Book Review: London – 24 hours and 160 photos in one city

Available in bookshops nationwide.

London_24hours.jpgLonely Planet continue to produce superb guides for travellers. Once the basic stuff has been covered (and I have well-thumbed copies of many places in Europe and Asia ) the challenge is to take the traveller aside and tempt them with something else.

In London, the something else is to revisit old favourites and discover new treasures. Both photos and text capture another view of the city and enable the traveller to stray behind the scenes. While some of the more familiar places are included such as Kew Gardens, Battersea Power Station etc, the text and images give a slightly different perspective. I loved the 8am section on the full English breakfast. Here we see local pensioners catching up at Formica tables while eating the traditional fare. The text is sympathetic and informative. No judgements are passed on the way of life portrayed. Rather, it suggests that this should be part of your visit and allow you to experience a different side of London life.

Another morning activity is swimming in the Serpentine. This is a long held tradition but as the temperature never exceeds 15 degrees, I suspect most visitors might pass on the opportunity. I sent some suggestions to my nieces who live in London. They tracked down the Nomadic Community Gardens and enjoyed meeting a Kiwi who has a regular plot there.

This book could easily be another coffee table treat, but I think it has more to offer the repeat visitor who desires a little more from their visit. The photos and text work well together to suggest an alternative excursion for the curious traveller.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

London: 24 hours and 160 photos in one city
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787013438

 

Book Review: Experience Italy, by Lonely Planet

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_experience-italy.jpgLonely Planet has long conquered the domain of the travel guide, and its well-thumbed tomes appear in the hands of travelers, desperately searching for a particular restaurant or hotel recommended in the aforementioned guide, the world over.

Experience Italy, a new release and part of the expansion of Lonely Planet titles to every conceivable nook of a bookstore’s travel section, is a long way from such humble titles as Southeast Asia on Shoestring. As a hard cover coffee table book, thick with colour images and packed with a dizzying amount of information, it is not one you will be taking on your travels. Rather it is one to dip into at home for a bit of escapism, to be elsewhere – an elsewhere that, as it turns out, might not be akin to actually being there.

The book traverses culture, architecture, food, sport and daily life, presenting a range of potential experiences to inspire the traveler, and ‘to introduce you to the personality and, dare we say, the very heart of Italian culture and landscape’. Images abound – detailed maps, archival photos, glossy landscapes, reproductions of famous artworks, light filtered through lush vines. All invite exploration of the book and evoke a textured, multifaceted Italia.

The extensive material, which includes entries such as ‘Walk like an Italian’ ‘Puglia’s Peasant culture’ and ‘Exploring Sicily’s Market’ is primarily marshalled into sections that are reflective of the ‘themes that season Italian life’ – from ‘The Italian Icons You Already Love’ (histories of the Vespa, pizza, and grape varieties/wines included), through to ‘Treasured Heritage Hill Towns and Harvest’ (featuring, among others, the Slow Food Movement, mosaics and Shakespeare’s Italian Plays). There are also sections on the big hitters: Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, Venice. You can follow circuitous routes through the book by heeding the cross references, which then lead you to stumble upon others. It is a self-confessed ‘scavenger hunt’.

This labyrinthine method can seem confusing at first, and irritating if you did just want to read by area without having to continually look things up, but this is a book to read at home. And perhaps this approach is more reflective of how we experience and discover a place – haphazardly, in parts and without ever conquering the whole. And there is something to be said for the pleasure of chance discovery, for being exposed to ideas that would never had occurred to you to look up in the first place.

Yet Experience Italy, which champions the offbeat, cobbled paths, cliff-hugging towns, rolling hills and hidden secrets, risks branding experience. We are advised to eat that ‘last, lingering gelato on the steps of the Duomo’, look ‘beyond its blockbuster, crown-pulling sights’ and avoid ‘hordes of motor-coach tourists. Rather we should ‘Walk in the oak and chestnut forests of remotest Tuscany, as the autumn mist creeps in’, engage with its ‘Epic art and architecture’, experience its ‘insanely lovely spread of deep-cut, vine-blanketed valleys’.

