Sizzling summer reads

There is no better time to catch up on your reading.

There is no better time to catch up on your reading.

School's out, work's closed for the festive season, and summer is well and truly here. These holidays, whether you're off to the bach, the beach or the rellies' pad, or simply holing up at home, a good book's a must for whiling away all that downtime. Literary fiction, light fiction, crime novels and autobiographies: here's our list of sizzling summer reads.

Brain food

Maggie Rainey-Smith's Daughters of Messene (Makaro, $35) is a powerful tale of migration, friendship, ancestry and war. Part-contemporary, part-historical fiction, it's the story of daughter Artemis' journey from New Zealand to Greece to return her mother's ashes. There she uncovers mater's secret past connected to the country's Civil War.

Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Bianca Zander's The Predictions (Little Brown, $30) is a richly-landscaped novel set in the 1970s, about a hedonistic Coromandel commune. Teenage Poppy befriends Lukas and the alluring psychic Shakti, a camaraderie which sees her through escape to Auckland and, later, London where Poppy becomes a disciple of the permissive 1980s music scene. 

Victorian Premier's Literary Award winner, Fever of Animals (Scribe, $37) by Miles Allinson, is a fresh, innovative tale about a writer called Miles, his love for an ex-girlfriend and his journey to Romania in search of little-known surrealist painter Bafdescu. Conundrums abound as the ambiguity of the author-like protagonist and his heartbreak intersects with the surrealist's obscurity and unsolved disappearance.  

The Party Line (Vintage, $38) by Sue Orr takes place during the closing months of summer in the seeming-idyll of 1970s rural New Zealand. When twelve-year-old farmer's daughter, Nickie befriends glamorous, grieving newcomer Gabrielle, their friendship leads them to flout the loyalties, mores and hypocritical façade connecting the close-knit community in which they live.  

Peter Garrett
Sahlan Hayes

Peter Garrett

Light relief

Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice (MacMillan, $35) will resonate with all historical novel fans. It's about infamous 18th century composer Vivaldi, his musical prodigy, Adriana, and the strict social and familial protocols which shape their unconventional relationship. Talent and passion will only get Adriana so far, for her womanhood presents the greatest constraint upon her creative freedom.   

Road-trip heaven beckons for Becky Brandon, heroine of Sophie Kinsella's new novel, Shopaholic to the Rescue (Bantam, $37). Las Vegas is her final destination. There's much to sort out along the way, including locating her lost father and sorting out bestie Suze's love life. Ambitious solutions abound, as does long-term enemy Alicia's determination to scupper Becky's dreams.   

Catherine Robertson

Catherine Robertson

Music, motherhood and a map full of mysteries underpin Catherine Robertson's life-affirming novel, The Hiding Place (Black Swan, $37). Here bad accidents and good fortunes befall grieving April Turner when, out of the blue, she inherits a deserted English country mansion. Eclectic friendships follow as well as stories born of memory about the house's past. All offer April the chance to exorcise her demons. 

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The thirteenth book by Lisa Jewell is sure to delight. The Girls (Century, $37) is the story of a young mother, Grace, who moves with her daughters into a London enclave connected by a garden. It's about the past which has driven Grace to find sanctuary there, her new neighbours who prize domesticity above all else, and the friendships Grace's daughters forge with the locals.  

Cracking crime

Ben Sanders
Supplied

Ben Sanders

Michael Connelly proves he's at the top of the crime-writing game with his latest must-read, The Crossing (Michael Connelly, $37). Dismissed LAPD Detective Harry Bosch is back. This time he teams up with outlandish half-brother Mickey Haller and former investigative partner Lucia Soto to break a seemingly cut-and-dry homicide. In doing so, Bosch's scruples, like his once high-flying career, are torn to shreds.

Twenty-something Ben Sanders' latest blockbuster, American Blood (Allen & Unwin, $33) proves his talent far exceeds his tender years. Ex-NYDP officer Marshall Grade might be in witness protection but that won't stop him trying to solve the disappearance of a New Mexican man. Throw in contract killer Dallas Man and the drugs mafia, and you've got an explosive tale of guilt and redemption.

Edgar Award shortlister, Trust No One (Upstart, $35) by Paul Cleave sees fictional crime-writer Jerry Grey confront early-onset Alzheimer's, which results in his decades of writing page-turning, bestselling murder books returning to haunt him. Were his novels products of a fertile, if gruesome imagination or something darker, more factual? Cleave cleverly teases out the truths behind psychology, psychosis and symptom.   

Jen Shieff's The Gentleman's Club (Mary Egan, $30) is a gritty psychological thriller set in straight-laced 1950s New Zealand. Written in the same vein as Sarah Waters' books, this novel stars brothel madam-cum-amateur detective Rita Saunders, who suspects unsettling crimes are unfolding in a seedy Auckland orphan home. This is an action-packed New Zealand read.  

Life stories

Marian Keyes has never been one to shy away from speaking her mind. In her memoir Making It Up As I Go Along (Michael Joseph, $37), she humorously guides us through life's delicate and dramatic challenges. From how to break up with your hairdresser to tackling fake tan addiction, Keyes dishes out her unique brand of wit-infused wisdom. 

Midnight Oil front man, former Australian Environment Minister and eco-militant Peter Garrett has penned a deeply thought-provoking autobiography, Big Blue Sky (Allen & Unwin, $50) which is part life-story and part conservation manifesto. He charts the highs and lows of rock stardom, passionate activism, politics and family life. Garrett's well-known for being heartfelt and defiant, watchwords which equally apply to this awesome autobiography.

In legendary singer and artist Patti Smith's characteristically unorthodox way, her memoir M Train (Bloomsbury, $37) maps her outlandish, unforgettable life through a series of dreams, experiences, perceptive asides, memorable concert performances, life-changing liaisons, graves of the famous and Polaroid pictures. Above all, her vibrant prose reflects upon artistic creativity, downfall and resurrection. 

For something equally different but with a New Zealand focus, try Brian Turner's Boundaries (Godwit, $45). Subtitled People and Places of Central Otago, this book is a bricolage of people and places, poems and prose connected to the author's community and lush local landscape. Already a bestseller, Boundaries is a heartland story sure to delight.

 - Stuff

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