What's New

December 2017
Writers' Festival, The
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2016
Pages : 369
The date is set, books have been written and read, programmes printed, invitations issued, tickets available and judges ready and waiting ... let the countdown begin. It may involve readers, writers and books, but this is event management with a capital E. From the festival director Rae, the dissident Chinese writer Liu Wah and gay Indian novelist Ardash, through to conflicted judge Gareth, and Merle, a novelist staging a comeback, this is a behind-the-scenes exposure of what really happens when the literati come to town.

Rife with censorship and pseudonyms, conflicts of interest and sponsorship, this entertaining New Zealand novel from a seasoned insider will have you recalling festivals past, and enthusiastically lining up for the next one.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Fun and easy to read."

"Interesting characters and there's many literary references and jokes."

"The author handles the literary arena well without being smug."

"I enjoyed the satirical humour in this book."

"The novel's format makes it easy to read and focus on the main players."

"A good read, a satire on the pretensions of the local literati and entangled relationships."

"Delightful, full-on writing style."

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Humour, Literature oriented, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, 2018 Titles

November 2017
Being Chinese
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2016
Pages : 182
Helene Wong's life reads in a similar vein to many New Zealanders: an idyllic Kiwi childhood, then tertiary education followed by a career launched in the Public Service. The customary OE in the form of a family visit to China in 1980 proved to be a seminal experience, reawakening and consolidating the strength of her Chinese heritage.

From a place in Sir Robert Muldoon's Think Tank, to life in film and theatre, from the rich detail of her family history in both China and New Zealand through to reflecting on what it means to be a New Zealander, this is a fascinating and eloquent memoir. Not only is it eminently readable and perceptive, it also courageously holds up a mirror to the face of New Zealand, racism and all.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The writing is assured, literate and always eminently readable."

"The descriptions of her family life are fascinating as she explains typical Chinese social and cultural mores."

"I thought this book was superb. Well written, articulate, perceptive, honest and a book all New Zealanders should read."

"Although I am of European descent, I strongly identified with the author, having been born in the same year, and having experienced a similar upbringing, education and family life."

"I found this a warm, perceptive and intelligent memoir."

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Community, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Social commentary/perspectives, Blind Foundation book, 2018 Titles

Love As A Stranger
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2016
Pages : 286
Once upon a time there was a dutiful wife (Sarah) who met a lonely widower (Hartley) while supporting her husband (Robert) through chemotherapy treatment in Auckland. What starts as a simple friendship develops into a relationship with unforeseen consequences.

This is a story as old as time, of love and the human condition, sensitively written and with empathetic characters wrestling with moral choices.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This is another fine piece of Owen Marshall storytelling and depiction of character."

"This book would appeal all New Zealanders who will understand the characters, the setting and the dilemma."

"Excellent characterisation and sensitively written."

"While this story is as old as time, its telling brings a new freshness and the several potential meanings of the title will be good discussion material."

"An excellent writer. Not an exciting book, but a good one. "

"I found the book sexist – inappropriate for a book set in the 2000s. And too much use of the f word."

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Contemporary, Love story, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Blind Foundation book, 2018 Titles

October 2017
Be Frank with Me
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 287
'Girl Friday' Alice Whitley's mission is to keep LA writer MM 'Mimi' Banning on track with her new novel. However, Alice's literary skills prove not to be in demand but her skills as a companion to Mimi's young son most certainly are. A member of an unusual household, Frank is not your average nine-year-old; he is an outright eccentric, ridiculously obsessed with Old Hollywood, far too clever for his own good and a total mystery to other children.

Both entertaining and poignant, this is a thought-provoking story of irresistible characters that delightfully demonstrates conformity is overrated.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Very interesting, great characters, interesting plot. I wish there was a sequel as I would love to know what might happen next!"

"Wonderful characters, especially the prickly Mimi and the endearing and brilliant Frank."

"A good and easy read. Engaging with excellent descriptions of an unusual child and his take on the world."

"Some laugh out loud scenarios and touching moments."

"I thought the ending felt flat which was disappointing after a great read."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Humour, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

September 2017
Angle of Repose
Genre : Fiction
Year : 1971
Pages : 632
Historian Lyman Ward finds the perfect project for his early retirement: writing the biography of his grandparents Susan and Oliver Ward, pioneers of the American West. As Lyman carefully excavates their relationship and challenges, his own life and marriage in California are also laid bare.

Beautiful natural imagery, complex characters and the rich detail of American history come together in this literary treasure, a Pulitzer prize winning novel as deeply satisfying today as it was when it was first published in 1971.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"One of the most outstanding books I have ever read."

If you enjoyed 'Crossing to Safety', then this one is for you. It's big, but is strong and dynamic."

"Very long - 632 pages - groups will need plenty of time to read it."

"This is a fantastic book giving real insight into life in the USA in the latter part of the 19th Century."

"A long read, but at no stage did I feel it was too long. In fact I was disappointed when I finished read it. I cared about the characters and to what happened to them. Just wonderful!"

"A satisfying literary page-turner for readers who enjoy literary works."

Categories: Fiction, Big Read, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Family Saga, Historical, Letters/Diaries, Love story, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

Ballroom, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 350
The Edwardian era is coming to a close, but at Sharston Asylum on the Yorkshire moors, it is business as usual. Their progressive approach to using music to help rehabilitation allows Friday night dances in the ballroom, the only time the men and women come together, and it is here that John Mulligan and Ella Fay meet. But the greatest barrier to their growing attraction is not the segregation but Dr Charles Fuller and his fascination with the practice of eugenics, misusing his authority, and with John in his sights.

From its historically accurate backdrop to its beautiful descriptions of the countryside, this is a poignant and absorbing story that examines our notions of madness and sanity through its sensitively drawn characters and their compelling back stories.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I loved this book. I found it compelling reading right from the start."

"The language flows and there are lovely descriptions of the natural world."

"It is always educational to have a novel set against an actual historical event - we are right there in that hot and fevered summer while the coronation proceeds, the workers revolt and the world moves slowly towards the Great War."

"I found this a sad read. What else could it be, set in an asylum in 1911? There are moments of great beauty but I found the sad content outweighed the uplifting."

"This is a novel about communication – the longing to reach out to others and of the spirit that is within John and Ella to survive."

"The book highlights the horrendous conditions for working class people at the start of the 20th century - such a short time ago."

Categories: Fiction, Historical, Love story, Medical/Health, Psychology, Social commentary/perspectives, England, 2018 Titles

Beneath the Surface
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 273
Killer whales, aka blackfish, aka orca. John Hargrove's childhood ambition to be a trainer of these largest members of the dolphin family, was fulfilled in the SeaWorld theme parks for more than a decade. However, what began as a dream job deteriorated into a nightmare as he came to understand the cruelty, under the guise of conservation, of their captivity.

Compelling and informative, this is a thought-provoking story that celebrates orca while documenting the transition of a professional trainer to a passionate animal rights advocate.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"What's not to love? Orcas are amazing creatures and the author takes us up close and personal with them."

"This book enables the reader to see behind the scenes of a world (both SeaWorld and the orca) that we normally would not be exposed to, nor think about."

"The book has been ghost written and the flow of narrative is continuous and compelling."

"The book captures well how John's opinions changed and how he came to hold the views he now holds."

"We get to learn a little about orca and how truly magnificent they are."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Environmental, Morals/Ethics, America, 2018 Titles

Black River
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 220
No longer able to find solace in his beloved music, Wes Carver is a man who silently endures. He's returning home to Black River, Montana, angry and resentful with plenty to wrestle with: the loss of his wife Claire, his difficult relationship with his stepson Dennis, and the longstanding trauma he suffered as a corrections officer caught up in a prison riot. Mired in his past, Wes must decide if redemption is possible through forgiveness or through punishment.

A haunting, powerful story laced with hope and the possibility of grace.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I was so impressed with the beautiful writing – no extra or unnecessary affectations."

"Beautiful portrayal of the landscape, with insightful descriptions of the town and its inhabitants."

