07 October, 2015

The making of home by Judith Flanders

‘Home’ is more than a house. More than somewhere to sleep. But what makes a home? What is a family? 

Flanders explores these issues and, as you’d imagine, many more in her exploration of homes in, mainly, Northern Europe (England and the Low Countries on the whole, with the US as they developed). 

The reason for this tight focus is that, according to Flanders and her research, only the Germanic languages have a word for ‘home’ that is distinct from their word for ‘house’. 

This is a fascinating read – with snippets art history added to the social history mix. It made me ponder what ‘home’ meant to me. What image did the word conjure in my mind. What pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac do I need to have in the places I live. As long as my bookcases fit, I’m happy.  

For other explorations of ‘home’, try: 

Title: The making of home
Author: Judith Flanders. 

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. 

06 October, 2015

The revenant: a novel of revenge by Michael Punke

Based on the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the American West, this portrait of life on the frontier is a gripping read.

Severely injured by an attack from a grizzly bear, Glass is left to die in the harsh American frontier after being abandoned by the men who were entrusted to tend to him. He is furious that they not only left him, but took his gun and hatchet, leaving him without tools for protection and survival. Revenge is a strong motivation and Glass forces himself to follow them across hundreds of miles in an environment where the inhabitants and the landscape threaten life regularly.

The author, Michael Punke, brings the West to life by describing the physical landscape and action in depth allowing the reader to fully imagine Glass’s struggles. Glass comes in contact with many people in his travels and there are some interesting characters among them, especially the Indian braves.  

I recently read the excellent book, The Martian, and although The revenant is set in a completely different world, both books share the theme of a man surviving after being left for dead in a harsh environment. Like The Martian, The revenant has been made into a movie due to be released in 2016 with Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass.

This book is a great choice if you want to read about the American West, but don’t want a classic Western. It’s also fairly short at around 250 pages so perfect for the times you prefer a reasonably quick read.

Author: Michael Punke

Reviewed by Kathy N, Collections Development.

Kathy N can’t go to 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.

30 September, 2015

Sing it all away By Walk off the Earth [Music CD]

"Walk off the Earth" first caught my eye with their crazily coordinated and visually stunning video clips that would pop up while browsing my endless Facebook feeds. I "suggested for purchase" this C.D to be brought and after acquiring it, listened to it in my car for two weeks straight, until I got the dreaded email saying that I had to return it.

These two weeks were the best of my life (in a musical sense). In my car I sang, danced (safely, of course), and made a complete idiot of myself to and from work everyday for those two awesome weeks (my car windows are not tinted so everyone could see me looking like a fool).

The band is well known for doing covers and using unusual instruments in their songs. They also have done a remix with Steve Aoki for one of the songs on their newest album. This C.D blew my mind and I'm sharing my love of this band with you so you too can also sing and dance (SAFELY!), in the confines of your car/house/anywhere you want and can also look like a total goofball like me. If this C.D does not totally rock your world then try their other C.D's that we have in our collection.  I tell you that it is totally worth it.

Title: Sing it all away (C.D)
Corporate Authors: Walk off the Earth

Recommended by Emma W

Emma W, a library assistant from East Coast Bays Library, can be found zoning out constantly, requesting way too much stuff, or humming along to the elevator music in her head.

26 September, 2015

Travelling to infinity by Jane Hawking

After reading My brief history by Stephen Hawking, I became more interested in his private life than his scientific achievements.

What is his first wife, Jane Hawking who stayed with him for twenty-five years, like? What did his family life look like? And especially, how did he deal with his family while his physical body was gradually collapsing?

Jane Hawking, an ordinary lady with the same human needs and wants as anyone else, led me through this extraordinary period of her life with her vivid, heartfelt writing. She details her struggles in balancing between the normal physical needs and commitments of marriage, being a sacrificing wife and a professional woman, a loving mother and a care giving partner.

