sussex village she depicts doesn't exist anymore... The characters and the situations did not feel real or particularly engrossing, but a couple of members pointed out how nicely the moments of falling in love were described, with weather effects to match... Auckland 376

Wonderful. A superbly written social satire, told with humour and evidencing a deep understanding of human foibles. Entrenched racism, a study of English manners and gentility, a love story and a questioning of modernity and mores of the younger generation all combine to provide an entertaining yet provocative read. Highly recommended. Otaki 001

Categories: Fiction, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Humour, Love story, Religion, Uplifting, England, Light style, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

July 2014
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 358
The Hemming sisters have always had a powerful bond, so much so that when Tess is considered to have committed suicide, Beatrice refuses to accept this explanation for her disappearance. As Beatrice unravels what has happened to Tess, the old wounds of the family medical medical history are reopened. The Hemming sisters have always had a powerful bond, so much so that when Tess is considered to have committed suicide, Beatrice refuses to accept this explanation for her disappearance. As Beatrice unravels what has happened to Tess, the old wounds of the family's medical history are reopened. Cleverly narrated in a series of letters that Beatrice writes to her dead sister, this is a remarkable and compelling story of sibling connection, medical misadventure and a search for truth. Easy to read, hard to put down. Cleverly narrated in a series of letters that Beatrice writes to her dead sister, this is a remarkable and compelling story of sibling connection, medical misadventure and a search for truth. Easy to read, hard to put down.

Comments from Groups:

A compelling read with a good twist. Auckland 255

A good read and well discussed. This was the first 'whodunnit' we've had and it succeeded by keeping us reading and capitavated right to the end. Palmerston North 006

A beautifully written book with enough twist to keep us guessing until the end. Excellent characterisation and character development. Pahia 003

General concensus was an excellent book with a very thought provoking story, varied and interesting characters. Very happy to recommend as an excellent crime, mystery novel. Hamilton 034

Everyone enjoyed. Lots of debating over the ending. Timaru 011

A beautiful tale of sisterly love. We felt drawn into the tragic story and Beatrice's frantic search for her missing sister. Wanaka 011

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Letters/Diaries, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Suspense/Thriller, Light style, What's Hot

June 2014
To Kill a Mockingbird
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1960
Pages : 290
The lawyer's story, as told by his daughter, portrays the best and worst of life in the US South during the Depression. It tells of Atticus' attempt to defend a black man accused of the rape of a white girl in the Deep South. Considered an American classic. Pulitzer Prize winner.

Comments from Groups:

Although this was a re-read for a number of the members, all enjoyed it. The depiction of small town America, its attitudes and mores was well done. Leithfield 001

40 years on, a second reading for most of us and we were enthralled by this book! Our most lively discussion yet and we covered it all - life in small town, racism, parenting, the legal system, gun laws... A superb book with great characters, especially Atticus and the children. Cromwell 003

We all thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated revisiting this extraordinary novel. The author's style of writing was engaging and the very serious social issues she tackled are sadly as relevant today as when the book was published. Palmerston Nth 006

This book deserves its classic status - multilayered, insightful, gripping plot. Great characterisation. Highly recommended. Palmerston Nth 025

The book received the highest score of any book that we have read! Greytown 003

Excellent book. 'Superb wordsmithing'. Whangarei 016

Categories: Fiction, Classic, Award Winner, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Social commentary/perspectives, USA, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

May 2014
We Will Not Cease
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 1939
Pages : 189
The epic record of New Zealander Archibald Baxter's brutal treatment as a conscientious objector. This is an account of Baxter's lonely fight against "the war to end all wars". NZ Interest.

Comments from Groups:

Everyone thought this was a great book, well written without any self-pity. A revelation that men could treat their fellow humans so cruelly. Dunedin 007

This book was well received by all. A very interesting but frightening part of New Zealand's history. Wellington 057

Everyone 'enjoyed' this book more than they expected. It wasn't sensationalised, and they thought it was written very matter-of-factly. Auckland 224

All enjoyed this book: 'incredible read', 'brilliant book', 'should be compulsory' etc. Dunedin 044

All loved the book. Many sought further books of the Baxter family. Taupo 003

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, War theme, What's Hot

April 2014
Language of Flowers, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 308
Life has not been easy for Victoria Jones. Damaged by the foster care system she has graduated from, she communicates with others and makes sense of her world using the Victorian language of flowers.
With an intriguing juxtaposition of the old fashioned and the contemporary, the author considers the perennial issues of love, belonging and forgiveness in this absorbing and compassionate story.

