31 December, 2012

Proof of heaven: a neurosurgeon's journey into the afterlife by Eben Alexander [ Clare, Massey Library ]

This is one of those books that makes you really think about the nature of reality, whether you are religious or not. Dr Alexander, a neurosurgeon with thirty years experience, was convinced he knew why some people have near-death experiences. Like other scientists, he thought it was the last gasp of a dying brain. Until he himself, died.

He collapsed with a rare brain disease. His work colleagues worked frantically to save his life. His body and his brain shut down and he was hooked up to life support. His brain had ceased to function. There was no neural activity taking place.
Title: Prven: A neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Author: Dr Eben Alexander
Published: 2012
Publisher: Pan McMillan

At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson [Zoë, Central City Library]

Awkward title: brilliant book. For readers who would normally shy away from short stories or speculative fiction, Kij Johnson demonstrates each skillfully and enticingly. She also has the gift of writing incredibly readable stories without skimping on concept or emotional impact. If you're at all tentative about reading short fantasy fiction, I'd suggest you skip straight to Story Kit, and let that make up your mind about the rest of the book; it really showcases Johnson's ability to create careful layers of meaning and intrigue within just a few pages, and will be gold for anyone interested in the craft of writing. Equally, as stories like Wolf Trapping demonstrate, Johnson is an author who won't shy away from a cracking narrative either.

While pieces like Names for water and Schrödinger's cathouse were too conceptually overloaded for me, and seemed to squeeze out more possibilities than they entertained, the rest of the collection more than make amends. Fox magic and The cat who walked a thousand miles are set in ancient Japan, and through these, as well as other stories with Eastern influences, Johnson shows a real affinity for story-telling through different cultural lenses, without inducing any cringe. The collection is for animal lovers too, with various beasties featuring in each tale, although if you have a dog you're all at attached to, read the title story in private - it ended rather inelegantly with me in tears on the train home.

Included in this collection are Johnson's Nebula Award-winning Ponies, the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novella The man who bridged the mist, the enchanting World Fantasy Award winner 26 monkeys, also the abyss, and the Sturgeon Award-winning The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the change.

Title: At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
Author: Kij Johnson
ISBN: 9781931520805
Published: c2012
Publisher: Small Beer Press

- Zoë, Central City Library

The Cove by Ron Rash [Laura, Leys Institute Library]

I sometimes feel bad about how much I love a good tragedy, especially one that involves a love story. I enjoy a feel-good read as much as the next girl, but I somehow feel a little bit disappointed if I don’t have a good cry at the end of a novel. There was no such disappointment when I read The Cove.

Ron Rash, an award-winning American author and professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, is a real find – he has that rare gift of being able to write sparsely but beautifully, in a slow-paced but gripping way, telling of harsh and confronting landscapes and time periods but finding the life and love in them, however terrible they may be. It's tragically life-affirming in the most harrowing way. Depressed yet?

Right from the prologue of The Cove (set years after the WWI setting of the main story) you know that things will not end well for the people in this corner of the Appalachian mountains: the physically scarred and isolated Laurel, her loyal but trapped brother, and the wandering mute who finds a home with them. But the telling of just how things lead to that bitter end - through coincidences of time, character, and place - is what will keep you turning the pages.

If you like Ann Patchett, Lloyd Jones, and Carson McCullers get ready to be haunted by Ron Rash’s tale of those on the fringes of society. And if you’re anything like me, have your library card ready to order in his previous work.

Title: The Cove
Author: Ron Rash
ISBN: 0857862618
Published: 2012
Publisher: Canongate

- Laura, Leys Institute Library

The Bat by Jo Nesbo (Hilary A, Remuera Library)


This is the first of Nesbo's crime novels featuring  Norwegian detective Harry Hole. Set in the nineties, Hole is sent by Norwegian Police to help the crime team in Sydney solve the mystery surrounding the brutal death of a Norwegian tourist. Hole is working alongside an Aboriginal Detective Andrew Kensington who seems to have an unsually acute sense of where to go next. Insteading of standing on the sidelines as he has been instructed, Harry gets thoroughly drawn into tracking down the killer and becomes central to the plot.

This is the first Nesbo book that I have  read and I have to say that I really enjoyed it . The characters are well drawn and Nesbo takes pains to allow Kensington to introduce a fair amount of Aboriginal history which gives the novel some interesting depth. The plot has suspense, pace and and thrills.

Title: The Bat
Author: Jo Nesbo
ISBN: 9781846551451
Published: 2012
Publisher: Harvill Secker

 - Hilary A, Remuera Library

30 December, 2012

The Long Earth By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]


A new Terry Pratchett book and not a Discworld novel - I thought "I have got to read this." Written in conjunction with Stephen Baxter, (whose books I haven’t yet read), this sci-fi novel explores the concept of parallel worlds. What if, all of a sudden, the human race can access all these worlds with the aid of a simple device? The authors explore how our whole society is changed as so many people leave our crowded earth to wander or settle on the many worlds available, not just to the immediately adjacent worlds but perhaps a world a thousand ‘steps’ away, to create their own unique societies.

We follow a few individuals, but in particular Joshua Valienté, (a natural 'Stepper'), and Lobsang, who claims to be a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reincarnated into a computer. They take a journey ‘westwards’ as far as they can in an airship across the ‘Long Earth’ – past over a million variations of evolution on this earth. I have to add here that our world is the only one to have evolved humans, which makes a point of difference to any other parallel universe type books I have read, (although there are some other forms of odd intelligent life encountered).