An amazing emotional love triangle involving Jane, Stephen and Jonathan is also confessed to without any glossing over.

The book has not only answered all of my questions but also led me to think infinitely beyond them - about the possibility, reality, and unknowability of the human being.

This item is also available from Auckland Libraries as an audio book, eBook, large-print book and DVD.

Author: Jane Hawking

Recommended by Honour Z,  Northcote Library

Honour Z works at Northcote Library. She loves reading biographies and nonfiction in general.

The girls : a novel by Lori Lansens.

Rose and Ruby are inseparable.  They are sisters and best friends but they are also literally inseparable; they are joined at their skulls and share a major vein. When Rose looks north, Ruby is right beside her looking north-east.

Although the girls are in each other's company all the time, they have quite different personalities and interests.  This is where the appeal of this novel lies for me, the exploration of how they maintain their separate identities. They both work at the local library, part-time, in different roles at different times.  Their house is full of mirrors so that they can see each other.

This reads more like a biography than a novel. It answers questions that would be too rude to ask.

Title: The girls: a novel
Author: Lori Lansens
Date: 2005

Reviewed by Christine O., Takapuna Library

Christine O has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years. She likes her fiction to be credible and her nonfiction to be accessible.

19 September, 2015

A modern way to cook by Anna Jones

A modern way to cook is the much anticipated follow up to A modern way to eat, the hugely popular debut cookbook by Anna Jones.

You might not have heard of her before but Anna Jones has worked in the industry for many years behind the scenes as part of Jamie Oliver's food team, and is now coming out from behind the kitchen and into the spotlight with two cookbooks of her own.

I'm a big fan of Jamie Oliver, regardless of his do-gooder reputation. His approachable, down to earth style works for me, and Anna Jones has a similar breezy, relaxed approach to cooking. Like Oliver, Jones is a cook – not a chef, which means that there's nothing too fancy or fiddly to make in her cookbooks. It's everyday food, quick and easy to prepare but full of colour, flavour and importantly – vegetables.

Rather than being organised by meal type or ingredients, this cookbook is split into sections according to how long they take to cook. There's the “Ready in twenty” chapter for a busy weeknight, or the “Investment cooking” chapter for those times you want to make something a bit special. When you're really desperate you can turn straight to the first chapter in the book “In the time it takes to set the table” that is full of one pot meals and quick salads that you can quickly whip up. That's my kind of cooking.

All of the recipes in this book are vegetarian, most of them gluten and dairy free, or easily adaptable. All the food trends of recent years make appearances. Kale chips, quinoa, zuchinni noodles (Aka zoodles) etcetera but all done in tasty and inspiring ways. If this is modern living I'm all for it.

Title: A modern way to cook
Author: Anna Jones

Recommended by Ella J, Central Library

Ella J is a library assistant who has equal amounts of time for literary masterpieces as she does for pop culture icons, and is always looking out for something fresh and exciting to get her teeth into.

17 September, 2015

Genshiken omnibus. 1 Shimoku Kio

Genshiken (Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai or "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture") is a manga series about a University club for otaku (obsessive fans of a variety of media) and their trials dealing with university life, culture clashes and each other.

This manga is great and while I have an affinity toward many of the characters (having some otaku tendencies myself... don't tell my mum), it's the more recognisable elements of each character and interaction which keeps me glued to each story arc. The fear of exposure or acceptance, conformity, pressure from society and peers, sexual attraction and unrequited love. All these appear within the dynamic of this group and are applied not only plausibly by Shimoku, but skillfully also.

Shimoku has created a great dynamic within the Genshiken group with each character well defined artistically and personality wise. Much of the drama is created via personality and/or social clashes with entertaining and sometimes heated exchanges. The artwork is clean and consistent with a special mention to the backgrounds which in some scenes look painstakingly detailed. I mean woah!