Comments from Groups:

This was enjoyed by most of the group, with a few reservations.Two people felt that it was dragged out and could have been shortened, while some found Victoria to be rather irritating as a character. Overall though, the book appealed and the flower language theme generated good discussion. We also discussed fostering and adoption and compared what we knew of the US and NZ systems. We were all agreed on the style of writing, which was easy without being shallow. Martinborough 003

All at our meeting really enjoyed this book. We each brought a collection of flowers from our garden and found their meanings from this book. Morrinsville 001

There were polarized views in our group. Some liked the premise of a "language of flowers" and others felt it was "romantic twaddle".We all agreed that it is lightweight, and some characters are fey and unrealistic. However, we had a decent discussion around fostering, families, love and acceptance. Dunedin 090

All members enjoyed this book and were captivated by the meanings of flowers. There was much interesting discussion on 'damaged' people like Victoria in the book. Two members experienced in counselling and early childhood doubted the book's happy ending, noting that such people tend to require on-going professional help as well as ordinary support. Gore 001

This provided a good insight into the thoughts of a foster child; the effects of rejection and the fragility of the soul. Shocking in parts but beautifully written. Recommended. Te Puke 006

If we had read this one earlier, it could well have been our favourite book. We all loved it - an original story served up with a bouquet of flowers. It was all the more poignant when we learned that the author had fostered and adopted herself.We all brought flowers and learnt and discussed their meaning - a great book. Whitby 002

There was a wide variety of comments. Some felt the author tried too hard to make up a story around the theme of 'language of flowers'; and that all the characters were dysfunctional. Others found it an easy read, light but sometimes disturbing. Whakatane 005

In general, people liked the book. It was interesting to read, well structured and full of symbolism. It was beautifully written, and dealt with a unique subject well. The central character had had a tough life, with some hard experiences, but her love of flowers brought out a softness and a sense of hope. The discussion went well; the questions were thought-provoking and relevant Christchurch 403

Overall the group loved the book, and would highly recommend it. It was fascinating to analyse the meaning of different flowers, and how messages could be conveyed... Mangaweka 001

We mostly enjoyed this, and found the characters believable if not especially likeable. The ending was a bit unsatisfactory - ' Downton Abbey-ish' in its tying up of loose ends in a happy ever after way. Insightful re the effects of serial fostering and a poor start to life on the behaviour of a child and young adult. We had mixed feelings about the structure of the book - some liked, but some were annoyed by, the to and fro of it. Auckland 107

We all loved this book. It is a lovely story - very sad in places, but the added element of the flowers and their meanings elevates it to a beautiful novel. We were delighted that the fractured little family came together at the end. Highly recommended. Otorohanga 003

Most members enjoyed this book. There were some reservations about the alternating past and present chapters format. Ashburton 024

Beautifully written. We enjoyed the alternating chapters, which were woven together nicely. It stimulated an interesting discussion about fostering practices in NZ. Paihia 003

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Love story, Relationships, Uplifting, Light style, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

March 2014
Cellist of Sarajevo, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 227
Sarajevo 1992, a bomb goes off in the street, interrupting a cellist who is practising Albinoni's Adagio. To honour the 22 people who die, he returns to the street each day for the next 22 days to play the Adagio. This event is the backdrop to the experience of the three narrators struggling to survive daily life in the besieged city. A sombre and powerful novel depicting the horror and futility of war tempered by the unquenchable human spirit.

