24 May, 2017

This beats perfect By Rebecca Denton

"This beats perfect" is all about a girl named Amelie Ayers who the only thing she wants to do in the world is to sing her own songs and engineer the next big hit. The only thing standing in her way is her all-consuming case of stage fright which her father (also in the music business), is trying to help her overcome.

Her father offers for her birthday a backstage pass to "The Keeps" a popular boy band at the time, which is so not her scene but hey it's a free concert, that she gets to see what her father does and get a step into the behind the scenes action that goes on in concerts. Amelie is fascinated by the inner workings of the stage crew and the crowd, but "The Keep" is not going to be around much longer. One of its members (Maxx) is setting his sights on becoming a solo act and looking to Amelie’s dad to help produce his new C.D, which Amelie has been asked to help create. But Maxx is not who his boy band persona leads you to think and Amelie starts to fall for the guy who is also unsure of who he is when he is stripped away of his stardom. 

A love story with a difference through the eyes of a girl who is terrified to follow her dreams, and all the music industry knowledge that comes with it is interesting and eye opening. Leaves you wondering if Amelie will ever get the courage to get up on stage and also win the heart of the boy she is starting to fall for.

Author: Rebecca Denton

Emma W is a Senior Library Assistant at Waitakere Central Library who can be found humming constantly, requesting way too much stuff or playing in the lifts in the library. Luckily no one has noticed yet. 

16 May, 2017

True crime Japan by Paul Murphy

I have lately grown tired of scanning the true crime shelves and seeing mostly American and British true crime: all variations on a theme. I long for something different and good and a couple of months ago I hit the mother lode. The book is True crime Japan by Paul Murphy and if you want weird and wonderful stories about what goes on in courtrooms that do not follow our English Law system, then read on.

Paul Murphy is an Irish journalist and a fluent Japanese speaker who has lived in Japan for some years. This book is a careful curation of the most interesting cases from his observations of court cases in Matsumoto over a one year period. Paul groups the cases into themes, such as crimes committed by the elderly, sexual deviants, and the Yakuza, and also gives the social and legal background to these cases. This provides the context to what appears at first sight to be utterly bizarre. He also takes the trouble to follow up on the cases after sentencing, which is vital information for any hard-boiled true crime junkie.

I loved the simple explanations and easy narrative style in True Crime Japan, and highly recommend this as an intelligent read for those who enjoy reading true crime without the gory bits.

I am sorely tempted to discuss all my favourite OMG moments from this book with you, but I will restrain myself for fear of spoiling your reading experience. However, I have no doubt that this will be a book that you will want to discuss afterwards, and I would love you to leave a comment after you have read it. Enjoy!

TitleTrue crime Japan
Author: Paul Murphy

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.

15 May, 2017

Get well soon : history's worst plagues and the heroes who fought them by Jennifer Wright

I just read this fascinating book about plagues. You would think this would be a depressing topic, but the conversational tone and anecdotes make this a very readable book.

Jennifer Wright has gone through the ages and found out intriguing and informative facts about various deadly plagues and diseases, (including smallpox, leprosy, cholera, polio and more). What caused them, who caught them, stigmas and myths surrounding them, and ridiculous attempts at cures, and how some changed the course of history. It is also about the ways humanity responded to crisis, (often in a really bad way), but it includes people who did the right thing, the heroes who get their business together and go about saving lives and give people comfort.

I like how Wright tells about some lesser known plagues, like the  dancing plague in a small town in France in the 1500's. I learnt fascinating facts like: there was a no-nose club in the late 19th century, (a social club for sufferers of syphilis), or that the Spanish flu started in the U.S.A. And did you know there was a lobotomobile?  Wright has a delightful and  humorous writing style, she manages to make you laugh while reading about a pretty grim subject.

It is scary how quickly we can forget the terror of losing so many to a contagious disease, but we need to remember and plan for an event like this to happen again. With bacteria resistant bacteria we might be due for another outbreak. Definitely worth reading.


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



08 May, 2017

Explaining Hitler : the search for the origins of his evil by Ron Rosenbaum

Adolf Hitler.
Two words, the name of a man who has dominated the history books since he died in 1945. Who was he?