The avuncular tone, the triumvirate of punchy adjectives so often rolled out to rule over perceptions, and the parade of dramatic verbs set to fire you up can be relentless at times –almost oversaturated. It’s as if a filter (by way of a distinctly Lonely Planet style) had been applied to enhance your potential experience, advising you how to reflect on it. One could be forgiven for wondering how expectations will match reality.

It suggests a consumerist approach to landscapes, culture and climates, pandering to our need for ticking off bucket lists. This is an Italy where everything is incredible, unique and yours for the taking. It is, perhaps, too inclusive, confusing two traditionally opposed ways to travel: heading out on your own and taking the well-trodden path. It is hard to know whether the title is suggestive, inviting or an imperative – a rallying call to the Lonely Planet way of life.

But for all my cynicism, this is a nice book to have within reach of the armchair – it is a pleasure to look through and there is much to glean from it, when it gets down to business and stops playing the hype-man. From tips on the price of coffee through to background information on Lecce’s tradition of papier- mâché statues (which originated in the affordability of the raw materials required) it explains customs, the significance of sites, the history of certain foods – it presents many entry points as to what Italy has to offer.

And it does get you excited and make you want to go. So, read up from the comfort of your armchair and leave the book at home. Love at first sight is promised: ‘We’re not talking a mere flirtation, but a fully blown, red-hot love affair’ but ‘before you set foot on Italian soil and unzip the length of its boot’, perhaps steady those heady expectations and apply some measure to the hard and hyped up sell.

Reviewed by Emma Johnson

Experience Italy
by Lonely Planet, Bonnie Alberts, Oliver Berry, Alison Bing, Abigail Blasi, Cristian Bonetto, Kerry Christiani, Gregor Clark, Douglas Cruickshank, Matthew Fort
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787013315

 

 

Book Review: City Mazes – Real Street Map Puzzles to solve from Amsterdam to Vancouver, by Patricia Moffatt

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_city_mazesPuzzle kids of all ages will get into this book.  It’s perfect for anyone who loves to travel – be it in the flesh or only on paper. Although, I have to say, if you own a Sat Nav, it’s pretty accurate. The book is a collection of 30 ‘iconic city’ street maps re-engineered here and there to a create fun, challenging and beautifully illustrated activity book. Puzzle designer Patricia Moffatt, with the help of illustrators company Racket, has taken aerial photos of a number of major cities and redrawn the streets with tiny little embellishments to create her mazes. Sometimes this is a simple line closing a street or in the case of Paris, directing the journey underground through a tunnel or over a bridge.

Whilst puzzlers draw along the with ‘paths’ their pens pass famous sights like the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building. Added to each page are features of each city, with dialogue to explain and even hyperlinks. Each maze also reveals hidden gems like markets, or unique shops and art galleries, eateries and other tourist spots from those in the know. After all this is a Lonely Planet production, the book producer that once prided itself on giving the inside information for all travellers. The links might be a bit of a clue to that, too.

Given the liberal placement of images of vodka, beer, wine etc, and mentions of bars and restaurants I’m not really sure this is a children’s book. But, on the positive, kids of all ages will appreciate the clean, almost cartoon-like images.

vancouver_imageAre the mazes easy? Well, not for me. I had to backtrack several times. I got a bit distracted by all the text on the sides of the main puzzle, which was interesting. But that didn’t stop me. I got there, probably about 2 hours after my 9-year-old who was intent only on solving each level. She didn’t read the text at all. No matter. Maybe on the second round. There are 30 puzzles to re-solve. (I shouldn’t have fretted, either.  The solutions are in the back.)