"It is slow paced with long, wonderful descriptions about "˜incidentals' like how someone is standing."

"The suspense builds slowly and powerfully – I couldn't put the book down."

"Despite the bleak storyline and events, I was left feeling peaceful and with hope that people can find a way of moving forward. This novel will stay with me."

"I asked my husband to read the book to see if it would appeal to a male reader. He also loved it."

"The opening chapters recounting Claire's death are beautifully done. I don't think I've read a more moving yet understated account of a death."

"The story is grim. People have long lasting emotional pain that they can't put behind them."

Categories: Fiction, Grief/loss, Relationships, Religion, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

Blue Between Sky and Water, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 292
In 1947, life for the Palestinian Baraka family is irrevocably changed when they are forcibly removed from their village by a fledgling Israel, destined for life in a refugee camp. Centred around a cast of strong women - from Nazmiyeh the matriarch through to Nur her American granddaughter - this story of dispossession is leavened with mysticism and anchored in the strength of family.

Bringing into vivid relief the hardship and suffering of Gaza, this is a lyrical and haunting novel of Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The language and descriptions in this book are breathtakingly beautiful."

"The characters seemed very real and the story has a real heart. It touched mine."

"The story is a little like a fairy tale in parts (eg, belief in a djinni named Sulayman and imaginary friends)."

"I liked the writing; her imagery is beautiful and thought-provoking."

"Well written, easy to read and I found it unable to put the book down."

"I didn't like the mysticism in this book."

"It is good to see the Arab/Israeli conflict from the eyes of a Palestinian, but there is violence and rape."

"Very one-sided, I preferred her other book, 'Mornings in Jenin'."

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Faction, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Human Rights, Relationships, Palestine, 2018 Titles

Boy of China, A
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2016
Pages : 301
Mao Tse-tung gave away a son during the Long March? Interest piqued, New Zealander Richard Loseby set out to determine the truth of the matter. While visiting many of the key places along the 13 000 kilometre route that Mao's Revolutionary Army marched in the 1930s, and revisiting the history of the rise of communism, today's China is also up for scrutiny.

With its fascinating cultural commentary, observations of contemporary China and its intriguing search for 'Little Mao', this part mystery, part travelogue heads off the beaten (tourist) track with gusto and finesse.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This is a satisfying story, well told. You feel he is a sincere many who handles delicate matters with sensitivity."

"This is a great book, totally engaging. It's part mystery and part travelogue."

"The story unfolds beautifully. There is much tragedy but hope as well. Very well written."

"An interesting story. Great writing, characters and adventure. Good cultural commentary and insight into Chinese history."

"Reading this book is like having an engrossing conversation with a well-informed, articulate and sympathetic friend."

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Human Rights, Political, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 404
As prickly as the roses she breeds, Galilee 'Gal' Garner lives a very disciplined existence. When she is not teaching high school biology, she is with her beloved roses, attempting to bring a new breed to commercial success, or at hospital undergoing dialysis. School, roses, hospital, ad infinitum, that is until her teenage niece Riley turns up on her doorstep, promising upheaval.

This uplifting story navigates the thorny challenge of chronic disease and family dynamics, beautifully balanced with the intricacies of rose gardening.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Loved the book. Interesting characters that are developed well. It kept my interest from page one."

"The description of roses is fascinating, especially the brief introduction to chapters."

"Most enjoyable. It's a 10 for me."

"I think women would enjoy this more than men." "The book shows the power of family connections and loyalties, regardless of circumstances." "It's longer than need be. I wasn't so interested in the rose-breeding activities."

Categories: Fiction, Medical/Health, Relationships, Science & Technology, America, 2018 Titles

Carrying Albert Home
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 398
Albert is an alligator and the improbable wedding present to Elsie and Homer Hickam, residents of the West Virginian coalfields. With Homer's ultimatum of 'him or me' becoming the catalyst to return Albert home, time is up on his occupation of their only bathroom. Their 1000-mile road trip to Florida will garner them more than enough adventures to last a lifetime: from bootleggers and bank robbers to meeting Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.

Quirky and endearing, this is the legendary tale of the author's parents rendered in a delightful blend of fact and fiction.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"It is funny, quirky, slightly unbelievable yet at the same time, surprisingly convincing. What's not to love about this book?"

"I enjoyed the folksy good humour and warmth and the interesting variety of adventures encountered."

"This was one of the most uplifting, fun books I've read for a long time."

"Parts are laugh out loud funny, parts are utterly ridiculous, parts are touching and sweet. You are either going to love it or hate it."

"A fascinating and delightful story."

"I can't fault the book – it is an unpretentious, memorable book which is fun, simple and easy to read."

"An easy, light-hearted book."

Categories: Fiction, Adventure/Exploration, Faction, Love story, Relationships, America, 2018 Titles

Coming Rain
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2015
Pages : 269
On the lookout for work, shearers Lewis McCleod and Painter Hayes arrive at Drysdale Downs, the West Australian station belonging to John Drysdale. Lewis has been under Painter's wing since he was just a lad, but when he meets John's daughter Clara, everything is going to change.

Unflinching in its examination of the 1950s repressive male culture of rural Australia, this simple story with its strong and convincing characters, is enhanced by its reverent observation of the outback.

Winner of the Ockham NZ Book for fiction 2016.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Beautifully written, it has a really authentic taste of Australia and has strong male characters."

"I thought this was a terrific book, even better than 'Traitor', his first book."

"Some BDS members will be put off by the violence and the language, but it's not throughout the book."

"Complex male characters are often lacking in modern fiction. Not so with this book, as we have two versions of the Australian male in the 1950s and 1960s.

"I loved the subplot with the dingoes."

"Mr Daisley's writing style is like that of a new Hemingway - very terse and every word adds something more to the story."

"I'd put this book 'way up there', but possibly slightly behind 'Traitor', because is has more to do with Australia rather than NZ."

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Award Winner, Love story, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Australia, 2018 Titles

Conrad & Eleanor
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 314
On the surface, it appears that Conrad and Eleanor Evanson's long marriage has been a most successful juggling act. Together they have raised four children while pursuing their respective careers - Con's in transplant research and El's in gene manipulation. However, when Con doesn't return home from a conference, then the jury is out as to the enduring nature of their marriage.

Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, this perceptive story cleverly combines the dissection of a marriage with a backdrop of medical research complete with its own compromises and ethical challenges.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Very gripping with great characterisation."

"The dialogue used to give us the background makes reading the book very easy and quite fast moving."

"Great writing. Very like Joanna Trollope."

"I enjoyed the book immensely but that might be due to age and having an enduring marriage. Younger readers might find the introspection tedious."

"Beautifully written and the story is brilliantly done. A reasonably quick read and a real page turner."

"My first contact with this writer. I see she has written other works. Goody. I'm off to the library."

"The book contains an almost forensic examination of a married life and what makes it work or not and the changes that it undergoes."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Gender Issues, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Crossing, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 280
Giving life to the distressingly familiar images from the media, journalist and writer Samar Yazbek takes us to the heart of the Syria of the headlines and soundbites. Syrian herself, she was forced to flee in 2011, but recounts in this story her three trips back to her homeland in 2012-13 to help set up women's groups.

Chronicling the passage of the civil war from its peaceful uprising for a secular democracy to the hijacking of the war by foreign fighters, this harrowing account of the day-to-day suffering of the Syrian people is distinguished by allowing all sides to speak for themselves.

This is an important story of our time from the pen of a gifted narrator.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Through the book we learn about the great religious differences, but also about foreigners such ISIS members and others who have hijacked the war."

"Although distressing, this book educates us about the very complex situation in Syria."

"For me this was a great book but others may not want to read about the conflict."

"A must-read for everyone including people who may not understand the consequences of their actions if they get involved with extremist groups."

"A graphic account of ordinary people living in the most appalling conditions."

"The book reminds us that the people who suffer most in war are the innocent bystanders, the women and children, but it also relates how ordinary young men end up as guerrilla fighters because other options have failed."