Comments from Groups:

One of our members brought along the 'Adagio' music and we listened to it as we discussed the book. Fabulous. New Plymouth 012

Very thought provoking. A realisation of the cruelty in the world ... Everybody felt the characters were well defined as was their struggle to survive. Napier 020

It was good to be reminded of the reality of living in a war zone. The characters were very real, yet the ideas they conveyed transcended the individual and became huge concepts we all have to grapple with. An excellent read. Masterton 003

A long and insightful discussion. Highly recommended. Christchurch 324

Everyone in the group thought this an excellent book, with its scarce language vividly portraying the various individuals' suffering. The reality of the conflict and the hopelessness of the situation for the residents of Sarajevo is apparent. Dunedin 007

This was a highly rated story amongst our readers. Google helped in finding the piece of music that the cellist played...Tauranga 015

Interesting and a challenge. Great insight into the daily life in a war torn city...Lots of discussion generated on how we would deal with a similiar situation. Auckland 280

Everyone got a lot from this book. Lively discussion, and research by some to learn more about this time in Sarajevo. The writing was so good-very spare, poetic almost, and conveyed so much in a few words...Nelson 007

An absolutely wonderful book. This would be our best `pick` of the year. It was written in a way that we could feel the experience of the characters. Wellington 029

Although everyone liked the book, most felt uncomfortable using the word `enjoyed`. Reading about war can be uncomfortable but this was easier as it did not glorify it and told the human story. It was interesting to see how each character kept their humanity. Dunedin 039

We all loved the book - it forced us all to do some research on the conflict. There were interesting observations made on the three main players, and their survival under the terrible conditions of everyday life. Auckland 265

We found it a beautiful and profound read, providing a picture of the futility of war and its impact on individuals, families and communities. The character of Arrow was more fully drawn, and we found it interesting the way she depersonalised the killing, by means of changing her name and various other strategies. Christchurch 319

Overall the book was well regarded by the group. Some people found the middle part a bit disjointed and would have preferred that the three main characters be linked to make a more cohesive story. Evocative and moving as regards the devastation and ruination of the war. Wellington 202

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Bosnia, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

February 2014
Cleo: How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 286
Cleo, an Abyssinian kitten, becomes a member of the Brown household not long after nine year old Sam dies in a road accident. Over the next 23 years, Cleo is an integral part of the family's journey through grief and beyond. Whether you are a cat lover or not, this warm hearted story of love and loss is a delightful read.

Comments from Groups:

A memoir of one's healing - very compelling reading. Tauranga 032

We thought Helen shared the story with honesty and joy and humility. there is an ongoing all-pervasive spiritually in the book of the relationships, and depths of those relationships. Christchurch 243

We enjoyed the writing style and had several discussions about issues raised - the influence of animals on families, the ill and dying, dealing with tragedies etc. Ashburton 003

We loved the local (Wellington and Auckland) flavour, the raw self-deprecating voice, and it kicked off a lively sharing of our own pet and grief/recovery stories. Lower Hutt 006

All enjoyed the book and a good talk about our own animals followed. Invercargill 015

Everyone had a different opinion about cats vs dogs and grief vs moving on. Very stimulating conversation. Easy read. Cromwell 002

A well-liked book-amusing too. Tragic beginning. A big discussion - it made us pause (paws!) for thought. Cambridge 005

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. All agreed `death` was so openly shared and discussed. Animals do play a huge role in helping with grief. 10/10. Te Pirita 001

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Grief/loss, Relationships, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

January 2014
Brain That Changes Itself, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2007
Pages : 421
An astonishing new scientific discovery called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the adult human brain is fixed and unchanging. It is, instead, able to change its own structure and function, even into old age. Using personal stories from the heart of this neuroplasticity, Dr Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential. [Taken from book blurb.]

