Book Chooks

They're faster than a speeding bookmark, more powerful than the glue on the pricetag on the cover of your favourite book and able to leap tall paperbacks in a single bound ... and they read. A lot. Jillian Allison-Aitken and Nadine Hancock are the Book Chooks.

Tackling gender debate with lots of humour

03:00pm 15 Aug 2014

Are Men Obsolete: You Decide
Edited by Rudyard Griffiths (Ebury Press, RRP $20)

This little book takes on the gender debate with four talented feminist writers and critics taking a crack at the argument both for and against those hairy creatures we share our lives with: Men.

In centuries past, women have tended to end up getting a bit of a raw deal: We've put careers (and sometimes other hopes and dreams) on hold to raise families and support husbands, while said husbands have gone merrily on their way, with barely a care in the world and not a second thought for the little woman at home, wiping noses and bums as she scrubs his floors and cooks his dinner.

Self described "dissident feminist" and professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Camille Paglia, joins children's author, columnist, award-winning novelist and Bruce Springsteen fan Caitlin Moran against the argument, while Hanna Rosin (author, correspondent and columnist for everything from The Atlantic to the New York Times) and Pulitzer-prize winning Maureen Dowd argue that, yes, men really are so last century.

This lively debate kicks off with pre-debate interviews by the book's author, Rudyard Griffiths, and is followed by a post-debate commentary that wraps it all up nicely. The whole thing includes plenty of humour and while it won't answer any of those burning questions about where to from here, it will provide a spot of entertainment.

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From our reviewers: Non-fiction

03:00pm 13 Aug 2014

Without Warning
By Damien Thomlinson with Michael Cowley (Harper Collins, RRP $37)

Reviewed by Mark Hotton

It would take a special type of person to criticise this book. The front cover sums it up - a surfie-looking guy smiling into the camera, fit and tanned, standing on two prosthetic legs.

Damien Thomlinson was an Australian Special Forces soldier whose life changed irretrievably while on patrol in Afghanistan. One minute he's your typical Aussie lad fulfilling his dream and family legacy of being a soldier - the next missing two legs and has a shattered body.

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No surprises policy not so good in book

03:00pm 11 Aug 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

BOOK REVIEW: Before We Met
By Lucie Whitehouse (Bloomsbury, RRP $35)

With the short but not-so-sweet blurb on the back of this book telling us that Hannah Reilly had a perfectly happy life until the day her husband failed to come home, it comes as absolutely no surprise that her husband fails to come home in the very first chapter.

Unfortunately, that isn't the end of the "no surprises" elements of this book.

It actually starts out as an enticingly uncomfortable tale, as the reader is dragged along for the ride while Hannah waits - at first patiently then as time goes by rather more impatiently - for her hubby to return to London after a business trip to the United States. She drives to the airport to meet him but he never arrives and, given the back-cover blurb, I was expecting that to be the start of some sort of action-packed thriller, but the author manages to inject a wee twist, perfect hubby Mark eventually phoning Hannah to offer what at first appears to be a reasonable explanation for not being on the flight home.

But then cracks begin to appear in his story and Hannah is suspicious: she makes some calls, does a spot of amateur detective work and starts to wonder just how much she really knows about the man she married.

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Quirky debut mixes drama, mystery to good effect

03:00pm 08 Aug 2014

NADINE HANCOCK

BOOK REVIEW: Terms and Conditions
By Robert Glancy (Bloomsbury, RRP $30)

I'm not usually a fan of the books that insist on footnotes. I avoid them or make a slow decision about whether they are actually needed and what they could possibly add to the book. Why not just include those moments in the main text of the story?

However, for New Zealand author Robert Glancy I made an exception.

Terms and Conditions is a quirky debut novel about a man named Frank. Frank has been in a car accident resulting in memory loss and he is trying to piece together not only who he is but also what he believes his wife, family and co-workers are hiding from him.

Footnotes are practically on every page, giving the reader a true understanding of Frank's voice and complementing his personality and job as a contracts man specialising in the small print.

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Fairy-tale life that turned sad

03:00pm 04 Aug 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

BOOK REVIEW: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
By Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr (Atlantic Books, RRP $40)

It's human nature that we have a fascination with the lives of the rich and famous, but sometimes the lives of the incredibly wealthy are also incredibly sad.

Reclusive heiress Huguette Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104. On the surface, you could assume she had lived a fabulous life, having been born into wealth and privilege as the daughter of former United States senator and businessman William A Clark. Huguette had opportunities and experiences most of us can only dream about but her story is almost the opposite of a fairy tale, as she moved from having a loving and wealthy family at birth to becoming sad and alone in later years.

The title of the book is quite literal: one day back in 2009 journalist Bill Dedman noticed a grand old home for sale and after a little research, he learned it had been empty for nearly 60 years. It was one of several homes that all sat empty as a perfectly healthy Huguette took up residence in a hospital room.

The Clark family story spans three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment.

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