29 August, 2016

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

With comic book month coming up in September I thought I would choose this charming little graphic novel to review. 

The story is about Peppi, a new girl who makes a mistake on her first day. She is mean to a nerdy boy, Jaime, and regrets it. She finds her niche in the art club, who meet across the hall from the science club. These two clubs become rivals in a bid for a table in the Annual School Club Fair. Jaime is in the science club and what is more he is assigned to be her science tutor - AWKWARD!!

I liked the plot and substance in this story, it read well and never felt too dense. It dealt with serious worries for a 'middle school' girl - being the new kid, fitting in, making friends and dealing with increased homework and tests. 

Awkward is funny and smart, it celebrates diverse interests and school community. Mean kids bother them but they are able to get past it because they have like-minded friends and a passion for their interests. There are lots of genuine characters with plenty of ethnic diversity and the differently abled. (Also a great discussion on the merits of art and  science, and a boy-girl friendship that isn't romantic. It's even got geocaching.)

Finally the artwork, verging on manga, is cute and expressive. The artist captures the emotions of those awkward adolescent years with great clarity and humour.

Found in the kids section and aimed at 9+ years I have had "big kids" read it with great enjoyment, so don't miss out on this little gem. If you enjoy this then try anything by Raina Telgemeier who also writes great graphic novels for kids and teens.

Title: Awkward [graphic novel]

Author: Svetlana Chmakova

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.

26 August, 2016

The girl from everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Time travel is great! This is a particularly delightful excursion.  A small wooden ship (a bit odd looking in modern times) and its crew travel over the world's oceans and through time.  

The captain has two addictions: one for opium and the other to return to his lost love and the mother of his daughter.  He 'navigates' using contemporary maps, some very ancient when he acquires them.They are able to sail from one era to another by passing over the margins of one map to that of another, ingenious! 

His daughter, Nix, is sixteen and ready for independence and romance but will she choose the exotic Kashmir, her shipmate or the more conventional artist and mapmaker that she meets in Hawaii in the 1860s?  

Title: The girl from everywhere
Author: Heidi Heilig 

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

24 August, 2016

The big questions in science – the quest to solve the great unknowns, by Hayley Birch, Mun Keat Looi, Colin Stuart.

‘The big questions in science’ is an interesting non-fiction book, written by three science writers.  The authors take twenty of the most intriguing scientific questions of our time, and then explain them (or try to explain them) in relatively simple language and through the use of diagrams and photographs.

The book starts by looking at some of the big cosmos questions such as “What is the universe made of?”, and “are we alone in the universe?”, then moves on to human questions like “what makes us human?” and “what is consciousness?”.

There are also theoretical topics such as “what’s so weird about prime numbers?”, and biological subjects like “will we ever cure cancer?” Each section of the book is carefully researched and explained, and it is great to just pick up and dig into at any chapter.  The book is written in different formats – in addition to standard layout there are many black pages with white text, bright orange feature articles; sketches, photographs and diagrams.

This is an ideal book if you have an interest in some of the big questions that come from science, and are looking for some explanations in layman’s terms.  There are also some challenging theories that will make you think.

Title: The big questions in science - the quest to solve the great unknowns
Authors: Hayley Birch, Mun Keat Looi, Colin Stuart,

Recommended by Ana, Central City Library

Ana enjoys reading and listening to music, travelling and many other things. She reads fiction, non-fiction and from genres, crime: the Scandinavian crime writers, Patricia Highsmith and some others.

22 August, 2016

Cold Hard Murder by Trish McCormack

This is Trish McCormack’s third murder mystery set on the West Coast of the South Island.

Assigned to Murder” and “Glacier Murder” were her first two novels in the Philippa Barnes series.
In this latest tale Barnes takes a break from being a glacier guide at Franz Josef and takes a job with the Department of Conservation in Paparoa National Park for a few months.

The story opens with the first murder…..a runner pauses above the surge pool at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Suddenly, a harsh laugh and clawing fingers around his neck. A scuffle on the cliff edge follows. The runner loses his grip and falls. A new DOC manager arrives, announcing new plans for the park and upsetting the small community. More violent deaths follow and Phillipa Barnes, once again, slips into the role of amateur detective. One by one, the dark secrets of the locals are revealed.

Not usually a fan of this genre, I surprised myself by reading it in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down! I loved the way the underground caves and the wild West Coast location played such a crucial part in the tale.