Comments from Groups:

An amazing book - the case studies gave us real encouragement to pursue new interests. Coromandel 00

Terrific discussion. Most of us are over 80 and resolved to start brain exercising before it's too late. A really interesting book. Hamilton 007

Such an enlightening and enthralling read. Everybody had a connection to this book. We applied the theories to education, music, health and everyday living. Leigh 001

Provoked plenty of discussion regarding the many areas of brain damage covered in the book, plus the veracity of the research. Wellington 005

Not a book to go to bed and read. You needed to concentrate. Fascinating. Thoroughly enjoyed by the group. Auckland 050

A great read. We all learned a lot & so we had a good discussion. Most of us intend to buy the book as a reference book. Wellington 130

The group loved the book and thought it was up-to-date, educational, well written.The discussion was lively and personal connections to the content of the book were made. Everyone should read it. Christchurch 095

Categories: Non fiction, Medical/Health, Science & Technology, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

December 2013
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2008
Pages : 316
This is the story of the Whanganui River at the beginning of the 20th Century; a bustling thoroughfare and lifeblood to the diverse characters living on its banks. An accident involving one of the tourist boats sets into play events that have wider implications for the community. An easy to read novel providing insight into this period of New Zealand nation building. NZ Interest

Comments from Groups:

Everyone loved the story and have thoughts now about travelling down the Whanganui River. Ohope 005

A rollicking good story of its time, with well described characters and an interesting plotline. Christchurch 071

A delightful way to learn NZ history. Tauranga 022

Lots of discussion re cultural relations between Pakeha and Chinese and Maori and current state of play today. Palmerston North 029

'Landings' was a very popular book with us...All like Jenny Pattrick's style of writing and will be looking for more of her books in the library. Tauranga 005

A popular choice. Impressive research and evocation of the period and natural environment. Some issues with the actual plotline and possibly some caricatures of characters. Dunedin 029

Probably the book that members have enjoyed most so far. We all loved the way the history was interwoven with the story. We are already planning a group trip to the Whanganui River. Jenny Pattrick is a popular, 'easy to read' and compelling author. Te Horo 002

This book was of most interest to our readers interested in NZ history, or who were familiar with the area. Not the best of Jenny Pattrick's novels. Christchurch 357

We absolutely loved this book, as many of us have travelled in this area. We could picture the places the story is set in. It was lovely to read the connection between "Landings" and "Inheritance" - Bridie's baby is the half Chinese 'John O'Dowd' in "Inheritance". We loved the history of the Whanganui River. Otorohanga 003

This book started the most animated discussion of the year. Everyone was pleased they had read it. A little dark like all of Jenny Pattrick's books. Well researched, and a "don't want to put it down" book. Christchurch 294

A good book. Everyone enjoyed it and gave it 9/10. The descriptions of the area around the Whanganui River, made us wish we could have been there when the river was such an important and thriving highway. Masterton 013

Opinions were divided on this book - some were 'underwhelmed' by it. Others enjoyed the read, and it sparked an interest in visiting the Whanganui River and surrounding areas. Auckland 344

We all enjoyed this book. Some were able to share personal stories from the region. So nice to read a book set in NZ for a change. Recommended! Auckland 302

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Community, Historical, Relationships, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

November 2013
Crimson Rooms, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 457
In a society recovering from World War 1, Evelyn Gifford trains as one of England's first female solicitors. In contrast to her trailblazing employment, her home life is repressed following the death of her younger brother in the trenches. Against this backdrop of a nation grappling with change, Evelyn too is challenged to move beyond her grief and seek justice for those around her. An easy-to-read style and a fascinating examination of the social issues of the time make this an engaging story.

Comments from Groups:

A most interesting history of women in the legal profession and how families coped during and after WW1. All in all a good historical novel with many engaging characters and moments. Wellington 041

Loved the book, beautiful style of writing. Would definitely read the author's other novels. Kaikoura 001

Enjoyable mixture of suspense and history. A different look at society after WW1. Rotorua 004

Thought provoking look at the way women's rights and expectations have evolved in the last century. We enjoyed it. Alexandra 003

All members of the group enjoyed this book and we had a long discussion about the era it was written in and style-all felt that there were several plots within the story. Paihia 003

We all thoroughly enjoyed this book. One member commented, " I loved her determination to have what she wanted and to love in so many ways". Interesting to read the history notes also. Napier 024

Our group enjoyed the book and it led to discussions on women in the work force in those early pioneering years. Masterton 011

Wonderful! For once all our members agreed on this. Well written, informative and kept us guessing. An addictive read. Auckland 060