What man could go from the innocent little boy who features on the cover of this book to the monster who sent millions of men, women and children to their deaths.
Mr Rosenbaum looks at the various historians and authors who have tried to explain the reasoning behind this. He examines Hitler's early life and then rise to power. What stuck in my mind was the way that at first, in Germany, Hitler was treated like a clown and nobody for a moment believed that he would one day rule the country.
The origins for his anti-Jewish philosophy are also examined. Maybe he caught syphilis from a Jewish prostitute or maybe his own family hid a secret Jewish ancestor.
The book also examines the anti-Jewish feeling abroad in Europe at the time, and whether this was a contributing factor to Hitler's success. Of course, the Holocaust wasn't just Hitler, other people, seemingly eveyday, ordinary people participated too. But was Hitler the right man at the right time or could anyone given his history and temparament have done what he did?
It certainly gave me and anyone who is looking for an answer to the question of why, a very readable and easily digested book. I also took from it a warning. Once mainstream politics and ordinary people come together to demonise a whole race or religion or both, then unspeakable evil can be unleashed.

Title: Explaining Hitler: the search for the origins of his evil 
Author: Ron Rosenbaum


Reviewed by Clare K. 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.

07 May, 2017

Hidden figures: the untold story of the African American women who helped win the space race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Just like everyone else in the world, this title came to my attention when it hit the movie screens. With high hopes and anticipation; I went and saw the movie and it did not disappoint me. With a stellar cast it gave me an insight into the lives of the “West Computers” of NASA and the drama that was involved in putting a man into space.

The book, which I read later, gave me much more. We meet the four ‘figures’ of Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden and follow their lives from their early years as teachers, and into the late 1940’s as ‘computers’ for the NACA and learn of the work they performed in their respective fields. Filled with interweaving stories about these strong women, Hidden Figures also gives the reader an insight into the significant historical events that took place, such as World War II, NASA’s golden age, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights era.

This book does not read like a history text for me. It was more like a memoir. Margot Lee Shetterly’s unique prose takes us deep into that period of time and we get to see not only history unfold before us, but also the intimate lives of these courageous women. I was inspired by the sacrifice, determination, and intelligence of these women as they endeavoured to reach the pinnacle of their careers and paved the way for the generations to come.

If you are like me and enjoy history and stories of women who have made a difference then Hidden Figures should be your next read!!


Title: Hidden Figures: the untold story of the African American women who helped win the space race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly

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.



03 May, 2017

Beyond the Northlands by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

What we know about the Vikings is usually through the lens of the victims – Christian monks. Bur what did the Vikings think about themselves? What was their experience? What influenced them? What did they think about the rest of the world? 

Barraclough has explored the Viking world – through text and geography – to get a real feel of their experiences and views. 
Her extensive research both permeates the text, and sits lightly upon it, which means the book can be seen as a light read – but it isn’t. Her writing style is engaging – I particularly like her footnotes. 

Highly recommended for history fans, and fans of the TV series – Vikings. You might also like to hunt out Neil Gaiman’s Norse mythology

Title: Beyond the Northlands: Viking voyages and the Old Norse sagas.  
Author: Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough. 

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. 

02 May, 2017

Blackout: tomorrow will be too late by Marc Elsberg

The plot of this book intrigued me – the power suddenly goes out across Europe plunging cities into chaos and officials scrambling to find the fault.

It appears that terrorists have hacked the computer systems of power producers and suppliers, causing massive shutdowns.  Thrown together by chance, an Italian computer expert and an American journalist work together to uncover the perpetrators and prevent any further destruction, travelling across the continent and putting themselves in danger in the process.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The story-line was great and so believable it had me checking on my home emergency kit. It moves at a really fast pace and the short chapters are so easy to read that you lose track of time. Characters are located in a number of cities across the continent with chapters alternating between them all. This took me a while to get used to, but adds an extra dimension with all the different viewpoints.

On the other hand, the writing was a bit clumsy which I put down to the fact this is a translation of the original German novel. Some of the interactions and descriptions with women were a bit awkward too, with a very slight sexist tone, particularly in the physical descriptions of characters.

There are so many consequences of an incident like this that you never think of, such as the collapse of currency markets, loss of transport because petrol can’t be pumped without electricity, scarcity of prescription medicines, and farm animals that die because they can’t be cared for properly.

It really makes you think about the vulnerability of the infrastructure we rely on and the security of our online networks. Although this is fiction, the reality of this is scarily possible. A well-researched thriller that will appeal to many.

Author: Marc Elsberg

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.

22 April, 2017

Howl's moving castle by Diana Wynne Jones

*Typing*

“Okay...Howl's Mov-… and… Yes! No one else as reviewed this one yet!”

*Does sad victory dance*

Howl’s moving castle is an oldie but a goodie and apologies to anyone who has already read this children’s classic (no, the Miyazaki film doesn’t count), but look at this as your excuse to read it again. You have my permission.

Howl’s moving castle tells the story of Sophie Hatter, whose surname speaks of a time when surnames belied your profession (I suppose Milliner could also have been her surname). She is soon whisked off her feet by a mysterious wizard, becoming the object of ire of the Witch of the waste and is cursed into becoming an old woman...

