31 August, 2015

Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly

Innovative, rebellious and often scandalous, British fashion  designer Vivienne Westwood is still, at 72 years of age, at the top of her game.

Most people know her best from her connection with Malcom McLaren. Already a schoolteacher, wife and mother when she met him in 1965 they teamed up to form a creative, potent duo. Vivienne recounts those crazy years in great detail - the early days of their shops (Let It Rock and SEX) on the Kings Road selling rubberwear and punk clothing, and Malcolm’s  band, The Sex Pistols.

Fascinating what she has to say about Malcolm McLaren. I really enjoyed hearing her version of events.

Born during the Second World War and rationing Vivienne came from a family who were good at making things from materials that were available. She still believes that people should buy less and choose well (quality over quantity).

Fighting for a number of causes, climate revolution, human rights, Leonard Peltier and Julian Assange, she skilfully uses her celebrity to make her message heard.

I also found it interesting seeing how the fashion industry has changed over the years and become a huge player in the global economy. The couture collections are fashion as art. Thousands of hours can go into creating one outfit that few could afford while the wider public buy versions of these and other products carrying the designers name.

And her best accessory?
 – a book! “Reading is my sublime luxury.”

Ian Kelly is also the author of Beau Brummell, Casanova, Mr Foote's other Leg & Cooking for Kings: the life of Antonin Careme the first celebrity chef.

Authors: Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly

Claire S works in the Information Services/Arts Team and loves reading biographies, contemporary fiction and non-fiction (art and anything related to New Zealand). 

26 August, 2015

Go set a watchman by Harper Lee

Could the long delayed and unexpected sequel to To kill a mockingbird be any good? Yes, it is. Places are vividly described and characters speak eloquently, if not always to a receptive audience.

Scout Finch has grown up, graduated and been living in cosmopolitan New York for several years when she returns to visit what remains of her family. Her equilibrium is totally upset when she sees her father, Atticus, in despicable company and thinks the worst of him: that he has deserted his principles. 

There are calls throughout the U.S. to end segregation and establish equality. Maycomb town is reluctantly facing change. Fear rides on the winds of change and the whites of Maycomb are wary of their Negro neighbours.

Warning! There are many utterances, by racists, of a word that has always been considered vulgar but now many find very objectionable.

Author: Harper Lee

Reviewed by Christine, Takapuna Library

Christine has worked at North Shore libraries for over 20 years. She likes her fiction to be credible and her nonfiction to be accessible.

25 August, 2015

The book of memory gaps by Cecilia Ruiz

I'm not usually a reader of graphic novels but this one caught my eye. It is a beautifully illustrated and evocative portrayal of the power of human memory.

Haunting, witty and thought-provoking - each little vignette skims over the surface of a deeper, more profound experience - packing a powerful emotional punch that stays with the reader long after the book has been put down.

This book succinctly captures the essence of memory and how it helps us to identify with ourselves, find our place in the world and define our relationships.

If you’ve never thought of reading a graphic novel let this be your first. A little book you’ll want to keep revisiting and contemplating. I loved it so much it’s made it onto my Xmas list!

The book of memory gaps by Cecilia Ruiz

Reviewed by Jo C, Central City Library

Jo C works as a library assistant at Central City Library and enjoys reading crime fiction, most contemporary fiction and also non-fiction books that inspire creativity and open her mind! Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood and Stephen King.

21 August, 2015

The five secrets you must discover before you die by J. Izzo

Death is a word that is avoided in many cultures. Why? 

Because people think it is a word which represents evil or badness, and they fear it. But the truth is, nobody is able to avoid it. Rich or poor, high or low, mankind becomes completely equal in front of it. 

Since nobody can escape from death, why don’t we choose to face it positively, and relax?

This is what this book wants to tell you. From the title, it seems like this book is about death, but on the contrary, it is about living, and how to live a worthwhile life through practicing the five secrets in your everyday life. (Leave no regrets; Give more than you take…)

It is a guidebook which leads you to review your life from these five secret aspects weekly and to think of how to improve in the next week. 