This book combines a journey of adventure and imagination with some of the wry social commentary at which Pratchett excels. This book was subtly compulsive reading, definitely accessible for those who do not usually read sci-fi. I am sure there will be a sequel as they have not explored ‘Eastwards’ yet.

Title: The Long Earth
Author: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
ISBN: 978085720104
Published: 2012
Publisher: Doubleday

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

29 December, 2012

A Single Man (DVD) [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see this film at first because from the outside, it comes across as an art house film which can be a bit straining sometimes. A single man is definitely an art film but one of the good kind. It is one of those films that manage to make you feel part of the life of the character even though they live in a completely different world to your own.

The film focuses on the intended last day in the life of George Falconer, a secretly gay College professor who has just recently lost his life partner. He is lost, grieving and feels his life has lost all meaning without love. Getting all his affairs in order, he prepares to commit suicide, but life and its wonderful experiences seems to intercept just to show him what it is worth living for.  

I am a huge fan of everything retro and have an affinity for movies set in the 1960s, especially well researched ones with all the right details. This is one of those movies. Which is unsurprising, considering that multi talented fashion designer and photographer Tom Ford directed it. With wonderful compositions, colours and settings, every frame is a piece of art (or advertising) in itself. The movie is bold visually where the character is not able to, through a very clever use of light and colour.
Colin Firth is at his best in this perfectly suited role with his calm and restrained English manner that shows him as reserved and subtle but still emotionally rich. Even though there is a definite melancholic mood to this film, the brighter moments shine all the more.
For everyone who is a fan of Mad Men , beautiful cinematography, amazing costumes and the like, this is a special treat.

Title: A single man
Author: Tom Ford (Director) 
Published: 2010
Publisher: Icon Film Distribution 

This Way of Life by Tom Burstyn DVD [Claire, Central City Library]

The Director and his producer wife spent 4 years on and off documenting the daily lives of a Maori family (Peter and Colleen Karena and their 6 children) in a rural area of the East Coast New Zealand.
The family lives in a rundown old house that's been in Peter's family for generations. Photos of ancestors cover the walls and Peter hunts on horseback for the family's meat, teaching the children to treat the animals they kill with respect.

At first their life seems idyllic but then we hear that Peter's father is evicting them from the home they love so he can sell it. Things turn ugly and before they can return for their possessions the house is burnt to the ground.

Undeterred, they set up home in a large garage by the ocean where they find living together in one big room brings them even closer together. We learn that Peter breeds horses and runs a horse trekking business as well but when they go to their bach in the hills he finds that someone has stolen most of the horses.
The narrative is a bit sketchy. We're not sure what's gone on between Peter and his stepfather or who is carrying out the evil deeds. Peter does talk about how he treats his children the way he would have liked to have been raised. And that, to me, is what this film is all about - how we raise our children and the values we instill in them and the important role of 'fathering'.

It's easy to  feel a bit envious that some people are swimming naked on horseback in paradise while the rest of us are sitting in Auckland traffic on our way to the office but I think there's a small warning in this film as well - even paradise has it's problems and nothing is what it appears to be at first glance.

This captivating film is a must see. Beautifully filmed and inspirational, it's a glimpse into a world and way of life most of us never get to see.

Title: This Way of Life
Director: Tom Burstyn
Producer: Barbara Summer Burstyn
Published: 2010
Publisher: Vendetta Films

 - Claire, Central City Library

28 December, 2012

Wilson by Dan Clowes [Tim, Central City Library]

Wilson is the kind of guy you would hate to sit next to on the bus- opinionated, obnoxious and quick to take offence- a middle-aged misanthrope who thinks that he is way smarter than you. Fortunately for the reader of this graphic novel, Clowes is a good enough cartoonist to find the humanity lurking within this apparently charmless man. About half-way in Wilson finds himself alone in the world and goes on an odyssey to try to reunite the family that he has alienated. This plan goes about as wrong as possible for him- with darkly comedic results. The book is made up of a series of self-contained one page strips, each drawn in a different style. Some of these are individually funny or tragic but taken as a whole add up to a nuanced and touching story. I think this approaoch helps to engage the reader and gives the book the strange liveliness that is in contrast with its surface blankness. This is an odd book and an odd character but it turns out that Wilson is not so bad.

Title: Wilson
Author: Dan Clowes
ISBN: 9781770460072
Published: 2010
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly

 - Tim, Central City Library

27 December, 2012

Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany [Doris, Glenfield Library]

Eden, in her thirties, is looking for her father, whom she has been in contact on the odd occasion over the past years. Eden was only ten years old when she found her father trying to commit suicide on the bathroom floor. This attempt leads to the divorce of her parents and her father turning homeless. He is now living on the streets and trying to cope with his mental illness. I enjoyed reading the book because of how it is written; the story is told in two voices, the voice of Eden and the voice of her father, David. I believe that the topic of mental illness is not an easy topic to write about. In my view the author managed to find a good balance and as a reader, I started to care for the characters. I was also really glad that there is no mental illness running through my family. Of course there is a twist in the story, and some family secrets will get revealed at the end.

Title: Outside the Lines: A Novel
Author: Amy Hatvany
ISBN: 9781451640540
Published: 2012
Publisher: Washington Square Press

 - Doris, Glenfield Library

26 December, 2012

Back to the Land: A Year of Country Gardening by Lynda Hallinan [Anna D, Botany Library]

This book made me jealous of Lynda Hallinan. When she's not too busy being the editor-at-large of New Zealand Gardener magazine, a gardening guru and a mum, she is busy gardening and pottering around on the lifestyle block in Hunua which she shares with her husband, son, chickens, sheep and assorted other animals.

