Friday, July 1, 2022

Brrr! Secrets, Tantalising True Tales & Romance… Here’s 5 Ways to Warm up Cold Winter Nights!

Hachette x Capsule

Now that winter is well and truly here, if you’re doing a bit of hibernating, we have THE perfect books for you to curl up with, no matter what your tastes are. Whether you’re looking for some charming (and wild) true tales from yesteryear (I’m talking ‘the unsinkable’ Molly Brown – yes, that’s a Titanic reference, Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli and more) – or you enjoy a juicy page-turner about the lives of women whose lives are not all that they seem on the surface, we have the picks for you!

For History Buffs Who Love a True Tale

The Barbizon
By Paulina Bren

It’s a gorgeous, glamourous little slice of history that until now I had absolutely no idea about, but now I’m obsessed with The Barbizon – dubbed “The New York hotel that set women free”.

This gem of a book delves into the history of the hotel, which was built in 1927 and was first intended as a home for the “Modern Woman’ seeking a career in the arts. It soon became the place to stay for ambitious, independent women, who were lured by the promise of fame and good fortune. Its rooms were graced by the likes of Grace Kelly herself (who was who was notorious for sneaking in men) Liza Minnelli, Joan Crawford, Sylvia Plath (who fictionalised her time there in The Bell Jar) Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith and so many more.

Look, sometimes I find historical non-fiction pieces a bit dry and boring and at first I wondered how the heck a book about a building would hold my attention for 328 pages, but I’ll tell you what, it delivers.  It’s beautifully written, bringing together stories of the A listers who stayed there (we’re talking Grace Kelly –as well as those brought to the Barbizon by Mademoiselle magazine as guest editors (who normally won their roles for the figures, as much as their talents), all the while weaving in the larger themes of race, feminism, sexuality, women in the workplace.

I loved this book – it’s a surprisingly rich and colourful, with so many incredible characters in it. There’s so much glamour – but also so much struggle, heartbreak and bitter disappointment.  I loved the light, hilarious stories of the many famous young men who would loiter about in the hopes he might make it past the first floor (a forbidden act, in the female-only housing). JD Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye, could apparently often be found in the ground floor coffee shop, pretending to be a Canadian hockey player, while others went to the effort of dressing up as a plumber or on-call gynaecologist to try to trick their way upstairs.

And I adored the stories about the “unsinkable” Molly Brown – who you’ll already know a bit about if you’ve ever seen Titanic. There’s a little story for everyone in this book.

If you love a bit of history and a bit of old-time glamour with a side of grit, I’m sure you’ll LOVE this book!

For Folks Who Love a Bit of a Gossip

Other Women
By Cathy Kelly

The first line on the back of this book 100% sold me – “Three women. Three secrets. Three tangled lives…” I mean, come on!

I of course immediately had to know their secrets, but within a few chapters I was so engrossed by each individual storyline, that I forgot what my mission was, and ended up being completely blindsided when the secrets were suddenly unveiled!

It’s exactly what you’d hope that Cathy Kelly would serve up. If you’ve somehow never come across her before, she’s a former Irish journalist who published her first novel in 1997 – Woman to Woman – which went straight to number one. She’s since written a staggering 20 novels, and sold millions upon millions of copies worldwide. You are safe in her hands!

This refreshing story really delves into the idea that we rarely know the full story of what happens in the lives of others – even those whom we are the closest to. Her three, well-drawn characters are Sid – a woman who wears her independence like an armour. When she strikes up a rare connection with unlucky-in-love Finn, she sets out to prove that men and women can be just friends. Then there’s Marin – the one who has the perfect home, attentive husband, two beloved children… and a secret addiction to designer clothes. She knows she has it all, so why can’t she stop comparing herself to other women.

Rounding out the trio, we have Bea, who believes we all have one great love story – and she’s already had hers. Now her life centres around her son and support group of fierce single mums.

I found all three characters so believeable, because they felt like women who I’ve known and met over the years – especially that woman who maimtains that veneer of having the perfect life, while you can’t help but wonder what really goes on behind closed doors.

It’s the perfect blend of funny, light and sweet – whilst also tackling some serious subjects head-on, with compassion and wisdom.

