To be perfectly honest I found it difficult to really get into this book. It reads more like a series of short stories or vignettes of a young woman's life - Jane - from the time she is 14 years old observing her older brother's relationship with his then girlfriend, to what is probably twenty years later when she is still struggling withe the concept of love, forever love that is, and doing her darnedest to find and keep her man.

Perhaps I am getting too old to read such novels, not being on the hunt and fish for a bloke, but it does sort of reek of desperation to me. Jane is obviously very attractive and very smart. But in her professional life she seems to be taking a continual hammering from her power crazy female boss; her love life seems to be in a constant shambles. In fact there are many, many similarities to that icon of modern day single life Briget Jones. But nowhere near as funny or as self deprecating or as lovable or as real as the lovely Bridget. Has this author been inspired by Bridget in giving us this slightly gloomy and desperate look at modern urban love? I don't know, but for me, it just does not work.

Despite all the above, Ms Bank is a cool writer. She is funny, we get a very good idea of Jane's character and the influences on her life and personality. She captures a teenage girl quite well I think. I am an expert, currently living with two of them. She explores the complexities of being in a relationship with a much older man, and the heartache of a parent's terminal illness. To this extent the writing is quite real, easy to read and understand. Plus there is some great dialogue.

Would I recommend this? Only I think if you are single and angsting over the whole relationship thing. But it is just not for me. I have been deciding whether to keep it on the shelf or not, but have decided to as my girls may enjoy reading it and get something out of it in the future. Maybe.

THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold

So much has been written about this book over the years since it was first published I am not even going to begin analysing and critiquing and all that. I remember when it was first introduced into book club and I was horrified that someone could write a book about the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl, then have the girl watching from heaven how everyone deals with it. As the mother of 2 young girls this was the very last thing I wanted to read. And for all those years since it was published in 2002 I have strongly resisted, despite everyone telling me what a wonderful and uplifting book it is.

With fellow NZer Peter Jackson directing the recent movie, I had a vague interest in the film, but it was only when I read in an interview with him that he wanted to make a movie he could take his teenage daughter and her friends to, plus the involvement of Weta Workshop, that I thought I would take the plunge and see it. So I did. And I loved it. It is very unusual for me to see the movie before reading the book but I am glad it worked out this way. I thought the movie was beautiful, very uplifting and I hope heaven really is like that because it looks like a great place to be! I know people who read the book are disappointed in the movie, because it is different and so on, but having read the book now I do feel that the movie captures the essence of the story. The last 40 or so pages of the book dragged a bit, got all a bit spiritual and ghosty for me, souls climbing into bodies and so on, but despite this little hiccup I felt very satisfied and happy at the end of it.


This is the second book by Malcolm Gladwell, following on from The Tipping Point. Essentially it is about intuition, but not that gut feeling intuition that you get. As Mr Gladwell explains it on his website it is more about intuition that comes from knowledge. For example the number of experts looking at an ancient Greek torso who believe it to be the genuine article, and the one or two experts who know instinctively just by a first look at it that it is a fake. Or the researcher who can tell within minutes of observing a couple, whether they are destined for the long haul or not.

Malcolm Gladwell helps us to challenge our preconceived ideas about people and situations and think beyond the basic instincts we may have, looking at it from a knowledge base. Just like his other books that I have read,
this is also very thought provoking and interesting. It hasn't had the impact on me that Outliers had but still worth reading.


HOTEL BABYLON by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

Talk about being a fly on the wall! I expect we are all slightly voyeuristic about hotels and what goes on behind all those closed doors. And what about the staff? Are they really that polite and gracious and dare I say it deferential to guests, or is all that a big hypocritical facade? Do the hotels really love us, the guest, or are we just a means to an end.

The answer would appear to be yes and no to such questions! Being a business, the bottom line is all important, but to get the repeat business, the hotel does have to ingratiate ever so slightly to the guest, especially those at the top of the food chain such as sheiks, Madonna, Texan oil millionaires and so on. But the staff, being human, and thus in conflict with the business model, do find themselves, from time to time anyway, actually liking the guests and so do go out of their way to be, in a word, nice. Not always though, and generally the guest is the thing that keeps them in a job, and most importantly pays the tips, an incredibly lucrative part of being in the front line.

