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.

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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Inspiration top of ill teacher's list

03:00pm 02 Aug 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

BOOK REVIEW: The Priority List
By David Menasche (Allen & Unwin, RRP $35)

The word "inspirational" is often bandied about when it comes to biographies of the famous and wealthy, but this story of a teacher who simply wanted to carry on doing what he loved best is one of the few times "inspirational" is the appropriate description.

David Menasche was a high school English teacher in Miami who managed to form a bond with many of his pupils that lasted beyond their school years.

The story behind the title of this book comes from a method the author used to give relevance to the works of Shakespeare for his pupils: when they were having trouble relating to Othello., he came up with a list of words that applies to us all (honour, love, wealth, power, career, respect) and had his pupils rank them according to the importance they might have had for Othello.

The list grew over the years to include other ideas and because part of his standard teaching plan. Not only did the list allow them to more readily connect with the characters in the books they were reading, but it also made the teens consider their own priorities.

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Simple steps to Indian cooking

05:00am 30 Jul 2014

NADINE HANCOCK

Little India at Home
By Little India (Penguin NZ, RRP $40)

I had no idea that Little India was first opened in Dunedin 22 years ago. Now the chain has outlets throughout the country and has become a favourite among lovers of Indian cuisine, from Invercargill to Auckland.

Based on the scrummy dishes fans will be familiar with, this soft-cover book not only gives you recipes based on Little India family traditions but is complemented with gorgeous photography by Sean Shadbolt and the history of Little India itself. There are also a few pages dedicated to those essential ingredients.

It attempts to break down the misconception that Indian food is difficult to prepare and that authentic cooking equipment is required. Recipes are presented with simple steps to make it easy for even novices.

As a lover of the Onion Bhajis and Paneer Aloo Tikki, I attempted these first. I was surprised at how simple they were to make. They were absolutely delicious! The mains were also incredible. I made the Rogan Josh and the Chicken Biryani. It is true, the recipes give you a taste that you cannot get out of a jar from the supermarket.

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Slow burner that soon heats up

05:00am 22 Jul 2014

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN

It's been decidedly cold and dreary, making it the perfect weather to curl up with a good book. And is there anything more likely to warm the cockles of your heart on a chilly winter evening than a good murder mystery? I think not.

The Murder Bag
By Tony Parsons (Century, RRP $30)

The first of a planned trilogy featuring Detective Max Wolfe, this book has rocketed Tony Parsons into my top 5 list of favourite thriller authors.

That's quite an achievement, considering I've avoided reading any of his earlier books because I thought he came across as a bit of a sanctimonious git in his columns and opinion pieces in the British press.

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Animal stories essentially funny

05:00am 21 Jul 2014

MARK HOTTON

Father-of-two Mark Hotton casts his eye over three books for children.

This Old Ram
Written and illustrated by Errol McLeary (Bateman RRP $20)

A truly Kiwi take on the traditional nursery rhyme This Old Man. The old ram has some fun on the farm tormenting the sheepdog, chasing sheep, chewing on cabbage trees, playing in the cowshed and scaring pukeko. Great illustrations with plenty of Kiwiana-related detail.

Dashing Dog
By Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Donovan Bixley (HarperCollins RRP $30)

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