Title: Cold Hard Murder
Author: Trish McCormack

Recommended by Claire S. Information Services, Central Library.
Claire likes reading biographies, New Zealand, art & other interesting bits and pieces.

The Slaidburn Angel by M. Sheelagh Whittaker

The author was tracing her roots through her mother's mother, when she came upon an intriguing story. There had been a murder in the family. A little child had died back in the 1800's and her grandmother's stepmother and her sister had been tried for the murder.

Joining forces with some relatives from across the world who were also looking into the story of the little boy Thomas, they were able to travel from Canada to the scene of the murder in the north of England, and examine parish and other records.

As they looked deeper into the tragedy they came to realise just what had happened and how the little boy had died. The author writes about the events through the eyes of her grandmother, a young girl at the time. This helps her to unravel the mystery.

This is a tragic tale, and highlights the plight of unmarried mothers and illegitimate children in the 19th century, but it is a moving and very well told story.

Title: The Slaidburn Angel
Author: M. Sheelagh Whittaker

Reviewed by Clare K at Massey 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.

21 August, 2016

Level up your life: how to unlock adventure and happiness by becoming the hero of your own story by Steve Kamb

Most of the self-help books I’ve read in the past few years have offered some sound advice on achieving and maintaining personal goals and dreams. From micro-resolutions to forming good habits, self-help authors all tend to say the same thing but with different degrees of experience, qualifications and background. With this book, I found that Steve Kamb took it to another level. He used everything but jargon to get his point across. He made the whole process into a giant game!!

By using the concepts in video games, Steve Kamb designed a system that allowed him (the hero) to complete quests, take on boss battles, earn experience points, and literally level up his life. He created a website, Nerdfitness.com, where anyone can join his ‘Rebellion’ and level up their lives into getting stronger, losing weight or just living better lives by pursuing all sorts of dreams.

What I enjoyed the most wasn’t just the clearly laid out chapters with easy to follow steps, but the way Steve incorporated quotes and anecdotes from his favourite ‘heroes’ in video games and movies. It was such an exhilarating experience imagining myself as a ‘Rebel fighter’ from Star Wars or a simple hobbit off to find treasure in the Misty Mountains!

Now I know most of you might think this is just for geeks and nerds but I promise you it isn’t. This book is for anybody because deep down everyone has a ‘hero’ inside them crying out to go fight some storm troopers or vanquish treasure-hoarding dragons!

Steve Kamb’s quote; “Every time we complete a quest or mission, we have to remember that it’s often the journey that produces the happiness not the destination”, encapsulates the essence of his book for me. I would recommend you strap yourself into your favourite chair and give it a read just to enjoy the journey!!

Title: Level up your life: how to unlock adventure and happiness by becoming the hero of your own story
Author: Steve Kamb

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.

20 August, 2016

Princess more tears to cry by Jean Sasson

My husband worked in Saudi Arabia for five years and I got the chance to see life in the desert kingdom from 1995 to 2000 when I went there with my children.

The culture was  very different to the one we were exposed to and it took a while getting used to life and segregation of males and females. Though they had fancy cars women were not allowed to drive, and even a 10 year old boy could do so but not the women. Male members were treated on a higher level than women.

I often wondered what the women must have felt in such circumstances . I read many books by Jean Sasson who had lived in Saudi Arabia and written interesting books on the lives of women in particular. It really opened my eyes to the gigantic problems many of them faced.

The book "Princess: More tears to cry", talks about how some modern male members in the family genuinely try to understand their women and better their lives . At the same time the majority of Saudi women are controlled by the males in the family who torture and even murder them without any fear of breaking the law, as they have the power of doing so. Old customs try to subjugate women and there are very few who can educate themselves and stand on their own two feet though they have the brains and capability to do so.

In this book, Princess Sultana tells us about some development that has come about with her efforts, as well as some very committed doctors and social workers. Together they are fighting for the rights of women who have no voice against sexual abuse, rape or forced marriage to men who are very old. Even though the Princess is from a wealthy family, she is still answerable to the male members in her family and as long as they are good to her she can continue in helping women and children. I am glad to know the princess is helping women when she could have turned a blind eye to the plight of women in her country. She is courageous in doing this work.

I think you will find this an interesting read as women living in other more emancipated countries will appreciate the fact that we live on equal terms with our men folk. We have a lot more freedom than women in Saudi Arabia who have to hide behind the veil at all times.We are lucky to be able to achieve our dreams on our own terms.