Sophie herself is a wonderful character who exhibits growth in her role and embodies the themes of courage not only adventure, but also of facing and overcoming societies expected perception of her, which colours the way she sees herself. I won’t get too deep into themes, it’s way too great a story to read purely analytically anyways. Read it aloud with friends, or to your kids!

Howls moving castle is a wondrous tale of adventure and magic filled with great characters, clever dialogue and fun-filled adventure. It’s too good not to read. Seriously!

Watch Miyazaki’s adaptation, also available in the library, it’s a great adaptation/reinterpretation.
Read the sequels too, Castle in the air and House of many ways, which are just as great in their own way!


Title: Howl’s moving castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

James W is also a wizard… at ironing, because ironing is awesome. If anyone tells you otherwise, then tell them to walk their wrinkly trousers into a different conversation.

20 April, 2017

Behind every great man: the forgotten women behind the world's famous and infamous by Marlene Wagman-Geller

In this collection, teacher - historian and author Maureen Wagman-Geller, self-proclaimed lover of history, biography and trivia, has put together the back stories of 40 of history’s forgotten women; women who stood in the shadows of their famous (and sometimes infamous) husbands are defined and brought to light.

The criteria for choosing the subjects were that the men had to be easily recognised and the wives had to be largely unknown.

And so, chapter by chapter, the curtains are drawn back on the spouses of government leaders (Nelson Mandela, Adolph Hitler), writers (Steig Larsson, C.S. Lewis), musicians (Sting, Jerry Garcia), scientists (Einstein, Stephen Hawking) and plenty more.  In the author’s words, these are women who “have stood behind their legendary partners and helped to humanise them, often at the cost of their own careers, reputations and happiness.”

Through this titular cliche, each woman’s contribution to history  is concisely and amusingly documented, as we read their stories of how they stood by their men - whether through alcoholism, racism, infidelities or even as they became important collaborators in their spouse’s work.

A peek behind the curtain that asks some questions – like how much did Mrs Madoff know of her husband Bernie's business doings or why did Eva Braun stay with Hitler? Here are some answers from voices thus far silenced.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. And also available as an ebook.

Note to author: Hopefully, there will soon be a contemporary version titled Behind every great woman... 

Title: Behind every great man: the forgotten women behind the world's famous and infamous
Author: Marlene Wagman-Geller

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.

10 April, 2017

Dark matter : a novel by Blake Crouch


This is a roller coaster of a read that takes you in many unexpected directions.

The action begins when Jason Dessen, forty-year-old physics professor, is kidnapped at gunpoint and transported to . . . where? The world is similar, but not his, and where are his beloved wife and son?  I won’t say too much about the plot as it is better to let it unfold as you read, but this book melds thriller and science fiction to brilliant effect.  It is creative and mind-bending with a superb twist in the plot in the last part of the book. Just when you think you have the story sussed it gets weirder.

After I read this book,  my son picked it up and  read it in a day, he could not put it down, (this is a working day too). He loved it so much my daughter also read it and stayed up late to finish it. (They are both in their 20’s). The writing and the action draws you in and you want to just read the next bit, and then a bit more until it is finished at 1.30am in the morning. 

A thought provoking and gripping story that stays with you. It would make a great movie as well. Wait and see. . . . . .

TitleDark matter : a novel
AuthorBlake Crouch

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

07 April, 2017

The last act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

Interesting characters and an intriguing mystery combine to create a great story with many twists and turns.

Hattie is a high school student from a small American town who is determined to make her name on the stage in New York. She is a gifted actress and uses her skills off- as well as on-stage, changing her personality depending on who she is with. When her body is found in an old barn, the local policeman, an old family friend, is called to investigate.

More than a police-procedural story of an investigation, this book is defined by it's strong characterisation and realistic dialogue. It's told from three points of view which helps to get the feeling you know the individuals and understand their side of the story.
You feel the grief of the parents, the distress of the school students, the frustration of the police, the nervousness of the suspects. More than one of Hattie’s contacts had a reason to murder her, or was it someone she didn’t know?

The writing is excellent and gives great insights into personalities. As a keen reader, I liked this description from Hattie on her mother: “Mom would be reading whatever the library just got in, since she’d gone through everything on their shelves. She never wanted to talk about her books though. Maybe that’s what made her so hard to read sometimes, all those books floating around in her.”

This book is also published under the alternative title ‘Everything you want me to be’ which perfectly describes the complicated Hattie.

Title: The last act of Hattie Hoffman / Everything you want me to be
Author: Mindy Mejia

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.

