31 January, 2013

Counter Clockwise by Ellen Langer [Clare, Massey Library]


 The subtitle to this book is Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. It is a great read for anyone who's interested in the tie-up between mind and body. Is our health connected to the body only or is the mind also a big player in our aches, pains and more serious illnesses?

Mindfulness is all about being aware in the moment of what's going on around us. Is it possible that we can influence our body through our mind? Can what we think and how we think affect how we feel and can that change our health for the better (or worse)?

The author takes us on a journey through the preconceptions of modern medicine and how it has affected the current view of health, wellbeing and aging. It poses some interesting and thought-provoking questions.

Has modern medicine forgotten the traditional link between the physical body and the mind? Are we now relearning ancient skills and concepts that may change medicine for the better?

For anyone interested in the psychology of health and aging, this is an absorbing and practical read.

Title: Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the power of possibility
Author: Ellen J. Langer
ISBN: 9780340994740
Published: 2009
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

 - Clare, Massey Library

30 January, 2013

Toy Cameras, Creative Photos by Kevin Meredith [Baruk, Onehunga Library]

Are you tired of the mine-is-bigger-than-yours approach to photography the SLR manufacturers are pushing? Tried a lo-fi camera yet?

Toy cameras, creative photos : unique stylistic results from 40 plastic cameras is a great introduction to what can be done with cheap(er) plastic/toy cameras. The book looks at both film and digital cameras, and includes a quick look at the hipstamatic smatrtphone app. Each piece has a quick reference bit about the camera (lens/shutter speed etc), a couple of descriptive paragraphs, and a few pages of pictures taken with the camera.

I love that this book works well both as a quick reference, and as a visual aid to each camera's abilities. It is laid out very well, with page border colours used as dividers between 'chapters'. This makes it easy to dip in and out of the book, or to look at the specs of a camera whose photos interest you. The loose use of a template for each 'chapter' also means you know exactly where to look for information you want about each camera.

To end with a manifesto-type quote: "Using toy cameras is about letting go of a certain level of control...if you shoot with toy cameras you are making a statement that photography doesn't have to take itself too seriously." Amen! That's right! Preach it brother!

You may also enjoy Plastic Cameras by Michelle Bates and Lo-fi photo fun! by Adam Bronkhorst.

Title: Toy cameras, creative photos : unique stylistic results from 40 plastic cameras
Author: Kevin Meredith
ISBN: 9782888931188
Published: 2011
Publisher: RotoVision

- Baruk, Onehunga Library

29 January, 2013

No Animals We Could Name: Stories by Ted Sanders [Zoë, Central City Library]

The ugly cover of this book almost put me off completely, until I discovered that the insides have a directly inverse relationship to the outside. From the first compelling story, Obit (as in 'obituary'), I was drawn to the way Sanders deftly masters the formal elements of the short story, while freeing ideas that are boundingly imaginative. An outstanding feature of his work is his willingness to manipulate structure - Obit, for instance, is somehow both playful and morbid, as it's parallel narratives trail down the page in the style of broken newspaper columns.

There's plenty of challenging reading in this debut collection, too, and most of the stories bear a second, or even a third reading. Unlike the previous collection of short stories about animals I reviewed, this collection will satisfy the most literary reader, but similarly, animals appear throughout the stories in subtle and surprising ways. The animals suggested in the title though, the unnameable ones, are really emotions - the weird ones: eroticism charged with repulsion, anyone? It's this backbone of emotional exploration that binds the stories and lifts them from a static collection of themed fiction and towards an expedition into human nature.  

If you're the kind of reader who can forgive the frequent use of the word 'panties' when you're reimbursed with more than one appearance of the fabulous word 'piddle', this book is for you. If you are a compassionate enough grammar fascist to cope with the liberal sprinkling of adjectives used in place of adverbs (as in, 'When I enter, everyone is looking at me quiet'), you will be rewarded richly in reading this book.

Title: No animals we could name
Author: Ted Sanders
ISBN: 9781555976163 (pbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Graywolf Press

Zoë, Central City Library

Life Goes On by Hans Keilson [Elizabeth, Highland Park}

This historical novel has an interesting history of its own.  It was written at the time of the events it portrays, banned by the Nazis in 1934 and  only published in English in 2012, when its author was 101 years old.  It is at once the story of a small store owner, Herr Seldersen, his family and to a lesser extent,  his community, struggling to survive in the collapsing German economy of the 1920s and early 1930s,  where factories and businesses are closing down, everyone lives on credit and communism is gaining followers, and a measured, psychological portrayal of a man whose desperate optimism must eventually give way to fatalism.  Although the Seldersens are Jewish, like their author, this was not obvious  to me but  there are probably nuances that I missed. 

That sounds grim (and so it is) but what I found satisfying about this novel is that it fleshes out the history of the period with social detail and characters who are absolutely believable.  Its mood is similar to Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise and it also brought to mind the musical Cabaret, although Life Goes On is set in a slightly earlier period.

Auckland Libraries has two other  later novels by Hans Keilson, Comedy in a Minor Key and The Death of the Adversary so if you read and liked these, or Suite Francaise ,or like serious historical fiction, try this historic book.

Title: Life Goes On
Author: Hans Keillor
ISBN: 9780374191955
Translator: Damion Searls
Published: 2012 (Original German edition, 1933)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

 - Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

28 January, 2013

How to Look Expensive by Andrea Pomerantz Lustig [Laura, Leys Institute Library]

The tagline on this book instantly appealed to me: "a beauty editor's secrets to getting gorgeous without breaking the bank". I know I'm a bit skincare obsessed but who wouldn't want in on that?

As beauty editor of some 20 years at Glamour magazine Andrea Pomerantz Lustig really knows her stuff. The book is divided into chapters on different aspects of looking 'expensive', which she defines as basically looking your best - looking well groomed and confident through achieving that no-makeup look (which we all know you need makeup to achieve!). The illustrations are chic throughout and the step by step illustrated eye makeup guides are easy to follow and give great results. If you have long hair you'll love the section on how to actually get what you want from your hairdresser (my hair is far too pixie for that advice to relate to me), and the chapter on nail polishes could change your opinions on nail colour for a lifetime.

I don't want to suggest that beauty and skincare be the most important thing in anyone's life, but what I loved about this book is that it gives knowledgable advice about what to spend your money on and what to buy at the 'drug store'. No longer will I spend money on expensive eye creams! Ms Pomerantz Lustig told me I don't have to and that is some advice my bank account will be pleased about.