Finally, the book tells you that it is never too late to live out these secrets.
Do you want a quality life? Do you want to live fearlessly? Then read this book!  

Title: The five secrets you must discover before you die
Author: John Izzo 

Reviewed by Honour Z, Northcote Community Library

Honour Z works at Northcote Library. She loves reading biographies and nonfiction in general.

16 August, 2015

Longbourn by Jo Baker

This is a very different take on the Pride and prejudice story, in fact the Bennets only appear as incidental characters in this story of the servants of Longbourne house. Mrs. Hill has her hands full managing the staff that keep Longbourn running smoothly: the young housemaids, Sarah and Polly; the butler, Mr. Hill; and the mysterious new footman, James Smith, who bears a secret connection to Longbourn. Jo Baker reminds us that someone must have been up very early in the morning to lay the fires, empty the chamberpots, cook the meals and scrub the laundry. 

"If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them."

As we know from Jane Austen's masterpiece, the Bennet family’s respectable but rundown estate at Longbourn is under threat, destined to pass out of the family, since Mr. Bennet has no sons. Downstairs, the servants are worried too. Will the heir, Mr. Collins, bring in his own people and turn out the present staff?

There is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. Each person has their own  past or aspirations, and Baker vividly evokes the circumscribed lives of the lower classes in  Regency England, from trips in the rain to distant shops to the struggles of an infantryman in the Napoleonic Wars. She creates a vivid and believable world in which by comparison the Bennets seem pampered, oblivious, their dramas trivial.

This is a very easy book to keep on reading late into the night, the story was engrossing and drew me on. If you are familiar with Pride and prejudice, you will recognise the significant events in the story, but it is but a backdrop to the story of the servants. Highly recommended.

Title: Longbourn
Author: Jo Baker

Recommended by Anita S, Blockhouse Bay Library

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction, (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids books and... actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great! She also loves art and illustration.


15 August, 2015

Yotsuba&! 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba&! (Yotsuba and...) is a manga story about a young girl named Yotsuba Koiwai who has moved to a new neighbourhood. Each chapter of the manga revolves around Yotsuba's everyday adventures with her dad, the next-door Ayase sisters and various people around town.

​This manga is awesome and is one of the few reasons I drop whatever I'm reading, turn off any visual media and tell my niece to 'clear off' (bad uncle), just so I can giggle at Yotsuba and her friends. Well half-truths aside, Yotsuba is pure great fun. Each chapter takes Yotsuba's five-year-old point of view and unfolds with a delightful innocence. Yotsuba will engage in whatever takes her fancy, succeeding, failing, and learning, and you will enjoy reading about it. Simple as that.

​Kiyohiko Azuma has a great feel for these slice of life stories and Yotsuba&! is an example of stories that are both fun-loving and enjoyable, but also grounded in a realism that readers of all ages will enjoy. The artwork is also clean and expressive which adds to the tone.

Got kids? Introduce them to this manga. It's one that you can both enjoy together. Don't have kids? Just say you're picking something out for a niece or nephew and read it yourself (I won't tell). I can't really recommend this all ages book highly enough.

For those a little older, check out Kiyohiko Azuma's other manga: Azumanga Daioh, also a super excellent fun read.

Title: Yotsuba&! 1
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma

Recommended by James W, Sir Edmund Hillary Library Papakura

James W was once told to sleep with one eye open, he failed. James is also rubbish at Tekken.

14 August, 2015

The book of disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

When a little known twentieth century poet and prose writer from Portugal named Fernando Pessoa was included in The Western Canon (1994), Harold Bloom’s elegiac roundup of the most vital writing to emerge in the history of western literature, one review in the Times accused Bloom of being wilfully obscurant and elitist.

The benefit of hindsight has proven this notion to be more an indication of Pessoa's lack of a mainstream readership at the time than of Pessoa’s significance, or Bloom’s literary snobbery. New translations and editions have brought increasing acknowledgement that Pessoa’s body of work, mostly written under the guise of heteronyms (Pessoa's word for a variety of poetic nom de plumes for which he had created singular biographies and stylistic tendencies), was as brilliant as it was unique.

