30 November, 2015

Mallard by Don Hale

This book might not ordinarily have caught my eye had I not at home a train-obsessed toddler with a particular passion for steam engines. As a result I have whiled away several very pleasant hours with this delightful book written by a blue-blooded train enthusiast whose passion lights up every page.

It was the afternoon of 3rd July 1938 when the A4 Pacific locomotive Mallard swept along the East Coast main line, reaching a world-record top speed of 126mph that has never been beaten. It was the culmination of decades of rivalry amongst England’s railway companies, particularly on the all-important London-to-Scotland lines.

The ingenuity of British engineering was on show, for domestic and international audiences, in the later ages of the British Empire. Courage, skill and artistry, and a desire to stay ahead of the Germans (who held the record that Mallard broke), fueled spectacular achievements. A couple of American locomotives may have exceeded Mallard’s time, but they were not officially timed so the English record holds.

Hale sympathetically explores this golden age, one that intersects with both World Wars, bringing to life with careful detail the stories of those who dedicated their lives to the railways. There is much to enjoy and admire in the unfolding dramas.

This is not a book that will threaten any bestseller lists but if you like steam trains, or have an inquisitive toddler that you need to stay one step ahead of, this is one to pick up, find some shade under a tree and escape into.

Title: Mallard
Author: Don Hale

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. 

26 November, 2015

From India with love by Latika Bourke

Latika means a tender flowering climber-a loveable one. Latika was a baby, born to a fourteen year old mother in Bihar. She was brought to the nuns at Fakirana, a day after her birth. An Australian couple adopted her at eight months as the adoption took a long time to be finalised due to red tape.
She was happy and well loved by the Bourke family who had a family of eight children in total. They lived in New South Wales and though she had lived in India for the first eight months of her life , she had no real interest in her birth country.

"Slum Dog Millionaire" was the turning point in her life and this movie made her want to go back to India. Latika goes looking for the nuns in India, who had looked after her with so much of love, when she was a baby. She tries to find her birth family but the lack of records makes it impossible. She realises how lucky she is to have been adopted by such large hearted parents and is happy to have escaped a life of drudgery and poverty if she had gone on to live in the little village with a young unwed mother.

By making this connection with India, she learns to accept her Indian heritage and that it was her first home. This is a positive story about adoption . Latika is grateful to the nuns, her adopted parents and even her birth family. I think Latika is a very loving person with a big heart. She is a very successful political journalist and writes for the " Sydney Morning Herald".

From India with love

Title: From India with love
Author: Latika Bourke
Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library
Kanchan T works as a library assistant.  Loves to read biographies and inspirational stories.

25 November, 2015

Nod : a novel by Adrian Barnes

An apocalyptic novel with a difference. The end of the world is not the result of an environmental disaster, climate change, or a cataclysmic consequence of some crazed individual or government's greed or lust for power. Rather, it is the result of mass insomnia affecting the vast majority of the world's population.

Paul, an etymologist, is one of the world's few 'sleepers', and is our narrator as the world descends into mass psychosis. Sleep deprivation causes delusions and strange, murderous behavior as societal rules and accepted behavior rapidly fall away.

Those that cannot sleep believe that there is a reason behind this wakefulness, a truth that will be revealed to bring about an ultimate understanding. Paul becomes an unlikely prophet after his manuscript on etymology is taken to be a guide book for the new reality of a sleepless world by some of the city’s, by now, psychotic inhabitants.

This is an intelligent and exceptionally well written book where the journey into chaos is the story, rather than the inevitable end.

Title: Nod
Author: Adrian Barnes

Reviewed by Lynda T, East Coast Bays.

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

Where my heart used to beat by Sebastian Faulks

Where my heart used to beat is the new bestseller by the author of Birdsong and A week in December
Central to the story is physician and psychiatrist Robert Hendricks, whose life we come to know from the time he spent in the war in Dunkirk to the 1980s, when he is now sixty something. 
The themes that run through are of love and war, of memory and desire and of the relationship between the body and mind. Robert appears to have sentenced himself to a life of solitude, as he tries to keep his own memories buried - until he fulfills the mysterious request from a stranger in the south of France. 
While the story-line of this moving novel is hard to narrate, jumping as it does through a series of flashbacks, confessions and remembrances, it makes compelling reading.  
If you especially enjoy a “literary yet popular” style of writing and eagerly await every new book by Sebastian Faulks, you won’t be disappointed.  

