Bookmarks: short non-fiction reviews

A roundup of short general non-fiction reviews:

My Gentle Barn,

by Ellie Laks (Penguin, RRP $28):

This is non fiction at its best. Ellie Laks runs a rescue mission for animals near Los Angeles and this is the story of her early life and how she got to where she is today. Her story is heart breaking  invigorating and heart warming. Not only does she save animals from lives of abuse and spend hours healing them, she also uses them to help heal children with difficult backgrounds. It is absolutely amazing how Ellie and her husband Jay have established the organization they have along with bringing up their three children. For years it was a very lonely, struggling process – and then they discovered the power of social media. The Gentle Barn is now supported by many celebrities, most notably Ellen and Portia.. It has huge followings on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more on but you really should just go out and buy the book. It is definitely worth it. Highly recommended.

The Kiwi Hot Rodder’s Guide to Life 2,

by Steve Holmes (HarperCollins, RRP $40):

What a gorgeous book containing short snippets about “Kiwi hot rodders” and their garages / cars / collections, followed by stunning photographs of said buildings / objects. It obviously follows a first title of similar ilk which must have been popular enough for a follow-up. I’m not much into cars myself but could now be an armchair enthusiast. It’s certainly an interesting bit of New Zealand vehicular history. Deliberate evasiveness about where some of the subjects lived was slightly irritating, eg “owns the local garage in the small village he grew up in”. I wasn’t particularly interested in where ‘Alan’ lives but found it annoying that it was so clearly a secret. It made me notice less obvious avoidance and appreciate the honesty in other pieces, not that I intend seeking any of them out. Apart from that this book is well put together and definitely worth a perusal.

War Girls: A Collection of First World War Stories Through the Eyes of Young Women,

by Andersen Press (Random House, RRP $20):

I devoured this superb collection of nine short stories and was left thirsting for more. The authors are all well published and critically acclaimed. Their stories explore the role of women in the Great War and the effect of the war on them. The theme of hope is probably as strong as that of loss. One of the stories looks at the war from the ‘enemy’ perspective. It’s written from the point of view of a Turkish widow who has become a sniper at Gallipoli. Definitely thought provoking. The stories are not just about women who went to the front as nurses, drivers or entertainers, but also about those who stayed at home in other occupations. We do know that the lives of Western women were irrevocably altered as a result of the First World War. These stories go some way in exploring how. Thoroughly recommended with an eye catching cover and at a reasonable price too.

Another Mother’s Love,

by Karen Scott (Penguin, RRP $38):

Karen and Mark already had a blended family of six children when they decided they’d like to share the love and adopt a seventh. Their aim was to give a disadvantaged youngster a new try at having a family, this time one that would love them unconditionally and forever. Almost two years after they went through a programme with CYF, they were offered not a child they could adopt but a troubled five year old they could only foster. Thus started a roller coaster two years of dealing with behaviour they had never imagined or been prepared for, along with an unwieldy government department that seemed both unwilling and unable to support them in any really useful way. This story is refreshingly honest, heartbreaking and also full of hope. Karen writes well and her innate goodness shines through. Excellent home grown non-fiction. This would be a good book club one with many issues to explore in discussion.




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