Title: How to Look Expensive
Author: Andrea Pomerantz Lustig
ISBN: 9781592407231 (pbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Gotham, New York

- Laura, Leys Institute Library

Vanished by Liza Marklund [Monica, Whangaparaoa Library]


This book is the latest in Liza Marklund’s Annika Bengtzon thriller series, but also functions well as a stand-alone book, which was my experience as this was the first Liza Marklund book I have read. Well, I am hooked and have now placed holds on all the older books in the series.

The main character is Annika Bengzton, who works for an evening newspaper, and Liza’s details of how the reporter goes about her work is so real and believable, I could almost smell the stale cigarette smoke and bad coffee. When I found out later that Liza herself had held a similar role in her past, it all made sense.

This is a crime book for anyone wanting a page-turner without the usual suave untouchable main characters and bloody scenes. The mood is dark and the weather is freezing which reflects the internal crises that the main characters are experiencing.  Learning about the lifestyles, culture and local politics in Sweden was also very interesting. I can see what all the hype about “Scandinavian crime writing” is all about now, as the viewpoints and legalities that are absorbed along with the story are a departure from the norm. 

Title: Vanished
Author: Liza Marklund
ISBN: 9780552160957
Published: 2012
Publisher: Corgi

 - Monica, Whangaparaoa Library

27 January, 2013

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

Reading this informative and interesting book made me feel immensely grateful to be living in New Zealand, where nearly none of the horrible creepy-crawlies featured in this book lives. In an accessible and conversational way Amy Stewart writes about various unwelcome insects and other small life forms. Each one is categorized as deadly, dangerous, painful, destructive or just plain horrible - from insects that feed on us, to those that defend themselves with painful stings and bites, and those that destroy crops etc. We meet spiders, ants, flies, centipedes, mites, ticks and lots more.

I never want to meet an Asian Giant Hornet; not only does it have the worlds most painful sting, (described as feeling like ‘a hot nail through my leg’ by an expert in this hornet, Masato Ono), but it also contains a neurotoxin that can be fatal.  Then to top it all off the sting attracts other hornets to the victim through the pheromones it leaves behind.

There is a fascinating mix of history, science and interesting anecdotes about each bug described. After the feature bug is described there is also a list of related bugs. This doesn’t need to be read cover to cover but is a book to dip into, (although I read the whole thing).

If you like this, the author has also written a book called 'Wicked Plants' which has a similar format.

Title: Wicked Bugs : The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects
Author: Amy Stewart
ISBN: 9781565129603
Published: 2011
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

26 January, 2013

Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

Have you ever wondered how some quite absurd news makes it viral until it’s all over every TV channel, magazine, blog and newspaper? Are you surprised when a rather low quality book or movie is getting so much coverage? And do you sometimes worry over the quality of news that today’s media releases seemingly by the minute?

I have and I was quite intrigued when I heard of Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust me, I’m lying”. Holiday calls himself a “media manipulator” and his methods are anything but legitimate, even though the title his employers give him is something more pompous, like “director of marketing”. However, he brings a real insight into how today’s media can be easily controlled and influenced. Holiday first lays out the current structure of our most popular media outlets (especially online) and then dives into the tactics which he uses to get the news that he wants. He exposes the weaknesses of smaller channels like blogs that can easily be exploited to his advantage to release fabricated stories, which then travel up the ladder until “the unreal becomes real”.

Even if you think you have some grasp as to how today’s news is created, you will be surprised about the amount of influence you can have if you know what you are doing. Holiday does and he is not holding back with this book that shows scarily how little substance and the truth matters in this new world of media in the digital age.
This non-fiction book reads like a thriller and if you want to know what goes on behind the façade you will learn quite a few surprising facts that will make you see news in a different light. 

Author: Ryan Holiday
ISBN: 9781591845539
Published: 2012
Publisher: Portfolio

25 January, 2013

Everything Together by Sammy Harkham [Tim, Central]


I always try to read every comic Harkham makes but he doesn't always make it easy to be a completist. Most of his strips are published in obscure places- small anthologies, niche websites, or his own indie comic book- Crickets. I love his stories so much that I have always made (grainy, pixilated) copies/print-outs of them, then read, and re-read those loose A4 pages until they fall to pieces. 
 So I am happy to say that those short stories have finally been collected in this shiny new volume- his first book. And it’s great - I think he is the best new cartoonist to emerge in the last ten years.
 He has figured out the perfect style for comics- it can be goofy like Popeye, grown-up like Chris Ware, sweaty like R. Crumb, satirical like Dan Clowes or exuberant like Roy Crane.
 I like the way his characters seem to want to be civilized or act like grown-ups but really are just at the mercy of the random whims and needs that come over all creatures. At some point in a Sammy Harkham story the façade will crack and a professor will get punched in the nose for blocking another academic’s ambitions (the New Yorker Story), or teenagers will put rubbish bins on their heads and crash into each other (Somersaulting), or one cartoonist will laugh when his dog bites the other’s drawing hand (Clowes+Huizenga). Heartbreaking and hilarious.

Title: Everything Together
Author: Sammy Harkham
ISBN: 9780985159504
Published: 2012
Publisher: PictureBox

23 January, 2013

Celebrate : A Year of British Festivities for Families and Friends by Pippa Middleton [Anna D, Botany Library]

I picked up Pippa Middleton’s party book out of curiosity when I saw it on my workmate’s desk. I remember when it was released there was some snarkiness about how she was capitalising on her sister’s fame, but I think the book is a quality effort and on par with something by Martha Stewart.

Celebrate is pretty thorough. It has ideas for a variety of party occasions, such as “cosy supper parties,” “children’s parties” and “special breakfasts.” Each party theme has recipes and ideas for games, crafts and how to arrange it all. The photography is superb and makes me want to throw lots of parties so I can give everything a go. All of the food looks delicious and most recipes have normal ingredients, which is great – there is nothing worse than seeing something delicious in a book but not knowing what half the ingredients are or where you could get them. At the top of my to-make list are Nutella Madelines, Butternut Squash Lasagne and the Lentil and Grilled Pepper salad.

I enjoyed Pippa’s writing style, and I am glad to see she wrote it herself (at least, there is no mention of a ghost writer, although she did have help with some of the recipes and crafts). She comes across as being friendly, down-to-earth and even a bit tongue-in-cheek about her celebrity status; “It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom.”

If you like Annabel Langbein or Martha Stewart, this is something you’ll enjoy.