This is one of a series of books that run alongside the theme of mazes based on maps and geographic locations. The artwork has a nice muted but classy feel, being printed on good quality heavy paper. According to the inside sleeve, the paper stock is endorsed by Forest Stewardship Council, an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

The cover has a satisfying three dimensional quality to it. Definitely worth a look as good gift choice for a unique recipient who has everything or nothing like this.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

City Mazes – Real Street Map Puzzles to solve from Amsterdam to Vancouver
by Patricia Moffatt
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787013414

Book Review: The World’s Best Bowl Food, by Lonely Planet Food

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_worlds_best_bowl_food.jpgThe World’s Best Bowl Food is a salute to comfort food found the world over. Bowl food is undergoing a revival. You can spot a million #powerbowl posts on Instagram, and for many people it’s all about what superfoods you can pack into the bowl.

A little research from Lonely Planet found that the original bowl food is all about comfort – there’s a reason why each ingredient finds its way in there, and it’s because it’s delicious, reminds us of home, or tradition. As the Foreword says, ‘some of the world’s most beloved dishes – macaroni cheese, Vietnamese pho, and Japanese ramen have transcended their local roots and become transcontinental comfort foods.’

I’m a foodie and I loved this book. There are lots of different takes on old favourites of mine (nasi goreng, ceviche, chilli con carne), recipes I’ve always wanted to try (pho, jambalaya, any Asian flavours in a soup-food-bowl), and loads of exciting new recipes with flavour combinations or ingredients that tickled my fancy.

I tried my hand at the intriguing-looking Chia Pudding from Central and South America.  Chia seeds have a delicate, nutty flavour and have a great capacity to absorb liquid. They’ve now made their way into kitchens and supermarkets around the world, and this has to be the easiest recipe out there. Mix 2 cups of natural yoghurt with half a cup of chia seeds. Leave for 4 hours. Serve cold with maple syrup or honey, and toasted flaked almonds and berries – or whatever you have to hand.  Delicious!
Chia Pudding.jpg

I also tried the Quinoa Stew. I liked the look of all the flavours, as well as the fact it didn’t take long to cook on a week night. It was super-tasty and the leftovers froze well for delicious work lunches.

The book layout is great – an attractive photo for each recipe, an interesting note on origins and history, and essential for the foodie – tasting notes. The book is sectioned out into bowl food types: breakfast bowls, dessert bowls, soups, salads and healthy bowls, stews and hearty bowls, and rice, pasta and noodle bowls. There’s also a difficulty guide for easy, medium or hard which is handy for the time-conscious, or when you miss that part of the recipe that says simmer for 3 hours and its 8pm already.

Quinoa Stew
Food and drink is a huge part of the travel experience and the memories we have of our adventures overseas. Travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet launched this new ‘Lonely Planet Food’ imprint in 2016 and it’s great to see such a quality range of books for the foodie or the keen traveller.

The imprint houses titles from the Lonely Planet World’s Best series such as The World’s Best Brunches, The World’s Best Spicy Foods, and The World’s Best Superfoods. The Lonely Planet Food logo can also be found on the From the Source series which introduces food lovers to local dishes from around the world and to the cooks that have perfected them.

We raise our bowls to you Lonely Planet Food, keep these books coming!

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The World’s Best Bowl Food
by Lonely Planet Food
ISBN 9781787012653

 

Book Review: Epic Drives of the World, by Lonely Planet

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_epic_drives_of_the_worldI’ve long been a fan of Lonely Planet publications, especially since they have included New Zealand in their reviews of great places to see and visit.  This book is no exception.  Epic Drives of the World contains three drives in New Zealand, in both the North and South Islands, and the very first two page illustration is of a VW campervan parked overlooking a portion of the East Coast somewhere in our beautiful country.

Fifty drives are described in detail with photographs of the terrain traversed, covering all parts of the globe from Africa and the Middle East, through the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The drives are graded from Easy through to Epic.  And an added bonus is a feature which gives information about similar drives to the initial one being described.  For instance, even though only three major drives are featured here in New Zealand, the index in the back of the book has the information that there are eleven routes covered somewhere in the book describing drives in Central Otago, the Kaikoura coast, Southern scenic route, thermal hot spots and Waiheke Island to name a few.

