28 August, 2017

Real friends by Shannon Hale


This book is autobiographical and perfectly describes the mine-field that can be girls friendship groups in primary and intermediate school, it follows Shannon Hale's life for five years

There is the popular girl Jen who is the centre of The Group. Everyone wants to be next to her and Shannon's best friend is immediately included while she is left on the fringe, sometimes included and at other times cruelly left out. Shannon Hale explores the feelings of anxiety and how casual off-hand comments can really hurt feelings.

This is a mirror for a lot of kids who are struggling with friendships. I gave it to my daughter to read who is now in her 20's. She said it really resonated with her and  brought back all those feelings of the shifting sands of friendships in those years. I would recommend this for any girl to read in the age-group of 8 - 12 years. It shows that not everyone is 'good' or 'bad', even the main character is 'wrong' sometimes, which gives the story some extra weight. Love the ending too.

Read it for comic book month in September.

TitleReal friends
AuthorShannon Hale

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

21 August, 2017

With Flags Flying by Florence Keene (book)

August is Family History month so I thought I would read and review a book about an early settler to New Zealand, in this instance Elizabeth Holman. Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Morris in 1824 and spent her early years in Sydney with her well-to-do family.The book is based on letters to her son William Holman.
She married (after some dithering), Henry Charles Holman and they moved to New Zealand, which Henry saw at the time as the land of opportunity. He tried his hand at various jobs and poor Elizabeth who had never cooked a meal in her life, had to learn to be the wife of an early pioneer. She and Henry moved about a lot, living in the Far North, where she witnessed the sacking of Kororareka (Russell)in the Bay of Islands. They built a house on the coast but eventually had to abandon it when it burnt down. Their dealings with the local Maoris were cordial but as time went on we see how it dawned on them that these pakeha weren't the only ones coming to their country. There were lots more.
One incident, which I was particularly interested in, is about her brief stay on what is now called Herald Island in Auckland. I'm a resident of Herald Island and it was fascinating to hear about the island in the very early days and how it was planted with orchards and shelter trees.She was very nervous being left alone when Henry had to go to Auckland to do business, as she only had the company of a Maori oddjob man, and there were some very unsavoury characters living in the area.
One night she heard bloodcurdling screams and yells coming across the water from Paremoremo, directly opposite the island. She knew there was a gang of woodcutters operating there, and in the night, one of them had beaten his wife to death. Needless to say, she left Herald Island soon after.
For anyone who wants to know about the very early days of Auckland and the everyday lives of the inhabitants, this is the book to read. The frequent scares and rumours of troubles with the local and other Maoris are combined with the seemingly mundane life of a pioneer woman and the other early Auckland settlers..
There are copies of this book held in the Auckland Research Centre, but there are a few copies able to be borrowed. Florence Keene was a prolific writer of early pioneer's doings and this is just one of her many books. It is easy to read, with a flowing style and filled with all the drama of a life spent bringing up eight children in a country which was only just being brought into the fold of the British Empire.  


Title: With Flags Flying.

Author: Florence Keene

Reviewed by Clare 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.





20 August, 2017

Reading allowed: true stories and curious incidents from a provincial library by Chris Paling

Although catchy titles and quirky book covers seem to dominate my reading lists, this particular title appealed to me for all of the obvious reasons; it’s about a library! And so I found myself drawn into the drama-fueled world of a provincial library somewhere in the England of today.

Novelist Chis Paling went for a job at his local library and anticipated a somewhat sedate and quiet life. The reality he discovered was entirely different. Chris found that at times the library resembles the A & E; a crime scene; a theatre space; a boxing ring; a venue for craft and book groups. Most days he finds the library space is all of these. Central to the book is a cast of extraordinary characters who exist in the library almost every day with a myriad of issues and complaints. In Reading Allowed, Chris manages to bring together the many stories of these characters along with the day to day bustle that makes the institution that is the classic British library. Readers who are interested in how libraries in the UK are faring despite the current economic climate will find this book an amusing and fascinating book to delve into.

For me this book was hilarious from the beginning and found myself drawing parallels to what I experience on a daily basis. Although we might not experience crime to the same extent, we also have a cast of characters that colour our working day adding much needed relief at times.
As a librarian I would recommend this to not just other librarians but also to anyone who likes books and stories.