Back to the Land is essentially a diary of Lynda's life on their small farm - what she's planting, weeding, picking, digging, eating and preserving. Lynda is pretty honest and tells about her gardening failures as well as her successes, which is encouraging for all us aspiring gardeners. It's divided into seasons, with gorgeous photos and recipes throughout. I pretty much want to try everything, but top of the list are Barb's Apricot and Red Lentil Soup and Ruby Rhubarb Champagne. Yum yum yum.

If you like the NZ Gardener or Lifestyle Block magazines or have always wondered what it's like to live in the country, Back to the Land is for you.  It's the kind of book you can open at a random page, see something scrumptious and read something interesting (I just tried it now and opened to a delicious looking plum sorbet). I want a massive fruit orchard and berry patch like Lynda has - I wonder if she'd let me come and stay...

Title: Back to the Land: A Year of Country Gardening
Author: Lynda Hallinan
ISBN: 9780143567080
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin

 - Anna D, Botany Library

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle [Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library]

Jerusalem is the latest travelogue comic by Canadian artist Guy Delisle, and, like his previous books (Burma Chronicles, Pyongyang, and Shenzhen), it is beautiful, funny and informative. If you have never read a graphic novel before, and have little interest in the zap-pow-bang style, this little gem might just be your perfect introduction to comics.

With a partner who works as a doctor for the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, Delisle goes where she goes, and this time it is Jerusalem. Delisle’s wry sense of humour, impeccable comic timing, and sweet drawing style are what make this book both compelling and humane. Delisle gives his take on the difficulties of expat life in a city fraught with violence, religious fundamentalists of three types, and more often than not, bizarre customs. While essentially a memoir, the book helped me to understand the Israeli-Palestine conflict better than a year’s worth of newspaper articles. Delisle is great at offering enough of the back-story of  places and conflicts to help the reader grasp the complexities of Jerusalem life, but rest assured this is not a dry history lesson. If anything, Delisle’s observations reveal the deep empathy he has for those he observes. Highly recommended!

Title: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Author: Guy Delisle
ISBN: 9781770460713
Published: 2012
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

 - Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library

25 December, 2012

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson [Karen, Central City Library]

Like Ana with Ordinary Thunderstorms, it was the title of this book which first intrigued me with its spare, neat evocation of the imaginative lawlessness of our childhoods. It also won the Dublin IMPAC award, the nominations for which are submitted by librarians – so consider this a sort of super librarians’ choice. Only partially for its Scandinavian setting (Norway), this book reminded me of early Bergman movies of the Wild Strawberries period, the ones which told stories in black and white about loneliness, self-discovery, how we deal with the past. Max von Sydow would be perfect as the main character, an aging widower who has gone to live alone in a cabin in the woods, whose thoughts of “a dry brain in a dry season” repeatedly cut away to the summer he went out stealing horses with his best friend, which turned out to be the summer his childhood ended. Liv Ullman would play the mother of his best friend, who stirred such confusing feelings in him that summer, in her washed-out blue dress. If you haven’t seen early Bergman, I can tell you that the book also reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. Adolescence is a strange and hard time.

Title: Out Stealing Horses 
Author: Per Petterson
ISBN: 9780099506133
Published: 2005
Publisher: Harvill Secke

 - Karen, Central City Library

Shackleton's Whisky by Neville Peat [Sam, Remuera Library]

In the middle of an Auckland summer with one hundred per cent humidity and cicadas chirping outside, it's hard to call to mind the struggles and tribulations of a plucky band of Edwardian explorers out on the ice at the bottom of the world. This book will take you there, though - and uniquely among the slew of recent publications on the topic, it does so by way of the glass of whisky sitting at your elbow.

It would be very difficult to get this material wrong - fine highland whisky and the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration are subjects dear to the hearts of many of us, and Dunedinite Neville Peat has delivered a cracking, well-researched yarn that approaches  familiar material from a fresh angle.

The book deals with Ernest Shackleton's 1907 Nimrod expedition, which took that intrepid explorer to within 100 miles of the South Pole and captured the imaginations of the subjects of Britain's far-flung empire. Peat gives us a lively and anecdote-filled account of the adventure, focusing for obvious reasons on stories concerning alcohol - the image of half-frozen explorers-turned-amateur-vets pouring half a bottle of brandy down the throat of a hypothermic pony provides a particularly colourful vignette.

The unique contribution this book makes is to focus on the story of the whisky of the title - a fine highland malt that Shackleton ordered for the expedition, three bottles of which were recovered in 2010 from underneath the hut the expedition constructed at Cape Royds in McMurdo Sound.  The story of how this whisky was carefully conserved and analysed at the Canterbury Museum and subsequently recreated by master distillers at MacKinlay's is fascinating, and in Peat's hands it becomes a masterful blend of popular science, social history, and good old-fashioned yarn-spinning.  This is a book to be appreciated and savoured by connoisseurs of adventure and whisky alike.

Title: Shackleton's whisky: a spirit of discovery-- Ernest Shackleton's 1907 Antarctic expedition and the rare malt whisky he left behind
Author: Neville Peat
ISBN: 9781869799465
Published: 2012
Publisher: Longacre

 - Sam, Remuera Library

24 December, 2012

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

The attractive cover and intriguing title prompted me to pick up this book.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by a story that was a bit different.
The main character, Gal, has a prickly personality like the roses she breeds for a hobby.  Suffering a kidney disease, she keeps to herself and has few friends. When her teenage niece comes to live with her, Gal not only has to change her routine, but also her outlook on life and how she interacts with those around her.

