25 September, 2017

Auckland Libraries staff reviews, book lists and recommendations

The Auckland Libraries Staff Picks blog will close on Saturday 30 September 2017.

You can now find reviews by our staff posted on item records in the library catalogue. You can also add your own star ratings and reviews by searching our library catalogue and clicking 'add a review'.

If you're interested in special reading lists curated by our librarians, browse our Book lists page or get a personalised reading list by visiting the My librarian page and clicking 'request a recommendation'.

We encourage you to take a look around the Auckland Libraries website and tell us what you think using the feedback options at the bottom of each page.

28 August, 2017

Real friends by Shannon Hale

This book is autobiographical and perfectly describes the mine-field that can be girls friendship groups in primary and intermediate school, it follows Shannon Hale's life for five years

There is the popular girl Jen who is the centre of The Group. Everyone wants to be next to her and Shannon's best friend is immediately included while she is left on the fringe, sometimes included and at other times cruelly left out. Shannon Hale explores the feelings of anxiety and how casual off-hand comments can really hurt feelings.

This is a mirror for a lot of kids who are struggling with friendships. I gave it to my daughter to read who is now in her 20's. She said it really resonated with her and  brought back all those feelings of the shifting sands of friendships in those years. I would recommend this for any girl to read in the age-group of 8 - 12 years. It shows that not everyone is 'good' or 'bad', even the main character is 'wrong' sometimes, which gives the story some extra weight. Love the ending too.

Read it for comic book month in September.

TitleReal friends
AuthorShannon Hale

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

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.

24 July, 2017

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn.

Imagine that you can time travel back to the time to 1815 London when Jane Austen was alive. You have a mission, to get to know her and attain her unpublished manuscript, (and possibly diagnose the illness that led to her death within two years.)

Two travelers, Liam and Rachel have this project. Posing as brother and sister newly arrived from Jamaica, with a sizeable amount of counterfeit money, they set up house in London. With a letter of introduction to Jane's brother, Henry sets about ingratiating their way into his life, and they wait for Jane to visit so they can befriend her as well. They must secure an invitation to the countryside where Jane lives so they can access the manuscript. 

This book really puts you in that time of history. The details she included about England in 1815 make it easy to visualize the era  The restrictions on woman, the social mores, dealing with the clothes, servants, food etc, all the details give you a sense of place. The two must constantly worry about the risk of discovery, and there is also the possibility of altering the future with their actions, but it becomes difficult not to step in to save the chimney sweep's boy, or try to save Henry's bank, or even to save Jane's life. 

This story really engaged me, I didn't know how things were going to work out, and I like a book I can't predict. It is cataloged as science fiction because of the time travel, but don't let this discourage you from reading this fabulous and creative book. An entertaining read for any reader but a must read for Jane Austen fans.

TitleThe Jane Austen Project
AuthorKathleen A. Flynn

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, 2017

Five Strings by Apirana Taylor

In the 19th century Russian classic Dead Souls, the protagonist Chichikov wittily declares, “Love us when we're nasty, since anyone would love us when we're nice”. The very same provocative message comes up in this newly published New Zealand novel by distinguished Maori author Apirana Taylor.

Taylor’s characters are anything but nice: homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, prostitutes and gang members scraping by on the fringes of society.

They are not all dead souls though. Mack and Puti are a young couple wandering the streets of Auckland. Drug and alcohol addicts, mentally unstable and prone to violence, they are hardly able to take care of themselves, but they do care for each other.

There is not much romance and sentiment in this relationship. She takes him home when he is wasted and stoned; when she shits herself in bed he cleans it up. Whether you call it love or not, it seems to be something that keeps them both alive.

How long will it last? Will either of them be redeemed?

The narrative time frame shifts, looking back into the characters’ childhood, teenage years and more recent history. Gradually, we get to know and understand them better, realising where and when it all started and what made them the way they are.

Five Strings is the first Maori novel published this year and the second novel by Taylor, who is also a poet, musician and painter. The book launch took place in May at the Auckland Central Library, depicted in the novel as a place where one of the characters likes to hang out.

Title: Five Strings

Author: Apirana Taylor

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.

18 July, 2017

SOME WORLDS by Emmy Rākete

It’s International Zine Month, Auckland Zinefest is on and Central Library is launching people facefirst into zines.

I’m never quite sure what to make of zines. Sure, there’s something thrilling about making and shoving our creations immediately into people’s hands, genuinely published, even if self-published. There’s a rawness to the DIY self-expression vibe that frees us to make things that are crappy or bewildering or personal or imperfect. Like other self-publishing formats, zines validate our desire to create wildly, to say something, to be heard and treasured and seen, even if briefly.

It does mean, however, that as readers we frequently shipwreck on the shores of philosophical aesthetics. Without official publishers as gatekeepers, we end up having to do our own screening, and there are so many zines. What should I pick? Is this zine good? What’s a ‘good zine’-?

See: Some Worlds. It’s an A5 booklet, black and white, flimsy. Small virus-like creatures squirm across the page. “These are my machines,” Rākete writes. “The page is their world. Just like this planet is our world. I control my machines by putting them on the page.”

Holes appear in the paper. They grow as you read, eating the white spaces. Machines multiply. “They are digging through the page,” Rākete writes. “All the time they are producing holes in their world. Holes to the outside.”

Holes spread. The machines spawn limbs, push words away. “The page is their home,” Rākete writes, “but also a technology used to control them. There is something exterior to the page... we can only recognise this exteriority as a hole.”

The last page barely holds together. It’s mostly holes.

“NO EMANCIPATION”, Rākete writes, letters contorted in the gaps, “WITHOUT APOCALYPSE.”

What is this?

Is this good? It’s bewildering, the visual simplicity of a picture book paired with political theory. It’s compelling too, adult theories of power explained like a child's story about digging machines. It’s a metaphor about finding freedom by destroying the world. It’s pared-down leftist ideology about escaping the devil we know. It was probably made in Microsoft Paint. I love it.

I love it. Does that make it good? Is this a good zine? But what's 'good'-?

Author: Emmy Rākete

Reviewed by Valerie T, Central City Library

Valerie T 
loves Shakespeare, fairytales, Trinitarian theology, twentieth century poetry and picture books on political ideologies.