Title: Where my heart used to beat
Author: Sebastian Faulks

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library
Suneeta 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 November, 2015

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

A serious and gripping post apocalyptic tale with intense and believable action. The scary thing is that this could really happen.

Yellowstone is a super volcano, and this novel explores what would happen if it erupted.The story is told from the point of view of a teenage boy, Alex. He lives in Iowa, which is about 900 miles away from the event. He is alone for the weekend when a huge boulder destroys his house. After the rock comes fire, then the noise, then the ashfall. All infrastructure fails and Alex decides to travel the 100 miles to his uncles place, where his family have gone. It is a harrowing journey. The world is dark, filled with refugees, ash and violence. Food is in short supply. 

In his journey he encounters both the best and  worst of humanity. Survival is paramount but some people co-operate and help, and some prey on the weak. Alex's tae kwon do skills come in handy more than once, but he finds kindness too. He meets Darla, a whizz with engines,  and together they find the strength and skills to survive. 

Be warned the descriptions of the devastation, suffering and violence are graphic, but rooted in realism, which is what makes this book so compelling. And if you enjoy this book there are two sequels: Ashen Winter, and Sunrise, which continue the story and do not disappoint in terms of plot or action. 

Title: Ashfall
Author: Mike Mullin

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.

17 November, 2015

The joy of missing out: Finding Balance in a wired world by Christina Crook

Just as we offer up suggestions of what we have read to share with you, this is a cyclical process where our next read is inspired by what YOU are ordering in!!

So thank YOU for your book discoveries and ordering them in to your local library, thereby giving us the incidental  joy of finding these little gems.

This little beauty was one such discovery. Particularly timely for this time of year when we are gearing up to that season of celebration and hectic activity it brings. Of course Christmas is so much more than this, and yet when it is over we are physically and emotionally ready for a good long relaxing break. This is when you need to pick up this book and really absorb the message.

The author suggests that deliberately opting out of social media and having selected time frames where you are “offline” can be a liberating experience, rather than being a disabling one.  It allows you to be more mindful and present in real time. Not only that, you will find you achieve more, in a considered and  intentional manner.

Stress levels will reduce and  your calm quotient will slowly increase. Consequently you’ll figure out a way to use social media in a fashion that truly honours your relaxation time, and gives you the boundaries you need to achieve balance across the spheres of your life.

Fans of Gretchen Rubin’s works will really enjoy this title, and in fact if you are interesting in reading further you may like to follow the author’s musings of her own internet fast on her website Letters from a Luddite.

Author: Christina Crook

Reviewed by: Sue W Central

Sue obeys her cats, and lives to please them. Sometimes she is allowed some free time to read, so long as she answers the service bell when it rings. 

16 November, 2015

The Narcissist next door : understanding the monster in your family, in your office, in your bed, in your world by Jeffrey Kluger

What is a narcissist and where does the term come from? Narcissus was a Greek youth so in love with himself that he spent all his time gazing at his reflection in a pool, thereby coming to a sticky end. The moral to the tale is obvious and in our times has been applied to those individuals who likewise think they are fabulous, can do no wrong and tend to lord it over the rest of us- hence the term Monster.

Jeffrey Kluger is an award-winning journalist who shows us how to recognise these people, and how to deal with them. He gives us many examples of prominent people who have been or are narcissists, and from his descriptions it is easy to recognise their equivalents in our own society.

I found it fun to guess where the people I know come on the narcissism scale, (especially the ones I don't like. Naughty I know). It's interesting to realise that we are all very different and that science has come to recognise and diagnose different personality disorders. It also made me wonder if I was a narcissist? 

I guess if I am this book would certainly tell me.

Author: Jeffrey Kluger

Reviewed by Clare K, 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.

Come away with me by Karma Brown

This book is about grief, love, loss and acceptance.