Enjoyed the book. It covered an area of life that rang bells for members. Auckland 013

We loved this book. The dawning of the women's lib must have been very difficult for some women. We do not appreciate enough what we owe them. Geraldine 002

A bit slow. Didn't keep everyone's attention, but those who finished it enjoyed it. Auckland 347

An enjoyable read about a time in history which we knew little about - womens' first experiences of/in the legal profession in the 1920s. Several topics covered, although not in great detail, were: childrens' rights, mass deportation of children to the colonies, and the fact that women were considered second class citizens. Auckland 284

Discussion was lively. Some disappointment in the 'Mills & Boon' love interest, but overall everyone enjoyed the various sub plots and twists. It took a while to get into but picked up pace. Havelock North 011

A very good meeting and discussion. There was a lot of animated discussion on the subjects raised in the book. Probably the most successful book we have read this year. Wellington 142

Fantastic! We unanimously agreed that we LOVED this book! We liked the themes of love, and the women of the 1920s taking over the role of men following the war. The plot was thrilling and the second half of the book a complete page turner. We couldn't put it down - wonderful! Queenstown 010

Opinion was divided, with some readers very enthusiastic about it. The majority appreciated the author's writing, but had reservations about the novel as a whole. It was thought that there were too many themes within the story - family secrets and tensions, the plight of orphaned children, the trauma of war, a murder trial, and the mores of the times which discouraged the ambitions of women to pursue a career of their choice and to further their education. However the choice of book led to an interesting discussion about our own families, the lives lived by our parents and grandparents, and our own childhood and adolescence experiences in the 40s and 50s.

Wellington 007

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Feminism, Historical, Human Rights, Love story, Morals/Ethics, Social commentary/perspectives, England, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

October 2013
Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 183
As noted by Florence Nightingale, "a small pet is often an excellent companion". Such was the case for Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Incapacitated by chronic illness she was reduced to a bedridden existence with a small common woodland snail as her companion and eventually the focus for her in-depth scientific study of gastropods (snails). Part memoir, part natural history lesson, this book is a gentle and moving examination of the profound connection between humans and nature. It leaves the reader an expert on snails, mindful of the gift of good health and with the incentive to look at the world anew. Winner of the 2010 National Outdoor Book Awards, Natural History Literature, US. What's Hot - October 2013

Comments from Groups:

Great book. We will all look differently at snails now! One of the best books we have read. Auckland 216

This book sparked vigorous discussion - most loved it for its slow pace, extraordinary biological detail...but most of all for the subtle parallels drawn between the snail's life and the author's illness. Wellington 012

Big discussion about snails, getting over sickness and caring for something (the snail). After this read everybody will treat little animals differently. Turangi 001

We thought the format was beautiful and really enjoyed the quotations. Found [the author's] research and observation of snails fascinating. Coromandel 002

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Award Winner, Medical/Health, Science & Technology, What's Hot

August 2013
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2003
Pages : 384
When Rachel Kalama is seven, she is discovered to have leprosy and is quarantined in a leprosy settlement on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. This is the story of her life; from the moment she is taken from her family (never to live with them again), to her eventual cure as an adult and beyond. Not only does it chronicle the experience of an isolated community celebrating life while over-shadowed by disease, but also the changes in the management of leprosy. Based on extensive research, it is an inspiring story revealing a fascinating period of early 20th Century history. What's Hot - August 2013

Comments from Groups:

Everyone loved it, couldn't put it down. Enjoyed the fictionalised writing about an important issue in history. Palmerston 019

We found it difficult to put down. It gave us an insight into Hawaiian history and the island of Moloka'i. We liked the 'realness' of each character in the story. Carterton 001

The discussion on [the book] and its subject was the best we've had for months! Lots of personal stories about similar subjects (TB, polio). New Plymouth 013

All enjoyed this beautifully written story. Found historical information very interesting. Christchurch 125

A unanimous "best sell" for our bookgroup.Alan Brennert had clearly studied his subject matter thoroughly and presented his novel in a manner that brought his characters to life. Palmerston North 2