Title: Reading allowed: true stories and curious incidents from a provincial library
Author: Chris Paling

Recommended by Surani R, Glen Eden library.
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.

16 August, 2017

The anthology of aunts

I'm an aunt. I've been an aunt longer than I haven't been an aunt. I've been an aunt since I was seven, and I've been a grand-aunt for the last 16 years. (I prefer 'grand-aunt'. I've always been a great aunt - or, so I've been told - and, if my sisters can be grandmothers...)

The very day I'm trying to come up with something to review for this blog, this teen-tiny poetry anthology came across the desk. 

I love poetry - as well as being an aunt - so this is a little match made in heaven. From the sort of aunts you laugh about (behind their backs, after they've gone home) to the ones you want to grow up to be - these poetic aunts come in all sizes and guises.

A little treat for those of the aunt-ish persuasion. 

Title: Anthology of aunts
Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright.

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.  

11 August, 2017

The Double Rainbow by John Newton

When I came to New Zealand I had an English teacher who happened to be Māori. We became friends, and now and then I asked her opinion on local books and authors. She was both well-read and hard to please. It seemed to me that one needed to be extraordinary in order to satisfy her taste. Most Māori and Pākehā writers, however good they appeared to me, could not reach her high standards.

One day I asked her opinion on James K. Baxter. My expectations were particularly low, as I remembered her negative attitude towards religion. To my great surprise, her response was positive and animated. She told me that Baxter was New Zealand’s most famous person and poet and that any literate person would know of him. She added that Māori held him in great esteem as he had set up a community at Hiruhārama in Wanganui. 

In 1969, 43-year-old Baxter moved to Jerusalem (Hiruhārama in Māori) to establish a commune where “the people, both Māori and Pākehā, would try to live without money or books, worship God and work on the land”. The place proved a magnet for disaffected and damaged young people and quickly became the country’s most famous hippie community.

Published in 2009, this wonderful book by John Newton places Baxter’s ideas in the wider context of New Zealand cross-cultural encounters. Without diminishing the poet’s role as an extraordinary individual and charismatic leader, it brings into focus the collaborative dimension of his experiment, investigating the roles of Baxter’s predecessors, followers and inheritors.

“When Māori and Pākehā do these things together 
the double rainbow begins to shine.”


Author: John Newton

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.

04 August, 2017

The heart's invisible furies by John Boyne

From the author of A history of loneliness, comes an engaging, funny and warm odyssey, a novel about growing up gay in Ireland  - starting from the heavily religious and repressive Ireland of the 1940s when homosexual hate crimes were not unknown, to today with sexual politics having undergone a seismic change and gay marriage is legal. 

The question of who Cyril Avery (the protagonist) is, begins when a 16 year old unmarried girl is publicly shamed  by a priest  who pronounces that no man will ever marry her* due to her disgraceful out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

The child she has and adopts out, is of course Cyril, whose life we follow from his childhood, a sometimes lonely and distant environment, as his two rather inept adoptive parents try to raise him - all the while reminding him that he is not a true Avery. 
Even as he discovers  other “differences” about himself, he still manages to form close relationships through his youth and these are both tender and touching.

Along the way, Boyne covers a lot of historical ground including the IRA uprisings in the 60s, red-light sex work in Amsterdam in the early 80s, the first wave of HIV and Aids epidemic in New York, and the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. The characters are colourful and amusing and hearing the Irish vernacular in Boyne’s witty writing is certainly charming!

*As a fitting finish, the story ends with the same woman, (Cyril’s birth mother), now 80 something, getting hitched at the altar, in a Catholic church, in an institution that eventually brought itself down through its hypocrisy and own share of scandals. 

A wonderful read, that will capture your heart. 

Title: The heart's invisible furies
Author: John Boyne

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.

24 July, 2017

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn.


Imagine that you can time travel back to the time to 1815 London when Jane Austen was alive. You have a mission, to get to know her and attain her unpublished manuscript, (and possibly diagnose the illness that led to her death within two years.)

