25 September, 2016

Have mother, will travel: a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world by Claire and Mia Fontaine

Memoirs in general can be said to give us access into the lives of the rich and famous, and we see a glimpse of the real person they are underneath and the colourful stories that make their lives. In the case of this book that is not the case. Both Claire and Mia Fontaine, give us an honest and powerful account of not just the different lives they lead but also of the strength of their relationship.

Have mother, will travel’ is the second book this mother-daughter duo have penned. Their best-selling memoir ‘Come Back’, moved and inspired readers with the story of Mia Fontaine’s harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire’s, desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her. Have mother, will travel, picks up their story a decade later when they both find themselves facing a defining moment in their lives. Determined to transform their relationship and themselves once again, the pair set off on a five-month around-the-world adventure.

What follows is an extraordinary, often hilarious journey around the world where they ride elephants in South-East Asia, get lost in China, and end up in the south of France. Despite the hilarious adventures recounted, both mother and daughter complete their journey with a deepened sense of who they both are and a clear vision of which direction they see their lives going. Told in their unique dual voices, this remarkable memoir is a testament to the power and beauty of the mother-daughter relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this inspirational book from start to finish. If I wasn’t weeping silently, I was trying to suppress my laughter. The strength of their bond shows me that there is hope for us all to strengthen our own bonds we have with our mothers. I would recommend this book to anyone, and also share it with your mothers!!

Title: Have mother, will travel: a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world
Author: Claire and Mia Fontaine

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.

22 September, 2016

Grunt : the curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach

So its official, Mary Roach is incapable of writing a bad book, or even  a slightly dull read. Every time I see a new title out by this author I’m intrigued as to whether, true to form, she will be able to marry the quirky and humorous with seemingly dry scientific topics.

If you’ve already happened upon some of Roach’s work you will be ignoring the rest of this ode to Mary and ordering your copy of Grunt, newly released this year. Maybe you haven’t discovered Mary Roach before but like your writing odd ball flavoured with a side of black humour. Begin with Stiff,  the science of dead bodies; lusciously, wickedly dark.

 But where was I? Back on track, Roach’s latest book GruntThe curious science of humans at war  passed the litmus test   with flying colours, wonderfully entertaining and enlightening at the same time. I am in no way shape or form remotely interested in reading about war, or anything related to warfare yet I will pick up any book written by this author, regardless of the topic. I imagine she could write a book about rivets that is well, riveting.

If you need more convincing, let  me wow you with some of the topics she covers. Stink bombs, genital reconstructions, full genital transplants, the impact of diarrhea on soldiers in critical positions (don’t be rude, I mean their military role), how combat medics are prepped for the gore they might encounter.  If this might sound a little voyeuristic, it’s not, it is fascinating and scientifically accurate and superbly written.

Mary Roach is the most engaging and creative science writer around, long may she write.

Title: GruntThe curious science of humans at war
Author:  Mary Roach

Reviewed by: Sue W

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours. However, since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

21 September, 2016

150+ screen-free activities for kids

If you’re struggling to find something to keep under-7s occupied – check this gem out. 

Most of the activities can be done with things lying around at home: cornflour, shaving foam, food colouring… 

From such simple ingredients you can make erupting volcanoes, sidewalk chalk, puffy paint, dinosaur worlds. Honestly, this is one of the coolest, best books I’ve come across recently! 

Title: 150+ screen-free activities for kids: the very best and easiest playtime activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com! 
Author: Asia Citro

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. 

20 September, 2016

The Vintage Springtime Club by Beatrice Meier

Philip returns to Germany having spent 30+ years working at a medical outpost in Mali.  On a whim he invites an old friend to join him in a flat-share, an arrangement that he then has to scurry around to arrange.   The five of them, plus dashhound, settle down in this large upstairs flat.  If you think that the idea of people in their sixties and seventies flatting together a bit ridiculous, so do they.  Not the flatting so much, as the being so old!. There are personality clashes and irritations but also a warmth; maybe geriatric flatting might be worth a try!  

Title: The vintage springtime club
Author: Beatrice Meir

Reviewed by
Christine O.
has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

The breath of God by Harry Turtledove

The breath of God is the freezing wind that comes off the huge glacier that is so much of the landscape of this book.

The Bizagot clans (similar to Inuit of the past of our world) live in its shadow, hunting and gathering as they have for centuries.  The glacier is melting, a gap has formed and people from the far side of the glacier have come through, bent on conquest. 

These self-styled "Rulers" are well armed, disciplined and riding war mammoths.  The fractured clans are no match for them.

Count Hamnet and Ulrick, a professional adventurer, both from the southern empire, are looking for weaknesses in the aggressors and a way to inspire the empire and the remaining Bizagots into an alliance to repel them.

Hamnet, for all that he is unlucky in love, is shrewd, maybe he can save the world that he knows. He finds a powerful ally in the last place he would have contemplated.

Sequel to: Beyond the gap.

Title: The breath of God
Author: Harry Turtledove

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

The girl from the train by Irma Joubert

A six year-old Jewish girl and a young Polish man are brought together in World War Two when Gretl’s train to Auschwitz is mistakenly blown up by a bomb intended for a German troop train. She is the only survivor. Resistance member Jakob, devastated by his group’s mistake, takes Gretl to his family home.