"I feel it is a must read for everyone. We need to understand what is going on in this part of the world and why there is an influx of refugees into Europe."

Categories: Non fiction, War theme, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Human Rights, Journalistic reporting/media, Morals/Ethics, Political, Religion, Social commentary/perspectives, Tragedy/disaster, Middle East, Syria, 2018 Titles

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.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Absolutely delightful. It may be a little light for those preferring a substantial read but I enjoyed it very much."

"Very easy to read, light, relaxing and amusing."

"It has different layers and levels. For example, it can be read superficially or more in-depth, looking at the change in Arthur, his children, his view of himself and his world."

"I'd recommend it as a bit of escapism in this topsy-turvy world!"

"I enjoyed this book very much. It's a light read but very enjoyable and it does cover some interesting topics (eg, a widower adapting to his new life, and how we think about ourselves)."

"Recommended for those looking for a lighter read."

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

Different Kind of Daughter, A
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 326
In this book, which could just as accurately be titled 'A Different Kind of Family', maverick parents guarantee that Maria Toorpakai was never going to be ordinary. Growing up in a home championing women's rights, in a repressive area in Pakistan, Maria was supported in disguising herself as a boy for the freedom it afforded her. When it was no longer possible to hide her gender, the street fighting and wrestling were replaced with squash.

As one would expect in a region where the Taliban called the shots, her eventual rise to be Pakistan's number one female squash player, is a remarkable and courageous story, both of her and her family, and, is compellingly presented in this inspirational memoir.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"An extraordinary book about an extraordinary family."

"The book has been written with assistance but Maria's voice comes through strongly."

"I thought Maria's family were amazing – they supported her all along the way."

"I think this book would suit most readers and it is easy to read."

"I didn't initially engage with the book as I'm not a sports fan, but the more I read the more this didn't matter. Sport was just a part of the story."

"Maria was brave, but so was her family. They had to be brave to support her In such an environment."

"It's good to hear about this part of the world from a young girl's point of view."

"Maria takes the reader through her journey, a violent and scary one, so different from life in the west."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Gender Issues, Inspirational, Personal Interests, Political, Relationships, Religion, Social commentary/perspectives, Pakistan, 2018 Titles

Dry, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 342
Melbourne-based Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown of Kiewarra to attend the funeral of his childhood friend Luke, and Luke's wife and child, supposed victims of a murder-suicide. Forced to confront his own past with Luke, Aaron is drawn into the investigation, probing the secrets of a small town fuelled by drought and despair.

Set in the blistering heat and dust of rural Australia, this is a thriller that races along as fast as the wildfire that threatens the harsh and unforgiving landscape.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"It flowed beautifully keeping my interest high. Well written."

"Thoroughly enjoyable, fast moving crime thriller with wonderfully believable characters."

"The author keeps the author guessing right to the end."

"Anyone who enjoys a good speed-read will like this book."

"A gripping story set in remote Australia – an interesting background."

"A well written book – an easy, quick read, rather than a complex one."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Relationships, Suspense/Thriller, Australia, 2018 Titles

Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 514
Darcy a neurosurgeon? Liz Bennet a journalist? Anything is possible in this contemporary retelling of 'Pride and Prejudice'. Set in Cincinnati, the Bennet family still have five daughters to launch, money is tight and there are societal obligations to fulfil.

Jane Austen fans and newcomers alike will relish this captivating and witty satire of 21st century life.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Light and humorous, it's an easy read."

"Witty and cleverly written. But if you're not a Jane Austen fan, then you may find it ridiculous."

"I found it a great read. Sittenfeld writes well and has a strong sense of the absurd."

"It's clever and appealing but I don't think it will be enduring."

"A light-hearted satire of society. A great read."

"Really easy to read, a tongue-in-cheek version of the classic Pride & Prejudice."

"Very entertaining, with lots of fun, sex and drunkenness! Really uplifting."

"Don't expect it to be plausible, but it is fun!"

Categories: Fiction, Humour, Love story, Relationships, Satire, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 438
When war is declared, Mary North is sure she will be snapped up for something far more exciting than the role that she is assigned: that of a school teacher. The silver lining, however, comes in the form of Tom Shaw from the Education Authority, and more importantly, his friend Alistair Heath. Played out against the backdrop of the Blitz and at the front lines of Malta, this is a vividly drawn World War II story of privileged young Londoners proving their mettle.

Illuminating the racism and class structures of the time, this novel was inspired by the experiences of the author's grandparents.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I've read all of Cleave's books. They are all thought-provoking, well-researched and character driven."

"The writer has a very original, powerful and captivating way of writing."

"This is a beautifully written story. The author is good at developing the characters, Mary in particular."

"The book was well-paced, but sometimes I thought his descriptions were just a little too long."

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Human Rights, Love story, England, Malta, 2018 Titles

Gap of Time, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 290
In this re-imagining of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, King Leontes is transformed into Leo, a hedge fund manager, his wife Hermione becomes Mimi, a French singer, and King Polixenes morphs into Xeno, a computer game-designer. With the kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia becoming London and the American Deep South, the stage is set for Leo's irrational jealousy and its tragic consequences: sexual obsession; friendships destroyed, hearts broken, exile and a child abandoned.

This is a timeless story of redemption and forgiveness, with the power and mystery of the original play cleverly captured by these contemporary characters and settings.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Winterson brings Shakespeare's tale of mayhem and redemption into the 21st century with great flair and inventiveness."

"A gripping story of human kindness, love, despair and hope. There is a theme of forgiveness and redemption."

"Superb description writing and acute observations."

"Engaging, literary, but an easy read too."

"The passages describing Leo's sexual fantasy are extremely explicit."

"It's not essential to have familiarity with Shakespeare's plays but it adds to the enjoyment."

"This book wasn't for me - what in Shakespeare is lyrical and about human nature, in this novel it's banal and about some very unpleasant people."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Literature oriented, Relationships, Tragedy/disaster, 2018 Titles

Girl with Seven Names, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 304
What were you doing when you were seventeen? North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lee was escaping over the border into China. Disillusioned by the Great Famine of 1990, Hyeonseo sought a better life but it came with the cost of continual subterfuge and reinvention. First China, then South Korea, then a return twelve years later to the Chinese border to smuggle out her mother and brother, this courageous and difficult journey is underpinned by Hyeonseo's strength and determination.

Both a dramatic and powerful personal story and a unique insight into life under the repressive North Korean regime, this is also an inspiring testimony to what people will risk for freedom.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"An awe-inspiring account of one woman's ingenuity and courage."

"One learns a lot around the North Korean regime, but it also gives a very real picture of the cut-throat life in China."

"The strength and determination of this girl is amazing."

"The book is an interesting and dramatic account of the difficulties faced by Hyeonseo Lee."

"An awe-inspiring account of one woman's ingenuity and courage."

"Because it is fact, I found it desperately sad."

"While the author is well settled now, it's sad to read what she went through. It does however make one thankful for the life that we are able to lead."

"There are two other books on North Korea in the scheme, but this one includes her life in China and it's a young woman."

"I would have liked a little more about her new life in the USA."

"One learns a lot about the North Korean regime. There are privileges for a few but strictly policed rules for everyone else."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Human Rights, Political, Social commentary/perspectives, North Korea, 2018 Titles

Golden Boys
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2014
Pages : 256
The envy of the neighbourhood kids, newly arrived Colt and Bastian Jenson seem to have it all - a swimming pool, the latest of everything and friendly and welcoming parents, especially their dad Rex. Surely the portrait of the perfect family? So it seems to the Kileys - just down the road, six kids and not enough money.

Played out in 1970s Melbourne and with its young narrators, this is a gripping and disquieting story of suburban life and a mesmerising examination of family dysfunction.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I was very impressed with the book and enjoyed it."

"The book instantly involves and holds the reader's interest."

"Beautifully written, the kind of novel where the reader is gathered up and transported to another world from the first few pages."

"The characters are all so well drawn and believable."

"Excellent characterisation and dialogue. A very good book indeed."

"Short and punchy. Hartnell is very good at hinting at things and not spelling them out."