Ever wanted to know the inner workings of an otakus mind? Wish their was a group as cool as this at your school/Uni? Read Genshiken! It's great! Teens+

Title: Genshiken omnibus. 1
Author: Shimoku Kio
Recommended by James W, Sir Edmund Hillary Library Papakura

James W wa, nihongo o benkyou shimasu. Mo amari yoku nai desu. Kare wa hon no hou ga terebi yori ga suki da to omotte iru. Sorry sensei, I'm getting better, honest.

14 September, 2015

The pirates and the nightmaker by James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe is a Christchurch-based poet and children’s fiction writer, author of The loblolly boy (2009) and The loblolly boy and the sorcerer (2011). The loblolly boy is a magical, Peter-Pan type creature who has the gift of flight, is invisible to almost everyone and can swap identities with people.

In The pirates and the nightmaker Norcliffe goes back to tell the origins of the loblolly boy, and reintroduces characters that lit up the earlier books including the dark and mysterious sorcerer, Nicholas Wicker, the enigmatic Captain Bass and the ingenious but sometimes foolish gadget-maker Daniel Flynn.

The year is 1740 and the ship Firefly is captured by pirates in the Caribbean. The ship’s boy is set adrift with the captain, a passenger called Mr Wicker, and some of the crew. When the starving crew eye up the boy for dinner, Mr Wicker transforms him into an unearthly flying creature with emerald-green wings. The boy learns of the sorcerer’s plans to find a magical astrolabe that can plunge the world into darkness and allies with the captain of a ghost ship and the pirate captain’s daughter to stop him.

Norcliffe is a wordsmith whose fiction writing is infused with his poetic talents. He weaves beautiful and intelligent stories that twist and turn effortlessly until you are surprised to reach the end of the book and realise how many hours have passed. Written for the 10-14 age-bracket, this is sophisticated children’s literature that will delight many adults. If you wish to hide this guilty pleasure, I suggest reading the book to your children.

Title: The pirates and the nightmaker
Author: James Norcliffe

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.

Stroppy old women: 52 Kiwi women, who've been around long enough to know, tell you what's wrong with the world compiled by Paul Little and Wendyl Nissen

Wasteful plastic packaging. Sexism. Sloppy language.  Social inequality. Ill designed bras and public loos. World hunger and chronic illness.

These are just a few of the things wrong with the world, according to some of New Zealand’s best known “old” women. In honest, humorous and plain speaking terms they rant  about  things, big and little, that make them really grumpy about the current state of affairs and about the world in general.

You may identify with some of these pet peeves yourself, be moved or amused by others and I’d say that whether you are 25 or 85 (or male), you will thoroughly enjoy the voices of these wonderful, interesting women of Aotearoa New Zealand!

P.S. If you haven’t already, read  the equally enjoyable Grumpy old men books 1 and 2, in which 95 Kiwi blokes sound off on a range of subjects.

Title: Stroppy old women
Authors: Paul Little and Wendyl Nissen

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.

13 September, 2015

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

We often forget the problems of old age when we are young and able. "Being Mortal" opens our eyes to this reality in a very sensitive manner. The author takes us through a gamut of emotions and makes us think deeper. It is only when we need the support of our family, we realize how hard it can be for the person needing this support and also for the person who is accepting it.

Even as a doctor, the author grapples with the idea when it is his immediate family, (in this case his father who is also a doctor),for whom he has to make decisions which are in his best interests.

With the advancement of medical technology, there are new ways to fight our diseases. However, a time comes when a sick person needs to spend the time on this earth with their near and dear ones and call it a day. This is palliative care. This decision  can sometimes be the hardest.

Medical interventions have to work in tandem with the wishes of the patient. How does one end one's life story? It is people close to the dying person that help them make this decision.
I think this book is a must read for medical students, doctors, caregivers and anybody who values the elderly.

Title: Being mortal
Author:Atul Gawande
Recommended by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library. I enjoy reading biographies, non-fiction and real life stories. I love to travel.