Mixed feelings from the group. We thought he should maybe just have written the book as non-fiction. A number didn't finish it. Christchurch 360

A few of us were amazed that the book had been written by a man, as a woman's emotions were so well portrayed. Also by the fact that the author was a screen writer - when will we see a film? There was robust discussion about leprosy, and how long it took to find a cure. Auckland 016

Most members were pleased to have read this book, and to have learnt more about an era and disease they had little prior knowledge of. However, it was widely agreed that the writing style and continuous highs and lows of the linear plot were frustrating. Auckland 381

A great read. Heartbreaking situation in beautiful surroundings. Well drawn characters and interesting relationships. It made us all dip into current research on this terrible disease. We enjoyed the 'Get to Know the Author' and the 'Get to Know the History' sections at the back of the book. All agreed we would recommend this book to others. Hokitika 001

Generally, the book was found to be well-written, informative and well-paced. It was sobering rather than enjoyable however, and some saw it as overly graphic, overlong and sometimes contrived. We were all pleased that it had a happy ending! The discussion was rich, two of the group having visited a leper colony, and the questions prompted some good exchanges on, for example, whanau, fa'afafine and fear of the unknown. Tairua 001

We loved this book - average of 8/10. We were transported to Hawaii, and were moved by the main character Rachel. It was very educational about leprosy in those times. Taupo 007

The book was a popular choice! It was really interesting and gave us a good insight into the real lives that lepers lived in recent history. Well researched and an easy to read story. Queenstown 010

Everyone very much enjoyed the book, partly for the very interesting information about how leprosy was treated at the end of the 19th century, but also for the picture of the islands created by the author, and the warmth and colour of the characters. They came alive for us and added to the interest of the story....We all admired Rachel's strength of character and her resourcefulness, and were glad to follow the course of her life right through to the end. Katikati 001

Categories: Fiction, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Medical/Health, Social commentary/perspectives, Tragedy/disaster, USA, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

July 2013
Conductor, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 300
In June 1941, Nazi troops march on Leningrad and surround it. Hitler's plan is to shell, bomb and starve the city into submission. Most of the cultural elite are evacuated early in the siege, but Dmitri Shostakovich, the most famous composer in Russia, stays on to defend his city, digging ditches and fire-watching. At night he composes a new work. But after Shostakovich and his family are foced to evacuate, only Karl Eliasberg - a shy and difficult man, conductor of the second-rate radio orchestra - and an assortment of musicians are left behind in Leningrad to face an unendurable winter and start rehearsing the finished score of Shostakovich's Leningrad symphony. What's Hot - July 2013

Comments from Groups:

This was our 'top choice' for 2013...We felt the book was well researched and conveyed the atmosphere of time and place. Christchurch 277

The writers skills and links to historical fact, the writing of the symphony and the intense characterization were all applauded. Timaru 007

Very positive comments from the group, in particular the way the main characters were depicted...It brought up comparisons with 'The Cellist of Sarajevo'. Napier 016

This book was the highlight of our year. Discussion was dynamic and forthcoming. Lower Hutt 011

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Faction, Historical, Tragedy/disaster, Russia, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

June 2013
Secret Life of Bees, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2001
Pages : 374
Set in 1960s southern USA, Lily, a motherless white teenager, lives with her embittered father, but is raised by her black housekeeper, Rosaleen. Following a racist incident, Lily and Rosaleen become fugitives from justice, finding refuge in the home of three bee keeping sisters. It is in this unique community that Lily comes to terms with her life and the death and loss of her mother. What's Hot - June 2013

Comments from Groups:

"Wonderful read. Stirred some religious debate, some quite fiery!" Wanganui 005

"Original, quirky,memorable, 'feel good'." Havelock North 008

"Compelling reading, interesting political time. Good group discussion and enjoyed on several levels." Christchurch 222

"Just what we needed post quake! Easy read." Diamond Harbour 001

"It was a wonderful portrayal of humanity overcoming the scourge of racism. The characters were so real, the humour was delightful..." Nelson 019

Categories: Fiction, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Human Rights, USA, Argentina, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