Categories: Fiction, Community, Cross-over, Morals/Ethics, Psychology, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Golden State
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 288
It's not going to be happy-ever-after for Natalie Askendahl and her kin. A teacher and wife of an attorney, Natalie's suspicion that her beloved older brother Bobby is connected to a series of bombings on Californian college campuses, unleashes a torrent of guilt and blame on her previously politically influential family.

Riveting and provocative, this is the story of a family grappling with issues of loyalty and moral ambiguity and the challenges of trying to protect those that you love.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This book is well written with engaging characters. It has an unusual perspective. I did enjoy it."

"An interesting and well-written story with sinister undertones."

"I think everyone will enjoy this excellent book."

"Very suspenseful. I was riveted wondering what each character would do next."

"This book will engender vigorous discussion as people often have a very firm view on the use of the death penalty."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Family Saga, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Tragedy/disaster, America, 2018 Titles

Genre : Fiction
Year : 2008
Pages : 373
Miren Ansotegui might have the pick of Guernica's young men, but new arrival Miguel Navarro is the one who catches her eye, delighting their respective families even as they endure the hardships of the Spanish Civil War. But history is not on Guernica's side and when the Luftwaffe enter the fray on April 26th 1937, the unimaginable happens.

This vividly drawn story of the Basque people and the infamous tragedy they faced is an engrossing saga of love and family, woven through with real-life characters and events of the time.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"A compelling read. A lot always going on with many sub-plots and characters."

"Reading this book has made me want to be more informed on the subject."

"There are parts of this book that are beautiful love stories."

"A book with a strong family theme. It was perhaps a little saccharine at first."

"Picasso and his painting Guernica are an added interest."

"There are some very clever techniques used to add depth to the story of Guernica."

"A real history lesson of the Basque people and the Spanish Civil War."

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Tragedy/disaster, Spain, 2018 Titles

Gustav Sonata, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 240
Gustav and Anton, Anton and Gustav. Gustav is the only child of an embittered and distant mother, while Anton is the musically gifted son of doting Jewish parents. Their close friendship formed as young children in the late 1940s, lays down the foundations for the rest of their lives.

Set in Switzerland, this complex story of friendship and of deception and betrayal, examines the playing out of conscience and conformity in a country espousing neutrality.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Another great novel by this author. A complex story, yet concisely and simply written."

"Easy to read, the characters are well drawn."

"I really enjoyed this book and became quite emotionally attached to Gustav."

"The excellent characterisation enables the reader to develop empathy with each character."

"We receive an interesting insight into Switzerland's neutrality during the war."

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Grief/loss, Historical, Morals/Ethics, Psychology, Relationships, Switzerland, 2018 Titles, Jewish Culture

In Her Wake
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 364
The Pandora's box that is wrenched open with the sudden death of her parents, throws Bella Campbell's carefully ordered life into turmoil. Armed only with a name and address in Cornwall, Bella is about to embark on a journey of self-discovery like no other.

In this chilling, emotionally charged psychological thriller, her search for the truth will bring into focus the paradox of love and the fallibility of human nature.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Well written, engaging and engrossing. Great characters."

"Easy to read, a page-turner as you want to find out what has happened and why."

"Everyone can enjoy the book, but it could be challenging for those who have had issues with suicide or abuse."

"There are many themes in this very intense story."

"The characters are easy to follow and to understand."

"A real psychological thriller – I found it very emotional and sad."

Categories: Fiction, Medical/Health, Mystery, Relationships, Tragedy/disaster, England, 2018 Titles

In the Country
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 347
From the Middle East to the US and back to the Philippines, with mobility both reluctant and voluntary, the nine short stories in this collection criss-cross the globe in their chronicling of the Filipino diaspora and its genesis.

Students, teachers, wives, maids, chauffeurs and more, the men and women in these stories with their ever present yearning for a place to call home, are all tightly drawn and the depth of their experiences compassionately rendered.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This book captures the essence of short story writing: tightly scripted with great character snapshots plus some suspense with a final twist or sting in the tail."

"For short story fans, this book is a delight."

"Tales from a Filipino viewpoint are unusual for most New Zealanders."

"All tales seemed credible to me and none were superficial."

"Each short story has substance describing situations and giving full pictures of the central characters."

"The stories focus on the diverse experiences of Filipino expats who begin new lives around the globe."

Categories: Fiction, Short Stories, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Political, Philippines, 2018 Titles

Infinite Home
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 317
Edith's crumbling Brooklyn apartment building is home to an eclectic collection of tenants: Adeleine, Thomas, Paulie and Edward, each and every one struggling with the challenges of daily life. However, when Edith's son Owen comes sniffing around sporting brochures for homes for the elderly, and plans for the brownstone, this diverse group of New York residents unite to protect their ailing landlady.

Written with short chapters allowing the narrative to move easily between its memorable characters, this is a heart-warming story of home, community and connection.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"A very moving story. Beautifully written."

"I enjoyed the style, the warmth of the characters, the compassion we feel for each flawed person in the story."

"This is a stunning book, told with compassion and skill."

"I found it disjointed and felt the author tried too hard to make her characters interesting."

"I loved getting to know these marvellous characters; I will miss each of them."

"The book has a fabulous and evocative language."

"This is a "˜literary' book full of imagery and evocative language. It is deep and thoughtful while the surface action is understated. I loved it."

"It's very sad although the characters do forge positive relationships. I didn't find it an exceptional book."

Categories: Fiction, Community, Contemporary, Grief/loss, Relationships, America, 2018 Titles

Invention of Nature, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 473
If Alexander von Humboldt was alive today, he would be justified in saying, 'I told you so'. Among the many and varied accomplishments of this 19th century scientist was his prediction of human-induced climate change. An intrepid explorer and visionary scientist, he was an important mover and shaker of his time, an opinion-shaper and science communicator extraordinaire, ensuring his theory of the interconnectedness of nature continues to influence how we view the natural world today.

Ostensibly a biography, this impressively researched book weaves threads of travel, adventure, intellectual pursuits and a who's who of the other luminaries of von Humboldt's era, into a thrilling and dazzling whole, a worthy celebration of this scientific superstar.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Well written by a devotee, and well researched on an international basis."

"This is one of my top reds of the year, but it won't be for everyone."

"People with an interest in the natural world, the biological sciences and ecology would enjoy this book."

"This well-researched and thorough exploration of all aspects of his life, his ideas and his contribution to science and academia generally is an excellent read."

"I think this book would appeal to those interested in history and the history of science as well as the environmental history buffs and those to love to travel and explore."

"This book is quite strongly based in academia and as such won't be enjoyed by all. But for those interested in the subject, it's excellent."

Categories: Non fiction, Big Read, Biography, Adventure/Exploration, Environmental, Historical, Science & Technology, Travel, 2018 Titles

Migrant Journeys
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2015
Pages : 207
Subtitled 'New Zealand taxi drivers tell their stories', this book gives voice to fourteen migrants from ten different countries: what they left behind, what they have found in their new home, and of course, why they are behind the wheel of a taxi. Whatever the circumstance, refugee or migrant, and whatever the background, banker, accountant, or mechanic, each of these stories resonates with the striving for a better future.

Bringing together experiences both positive and negative, this story offers, from the perspective of its newest residents, a unique and fascinating view of New Zealand and New Zealanders, and a reminder of the part we can all play in making these journeys the success they deserve to be.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This book gives you a personal account of what it is like to leave family and culture behind and the difficulties in starting again in a different society."

"Very good introduction – it gives the reader the information needed to put the taxi drivers' stories into a context."

"A well-presented book with photos that help personalise each story."

"It is a fascinating look at New Zealand from a migrant's viewpoint."

"This would be a really great book for a discussion group as it raises so many different issues."

"One is filled with admiration for the resilience of people and their will to survive and prosper."

"Although each driver's story is very different and person, there are several disturbing recurrent themes."

"We receive a unique insight into settling into New Zealand, how and why they got into the taxi business and how they see New Zealand and New Zealanders."