Two travelers, Liam and Rachel have this project. Posing as brother and sister newly arrived from Jamaica, with a sizeable amount of counterfeit money, they set up house in London. With a letter of introduction to Jane's brother, Henry sets about ingratiating their way into his life, and they wait for Jane to visit so they can befriend her as well. They must secure an invitation to the countryside where Jane lives so they can access the manuscript. 

This book really puts you in that time of history. The details she included about England in 1815 make it easy to visualize the era  The restrictions on woman, the social mores, dealing with the clothes, servants, food etc, all the details give you a sense of place. The two must constantly worry about the risk of discovery, and there is also the possibility of altering the future with their actions, but it becomes difficult not to step in to save the chimney sweep's boy, or try to save Henry's bank, or even to save Jane's life. 

This story really engaged me, I didn't know how things were going to work out, and I like a book I can't predict. It is cataloged as science fiction because of the time travel, but don't let this discourage you from reading this fabulous and creative book. An entertaining read for any reader but a must read for Jane Austen fans.

TitleThe Jane Austen Project
AuthorKathleen A. Flynn

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


23 July, 2017

Five Strings by Apirana Taylor

In the 19th century Russian classic Dead Souls, the protagonist Chichikov wittily declares, “Love us when we're nasty, since anyone would love us when we're nice”. The very same provocative message comes up in this newly published New Zealand novel by distinguished Maori author Apirana Taylor.

Taylor’s characters are anything but nice: homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, prostitutes and gang members scraping by on the fringes of society.

They are not all dead souls though. Mack and Puti are a young couple wandering the streets of Auckland. Drug and alcohol addicts, mentally unstable and prone to violence, they are hardly able to take care of themselves, but they do care for each other.

There is not much romance and sentiment in this relationship. She takes him home when he is wasted and stoned; when she shits herself in bed he cleans it up. Whether you call it love or not, it seems to be something that keeps them both alive.

How long will it last? Will either of them be redeemed?

The narrative time frame shifts, looking back into the characters’ childhood, teenage years and more recent history. Gradually, we get to know and understand them better, realising where and when it all started and what made them the way they are.

Five Strings is the first Maori novel published this year and the second novel by Taylor, who is also a poet, musician and painter. The book launch took place in May at the Auckland Central Library, depicted in the novel as a place where one of the characters likes to hang out.

Title: Five Strings

Author: Apirana Taylor

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.

18 July, 2017

SOME WORLDS by Emmy Rākete

It’s International Zine Month, Auckland Zinefest is on and Central Library is launching people facefirst into zines.

I’m never quite sure what to make of zines. Sure, there’s something thrilling about making and shoving our creations immediately into people’s hands, genuinely published, even if self-published. There’s a rawness to the DIY self-expression vibe that frees us to make things that are crappy or bewildering or personal or imperfect. Like other self-publishing formats, zines validate our desire to create wildly, to say something, to be heard and treasured and seen, even if briefly.

It does mean, however, that as readers we frequently shipwreck on the shores of philosophical aesthetics. Without official publishers as gatekeepers, we end up having to do our own screening, and there are so many zines. What should I pick? Is this zine good? What’s a ‘good zine’-?

See: Some Worlds. It’s an A5 booklet, black and white, flimsy. Small virus-like creatures squirm across the page. “These are my machines,” Rākete writes. “The page is their world. Just like this planet is our world. I control my machines by putting them on the page.”

Holes appear in the paper. They grow as you read, eating the white spaces. Machines multiply. “They are digging through the page,” Rākete writes. “All the time they are producing holes in their world. Holes to the outside.”

Holes spread. The machines spawn limbs, push words away. “The page is their home,” Rākete writes, “but also a technology used to control them. There is something exterior to the page... we can only recognise this exteriority as a hole.”

The last page barely holds together. It’s mostly holes.

“NO EMANCIPATION”, Rākete writes, letters contorted in the gaps, “WITHOUT APOCALYPSE.”

What is this?

Is this good? It’s bewildering, the visual simplicity of a picture book paired with political theory. It’s compelling too, adult theories of power explained like a child's story about digging machines. It’s a metaphor about finding freedom by destroying the world. It’s pared-down leftist ideology about escaping the devil we know. It was probably made in Microsoft Paint. I love it.