May 2013
Breaking of Eggs, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 342
Feliks Zhukovski, born in Poland, resident of Paris, is a man of order and routine and leftist sympathies. His life has centred around publishing a travel guide to the eastern bloc. When the Iron Curtain is swept aside, so too are the assumptions and convictions underpinning his life. This is a story of Europe, wartime and aftermath, and what happens when you are forced to question what you have always believed. Thoughtful in content, light-hearted in style. What's Hot - May 2013

Comments from Groups:

A true book club read. Dannevirke 001

The group, except for one, found it to be an astonishingly good book. Extremely well written and set in a diverse and complex scenario. Thoroughly recommended. Christchurch 166

Our group enjoyed this moving story and the skilful writing style, combining historical events and storytelling. Auckland 167

We enjoyed this intelligent and well written book and it generated much discussion within the group. We would recommend this book. Paraparaumu 001

There was a mixed reaction to this book. The majority enjoyed it appreciating its overall plot and themes of national identity and a possibly unfulfilled life. Auckland 015

Could have been our best book and therefore best discussion this year. Members loved the combination of novel, character and politics. Hamilton 007

An amazing story, one that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Written in a fairly light-hearted manner, it nevertheless covered all the emotions. A great lesson in geography and history; well written with good characters. Quite thought-provoking with many "what ifs" - very much recommended. Whitby 002

The members all agreed that the book was a worthwhile read. We enjoyed seeing the development of Feliks, from a non emotional, static introvert, to his realisation that a perspective of events had a bearing on perception. Circumstances led him to meet his brother, which set him on a path to investigate changes in Europe, politics and eventually to confront his past. Finding overwhelming emotion when hearing from his mother, helped Feliks to realise he was not just an onlooker, but actually part of a relationship. He no longer thought only of himself, but came to realise he belonged to a home, family and friends. Katikati 001

We liked the book. It was interesting that a lot of things that happened to the main character, were perceived by his brother to mean the opposite. The politics/war was interesting but overbearing at times. It led to a varied discussion on perspectives, war time and history. Auckland 248

Most of the group found it a challenge, but it created a long discussion. Christchurch 262

We thought that parts of this book (ie the mother's letter) were very well written, but most of us found the constant self examination and politics of the narrator repetitive and, at times. tedious. Tauranga 038

"Clever writing" was the consensus of opinion. The questions gave us much to discuss and think about. Hamilton 024

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Love story, Political, Relationships, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

April 2013
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2010
Pages : 401
Ma and Jack's world is limited physically to a space 11 foot square, but unlimited by imagination that transforms each and every facet of their existence. Jack is turning five and Ma realises that their world needs to expand. Although this is the story of their forced confinement and eventual escape, it is ultimately testimony to a profound relationship that not only makes it possible for them to survive the unthinkable but rise above it. Narrated by Jack, this is a powerful and moving novel which will have you repeatedly pacing out 11 foot square and asking yourself what if this had been me or someone I loved? What's Hot - April 2013

Comments from Groups:

Almost universally enjoyed and a great one for generating speculation as to what's next for the characters. Christchurch 186

A favourite with the group. A book to read on a wet day – it can't be put down. Nelson 051

We found this story of 5-year-old Jack [and his mother] very evocative, compelling and thought provoking...We all loved this top read. Masterton 005

A disturbing book but extremely well written and a gripping read. Wellington 107

Well thought out – telling the story through the child's eyes gave a whole new perspective...and from a mother's perspective how to keep a child healthy, educated and happy in almost impossible circumstances. Tauranga 018

Great read - disturbingly interesting. Christchurch 274

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Human Rights, Psychology, Relationships, Young narrator, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

Rebel with a Cause
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2010
Pages : 268
When Ray Avery became the winner of the New Zealander of the Year award for 2010, it was the first time many had heard of his remarkable life and achievements. Born in the UK, Ray arrived in New Zealand in his mid-twenties. Having survived a traumatic childhood, he has gone on to achieve great success as a philanthropic scientist and inventor of medical devices for third world countries. This is an inspiring and heart-warming story of obstacles overcome, and opportunities embraced. Recounted in Ray's distinctive style, this book is an enjoyable and easy read. NZ Interest. What's Hot - April 2013