A lovely, heart-warming read, that your mum will love!

For Those Who Love a Good LOL

The Road Trip 
By Beth O’Leary

I absolutely ripped through this novel in about a four-hour period, which should tell you how fast and addictive it is to read. It focuses on two exes – Addie and Dylan – and tells both the story of how they first met and fell in love and then what happens two years after their terrible break-up when they’re on the way to a mutual friend’s wedding and five minutes into their separate road trips, Dylan rear-ends Addie’s car and the pair are forced to share a car for the next two days.

There are some sensational side characters also filling out the car: Addie’s firecracker of a sister, Debs, who’s away from her baby for the first time and eager to find a fling on the road; Marcus, Dylan’s best friend who played a huge role in breaking up him and Addie (but is now trying to be a reformed a–hole) and Rodney, the seemingly harmless and hilarious office mate who’s along for the ride. Oh, plus the car they’re sharing? It’s a Mini, of course and it’s an absolute clown car packed full of both humans and an additional tonne of emotional baggage.

The two days of driving are punctuated – naturally – by a series of disasters, including missing people, an added stalker, shared hotel rooms, an increasingly hysterical bride and an all Taylor Swift road-trip playlist (my dream!).

This book will appeal to anyone who is a fan of Marian Keyes or Catherine Elliott books – good plot, laugh-out-loud lines and strong side characters. 

For Anyone Who Loves a Good ‘Will-They, Won’t-They’ Romance

Back to You
By Tammy Robinson

The cover of this book reminded me of a Nicolas Sparks novel (in the best way possible) and it more than delivered – and what’s even better? It’s written by a Kiwi – Tammy Robinson who is based in Otorohanga and has already written nine books – one of which has been optioned for a Hollywood film.

Her latest book is somehow both uplifting and utterly devastating – taking you on one hell of a rollercoaster.

It centres on Finn and Zoe, who meet and fall in love hard and fast. But Finn is about to go travelling, fulfilling a promise to his late sister to raise money in support of her illness. It’s terrible timing, but Zoe knows their feelings are strong enough to stand the test of time.

But, while Finn is away, Zoe suffers a life-changing injury, which leaves her wondering whether Finn could possibly still love her when he comes home. She cuts all ties and disappears from Finn’s life, without telling him why, leaving Finn to decide how hard he is willing to fight for the girl whose heart he’s carried with him.

It’s a cleverly written novel which manages to avoid straying into predictable or cliched territory – all the while delivering up so much heart and romance. If you’re looking for a bit of escapism this winter, Back to You would be the perfect tonic!

For Those Who Love a Gripping Historical Novel

The Last Reunion
By Kayte Nunn

Like a more digestible The Goldfinch, this fictional tale twists through two timelines to tell the story of how a rare Japanese antique both disappears and then reappears over 50 years later. The first timeline takes us to the heart of World War Two, but told in a location that doesn’t often feature in WWII tales: Burma. So much so that it’s often referred to as “The Forgotten War,” and if the location was forgotten, the women who fought as part of it have been left out of the narrative even more.

The Women’s Auxiliary Service (known as the ‘Wasbies’) was a group of around 250 English, Australian and Canadian Women who ran mobile canteens on the frontline of the war and The Last Reunion covers a group of five female friends who meet in these most drastic circumstances. The book more than aptly describes the dire details of what life on the frontline was like – the heat, the horror, the leeches, not to mention the imminent threat of death and capture, and, for these female officers, the added threat of sexual assault by the soldiers. This makes the book sound like a dirge and it’s anything but – it rips along at a fast pace and is both entertaining and very interesting to read, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.

In amongst all the hardship, you get a great insight into the highs and lows of female friendship and a deep dive into the world of the Japanese netsuke, the intricately carved miniature sculptures that were originally used as button fasteners and are now highly collectable. This book centres around the mysterious ‘fox girl’ netsuke, who is gifted to one of the girls, only to then be stolen from a museum 20 years later, only then to reappear in a fancy British home. It’s an intriguing and well-told story that will appeal to anyone who likes a historical novel but with the added appeal that it focuses on the female experience. A fantastic read. 

This book will appeal to anyone who likes a historical read with an antique twist, think The Goldfinch or The Miniaturist

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