Monday, January 07, 2013

Rambling holiday thoughts about books read

Holidays reading so far includes four unputdownable novels:

OSAMA by Chris Ryan - Coronet ($34.99) - the non-stop action story opens with the assassination of Osama bin laden. Set in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UK this is contemporary thriller fiction at its best. 
Despatches from the secret world behind the headlines. Former SAS legend Chris Ryan brings you his seventeenth novel, filled with his trademark action, thrills and inside knowledge. Perfect holiday reading

ALL MY ENEMIES - Barry Maitland - Allen & Unwin - Maitland is probably Australia's leading crime fiction writer; he is in my book anyway. 
Here is a biographical note about him from the publisher's website:

Barry Maitland was born in Scotland and brought up in London. After studying architecture at Cambridge, he practised and taught in the UK before moving to Australia where he was Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle. He has since retired from the university to pursue his writing. Maitland's first mystery The Marx Sisters was a nominee for the John Creasey award for Best First Novel and The Malcontenta won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction.

Barry Maitland is the author of the acclaimed Brock and Kolla series of crime mystery novels set in London, where Barry grew up after his family moved there from Paisley in Scotland where he was born. He studied architecture at Cambridge University, and went on to work as an architect in the UK, then took a PhD in urban design at the University of Sheffield, where he also taught and wrote a number of books on architecture and urban design. In 1984 he moved to Australia to head the architecture school at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, and held that position until 2000.

HUMAN REMAINS - Elizabeth Haynes - Text (pub. Feb 2013) - $29.99

Human Remains, the latest novel (third-all stand-alone) from crime-writing sensation Elizabeth Haynes, is a powerful and chilling thriller that preys on our darkest fears, showing how vulnerable we are when we live alone, and how easily ordinary lives can fall apart when no one is watching. I am not allowed to say anything more about this as it is not published until next month but I reckon this writer is a cross between horror writer Stephen King and crime fiction writer Peter James. Watch out for it, not to be read at night if you are alone.

THE FIELDS - Kevin Maher - Little,Brown (pub.March 2013)-$36.99

Not really meant to say anything about this one either as publication is not until 1 March in NZ and Australia. I can say that the story is unforgettable and that it is set in Dublin and London in the 1980's and tells the evocative story of Jim Finnegan's interrupted adolescence. And I will also say that I cannot recall the previous first novel I read that has had so much advance hype. 
And some info about the author: Kevin Maher was born and brought up in Dublin, moving to London in 1994 to begin a career in journalism. He wrote for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out and was film editor of the Face until 2002, before joining The Times where for the last eight years he has been a feature writer, critic and columnist. 


And then to some non-fiction.
Kiwis are passionate and knowledgeable about their weather, its quirks, nuances and powerful seasonal variations. So here we have 200 wonderful, sometimes dramatic, pictures taken by New Zealanders who work in, respect and earn their livelihoods from the weather they experience. 
The pictures in this book have featured on TVNZ's One News, in the weather segment of the daily evening news bulletin .
Published by Tucker Media

A memoir of the craft - Hodder

Enjoyed talking to Noelle on Summer Noelle on Radio New Zealand National about this one on 2 January as part of her Stephen King Book Club series. 
The book is part fascinating memoir, part writing master class and I warmly recommend it to all budding writers as well as those already published. King is is incredibly generous with is advice. It is detailed, frank and helpful. There are sections on grammar, locale, texture, dialogue, characterisation, plots (or not), the length of a book, how much to write each day, where to write and a host more.

THE HOBBIT - J.R.R.Tolkien - Harper Collins

Finished my reread of this delightful book and have to say I enjoyed it as much on this occasion as I did on the last time, many moons ago!
One of the great works of 20th century English literature.

Fourth Estate

This man is of course one of the great contemporary food writers and I am an enormous fan Originally published in paperback a decade ago it is one of my favourites and I finally gave in and bought a second copy so that there would always be a copy both at home and at the bach.
Some gems:

"When I say butter, I mean unsalted; when I say salt, I mean Maldon sea salt; and, when I say sugar, I mean the golden unrefined stuff from Mauritius. Pepper is ground from a mill as I need it and not, absolutely not, bought ready-ground. Oh, and when I refer to a grill pan, I mean one of those heavy ridged, cast-iron grill pans that sits on the hob".

"If there is anything better to eat than a plate of hot, salty chips with an ice-cold beer, I have never found it".

"Running out of garlic would be as unthinkable as running out of salt, pepper or olive oil....."

Don't you just love him?