Comments from Groups:

Inspirational. His character came through in his writing. Even though he was from England Mr Avery embodied what it is to be a New Zealander. Highly recommended. Te Awamutu 003

What a marvellous fellow. A little egotistical! ... All husbands read it as well. Christchurch 294

Such drive and ability to absorb new skills. An insight into 'aid' in other countries.Coromandel 001

How encouraging to read how someone overcame personal abandonment and channelled his life into helping others.Tauranga 004

We all agreed this is an inspirational book, at times provocative, but Ray Avery's story together with his colleagues deserves to be one we should all know... We could have gone on and on talking about the book." Taupo 006

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Inspirational, Personal Interests, Science & Technology, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

March 2013
Still Alice
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 292
At fifty, Alice Howland has it all - a happy marriage, adult children and a successful career as a Harvard Professor. But Alice and her family are at the beginning of a devastating journey; she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Related from Alice's perspective, this is a story that sensitively chronicles the loss and confusion that follows such a diagnosis, as well as deftly interweaving factual material. A humane and poignant book that challenges the reader with questions of our worth and identity when our memories and intellect are no more. What's Hot - June 2013

Comments from Groups:

A beautifully written book, even though the author had wide clinical experience of the disease [Alzheimers]. Not many doctors could write so well of their patients' descent into another world. Christchurch 257

We all unreservedly loved this book. A powerful story beautifully told, as it stays with you after you'd finished it. Matua 001

Great deal of discussion. A very insightful (but at times scary) book and timely for our age group. Not sad despite the topic...quite hopeful. Christchurch 065

It was a 10. Everyone thought it was a great book – even though it made us aware of our own mental fallibility! Very well written. Auckland 020

A positive sensitive portrayal of Alzheimers. Christchurch 125

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Medical/Health, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, USA, America, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups, Blind Foundation book

Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2009
Pages : 273
This is an inspiring memoir from Malawi, one of the least developed and most densely populated countries in the world. William Kamkwamba came from an impoverished village affected by the severe famine of the 2000s with hunger a constant companion and no money available for him to be able to attend secondary school. Undaunted by these trials, William built a windmill from scrap materials generating electricity for his village and thus changing their lives forever. An uplifting story of contemporary Africa that is testimony to an amazing teenager's determination to overcome adversity and never give up. What's Hot - March 2013

Comments from Groups: was so well written describing life in the Malawi village and particularly descriptive writing around the famine Waiheke 001

We found this to be an inspiring book...This was an easy read with so many messages in the story, an insight into a different world and culture. Tauranga 018

The book stimulated much discussion about aid to developing countries and the importance of using local skills and knowledge...would love to know what happens in his [William's] life after the book. Matamata 001

This book was universally applauded and we all enjoyed it immensely. Liked the first person writing, the intelligence, tenacity and ability to 'make do'...Hamilton 010

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Inspirational, Science & Technology, Social commentary/perspectives, Young narrator, Africa, Malawi, What's Hot, Popular Book with Groups

February 2013
Hand Me Down World
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2010
Pages : 313
Moving from Africa to Europe, a young woman undertakes an ambitious journey involving child kidnapping, people smuggling and exploitation. Revealed to us by the people she encounters, a surprising story unfolds. It is a tale of love and betrayal and need; a contemporary odyssey that compels you to keep on reading to uncover the truth. What's Hot - June 2013

Comments from Groups:

We agreed that it was well written and a clever idea. It was better understood when read twice...It enthused us to read more of Lloyd Jones. Wellington 074

The retrospective telling of the story of Ines through the eye-witness accounts makes the reader work, think, nut-out what is happening here. Mana 001

Excellent book with lots of discussion about the mother-child bond. A thought-provoking rather than an enjoyable read. Auckland 050

All his [the author's] books are "˜just so different' and yet every one has been enjoyable and engaging. No one was disappointed with this very different story. Auckland 133

Clever writing with good descriptions. A truly international story. Christchurch 071

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, What's Hot, Blind Foundation book

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