An indication of the extensive research which has gone into the book is the description for the Pacific Coast Highway.  To quote: ‘New Zealand’s indigenous Māori culture, coastal scenery and Art Deco design combine in this off-the-beaten track journey around the country’s Pacific Ocean coastline. Start at Whakatane, one of New Zealand’s sunniest cities, and the departure point for boat trips to Whakaari (White Island), a sulfurous active volcano off the coast.  Nearby Ohope is close to the protected wildlife refuge of Moutuhora (Whale Island). The remote region beyond Opotiki around NZ’s easternmost point is steeped in the traditional ways of the Ngāti Porou iwi (tribe), with local Marae (Māori meeting houses) displaying beautiful wooden carvings.’

Napier-Napier-s-art-deco-architectureAlongside this description (reproduced in part) is a full page colour photograph of Napier with some of the Art Deco buildings and its white sand beach.  This drive was in the ‘More Like This’ section which follows many of the harder, epic drives throughout the book.

The book is a visual feast, being A4 size with a hard cover, and containing many photos and colour illustrations.  Little maps are at the beginning of each main drive showing where they are in the country represented, and each drive has the starting location, the end point, the distance covered, how to get there and, in some cases, what to take, when to go, where to eat, and websites to connect to for further info.  It’s packed full of information about the countries visited, the wildlife to watch out for and some history or relevant information about the country.

Epic Drives of the World is a real cracker of a book which would delight all sorts of readers, from the die hard adventurer through to the stay at home imagineers.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

Epic Drives of the World
by Lonely Planet
Published by Lonely Planet Global
ISBN 9781786578648

Book Reviews: Unfolding Journeys Series – Secrets of the Nile and Following The Great Wall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

The Unfolding Journeys series is a hands-on, tactile exploration series. Aimed at year 3 and 4-year school kids it encourages them to open up a new world – literally. Both books are made of card, with 6-fold, 7- page, double-sided maps.

cv_secrets_of_the_nile.jpgThe book, Secrets of The Nile starts at Alexandra and trails back through 55 points of interest to the ‘source’ of the Nile. Illustrated like a kid had drawn it – albeit a gifted and well-informed one – the book gives us soundbite-sized insights into key geographic and historical landmarks like Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, the position of the Rosetta Stone and Amarna, the city of the sun god. Famous faces like Nefertiti, Lady of Grace and the famous Nile crocs put in an appearance. There’s even a reference to a 3,500-year-old port of Al Quseir, which has taken on new life as an inland beach resort. Not all the references are to ancient worlds. There’s a nod to tourism (river boat cruises), Tunis’ pottery and comments about Fava bean growing and agriculture.

On the back of each page is a two-paragraph legend explaining more about each numbered location. These are short and snappy but avoid being patronising of dumbed down. My daughter became a bit of an expert on the Nile lickety-split by tracing each fact from its map number to the detailed explanation. Then she quizzed me. I failed!

I mentioned that the illustrations seemed like a kid had produced these. They were actually done by Argentinian Vanina Starkoff. Bright, colourful and immediately accessible, they are easy to digest, along with Stewart Ross’ clean, punchy text. He’s an expert on travel facts, having produced over 300 titles. He might just know a thing or two about the world.

cv_following_the_great_wallWith the same formula, Hong Kong illustrator Victo Ngai provides the pictures for Following The Great Wall. Again, it’s a trip by numbers starting at the Turpin Basin – an enormous hole “the size of Wales”, 155m below sea level and the fourth lowest on Earth that’s not under water. This is one fact I definitely did know the Wall. The other facts like the Recumbent Buddha of Zhangye, the City of Xi’an and, of course the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an. The Wall is the only man-made structure that can be plainly seen from the Moon, they reckon. It stretches across the country to the coast. So naturally, there’s a mention about the Black-faced Spoonbill and the magnificent Young Lady’s Gate, which is beautifully rendered. Again, the art is short and cleverly simple. The text is also simple, but again, factual and easy to digest.