Pessoa’s most renowned work never saw publication in his lifetime. First published in Portugese in 1982, 47 years after Pessoa's death, The Book of Disquiet consists of hundreds of prose fragments which were found in a trunk in his room in Lisbon after his death. What connects these fragments is Pessoa’s crediting of them to the heteronym “Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in Lisbon.”

The pieces in this “factless autobiography,” as Pessoa calls it (or is that Soares?), include diaristic rumintaions, dreamlike aphorisms, passages as exquisitely beautiful as they are forlorn and meandering. Most pieces are combinations of all those things. Together they create a cumulative effect that is transporting, mesmerising, and, as the title implies, disquieting.

Unsurprisingly, it is within the books own pages you’ll find the most apt descriptions of both its strange appeal and mode of composition:  “In the faint shadows cast by the last light before evening gives way to night, I like to roam unthinkingly through what the city is changing into, and I walk as if nothing had a cure . . . . As my feet wander I inwardly skim, without reading, a book of text interspersed with swift images, from which I leisurely form an idea that’s never completed.”

Title: The Book of Disquiet
Author: Fernando Pessoa
Recommended by: Simon C, Central City Library

Simon C works in Readers Services for Auckland Libraries. His special reading interests include 19th-century French poetry and 20th-century modernist fiction. He likes to take psychogeographical walks in his spare time, sometimes not even leaving his desk to do so.

The intern's handbook by Shane Kuhn

At 25 John Lago is about to retire, but is recruited into the H.R. organisation after offing his drug-running foster parents. John infiltrates high-level companies as an intern and eliminates their executives.

Interns are invisible - between making photocopies and getting coffee they gain the trust of their targets and, by doing the grunt work, they gain access, allowing them to pull off clean untraceable hits.

John’s last assignment is to infiltrate a prestigious law firm and find out which senior partner is selling the names of people hiding in the witness protection programme. Complicating matters is Alice, a tough FBI agent bent on arresting his target.

Part assassination manual and part confessional, The intern's handbook is plotted like a good B-movie.

Title: The intern's handbook
Author: Shane Kuhn

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library

Murray R
enjoys horrors, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy books and good B-movies

The art of stillness: adventures in going nowhere by Pico Iyer

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

This is how well-known travel writer Pico Iyer, who has been traversing the globe for decades, ends his volume on visiting the most important place in the world – inside oneself.

Particularly in this age of technological distractions, he emphasises the importance of taking time off from the over-busyness of life and learn to be still. Practising contemplative stillness is a good way to keep direction, understand oneself and appreciate the world in its beauty more fully.

Citing examples from Leonard Cohen, Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama and his own experiences, he takes us on a journey of observation and technique to step away from the world, which as he explains, doesn’t mean turning one’s back on it. Whether it is for a few moments in a day or for a season in the year these precious pockets of stillness are rich with the rewards of faith in beauty and love for the world with everything in it.

Iyer’s reflections on the meditative mind are global without religious or theistic connotation. Written purposely as a short volume, to be absorbed in one sitting, this is almost a very long essay.
I enjoyed this small book with a big message simply because it makes you think about living life more mindfully.

And what could be more important than that?

You can also hear Pico Iyer speak on the art of stillness at ted.com.

Title: The art of stillness: adventures in going nowhere
Author: Pico Iyer

Recommended by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

05 August, 2015

What if : serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions by Randall Munroe

This book delivers what I call 'firm science' - that is, physics and chemistry without all the tedious math and formulas. It is also true to label; the serious and the absurd together.

Us humans are not so good at thinking about the vast and the fantastically tiny. What if uses new units of measurement (as well as the standard ones) to describe these phenomena outside of normal human range; height in giraffes and energy in annual household consumption of electricity.