Title: Princess more tears to cry
Author: Jean Sasson

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay library.

Kanchan loves reading biographies and stories to do with other cultures.

18 August, 2016

Problems by Jade Sharma

The blurb on the back of this book absolutely nails its essence and if it fails to make you delve deeper, this review will not add anything extra to sway you. You will only read this book if you’ve  a penchant for the dark, preferring your humour on the bleak side.

In terms of addiction themed novels, this sits outside of the usual florid descriptions of the great fall and scrambling in the depths of depravity, then, in the interests of tying things up, a short nod to the recovery process a la then-I-saw-the-light style of narrative. 

For a start the narrator is not terribly likable, first world problems and all that. Maya is  kind of narcissistic, selfish and aware of the repetitive nature of choosing the same destructive self soothing behaviours to escape  the stultifying boredom of her life. There is no deep dark trauma from which she seeks escape, but rather a distinct lack of self-identity or sense of confidence to step out and effect change. 

Then there is the fact that this book is kind of depressing. You find yourself thinking, "hmmm, do I really want  to read this?". Ultimately yes you do want to keep on reading because, despite so many poor Hollywood portrayals of the life of an addict, they fail to address  the mind numbing boredom of the same behaviours, running into the same problems and turning to the same destruction mechanisms to escape from life. 

By contrast this book shows Maya’s self awareness and shame as she knowingly avoids doing anything remotely instrumental in moving on. We see the   grubbiness of addiction, the fossicking round in the detritus of life and yet there is a certain  curiosity  about how Maya is going to alter her behaviours and what that process will look like. 

In a way this book is reflective of the social environment of the now, the discrepancies between the fairy tale promise of what life will be like when you’ve reached certain milestones in your young adult life and the crushing disappointment when the actualities of daily life are so far removed from the imagined ideal. 

This is such an accomplished book, really well written with a  gritty integrity. Maybe not your first choice if you’ve an appetite for the light or uplifting.  

Title: Problems
Author: Jade Sharma

Reviewed by: Sue W

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours, however since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

Thunderstruck and other stories, by Elizabeth McCracken

Some of the most affecting and effective short stories are ones in which humour and sadness, though seemingly at odds, work harmoniously together.

“Thunderstruck” and the other eight fictions in this slender volume are definitely funny–sad, and they are excellent. 

Death weaves in and out of their pages. There’s the ghost of Missy Goodby, “dressed in a pair of ectoplasmic dungarees”; the disappearing Karen Blackbird, with “muddy circles under her eyes”; and the father for whom Things Do Not Look Good (he’s on a ventilator).

Of course, we also meet the living: the mother who seals her daughter’s room; the son who is starving; the woman who fights to hide grief from a grandchild.

Humour is speckled throughout. It’s tempting to quote bits of it, but without their surroundings they may lose their piquancy, and what jolts one person’s funnybone might slide straight past another’s.

McCracken is a mistress of the pithy observation – an apparently throwaway line that stays with the reader.

One that struck me, from a character with little left to lose, was Six-dollar wine. Wine for people who either don’t drink wine or drink too much of it.”

In Thunderstruck and other stories, I think you too will find something that strikes a chord or hits a nerve: maybe several (somethings, chords and/or nerves).

Elizabeth McCracken was a delightful discovery for many of us who attended this year’s Auckland Writers Festival. Do read her, and spread the word.

Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library

Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about where the light gets in.

17 August, 2016

My Italian bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

 A book that makes the preposterous quite plausible is a delight. 

Paul is a conventional man; a writer of books about the culture and cuisine of various British and European areas. As such he has acquired a modest fame, causing so many distractions that his editor sends him to Tuscany to finish his current book, which is appropriately about Tuscany. 

He arrives in Pisa to claim the rental car that was booked for him to find, through a farcical level of corruption, that not only is there no car for him but that in all of Pisa there is no car, van or truck for hire either.  He is persuaded to hire a road-worthy bulldozer at another hire centre. Paul neither has to travel fast nor far so he can't find a good argument against hiring it. 

Much to his  surprise there are advantages to driving a bulldozer; for one, lots of respect on Italian roads!

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Reviewed by Christine O.

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

My grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry : a novel by Fredrik Backman

There are now many books where fantasy and this world overlap. This is not one of them. Well.. not quite....

Elsa is an exceptional child, nearly 8, her character has been formed in part by her rebellious and chaotic grandmother. This grandmother had a whole interesting and important life before Elsa was born but now she spends as much time as she can with her. She is a brilliant storyteller, original but not above pinching good elements out of Harry Potter, Grimm's fairy tales or comic books. She has always been chaotic, but sometimes that is just what you need. She was a surgeon operating in countries disintegrating with civil strife. When all around her was falling apart, she could cope.

When Grandma is hospitalized she gives Elsa, her knight errant, the task of delivering apologies to the people that she thinks that she has failed, and thus for the first time, in the real world Elsa meets a wurse, the fabled loyal, brave, ferocious creature of the land of Almost-Awake.  

As well as a great story, this is an education in how to handle (and how not to handle) difficult people.  Funny in spots, very wise in others.

Author: Fredrik Backman

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine O has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible.

Recipes for love and murder by Sally Andrew

When her bosses instructs the editor of a newspaper serving the Klein Karoo in South Africa to add an advice column she had a small problem. The only possible way to include one was to replace the recipe column written by her friend, Tannie Maria.  Fortunately the kind and intelligent Tannie Maria agrees to take on the role of Agony Aunt.  She answers a couple of letters each week. She strongly believes in the power of good home cooking so she slips in an appropriate recipe too. 

Her advice to a battered woman to leave her abusive husband inadvertently and indirectly leads to one, maybe two murders. Tannie Maria and the reporter on the newspaper (who is keen to be an investigative journalist) look into the circumstances, taking a quite different approach from the police.

The landscape, vegetation and wildlife are economically and beautifully described, making it easy to visualise this exotic setting.  As bonus, we are given the recipes featured in the story. A delight!

Author: Sally Andrew

Reviewed by Christine O, Takapuna Library.

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

The seven good years by Etgar Keret

Sometimes, even if you love books and can’t sleep without reading first, nothing grabs you, and you end up in a reading funk. Magazines and re-reads sustain your habit. 

This book, recommended by my sister (who was recommended it by her daughter), is the first book I have finished for a while (well, apart from picture books). 

Like the reviews say, it’s touching. It’s honest. It’s heart-breaking. It’s heart-warming. It also has the benefit of being written in short episodic chapters. All of these things are appealing when you’re in a funk. 

The upshot is: if you want something short and memorable to read – try this one.

Title: The seven good years: a memoir
Authors: Etgar Keret; translated by Sondra Silverston, Miriam Shlesinger, Jessica Cohen, Anthony Berris.

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. A life-long love of children’s books, particularly picture books, helps in her day-to-day role as a children’s librarian. 

16 August, 2016

All the missing girls by Megan Miranda

This novel has a unique premise- after an introductory chapter, the book starts at the end of the story and works backwards. It took me a while to get my head around this and I had to concentrate more than usual. No 10 minute reading before bed for this one as it was too hard to remember what had happened!

Ten years after the disappearance of her friend Corrine and her flight from her home town as a consequence, Nicolette has returned to sort out her father’s affairs. Not long after Nic is back in town another girl vanishes- someone that was also tied to the mystery a decade ago. Is it a coincidence? Investigations into the new case bring Corrine’s incident back into the present.

Because of the way the story is written you need a good long stretch reading, but it’s worth it. The writing style suits the story; it’s economic with no unnecessary dialogue or descriptions, creating tension as the events of the past are revealed. Just like real life, you never know all the secrets that people keep to protect loved ones.

Put aside some time to savour this one in print, or digitally on Overdrive eBook or eAudiobook.

Title: All the missing girls
Author: Megan Miranda

Recommended by Kathy N, Collections Development

Kathy N can’t sleep unless she has read a bit before turning the light off. As well as most fiction, she enjoys craft and lifestyle books to get project ideas for her rural home. She spends much of her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.

11 August, 2016

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (Audiobook)

Human development has threatened the remote Scottish valley where the last remaining silver dragons have been living. This children’s tale follows the exploits of a silver dragon named Firedrake, the Brownie Sorrel, and Ben, a human boy, in their search for a mythical mountain range known as the Rim of Heaven where dragons will at last be able to live safely. Along the way they have to escape an evil dragon hunter, who wants nothing more than to destroy them, and get assistance from several rather unusual fantastic creatures.

I listen to audiobooks while driving to and from work, and this one is brilliantly read by Brendan Fraser. His expressive reading had me enthralled as I got taken along on the dragon ride of my life. He perfectly captures the voice of the ageing dragon, to the fast talking Scottish accented brownie named Sorrel and all the other wonderful and distinctively spoken characters in this tale.