'Anonymous' is apparently a veteran of the England hotel industry, having started in the kitchens and now on reception, the hotel's face to the world. The goings ons and shenanigans are highly entertaining, very interesting and make for compelling reading. During the 24 hours the book covers, where the narrator is required to work a double shift, the reader is taken absolutely everywhere in the hotel, from the reception area, to the offices, restaurant, hotel kitchens, staff kitchen, service areas and of course the rooms from the suites down. Then there are all the staff - the management, front of house, chefs and kitchen staff, cleaners and housekeeping. Then there are the guests in all their glory! There is death, prostitutes, love, sex, rage, drunkenness, in fact a whole microcosm of life occurring in this building over a 24 hour period.

I don't think it is the most well written book I have read, but highly entertaining nevertheless and of course fantastically well captured in the BBC TV series.

CLEO by Helen Brown

What a little piece of magic this book is. Have your hankie ready, Cleo and Helen would melt the hardest heart. For 24 years, this little black cat was the one constant in the lives of Helen and her family. From the most terrible tragedy that can strike a family, and the various ups and downs that occurred in the years afterwards, Cleo kept them all looking forward and up. That is all the plot info that I am going to give because you need to read this for yourself!

However Helen has inserted plenty of interesting facts and anecdotes about cats, from being worshipped by the Egyptians to their uncanny therapeutic ability to make us feel better and do such things as lower blood pressure simply by purring. But any cat lover will tell you how good having a cat with you makes you feel.

I was working in the same department in the bank that Helen's husband was working in when their daughter Katherine was born. There was quite a bit of talk at the time about how Helen was some years older than Philip, how her family had suffered in the past, and also what a total energy force she was. I never met her, but having read Cleo I now know exactly what my work colleagues were talking about. She is definitely a cup half full person, although she has had plenty of cause over the years to be cup half empty!

The one criticism I had of the book was the complete lack of photos. I already knew what Philip looked like of course, so had a small advantage. If you go to http://helenbrown.com.au/index.html, you will see lots of family photos with Cleo.

If you are having a bad day, start this book. You will soon see that your bad day is really not that bad at all, and by the time you finish this book, your bad day/week will have dissolved away.

THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a book about epidemics. Not simply a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease as one would immediately think, but more encompassing than that, specifically a very rapid spread and growth of an idea, or a development or just simply a change. Malcolm Gladwell looks at this concept of change and why change can happen very quickly and unexpectedly. He looks at social epidemics rather than medical. Although Chapter 1 does focus on an infectious disease epidemic, I guess to set the scene and help us understand how an epidemic works, he uses the more widely understand meaning of epidemic in its medical arena which we, the reader, are more familiar with.

It is difficult to classify what type of book this is. It is about human behaviour and why we behave the way we do, and why small changes, sometimes very small changes, can affect very dramatically our response to a situation. Malcolm Gladwell sees this as a book about change, and how it is 'that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us.' (From http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/index.html).

For example he looks at how Hush Puppies suddenly became the only shoe to wear, why Sesame Street and Blue's Clues were such phenomenally successful television programmes, how New York City went from being one of the most violent cities in the US to one of the safest, the three types of people that contribute to the success of these epidemics, and most importantly the three essentials of epidemics which make them happen. And how these same three essentials can be used to reverse epidemics such as smoking amongst teenagers.

Malcolm Gladwell's magic lies in applying all this theory to everyday situations and events, and historical figures, thus making it ridiculously easy to captivate the reader. He makes it oh so relevant to the man/woman in the street. We all understand being frightened of getting swine flu or another contagious disease; we have all watched Sesame Street at some stage; we all wonder how on earth did that particular fashion item become such a must have item eg Croc shoes, or low rider jeans; we have all been drawn to the allure of smoking at some stage whether it be through advertising such as the Marlboro Man, or the attraction of breaking school rules, or that it simply looked cool. These are things that we all have some knowledge or experience of. And this is what makes it such a good book to read!

Challenge yourself. In the same interview referred to in the web page above, Malcolm Gladwell hopes that we can learn to start positive epidemics of our own, so the book is also enpowering and motivating, giving us the power to change things in the world around us, hopefully of course for the better.