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.