I love it. Does that make it good? Is this a good zine? But what's 'good'-?



Title: SOME WORLDS
Author: Emmy Rākete

Reviewed by Valerie T, Central City Library

Valerie T 
loves Shakespeare, fairytales, Trinitarian theology, twentieth century poetry and picture books on political ideologies.

17 July, 2017

Damn his blood : being a true and detailed history of the most barbarous and inhumane murder at Oddingley and the quick and awful retribution / Peter Moore (book)


When we think of 18th century England, we think of the Brontes, Jane Austin, Thomas Hardy and others. Demure drawing-rooms and afternoon teas, balls, coaches and an idyllic rural life peopled by dimpled dairymaids and bucolic farmers.

Here we have the portrayal of the rural working-class as they lived and worked in a small English village. The farmers and the landowners, the parson and all the working-class servants, farm-hands, visiting tradesmen and others.

It's a gripping and realistic portrait of the relationships in a small rural community and the tensions which can arise living so close to each other. The circumstances of the murder and its aftermath make fascinating reading, and the author brings the characters very much to life.

The murders featured in the book were notorious at the time and even now the local inn has a sign telling visitors the story and what happened.

Recommended if you fancy a true story, with a gripping yarn and a whodunit, with a twist at the end which shows us who the murderer was and why.
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.

16 July, 2017

A year between friends: 3191 miles apart by Maria Alexandra Vettese & Stephanie Congdon Barnes

With a simple design and elegant lines this delightful book caught my eye as I browsed through the shelves. I’m not usually one who makes her own soap or tie-dye clothes for that matter, but for some reason I felt compelled to read and find out. Perhaps it was the friendship that was being celebrated and shared that sealed the deal.

Maria and Stephanie began their friendship a decade ago when they embarked on a year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings  on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. A year between friends delves into their most recent project from the year 2015. Organised into monthly chapters we see into the private lives of these friends and share their joys, heartbreaks, and triumphs. Readers get to enjoy handmade crafts, seasonal recipes, notes on simple living, daily inspirations, and almost 400 photographs.

I enjoyed it all; especially their personal stories which were filled with snippets of wisdom, love, loss and new life. The joint portrait of these two inspirational women in this book offers more to readers than your average craft book. We see into their lives through the lenses of their cameras along with their letters. We share their triumphs and tears. And mostly, we get a glimpse into the strong bond of friendship between them. What captivated me the most were the delights of motherhood both women shared.

Readers who are after inspiration to start living a simpler life, a recipe on making fabulous scones, mending a sweater or making a mobile from a cherished collection will greatly enjoy this read.

Title: A year between friends: 3191 miles apart
Author: Maria Alexandra Vettese & Stephanie Congdon Barnes

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.

12 July, 2017

Victorians undone by Kathryn Hughes

Fascinating – an investigating into how the Victorians thought about bodies, as expressed through five subjects. The author also makes you think about biographies and the lack of physical detail. And discusses how physical the Victorian era was - how 'in-your-face' other people's bodies were. 

There is the story of Lady Flora – a member of young Victoria’s court – and her ever-growing stomach. Was she pregnant? Which sheds light onto Victorian medical examinations. Diagnosis by mail, anyone?

What about the popularity of beards – fashionable? Unfashionable? How does this reflect the Darwin’s Origin of Species?

Or poor Fanny Adams – the source of the saying ‘Sweet FA’. 

Obscure, seemingly disconnected facts are well-woven together in an entertaining manner. 

Title: Victorians undone: tales of the flesh in the age of decorum. 
Author: Kathryn Hughes. 

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. 

01 July, 2017

The dog master by W. Bruce Camaron

Way, way back in time groups of Homo sapiens co-existed in an area somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  They each have their own traditions and are more than a little wary of each other.  This story follows  a man on his own, estranged from his people and two other groups, one calling themselves the Kindred the other the Wolfen. 
The fellow on his own dens in with a paralysed she-wolf and her cubs, gaining acceptance from them as he is their only provider of meat.  He seems the most likely person to forge the first human-canine pact, but the Wolfden have especial affinity for wolves and model their society on wolf packs and even donate meat to a favoured wolf.  All of the humans know that wolves are dangerous, but then all of their lives are full of danger. 
The people here may not have many possessions but they are fully human; proud, greedy, wilful, kind, curious and prepared to invent explanations for the ways of the world around them. 