Both books are multi-returns. A reader can dive in and out or event fold it out and use a dice to count spaces to each location. How you go about it is entirely individual. Either way, it’s great to see a learning tool that doesn’t require charging, uploading or it’s screen cleaned for sticky finger prints. The heavy card construction makes this series ideal for classroom use, too. A great learning tool. Old skool!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Unfolding Journeys – Secrets of the Nile
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Vanina Starkoff
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN  9781786575371

Unfolding Journeys – Following the Great Wall
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Victo Ngai
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781786571977

Book Review: Film and TV Locations, A Lonely Planet Spotters Guide, by Laurence Phelan

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_spotters_guide_to_film_and_TV_locations.jpgA compact book of just 128 pages takes the reader around the world, revealing more than 100 locations of classic moments from famous films and TV series.

There are stunning photographs of each location and the author has written a small description of the place, as well as listing the film and the date of the production.

Films featured range from La Dolce Vita in Rome to Gladiator in Morocco as well as Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in New Zealand while TV series’ settings include Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik and The Bridge in Scandinavia.

Tourists visit many of these places that provided the backdrops and settings of many of our favourite films, some of these locations being filmed naturally while others were dressed up to look like somewhere else. But they all added texture and colour and weight to the visions of our best TV- and film-makers.

My own daughter was excited to read about the Game of Thrones site as they will visit Dubrovnik when they go to Croatia later this year.

A map of the world at the beginning of the book shows all the locations included, the majority being in America and Europe, and each site also has a small globe showing the locality.

The book will be a wonderful companion for a traveller who is a movie lover wanting to fossick out places where films were shot, or it would sit well on the coffee table to be picked up and read at leisure taking the reader on a fantasy journey

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Film and TV Locations, A Lonely Planet Spotters Guide
by Laurence Phelan
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781786577603

Book Review: Best of New Zealand, by Lonely Planet

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_best_of_new_zealand.jpgLonely Planet has captured the backpacks of so many travellers over the last 30 years. In spite of limited bag weight I managed to take my Europe and Great Britain tomes on my OE. So it is interesting to see what they offer for visitors to our own shores.

This guide is part of the Best Of series so does not claim to cover everything. It gives good general information, clear suggestions for short stay holidays and covers the better-known tourist spots for the busy tourist.

The book is a manageable size with 325 pages, basic maps and good information on cities, food, accommodation, transport and entertainment. There are suggestions for websites to find fuller and more recent information. This is essential as New Zealand is a small country with limited transport options. Recent events in the South Island mean the travel times differ while the Kaikoura coast road is out. Likewise, The Tranz Alpine is not running following major fire damage to the bridges. This is always going to be a problem with travel guides in print form and although the publication date is November 2016, some information is outdated.

I would like to have seen a little more information on driving conditions and times. In light of the tragic accidents on our narrow roads it would seem sensible to include better information for those self driving on their holiday.

This modest guide gives a basic overview for the short stay traveller. The photos are enticing, the maps clear and the information provides a good entry point for further research.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Best of New Zealand
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781786571250

Book Review: Spain From the Source, by Sally Davies

cv_spain_from_the_sourceAvailable in bookshops nationwide. 

I’m a cookbook addict – over 180 at last count – so there’s a lot of competition for shelf space. Whether new or vintage (oh, the strange and wonderful cookbooks to be found at school galas and church fairs!) a cookbook must meet certain criteria to earn a permanent spot in my kitchen. Lonely Planet Food’s Spain: From the Source passes the test. It’s well-written and laid-out, with stunning photos and interesting narratives accompanying each recipe. Recipes range from ‘good honest peasant food’ based on whatever’s in the larder to advanced restaurant-level fare, with most appearing manageable as well as authentic.

