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Book Groups

Join one of our reading groups held at Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Oxford libraries. The group read and review a book, then meet to discuss fortnightly.

For more information about joining one of our book groups please contact us: 03 311 8901 

Reviews from our book group:


 Braving It - James Campbell

American writer and outdoorsman takes 15-year-old daughter to Alaskan hinterlands to experience the wilderness. Some great scenery descriptions but a lot of emotional "baggage" needed to be culled!  Now he can look forward to planning similar expeditions with his other two daughters.

Category: Adult non-fiction 



The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick

A delightful story that takes you on a journey with Arthur. Full of fun and written at a nice, slow pace. After a long time on his own finally Arthur wakes to a series of adventures where he finds happiness and love.

Category: Adult fiction


last-time-we-spoke The Last Time We Spoke - Fiona Sussman

A well-constructed book that shows within absolute brutality there can be hope. The Reids are about to enjoy their 27th wedding anniversary with their son Jack. A terrible home invasion sees only Carla Reid survive. She asks to meet with one of the teenagers who attacked her family. Her ability to seek to understand the reasons for young people to do such dreadful crimes shows the possibility of changes that can occur.

Category: Adult fiction (NZ)


vanishing-futurist The Vanishing Futurist - Charlotte Hobson

Gerty Freely is a young English woman who becomes a governess for the Kobelevs in Moscow. She becomes infatuated with their lodger, Nikita Slavkin. With the 1917 revolution, Gerty becomes stranded in Moscow and becomes involved with an experimental commune and Slavkin's futurist dreams. Gerty is looking back in old age to leave her story for her daughter. A clever novel which kept my interest to the end.

 Category: Adult fiction

memories-from-moscow Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea - N. A. Teffi

This book covers the terror and hardship of Teffi's flight to Turkey from Moscow as she goes into exile in 1918. While dealing with such a serious subject she managed to make me laugh out loud with her wit. Teffi was a famous Russian writer, playwright and humanist. She sees the small things of human life which allow the reader to not just see the history of the events but to be able to think, how would I be in this situation?

Category: Adult Non-fiction


blackwater Blackwater - James Henry

The first DI Nick Lowry thriller. As the writer of DI Frost prequels, this book does not disappoint either.  Good plot, well drawn, believable characters, set in a wintery Essex.  Enjoyed every word!

Category: Adult Fiction


going-batty Going Batty - John Agard

For primary-aged children, but enjoyed by this wrinkly reader!!  Mixed cultures, conservation of bats, family dynamics .... all make for a good story on many levels! A lively girl is dismayed at the arrival of a real bat into their family lounge. But her teacher steers her and her classmates towards an understanding of bats in Britain.

Category: Junior Fiction


wood-green Wood green - Sean Rabin

Michael has recently finished his PhD and is writing his first novel. The subject of his PhD, Lucien Clarke, a reclusive novelist, takes him on as his secretary.  He lives in a village, Wood Green, which is near Hobart. Michael enjoys his work and his rather strange life until he discovers the real reason why Lucien hired him.  The author writes with humour and understanding of the intricacies of life in a small village with a diverse range of inhabitants. The rather unexpected revelation in the final chapters gives the novel an interesting twist.

Category:  Adult fiction

wifes-tale The Wife's Tale - Christine Wells

This split timeline novel tells the story of two strong, likeable women. Liz, a property lawyer in modern day Australia, and Lady Nash, a strong woman from the 1780's. An interesting light read for a wet Sunday afternoon!

Category: Adult fiction

my-grandfather My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me - Jennifer Teege

An intriguing read. It is difficult to imagine how Jennifer felt to discover the truth of her grandfather. She also presents a fascinating dilemma in how to match the loving grandmother of her memory, to a woman who must have had a sense of the atrocities delivered by her husband. Jennifer visits the home of Amon Goeth, as well as the camps he ruled and terrorised, not so much as a way of trying to understand the man, but rather to find peace with who she is and where she comes from. An easy read, compelling in ideas; you can't help but empathise with this woman as she struggles with her identity and family.