Title:The dog master : a novel of the first dog
Author: Cameron, W. Bruce


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




30 June, 2017

Dear Ijeawele, or, A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Dear Ms. Adiche,

You are a leading feminist voice  and an internationally renowned author. Your book that started out as a letter to a friend who asked for advice on how to raise her new-born daughter to be a feminist, is not just a good book, it is a necessary book – for everyone. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. 

There is no doubt about it. To live in this world a girl has to be strong. But where does inner strength come from? And how can we pass on this quality?
Your fifteen suggestions on how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman are short, sweet and massively impactful. Like:
Have no gender roles – “Because you are a girl is never a reason for anything. Ever.”
Teach your daughter  to love books, to read
Question language – that includes language that revers and champions women with a patronising undertone.
Marriage is not an “achievement”
Reject likeability – “it’s not your job to be likeable. It’s your job to be yourself”.

You discuss feminism, body image, gender roles, privilege and inequality, and 21st century sexual politics.
I particularly like the advice to avoid conditional female equality or Feminism Lite which you consider a “hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea”. It uses the language of allowing, where men, through their benevolence, allow women to do things, or through their superiority, treat them well. 
You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not. 

Like a lot of people who have read this book, I feel a whole lot better about  the world. So thank you for your advice.

Sincerely,
Suneeta Narula.

For another essay book on the same subject, by the author,  try We should all be feminists.

Title: Dear Ijeawele, or, A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

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.

29 June, 2017

The death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez

The death of WCW has become a title whispered in reverential terms by wrestling fans due to the meticulous research with which it is written. Originally published in the wake of one of the most spectacular business collapses in the history of entertainment, this book is a cautionary tale for any business that thinks it is too big to fail.

Utter the names Eric Bischoff or Vince Russo in the vicinity of professional wrestling fans and be prepared to stand there for a good hour or so, as they lecture you on everything bad about professional wrestling. The authors analyse these two men who were at the helm of WCW (World Championship Wrestling)  as it went from ‘uh oh’, to ‘oh ****’ in the space of two years, and cover enormous ground looking at the various reasons for WCW’s failure, and the desperate scramble to save it:

-Massively overpaid wrestling ‘stars’ (they actually hired people not to come to work!),
-Hilariously bad television programming,
-One of the most nightmarish corporate mergers of all time (-$54 billion in one quarter!)...
...To name but a few. What begins as a lighthearted laugh at ineptitude, tails off into head-smacking disbelief.

The writing style may leave some wondering what some of the terms mean, and I won't pretend that the authors are Truman Capote-esque (oops, I'm burying it a little). But if the terms ‘work’, ‘shoot’,  ‘mark’ and ‘kayfabe’ ring any sort of bell, then The death of WCW, is essential reading... Brother!

Title: The death of WCW
Authors: R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

Some of James W’s most brutal wrestling opponents: bills, tangled head-phone cord, regret, knotted shoe-laces (grrr), emotions, Ben from accounts, the meaning of life, cats…

26 June, 2017

Wintersong By S.Jae-Jones

Liesl has always been the plain sibling. Her sister Kathe is the beauty, her brother Josef is an up and coming musical genius, while Liesl is the one who puts her own wishes and feelings aside to let her family shine in their own ways. But Liesl has secrets. She is a musical composer in her own right who lets her brother play her songs and that she (as a child), was frenemies with the Goblin King of the Underground.

Liesl has always had a fascination with the Goblin King. To their bets in the games they played during their childhood, to the stories her grandmother told her, Liesl always been enthralled by him. But she also knows that the Goblin King is someone to be feared. This time the Goblin has a new wager. He is looking for a new bride and has chosen Liesl’s sister Kathe. Now it is up to Liesl to find and bring her back from the Underground before the next full moon or Liesl will lose the bet. If she wins, she gets her sister back, if she loses, she loses her sister to the world above and herself to the Underground.

This story kept me guessing (which is hard to do as I am such a huge reader that some books can become predictable), but I had no idea where it was taking me. Was she going to win? Was she going to lose? How was she going to get into the Underground? Is the Goblin King a friend or foe? I had no idea where the story was going but I loved the rollercoaster ride getting there.

Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Series: Wintersong

Emma W is a Senior Library Assistant at Waitakere Central Library who can be found zoning out, maxing out her book limit on her library card or requesting the latest best-seller. Another Goblin King she likes is Jareth from the Labyrinth movie. Which is amazing by the way, you should totally watch it. 

18 June, 2017

Beautiful hero : how we survived the Khmer Rouge by Jennifer H. Lau

The Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people out of a population of 6 million in Cambodia. After reading this book you wonder how you would cope in a regime like the one this family managed to survive. I am fairly sure I would have been 'whacked and dumped' (a term used in the book), fairly early on. 

The author, Geng (now Jennifer), was a child when the Khmer Rouge forcibly relocated her family. Her parents, brother and two younger sisters only had moments to grab what they could, and had to walk for days from comfortable city life to be resettled in the country. It was a struggle for survival against starvation, disease, parasites, forced labour and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.

For the next four and a half years it was her mother who kept her family alive, but to do this she had to have a stone heart. She was hard and sometimes cruel to the children to ensure their survival. There were moments when Geng hated her mother, as she had no chance to be a child, but now she has admiration at what her mother achieved while retaining her humanity and dignity.

Harrowing, and hard to imagine the horrors they would have seen, this book shows a part of history of which we should be aware. A grim but utterly compelling read, told by an adult, much later, but with the matter of fact voice of the child she was at the time. She sticks to personal experience rather than inserting political explanations. HIghly recommended

(The title is a homage to her mother Meiyeng. Mei means Beautiful and Yeng means Hero.)

TitleBeautiful hero : how we survived the Khmer Rouge
AuthorJennifer H Lau

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





11 June, 2017

We are all made of molecules by Susin Nielsen

I don’t read that many young adult novels but something about this title compelled me to pick it up. I guess it was the quirky cover and interesting blurb that called out to me.

Set in the suburbs of Vancouver, this story tells of a blended family. Narrated by our two main characters thirteen-year-old Stewart and fourteen-year-old Ashley; ‘We are all made of molecules’ takes the reader into the lives of teenagers trying to fit into the new life that is unfolding before them.

Stewart is a gifted intellectual who is still coping with the loss of his mother to cancer two years ago, while Ashley is a popular fashionista seeking to climb the rungs of the social ladder in her school. Ashley’s parents have divorced after her father announced he is gay, and Ashley is finding it hard to accept. Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mom begin a new relationship and they end up moving in together. We all know that new beginnings are never easy and this one is already looking unpleasant for all parties involved. The overlapping journeys taken by these two teenagers are filled with episodes filled with humour, sadness, bullying, bigotry and tolerance. Unlike most other books in the genre of contemporary fiction, Susin Nielsen delivers an engaging tale on the true nature of friendship and what it means to be a family.

This story gripped me from start to finish. Susin Nielsen’s style of writing is unique and appealing. The different voices of Stewart and Ashley expertly portray their distinct personalities and readers will find them hard to forget long after reading the book. I would recommend this book for older readers aged 13 years and up.
Readers of this title might also enjoy See you at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.

Title: We are all made of molecules
Author: Susin Nielsen

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.

07 June, 2017

Heartthrobs by Carol Dyhouse

I read romance novels. I don’t watch romantic movies. (Well, many movies at all). 

I am aware, however, of the current crop of ‘heartthrobs’ in our culture. And what are the current trends in romance novel heroes. (Navy SEALS, anyone? Or werewolves?) 

Dyhouse examines these trends through the lens of the cultural historian. 

What does the appeal of doctors in the 1950s say about what women – and society – were searching for, in the immediate post-War period? What about Valentino and the Sheikh? Why the David Cassidy phenomenon? Or Marc Bolan? What about Adam Ant’s ‘Prince Charming’ video? (There's a detailed paragraph about this video - so I thought I'd hunt it down for you.) 

A fascinating exploration of society, women’s place within it – and expectations upon them – and history. 



Title: Heartthrobs: a history of women and desire.  
Author: Carol Dyhouse.  

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. 
  

