25 July, 2016

The many selves of Katherine North / Emma Geen

I like to read a novel that is truly creative and gives an original perspective. This is such a book.

Set at a time slightly in the future where climate change is threatening endangered populations of animals, technology has advanced to the point where certain people can ‘jump’ their consciousness into lab created animals (Ressy/Ressies), to monitor and learn from their behaviour. Teenagers are generally recruited for this research as their brains are most plastic. Katherine North  'Kit' is such a Phenomenaut, doing research as different animals to study their habitat and ability to find food.  

She is the longest lasting Phenomenaut with seven years of jumps behind her,  and is selected to work for the tourism department, where anyone can also jump into wild animals.This is where the trouble starts. Kit has a connection with her Ressies, but the tourists given the opportunity to jump don't and their actions often cause harm. Plus there are more secrets to discover, and the more Kit finds out the more disturbed she gets.

It is the descriptions of what it would be like to inhabit different animals that was really interesting. Not just mammals, (fox, elephant,bat,  polar bear), but bird, snake and spider also feature with the corresponding alien sensory inputs deftly described. These chapters are helpfully named 'uncanny shift'. 
  Katherine’s interactions with the animals are beautiful, disorientating, vivid.

Very original debut novel. Although the jumps between time frames can get a little confusing, it did not put me off from wanting to finish the book.

Title:The many selves of Katherine North

Author: Emma Geen

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..

23 July, 2016

The amazing Mrs Livesey by Freda Marnie Nicholls

I will start with a warning: this review is full of hyperbole as there is no other way to describe the life and crimes of this notorious British-Australian con artist. Mrs Livesey deserves the title “amazing”, but it is not meant as a compliment: it could well be substituted by “gobsmacking”.

This is an incredibly complicated story told at a fast clip and in a deceptively simple and light style. Mrs Livesey’s sociopathic record is so overwhelming that if it was told in too serious a tone, it would be a depressing and ultimately unreadable book.

Hats off to Ms Nicholls and all who helped her with the mountain of research that writing this book must have taken. Mrs Livesey changed aliases so many times that she completely baffled the authorities of the day. Unravelling all that and putting it into a progressive story must have been a nightmare, and yet the author manages to untie all the knots and present us with a story that flows beautifully.

The chapters have very helpfully been named after whatever alias Mrs Livesey was using at a particular time: to think that this long list constitutes only the ones that were documented, and therefore researchable, is unbelievable.

I got a bit of a shock when I reached the photo section and realised that perhaps this is the main reason why she was given the title “amazing”: that someone so lacking in the looks department could reel in so many wealthy men must have taken superhuman skill and cunning. Read it and be amazed.

Title: The amazing Mrs Livesey
Author: Freda Marnie Nicholls

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.

21 July, 2016

The secret life of Luke Livingstone by Charity Norman

Luke Livingstone – successful London solicitor and caring family man – has a secret, and it’s going to blow his world apart. But Luke has come to the point of no return, and relationships and loyalties are going to be tested.

This is a novel about being courageous and becoming who you are meant to be, despite the enormous cost.

I can’t give away too much about this enlightening story without spoiling it, but I can say that it involves a sensitive subject and handles it with intelligence and compassion.

The authenticity of the novel makes sense when you consider that Charity Norman is a barrister with years of experience in family law. She worked in London, but is now based in Napier. She has written four novels, all of which are easily readable and moving, and she is gaining a strong following. Highly recommended.

Title: The secret life of Luke Livingstone
Author: Charity Norman

Recommended by Judy W, Orewa Library

Judy W may appear to work as a library assistant, but in her own mind she is a top criminal defence lawyer and animal rights activist.

19 July, 2016

Hunger makes me a modern girl : a memoir by Carrie Brownstein

I read Carrie Brownstein’s memoir a few days before I saw Sleater-Kinney at the Powerstation a few months ago, which was the first time I'd seen them perform live. Knowing more about the band’s backstory certainly added another dimension to seeing their kick-ass Riot Grrrl rock on stage.

The focus of Hunger makes me a modern girl is mainly a Sleater-Kinney retrospective, with chapters dedicated to each of their albums. Although we learn about Brownstein’s formative years (as the only child of loving but dysfunctional parents) we get more of an insight into her band’s dynamics rather than her family’s.