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Journalistic reporting/media, Morals/Ethics, Political, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 388
After more than half a century at her London address, artist and illustrator Edwina Spinner, is selling up. As she accompanies the real estate agent from room to room, there are a lifetime of memories to reflect on: her first husband Ollie, their twins Charlie and Rowena; her second husband Dickie and his son Lucas.

Spanning from the 1960s to the present day, this bittersweet story with its multiple time frames and perspectives, offers a fresh take on a blended family complete with its secrets and betrayals, its triumphs and tragedies. An easy but intriguing and thought-provoking read.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"An enjoyable read with lots of thought-provoking themes."

"It's a riveting read. The author is a consummate storyteller who treats her characters with compassion and understanding."

"Hard to put down. You want to know what happens next."

"It has a gentle pace and is easy to read."

"The story takes several unexpected turns – not predictable at all."

Categories: Fiction, Family Saga, Grief/loss, Relationships, England, 2018 Titles

Music for Wartime
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 228
War, music and reality TV, art and artists, secrets and romance. It's all here in this collection of 17 short stories. Alternating between the present day and World War II, each story stands alone, but draws you into the next, linked by their search for beauty in a chaotic world.

Conventional then experimental, fictional then autobiographical, these are stories with emotional depth, delivered with satisfying economy.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"These stories are very well written with fascinating themes and a wide variety of characters."

"I loved this book. Each story had its own cadence, style and structural integrity."

"I liked the variety in her stories; some are surreal, some realistic and some traditional."

"Those readers with an artistic bent should enjoy the descriptions of the art and music worlds."

Categories: Fiction, Short Stories, Arts, The, Faction, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

My Life on the Road
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 276
The foundations for Gloria Steinem's adult life, spent on the move, were laid in her itinerant childhood. Growing up to become one of the key figures of American feminism, her dedication to the movement for equality for many decades, had her crisscrossing the USA and further afield, connecting with communities and campaigns, conversing, empowering, walking the talk and bringing about change.

Both the engaging memoir of a writer, journalist, activist and inspiring leader, and a primer of late 20th century American political history, this is an intelligent and thoughtful reflection, delivered with humour and humility.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Everything about this book is great – a must-read for all."

"Well written, intelligent, thoughtful and insightful – a gentle read but it requires consideration and reflection – it's not a skip over lightly book."

"The book would best suit groups prepared to have a considered discussion."

"I think it would appeal more to older feminists – prior knowledge would add to the pleasure."

"Steinem comes across as warm, wise, compassionate and deeply thoughtful."

"Some may consider Steinem as "˜too feminist' – but the focus is on her life as an organiser and a lobbyist."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Community, Feminism, Human Rights, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

My Name is Lucy Barton
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 192
Sequestered in a New York hospital bed, Lucy Barton's protracted stay is relieved by the unexpected arrival of her estranged mother. The five days she spends at the bedside encourage Lucy to reflect on her impoverished childhood in rural Illinois, and her adult life as a wife and mother and aspiring writer.

Understated and poignant, this contemplative story, narrated by Lucy, examines the legacy of childhood and its impact on adult life as well as simply and tenderly revealing the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"A quiet, contemplative book about how childhood can form a person."

"A lot is not said, only indicated, but the book loses nothing through this."

"A beautifully written book."

"A quote I will always remember from this book '... how we find ways to feel superior to another person or another group of people. It happens everywhere ... whatever we call it'."

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It will be of most interest to those interested in family relationships and the impact of isolation and poverty on behaviour."

Categories: Fiction, Community, Relationships, Short read, Social commentary/perspectives, America, 2018 Titles

Nest, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 400
The trust fund that Leonard Plumb establishes to provide a modest nest-egg for his New York based adult children looms large in their future plans, especially since good management and a buoyant stock market have rendered it a substantial sum. That is, until the oldest son Leo blots his copy book and is rescued by his mother's unilateral raid of the nest. The fallout for the remaining siblings is ... character building.

The question of whether Melody, Bea and Jack can move beyond their thwarted expectations is skilfully explored in this colourful and perceptive story of family dysfunction and ambition.

Both thought-provoking and easy to read.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Easy and enjoyable reading which has stories within the story."

"A very readable story with a wide cast of colourful characters and intersecting sub-plots."

"Very readable – on several levels. I was drawn into the story."

"On the surface it appears to be a shallow and flaky plot, but the reader has to look deeper."

"I would like to participate in a discussion night with my group on this book."

"This book could equally have been titled 'Great Expectations' for the characters' single minded focus on the trust fund."

Categories: Fiction, Contemporary, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Noise of Time, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 184
How does one survive as an artist under a dictatorship? Centred on three defining moments in Dimitri Shostakovich's life, this fictionalised biography of the Russian composer considers the nature of art and creativity under Soviet rule.

Based around real events, it is an intimate and thoughtful novel closely observing the chilling effect of repression on one man's art and conscience.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Beautifully written, this book chillingly details the difficulties and terror involved in loving in Russia under Stalin."

"I found this book hard to get into, too slow at first, but ultimately absolutely compelling. A superb piece of writing."

"This book is slow in pace, thoughtful rather than action-packed with little dialogue and no plot. It demands perseverance but richly rewards the reader."

"Julian Barnes writes wonderfully and this book is no exception. It's well-researched and full of great one-liners."

"Although this is called a novel, it reads more as a fictional biography."

"This is a compelling book forcing the reader to confront a range of ideas about the power of the State."

"The writing is elegiac and the prose limpid."

Categories: Fiction, Arts, The, Faction, Philosophy, Political, Short read, Russia, 2018 Titles

Now Is The Time
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 356
The Peasant's Revolt of 1381 bears all the hallmarks of contemporary headlines: taxes, property rights, violence and the abuse of power. Renegade priest John Ball and a former soldier Walter Tyler lead thousands of ordinary men and women to march on London where they are initially placated by the boy-king Richard II.

This eerily plausible and sometimes shocking account of the most popular uprising in England, is impressively detailed and brings to life a much neglected episode of history.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The author has taken the known facts of the rebellion and embellished them into a novel, so it has the fascination of reality."

"Powerfully and very well written."

"A vivid account of a little known episode in English history."

"The book includes graphic descriptions of the harsh and brutal conditions of the poor and the execution of John Ball."

"A lively and at times breathless account of a stirring moment in history and it is a salutary reminder of royal abuse of power."

"A good sold read with plenty of room for discussion."

Categories: Fiction, Faction, Human Rights, Political, Social commentary/perspectives, England, 2018 Titles

Other Side of the World, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 283
Charlotte and Henry are set to discover if the grass really is greener on the other side of the world. Moving 'down under' to Perth will offer respite from the miserable English weather and a fresh start for a marriage beginning to be weighed down by young children and reluctant domesticity. But can relocation ever be the panacea it seems?

Moving between 1960s England, Australia and India (Henry's country of birth) this haunting story unflinchingly explores issues of marriage, motherhood and identity as well as the universal need to belong ... somewhere.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I thought the writing was beautiful."

"I think it will generate lots of discussion and many will relate to the themes in a persona level."

"The writing is very detailed and beautifully descriptive – very evocative of both time and place."

"Most people could enjoy this book but the themes affecting parenting and man/woman relationships would not be suitable or interesting for children."

"I found it quite a sad story, although the writing is very good."

Categories: Fiction, Arts, The, Feminism, Relationships, England, Australia, 2018 Titles

Out Of The Shadows - The Life of Millicent Baxter
Genre : Non Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2015
Pages : 211
Millicent Macmillan Brown was so taken with Archie Baxter's stand as a conscientious objector, that she sought him out, and the rest - as they say - is history. Although having a renowned husband was to be followed by an even more famous son (the celebrated poet James K. Baxter), Millicent's life was also conspicuous by her own achievements. A formidable and determined woman, she became a leading figure in the peace movement in New Zealand.

This extensively researched and unpretentious biography is not just the story of Millicent Baxter and the eminent Macmillan Brown and Baxter families, but a fascinating overview of New Zealand social history.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"An excellent history of the Baxter and McMillan-Brown families."

