Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: May 2023

Did I Ever Tell You This? A Memoir (May 2023)

By Sam Neill

May 22, 2023

Born in 1947 in Ireland, Sam Neill emigrated to New Zealand at the age of seven.  Young Sam discovered he was hopeless at sport, but loved acting.

In 1977 he played the lead in the pioneering New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs, a performance that led to a starring role in Gillian Armstrong’s groundbreaking My Brilliant Career.

And after that Sam Neill found his way, sometimes by accident, into his own brilliant career.  He has worked everywhere, from art house to blockbuster to TV, from The Piano to the Jurassic Park movies, from The Dish to Peaky Blinders.

This moving and often very funny book is the inspirational story of a man who, when life knocks him down, stands up again.  Sam Neill is a natural storyteller.  He writes with love and warmth about his friends and family, and about his adventures as a farmer and winemaker.

There is a grand tradition of unputdownable memoirs by great actors, which now includes Sam Neill’s Did I Ever Tell You This?

Simply Lies (May 2023)

By David Baldacci

May 16, 2023

A street detective turned cyber-investigator

Following a disastrous divorce, former New Jersey detective Mickey Gibson is now employed by global investigation company ProEye to track down some of the extremely wealthy who seem bent on not paying their debts.  Mickey misses police work, but it made no room for her new role as the sole carer of her two young children.

A woman of mystery

When Mickey is asked by Arlene Robinson a colleague from ProEye, to inventory an old mansion owned by Rutger Novak, a notorious former arms dealer, she discovers a long-decomposed body in a secret room.  Apparently, Novak has cheated ProEye clients out of millions in the past and now they want to nail him.

As the police investigation begins, they discover that there is no Arlene Robinson working for ProEye.  Nor does the mansion with a body belong to Novak.  The dead man is a local, wealthy recluse with a mysterious past.  Mickey is in trouble for being duped, but ‘Arlene’ is very clever and seems able to convince anyone of anything.

A dangerous game

A sinister and compelling cat-and-mouse contest begins between Mickey and the woman with a secret agenda – who has no name and seemingly no morals or empathy, and who harbours one big secret.

But will the schocking revelation of her true identity be too late to save her and Mickey?

The Murder Book (May 2023)

By Mark Billingham

May 16, 2023

Tom Thorne has it all.

In Nicola Tanner and Phil Hendricks, Thorne has good friends by his side.  He finally has a love life worth a damn and is happy in the job to which he has devoted his life…

He was everything to lose.

Hunting the women responsible for a series of grisly murders.  Thorne has no way of knowing that he will be plunged into a nightmare from which he may never wake.

And he will do anything to keep it.

Finally, Thorne’s past has caught up with him and a ruinous secret is about to be revealed.  If he wants to save himself and his friends, he must do the unthinkable.

The Only Suspect (May 2023)

By Louise Candlish

May 16, 2023

There’s the obvious story.  And then there’s the truth.

Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale.  Fine, so he’s not the most sociable guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour.

That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man.  Now he’s always watching.  Questioning.  Struggling to hide his dread…

As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil.

And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed.

It still isn’t.

Laughing at the Dark (May 2023)

By Barbara Else

May 16, 2023

From the best-selling and acclaimed author Barbara Else, Laughing at the Dark is a funny, moving memoir about how she rebelled against being a ‘good girl’.

By the time she was in her forties, Barbara was married to a globally recognised academic physician and had two beautiful teenage daughters.  As her writing career developed, her husband became angry at the prospect of her being anything but a housewife.  In a moment of madness – or realisation – she packed her car and took off to live with the man who would become her second husband.

With her trademark wit and humour, Barbara poignantly describes her transformation from a shy but stubborn child into a fulfilled and successful adult.

The Deck (May 2023) – Athenaeum Book Club 2024

By Fiona Farrell

May 16, 2023

What is the point of inventing stories when reality eclipses imagination?

A little way off in the future, during a time of plague and profound social collapse, a group of friends escapes to a house in the country where they entertain themselves by playing music, eating, drinking and telling stories about their lives.  There are tales of thieves and pirates, deaths and a surprise birth, a freak wave and many other stories of misadventure resulting in unexpected felicity.

The Deck borrows the motifs of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century masterpiece, The Decameron, in which another small group gathered to avoid contagion and passed the time telling stories.  But what is the role of fiction, this novel asks, as civilisation falters?

The Last Orphan (May 2023)

By Gregg Hurwitz

May 16, 2023

As a child, Evan Smoak was plucked out of a group home, raised and trained as an off-the-books assassin for the government as part of the Orphan program.  When he broke with the program and went deep underground, he left with a lot of secrets in his head that the government would do anything to make sure never get out.

When he remade himself as The Nowhere Man, dedicated to helping the most desperate in their times of trouble, Evan found himself slowly back on the government’s radar.  Having eliminated most of the Orphans in the program, the government will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat they see in Evan.  But Orphan X has always been several steps ahead of his pursuers.

Until he makes one little mistake…

Now the President has him in her control and offers Evan a deal – eliminate a rich, powerful man she says is too dangerous to live and, in turn, she’ll let Evan survive.  But when Evan left the Program he swore to only use his skills against those who really deserve it.  Now he has to decide what’s more important – his principles or his life.

One of Those Mothers (May 2023)

By Megan Nicol Reed

May 16, 2023

The residents of Point Heed keep nice houses and sign up as parent help at the local school.  Occasionally they cheat on their taxes.  Sometimes they fantasise about having sex with someone other than their partner.  Any every now and then they do drugs.  But that doesn’t make them bad people does it?

When a local father is convicted of the possession and distribution of child pornography, the tightknit, middle-class community is quick to unravel.  He is granted permanent name suppression and soon friend turns on friend, neighbour delivers up neighbour, and hysteria rapidly engulfs them all.  Who among them was capable of such moral trespass?

Bridget, Roz and Lucy have been friends forever.  Their lives revolve around their children, their community, each other.  With their husbands and kids, they holiday together every year.  Every year, until last summer, when everything went so terribly wrong.

Were they all complicit?  Certainly they were guilty of looking in all the wrong places.

They tell you things are never as bad as you fear, but what if they’re worse?  Worse than you could have ever imagined.

Victory City (May 2023) – Athenaeum Book Club 2023

By Salman Rushdie

May 16, 2023

In the wake of an insignificant battle between two long forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history.  After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for the goddess Parvati, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth.  Granting her power beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga – literally ‘victory city’ – the wonder of the world.

Over the next two hundred and fifty years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing out of a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways the hubris of those in power.  Whispering Bisnaga and citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that Parvati set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world.  But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception.  As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry – with Pampa Kampana at its centre.

Romantic Comedy (May 2023)

By Curtis Sittenfeld

May 16, 2023

Life is (not) a Romantic Comedy…

With a series of heartbreaks under her belt, Sally Milz – successful TV script-writer for a legendary late-night TV comedy show – has long abandoned the search for love.

But when her friend and fellow writer begins to date a glamorous actress, he joins the growing club of interesting but average-looking men who get romantically involved with beautiful, accomplished women.  Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch, poking fun at this ‘social rule’ because, after all, the reverse never happens for women.

Then Sally meets Noah, a pop idol with a reputation for dating models.  But this isn’t a romantic comedy – it’s real life.  Would someone like him ever date someone like her?

Skewering all our certainties about why we fall in love, ROMANTIC COMEDY is a witty and probing tale of how the heart will follow itself, no matter what anyone says.  It is Curtis Sittenfeld at her most sharp, daring and compassionate.

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