03 April, 2017

The affair of the thirty-nine cufflinks by James Anderson (book)

Lord Burford was sure that lightning wouldn't strike thrice, when his wife persuaded him to have guests at Alderley, his stately mansion.

Their beautiful home had been the scene of not one but two murders. It was ridiculous to think it could ever happen again. His beloved Aunt Florrie had died in London and had expressed a wish to be buried at her deceased husband's former home. So he agreed to hold the funeral at the nearby chapel and then invite the mourners back for refreshments.

Soon, the twelve beneficiaries of the will were the only ones left at the gathering, and they would have to stay the night, as the will could not be read until the barrister arrived.

So there they all together under one roof, and what the barrister revealed in his sonorous voice, was shocking to many of them. But first they had to fulfil a last request of Aunt Florrie's and sing 'She'll be coming round the mountain'.

To those looking for a gentle murder mystery, this is a light and entertaining read very much in the tradition of Agatha Christie,. Mr Anderson, who died in 2007, only wrote three like this but they are all just as good. 

Title: The affair of the thirty-nine cufflinks.

Author: James Anderson 


Reviewed by Clare K. 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.
  
    


02 April, 2017

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart


Every once in a while I pick up a children’s book and after reading it leaves a lasting impression on me. Lily and Dunkin is one of those books.


Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a transgender girl trying to fit into the eighth grade. Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbet Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved down to Florida with his mother. Both teens are going through a challenging period in their lives. Both of them have secrets they are good at hiding. One summer morning, the two of them meet and their lives change forever. This unlikely friendship starts out with uncertainty and as the story progresses the reader gets to witness the immense bravery, kindness and love that revolves around these characters.

Donna Gephart writes this story in the two distinct voices of Lily and Dunkin. We are able to see not just the amazing characters they each are, but also the inner turmoil and anxieties they go through. Donna Gephart has created an amazing book which moved me immensely and opened my eyes to the world of these extraordinary young people. I find myself having a better understanding and acceptance of the issues facing transgender teens and those who suffer from mental health issues. It’s also very humbling to learn that the character of Dunkin was based on Gephart’s own journey with her son.

Out of all the books I’ve read so far, this story with its intricately woven plot lines and vivid description, taught me of the importance of identity, the love and support of family and staying true to what one believed in.

A truly inspirational and moving story, but more suitable for older ‘tween’ readers!


Author: Donna Gephart

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. 

29 March, 2017

This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all by Kyle Cassidy

So what does a librarian look like?

This book is the result of a project that involved taking photographs of
American librarians and recording their impressions and views about libraries and their importance in today’s communities. The photos are interspersed with chapters about some notable American libraries and essays by authors, including Neil Gaiman, Jude Devereaux and Cory Doctorow.

It illustrates how libraries are being used now along with visions of the future, and really highlights why we need good libraries and dedicated library staff. There is huge diversity in the people featured in this book but they all have the common values of tolerance, acceptance, and concern for their communities.

I liked the way the text is broken up by groupings of photographs which I found made it easy to read and kept it interesting. The portraits are of a high quality and manage to show the individuality of the subjects. The way the photographs are laid out is also pleasing to the eye, with its mixture of small and full–page portraits.

Although this is about American libraries, the issues and concerns are the same worldwide. Our policy-makers could learn a lot from this, as libraries seek to affirm their value in our societies.

And to answer the question - there’s no such thing as a typical librarian!



Title: This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all.
Author: Kyle Cassidy

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.

21 March, 2017

A brief history of creation : science and the search for the origin of life by Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II



In the beginning… soup, or something along those lines. If I were to explain how I got from beginning to soup, it would probably take me many volumes, lots of mistakes (and some motivation), so there is something to be said for explaining the history of creation and how we came to that point in the space of 250 pages. This book does an admirable job and covers as much ground as possible, from Anaximander of Miletus’ theory of humans forming inside fish creatures to the work of Oparin-Haldane.

I enjoy my history a lot and though my mind fades to mush most of the time while reading about science, I do enjoy trying. This book grabbed me quite quickly with its readable narrative style, where the journey to the present day on the question of life is filled with 'heroes' and 'villains', instead of a straight chronological onslaught of theory. 

Interesting historical twists and fascinating science do abound, but I found the portrayals of the personalities involved most gripping, with such historical heavyweights as Darwin and Voltaire, alongside lesser knowns like biochemist Sidney Fox and the overlooked English chemist Rosalind Franklin. These people are brought to life with stories of their struggles, hits and misses.

Before you know it, the book is finished and the history of an important part of life is sitting lightly in your lap. Don't expect to come away diploma hardened, just happy that you know a little bit more about a very important subject.