"The background to pacifism in NZ and abroad is particularly interesting."

"A bit stodgy and academic in places, but it gives an incredible overview of New Zealand's social history."

"Impressively researched."

"The book is liberally sprinkled with interesting photographs which complement the text and add interest."

"This is a must-read for any student of New Zealand's social history."

"Incredible overview of NZ history, from parihaki to tertiary education for women, to James K Baxter and his wife Jacquie."

"I gleaned so much information about NZ history. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy history or would like to know more about James K Baxter's life or about the peace movement history in NZ."

Categories: Non Fiction - New Zealand, Biography, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Human Rights, Maori, Morals/Ethics, Political, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Outsider, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 367
Pilot, adventurer, journalist and spy, author Frederick Forsyth's real-life experiences are the stuff of fiction. Becoming a RAF pilot at 19 was just the beginning, and his subsequent adventures in some of the major events of the mid-20th century have guaranteed a cache of enthralling, action-packed incidents available to fuel the plots of his bestselling thrillers.

Written with self-deprecating humour, this is an entertaining memoir from a master storyteller, presented in a series of vignettes that make for compulsive reading.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Extremely well-written and readable - and very revealing."

"The book is superb - a great book for men's groups. What a life!"

"Well written. Fascinating stories."

"I thought it was stunning. Extremely well written."

"Extremely well written and compulsive reading."

"A great mixture of fun, ambition, adventure and tragedy - the story of Biafra is a stand-out."

"I enjoyed the first half more than the second. The first half flowed more."

"It's hard to believe it's not fiction. A typical sentence: 'I had been away for three weeks, experienced one mid-air near-disaster, one civil war and two uprisings'."

"Booknotes will be required to help with discussion otherwise it will merely be 'amazing guy, great writer, incredible life'."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, War theme, Adventure/Exploration, Historical, Journalistic reporting/media, 2018 Titles

Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 492
Selecting representative events and circumstances for an entity that covers more than a third of the planet is no mean feat, but author Simon Winchester manages it with aplomb. From the superpower rivalry between the US and China, and the transition of surfing from Hawaii to California, to Australia's asylum seeker policy and the rise of the Sony empire in Japan, this award-wining writer and researcher dips his toes into the post-war Pacific and its people, through ten stand-alone topics.

Geopolitics and history, culture, climate, geology and more, it's all here in this extensively researched and easy-to-read ode to the Pacific Ocean.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"So beautifully written. Easy to read and well researched."

"A joy to read in detail of some key events in "˜our sea' over the past 60 years."

"Although many of the subjects are very complex, the writing style is very readable and never dry."

"Some readers might find the expansive style to be a bit over-written. I personally didn't mind."

"This book covers so much, each chapter a stand-alone essay about a different facet of the Pacific."

"I was so involved and entertained with this easy yet painlessly informative read."

"The author has given us a change to understand this huge toy we use and play with, the Pacific."

"It is a large book so those with limited time will struggle."

"The only negative could be the size as some readers might struggle to finish it in a month – pity because it's an important book."

Categories: Non fiction, Big Read, Contemporary, Environmental, Travel, South Pacific, 2018 Titles

Party Line, The
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2015
Pages : 249
Gypsy Day 1972 heralds the arrival of sharemilker and widower Ian Baxter and his precocious 13-year-old daughter, to a farm on the Hauraki Plains. Gabrielle immediately strikes up a friendship with local Nickie Ward, and the girls in their innocence and outrage end up at odds with their community which seems determined to turn a blind eye to the trauma unfolding in its midst.

This vivid, compelling portrait of New Zealand rural life is also a coming-of-age story recalling the morals and values of our not-so-distant past.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The farming community and the period in time is brilliantly captured in well-written prose which I found fascinating."

"Every character leaps to life and every individual is deftly drawn."

"A great read, I really enjoyed it."

"For a quick read, this book contains much to set the reader thinking."

"For anyone in the older age bracket (60+), this book will evoke memories of the past."

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Grief/loss, Morals/Ethics, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 526
The dinner would be on the table when he walked in the door; his wife, immaculately presented would be waiting cheerfully, ready to act on his every whim … or so we are told. Drawing on interviews, archives and newspapers, social historian Virginia Nicholson reveals otherwise, as she pulls back the covers on the life of women in 1950s Britain.

Allowing individual women to tell their stories - from a beauty queen, a miner's wife, and a Teddy girl to educated (but isolated) suburban housewives, and two famous Margarets (one a princess, the other a prospective politician), this is an engaging nostalgic commentary on how life used to be and invites reflection on how far (or not) we have come since washing machines and the pill arrived on our doorsteps.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The book presented a vivid picture of different women's lives in the 1950s."

"A nostalgic and informative book on how far women have come in just one generation. "

"Well researched and informative."

"It is very well written and presented – quite a page turner despite being non-fiction."

"I think this book would appeal most to women over 50 who enjoy nonfiction books."

"I learnt a great deal about things that had an impact on my early life as I was born in the late 40s. This book explained many of the influences on my mother's life."

"Suited more for older women I think. Young women in those days now appear so ignorant and so restricted."

"I wondered if it could have been shorter, but hard to leave anything out. Each story gives a different picture."

Categories: Non fiction, Feminism, Gender Issues, Historical, Human Rights, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Pretty Baby
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 378
Heidi Wood's well-meaning intervention, offering refuge to teenager Willow and her baby Ruby from the streets of Chicago, invites the observation that 'no good turn goes unpunished'. As the arrangement shifts from temporary to permanent, the events that unfold will have a profound effect on everyone in the household, including Heidi's husband and daughter.

With its multiple narrators, underlying misfortunes and unexpected twists and turns, this tautly plotted psychological thriller is both riveting and moving.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"It is certainly a good 'yarn' and quite gripping."

"A tightly plotted story which gripped me until the end."

"The story is cleverly constructed and keeps the reader in suspense until the end."

"There are various interwoven stories and they all merge seamlessly."

"The reader is kept guessing right to the end about the truth that is Willow's story."

"I found it very moving – even though I found myself not really liking any of the main characters, I was fascinated by their stories."

"The main characters are well depicted and t is easy to feel sympathy for them. There are also some interesting and well-drawn secondary characters."

Categories: Fiction, Grief/loss, Psychology, Relationships, Suspense/Thriller, America, 2018 Titles, Small font

Prison Book Club, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 279
Becoming involved in the Book Clubs for Inmates programme run in some Ontario prisons was an eye-opener for journalist Ann Walmsley. The victim of a violent assault, she was initially reluctant to be involved, but just like inmates taking part, she too was to benefit from the experience. Author Somerset Maugham observed that 'to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life', and as became apparent through the shared experience of reading and discussing books, these prisoners had misery aplenty.

Complete with a comprehensive book list, this is a fascinating story of prison life, the transformative power of reading and the potential of book clubs to be vehicles for change.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"I loved reading the thoughts on the various books, some of which I'd read."

"Eye-opening look into the world of prisons."

"What stays with me is the fact that some prisoners are well-educated and insightful."

"I found it an amazing and touching story. It held my interest throughout."

"That some prisoners can express such insight into life and yet still make poor choices! Very human."

"A bonus of reading this book is I now have a list of 16 books discussed which I want to read."

"It was really interesting to read what the inmates thought of the books and the judgements they made. They were surprisingly insightful and caring."

"The way people conducted themselves to 'remain safe' in prison was eye-opening and disturbing."

"It is reassuring to know that there are good people trying to help many who have had little 'goodness' in their lives."

Categories: Non fiction, Community, Contemporary, Inspirational, Social commentary/perspectives, Canada, 2018 Titles

Quiet Spectacular, The
Genre : Fiction: New Zealand
Year : 2016
Pages : 304
Anyone who is writing a book with the title 'The Dangerous Book for Menopausal Women', is worth a second look - and school librarian Loretta most certainly is. Primed for change, she is drawn to a hut in a wetlands, as are Chance, a teenager in a combative relationship with her overbearing mother, and Riva, who, following a dramatic and intentional change in her life, is restoring the wetlands. Each is seeking a way to move forward with their lives, and achieve their 'quiet spectaculars'.