Title: Celebrate : A Year of British Festivities for Families and Friends
Author: Pippa Middleton
ISBN: 9780718176785
Published: 2012
Publisher: Michael Joseph

 - Anna D, Botany Library

Yew Tree Gardens by Anna Jacobs [Doris, Central Library]

The Yew Tree Gardens is the third title in the "Wiltshire Girls" series following three sisters living in England just after the turn of the century, but can be read independently. The story focuses on Renie, the youngest sister, who when the story opens, is living with her sister Nell and her husband. After proving herself as a hard worker she is offered a position as a waitress in a local hotel. Unfortunately the assistant manager harasses her and Renie is delighted when she gets a transfer to a hotel in London. There she is again recognized as a smart and hard worker and the managers of the hotel offer her a chance to improve her situation. All would seem to be going well for Renie when there is a change of management and new troubles arise. In the meantime Renie befriends a young gentleman called Gil, who is injured due to an accident and trying to settle in the countryside. Renie trusts Gill and hopefully he can help her out.

I read the book in my summer holidays when I had plenty of time and was in need of a light read. The series is very popular and I was not disappointed. The book flowed well and I enjoyed reading it.

Further reading: Wiltshire Girls series

Title: Yew Tree Gardens
Author: Jacobs, Anna
Published: 2012
Publisher: Allison & Busby
 - Doris, Central City Library

22 January, 2013

Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson [Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library]

First some background to this little gem: Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson is, at last count, 16 years old. She started her fashion blog The Style Rookie when she was 11 years old and it BLEW UP. She started getting front row seats at fashion weeks worldwide, and I bore witness to her Project Runway appearance as guest judge (I know, right?); ”Well, I am a drop-crotchatologist so I like these pants…”. So along with being the fashion world's darling love child, she is super-smart and informed as well as crazy fashionable and living in some parallel universe where teenagers run magazines and get a high school education concurrently.

When the fashion-focus of Style Rookie started to feel a little superficial to this Chicago wunderkind, Gevinson upped and started the online mag Rookie.  Rookie Yearbook One is a print version of all the amazing wacky content published online in the mag’s first year (duh). Rookie is made for teenagers as a fresh antidote to the yucky teen mags out there that seem to exist to sell makeup products and make non-skinny blonde girls feel terrible about themselves (Dolly, I’m looking at you!). Rookie  is fun, informative, creative and, oh yeah there is some fashion in there as well. Homemade, crazy themed fashion shoots that appear to be photographed, styled and modelled for by other wunderkind pals. It also features articles written by first-name only teens, as well as such indie luminaries as Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow, and interviews with John Waters and David Sedaris. Damn child!

OK, I am 31 and read a teen magazine. But no embarrassment here– Gevinson employs a host of talented folks to run the mag, and most of them are at least twice her age. If they can work for her, I can read her! Rookie has a strong feminist bent, and a lot of the (often hilarious) confessional stories do well at dispelling stereotypes and myths pushed by Hollywood. The flavour is one of diversity, acceptance, and the sharing of knowledge, and that can only be a good thing, but be sure to know, Rookie is out for a good time.

Title: Rookie Yearbook One
Editor: Tavi Gevinson
ISBN: 9781770461123
Published: 2012
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

 - Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library 

The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta Hill [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]


This time of year I like something easy to read, whether I’m away on holiday or just relaxing at home. The Girl with Steel-Capped Boots was perfect for this. It's one of those books you can easily put down and pick up where you left off (that is if you can put it down!)

Lena is an engineer in the city who accepts a job working in the harsh Australian outback region of the Pilbara. When she arrives she discovers she is one of five women in a camp of 350 men. She has to prove herself to her colleagues and also the client; tall, dark and handsome Dan.

For me, a holiday read is not complete without a bit of romance, and Hill doesn’t let you down with Lena and Dan’s rocky relationship that gets off on a bad foot from the beginning. Classic romantic tension!

However, there is more substance than your average chick lit romance.
Lena’s character matures as the book progresses and her determination to succeed is a admirable trait. The mystery of a shameful secret from her past is not made known until well into the book.

I enjoyed Lena’s story, seeing how she adjusted from being a city party girl to a respected member of a tight-knit team. The outback is really well described and at times you can almost feel the dust and heat. Her frustrations with her situation are palpable. Loretta Hill is an engineer herself, so the story rings true and the explanations of the engineering aspects of Lena’s job are thorough without being too complicated.

I’m now looking forward to reading the follow-on novel from Hill – The Girl in the Hard Hat, which has just been published.

Title: The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots
Author: Loretta Hill
ISBN: 9781742753508
Published: 2012
Publisher: Bantam

 - Kathy, Birkenhead Library

1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica by Chris Turney [Sam, Remuera Library]

Last year’s centennial of the conquest of the South Pole set off a flurry of publication on what we now like to call the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, and this is a book that stands out in a crowded field. Where many books on this topic focus only on the big three – ill-fated Captain Scott, determined and meticulously-prepared Roald Amundsen, and charismatic Shcakleton, here Chris Turney brings together the stories of each of the many international expeditions that went South at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. The result is a celebration of the birth of the tradition of international co-operation in Antarctic science, a tradition in which New Zealand continues to play a crucial part.

In 1912, we are treated to the stories of Mawson’s Australian Antarctic expedition, Filchner’s German Expedition, and Shirase’s Japanese expedition, alongside the more familiar narratives of Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton. Although covering this much ground does limit how much Turney can say about any one expedition, it does give him the chance to discuss the wide variety of scientific and geographic work that was undertaken, often in a highly coordinated manner.

Turney is the Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, and ultimately it is the scientific work carried out by these explorers that is his main focus in this book. Turney’s academic background gives him a seemingly effortless grasp of the material, and he presents the science in a way that is accessible and engaging to a general reader.

With the usual stock of startling anecdotes of courage and derring-do tempered by a well-written discussion of polar science, this book will be fascinating for anybody with an interest in exploration and scientific history.

Title: 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica
Author: Chris Turney
ISBN: 9781847921741
Published: 2012
Publisher: Bodley Head

 - Sam, Remuera Library

21 January, 2013

A New Tomorrow: The Story of a Polish Kiwi Family by Witold Domanski [Joy, Whangaparaoa Library]

When I was at school in Taranaki, there were lots of kids with names like Dodunski, Stahurski or Potroz. It didn't occur to me to question why these names were so different (I had a long Scottish surname myself).My father explained that these were the Polish names of early settlers who had worked extremely hard to hack  dairy farms out of the Taranaki bush.

In "A new tomorrow", Witold Domanski, tells of how, as a young boy, living in Poland at the beginning of the Second World War, he saw his family evicted from their  home by the German army. They were sent to Siberia and finally  escaped to New Zealand via Central Asia and Iran. The family experienced terrible heartache and hardship and were separated. Some members were reunited in Iran where they were treated with great kindness by the Iranian people. The family eventually all resettled in New Zealand where they joined a very active Polish community.