Author: Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II 

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

James W has often pondered the history of creation and evolution. But lately it has taken a back seat to the creation and evolution of optical disc packaging and why, after 30 years, CD cases are still so rubbish...

20 March, 2017

Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame

Written in 1963, Towards Another Summer is one of Frame’s works that was not published during her lifetime. At the back of 2007 edition (three years after Frame’s death), Pamela Gordon, the author’s niece, thanked the board members at the Janet Frame Literary Trust for “sharing the responsibility for the decision to offer this manuscript for publication”. She noted that the text was “too personal” to publish during the author’s lifetime. 

Meanwhile, no matter how true to life the novel may seem to Gordon, who was not only aware of Frame’s life story through the other texts (whether or not one can trust them) but knew her in person (same question), Towards Another Summer seems to work perfectly well as a piece of fiction.

Protagonist Grace is a 30-year-old New Zealand writer living in London. She accepts an invitation from a journalist named Peter to spend a weekend at his place in the north of England with his wife Anne and their two small children. Due to her excessive shyness, Grace struggles to communicate with her hosts, hides from the kids whenever she can, feels uncomfortable and seeks privacy:

- I don't suppose you mind, having a couple of kids swarming around?
- Oh no, Oh no!
Grace wondered if her heart hadn't sunk through the floor of the taxi. There's still time, she thought wildly, there's still time to escape… 

The narrative shifts in time, looking back into the protagonist’s childhood in New Zealand, and is constantly interrupted by her expanded views on truth, literature and identity.  

Longing to belong and have an identity, Grace stubbornly claims to be “a migratory bird, not a human being”, insisting one can be anything (so why not a bird?), the notion of identity is fluid, always changing and that its borders are blurred.
  

Author: Janet Frame

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.

17 March, 2017

Our souls at night by Kent Haruf

The night can be a very lonely time for widows and widowers. The day may be busy with friends and chores but after the sun has set each is alone in their own home.  She may have a profound thought, he may have a humorous anecdote that has just come into his mind, but they have no one to share them with.  It is a given that you don't disturb other people late at night just for a natter.
Addie comes up with an audacious solution to her loneliness problem, she invites her neighbour, Louis, to spend nights with her.  After initial surprise, Louis agrees and trots over to her place with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a paper bag. It becomes a regular thing and, of course, gets noticed in this small town.
This might just have been a sweet tale of elderly romance, but there is a bite to this tale too in the social control that their adult children attempt to exert on Addie and Louis.

Title: Our souls at night
Author: Kent Haruf


Reviewed by Christine O.

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



Night song of the last tram: a Glasgow childhood by Robert Douglas


It takes a village to raise a child, they sometimes say. Here is a perfect example. 

Growing up in a one room ‘single end’ flat in a Glasgow tenement, Robert Douglas describes his life. A loving mother and abusive, philandering and thankfully, often absent father, are the blessing and the blight of his life respectively.

The tight-knit community of Maryhill is where Douglas grows up and hangs out with his friends. The adults keep a casually watchful eye and look out for each other. The local cinema affords him many blissful hours, there is a favourite Italian café and it is a nostalgic time of tram cars, lamplighters, pawnbrokers and the joy of simple pleasures like joining the local library and being able to read for free! 

Set during and immediately after the Second World War, Douglas takes us through his childhood and teenage years until the age of 16 when his beloved mother tragically dies of cancer.  

Although the story of their life together is in some ways very sad – there is poverty, wife beating and drunkenness and a marked inequality pervades the society of the times; it is also filled with happy and fun-filled moments. 

Characteristic Scottish humour and strength of spirit shine through the honest and unpretentious writing.  And if, like me, you enjoy the sounds of Scottish English, you will love hearing them in the words. 

There is a sequel to this memoir called Somewhere to lay my head, which begins when Douglas is forced to join the RAF after his mother’s death. I haven’t read it yet but it seems that once again, the author uses his remarkable memory for people and places and talent for telling stories to utterly charm the reader.

Title: Night song of the last tram
Author: Robert Douglas

Reviewed 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.

15 March, 2017

The penguin lessons by Tom Michell


Juan Salvador is one amazing penguin.  First he survives an oil slick that poisons and 
drowns all of his fellow Magellanic penguins, then he contrives to be rescued from a beach in Uruguay by a young English teacher. Tom, the teacher smuggles him into the classy apartment where he is staying and cleans him with a mixture of butter, margarine and detergent in the bathroom.  Halfway through this process Juan Salvador realizes that this human is making him feel better and stops his frantic and vicious struggling. It's easy to imagine the state of the bathroom by this stage!
Juan Salvador (named as a nod to Jonathon Livingston Seagull) is also gregarious and adaptable, essential qualities for a penguin who after his rescue and clean up becomes a much-loved resident at the boarding school that employs Tom.  He learns to eat dead fish from hand, toboggan down stairs and swim in a concrete pool without crashing into the sides.  