Interestingly, she only fleetingly mentions Portlandia, the television show she codeveloped, writes and acts in, and for which she is probably the most famous. However; her book has many funny Portlandia-type moments in it. In the same way she gently mocks Portland hipsters, she also skewers the scene in Olympia, the Pacific-Northwest college town where Sleater-Kinney (S.K.) and Riot Grrrl originated and also the birthplace of Riot Grrrl. She describes its relentlessly ‘right on’ milieu with everyone calling out perceived “sexist/racist/transphobic/classist and whateverist behaviour”. Nevertheless; she was greatly inspired by the environment’s punk D-I-Y ethos, and anger and rebellion against mainstream patriarchal norms.

Brownstein is open about the fact that musically, it was uncool to be seen as ‘selling out’ and that as a band, they consciously sabotaged efforts that would have made them more successful. She says they purposefully made their music more discordant to be less ‘radio friendly’ and she recounts the time she turned up and hour and a half late for a crucial signing meeting between S.K. and a major music label.

I found a lot of parallels with Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a band (the title of which, was her most loathed interview question: "what's it like to be a...?"). Brownstein also expresses frustration with a sexist music press for focusing on S.K. as a ‘girl band’ and recounts incidents such as dealing with patronising male sound engineers. A great anecdote about the sorts of obstacles they faced as female musicians was when a security guard mistook them for groupies and tried to turn them away from their own gig. “We’re not here to fuck the band”, says Brownstein “we are the band".

Title: Hunger makes me a modern girl : a memoir
Author: Carrie Brownstein

Recommended by Karen I, Devonport Library

Karen I likes reading memoirs and biographies about people with interesting and unusual lives, because she spends a lot of time reading and doesn't get out much.

18 July, 2016

Jackie after O by Tina Cassidy

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has always been a person I have admired ever since I was very young. The first I heard of her was when I was young and my dad was hearing the news of Jack Kennedy's assassination.

Later on I had read snippets about her in the news, but this book opened my eyes to the person she was .She was  talented and knowledgeable person with very good judgement. Her chic style and fortitude held her in good stead even in the media glare. She was a very private person in a very public world.

Jackie after O, tells us how she got out of the shadows of the two famous men she was married to -Jack Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.As, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier ,words and books were central to her life and she used this strength to give meaning to her life in her mid life when her children had left her home to pursue their studies and she was on her own without a partner to share her interests.
She started from scratch by taking up a job with Viking Press to make it possible to find a niche with books and writing which was her true love.

It was very interesting to know of her role in saving the then dilapidated Grand central station in New York. When I saw it in New York last year, the architecture and grandeur just blew me away, and I was so grateful to Jacqueline for her consistent efforts to make such a vibrant place come back to life, when the odds were stacked against her. Her love for history and old buildings helped in preserving many other places for posterity. Her love for France and it's people is very evident in this book.
In this book ,she comes across as an intelligent woman of style, sensitivity and a very down to earth person. Women all over the world,  can relate to her emotions in this book.

Title:Jackie after O
Author: Tina Cassidy

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library

Kanchan is a library assistant and books mean the world to her.

Game of Scones: all men must dine by Jammy Lannister

Game of Scones is a small book with a dark, shinny cover and there is no doubt that it is a cookbook based on the ‘Game of Thrones’ series.  Inside there is a range of recipes and food preparation examples which are explained in detail with dramatic photographs.  In the last page of the book there is an advertisement for another recipe book called “Baking Bad. Great recipes. No meth-in around”.

The whole book is a work of art and the content, text, diagrams and photos all illustrate the GoT theme.

The recipes and techniques are clever and even if you are not a great Game of Thrones fan, you might appreciate the detail and how fairly simple ingredients can be transformed into fun food items.  You could equally use many of the examples for Halloween treats. For ‘Oberyn’s smashing surprise’, a standard hollow chocolate easter egg is used, filled with raspberry jam and cashew nuts, and decorated into a medieval head – which can then be smashed open with dramatic (and tasty) results.

The book starts with simple bran muffins, but these are transformed into edible characters.  There are ‘Jaqen’s chocolate coins’, ‘the iron scone’, ‘Sigil snacks’, ‘Nedible Stark and traitors walk treats’ and the ‘Red (velvet) Wedding Cake’ – described as “deliciously bloodthirsty cake makes a wedding gift to die for, though some may find it hard to stomach …”.  The cake has arrows and a sword stuck into it, is liberally covered in spilt ‘blood’ and in the place of the traditional bride and groom there is a male figure who is being dispatched by the female figure.