Category: Adult non-fiction


difference The Difference - Justine Delaney Wilson

How a little girl with Down’s Syndrome helps redeem a household. The story is set in Ireland and is told from the perspective of Beth, the mother of Ismae who was born with Downs. The story begins with a flashback to Beth having an abortion at the age of 16, and then jumps to Beth as a middleaged married woman with a son living in the suburbs of Dublin.  At the time of her birth, Beth was disappointed, fearful and slow to fall in love with her daughter. This turns into guilt and shame and causes an increasing distance between her and her husband that will eventually lead to an affair. However, this child becomes the redemption of their relationship. The novel is well written, though the stories are not told in a linear fashion.There are flashbacks and snapshots of different perspectives of the same event that can be somewhat hard to follow. Additionally, there is a lot of vulgarities littered throughout the novel. Overall, the story was a personal snapshot of how the heart deals with life’s disappointments that are actually blessings.Category: Adult Fiction




Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge - Ovidia Yu

This entertaining and fast-paced read is third in the series of Aunty Lee detective stories, set in modern Singapore and featuring a great cast of characters drawn from all sections of that island’s multicultural society – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Filipino and British expatriate.  Elderly Aunty Rosie Lee loves people, enjoys caring for them through her home-cooked delicacies and through solving their knotty problems.  She has a network of old friends and associates through whom she quietly and inconspicuously gathers information, piecing things together until the final chapter includes a classic detective “reveal”, with all characters and suspects present.
The mystery is somewhat complicated, and I found I had to read carefully and concentrate to follow the plot. But there’s a good ending twist and it’s not too far-fetched to be believable.  Food is such a central part of Singaporean culture, and the descriptions of dishes and meals lovingly prepared are very evocative, especially if you have visited Singapore.  Having met Aunty Lee and her friends, I am now looking forward to reading more of their stories.
Category: Adult Fiction


white-collar-girlWhite Collar Girl - Renne Rosen

Set in the 1950s, this book is about a girl who has two ambitions: to become a news reporter, and to find out who murdered her brother. Although fictitious, it is based on events which have actually happened in the USA involving corruption and dishonesty in the political and justice systems. I enjoyed this book.

Category: Adult Fiction


terrifiedTerrified - Angela Hart

A story about foster parents, Angela and Johnathan. Vicky came to their home when she was thirteen. It was supposed to be a short placement. Gradually the story of her life up until then is revealed and you really wonder if she will ever get over the bad things that have happened to her.

Category: Adult Non-Fiction


life-in-medieval-city Life in a Medieval City - Frances Gies

This is a fascinating book providing a good description of life in Troyes (France) in the 12th century. It goes into details of manners, work, religion, health and more. I was surprised at how "modern" some things were and appalled by some of the conditions and customs. I enjoyed this book!

Category: Adult Non-Fiction


bears-journeyA Bear's Journey: the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand - Sally Louise Hill

The illustrations are beautiful! The story of Ted who goes on holiday with Mishca. She answers Ted's questions about everything he sees. A young child would enjoy looking at the pictures and talking about what he/she sees. Older children could read it themselves and enjoy it. A lovel road trip from Timaru to the Sounds.

Category: Children's Sophisticated Picture Book

walking-the-himalayas Walking the Himalayas - Levison Wood

This was a great read and has been made into a television series.  By travelling on foot and getting to know the local people, Levison is able to tell stories we would never hear otherwise.  Walking and climbing, he travels through five countries taking six months.

Category: Adult Non-fiction

autumn-in-catalonia Autumn in Catalonia - Jane McKenzie

A story set in Spain after the war, with flashbacks to Franco's time. The lives of these families with lies in the past, and political overtones, really made a good story. I really enjoyed this.

Category: Fiction


like-a-flower-in-bloom Like a Flower in Bloom - Siri Mitchell

Charlotte's father is a botanist. His wife used to help him but when she died Charlotte helped, actually doing most of the work as her father wasn't coping very well. An uncle and her father realised she was now 22 years old and needed to get married but she had no social life. Edward Trimble turns up from New Zealand to help her father, and Charlotte must learn the rules of what to wear and how to have conversations during social occasions in 1852.  Enjoyed!

Category: Fiction

big-book-of-senior-momentsThe Big Book of Senior Moments - Bennett E. Melville

An American humorous book printed on quality paper and a good sized print which is very suitable for the intended readership. Divided into nine chapters with many quotes attributed to notable people. Enjoyable to read and causes a lot of laughs at your age group jokes! Loved the front cover showing a famous American art work with the pitchfork being replaced with a feather duster!