Traditional Spanish dishes have been reinvented with new ideas and flavours, and almost all ingredients will be easy to find in New Zealand. Preparation and cooking times are included for most recipes, there’s a decent index (although with English titles only), and measurements are both imperial and metric. The pages lie more or less flat when the book is open, and a red ribbon offers an elegant alternative to marking a favourite recipe with a sticky note.

Part cookbook, part travel guide, with intriguing social, cultural and gastronomical history, I think you’ll enjoy reading this book even if you never get around to attempting a recipe. Author Sally Davies is a long-time Barcelona resident who writes about Spain and its restaurants for guidebooks, newspapers and magazines. Davies’ writing and photographer Margaret Stepien’s images conjure up the sights, sounds and aromas of Spanish kitchens: olive oil glistening on a chef’s hands as he tears smoky, chargrilled vegetables; the sizzle of duck browning in a pan seasoned with garlic, onion and bay leaves; clouds of icing sugar drifting over fresh pastries; and the lace-striped pinny (and fierce concentration) of the woman who has been making her signature dish for nearly 50 years.

Recipes have both English and Spanish titles. How much more enticing bikini de tartufo and lonchejas de cerdo iberico y calamar sound than their translated counterparts: a cheese and ham toasted sandwich, and strips of pig’s ear with squid.

There’s a strong focus on healthy, simple food. Many chefs share restaurateur Carlos Zamora’s philosophy of creating ‘slow food, locally sourced, with an emphasis on organic and free-range produce’. Here you should be able to find most ingredients at a supermarket, butcher or farmers’ market. Others can possibly be bought at specialist food stores or ordered online. Some, but not all, ingredients with Spanish names are translated. Substitutions are suggested for some of the less common ingredients. No tramezzino in your pantry? Apparently crustless slices of white bread will work just as well.

The recipes are clustered by region, covering north-east, north-west, central and southern Spain. Dishes reflect the climate, culture, produce and rituals associated with each region, as well as seasonal influences. In addition to the main index at the back of the book, there’s a separate map and an index for each of the four regions. Websites and contact details for all restaurants whose recipes feature in the book are included on one page (should you be tempted to visit a particular restaurant, or to email a chef for advice).

Spain offers tapas and mains, of course, as well as both unusual and traditional desserts. Duck, chicken, pork, fish and other seafood feature prominently. There are a handful of recipes that are meat-free, such as the chilled cashew soup. Desserts include churros, marzipan balls with pine nuts, and candied egg yolks. Legend has it that the latter were created to commemorate Saint Teresa, founder of the order of Carmelite nuns. The sugar-dusted spiral Ensaimada pastries come with their own folk stories – some say they are shaped like the turbans worn on the island of Mallorca in days gone by. Consider ditching the trifle this Christmas for crema de arroz con leche requemada (scorched rice pudding) – the photo next to this recipe so enticing that you can almost hear the spoon cracking the crunchy caramel surface to reveal the sweet and creamy rice underneath.

Even if you’ve not got enough time or courage to try the more complex recipes, many of the side dishes appear quick and easy. Blend a roasted red onion and roasted beetroot, sprinkle with salt and pepper – and you’ve created red onion cream. Or turn to the ‘basic recipes’ section for the nut- and garlic-based picada – a traditional Catalan sauce.

I loved the history as well as the recipes – the story of the master pastry chef who is the fourth generation of a baking and chocolate dynasty; the monastery-based restaurant high on a hill in the Sierra de Villuercas; the restaurant within a 17th century building that was once a hospital for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago trail; and the 9th century basement turned wine cellar that holds 32,000 bottles.

There were a few things that puzzled me: the type is surprisingly small, given the amount of white space on most pages. And although any one of the photos on the cover would have made an excellent cover image on its own, the combination of photos with the gilt-lettered and multi-fonted title text looks somewhat thrown-together. Several recipes don’t specify exact times, instead suggesting ‘bake…until the base is golden’ or ‘stir every few minutes until golden brown’. Perhaps this is a reminder that cooking requires both patience and persistence. Overall, however, Spain is an excellent source of ideas whether you’re planning a feast for friends or a night with your feet up and comfort food for one.