One intriguing investigation is into what would happen if we pulled the plug on the Pacific Ocean and drained the sea, another looks at eliminating the common cold virus by isolating all humans, yet another into how one person could find another on a depopulated planet. Most of these situations are impossible. All are unwise, but thinking about them is mind-play at its best!

This book is further enlivened by pertinent cartoons and footnotes, and for the keen among us there is a huge bibliography so we can check the science and investigate further.

Title :  What if : serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions
Author : Randall Munroe

Reviewed by Christine, takapuna Library

Christine has worked in libraries on the North Shore of Auckland for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be credible and her non-fiction to be accessible.

Common people by Alison Light

How better to acknowledge Family History Month than to check out a family history book? 

Alison Light may be a professor of literature and culture, but she is also a family historian. Divided into four sections – one for each grandparent and their family – Common people is an exploration into her family’s past. A past that was mostly forgotten and not discussed. 

Although very English-based, there will be aspects that resonate with New Zealanders and their family histories. Many of our ancestors will have come to New Zealand for the same reasons Light’s ancestors migrated around England – work and family. And, many of our ancestors will have been ‘common people’, just like Light’s. 

Absorbing, this is a recommended read for family history fans, or those intrigued by the history of the everyday person in industrial England. 

Inspired by this, check out Writing your family history: a New Zealand guide by Joan Rosier-Jones.

Title: Common people: the history of an English family
Author: Alison Light. 

Recommended by Annie C, Helensville Library. 

Annie C is a voracious and versatile reader, but her habitual reads are fantasy, romance, and a diverse selection of non-fiction subjects. 

04 August, 2015

Frances Ha directed by Noah Baumbach (DVD)

The International Film Festival has closed in Auckland, but never fear! Now’s your chance to catch up on all those great films you missed in previous year’s festivals, many of which we hold at the library.

One of my favourite films from the last couple of years was Frances Ha, a contemporary comedy directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) and written alongside Greta Gerwig, a talented writer/actress/muse and definitely one to watch. Gerwig plays title character, Frances, a chaotic twenty-something trying to live and work in New York with varying degrees of success.

Frances’ story is one that a lot of us will relate to (I definitely did!). She’s in that uncomfortable space between graduating college and entering “the real world” of adulthood. Single, unemployed and essentially homeless for most of the film, Frances feels left behind as her roommate and best friend gets engaged, gets a job, grows up and moves on. This is a sensitive portrayal of female friendship and this is one film that will certainly pass the Bechdel Test.

Frances Ha wears its influences on its sleeve, referencing 1960s French cinema and Woody Allen's early romantic comedies in equal measure. It is filmed entirely in black and white, but remains fresh and original and a delight to watch.

Title: Frances Ha
Director: Noah Baumbach

Recommended by Ella J, Central Library

Ella J is a library assistant who has equal amounts of time for literary masterpieces as she does for pop culture icons, and is always looking out for something fresh and exciting to get her teeth into.

The book of lost things by Cynthia Voigt

Books by Cynthia Voigt are usually worth a read and I wasn't disappointed with these.  Mister Max:The book of lost things, and the sequel, The book of secrets are squarely aimed at kids who are looking for a well-plotted book with good characters and a bit of adventure! 

Twelve-year-old Max lives at home with his parents who own a theatrical company, but his life changes completely when they are invited to perform in India. He is to go with them, but upon arriving at the docks to meet them he is surprised to find they have disappeared, and the ship they are supposed to have sailed on does not exist. Thus the mystery begins.

Max is faced with a problem: he does not want to be put into care and would rather stay in his own house and work out what has happened. Luckily his Grammie lives next door, although she can't afford to have him indefinitely. He has to find a way to earn money, and  when he helps find a lost pet he decides he will become a 'solutioneer' and solve peoples' problems, (while working on his own mystery). 

He calls himself 'Mister Max' and uses characters from his parents' plays as inspiration for his disguises. He is more than a detective, as sometimes working out a good solution to the problems takes a bit of scheming and plotting. However he has help from a keen young girl called Pia and a University student called Ari, as well as his Grammie, who works at the library. 