Tegan and her husband Gabe are expecting their first baby when a car accident changes everything. Their much-wanted baby is lost and Tegan is overcome by grief. She blames Gabe for the accident and withdraws from her family and friends.

When Gabe suggests that they pull some suggestions out of their Jar of spontaneity travel wish list, Tegan reluctantly goes along with his idea. He reasons that she needs to get back into life and a change of scenery could be the first step to healing.

Thailand, Italy, and Hawaii end up as the places to visit and the journey begins.

Parts of this story are told in the present, and other parts in the past - the 'before'. This technique is very effective in explaining the strong and loving relationship Gabe and Tegan have, and describing events before the accident.

The chapters set in the present tell of the time after the tragedy and the overseas experiences. You can see the progress Tegan makes as she moves on through her journey.

This is quite an emotional story, but there is always an undercurrent of hope to prevent the story from becoming too sad. You feel for Tegan, and Gabe too, as they cope with their loss in different ways. An unexpected direction in the tale gives you insight into the different ways people cope with grief.

Cover notes suggest that fans of Eat, pray, love will 'flock to this novel', but I found there was much more substance to this book and the only similarities were that the main character travels to three exotic locations.

Title: Come away with me
Author: Karma Brown

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.

15 November, 2015

A Year of Good Eating : The Kitchen Diaries III By Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater, or “Nige” as my flatmates and I affectionately refer to him, is my favourite food writer. I’ve spent hours pouring over his articles and cookbooks, savouring his words first, and his recipes later. His writing style is familiar and comforting so that it almost feels to me as if he is an old friend, hence the first name basis we’re on.

There is so much to love about Nigel Slater. While his recipes may not be as fancy as those of my other favourites Yotam Ottolenghi or Giorgio Locatelli, this is precisely their genius. These meals aren’t fussy – they consist of simple British fare and comfort foods that can be whipped up at home without too much drama. It is everyday cooking and the book is a record of what Slater eats every day.

This cookbook is written in the style of a journal, complete with philosophical musings on special ingredients, kitchen stories and the occasional glimpse into the author’s life.
Far from being prosaic his writing is sensuous, and relishes in the details of the everyday, celebrating them. You can tell from Nigel’s writing that he is obsessed with food. He refines and reimagines something as simple as cheese on toast until it is perfect, elevating it into something special. 

The book is beautifully bound in blue cloth and its small size makes reading it less like flicking through a cookbook and more like reading a lovely novel. This is a book that should be perused at leisure over a glass of wine and every word devoured.

A Year of Good Eating : The Kitchen Diaries III

Author: Nigel Slater

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.

The road to happiness is always under construction by Linda Gray

Sometimes when you start reading a memoir or biography written by a celebrity, you immediately get excited at the prospect of reading all about their glamorous lives. In this memoir written by famous Dallas star Linda Gray, we find ourselves immersed in a more realistic and poignant story.

This fascinating book takes us back to Linda’s childhood, detailing an agonizing period in her life when she suffered from paralyzing polio, growing up with an alcoholic mother, and leading to an emotionally abusive marriage. Despite all this Linda Gray goes on to pursue acting classes and at the age of 38 gets her big break as Larry Hagman’s wife, Sue Ellen, in the now famous drama Dallas. The fame that follows brings more heartbreak than happiness. A bitter divorce and the loss of her only sister to cancer along with the pressures of being a single mother may have caused anyone else to break down, but Linda’s positive attitude kept her cruising, with a few speed bumps along the way, to the place of serenity she thrives in now.

As I first started reading this book, I couldn’t help but admire the courage and determination Linda has in her life. I hadn’t known until now that she had been a famous model before becoming Sue Ellen. Her personal stories are told in a very witty and humorous voice, bringing a more down-to-earth and humble perspective into the life of this incredible woman. I really like how The road to happiness doesn’t follow the traditional style most memoirs do and jumps around a bit. Linda includes all the wonderful and various life lessons she’s learned in the 75 years of her life in each chapter with delicious recipes, beauty tips, and books that have inspired and motivated her.

This is an amazing and inspiring read for anyone!! You can also read it as an ebook.

Title: The road to happiness is always under construction
Author: Linda Gray

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.