If you are a G o T fan you will love this little book, but even if you are not, you will enjoy seeing the techniques and products from this clever baker and ‘superfan’ (as he describes himself) Jammy Lannister.                                    
Title: Game of Scones: all men must dine
Author: Jammy Lannister

Recommended by Ana, Central Library

Ana enjoys reading and listening to music, travelling and many other things. She reads fiction, non-fiction and from genres, crime: the Scandinavian crime writers, Patricia Highsmith and some others.

17 July, 2016

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan

Although most children’s stories leave you laughing at all the funny antics and adventures your protagonist gets up to, there are those few that move you to tears from beginning to end. Bronze and Sunflower, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang, is one book that had me constantly reaching for the tissue box.

Bronze is a poor boy in a small village in rural China. He has not spoken a word since a terrible fire swept through his village when he was small. Although he is often alone, he is content with his life. Sunflower has moved to the countryside with her father and grows to love the flowing river, the friendly water-buffalo and the vast blue sky above. It is by the reed marsh that she meets Bronze, the boy who doesn’t speak and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Tragedy strikes when they least expect it and Bronze’s family takes in little Sunflower and brings her up as their own daughter. Bronze finds fate has brought him the little sister he had always wanted. Despite the hardship and poverty the family live in, they do their best for little Sunflower, giving her a future filled with happiness and laughter.

Told in the third person, this English PEN Award Winner; captivated me and transported me through the years to the era of the Cultural Revolution in China when this lovely story was set. With each chapter we meet the cast of characters that make up the little village of Damaidi, witness how they battle the hardships of life in the countryside and go about their lives. Although quite funny in some chapters, this moving and poignant story had me reading it well into the night.

I love how Bronze and Sunflower portrayed a significant period of Chinese history with this lovely story of childhood innocence.

Also available as an ebook.

Title: Bronze and Sunflower
Author: Cao Wenxuan

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. 

14 July, 2016

Edible colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass

You’ll never look at fruit and vegetables the same way after this picture book. And, your garden wish list might grow itself… I now want tomatoes, carrots and corn in ALL the colours.

Oh, and it’s an awesome book for exploring fruit, vegetables, and colours for children – which is, I’m assuming, the book’s original purpose.

Check it out for a little one in your life, and enjoy it

Title: Edible colors
Author: Jennifer Vogel Bass. 

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.

Parenting. Illustrated with crappy pictures. by Amber Dusick

This book serves as a   health prescription, something guaranteed to make you smile during these grey grizzly days.

Having children is a not a prerequisite for enjoying this book or appreciating just how bang on the author is with her observations from the mosh pit of parenting. Ever witnessed a child in full melt down mode, seen the way a toxic nappy can clear any crowded area in second or turned pale at the crime scene carnage that is highchair feeding time?

So you see, you need not have fruit of thine own loins to appreciate the humour and gnarly moments from the front lines of parenting.

And that my friends, is all I have to say about that. Perhaps after reading this book you’re ready and hungry for some more material to make you snigger (or wine/whine in sympathy).

These would be current favourites, a mere taster of the bounty Auckland Libraries has to offer:

Title: Parenting. Illustrated with crappy pictures.
Author: Amber Dusick

Recommended by Sue W (Central City library)

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.

12 July, 2016

Our tiny, useless hearts by Toni Jordan

What a fun read!

We are introduced to the narrator Janice in the midst of her sister Caroline’s marriage crisis, as her brother in law Henry announces he is leaving Caroline to move in with a younger woman. The other woman turns out to be Martha, the teacher of one of the couple’s daughters. Janice herself is divorced but still holds a fondness for her ex, Alec. Adding to the mix are friendly neighbours Craig and Lesley, and Henry and Caroline’s daughters Paris and Mercedes.

Most of the story happens in Henry and Caroline’s house,
as the small group of characters react to the news of the breakup and they find out there’s lots more going on than anybody realised.

I was laughing out loud as I was reading, and had to share excerpts with my partner. A particularly funny bit was a conversation about sex in front of the children when euphemisms had to be used, all with gardening references: cultivating, hose, seed – you get the idea!

I enjoy the TV series House husbands, and this novel had the same sort of feel –witty writing, fun characters with believable scenarios and just a touch of farce.

Title: Our tiny, useless hearts
Author: Toni Jordan
Also available as an eBook in the  Overdrive digital library.

Reviewed 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. She spends most of her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.