Category: Adult non-fiction


freya Freya - Anthony Quinn

A novel set from V.E. Day in London, to the sixties. It is the story of a young woman who was a Wren during WW2 plotting war's strategic positions, and then about her desire to become a journalist. It tells of how she went to Oxford University and then her career and personal life in an arty group of people following modern trends. She is a victim of inequality in the world of journalism  Well written.

Category: Fiction

indian-harvest Indian Harvest: Classic and Contemporary Vegetarian - Vikas Khanna

A beautiful book with evocative, mouth-watering illustrations. The author has brought a lot of creativity into his recipes. I selected two dishes to try - unfortunately some of them call for ingredients not readily available in rural New Zealand (pomegranate molasses, fava beans, daikon radishes and bitter gourds!)  The recipes I tried worked out well and the author's descriptions are certainly inspiring!

Category: Adult non-fiction


another-side-of-bob Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks - Victor Maymudes

Victor Maymudes was an exceptionally close friend and confidant to Bob Dylan, though they became estranged in later life. This is not a biography of Dylan but does paint a fascinating picture of the social and music scenes in America during the 60s and 70s. Inevitably, there's a fair amount of name-dropping of the rich and famous, but also some revealing insights into Dylan's creative process and fairly extreme personality. Co-author Jacob, Victor's son, is also on a journey to discover more of his father, after his sudden death.

Category: Adult non-fiction

where-my-heart-used-to-beat Where My Heart Used to Beat - Sebastian Faulks

A modern setting of a psychiatrist revisiting his own past where memories are vague. The past reflects on the loss of his father in WW1 and of his own service in WW2. Interspersed in this time are his work and writings as a psychiatrist. The reader will wonder about their own hidden memories and are they as traumatic as they believe or have we down-played them? Read this book and analyze your own feelings. Compelling and full of suspense.

Category: Fiction


gorsky Gorsky - Vesna Goldsworthy

An interesting novel by a very literate author - in the first few pages I became irritated, she seemed to be showing off how clever she is! But once she begins her story, describing the cityscape (London, the Thames) one has to forgive her, she is brilliant, her prose sings, I could not stop reading. I'm not sure of the purpose of the story - hard to really like it - but it stays in my mind, I keep remembering it....Worth reading, yes!

Category: Fiction


back-in-the-day Back in the Day: Tales from Paradise Island - Mike Johnson

A book of short stories set on an island in New Zealand. The stories are set "back in the day" and are told with humour and are very entertaining. A book to keep at hand to read when having a coffee or small break.

Category: Fiction - short stories

uncovering-happiness Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Compassion - Elisha Goldstein

I chose this book because recently I came across the term "mindfulness" and didn't know what it meant. This book has defined the term and how it can help people with depression. It is easy to read with some case studies and self-help strategies. It is divided into 3 parts: reversing bad habits; changing the brain through mindfulness; and enjoying life with strategies for healthy habits. I have recommended this book to others to unlock happiness.

Category: Adult non-fiction


our-song Our Song - Dani Atkins

"With breath-taking plot twists, Dani explores themes of serendipity, friendship and love. She fully engages the reader in the dilemmas faced by her characters. What would you do if your husband was the love of somebody else's life? A love story that had a lot more to it. Very moving with big decision to make that will change everybody's lives. Really enjoyed this.

Category: Fiction



coincidence-of-coconut-cake The Coincidence of Coconut Cake - Amy E. Reichest

A charming, complicated love story about a girl opening her first restaurant filled with French baking. A quirky story about misunderstandings. The main character follows her dream of opening her own restaurant, until it is reviewed by a critic. A delicious recipe is found near the conclusion!

Category: Fiction



viral Viral - Helen Fitzgerald

Contemporary novel about the impact of social media on an entire family. The family: Father, mother (a court judge), daughter and adopted daughter, extended family and friends, are all affected. Disinhibition caused by alcohol and drugs is the catalyst for a very dangerous situation. Jealousy and malice between a natural and an adopted daughter ignite the situation. Quite explicit language but in context. A very modern plot with serious consequences.

Category: Fiction - Contemporary



Penance - Kate O'Riordan

A young sociopath exploits a bereaved family, drawing in the whole family and threatening the already fragile unit.  The gradual insights into the motivations of a disturbed young man lead the family to a very dramatic conclusion. A very original demise lies in wait for the young baddy.  Well written and very easy reading, weaves a tapestry of human weaknesses and consequences.

Category: Fiction - Thriller