This is such a positive read because throughout their trials and tribulations, the family members show such love and care for each other and their Polish countrymen. You cannot help but be touched by the great spirit of solidarity shown by this family. They become such a wonderful asset to the New Zealand community, joining professions and embracing Kiwi culture with enthusiasm.

Title: A New Tomorrow: The Story of a Polish-Kiwi family
Author: Witold Domanski
ISBN: 9780473187286
Published: 2011
Publisher: Tararua Publications

 - Joy, Whangaparaoa Library

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle [Juliet, Central City Library]

At the end of  Mayle's earlier book, The Vintage Caper, private investigator Sam Levitt,  finds a stolen, priceless wine collection. He and beautiful Elena, get involved in an intriguing, dangerous competition to build on valuable waterfront property.
They become involved with gangsters, developers and kidnappers.

I want to give you a quote from the book to show you the author's skill with words:
"Sam was not by nature a violent man, and it was with a twinge of genuine regret that he kicked de Salis in the testicles and pitched his writhing body overboard.  Without waiting to hear the splash, he pulled open the door of the helicopter. And there, breathing easily,  was the unconscious Elena in one of the back seats.  Taking off his face mask, he climbed into the cockpit, stroked her face, held her tight. "You're safe now girl. We we'll have you home before you wake up."
The novel has a wonderful , satisfying ending. While reading, I felt and tasted the  sunshine, wonderful food and wine of the Marseille region. I always have to read eveything Mayle publishes, that says something, doesn't it?

Title:  The Marseille Caper
Author:  Peter Mayle
ISBN:  9780307594198
Published: 2012
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

 - Juliet, Central City Library

The Lives She Left Behind by James Long [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]

I came across James Long several years ago when I stumbled upon a book called Ferney. I loved Ferney so much that when I saw the sequel had come out, I just had to order it. The Lives She Left Behind continues the story started in Ferney, so my recommendation is that you read Ferney first. I'm usually quite nervous about reading sequels, in case they don't live up to the original book, but in this case I wasn't at all disappointed. In fact I loved The Lives She Left Behind just as much.

The two books together tell a love story that spans many lives, and they dip into significant periods of English history, but from a unique perspective. The books explore how history is experienced by the common people, rather than the kind of history you usually read, which is all about kings and nobles. Ferney and Gally have loved each other for many lifetimes, and each time they reincarnate, they find each other again, drawn to the places they remember; drawn to each other by a bond that is almost magnetic.

But the path of love is never easy, even when you've had many lifetimes together, and it's getting even more complicated for these two lovers in a modern world that labels the kind of memories they share as 'madness'. You'll find yourself gripped right through to the last page of the second novel, wondering if there's any chance of these two very special people having the life together that they deserve.

A similar book: The Time Travellers Wife.

Title: The Lives She Left Behind
Author: James Long
ISBN: 9781780875323
Published: 2010
Publisher: Sphere

 - Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

Clarissa's England by Clarissa Dickson Wright [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]


In this fairly large tome, Clarissa Dickson Wright, of the 'Two Fat Ladies' fame, takes us on a 'gamely gallop through the English counties.' From as far south as Cornwall to the northern Yorkshire Dales, Clarissa brings her extraordinary knowledge and unmatched wit to the unique history and regional character of every corner of England. Written in a leisurely pace, each entry is filled with interesting personal stores and historical facts about each of the counties. Although she isn't an historian, she brings English history to life in some of the  historical anecdotes she's included in the entries. Many of Clarissa's personal stories seemed to involve a hunting tale of sorts, reflecting her involvement for that particular movement.

This is not your average armchair travelogue but recollections of Clarissa's own personal journey through the counties of England. I found myself retracing my own steps through the few counties I had visited when I went on  holiday. It was a fascinating read and I found some rather surprising facts about England that you wouldn't find in any old travel guide! If I could have gone back to England, I would have taken this book with me as my guide!! I'm pretty sure this would have been a great conversation starter with my family in England!!

A must read for all avid Anglophiles!!

Title: Clarissa's England
Author: Clarissa Dickson Wright
ISBN: 9781444729092
Published: 2012
Publisher: London: Hodder & Stoughton

 - Surani, Waitakere Central Library

20 January, 2013

A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin [Merrin, Manurewa Library]

A Game of Thrones
I am embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar with the Song of Ice and Fire series until the first book, A Game of Thrones, appeared on TV.  This series is classed as fantasy which is not usually a genre I go for so that could be my excuse.

The story is set in a fictional country of Westeros where Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne. When the book begins, the country is at peace but behind the scenes different families are plotting to gain power, and in the north of the country strange beings are spotted that haven’t been seen for thousands of years. And winter is coming.

The strength of this book is the characters, of which there are many.  I especially like the way the author has written each chapter from the point of view of a main character.  This format means you can get to know what each character is thinking as the story unfolds, and also provides different views of the same event. There are good characters, and devious ones and ones that you think are bad but end up being good.  For example in A Game of Thrones we are introduced to Jaime Lannister who seems heartless and immoral but by the end of the third book he is one of my favourite characters.

So for those who like political intrigue, great characters, and surprising plot twists, try A Game of Thrones.  That will lead you on to the rest of the series. I am impatiently waiting for the 6th book as I have many theories on certain characters and plots and need to know if I am right!

Author: George R R Martin
ISBN: 9780007428540
Published: 1996
Publisher: Bantam
 - Merrin, Manurewa Library

19 January, 2013

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin [Sue W Central CIty]

What a great way to start the year, casting your eye inward to assess how you might optimise your happiness for the coming year, and live more mindfully.

Gretchen Rubin received critical acclaim for her best selling title The Happiness Project and this new publication is more of the same. Rubin explains her process of how she has researched and considered improvements she can implement in her home life that allow her overall happiness quotient to rise. Rubin shies away from descriptions of "Self help" for her two publications, preferring instead to describe her work as self helpful. Month by month she has devoted her attention to an aspect of her life and looked at ways she can address the things she is less than happy about and adapt work practises that simplify her life. Rubin's approach is thorough, engaging and her suggestions are easily transferable and adaptable to a wide audience. How can you NOT want to think about what lies within you power to adjust in order to feel sense of mental and environmental calm and contentment? Best of all, not a crystal or chakra in sight!