With its beautiful descriptions of the natural world and finely drawn empathetic characters, this contemporary New Zealand story celebrates the power of friendship and the satisfaction of dealing with life's challenges.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Wonderful and detailed botanical illustrations enhance the enjoyment of this book."

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could identify with the women."

"It is the strength of the women which gives energy to the story."

"Very strong main characters and the minor characters are also finely drawn and believable."

"The writing is beautiful and captures the place as well as the emotions in this corner of the South Island."

"I think women would enjoy this book more than men."

Categories: Fiction - New Zealand, Community, Contemporary, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Rat Island
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 279
Islands + birds = paradise, but paradise + rats = DISASTER. With islands home to more than half the world's endangered species, the arrival of introduced predators has had a catastrophic effect on fauna, especially birds. With particular focus on two bird species that evolved in mammal-free environments, New Zealand's kakapo and the auklets from the Aleutian Islands, this book considers the different conservation measures employed to protect these fragile island ecosystems.

Informative and lively, this is a story fraught with ethical complexities, of conservation crusades and radical pest eradication, and the people and animals on both sides of the equation.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This book could be NZ non-fiction as a large part of it is about kakapo and pest eradications schemes developed in NZ."

"This was very easy to read. It's written in a very expressive style."

"It was interesting to read of NZ's pivotal role in the conservation tactic of eradication."

"I found the style of writing a little over-the-top for non-fiction."

"A book about the eradication of pests will of course be a little gruesome."

"I found it thought-provoking and informative and it was interesting to read about NZ from a US author."

"This is a subject of interest to men and women, conservationists or not."

"This is a subject I know and I'd love the rest of NZ to do the same."

"The conservation successes and failures and the passion involved make this a good read."

Categories: Non fiction, Adventure/Exploration, Contemporary, Environmental, Morals/Ethics, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Red Notice
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 479
International financier Bill Browder is one of Vladimir Putin's least favourite people. What on earth did he do to earn such disapproval? It wasn't so much his reaction to his highly successful investment in post-Soviet Russia being derailed by government chicanery, but rather Browder turning into a relentless human rights campaigner, exposing corruption at the highest level. Going on to lobby US lawmakers to avenge the imprisonment, torture and death of his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, didn't help either ...

Fast-paced and direct, this real-life thriller of high stakes and vast fortunes is also an intriguing memoir of a high flier bent on bringing about justice.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This book is easily read for non-fiction. Once started, I read it in a couple of days. I agree with the cover quote of Lee Child's that it 'reads like a classic thriller'."

"I found this book intriguing and engaging in many ways."

"The author writers personally so the book engages both from an insight into some very interesting subject areas, as well as being both personable and emotionally engaging."

"A gripping read right until the end."

"It is engagingly written but it does get a little bogged down in places. Well worth reading though."

"Worth reading for an insight into some important recent history. It really got me thinking."

"Well-written and fast paced."

"Anyone interested in current affairs, politics, financial dealings, Russia, and or/ human rights would find plenty to think about with this book."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Contemporary, Human Rights, Morals/Ethics, Political, Social commentary/perspectives, Russia, 2018 Titles

Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2011
Pages : 498
Homo sapiens. Why not homo neanderthalensis or homo erectus? What set us apart from the handful of human species present around 100,000 years ago? How is it that we are still here, and they are not? This 'brief history of humankind' explores the forces that have shaped human societies through cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions.

Entertaining as well as spectacularly informative, this wide-ranging examination of our species from a professor of world history is a pleasure to read, even as one contemplates a possible cyborg future.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"It raises so many issues to think about. There are dozens of topics which are put in a timeline from 13.5 billion years ago until the present day."

"Everything is explained so clearly it is a very easy book to read in spite of its weighty subject matter."

"Dr Harai has a very dry wit. I laughed out loud at his very amusing observations."

"This isn't a book to read in one go – each part is full of examples and explanations."

"Extremely well written, researched and presented in layperson's terms."

"Lovely to read of the history of humankind in such a manner."

"In spite of the academic content, the book is not in the least dry or textbook-style."

"I think the only negative is that it's a "˜big read', but the book should appeal to all thinking people."

"Religion is put forward as a myth, one necessary to move sapiens from tribes of hunter-gatherers, to co-operative societies."

Categories: Non fiction, Big Read, Contemporary, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Historical, Science & Technology, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 313
It is crunch time for the Jewell family. Emma and Ben have a battle ahead of them persuading their local authority that their profoundly autistic 10 year-old-son Jonah, would benefit from being in a special residential facility. Their strategic decision to separate in the best interests of Jonah's case has unexpected consequences. Ben and Jonah move in with Ben's father Georg, and there's suddenly more to resolve than just the dilemma of Noah's future.

A thought-provoking darkly comic story of a family in crisis, who need to be everything but shtum, written by an author informed by personal experience.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Compelling from the start. The story draws you in."

"Well written, moving and entirely believable."

"The humour makes the difficult topics so much easier to read."

"The author's son is profoundly autistic which adds greatly to the authenticity of the book."

"A gripping account of the experience of living with a severely autistic child."

"A two-day compulsive read."

"I expected to be reading a book solely about autism, but I was really reading about addiction, specially alcoholism and how poor communication tears families apart."

Categories: Fiction, Medical/Health, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, England, 2018 Titles

Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2012
Pages : 378
Young Bonadventure Arrow has been bestowed a most unusual gift: his hearing is otherworldly, allowing him to hear such things as flowers growing, hearts beating and even the feelings of spirits, including those of his father, shot to death before Bonadventure was born. But there is more to this gift than mere listening; working in conjunction with Creole housekeeper Trinidad Prefontaire, Bonadventure is able to provide solace to those who are close to him and avert further tragedy in a family brimming with secrets.

This is a truly original story of 1950s New Orleans, absolutely enchanting and uplifting, woven with magic realism, the transcendence of love and the power of healing.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others."

"It's well written and very descriptive."

"I did not think I was going to enjoy this book as I'm not into voodoo and hoodoo but much to my delight I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn't put it down."

"The prose is beautiful and flows freely."

"Set aside your need for realism and evidence and just believe – the book is quite magical. It's inspiring and uplifting as well as being beautifully written."

"A big plus is that you know it has to end well, because all the bad stuff happens at the beginning!"

"A truly magical story that will leave you forever touched."

"A thoroughly original story."

Categories: Fiction, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Grief/loss, Relationships, Uplifting, 2018 Titles

So You've Been Publicly Shamed
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 306
In this era of social media, it seems that pillories and stocks are still with us, albeit in a different form. No longer are rotten vegetables lobbed in the direction of those who are judged as having erred. Instead a barrage of destructive and threatening online comment impacts on the victim's reputation, employment and privacy. Focusing on four such cases, the author, himself a victim of online abuse, examines the issue of mob justice and disproportionate judgements in an attempt to understand this online phenomenon.

An engaging read on a serious issue that has implications for the way we use the internet.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This is a good example of modern journalism; it shows that honest, well-researched writing can still entertain and inform."

"The individual stories are well chosen for their variety. They are also scary – they show how easily social media can overwhelm a person."

"Written with a light touch and an engaging style."

"The author has clearly cherry-picked the most overblown examples to maximise impact, but it's still a very interesting topic to discuss."

"The morality or otherwise of internet shaming is a subject that I am sure most groups would enjoy debating."

"This is a serious book about a very current subject."

"A good lesson learnt. Don't respond to tweets in anger!"

"I found this book to be an absolute eye-opener. It's stayed with me."

Categories: Non fiction, Contemporary, Human Rights, Journalistic reporting/media, Morals/Ethics, Psychology, Science & Technology, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Trouble With Goats And Sheep, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 453
All is not as it seems on The Avenue. John Creasey's new wife Margaret has gone AWOL and neighbourhood sleuths 10-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to go looking for her. Their door-to-door search is a reminder to this close-knit community that Margaret has been the recipient of many a confidence, and that her disappearance may expose these secrets.

