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.