Although sometimes a little far fetched, these books have charm and intrigue aplenty, and will appeal to the child who likes a book to get into, (probably in the 9 to 12 age group). Well written as you would expect from Cynthia Voigt

Title: The book of lost things and The book of secrets
Author: Cynthia Voigt

Recommended by Anita S, Blockhouse Bay Library

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction, (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids' books and... actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great! She also loves art and illustration.

03 August, 2015

Three mothers (and a camel) by Phyllida Law

I challenge you to read this book with a straight face. It is, I assure you, impossible.

This is Phyllida Law's unique and hilarious history of family life. An autobiography with a difference, she details her adventures, caring firstly for her mother-in-law and then her own mother.

Her mother-in-law's deafness had got very bad, so they tried various hearing-aids with mixed results. Phyllida then began a written daily diary to liase with her.

Likewise, when her own mother developed dementia, communication became somewhat fraught.The account of their daily doings brings to life the highs, lows and hilarity that only family life can bring.

Law is the mother of the actresses Sophie and Emma Thompson,and we also hear snippets of her own distinguished acting career. The writing is interspersed with drawings which bring the events detailed to life.

Not to be missed.

Author: Phyllida Law

Reviewed by Clare K. Massey City Library

Clare K works at Massey Library in West Auckland. She believes that there is nothing you can't learn from a book, and the more you know the more you grow.

Ghastly business by Louise Levene

Set in 1929, this glorious novel describes how our heroine, Dora, takes a position as a clerk in the pathology department in a London hospital headed by Alfred Kemble, where she immediately becomes immersed in the ghastly business of murder, schadenfreude and scandal.

The character of Alfred Kemble is created using the public essence of the famous Sir Bernard Spilsbury, but this is in no way a biography. His physicality, court presence and most famous cases are borrowed, but all else is a product of Levene’s vivid imagination and dark humour, backed up by thorough research.

Levene’s clipped and witty prose paints a picture of 1929 London as a bleak world of conflict between public and private: social niceties and outward modesty contrast vividly with private abandon and bloody mayhem.

If you devour details of historic cases such as the “Brides in the Bath Murders” and enjoy a heroine who is acerbically naive, then you must read this book and add Louise Levene to your list of preferred authors, as I have.

Ghastly business
Author: Louise Levene

Reviewed by Monica F, Orewa Library

Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.

02 August, 2015

Breakthrough: how one teen innovator is changing the world by Jack Andraka

If you are like me and enjoy the successes of others, then this is the book for you!

Jack Andraka faced many problems in his young life but nothing could compare to the pressures of high school bullying and a close family friend was dying of cancer. Instead of giving in to the homophobic bullying and the despair, he took another path. He turned to science.

Using his passion for science, Jack decided to try to create a better method of cancer detection, in memory of their family friend. After conducting two years of research and asking hundreds of universities and companies for help, Jack was finally rewarded when one lab agreed to help him. Jack was just 15 when he came up with an affordable early detection test for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. With this amazing achievement, Jack Andraka won not just science fair awards, but the most coveted and prestigious Gordon E. Moore Award in 2012. The fame that followed led to interviews and audiences with dignitaries ranging from U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, President Obama and Pope Francis!

What I liked the most was Jack’s honesty which came through in this book. Jack writes of his sexuality and the inner turmoil he was going through in an open voice. He maybe an ordinary teenager, but you can tell he is on the path to being something even greater. With every chapter I felt like standing up and cheering him on. It’s very rare to see such courage and determination written down by one so young.

If you are a science geek like Jack, the nifty science experiments included in the back will be something you might like to try!

I would recommend this book to every one of all ages to read, especially teenagers looking for inspiration.

Title: Breakthrough: how one teen innovator is changing the world
Author: Jack Andraka

Recommended by Surani R, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

Surani R enjoys reading biographies, travelogues, some non-fiction, and loves fiction that makes you laugh out loud. She also finds comfort in children’s fiction with thought-provoking stories.