Gretl remains there for three years, hiding her Jewish origins from Jakob’s Catholic family, until Jakob seizes an opportunity to send her to South Africa to be adopted by a Protestant family.
Again, Gretl has to hide her religion, this time pretending to be Protestant, and changing her name to Grietjie.

She settles into life in South Africa with her new family but never forgets Jakob and her past in Europe. As she grows into a young woman, circumstances align to bring back her past.

I was expecting a harrowing story of wartime but this story is quite gentle in a way. There are sad parts but they do not dwell on the brutality and injustice, they are there to tell us more about the characters and what has made them who they are. It’s an interesting tale and makes you think about the influences of religion and culture on individuals.

The changing nature of Gretl and Jakob’s relationship lies at the heart of this book but a lot of other topics are covered, especially family, love, loyalty and tolerance.

It is also available as an eBook and on audio CD.

Title: The girl from the train
Author: Irma Joubert

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.

18 September, 2016

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Take Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, replace the Indian jungle and talking animals with an English graveyard and ghosts and you have the Graveyard Book, a young adult novel by Neil Gaiman.
As a toddler Bod’s family are murdered by the “Man Jack”, escaping into the graveyard he is taken in by a group of ghosts who protect and raise him. As Bod grows up he meets other residents of the graveyard, has adventures and explores its dangers. But outside the graveyard wall the Man Jack waits.
Gaiman has a distinctive style that he brings to his work, similar to early Tim Burton movies, so if you liked “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands” you may like his work. If you find you enjoyed the Graveyard Book but want something more adult, check out “Neverwhere” (available as a novel or graphic novel) a short fantasy novel about an average man finding a hidden world under the streets of London.
Author: Neil Gaiman

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library
Murray L enjoys horror, sci-fi, fantasy and mystery books

12 September, 2016

Memory of trees by F.G. Cottam

In spite of being a skeptic when it comes to the presence of ancient mystical powers of any sort, I found myself completely engrossed by this book. Arboreal expert Tom Curtis accepts a reforesting project for billionaire Saul Abercrombie on a site with an ancient mythical history. It is a massive project and well paid, which Tom needs to help with a situation in his private life. As the work proceeds the forest appears to be imbued with a life of its own, and begins propagating itself faster than they can plant trees.

Then people begin to disappear. It becomes apparent that there is an ancient malevolent power at work, and that Abercrombie knows more than he will admit. This is a horror story that draws you in and carries you along to witness extraordinarily powerful forces of evil growing in strength once again, making a mockery of the characters modern understanding of the world.

Set in Pembrokeshire with its bleak coastline, this well written novel begins with a sense of unease which grows deeper and deeper until it develops into foreboding, and then horror. This is a gripping tale that will have you looking at the greenery in your garden in an entirely different way. Thorn bushes must be removed. Fans of a good horror story should definitely read this one.

Author: F.G. Cottam 

Reviewed by Lynda T, East Coast Bays Library.

Lynda T reads anything that grabs her interest, but is particularly interested in science fiction and young adult novels.

09 September, 2016

The Benny Goodman story [DVD videorecording]

If you love jazz or swing music, or you love to listen to wind bands, then this film is for you.

Directed by Valentine Davies and released in 1954, this old movie is a biographical film of Benjamin Davies Goodman, an American clarinetist and bandleader, who is also known as the “King of Swing”. 

There is beautiful music throughout the movie. Several milestone events from Benny’s life are portrayed—from a kid living in Chicago’s poor suburbs taken by his father to join a music class run by a synagogue; to a teenager who left home to chase what he most wanted to do—playing music; becoming a young clarinetist working towards his own “wild dream”, playing the way he feels; to a musician who eventually conquered Carnegie Hall successfully.  

A romantic relationship between Benny and his prospective wife Alice develops in parallel with his music career. 

The acting of Steve Allen and Donna Reed, as well as the famous music played by Benny all contribute to the vivid atmosphere of the film. 

In the film we also see a wise and firm parent, who kept his children from bad influence, and gave them a good education to achieve a better life; and later a compassionate father supporting his son in pursuing his dream.

Overall, this is a movie which will bring wonderful entertainment to your ears and your spirit! 

Directed by Valentine Davies

07 September, 2016

Just William by Richmal Crompton

There are precious few children’s fiction series from yesteryear that thoroughly entertained me as a child and continue to delight me as an adult. Perhaps the foremost of these is the Just William series by the incomparable Richmal Crompton.

Incredibly, it is almost 100 years since Crompton’s most famous literary creation, the schoolboy William Brown, first appeared in print (and no, I was not around to read the first editions!). British newspaper The Sunday Times described the series as “probably the funniest, toughest children’s books ever written”.

Just William contains a dozen smart, funny and entertaining stories about William and his intrepid adventures. William’s ability to get into trouble is matched only by his family’s inability to understand his good intentions. No-one in the history of children's fiction is more misunderstood than William!

In the opening story, William sends his father flying into rhododendron bushes, makes the girl next door ill from dirty sweets, tells people he is suffering from consumption, meddles in his sister’s love life and nearly sets fire to his bedroom. All in a day’s work!

My favourite story is when William decides to leave home to become a gold-digger. He ends up in a local gentry house very briefly “working” as a servant, bringing chaos to a world of order. His long-suffering father pays the price once again.

A splendid series of misadventures and jolly entertaining! They don’t make them like they used to!

Recommended for readers 8+

Author: Richmal Crompton
Title: Just William

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV.