Top 20 for the week ending 23rd March 2024

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Lola in the Mirror

Trent Dalton


Bighearted, gritty, magical and moving, Lola in the Mirror is the irresistible new novel from international bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies, Trent Dalton.

'Mirror, mirror, on the grass, what's my future? What's my past?' A girl and her mother have been on the run for sixteen years, from police and the monster they left in their kitchen with a knife in his throat. They've found themselves a home inside a van with four flat tyres parked in a scrapyard by the edge of the Brisbane River. The girl has no name because names are dangerous when you're on the run. But the girl has a dream. A vision of a life as an artist of international acclaim. A life outside the grip of the Brisbane underworld drug queen 'Lady' Flora Box. A life of love with the boy who's waiting for her on the bridge that stretches across a flooding, deadly river. A life beyond the bullet that has her name on it. And now that the storm clouds are rising, there's only one person who can help make her dreams come true. That person is Lola and she carries all the answers. But to find Lola, the girl with no name must first do one of the hardest things we can ever do. She must look in the mirror. From international bestselling author Trent Dalton, Lola in the Mirror is a big, moving, blackly funny, violent, heartbreaking and beautiful novel of love, fate, life and death and all the things we see when we look in the mirror: all our past, all our present, and all our possible futures.

The Call

Gavin Strawhan
Allen & Unwin


After surviving a brutal attack, Auckland cop DS Honey Chalmers has returned to her hometown to care for her mother. The remote coastal settlement of Waitut? holds complicated memories for Honey, not least the tragic suicide of her younger sister, Scarlett.

Honey is hardest on herself. She let herself get too close to a gang informant. She got sloppy. The Reapers are a 501 gang of Aussie imports, ruthless and organised, and she's pretty sure the informant, mother-of-three Kloe Kovich, paid the price. But when a couple of gang enforcers turn up in Waitut?, Honey realises they are hoping she will lead them to Kloe. But if Kloe is still alive, can Honey save her this time around?

When Honey catches up with her oldest friend, Marshall, her feelings are complicated. As teenagers they were inseparable, but Marshall was the last person to see Scarlett alive, and there are rumours they were sleeping together, that he broke her heart. Honey fears Marshall is not who she wants him to be. Eventually she learns the awful truth about the events that led her sister to take her own life.

When Kloe arrives in town, Honey and Marshall must work together to try and keep the hapless Kloe out of the hands of those who want her - and Honey - silenced.

Gripping and suspenseful, with a killer ending, The Call propels the reader into the world of a terrifying new kind of gang - and introduces a major new talent in crime writing.
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Bird Child and Other Stories

Patricia Grace
Penguin Random House NZ


Mythology and contemporary Māori life are woven together seamlessly in this spectacular collection by Aotearoa’s foremost short story writer. The titular story ‘Bird Child’ plunges you deep into Te Kore, an ancient time before time. In another, the formidable goddess Mahuika, Keeper of Fire, becomes a doting mother and friend. Later, Grace’s own childhood vividly shapes the world of the young character Mereana; and a widower’s hilariously human struggle to parent his seven daughters is told with trademark wit and crackling dialogue.
Moving artfully across decades, landscapes, time and space, with tenderness and charm, Bird Child and Other Stories shows an author as adept and stimulating as ever.
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Prophet Song

Paul Lynch


A fearless portrait of a society on the brink as a mother faces a terrible choice, from an internationally award-winning author

On a dark, wet evening in Dublin, scientist and mother-of-four Eilish Stack answers her front door to find the GNSB on her step. Two officers from Ireland’s newly formed secret police are here to interrogate her husband, a trade unionist.

Ireland is falling apart. The country is in the grip of a government turning towards tyranny and when her husband disappears, Eilish finds herself caught within the nightmare logic of a society that is quickly unravelling.

How far will she go to save her family? And what – or who – is she willing to leave behind?

Exhilarating, terrifying and propulsive, Prophet Song is a work of breathtaking originality, offering a devastating vision of a country at war and a deeply human portrait of a mother’s fight to hold her family together.
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The Women

Kristin Hannah
Pan Macmillan


From the worldwide bestselling author of The Four Winds, The Nightingale and Firefly Lane (a Number One series on Netflix), The Women is a story of devastating loss and epic love. It is both an intimate portrait of a woman coming of age in a dangerous time and a story of a nation divided by war.

It would be the journey of a lifetime . . .

Women can be heroes, too’. When twenty-year-old nursing student, Frances “Frankie” McGrath, hears these unexpected words, it is a revelation. Raised on California’s idyllic Coronado Island and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing, being a good girl. But in 1965 the world is changing, and she suddenly imagines a different path for her life. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she impulsively joins the Army Nurses Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the young men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is overwhelmed by the chaos and destruction of war, as well as the unexpected trauma of coming home to a changed America. Frankie will also discover the true value of female friendship and the heartbreak that love can cause.

The Women is the story of one woman who goes to war, but it shines a light on the story of all women who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Women whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has been all too often forgotten. A novel of searing insight and lyrical beauty, The Women is a profoundly emotional, richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose extraordinary idealism and courage under fire define an era.
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The Covenant of Water

Abraham Verghese
Atlantic Books


Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water follows a family in southern India that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning - and in Kerala, water is everywhere.

At the turn of the century a twelve-year-old girl, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time. From this poignant beginning, the young girl and future matriarch - known as Big Ammachi - will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life, full of the joys and trials of love and the struggles of hardship.

A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. Imbued with humour, deep emotion and the essence of life, it is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.

Living by the Moon

Wiremu Tawhai


Living by the Moon sets out and discusses the maramataka or lunar month and the way the days and nights were understood according to Te Whānau-ā-Apanui tribal knowledge. Te Whānau-ā-Apanui ancestors were dependent on the environment, and this led them to closely study the changes and cycles in nature so they could ensure their survival in their tribal area

The Bee Sting

Pual Murray
Penguin Random House


From the author of Skippy Dies comes a dazzlingly intricate and poignant tragicomedy about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good man at the end of the world The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie's car business is going under, but instead of doing anything about it, he's out in the woods preparing for the actual end of the world. Meanwhile his wife Imelda is selling off her jewellery on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attentions of fast-talking local wrongun Big Mike. Their teenage daughter Cass, usually top of her class, seems determined to drink her way through the whole thing. And twelve year old PJ is spending more and more time on video game forums, where he's met a friendly boy named Ethan who never turns his camera on and wants PJ to run away from home. Digging down through layers of family history, the roots of this crisis stretch deep into the past. Meanwhile in the present, the fault lines keep spreading, ghosts slipping in through the cracks, and every step brings the Barneses closer to a fatal precipice. When the moment of reckoning finally arrives, all four of them must decide how far they're willing to go to save the family, and whether - if the story's already been written - there's still time to give it a happy ending...
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Birnam Wood (Paperback)

Eleanor Catton
Te Herenga Waka University Press


Birnam Wood is on the move ... A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass in the South Island of New Zealand, cutting off the town of Thorndike, leaving a sizable farm abandoned. This land offers an opportunity to Birnam Wood, a guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. But they hadn’t figured on the enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine, who also has an interest in the place.

Bob Crowder: A New Zealand Organics Pioneer

Matt Morris
Otago University Press


Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer, by leading garden historian Matt Morris, tells the story of Bob Crowder's life and his role in the birth of the organics movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. Growing up in wartime Britain, the peaceful pursuit of gardening was young Bob's refuge. He later became an innovative horticulturalist and early champion of regenerative agriculture. After emigrating to New Zealand in the early 1960s, Crowder established the country's only university-based organics research unit at Lincoln, where he experimented with new techniques and plant varieties and inspired generations of students.
A controversial figure within orthodox agricultural science, Crowder's impatience with bureaucracy and criticism of industrial growing methods brought him into conflict with the mainstream. From the late 1970s on, he became an outspoken advocate of organics, helping to build a sector now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
To those who knew him, Crowder was a larger-than-life character, pragmatic and visionary, but his homosexuality also made him an outsider in many ways, and he wrestled with the impact of homophobia throughout his career.
Scrupulously researched, drawing on extensive interviews with Crowder, and accompanied by full-colour illustrations, Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer captures a complex man whose legacy goes beyond his achievements in horticulture.
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The Unsettled: Small Stories of Colonisation

Richard Shaw
Massey University Press


What it means to own your past After Richard Shaw published his acclaimed memoir The Forgotten Coast in 2021, he made contact with Pakeha with long settler histories who were coming to grips with the truth of their respective families' 'pioneer stories'. They were questioning the foundation of aggressive acts of colonisation and land confiscation on which those stories had been constructed.The Unsettled weaves those stories with Shaw's own and features New Zealanders who are trying to figure out how to live well with their own pasts, their presents and their possible futures. They may be unsettled, but they are doing something about it.It is an indispensable companion for the journey towards understanding the complex and difficult history of the New Zealand Wars and their ongoing aftermath.
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BBQ Economics

Liam Dann
Penguin Random House


From interest rates to the price of cheese and everything in between, this is an essential guide to the New Zealand economy, how it works and why it matters.Should I fix or float? Is everyone moving to Australia? What's with the price of cheese? Who controls the OCR? What do self-made billionaires know that you and I don't? Veteran financial journalist Liam Dann has fielded as many money-related questions as he has enjoyed beers around the BBQ - and often at the same time.In this book, he sets out to answer them all, sharing decades of insight, stories and quotes from prominent politicians, financial experts, and business moguls in a super-informative, entertaining introduction to money, how it works, what we should do with it, and why it matters.
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The Space Between

