Sunday, 30 October 2016

All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner

Reading this novel feels like walking with a friend, talking flat tack about what's happening in our lives.

Jennifer Weiner's voice sounds so like a friend of mine, it's as if my friend was in the room with me while I was reading this book. So, while this book is written from the point of view of a woman forming a huge addiction to painkillers, the tumbling roll of the writing style makes this a quick, breezy read.

It's easy to identify with Allison who is negotiating the stresses of work, motherhood, marriage and ageing parents, as she falls into a chasm of addiction. The power of this book is that it shows how easily anyone can slip from a successful job and family life into chaos. And that there is not much separating any of us - whether a heroin-addict on the street or a suburban mum - even if our lives look very different on the surface.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Secret Power of Middle Children, by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann

Many books have explored the subject of birth order, but not one of them has been specifically about the qualities of middle children.

The good news discussed in this book is that although  middle children miss out on getting the most attention at home (not being first and experiencing the full focus of attention in the early years) or being the indulged baby of the family, the adaptations they learn as a result of their birth order gives them excellent skills as friends and partners.

"As children, squeezed between siblings at home, middleborns have to develop the ability to get what they want by being clever - rather than loud like the firstborn or cute like the last. They learn how to hold on to their friends by becoming good listeners, and being flexible and tolerant." (Page 163.)

Middles gravitate toward chosen family - their friends and partners - because they're not competing with them for attention based on the accepted familial hierarchy.

The authors state that "not only do stable, adaptable middleborns seem to have the best chances of making a marriage work, they also make dependable, lifelong friends". (Oldest children are better off marrying middles or youngest children. Youngest children are better off marrying oldest or middle children. In contrast, middles can also stay successfully married to middles.)

The downside is that in some cases middleborns can be too self-effacing or laid-back.

The book also notes that in terms of work, middleborns are great negotiators and often work in areas of social justice. They tend to choose their work based on internal motivation, whereas firstborns will be more influenced by family expectations.

The book finishes with an observation that there will be fewer middle children in Western countries in future, as families shrink in size.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Love as a Stranger, by Owen Marshall

The power struggle at the heart of this book - between a long marriage and a new love - is humanely portrayed. No one comes out looking like the 'good one'.

The strengths of this novel are the qualities that make Owen Marshall one of New Zealand's top writers - his ability to explore emotional complexity in ordinary lives, and his fabulous descriptions of the observable world. The tension created between these characters creates structure and momentum for this story.

The only thing that jarred with me was Owen Marshall's portrayal of the professions of the two male characters - I got the feeling he tried to write about their preoccupations as dentists and lawyers, but couldn't really go there in any genuine way. Perhaps he secretly dislikes them!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme Simsion

I bought this book on holiday. From the first page I could tell it was going to be an easy, engaging read. Large text with lots of spacing says a lot! And I loved the Rosie Project, which was Graeme Simsion's first novel.

This novel isn't as profoundly interesting and unique as The Rosie Project - the main character is an ordinary guy in his late forties, wondering if he made a mistake not to commit to a girlfriend he had 20 years ago.

He moved on with his work and life, and is in a long term relationship. Then he and the ex-girlfriend reconnect and he goes on a journey to figure out who he really loves.

It's an enjoyable read. It's unlikely to change your life in any significant way, but if you like Nick Hornby's books you'll probably enjoy this one too.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

I survived a scary meeting - something well outside of my comfort zone - and I stood outside the cafe on a wintry, grey rainy day thinking, what next? I realised I wanted to mark the occasion with a reward for my scared inner self, and what better than a book?

I headed to Page & Blackmores, and my hand landed on 'A Little Life', by Hanya Yanagihara. I'd heard about it on the Australian Book Show, where almost everyone had loved it. Flipped it over - $24.99. Not bad for 720 pages!

Read the first page. My kind of book ... I like to be able to see the place I'm reading about, to believe in it immediately. 'A Little Life' starts with a scene of two students in New York settling into a less than flash apartment. The writing was smooth, the characters immediately likeable.

I knew the general premise was the relationship of four students who develop as an artist, an actor, an architect and a lawyer. That something happens that rocks them all.

I bought it and I was immediately entranced. All other books were swept aside as I entered this world over many weeks. It took me places I was not expecting to go, but the language and the characters pulled me in and onwards - it's irresistible..

I don't want to say too much about the story - it's better to just start and discover it along the way. The Times' quote on the back of the book sums it up perfectly:

"A singularly profound and moving work ... It's not often that you read a book of this length and find yourself thinking 'I wish it was longer' but Yanagihara takes you so deeply in to the lives and minds of these characters that you struggle to leave them behind."

Friday, 14 October 2016

Icarus - Fallen Angel, by Dean Bradley

This latest work involved scorching the wood panel using a little butane gas torch, to give a wispy ethereal effect.

​'Icarus - Fallen Angel' is now on show at Parker Gallery, in Nelson. 

Icarus - Fallen Angel, by Dean Bradley

To see more detail of this painting, please go to:

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Anthem of the Sun, by Dean Bradley

This is the first painting in Dean's new series of more organic works exploring parallels between micro and macro worlds. 

For more photos of this work please visit Dean's website at

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson

I've just finished reading this book - it's a big read at 585 pages, but it was effortless and enjoyable.

It's a deceptively light, airy novel due to the quality of the writing. Beneath the everyday life of Beatrice, a school teacher in a small English village, World War I is escalating and many of the characters suffer casual discrimination for being women, gypsies or homosexuals.

A day after closing the book, I'm still thinking about the characters and the time they lived in. That's the sign of a good read! I'm not a natural reader of history, or historical fiction, but this book really made this time and place come alive for me.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Honey Moon - new painting by Dean Bradley

Dean's paintings have taken quite a departure since early August. He found he needed a break from landscape-related work, and has begun a series inspired by natural patterns.
Honey Moon by Dean Bradley

Honey Moon is now on show at Parker Gallery in Nelson. To see more close up details of this painting please visit