This engaging and perceptive story is a nostalgic immersion in 1970s English suburbia, simply narrated by the delightful Grace and Tilly and their adult neighbours, and a reminder of the personal and societal cost of secrecy.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"It is well-written with an original turn of phrase. Quite evocative and moving."

"The writing and characterisation are superb. I loved every word of this book."

"It is part 'who dunnit' and part 'coming of age' but an original and often funny account of suburban life - not one I'd like to live in!"

"I loved it! I lived in the UK in the 1970s and found it very nostalgic."

"A wonderful portrayal of life in an English town in 1976."

"A warm and intimate narrative on the importance of belonging."

"A page-turner I found impossible to put down. I didn't want it to end. It was like having a chat with an old childhood friend."

"Grace and Tilly are a delight. They're funny, clever and naïve all at the same time."

"It wasn't' fast-paced, nor action-packed, yet it managed to keep me completely hooked."

Categories: Fiction, Community, Mystery, Relationships, Social commentary/perspectives, Young narrator, England, 2018 Titles

Under the Visible Life
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 348
Although from completely different backgrounds, gifted musicians and friends Katherine Goodnow and Mahsa Weaver have much in common: both come from mixed-race parentage, both have lives constrained by cultural expectations, and both find solace and escape through music. Just like the improvisational jazz that brings them together, they are used to making the most of what is at hand, and relishing the moment.

Moving between Karachi, Montreal and New York, and spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s, this is a compelling and poignant story vibrating with the transformative power of music, love and friendship and ultimately the need to fight for one's dreams.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Outstanding book that will be well loved by women of any age."

"The book has dual narratives which works well."

"Well-written and haunting. The characters stay with you long after you finish the book."

"The novel pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading and turning the pages."

"Nicely paced, well-written and totally absorbing."

"Loved the jazz aspect in the book. I'm a fan of jazz music so it really spoke to me personally."

"I enjoyed the two narratives."

Categories: Fiction, Arts, The, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Gender Issues, Relationships, Canada, America, 2018 Titles

Universe In Your Hand, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 420
Buckle up, you are about to embark on some mind-boggling journeys into our universe. From the surface of the moon and the interior of a proton, to riding on a light beam or finding yourself in the heart of a black hole, this layman's guide to the mysteries of the universe from your astrophysicist travel guide, explains the complex ideas of physics and cosmology using stories rather than equations.

With its simple, direct language and vivid imagery, all you need to bring with you to appreciate the "˜journey through space, time and beyond' is a lively imagination. Sit back and enjoy the trip!

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"The author is a gifted storyteller who, with a good sense of humour, takes the reader through space, time and beyond."

"A difficult topic tacked with imagination and flair."

"Clear explanation of wide-ranging observations in lay person's terms."

"Having given himself an heroic task, the author largely succeeds."

"This is not a book for all – the author has made it as reader-friendly as possible but it's still a book about the current understanding of 21st century physics."

Categories: Non fiction, Big Read, Contemporary, Environmental, Science & Technology, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

Unravelling, The
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 382
It seems such an unlikely story: an ordinary British civilian advising the leadership of the US military in Iraq. Not at all what humanitarian worker Emma Sky was expecting when she travelled to Iraq in 2003 for a three-month stint helping out with post-war reconstruction. More than a decade later she had chocked up experience governing a province and then acting as a political advisor to American generals.

Tempered with self-effacing humour, this memoir from a woman with impressive credentials and a unique perspective, provides a detailed and balanced account of the American war in Iraq, and the men and women on all sides, who did their best for the country.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"A fascinating insider's account of post-war Iraq by a British woman."

"Her critical narrative has a great sense of Iraqi historical context and shows her affection for the Iraqi people."

"A really well written book with touches of humour to lighten what could have been a sad account of a failed project."

"An incredible, even unlikely story, easy to read, often exciting and tense with touches of humour."

"It gives insight into the working of the US military from a British woman's perspective."

"The author's story clearly illustrates the complexity of Iraqi politics."

"A book for the more academically inclined."

"The book was challenging to read but well worth the effort."

"All the acronyms describing the different military groups was confusing – but there is a list at the back to refer to."

"The book is lengthy at 363 pages."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Political, Social commentary/perspectives, 2018 Titles

When Breath Becomes Air
Genre : Non Fiction
Year : 2016
Pages : 228
US neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was forced to face his mortality earlier than most when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at 36. This inspiring memoir shares his life: his passion for literature and writing and his later switch to the gruelling demands of medicine, and what to do with a terminal diagnosis when there are so many things you still want to achieve.

Powerful, profoundly moving, and insightful as doctor becomes patient, this life-affirming triptych of literature, medicine and family is poignantly completed with an epilogue from his wife Lucy.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"This is a courageous, tender and affirming book."

"It does not drip emotion, nor ask why me, but rather the reader rolls along with Paul's decision to complete what he most wanted to achieve in life."

"A book that helps you to focus on what is important in life and what you should let go."

"A book that will have wide interest and appeal for a range of readers. Overall an excellent read."

"The doctor who became a patient is an interesting element to this book."

"So beautifully written – a medical doctor with a PhD in literature."

Categories: Non fiction, Biography, Grief/loss, Inspirational, Learning, Medical/Health, Morals/Ethics, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Science & Technology, Social commentary/perspectives, Uplifting, America, 2018 Titles

May 2017
Moor's Account, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 430
The 1527 Spanish expedition to colonise Florida decimated its original contingent of 300 souls to a mere four, one of whom was a Moroccan slave. Here Estebanico tells the story of his life interwoven with his account of their attempted conquest; of the starvation and drownings, of disease and altercations with indigenous tribes, of challenge after challenge as they struggle from the Gulf Coast to Mexico.

Based on historical events, this is a riveting and unforgettable chronicle of survival and discovery in the New World, narrated by a man usually consigned to a footnote in history.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Riveting and very believable."

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book as the writing style was well-paced and the story unforgettable."

"It's a fascinating account of survival in a strange new land."

"This book is made more interesting by being based on historical events. It's interesting to have an alternative history than the usual white male's version."

"Fascinating, informative and based on a true story."

"The writer has captured how I imagine life would have been in the 16th Century with new territories being explored and exploited."

"Very good book with some insights into slavery and colonialism."

"The book contains violence including torture and rape. Not graphically described but circumstances are disturbing."

"A little on the long side, but content for discussion is great and different from anything else I've read in the BDS."

"I was disappointed that some 21st century ideas about race were simply transported back in time 600 years. Unlikely."

Categories: Fiction, Adventure/Exploration, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Faction, Historical, Human Rights, Morals/Ethics, Mexico, 2018 Titles

Secret Chord, The
Genre : Fiction
Year : 2015
Pages : 385
From shepherd to soldier to king, David of the bible's Old Testament was also a poet and harpist, as well as an adulterer and despot. Narrated by the prophet Natan, this powerful re-imagining of biblical history and David's part in it, vividly transports the reader into the Israel of 3000 years ago.

Capturing the essence of this morally conflicted and flawed hero, it is a dramatic story of action and discord, bound up in faith and religion.

Comments from BDS Reviewers:

"Brooks is a practising Jew which adds a degree of integrity, and after some research I found she has gone with the 'knowns' about her subject, with some fleshing out of character and events."

"The writing is assured, literate and intelligent."

"It is an excellent example of historical fiction whereby a society 3000 years ago is vividly described, with its colours, smells, ethics and ethos."

"It is quite an easy read which slows the talent of the author."

"Like many charismatic figures in history, David is a living paradox, capable of being a very good and a very bad man."

"The unflattering tale of the rape of Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah is painted baldly and most of David's other sexual relationships shows a dominating man who used women freely."

"This book could lead to some interesting yet heated discussions on religion."

Categories: Fiction, War theme, Culture/Ethnic/Racial, Faction, Historical, Literature oriented, Religion, Israel, 2018 Titles

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