Lauren Keenan
Penguin Books NZ


How do you choose between two sides, when you don't belong on either? Frances is an unmarried Londoner newly landed in colonial Aotearoa at the dawn of the First Taranaki War. Once well-regarded, her family's impressive fall from grace sees them seeking their fortune in a raw, new country and struggling to learn the strange etiquette of settler life. When Frances comes face-to-face with Henry White, the man who mysteriously broke her heart a decade earlier, he's standing outside Thorpe's General Store with a sack of flour in his arms. Flabbergasted, she is determined to find out why he ended their relationship. Henry is married now, to the proud and hardy Mataria. Humiliated by her staunch sister Atarangi because of her controversial marriage and their painful past, Mataria lives at the edges of her papakainga.
With conflict swelling between her iwi and English settlers, Mataria fears for the lives of her husband and their young twins. When fighting breaks out, Frances and Mataria find their lives intersecting in surprising, and catastrophic, ways. Each woman must confront her past as she struggles to survive the present, both questioning whether they'll ever belong, or if they're doomed to exist in the uncomfortable space between.
This transformative and gripping debut novel by Lauren Keenan (Te Ātiawa ki Taranaki) is a story of the power of hope when everything else feels beyond your control, the unbreakable bonds of whenua and family, and the discovery of love in the least likely of places.
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The Scarlet Shedder (Dog Man 12)

Dav Pilkey


P.U.! Dog Man got sprayed by a skunk!
After being dunked in tomato juice, the stink is gone but the scarlet red colour remains. Now exiled, this spunky superhero must struggle to save the citizens who shunned him!
Will the ends justify the means for Petey, who's reluctantly pulled back into a life of crime in order to help Dog Man? And who will step forward when an all-new, never-before-seen villain unleashes an army of A.I. robots?
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Take Me to Your Leader

Leonie Agnew


Eleven-year-old Lucas has got a new worry to add to his long, long list - his rural school is on the Ministry of Education's list for closure. What's his mum going to do if he and his sister have to start travelling to a school an hour or two away? She can't drive them; she certainly can't afford boarding school fees and already works long hours in a poultry processing plant to keep the family going. If the school closure goes through, they might have to move to the city. And there's no way Lucas will ever leave his dad's grave behind. He and his friends come up with a mad idea to revive their town and save their school - they stage an alien encounter. Before they know it, tourists are flocking in to check out the crop circles and it looks like the plan might working. But there's also the vehicle with tinted windows that seems to be following them around - why would it be interested in a group of country schoolkids? Before Lucas knows it, he's lost control of his plot, and a chain of unpredictable (and often hilarious) events that follow are quickly turning to chaos!
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Tom Lake

Ann Patchett


In the spring of 2020, Lara's three daughters return to the family's orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.
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Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus


Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one- Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.


Asako Yuzuki


The cult Japanese bestseller about a female gourmet cook and serial killer and the journalist intent on cracking her case, inspired by a true story.
There are two things that I can simply not tolerate: feminists and margarine
Gourmet cook Manako Kajii sits in Tokyo Detention Centre convicted of the serial murders of lonely businessmen, who she is said to have seduced with her delicious home cooking. The case has captured the nation’s imagination but Kajii refuses to speak with the press, entertaining no visitors.
That is, until journalist Rika Machida writes a letter asking for her recipe for beef stew and Kajii can’t resist writing back.
Rika, the only woman in her news office, works late each night, rarely cooking more than ramen. As the visits unfold between her and the steely Kajii, they are closer to a masterclass in food than journalistic research. Rika hopes this gastronomic exchange will help her soften Kajii but it seems that she might be the one changing.
With each meal she eats, something is awakening in her body, might she and Kaji have more in common than she once thought?
Inspired by the real case of the convicted con woman and serial killer, "The Konkatsu Killer", Asako Yuzuki’s Butter is a vivid, unsettling exploration of misogyny, obsession, romance and the transgressive pleasures of food in Japan.
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Fungi of Aotearoa

Liv Sisson
Penguin Books


The complete introduction to finding, identifying and using mushrooms and other fungi in New Zealand Enter and explore the fascinating world of fungi.

In this practical and up-to-date guide, forager and fungus enthusiast Liv Sisson shares her top tips and takes the reader on a journey to discover the unique and diverse fungi Aotearoa has to offer.


Catherine Chidgey
Te Herenga Waka University Press


Like every other girl in her class, twelve-year-old Justine is drawn to her glamorous, charismatic new teacher, and longs to be her pet. However, when a thief begins to target the school, Justine’s sense that something isn't quite right grows ever stronger. With each twist of the plot, this gripping story of deception and the corrosive power of guilt takes a yet darker turn. Young as she is, Justine must decide where her loyalties lie. Set in New Zealand in 1984 and 2014, and probing themes of racism and misogyny, Pet is an elegant and chilling psychological thriller by the bestselling author of The Wish Child, Remote Sympathy and The Axeman’s Carnival.