22 April, 2017

Howl's moving castle by Diana Wynne Jones


“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.