TitleThe penguin lessons
Author: Tom Michell


Reviewed by Christine O.

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

10 March, 2017

Rajesh Khanna

In the seventies, I was a young girl and Rajesh Khanna was the superstar of Bollywood films and a very big name in Indian (Hindi) films. His smile lit up his whole face and his fan following was the kind that only very few people could dream of. The hysterical fan following he had was unbelievable and he had young teenagers writing letters of love in their blood to show their devotion to him. It was bizarre.
However, the heavy workload and an erratic lifestyle of late nights, alcohol and unhappy relationships took its toll. Rajesh Khanna was slipping from his perch at the top of a high pinnacle. His fan following started changing and new faces started becoming more famous on screen. Rajesh Khanna the king could not understand how he could put it right. He married a very talented actress, Dimple, who was very young and one of his ardent fans. This relationship later fell apart, although they had two daughters whom he adored.
In the latter part of his life he was lonely and happiness eluded him as he hankered for the good old days. Until the end he remained true to his love of acting.
I, for one, enjoyed his acting and will always remain his fan. I am sure there are others who thought the same and this book will bring back forgotten memories.


Title: Rajesh Khanna 
 Author: Yasser Usman

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library

Kanchan is a library assistant at Blockhouse Bay library. Reading is her passion and the library is just the place she loves being in.

08 March, 2017

The fifth season by N.K. Jemisin

I love reading fantasy because of the freedom of imagination and exploration of the 'what if' type of ideas you can get. I like to read something new and this book gives it to you in spades.

Set on an alternative Earth (or is it our Earth, far in the future?), ironically called the Stillness. Stillness is subject to frequent seismic and volcanic activity and periodically has cataclysmic near extinction events called Fifth Seasons that keep humans on their toes. Evidence of past civilisations litter the planet, giving you tantalising glimpses of the past. It is not surprising then that in a world like this people who can control the kinetic energy of the earth (orogenes), would be either feared and killed, or controlled and trained to use their skills to avert disaster (under the shackles of Guardians).

The book follows three narratives on different timelines that at the beginning don't seem to match up, but it makes so much sense in the end. We have:

Damaya, a child who has been cast out by her family because she is an orogene, and her Fulcrum Guardian, Schaffa.

Syenite, a young woman who still wants to excel in the regime permitted for orogenes through the Fulcrum, and her assigned mentor, Alabaster.


Essun, a mother and orogene who has lived in hiding for years and now travels in the aftermath of disaster in search of her daughter in the company of a strange boy named Hoa. 

It does take a while to get into the story because you are figuring out the world as you go along, but it is worth it. The writing is beautiful and the world building is superb. N. K. Jemisin has created a innovative and unique world that feels very real. A fantastically rewarding read.


TitleThe fifth season
Author: N.K. Jemisin

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

27 February, 2017

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch

As part of my reading resolution for 2017 I have challenged myself to try new authors. Too often it's easy to get into a groove with our favourite authors (and genres) and overlook all the other amazing books out there just waiting to open our hearts and minds.

This is how I came to read Dear Mr. M by Dutch novelist Herman Koch, a dark crime novel which weaves a sinister tale, taking the reader through a maze of alternating perspectives and shifting timelines. The central story concerns the forty-year mystery of a schoolteacher who vanished into thin air one winter's day. Part crime novel, part observation of the darker undercurrents of the human condition, this novel takes patience, so savour it as you would an exquisite five-course dinner.

It's not a fast crime caper but if you like crime novels that build with a slow turn of the screw, such as The Talented Mr Ripley, then you'll like this.

None of the characters will win your heart, rather their narcissistic egos and almost brutal cynicism make them hard to love, which is why the truth hides so well in the shadows until the final twist of the tale.

A worthy read that dances to a slightly different beat than your average crime novel. This book will appeal to any reader looking for suspenseful read!

Title: Dear Mr. M
Author:
Herman Koch
Reviewed by Jo C, New Lynn Library

Jo C is a librarian at New Lynn Library. She loves a good crime thriller, dark dystopian tales and anything left of centre. Her favourite authors are Stephen King and Margaret Atwood.
Jo C's reading pledge for 2017 is to read more non-fiction and try new authors and genres!

The paper garden: Mrs Delaney {begins her life's work} at 72 by Molly Peacock

Intrigued by the botanical painting of an opium poppy on a black background, I opened this book and entered the extraordinary life of Mary Delaney, only to be astounded to discover that the poppy is in fact an intricate collage made from coloured paper.