If you’re not tempted to buy this book as a To Myself: From Myself gift, it would make a great present for that friend who’s walked the Camino de Santiago, your foodie colleague, your armchair travelling aunt or uncle, or the new graduate with their first real job who will finally be able to afford to cook good food. Spain will inspire them all.

Reviewed by Anne Kerslake Hendricks

Spain: From the source
by Sally Davies
Published by Lonely Planet Global Ltd
ISBN 9781760340766

Review: Pop-Up London, 50 Beaches to Blow Your Mind, and Just Point, from Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet has diversified beyond the traditional travel book in recent years, with phrasebooks, pictorial and gift travel books, destination guides, as well as a whole section of travel entertainment for kids. We look at three of their new releases in this review.

cv_50_beaches50 Beaches to Blow Your Mind is a beach-a-page, pictorial book designed to give as a gift, or to appeal to the traveller who counts their overseas beach excursions and trips as worthy of nostalgia. What this book does well is to show off the wondrous variety of beaches that nature gifts us with in different environments around the world. Wild, windswept, calm, stunning, geographically cool, white sands, black sands and so on. By using classifications, the book is able to add variety to the beaches they profile, showing off different looks and different vibes.

In 50 Beaches to Blow Your Mind, we tour through beaches of Bliss: tropical desert island paradises, Dramatic: wild and unusual, Action: surfing and diving meccas, Discovery: beaches for combing and exploring, Parties: social and nightlife beaches, Encounters: wildlife and conservation hotspots, and Family: calm, safe all-rounders. Coromandel’s Hot Water beach features, along with a few Australian beaches, but it’s hard to believe that only one South American beach makes the list. Many featured are in North America, with a portion of Europe for good measure. Overall, this book is nice eye candy, and could be a fun gift for that person in your life who loves a good beach, but it’s really only a flick through once-add to bookshelf kind of read.

cv_just_pointJust Point is quite a fun and unique idea. It’s a pile of cards pinned together that fans out to reveal a bunch of illustrations to help you describe food and drink, transport, and accommodation. It’s designed to help you out of that awkward situation in a foreign country where you don’t know the language but are desperately trying to communicate that you need the bathroom, want to ask for the bill at the restaurant or need a hairdryer. Simply flick through the cards, find the picture of Pizza Toppings and eagerly point at the little pictures of olives, salami, anchovies and frown meaningfully at the picture of pineapple. You need never fear the foreign language waiter again.

I particularly like the picture on the Restaurant Complaints card – a slow tortoise carrying a tray of food on its back to a table, underneath a ticking clock. AKA Hurry up with my food. I’m not sure entirely how useful this tool is going to be, but I’ll be trying it out overseas in a few weeks; for better or worse.

cv_popup_londonPop-Up London is a colourful pop-up display book from Lonely Planet Kids. The book tours the reader through iconic landmarks in London.

I invited Wellington almost-5-year-old Lily Carlyle to review this book for me, with her mother Kat. Lily loved the pop-up aspect of the book, she thought the bright colours were very pretty and she really liked the map at the back. It was very short though, and without a story, Lily was left twiddling her thumbs after a minute. Improvising, Kat used the book to generate questions about where London was, the fact that a real princess (AKA Duchess Kate) lives there and then spent some 30 mins looking at pictures of princesses on the Net.

Perhaps Lonely Planet should incorporate a story in these pop-up books – a very good idea! Big thanks to Lily for her review.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne and Lily Carlyle

50 Beaches to Blow Your Mind (Lonely Planet) 9781760340599
Just Point – A Visual Dictionary for the Discerning Globetrotter (Lonely Planet)
9781760340636
Pop-Up London (Lonely Planet Kids) 9781760343392