Despite her gruff exterior, Gal is a likeable character and I found myself groaning when she yet again made decisions that were perhaps not the best ones, or managing to upset someone.
Her niece Riley appears to be a rebellious teenager and puts on a tough facade, but has been hurt by her mother’s rejection and is more like her Aunt Gal than she’ll admit.

Their story is one of making family connections, the value of friendship and learning to consider others. I thought the author did a very good job of describing the dialysis treatment Gal endured and made me aware of the struggles of dealing with a disease that requires constant medical care without being too over-sentimental or scholarly.
This was an enjoyable read and I even learnt a bit about growing roses too!

Author: Margaret Dilloway
ISBN: 9780399157752
Published: 2012
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons

-Kathy, Birkenhead Library

Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners DVD [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]

I have had an amateur and irregular interest in yoga for a number of years, and have just got back into it with Tamal Dodge’s DVD Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners.

There are two half hour workouts on the DVD, the first uses a belt or stretch band, which allows you to work at your level, and the second is a more traditional yoga workout, where you flow from posture to posture. I found that after just one week of doing the first workout, I could already feel a difference in my posture, flexibility and well being, and discovered I was ready for the more challenging second workout. I now alternate them daily.

Tamal Dodge speaks about yoga with passion and integrity. He grew up on a yoga ashram in Hawaii, and I think that one of the biggest value added features of this DVD is his deep knowledge of yoga. As you do the workouts, he explains how the postures are affecting your body- flushing toxins and revitalising your muscles. He also truly understands how to construct a workout so that you find yourself able to do postures you were sure would be beyond you.

The workouts are slow and graceful, but surprisingly strenuous in places. It’s amazing that you can break out into a sweat just holding a posture, or moving through a simple routine! So if you’ve always wanted to try yoga, or do yoga already, but are looking for a new programme that will deepen your understanding, I highly recommend Tamal Dodge’s Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners – perhaps one for the New Year’s resolutions list :-)

Link to his website: http://www.tamalyoga.com

Title: Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners
Director: Andrea Ambandos
Producer: Dragonfly Productions
Year: 2012
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment Australia

 - Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

23 December, 2012

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman (Merrin, Manurewa Library)

Tom, a World War I hero and his young wife, Isabel have a unique life looking after a lighthouse on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia.  Not long into their married life they make a fateful decision that has far reaching consequences and results in a no win situation for those involved.

I enjoyed the setting for this book.  The remote island sounded almost idyllic - if you don't mind the lack of people.  The description of small town Australia in the 1920s also added to the attraction of the book.  And the characters, Tom, Isabel, Lucy and Hannah all tugged at the heart strings.  I felt for each of them as they tried to cope with the consequences of that one decision, made with good intentions, but in the end perhaps selfishly.  As I neared the end of the book, I was wondering how the author would end it.  I think I would have liked a different ending, but I realise that not everyone who reads this book will feel that way.  And it didn't take anything away from the experience of reading this emotional story.

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
ISBN: 9781742755700
Published: 2012
Publisher: Vintage

22 December, 2012

The Tsunami Countdown by Boyd Morrison [Helen, Waiuku Library]

syndetics-lcI’ve always been fascinated by tsunamis so this book was an obvious choice.  Anything that includes a ticking timebomb and countdown to disaster of catastrophic proportions, is going to rivet me to the pages and prompt me to play “What would I do?”

Kai Tanaka is the acting director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu and through his character you get just enough scientific information about tsunami generation and behaviour to explain the scenario sufficiently, but not so much that the story gets wiped out by tsunami-like waves of technical jargon.

I’ve always wondered about the choices people make in real life disasters – choices that lead to death or survival – and the author plays with this theme, introducing a cast of characters led by Tanaka, interspersed with fleeting encounters with doomed holiday-makers and cavalier idiots. The characters are just like thePick-A-Path books of my youth; choose the wrong path and your fate is chosen...If you enjoy a fast paced action thriller, along the lines of Matthew Reilly or perhaps James Patterson, you may enjoy this. With a countdown of just sixty minutes to save his wife, daughter..oh and around a million other people, Tanaka is the perfect ‘ ordinary’ man to make your stomach clench and your tonsils shrivel as he desperately tries to outrun an unstoppable and terrifying  force.

Title: The Tsunami Countdown
Author: Boyd Morrison
ISBN: 9781847444875
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sphere

Note: Previously published as an e-book titled 'The Palmyra Impact' and by Pocket Books as Rogue Wave.

 - Helen, Waiuku Library

Life After Death by Damien Echols [Sue W, Central City Library]

Damien Echols' account of life on death row is powerfully affecting on a number of levels. Beyond a morbid curiosity about life under such extreme conditions is a profound respect for his mental, emotional and spiritual endurance of an eighteen year incarceration for a crime he did not commit. How must it feel to exist in a confined space that doesn't allow beyond a two step range with deprivation from natural light and environment, never knowing if or when he will be led to his execution? This text is an assortment of journal entries written during this period, and by large is of his time on death row as well as reflections back to childhood life and formative events and people. Readers will find themselves wondering what the days, months and years post-release were like for Damien, first experiences after his release and how he managed post-traumatic stress triggering psychological and physiological responses to stimuli most people process without thinking on a daily basis. Richly nuanced, this narrative really captures the essence of mindfulness and how to achieve and create an emotional oasis of calm that ensured Damien's survival under appalling circumstances. Peter Jackson has directed a film on the West Memphis Three; as Damien and his two co-accused came to be known. No doubt readers will be drawn to locating this film after finishing this powerful narrative.