This is a warm, magical novel that I believe Inkheart fans, as well as Harry Potter fans, would love. Entertainment at its best!

Title: Dragon Rider
Author: Cornelia Funke.

Reviewed by Lynda T, East Coast Bays Library.

Lynda T reads anything that grabs her interest, but is particularly interested in science fiction and young adult novels.

10 August, 2016

The Drop Box [DVD videorecording]

In South Korea, babies are abandoned everyday. One such child was left on the church's doorstep where Pastor Lee found the child and decided he was going to do something about it.

He built a heated hatch with the church wall, so that if any other babies were abandoned, they would be protected from the elements.The drop box allows for parents to leave their child without the risk of being seen, while still allowing them not to leave their children out on the street.

The "Drop Box" is basically one man's mission to save the babies of South Korea and giving them the chance to live their lives with people who care. People do disagree with his methods, as it is now easier for parent's to abandon their child, but Pastor Lee's thinks that a parent is going to abandon a child anyway, it's just safer for the child to be with him.

It's pretty heart breaking to see the children Pastor Lee has saved, some of them still live in with the Pastor and his wife. The movie shows the children's backgrounds and the difficulties of raising the children, as some of them need specialist care.

A great movie but if you have a tender-heart, maybe not the one for you.

Title: The Drop Box
Language: In English with some Korean dialogue and optional French Subtitles. Optional English Subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Recommended by Emma W

Emma W, a Senior Library Assistant from Waitakere Central Library, can be found zoming out constantly, requesting way too much stuff or humming along to the elevator music in her head.

06 August, 2016

Golden domes and silver lanterns: a Muslim book of colors by Hena Khan

On July 17th, millions of Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. My co-worker Zainab described Eid as something like the Muslim Christmas, coming after a month-long period of fasting and religious devotion. Families gather to eat, open gifts, spend time together and donate money to the poor.

Hena Khan’s Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors is a beautiful children’s picture book celebrating Eid and teaching children about their colours in an Islamic way. Featuring beautiful illustrations by Merhrdokht Amini, the books follows a young girl on a journey through Ramadan, Eid and the colours of the rainbow.

This book is perfect for teaching children about Muslim culture, or celebrating Eid. Order now through Auckland Libraries. 

Recommended by Hannah C., Mount Albert Community Library

Hannah C is not Muslim but she does believe strongly that dates are delicious.

05 August, 2016

Red dust over Shanghai by Tyl von Randow

Tyl starts the story of his unique Shanghai childhood, as the child of a German diplomat, with the disjointed, dream-like memories of a very young child and wisely refuses to colour those precious memories with hindsight and an adult perspective. As Tyl matures we are given more contexts as he begins to understand more of his world. However, this theme runs strongly throughout the book: to accept the immutable nature of the past and to resist the urge to comment from the comfort of the present.

Perhaps this acceptance is a result of Tyl’s cultural flexibility, a chameleon survival skill learned from a very young age which is comically portrayed in the book by his flag collection which he flies according to whoever is in power at the time in turbulent Shanghai.

This is a brave story in so many ways: Tyl portrays his world and its characters with their good and bad enmeshed and, true to form, declines to judge. In fact, his survival sometimes depended on good deeds done by rather dubious characters.

It must be difficult to unlock the secrets of the past and even harder to put them in print for others to share and comment on. I am very glad that Tyl felt able to do this, as I loved this book. This is a story not often told: Shanghai from the perspective of a child who spoke several languages and identified with several cultures, who accepts that the past was good and bad and unchangeable.

Title: Red dust over Shanghai
Author: Tyl von Randow.

Reviewed by Monica F, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

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.

In order to live: a North Korean girl's journey to freedom by Yeonmi Park

The subtitle of the book is “A North Korean girl’s journey to freedom”. Yeonmi Park descried her experience as a North Korea girl escaping to South Korea via main land China and Mongolia; what is like living in a dictated country; trafficker trade in the border between North Korea and China and how the political relations between North Korea, China and Mongolia decided the fate of thousands of North Korean escapees.

I was strongly drawn by Yeonmi’s presentation of her time adjusting to life in South Korea— The tremendous impact caused by the huge differences of living in a materialistic culture; In the throe of struggling to learn to live a life of freedom, while dealing with the subtle or overt discrimination from the community. 