Title: Happier At Home
Author: Gretchen Rubin
ISBN: 9780307886781
Published: c2012
Publisher: Crown Archetype

 - Sue W, Central City Library

17 January, 2013

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons [Simon, Central City Library]

 I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen is the latest and most authoritative of many biographies to be written about Canada's best known poet. Of course, Leonard Cohen is only the "best known" canadian poet because he found that poetry didn't pay the bills by itself, and decided to embark on a songwriting career which brought him international fame. Simmons, who received full co-operation from Cohen and almost everybody worth asking about him, writes with both colour and precision. She guides us eloquently through all the significant events in Cohen's life, from the death of his father when he was just eight years old, through his years on Hydra writing novels, and on into the ups and downs of being a perfectionist with poetic sensibilities trying to stay sane in, of all places, the music industry. She also devotes many (well justified) pages to his tumltuous love life and neverending search for spiritual enlightenment. 'I'm Your Man' is no hagiography, but it is clear that Simmons is a fan. In this case, the author's respect for her subject seems only to have added to her resolve to paint an honest picture of a complex and formidably determined artist.

Title: I'm your man : the life of Leonard Cohen
Author: Sylvie Simmons
ISBN: 9780061994982
Year: 2012
Publisher: Ecc

- Simon, Central City Library

16 January, 2013

The Dead of Summer - Camilla Way (Morgan, Remuera Library)

It's summer so I thought why not pick a good murder mystery with summer in the title - that and the blurb of this book, "This summer everything will change. By the end of summer, three will be dead" intrigued me and seemed to be right along my theme of summer reading: "Seriously Disturbed Crime Novels".

This time, we're following 13 year-old Anita, a Pakistani girl whose mother has recently died & the family has shifted to London and is falling apart. Her father is disintegrating into alcoholism and her siblings are growing up and ignoring her, only ever referring to her as the "nit". Left to her own devices, she befriends the local outcasts: Dennis, her classmate who has severe mental difficulties & Kyle, a psychotic boy on the verge of adolescence whose sister vanished a year before. In the blistering heat and with a trickling feeling of impending doom building at every corner, they become "sort-of" friends, dependent on Kyle's mood. However, by the end of the summer three children will die at one of their hands, leaving Anita the sole survivor of the infamous "London Cave Murders" of 1986.

The story of the summer of 1986 is told through Anita narrating their summer to her counsellor, seven years later. She is deeply traumatised by what she witnessed and what the killer put her through in the cave and only feeds you little pieces of information, interspersing it with her summer of adolescence prior to the murders & her burgeoning love for the deeply troubled Kyle. There are twists and turns throughout and the ending is one of the most shocking this year, but looking back, it all makes sense, in a very dark and disturbing way.

What a cracker of a debut novel, slithering and seething through you, giving you the chills even though the heat is constantly highlighted. Anita is a deep character, so beautifully described and so hopelessly lost and Way's graphic writing really draws you into the time & era. With sickening twists and a very bleak feel to the entire novel, this isn't for anyone - it is for someone wanting to be challenged as they read, yet still enjoy reading a truly good mystery that's from an author who promises she has a lot more to give. I absolutely loved it, it thrilled, chilled and inspired me to seek out more.

Next time, I promise something a little more fun.
Title: The Dead of Summer
Author: Camilla Way
ISBN: 9780007241729
Published: 2007
Publisher: Harper

 - Morgan, Remuera Library

14 January, 2013

Solar by Ian McEwan [Ana, Central City Library]

Although global warming is always in the background, this novel focuses more on the main character, Nobel Prize winning scientist Michael Beard, and on how he takes advantage of the opportunities that come his way. Of which there are many – both professional and personal (he has been married 5 times). But now  his great work is in the past, and he has become lazy, which is causing him lots of problems. Not to mention that wife #5 has turned the tables on him and is having an affair with one of his students.

The portrait of the scientist is satirical and very funny. Although he is a great manipulator and very unethicaI, I couldn’t help but like him. I laughed out loud at many of his antics. There is one incident when he joins an expedition to the North Pole to see global warming first hand. But he has forgotten to go to the toilet before driving to the site. Although he tries to wait, he finally has to stop to relieve himself. Unfortunately in undoing his suit in the sub-zero temperatures his private parts freeze. For the rest of the journey in the snowmobile Beard is convinced his most important part has frozen and fallen off and is now resting on his thigh. 

If you are looking for a fun, light-hearted story by a great author (multiple Booker Prize nominations and a win for Amsterdam), try this book.

Title: Solar
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9780224090490
Published: 2010
Publisher: Jonathan Cape

 - Ana, Central City Library

Mighty Moves by Bee Dawson [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Things you thought were fixtures of the landscape aren’t. And that realisation inevitably alters ones perception of your place in it, its possibilities. As one hauler boasts "Anything can be moved by road if you get enough wheels under it."

So it seems. In Mighty Moves we get great knobbled kauri Ents hauled out across a mudscape of colonial New Zealand, houses roaming the hills like something out of a Russian fairytale, boats blithely biblical, and odd migrations of boilers, bottlewashers, transformers and giant vats.

And these blokes bend time and space to get where they’re going. Or at least they lift powerlines, saw houses in half, part rivers and offset loads so the trucks are hanging off cliffs going round bends.
The book is anchored in a splendid set of photos, going right back to the first bullock, more or less; and up to the Christchurch earthquake and the move of Auckland’s Birdcage Tavern. All linked together by a ton of anecdotes, hilarious or hair-raising, showcasing kiwi ingenuity and bravado, and yes great skill and courage.

It’s a rolling maul - sometimes an appalling fall (accidents will happen) - of a society unfolding across the land. Technology emerges triumphant, I suppose. But the real triumph is the uncanniness of things and the can-do mindset they engender. Great stuff.
Title: Mighty Moves: Heavy Haulage and House Moving in New Zealand
Author: Bee Dawson
ISBN: 9781927158050
Published: 2012
Publisher: Wairau Press

- Paul, Birkenhead Library

12 January, 2013

The War by Ken Burns (DVD) [Campbell, Central City Library]

Ken burns invented the ken burns effect (the camera zooms simultaneously in and across a still image.) It is a great simple effect. He also makes big documentaries about big American subjects. He has also done baseball, jazz and the civil war among other topics. This is the story of world war two, told from an American perspective. Starting with pearl harbour and ending with Nagasaki, the series stretches about 14 hours and includes a wide range of American interview subjects (but strangely, nothing about Latinos) and hours of grainy black and white footage taken during battle.
I started watching at the beginning of the week and found it to be a nice calming thing to watch before bed, I think it helped to lull me to sleep. As the week, and the war, advanced I became more and more enthralled and began watching more per night. By the time the weekend came around, I had stayed up most of Friday night and finally finished the series in a marathon session on Saturday, which lasted at least 7 hours of pure viewing and included at least two naps. On Sunday, I did not know what to do, I had plans to go to the park for a picnic but I cancelled them. Title: The War
Director: Ken Burns
Released: 2008
- Campbell, Central City Library

I Love Lemonade by Mark & Rowan Sommerset

Title: I love lemonade
Mark Sommerset and illustrations by Rowan Sommerset
Dreamboat Books

Mark and Rowan Sommerset does not disappoint with this laugh-out-loud follow up to the highly successful “Baa Baa Smart Sheep”. I Love Lemonade brings back Quirky Turkey and Little Baa Baa, the lovable characters from the first book by the same authors. This time Quirky Turkey tries to get even with Little Baa Baa and ending up getting a dose of his own “freshly squeezed lemonade”.  Hmmm... sounds like Quirky Turkey eating the smarty tablets wasn't any help at all.