During most of the year I have around 2500-3000 unique visitors a day but naturally enough this declines during the holiday season. These holidays I have averaged about half the usual number of visitors which has seen the lowest number being 1035 (Christmas Day) and the highest being 1658 (last Friday). Unsurprisingly the greatest source of loss has been NZ and Australia where so have been or still are on annual leave. The number of Northern hemisphere visitors, around 50% of the total, remained much the same as normal.
Things will start to resume a more normal patter today as many return to work.

And at some point over the hols I received my 2.5 millionth visitor ! Quite a milestone, I'm chuffed.

Back to books !

DON'T SWEAT THE AUBERGINE - Nicholas Clee - Transworld - NZ$28

What works in the kitchen and why: the cookbook that tells you what others leave out. 
On average, people cook no more than two dishes from each cookbook they buy. Why? Because most of the other recipes seem just too daunting.
At last, here is the book that answers the questions you always want to ask and solves those frustrating kitchen conundrums -- why do some writers tell you to wash and soak rice before cooking while others never mention it? Why won't mince 'brown' the way they tell you? Will an aubergine really taste better if you sweat it with salt first? 

The authoritative verdict on these and other cookery technique is here. Written in Clee's easy, wry style and packed with his own selection of jargon-busting recipes that will deliciously broaden your range of standbys. Fully revised and updated (originally pub.2005) with brand-new recipes throughout.

Best Cookbook for 2012 - and looking forward to this year

Enjoyed talking to Wallace Chapman on Radio Live on his Sunday morning show yesterday. We talked about the rude health of cookbook publishing, the huge numbers published each year,the biggest selling non-fiction genre by a mile, the generally very high quality of their production and design, the fact that NZ books were up there with the best, and in the end I named Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries Vol.2 (Harper Collins $60) as my favourite cookbook of 2012. I made the point that Slater is a food writer rather than a chef and that his books are far more than just recipe books. They are books to be read and enjoyed like a good novel. I like this book so much that last week I went in to the Village Bookshop at Matakana and bought a second copy so that we could have one in the city and one here at the bach!

Then I looked forward to 2013 and in particular to a new title coming from NZ's leading food writer, Lauraine Jacobs, in March. "Everlasting Feast - a treasury of recipes and culinary adventures" looks to be a real cracker, a food memoir as well as a cookbook. Publishers Random House have given me a sneak look at the proof pages and I am most impressed. Jacobs shares 100 recipes, 50 of them accompanied by beautiful full colour pics by Elizabeth Clarkson, which she says are her favourite recipes since she wrote Confident Cook in 2006. There is a wide range of stuff including chapters on chicken, duck, and venison, and each story she tells is relevant to the recipes which seem pretty straightforward, not too clever or difficult, (even for me!),and all the ingredients can be purchased at any good supermarket.

We then switched to fiction and I named Ian Rankin's "Standing in Another Man's Grave" as my fiction title of 2012  Rankin toured NZ in November last promoting the book and it is a testimony to his popularity that he drew full houses everywhere he appeared.
The great thing for me about this latest title is that it marks the return of the cantankerous, stubborn, anarchic DI John Rebus, Rankin having earlier "retired" him in Exit Music in 2007.
Rankin is one of the great contemporary crime fiction writers , he has half a dozen honorary degrees from British universities, has won every crime fiction award in the Uk, and he has an OBE for his services to literature.

Then to 2013 and I suggested one to watch for is The Fields by Kevin Maher which is coming in March and is featured earlier in this post.

And the funniest holiday read ? No competition here, it has to be FIFTY SHEDS OF GREY, made me laugh from beginning to end, mind it is only a half hour read. Fun little hardback, a total send-up from Boxtree the publishers who also published The Vacant Casualty !!

Colin Grey's life was happy and simple until the day everything changed – the day his wife read THAT book. Suddenly, he was thrust head-first into a dark, illicit world of pleasure and pain.
This is the story of one man's struggle against a tide of tempestuous, erotic desire and of the greatest love of all: the love between a man and his shed

About the author:Colin Trevor Grey is a passionate gardener and amateur shed owner.


Vanda Symon said...

2.5 millionth! Fantastic. You should be mightily chuffed. said...

Hear, hear to what Vanda says. Congratulations Graham, and such a lot of passion and hard work.

Mark Hubbard said...

Missed this one Graham. Well done on the milestone, as a fellow blogger I understand the significance of such a high figure.

Nigel Slater is another of the chefs really growing on me. Loving his TV show. Slow, grounded, yet laconic, and his house garden set-up is perfection.