Title: Life After Death
Author: Damien Echols
ISBN: 9780399160202
Published: c2012
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

 - Sue W, Central City Library

21 December, 2012

The End Of Men: And The Rise Of Women by Hanna Rosin [Gareth, Central City Library]

Is the patriarchy really coming to an end? Well, not quite, but Hanna Rosin makes a good case that the tide is changing. Women in the states are receiving more university degrees than men at the same time as the more traditional male-dominated industries are on the decline (especially in the wake of the financial crisis). As women take more jobs in the middle class, this leaves open jobs for nannies and other domestic workers, which are also jobs primarily taken by women. What is a man to do?

This book details the overall situation clearly and also keeps the discussion lively by including stories of the actual people involved. Rosin introduces us to out-of-work men, who are now having to adjust to making less than their wives or even take on the new role of becoming a house-husband. However, near the end of the book, Rosin does look at why women are still failing to gain the top CEO jobs. She interviews a couple of women in this position and finds that it might be both to do with the remaining structure of management in big companies and the attitude of women themselves. The difficulties of keeping one's career going while pregnant is also discussed and this is particularly a problem in the US where women only get six weeks maternity leave (!!!).

As a man who works in the female-dominated industry of librarianship, I found this book provided an interesting view into a future that I'm already well accustomed to. The book is very positive about the possibilities for gender equality in future and encourages women managers to be more supportive of other women moving into management. I just hope my (female) boss and her (female) boss don't read it, otherwise I may never get a promotion again...

Title: The End Of Men: And The Rise Of Women
Author: Hanna Rosin
ISBN: 9781594488047
Published: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books

 - Gareth, Central City Library

20 December, 2012

Time To Go: The Southern Psychedelic Moment 1981-1986 CD [Simon, Central City Library]

Time to Go [CD]Time to Go is an archival compilation of music that emanated from the Deep South of New Zealand and in the first half of the eighties. Compiler Bruce Russell avoids the "hits" of usual suspects like The Clean and The Chills, and instead chooses tracks based on historical interest and thematic appropriateness. We get 'In the Back' from The Clean, a drummerless whirlpool of overheated guitars and incomprehensible vocals, and 'Flamethrower' from The Chills, which starts off with a characteristically cheerful organ line before being wrenched into the most aggressive outro they ever committed to tape. What really makes this collection is the representation of lesser known acts like Pin Group and The Builders. Pin Group's 'Jim' is the opening track, and it rides an ominous 2 chord intro for almost as many minutes before the vocal finally enters. The Builders' 'Russian Rug' combines discordant organ stabs, a rhythm guitar that drops out of the mix for no apparent reason, a doubling of tempo, and the refrain "Lie down deep in a Russian rug" to delightfully confounding effect. My favourite inclusion is 'It's Cold Outside' by Victor Dimisich Band, a tender ballad compared to most of the tracks included. For me, rightly or wrongly, the melancholy that runs through it captures what I imagine might have been the feeling of cultural outcasts on the edge of the world in the early eighties, making music for no other reason than that it helped them get through the night. Wonderfully written liner notes from Russell illuminate the historical context of a vital collection.

Title: Time To Go: The Southern Psychedelic Moment 1981-1986
Author: Various
Year: 2012 Label: Flying Nun

 - Simon, Central City Library

Six Feet Down Under: Memoirs of a New Zealand Funeral Director by Chris Mann [Selina,

On my way to New Lynn I always pass the massive Waikumete Cemetery and sometimes wonder about the people buried there. Chris Mann is a former funeral director and his memoirs are an interesting read about his job of picking up the dead and directing funerals. He writes in an engaging style and is full of anecdotes, some humorous, some shocking, always compelling.

Some of the interesting anecdotes he tells are of how he handles grief, picking up people who died in gruesome accidents, old folk who die and aren't found for days, victims of suicide and how their selfish actions affected their families, funerals where nobody showed up, and a mortifying episode of when he almost buried someone in the wrong grave!

His first book (a self-published effort) was so popular that he wrote a sequel with more stories.

In this one he answers many questions about the burial process and peoples responses to the first book. I very much enjoyed both books, learned much about what happens to our bodies when we die and have much respect for funeral directors who undertake a task that I myself wouldn't dream of doing (given the choice!)

I recommend both memoirs to anyone who has lost a loved one.

Title: Six Feet Down Under - Memoirs of a New Zealand Funeral Director
Author: Chris Mann
ISBN: 9780473157579
Published: 2009
Publisher: Chris Mann

 - Selina, Waitakere Central Library

19 December, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [Morgan, Remuera Library]

I was curious about this critically acclaimed crime novel, as it was written by a former writer of Entertainment Weekly magazine and was interested to know just how someone writing about Britney's latest video or Angelina's latest dress could switch to writing a novel about marriages, depression and murder.

My curiosity was well-rewarded in this riveting tale of a marriage gone horribly, horribly wrong. Amy and Nick are a successful, beautiful, wealthy couple who have been married for five years, when Amy disappears. What follows is the hunt for Amy which takes the reader on a journey from the depths of Nick's mind to the media hype surrounding the case of the supposedly innocent wife with a husband that can't stop smiling every time her disappearance is mentioned.

From the opening sentence, where Nick is discussing the shape and feel of his wife's head and how easy it would be to destroy, I was hooked. It is darker than anything I've read of late and isn't for people who are looking for a summer escape. However, if you're looking for a gripping mystery, with the world's darkest treasure hunt, multiple red herrings and an entire cast of unlikable characters, who somehow you end up rooting for, despite your base instincts and one certain twist halfway through the book that leaves you absolutely breathless and will keep you up until the sun comes up, then this is for you.