What I loved about this book is that the text and illustrations are simple and very funny. I think that even without the text, the book would be able to carry on and convey the ongoing “rivalry” between the two main characters. For me, this is what makes the book so appealing to both the very young and mature readers. 

This story was absolutely hysterical and definitely is better than the first book. When our Senior Librarian for CYA first showed it to me, I literally grabbed it from her hands and was in no time laughing my head off with their witty banter and facial expressions!  I highly recommend this book but readers would have to read the first book first. Just to see and know what the “rivalry” is all about :)

11 January, 2013

Caspar David Friedrich by Johannes Grave [Nick, Central City Library]

The celebrated romantic landscape painter, Casper David Friedrich, is introduced by Johannes Grave in this lavish, immense, illustration adorned-monograph. On the cover the iconic Rückenfigur 'Wanderer above the Sea of Fog', stands resolute before misty mountains wild, surveying the vast expanse of a formidable and uncertain terrain, the Romantic Nature Sublime.

The opening quote from Friedrich announces a measured approach, “A painting must stand as a painting, made by human hand; not seek to disguise itself as nature". Here artist and author belay amidst disputed territory, the text hovers before a numinous cloud swept sky, and together we hasten forward into the least reassuring aspects of nature, into darkness and storms, across the wastes of the sea and desert, through the shifting physical and psychological nature of place. This book sets out to navigate the verisimilitudes of artistic representation.

Graves erudite commentary expertly guides the reader through the artistic and historical milieu of 19th Century German Romanticism, expounding upon the visual and philosophical complexities of Friedrich’s work. And visually the journey is superlative, from early teenage sketches to wonderfully atmospheric coastal and pastoral scenes where skies, saturated with light and colour, recede into misty twilights, towering mountains stretch across vast horizons, and lonely figures stand dwarfed before natures immensity.

The scholarly text and sumptuous images speak of weighty metaphysical themes, of the artist’s heroic effort to give form to the ineffable qualities of the sublime experience. And so its fitting that this book is heavy, packed with quality reproductions, as it sets out to masterfully chart the liminal realms of the romantic contemplative reverie. Its a journey I can whole heartedly recommend!

Title: Caspar David Friedrich
Author: Johannes Grave translated from the German by Fiona Elliott.
ISBN: 9783791346281
Published: 2012
Publisher: Prestel

Starting from Happy by Patricia Marx [Olga, Central Library]

If you like a long description of the beauty of nature or emotional dialogues this book is not for you.

Full of humor and wordplay, this book contains 618 “chapllets” (yes, this word is the author’s invention), short and semi-long (compared to short ones).
There is a life story of three generations in letters and pictures, drawings by the author herself and a “Special Bonus Edition For Readers Who Have Had Lasik Surgery.”

There are no unnecessary or redundant words in it.

Patricia Marx is a very exact writer, she points out facts and describes them with such a scientific curiosity, which include a slight degree of absurdity and an innocence, in a manner to call things their name without any judgmental overvalue. Just like a fact. And it is very, very refreshing.

In addition, as you can learn from the About Author part on the back cover, as well as book prizes she can take a baked potato out of the oven with her bare hands. This skill is very important for life.

Starting with Happy is a little bit like a baked potato. You start with “Prolegomenon”, which is like a hot potato jumping in the hands while you are looking for the right place to peel it.

And then, the perfect potato finishes when it seems you’ve just started. Suddenly.

For you, who did not manage to take a break in reading and ate all the thing up in one go.

Well, there is a warning in the beginning of the book:
“Warning: If, in this pages, you encounter an imaginary number or an umlaut, it’ll be ok.”

So, if you like absurdity, humour, honesty and fresh air this book is absolutely yours.

Title: Starting from Happy
Author: Patricia Marx
ISBN: 9781439101285
Published: 2011
Publisher: Scribner

10 January, 2013

Keeping the Little Blighters Busy by Claire Potter [Danielle, Central City Library]

With school holidays looming late last year, I was drawn in by this book's claim to be 'NOT just another one of those arty crafty books about making a rabbit mask out of a paper plate'. Actually, I'm all for building cities out of cardboard boxes or painting egg carton caterpillars and reusing the odds and sods around the house, but craft books for kids can get a little recycled and 'samey' after a while, and I was curious as to what this book did differently.

Packed with quirky activities and illustrated with cute, Quentin Blake-esque whimsy by Mark Beech, the thing I like best about Keeping the Little Blighters Busy is its emphasis on 'upside-down thinking', and the transformation of everyday activities like supermarket shopping, getting dressed and having a bath into 'mini-adventures'. It advocates a playful approach to everyday life, for adults as well as kids, and really makes you think about ways to get kids creatively involved in all sorts of aspects of the daily routine.

Activities are grouped into categories such as Food Dudes, Art with a Twist, Wordsmiths, Design and Construction and Hidden Treasure, so there is bound to be something for kids with a variety of interests, from cooking to arts and crafts, fashion, nature, science or outdoor exploration. The ideas are fun and fairly easy to adapt for a range of ages, though several seemed as if they would suit kids a little older (and more capable of sustained activity or concentration) than my 4 and 6 year olds. We did have a great time with the supermarket challenge, though, where they were allowed to shop for their own raw ingredients for a dinner of their choosing! (There were rules about lollies and cake, but we did almost end up with a whole live lobster.)

I'd recommend this to anyone looking for affordable, creative holiday ideas for young kids, or maybe just a gentle reminder about the possibilities for doing a little something unexpected in their everyday family life.

Title: Keeping the Little Blighters Busy: 50 Refreshingly Different Things To Do With Your Kids Before They're 12 3/4
Author: Claire Potter
ISBN: 9781408176245
Published: 2012
Publisher: Featherstone Education, London.

 - Danielle, Central City Library

09 January, 2013

The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats by Hesh Kestin [Jonny, Central library]

The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats
I gulped down this book. I had just finished reading a hilarious, chaotic, crazy book and this in contrast is straight-ahead and clicks together perfectly.
Hesh Kestin’s debut novel breathlessly transports the reader into early 60s Brooklyn.I am not going to tell you about the pleasing ambiguity of  what Shoeshine's 'will' is because it would give away too much.