In 1772, this remarkable woman at the age of 72 embarked upon a project of creating 1,000 flowers in this manner. When in 1783 poor eyesight forced her to stop, she was only 15 creations short of her target. Her ten-volume Flora Delanica is now held at the British Museum.

Mary’s aristocratic background meant she had the good fortune to mix with stimulating company. Her friend the Duchess of Portland owned one of the best natural history collections in the country and Jonathan Swift,  Sir Joseph Banks and the King and Queen of England were among her acquaintances. She received specimens from the Botanic Gardens at Kew and had also seen many specimens that came back from Australia on Cook’s Endeavour.

Amazingly, I had never heard of her or seen any of her creations before stumbling upon this biography.

Title:   The paper garden: Mrs Delaney {begins her life's work} at 72
Author: Molly Peacock

Claire S enjoys reading biographies.



26 February, 2017

The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu: and their race to save the world's most precious manuscripts by Joshua Hammer


Reading history books might seem a bore to some people but when you read about the recent past, history takes on a different, more relevant meaning. This amazing book covers events that took place not long ago, in one of the most unexpected places in the world - Timbuktu, the legendary city known for its rich culture and heritage.

The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu recounts the tale of Abdel Kader Haidara, a young adventurer and collector for a government library journeying across the Sahara and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts. His goal was to preserve these texts in a gorgeous library. As he worked tirelessly to fulfil this ambition, Al Qaeda showed up at the door.
The incredible story that follows tells of how this mild-mannered archivist and historian became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers as he saved these texts from sure destruction.

Joshua Hammer has done an amazing job, through meticulous research and interviews, in bringing this story to life. Some chapters might have more historical detail than others, giving readers a complete picture of the situation that arose in Northern Mali at that time. I would not consider this as academic history book, but a thriller. There’s suspense, intrigue and a heist that races against time - giving it a semblance to an Ocean’s Eleven movie!

I'd be lying if I said I hadn’t learned anything from this book. Not only did I become aware of the growing conflicts that citizens of Northern Mali had to live through, I also learned of the courage and bravery that ordinary citizens of Mali displayed in their struggle to protect and preserve the beauty of their rich culture.

An amazing and inspiring read for anyone who enjoys learning more of the world we live in today!



Title: The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu: and their race to save the world's most precious manuscripts
Author: Joshua Hammer

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. 

23 February, 2017

Rethink: the way you live by Amanda Talbot


This book exudes a certain something, a mysterious beauty, it is a  portent of calm and an invitation to create some breathing space. It works its magic from first sight, with its distinctive and beautiful presentation through to its carefully curated pages.

In a sea of average and standardised book format and presentation this book most definitely catches the eye. Few of my colleagues will have handled this book and been able to resist at least a cursory look inside.

Rethink  is, loosely speaking, a home and living book that promotes a certain type of living. Not one generic form or categorisation but rather a collection of thoughtfully assembled houses, rather beautiful in their starkness and simplicity. There is something about the mood, the clean lines of the houses presented.  Part of its allure is the angle of the photography and the way the light falls that just seems to work so beautifully together.

It is almost impossible to categorise what exactly makes this book so special and soothing to spend time in. Maybe it’s the collection of ideas, the celebration of the simple yet careful curation of beautiful materials, the magic of entering a book where the design is so well crafted it’s like wandering through a state of the art gallery. Or…could it be the antidote to life’s general busyness, the cacophony of  consumer messages screaming relentlessly? This book is like walking through a cool enveloping rain forest

It doesn’t matter if home and living style books aren’t normally something you would gravitate towards, trust me on this one, you will feel soothed and restored just by handling this book for however short a time.

I could wax lyrical and itemise the many ways this book stands out from the crowd yet I fear that would lessen the pleasure of ordering this book and laying eyes on it for the first time.

Title: Rethink: the way you live
Author:  Amanda Talbot

Recommended by Sue W,  Central Library
Sue W recently took drastic action to cull the house of fleas and although she is not certain who introduced them to the house, she is pretty sure Patrick the fox is in the clear. 

22 February, 2017

Cry heart, but never break by Glenn Ringtved

I have read a lot of children's books about death and grief (well over 200 at last count). A book has to have something special to make it stand out from the rest - or be horrendously terrible.

This book does not fall into the latter category.

What this is, is a beautiful and sensitive look at the importance of death as part of the balance in the world. Without death, we would not enjoy life.

The lesson is shared by Death (portrayed a la Bergman's The seventh seal movie / or the derivative Bill and Ted's bogus journey) in a touching - albeit mystifying to the children listening - allegory. 

Tissues may be needed. 