06 June, 2017

The map that leads to you by J. P. Monninger

This novel starts with the not-unusual scenario of a girl meeting a boy on a European holiday and falling for him.

Heather is exploring Europe with her two college friends before she settles down to the corporate life and a job in New York. Jack is following in the footsteps of his grandfather who left a diary of his travels taken after he was discharged from the army in WWII. They meet on a train, resulting in Heather and her friend Constance, abandoning their own itinerary and joining Jack and his friend Raef on their trip. As their relationship develops, Heather expects they will go back to the US together and continue their relationship, but all is not as it seems.

The style of this writing is quite literary and there are some very poetic descriptions and dialogue which made it more than a conventional romance. Nicholas Sparks has described it as “romantic and unforgettable” and I would agree with that. The story stays with you and with phrases like “we stood and swam into each other’s eyes, and I had maybe shared a baby cousin of this look with other men, but this was something different, something terrifying and wonderful…” the romantic angle is definitely covered.

I am always drawn to passages about books in writing and found this one very perceptive:  “Have you ever heard someone say that books are the place we visit and that when we run into people who have read the books we have read, it’s the same as if we had travelled to the same locations?”

A charming and interesting story that had me drawn in and involved from the start.

Title: The map that leads to you
Author: J.P. Monninger

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.

30 May, 2017

Black Lagoon. 001 By Rei Hiroe

Ah the 90s… Hair size was in the decline, to steal music you actually had to enter a shop, everyone knew the zip code to Beverly Hills, California (well one of them anyway), and if you had a cell phone you were called… a variety of derogatory names. The manga, Black lagoon is set in this magical decade, but is far less concerned with these 90s references and more with classic 90s gung-ho action.

The mercenary crew of the lagoon company take on only the most dangerous jobs as they walk a fine line between the warring gang factions of Roanpur (a fictional port somewhere in Southeast Asia) and various government departments. In the group we follow the two main characters of Revy ‘two-hand’ who is a ruthless, foul mouthed gunslinger and Rokuro “Rock” Okajima, a quick thinking Japanese salary-man with a bad case of Stockholm syndrome.

The action is fast and slick with the fights involved often being stylised and full-on. Each of the characters are unique and capable in their own way and we slowly get to know their own motivations after each adventure. We holler excitedly at their hi-jinks before quickly worrying about where on the moral compass their decisions are falling. While they are cool characters, they’re not always the 'good' guys.

The action is fast and violent (without being gratuitous), and the language is sharp and adult. Black lagoon will appeal to the 6 year old in you who snuck into the room while the adults were watching Robocop or Predator on VHS (oh wait those weren't 90s films!). Available at all good libraries today!

The latest volume is 10

Title: Black lagoon
Author: Rei Hiroe

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

James W is lacking in many of the essentials needed for traditional piracy: desire for robbery, a penchant for criminal violence… and a boat.

26 May, 2017

My name is Lucy Barton : a novel by Elizabeth Strout

“Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.”

This is a short book, a quiet book that really packs a punch. 


Lucy Barton’s childhood was grim to say the least. The family lived in poverty, in an uncle’s garage, in a physically and culturally isolated environment, with no neighbours, television or newspapers.  She grew up socially awkward, often ostracized by other kids and without knowing how to behave in certain social situations. One of three siblings she seems not to have shared any loving relationships with them, or her parents. 

When we meet Lucy, she is recovering from an operation in hospital. Here she thinks and reflects - mostly about her childhood, her previous marriage and her present life with husband and two daughters and the circumstances which led her to become a writer. Then, her estranged mother unexpectedly comes to visit and mother and daughter try to reconnect through shared conversations that last over three days.

This is a novel about the difficulties and limitations of love: marital, platonic and most of all mother and daughterly love. Lucy’s mother was unable to protect her from their poverty and from father’s unpredictable behaviour. Still, Lucy so loves her mother and needs her love and approval. In turn, the mother can only describe her feelings for her daughter by telling stories of old acquaintances  and their imperfect lives.

As I started reading, I had a feeling that this would be an unusual but remarkable tale. In less than 200 pages, without wasting a word, Elizabeth Strout made me want to read it through in one sitting.

Author: Elizabeth Strout

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.

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.