It has already been commissioned as a movie, with Reese Witherspoon on board and Gillian Flynn has several other crime novels that flew under the radar, check them out and stay tuned for big things from this former entertainment writer, she's got talent.

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
ISBN: 9780297859383
Published: 2012
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

 - Morgan, Remuera Library

Portobello by Ruth Rendell [Hilary L, St. Heliers Library]

Staid middle class fifty year old Eugene finds some money on the street.  He advertises for the owner to come forward.  This brings some interesting characters out of the woodwork.

Set in Portobello West London, Rendell's novel deals with class, addiction, love and betrayal - the threads which make up the rich tapestry of human life.

If you enjoy reading about London, as I currently do (my daughter is living over there) this book is for you.

The characters and situations made me feel frustrated, sad, bemused and annoyed. Altogether a satisfying read and a vivid picture of life in London.

Title: Portobello
Author: Ruth Rendell
ISBN: 9780091925840
Published: 2008
Publisher: Hutchinson

 - Hilary L, St. Heliers Library

18 December, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [Biddy, Highland Park Library]

The review quoted on the cover of this novel describes it as "Impossible to put down" - a recommendation that immediately piqued my interest! It is an unexpected tale about an unexceptional man, Harold Fry. The story follows Harold's unexpected journey, walking the length of England, after leaving home to post a letter. Along the way he meets scores of interesting people and overcomes a range of challenges as he doggedly continues on his quest to save an old friend's life.

Despite describing Harold as unexceptional, I found him disarmingly charming and he captured both my attention and my heart from the first chapter. Harold is determined to prove that "you could be ordinary and attempt something extraordinary" and he stays true to himself despite the constant advice he receives.

Harold's journey has moments of gentle humour and moments of great poignance. It is a delightful read and would appeal to those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. This well-written story is a feel-good book and comes highly recommended.

Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
ISBN: 9780857520647
Published: 2012
Publisher: Linen Press

 - Biddy, Highland Park Library

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo [Sue W, Central City Library]

Behind this deceptively beautiful title, is an amazing account of social anthropology in which Katherine Boo recorded the lives of a group of people living in a Mumbai slum, Annawadi, for a period of four years.

The book is a beautifully crafted narrative that speaks through the consciousness of the main characters Boo followed. Her research process is summarised at the end of the book, and details how she relentlessly questioned and recorded in painstaking detail how the occupants of this particular slum ensured their ongoing survival. This book is about survival, economics, the will to live and the political battles waged not just between occupants living shoulder to shoulder in the slum, but the various strata outside the slum who must be appeased and oft times paid off. The text is rich and nuanced and there are many examples of the sheer ingeniousness of the occupants, who tirelessly seek out ways to ensure their survival, as well as a painful, unflinching look at the extreme hardships involved in living such a hand-to-mouth existence.   This book is both beautiful and extraordinary, moving and insightful. Most of all, upon finishing it, there is a profound relief for the circumstances of our own lives, which are vastly removed from the lives recorded within the text.

Title: Behind the beautiful forevers
Author: Katherine Boo
ISBN: 9781400067558
Published: 2012
Publisher: Random House

- Sue W, Central City Library

17 December, 2012

The Henry Experiment by Sophie Radice [Ana, Central City Library]

I have chosen this book because the words "a literary thriller" attracted me immediately. I like both literature and thrillers therefore, I couldn't go wrong.

It's a story with three main protagonists: Ann, an ordinary married woman, a psychologist and his clever, young son Henry. It's really a confrontation between Ann who has made friends with the boy, and the professor who's obsessed with his theory that children should roam wild and fend for themselves to discover their "warrior spirit".

The tension increases as you keep thinking that something is going to happen to the boy, he's going to get lost, or killed. In this sense, it does read like a thriller. As for the "literary" part it may be because Henry's parents, the professor and his wife are intellectuals who, back in America, moved among university people, and perhaps here too. It's well written and has an element of suspense that carries you along.

Title: The Henry Experiment
Author: Sophie Radice
ISBN: 9780955961892
Published: 2012
Publisher: Linen Press

- Ana, Central City Library

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Traditionally, dragons are off the map. Or almost. Actually not out of this world, but on its edge. Known of, but not quite known enough to ally our unease at their edginess. They are ultimate powers that stretch possibilities. So no wonder they come in so many forms - beyond those explicitly called "dragons" there's others, like mockingjays, giant moles, and sentient immortal spaceships.

In fact, if you ever need to bluff your way through a conversation about a fantasy novel just nod and say, "Yeah, a very interesting take on the dragon motif," because you'll probably be right.

And then there are horses.

Stiefvater reworks an old Celtic myth about water horses coming on to the land.. Wait, this is so not My Little Seapony territory!

What Stiefvater does so well is tone. These horses are "horses", barely comprehensible, hardly lovable and yet intense. These are dragons – not that she ever calls them that - of Love, Hate, and most challenging of all, Indifference. Like what they always said about Aslan: he's not a tame lion - you can't quite feel sure which way he'll jump. Stiefvater is excellent at keeping it all on edge. The sense of the mystery never goes away and that’s rare in a genre that likes to colour-code, and - (*cough* McCaffrey).

Oh, and she wraps it all up in a teen love story - delayed, protracted, resolved - with a twist. Yeah. Right.

A very interesting take on the dragon motif.

