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.

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

News of the world by Paulette Jiles

Some jobs just don't exist anymore. Shortly after the American Civil War literacy was far from universal and even for those that could read there wasn't much printed material around.  Captain Kidd, a widower without family, travels around Texas giving public readings from newspapers.  Church and town halls fill as people are eager for novelty; to hear what strange folks in foreign places get up to.

 He is approached and asked to take a white girl 'rescued' from Kiowa Indians to her grandparents in San Antonio.  The difficulty is that Joanna has spent most of her short life with the Kiowa, has little English and no affinity for the family she lost when she was just a toddler.  She is feral!
This book gave me an insight into two facets of history that I had never considered before: American Indians stealing children and raising them and the paucity of entertainment relieved by travelling lecturers.

Author: Paulette Jiles

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. 

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.