In the first few pages Russell Newhouse meets Sushan 'Shoeshine' Cats local kingpin mobster. Shoeshine wants Russell's help to organize his mothers funeral, and everything unspools from there for this book-smart but not worldly wise boy as his friendship with shoeshine grows.  

The author is writing about a time and a place he experienced as young man, and
elegaic historical and geographical detail filtered through the story feel genuine and only disrupt the story momentum occasionally.

The characters are brassy tough and so is the story but not without moments that are deliciously funny. The author has a tough compassion for his protagonist-Russell who learns his lessons the hard way and ends up enriched as well as chastened. 

I was melancholic finishing this book, as I am finishing any good book. The ending too is a little sad and touching in the way which is often tried but rarely pulled off with such energy and wit.

Title: The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats
Author: Hesh Kestin
ISBN: 9781444756104 (pbk)
Published: 2012 Publisher: Mulholland Books/Hodder

- Jonny, Central City Library

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt [Annie, Central City Library]


I have been fascinated by Hildegard von Bingen for many years, so stumbling across this title was a pleasant surprise and a hoped-for joy to read. (It is a toss-up between Hildegard and Julian of Norwich as to who is my favourite Mediaeval mystic).

Hildegard has been claimed by all manner of people for their own ends - new age, feminists, even Protestants - which just proves how universal her teaching, thought, and philosophy is. Regarded by many as a saint for years, in October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named her a Doctor of the Church. Interest in Hildegard has, therefore, been on the increase recently.

This fictional biography, told from Hildegard's point of view, is an accessible entry into the life and beliefs, and visions, of this remarkable woman. The realities of life in the 12th century, particularly monastic life, is vividly realised. The tensions between Hildegard’s visions of the Church, and the authority under which she lives, are strongly shown. As are the tensions brought about by having a young and beautiful woman (not Hildegard) entombed within the walls of a monastery.

Although Hildegard has had visions all her life, hers is not the most religious of natures. It is not her choice to become an anchorite. Jutta, whom Hildegard is to serve, has her reasons for committing to such an extreme calling. This is never explicitly stated, but becomes clearer to the reader, and to Hildegard. And, as the story is filtered through Hildegard, Jutta is never blamed for her history (she is rightly seen as a victim) and Hildegard has a large measure of understanding for her, her actions still infuriate Hildegard. This is a very human saint.

Hildegard’s growth from reluctant anchorite to beloved abbess is finely wrought, although the last years of her life are rather compacted. Such indomitable spirit in the face of such diversity! Sharratt makes Hildegard approachable, understandable, and loveable.

Illuminations is wonderfully balanced between conveying a message, a sense of person, and a sense of setting – both time and place. I imagine that this will be enjoyed by lovers of the Middle Ages, women’s history, fictional biographies, and hagiographies. (And you don't need to be Catholic to appreciate either the book, or the woman, as I am not.)

For those who are inspired to follow up on Hildegard’s work – click here to find out what the library holds - including many CDs.

Title: Illuminations
Author: Mary Sharratt
ISBN: 9780547567846
Published: 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

- Annie, Central City Library

08 January, 2013

Daughters-in-law by Joanna Trollope [Suneeta, Highland Park Library

Here Joanna shows the tension between Rachel, a well-organised mother and her daughters-in law, particularly her youngest son's wife, Charlotte.   Charlotte wants more independence for herself and her husband than Rachel expects.  There are no villains here, just misunderstandings as family cultures mesh uneasily.  Perfect for people interested in family dynamics or for anyone who can't see any point of view but their own.

Tile: Daughters-in-law
Author: Joanna Trollope
Year: 2011
Publisher: Doubleday

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library

The Voice of the Spirits by Xavier-marie Bonnot [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

This crime novel comes already highly recommended: the original French edition Le Pays Oublie du Temps was awarded Le Prix Plume de Cristal (Crystal Feather Plume Award) for best thriller in 2011 by the International Detective Film Festival. It is Xavier-Marie Bonnot's third book starring Commandant Michel de Palma, a Marseille police detective now confronted by a sinister sequence of murders centred around ancestral art from New Guinea.

I enjoyed this compelling thriller as much for the setting and the characters as the plot. Michel de Palma is a man at peace with himself, not smug, and an honest policeman (although breaking rules when the situation requires). After all, this is Marseille! There is also a background romance to round out the story. Through Bonnot's deft description and storytelling the port of Marseille and its Mediterranean community come alive. It's a place where fast turn-around shipping has badly affected the local economy and where smuggling and drugs are rife. Brief but interesting information on the old headhunting culture in Papua-New Guinea, indigenous art smuggling and anthropolocial theory come up in the text so naturally that I did not skip the descriptive parts to get to the action as sometimes happens, probably because Bonnot was born in Marseille and has PHD's in history and sociology and thus knows what he's talking about.

Anyone who likes to read an absorbing mystery which also illustrates a place or historical period, such as Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael series, should enjoy The Voice of the Spirits.

Title: The Voice of the Spirits 
Author: Bonnot, Xavier-Marie; translated from the French by Justin Phipps 
ISBN: 9780857050779 
Published: 2012 
Publisher: MacLehose

- Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

07 January, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend [Biddy, Highland Park Library]

Matthew Green takes us into the fascinating life of Budo, an imaginary friend and his human, Max. Max is 8 years old and Budo is 5 - a very advanced age for an imaginary friend. Budo continues to exist because Max still needs him and it's impossible not to be moved by his devotion to Max and his determination to save him.

Budo is the narrator and Green's language is appropriately uncomplicated and yet this never diminishes the impact and emotion of the story. I delighted in the wit of the world of imaginary friends and their humans that Green produced. The differences and abilities of the friends are dictated by the needs and imagination of the humans who created them. I couldn't help thinking what sort of imaginary friend I would design and kept being reminded of the extent of the detail necessary. "If I could look in the mirror, if I had a reflection, I think I would have the same worried face as the teachers" (Budo, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend).

Budo's selflessness as he faces challenges to save Max despite realising that this will end his own existence, brings a poignant touch to this story. I think that this book would be enjoyed by mature Young Adult readers and all adults who enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Author: Matthew Green
ISBN: 9780751547870
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sphere, London

 - Biddy - Highland Park Library

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield [Emma, Central City Library]

Friday Brown's mother has died and she runs away to the city where she joins a gang of street kids.  These kids have had disturbing and horrible backgrounds - Friday is one of the oldest and pretty together in comparison.