What impressed me most is how she overcame difficulty, came out of the shadow of the past, and shook off the thoughts and worldview produced by the propaganda pouring into her mind while growing up in North Korea.  

It is great to see that Yeonmi Park started a new life - a life that was more than just survival, a life with the purpose of embracing something bigger than herself.

It is a great book to read!

Title: In order to live: a North Korean girl's journey to freedom
Author: Yeonmi Park

Recommended by Honour Z, Northcote Library

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

04 August, 2016

Voices from the Second World War by First News

First News and Walker Books have produced a beautifully edited resource for children’s history.

First News is a British weekly newspaper aimed at young people that has been in business for about ten years. As well as publishing news, current affairs and culture, it has an interest in history and publishes a Past Times collection focused on the twentieth century. Walker books is one of the leading independent publishers of children’s literature.

Children and young people went out into their communities and interviewed elderly people about their memories of the Second World War. Stories were recorded from, among others, an aircraft gunner involved in over sixty missions, a Jewish female musician sent to Auschwitz, and a survivor of Hiroshima. Their tales, compelling and emotional, are accompanied by photographs that often tell another story all of their own.

Eminently readable, educational and enlightening, this book is a special kind of oral history captured in print that crosses the generational divide and helps preserve the incredible stories of a time almost entirely lost now to living memory.

Recommended for readers 9+.

Title: Voices from the Second World War
Author: First News

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV.

Agnostic: a spirited manifesto by Lesley Hazelton

First off it’s best not to get too hung up on the title, or at least the part ‘…a spirited manifesto’. By all means I found plenty of spirited thought in this book, but the use of the word manifesto (list of ideas, intentions or views) is rather loose, which Lesley Hazleton fairly acknowledges at the beginning anyway… so yeah that’s off my chest (sorry it bugged me). Let’s have a squiz at the book!

Hazleton has a look at the nature of being religious including the origins of the word religion (tied down/constricted in the original Latin) and the established dichotomy (of which there are many where religion is concerned) of: ‘Religious? Why yes’ or ‘#*$% no!’ in a means to find room for her agnosticism alongside these two, rather than being equated to wishy-washy, non-committing doubt.

Hazleton looks at the religious and atheistic views on death (what makes us mortal or human), the soul (human vulnerability and coming out “the other side”) and the nature of God (a human representation of something much bigger) among other areas in establishing her stance on Agnosticism, apart from uncertainty and atheistic dogma.

Agnostic: a spirited manifesto confronts the threshold of uncertainty and encourages others to do the same rather than sidestep the issue of religion and remain uncertain. Interesting stuff!

Hazleton's prose is very easy and engaging and at a smidge over 200 pages, readily digestible. Highly recommended for everyone in the 'knowing, unknowing and ummm…' categories.

Title: Agnostic: a spirited manifesto
Author: Lesley Hazleton

Recommended by James W Māngere Bridge Library

James W is no agnostic but rather a believer in the library Gods and the power they have to tell when he’s reading what he should be shelving and when he's "checking" the "library" facebook page. Praise be.

01 August, 2016

The Matriarch by Witi Ihimaera

I was reading this book in a sort of the same way I was reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during my school years. No, it was not boring (I’m a bit of a nerd and a great fan of Tolstoy). It is just that in both novels I found myself savouring pieces about people, relationships and family, while only skimming through parts on wars and battles (which were just a little too long for my girlish taste).

Comparison can be a fascinating process, so I carried on thinking of other similarities between these two very different novels by one of the greatest Russian writers of all time and an established contemporary Māori author.

To name just a few, both books are epics, quite massive in size; both cover the major historical events in the respective countries, arguing the authors’ particular (and radical at times) views on history. 

The Matriarch reflects the years of Māori protest from a solely Māori perspective stressing the clash between Māori and Pākehā cultures. It challenges the official pro-European view on New Zealand history, so I can see the novel might be very confronting for Pākehā readers. It is a brave book with a fighting spirit and a clear political dimension.

There is a time for war and a time for peace. Just as Tolstoy’s classic, Ihimaera’s novel steadily develops a very strong family theme. Unlike the traditional New Zealand man alone type with no roots and place to go, the Māori protagonist returns to the family to discover his true self. His relationships with his parents, sisters, mysterious grandmother and Pākehā wife humanise the fighting hero as well as enrich greatly the story plot.

Title: The Matriarch
Author: Witi Ihimaera

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand fiction.