Other recommended picture books on death for 5-7 year olds:



Title: Cry heart, but never break 
Creators: written by Glenn Ringtved, illustrations by Charlotte Pardi, translated from the Danish by Robert Moulthrop.

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. 

21 February, 2017

I found you by Lisa Jewell

This is a story of two parts. Lily is a Russian woman married to Carl - who has gone missing. She has only been in England just over a week after they married overseas and she doesn’t know much about his life except he has a mother and a sister.

When the police get involved it turns out he doesn’t exist – his passport is false.

Alice lives at the seaside in Ridinghorse Bay with her three children from different fathers. She notices a man sitting on the beach all day and offers him a coat, then ends up inviting him to stay at her place despite concerns from her friends.

He has lost his memory and can’t remember his name so she calls him Frank. It seems he has trauma amnesia (‘can be caused by seeing or remembering something from past that has been repressed’) and all he knows is that he has gravitated to Ridinghorse Bay for a reason.

Alice and her friend Derry look into past incidents in the town to see if they can find anything that may be connected to Frank. As Alice gets to know Frank she likes him more and more but he is worried he might have done something bad and is reluctant to get involved with her and her family.

Interspersed with Lily and Alice’s segments is the storyline of a family in 1993 who spend their summer holidays at Ridinghorse Bay. The son Gray and daughter Kirsty meet up with Mark, a slightly disturbing young man who lives in a big house in the bay.

The story slowly unfolds and you get a get a bit more information with each chapter. It’s one of those books you just want to read a bit more of as pieces of the puzzle falls into place. Are things related or not? Who is Frank, really? And what does the family from 1993 have to do with it all?

This is a well-written mix of suspense, contemporary fiction, coming-of-age and romance genres with a surprising and satisfying ending.

Title: I found you
Author: Lisa Jewell

Reviewed 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.

13 February, 2017

The city & the city by China Miéville.


Every China Miéville book I have read has been brilliantly plotted. This one is no exception, a science fiction murder mystery with a twist. Set in two fictional East European cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, which occupy the same space, and where citizens coexist by ignoring, or ‘unseeing’, one another’s cities and inhabitants. To attempt any direct interaction with the counterpart city in any way is a crime resulting in Breach, the powerful entity in the shadowy borderland between the cities that enforces their separation. This lends strangeness to a story which is otherwise a dynamic police mystery.

Detective Inspector Tyador Borlú from Beszel is called to investigate the murder of a female found on a patch of waste land where she has been dumped from a van. He learns that the victim is from Ul Qoma. A videotape comes to light showing the van arriving legally in Beszel from Ul Qoma via the official border crossing point, so Breach has not occurred, and Borlu must travel into Ul Qoma to pursue the investigation. When Breach occurs the transgressors, no matter what their motives or status, usually disappear for good, or are found with their memories wiped.

As Borlú delves deeper into his initial murder investigation, he gets drawn into whispered rumors of a third city, Orciny, which exists in the cracks between the two cities.

A novel highlighting the diversity, contradictions and societal taboos of humans living in cities. China Miéville is one of my favourite authors and I have nothing but admiration for his originality, and the way the complex plot is satisfactorily resolved by the book's end.

Title: The city and the city
Author: China Miéville.

Highly recommended 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.



12 February, 2017

Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame


Shall I start with a confession? Of all New Zealand writers I’ve ever read, Janet Frame remains my number one author, a true writer with the most distinctive, unusual and remarkable voice. However pathetic it may sound, such a feeling of admiration and respect totally overwhelms me whenever I come across her writing, whether it is an early or later novel, autobiography or correspondence.

This time it was her first and possibly most recognised novel written in Frank Sargeson’s hut in Takapuna where, after eight years in mental hospitals and over 200 electroshocks, she was fortunate to find some quiet place and time to write a book. The novel’s successful publication afforded her an overseas trip to Europe where in the next eight years she fully established herself as a writer.

Owls Do Cry is a story of one family in a provincial New Zealand town, reminiscent of Frame’s own family and the town she grew up in. It starts with some nostalgic images of the poor yet cheerful childhood of four siblings, soon to be clouded by a terrible accident involving the death of one of them. In the following chapters, we see the same characters as grown-ups, get to know and understand each of them a little better, think of what they became or did not become.

As a writer, Frame has been mostly praised for her use of language, experimentation with literary forms and ideas – the skills she had mastered so well over the years. Aware of her shy personality and solitary lifestyle, one would possibly not expect Frame to be a great people expert. Yet what struck me most, especially in this first novel, was her insight into and knowledge of personality types along with her deepest sympathy towards the nature of human suffering.

Title: Owls Do Cry
Author: Janet Frame

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.