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Steifvater
Published: 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

11 December, 2012

Gertrude and Alice by Diana Souhami [Claire, Central City Library]

If you read only one book on the interesting lives these two women led in France between the wars when artistic life in Paris was in its heyday, make sure it is this one.

Gertrude Stein was living with her brother Leo collecting art and writing when she met Alice B Toklas in 1907. From then on, until Gertrude’s death 39 years later, they were never apart. They became a famous duo alongside their giant poodle ‘Basket’. Both were daughters of European Jews who were first-generation immigrants to America. Inherited money from the Stein estate enabled them to live comfortably in Paris without having to earn a living.

Gertrude and Alice were uncompromisingly themselves, eccentric in appearance, disliked causes and got on with having a good time. Alice believed that Gertrude was a genius and that she and her genius must be served. Gertrude’s stream-of -consciousness writing asked questions like ‘What do we mean by what we say?’ and ‘Why should books be divided into chapters?’ “A rose is a rose is a rose” being a famous quote. This book is easy to read, entertaining, witty and humorous.

In 1954, Alice published her own memoir, in which she mixed recollections with recipes, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. In 1963, she published her autobiography, What is Remembered.

Title: Gertrude and Alice
Author: Diana Souhami
ISBN: 9781400067558
Published: 2012
Publisher: Random House

- Claire, Central City Library

10 December, 2012

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell [Emma, Central City Library]

Cloud Atlas is about the connections of past, present and future. The Cloud Atlas Sextet is a musical masterpiece written by one of the characters and described by him as a "sextet for overlapping soloists…each in its own language of key, scale and colour." This is also a good description of this beautiful book.
Although tinged with darkness I felt the book was also hopeful. Each narrative is set in a different time, from the past to the imagined future. In them, seemingly disparate characters recount their stories. Eventually you can see the connections, and the story begins to make sense. All of the characters are good people in some sort of trouble: but they all eventually experience some sort of luck or triumph.

If you like a slowly revealed story which is elegant, balanced and immensely satisfying, you will love this book. I did, and I am looking forward to reading more books by David Mitchell.

Cloud Atlas is now a movie. Check out the trailer here, but read the book first!

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
ISBN: 9780812984415
Published: 2004
Publisher: Sceptr

- Emma, Central City Library

09 December, 2012

Blood Brotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias by John Dickie [Jordan, Central City Library]

This is John Dickie’s second book that tackles the history of Italy’s organized crime association, his first being Cosa Nostra: a history of the Sicilian mafia (2004). The difference is that Brotherhoods leaves the island of Sicily and looks at the history (and often myths and legends) of Italy’s other two but less known mafias.

Through painstaking research, this anthropological study of the Southern Italian criminal mentality introduces us to the Camorra of Naples and the 'Ndrangheta from Calabria. Both have structures and hierarchies that drive the reader straight into their dark world, and offer a rare insight into the lives of professional criminals, their sense of tradition and an odd take on honor. This book tells of both organizations’ origins, from the filthy jail cells of Naples to the peasant farms of Calabria, and how these groups grew and gained influence. Even though the Sicilian mob is the most well-known, both these groups have now surpassed Cosa Nostra both in power and wealth.

If you are a fan of crime fiction and want to read about real life wise guys from the Old Country, this book serves as a great study into a fascinating subculture, or as a sequel to Cosa Nostra. John Dickie has outdone himself.

Title: Blood Brotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias
Author: John Dickie
ISBN: 9780340963937
Published: 2011
Publisher: Sceptre

- Jordan, Central City Library

08 December, 2012

True Grit by Charles Portis [Emma, Central City Library]

This novel, set in Arkansas in the late 19th century, has the wild frontier and the loose hold of the law as its backdrop. In it are stolen horses, an outlaw, a Texas Ranger, a bounty hunter, and a lonesome hero. But don’t be fooled, this is no typical cowboy story. The unlikely hero of the story is a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross, who sets out to find her father’s killer and bring him to justice. She hires a bounty hunter who is joined by a Texas Ranger. But neither man, in Mattie’s opinion, shows enough character ("true grit") to be trusted. Therefore, she buys a horse and insists that she rides with them. This is what happens, as told in her words.

True Grit is an extremely enjoyable, surprising book. The story-telling is laid back, yet events move quickly. The language is old-fashioned, yet the book is an easy read. Mattie is downright awesome: the other characters are a mix of typical stereotypes (bad-guy, hard-drinking good guy), but they have a bit of depth and some eventually even become likeable. Best of all, the atmosphere invokes the beauty and the harshness of the country. The ending is no bed of roses but is still unexpectedly satisfying. I am not a 'western' fan, but I picked this book up after seeing the excellent movie by the Coen brothers. The movie follows the book closely, and I highly recommend both. If you have never before read or watched a 'western', try this.

Title: True grit
Author: Charles Portis
ISBN: 9781408814000
Published: 1968
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

- Emma, Central City Library

07 December, 2012

Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt [Karen, Central City Library]

I was turned on to Corto Maltese long ago when I went to live in his home country of Italy, where the fumetti (Italian for comics) about the sailor with the pierced ear had attained cult status. Fumetti means puffs of smoke, that being what Italians saw where we see speech bubbles, as well as in the air all around. Everyone smoked, and everyone read comics, and Corto Maltese was everyone's favourite. The art work is brilliant -- the scene where an underwater Corto is drawn with squiggly refracted lines which grow ever more boldly abstract as the panels progress leave me in awe -- and the rhythm is intense and filmic. So are the characters. Corto casts a spell over everyone, men and women, in that Humphrey Bogart kind of way. "Who knows why you make me think of that Arola's Tango I heard in the Parda Flora Cabaret in Buenos Aires?" "Maybe there was someone there who looked like me?" "No! It’s precisely because you don’t resemble anyone that I would have wanted to meet you anywhere", and are those tears on Corto’s chiselled face? The original drawings were all in black and white, while the Universe edition I have here uses colourised drawings which, as with colourised movies, detracts from their artistry. But Pratt is such a genius that they are still great. If you love comics, you owe yourself a sail with Corto.

Title: Corto Maltese: the ballad of the salt sea
Author: Hugo Pratt
ISBN: 9780789324986
Published: 2012
Publisher: Universe

- Karen, Central City Library

06 December, 2012

Gold by Chris Cleave [Sue W, Central City Library]

Chris Cleave has written his third novel, Gold, with his unique ability to capture the essence of feeling and emotion for highly charged situations. Gold is as unique and standalone as Cleave's previous novels. To divulge too much of the plot of this book would be to do it a disservice, as part of the power of his writing comes from the way he leads the reader into the essence of what drives the novel from its opening pages. Let's just say it is about two friends and their emotional fragility, the competitive drive that underscores their friendship and how each girl tempers their drive to win against their need to connect with and support others. This novel is sincere, pared down and beautiful in its simplicity. For those new to Chris Cleave, read Incendiary, a truly beautiful study of the tenacity of the human spirit.

Title: Gold
Author: Chris Cleave
ISBN: 9780340963432
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sceptre

- Sue W, Central City Library

05 December, 2012

Banga by Patti Smith CD [Simon, Central City Library]

Patti Smith's new album Banga is a breath of fresh air indeed. My album of 2012 so far. I'm not saying it's the perfect album (it's far too human for a word like "perfect"), and there are doubtless scores of albums breaking fresher stylistic ground. What I am saying is that the odd moment where she overreaches, in her unapologetic effort to strike against the very core of the universal themes she has always embraced, is a small price to pay for the warmth that flows through the best songs on offer here. From the scorching, defiant title track (named after the dog in Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita), to the moving soul ballad ‘This is the Girl’ (an elegy for Amy Winehouse) to the unabashedly romantic strains of ‘April Fool’ (featuring some lovely guitar playing from old pal Tom Verlaine), this is an album that exudes the firm belief that humanity can still access compassion for itself no matter what is going on around the world. Like all Patti Smith records, it is one of hope. It's not a hope born of escapism, but of faith. It is not a faith born of fairy tales, but of a lifetime of experience that when all the sorrow and loss is tallied up still finds a reason to celebrate. I for one find myself asking nothing more of Banga.

Title: Banga
Author: Patti Smith
Year: 2012
Label: Columbia Records
- Simon, Central City Library

(Image credit: JBHiFi.co.nz)

Kahurangi Calling: Stories from the Backcountry of Northwest Nelson by Gerard Hindmarsh [Claire, Central City Library]

Home to the Heaphy track and the Murchison earthquake, the northwest top corner of the South Island is a fascinating place with a wealth of natural and social history. Golden Bay author Gerard Hindmarsh (author of Angelina and Swamp Fever) has collected the stories in this book over a period of 30 years. He describes many of the geological, botanical and ecological treasures that are found in Kahurangi National Park and tells the stories of the interesting characters who have travelled and lived here: explorers, miners, graziers, hermits, eelers, trampers and other adventurers.

"An unexpected theme that I became aware of while writing these stories was how they all hark back to a less structured and unregulated time. A time, not that long ago, before tracks, huts and bridges became known as “biodiversity assets”. A time when a person of character, stamina and longing for aloneness could just go and stay there and not be hassled by any ‘authorities’. A time when wilderness meant just that, wilderness, left alone except by those who dared enter at their own risk."

I learnt so many new facts from reading this book. I’d never heard of the Cobb River dam, which was the highest dam in the country. I didn’t know that asbestos was quarried in the Upper Takaka for Hume’s concrete pipes and I certainly had never heard of monster eels with the body circumference of a man’s waist. Eels have also been known to attack humans! Anyone interested in New Zealand and the safeguarding of our wilderness areas will be enthralled with this book. Never boring for a minute, Hindmarsh celebrates a region many New Zealanders never get to explore.

Title: Kahurangi Calling : Stories from the Backcountry of Northwest Nelson
Author: Gerard Hindmarsh
ISBN: 9781877517198
Published: 2010
Publisher: Craig Potton

  - Claire, Central City Library

04 December, 2012

Telesa by Lani Wendt Young [Kisa, Central City Library)

I had read on Tumblr that there was a new book out which was the Samoan answer to Twilight. At first, I was not interested. I thought it would be stupid and just like a fobby version of Twilight. A year later when the hype of the first part of the Telesa trilogy had died down I finally decided to read it, and did I feel stupid! It was nothing like Twilight; in fact, as Ann, one of my work colleagues said, "It was better than Twilight!"

Growing up in Samoa, I have always been brought up with stories of females who possess supernatural powers, who can control elements of the earth and have any man they desire, and beauty that could make any girl die of envy, and believe it or not...they do exist. Reading this book made me feel like a little kid again in Samoa, inside my little mosquito net with my grandma telling me stories from the past, only Telesa felt like a story that every teenage island girl could relate to in the present. Telesa blends the richness (and humour) of Pacific mythology into a contemporary young adult love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

Title: Telesa
Author: Lani Wendt Young
ISBN: 9781466253711
Published: 2012
Publisher: Kale Print

- Kisa, Central City Library