The kids, even the 9 year old, must give $200 each week to their leader Arden.  You wonder what she does with this money, because they don't eat well or have much comfort.  Arden's plan is eventually revealed, but she also turns out to be really insane and power hungry.  Only Friday stands up to her, managing eventually to use her own strengths to help the other kids and herself.

Set in Australia, this story pulls you in, drags you along and keeps you guessing.  Although you may begin by thinking Friday Brown has had a hard life, you soon realise the kids she meets have had it really hard.  As you might expect in this situation, there is tragedy and sadness.   

Apart from the leader, who I found evil, I liked the strong female and male characters in this book.  I understood their flaws and uncertainties, I admired the ways they coped with their difficult lives and cared well for each other.  Sometimes I found their choices frustrating; no one is perfect and there is no syrupy happy ending; but there is some resolution for Friday Brown and the other kids.

Title: Friday Brown
Author: Vikki Wakefield
ISBN: 9781921922701
Published: 2012
Publisher: Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia

 - Emma, Central City Library

This Love Is Not For Cowards, Salvation And Soccer In Ciudad Juarez by Robert Andrew Powell (Sam, Mount Roskill Library)

Nonfiction. I first heard about this book on a website where an excerpt was posted in order to draw in potential readers. Draw me in it did. A football team in the violent Mexican border city of Juárez improbably surge toward promotion to the Primera División, prompting a joyous and public celebration from a population previously too frightened to venture outdoors after dark. I love an underdog triumph, and this was one for the ages. In a city where the players and their families are seen as prime targets for cartel kidnappings, it seemed incredible that a professional sports team even existed, let alone a successful one.

The book focuses on the difficult first season in the top division for the Indios of Ciudad Juárez and the struggles of the cities' people through the eyes of an American author, who incredibly decides to relocate to the middle of a drug war all in search of a story. As losses for the team and bodies of Karteleros, innocents, whoever, begin to pile up, he starts to discover the inspiring resilience and hope that exists in Juarez.

In a town where even the local news channel has been chased out of town (they report instead from across the border in El Paso), I found it remarkable that such an in-depth and even-handed story was able to be told. I would recommend this book to football fans and anyone interested in learning about an unfairly ignored part of the world and its' brave people.

Title: This love is not for cowards : salvation and soccer in Ciudad Juárez
Author: Robert Andrew Powell
ISBN: 9781608197163
Published: 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury

- Sam, Mount Roskill Library

Hawaii Five-O DVD [Erika, Central City Library]

Hawaii Five-O is a slick, fast paced series that has quickly become a firm family favourite.  The show combines strong lead characters, believable storylines, a strong story arc, and best of all - some truly unforgettable one liners.  Navy Seal Steve McGarrett returns to Oahu after the death of his father, and takes up the offer of running the Governors task force - a role that gives him carte blanche to do whatever it takes to stamp out corruption and crime.  Joining McGarrett are recent Hawaii transplant Detective Danny "Danno" Williams, disgraced former cop Chin Ho Kelly, and his cousin Kono Kalakaua who is a recent member of the Hawaii Police Department. 

This is a thoroughly engaging series that will appeal to fans of genre defying television series like NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, and crime shows like CSI and CSI:NY.  One of the dangers with some American television shows is that they seem to have all the answers for you really quickly, a frustration as it is often the twists and turns that keep you guessing about what is coming next - that doesn't happen very often with this rebooted series.  I love the action and drama, and there are times when the whole family have laughed out loud because of the situations the team have gotten into, or because of the banter amongst the team.  The bonus features include a great gag reel, and if you have yet to discover Hawaii Five-O, then the good news is that as soon as you have finished season one you can jump straight into the drama and laughs of season two.

Title: Hawaii Five-O
Starring: Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park
Year: 2011

06 January, 2013

A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming [Joyce, New Lynn War Memorial Library]

Ian Fleming said there was one essential criteria for a good thriller and that was "one simply had to turn the page" and Charles Cumming’s sixth novel A Foreign Country had a compelling tale to tell .
A story of betrayal, deceit and conspiracy there is a welcome lack of violence with well developed characters, the flashbacks in the plot were not a distraction and gave an insight into the characters and their history and there is a welcome lack of violence.

A Foreign Country was the winner of the 2012 Crime Writers Associations Ian Fleming Steel Dagger awarded for the year’s best thriller in the vein of Ian Fleming. Interestingly both wrote with knowledge of the secret service as Fleming was involved with Naval Intelligence in WW2 and Charles Cumming was recruited in 1995 by MI6.

His first novel A Spy by Nature was published in 2001 and based on his experiences and has been described as "the man who most successfully gets under the skin of the British Intelligence agencies".

I also recommend The Trinity Six about an unknown sixth member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring, this another page turner and you have to remind yourself that it is fiction built around real event and people and the relevations are not true.

If you enjoy classic spy tales the DVD Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy by John le Carre with Gary Oldman as George Smiley is an excellent adaptation and worth seeing

Title: A Foreign Country
Author: Charles Cumming.
Published: 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins

- Joyce, New Lynn War Memorial Library

The Walking Dead. Book 1 by Robert Kirkman [Aimee, Howick Library]

Imagine waking up in the hospital.  Disoriented, confused, in pain.  There are no reassuring faces of family or nurses – you are instead greeted by an eerie quiet.  The tray of rotting hospital food and dead flowers by the bed only adds to your confusion.  You get unsteadily to your feet, stumble to the door and peer out into the hall.  A scene of carnage meets you.nbsp; At the end of the hall, barricaded double doors (with an ominous sound of growling and clawing coming from the other side) are painted with the words "DON’T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE".
This is a terrifying scene experienced by Rick Grimes near the beginning of the book.  Just trying to imagine what that would feel like made my spine tingle.  And there’s plenty more where that came from.  I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy books that give me the occasional nightmare… and The Walking Dead has provided more than a few!

There’s a good reason these graphic novels were adapted into a TV series: they’re awesome!  Kirkman’s done an excellent job creating characters you actually care about.And the artwork complements the story perfectly.  The black and white images give it all a suitably gritty vibe.  You don’t have to be a seasoned reader of graphic novels - if you’re into zombie stuff, you’ll love this.

Title: The Walking Dead. Book 1
Author: Robert Kirkman
ISBN: 9781582406190
Published: 2008
Publisher: Image Comics

- Aimee, Howick Library

05 January, 2013

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (DVD) [Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library]

Life is a terrible thing to sleep through. However, in the one street town that is Endora, Iowa, it’s rather easy to. Gilbert Grape, a grocery clerk in a dying convenience store, struggles to keep his family in line while dreaming only of leaving. His widowed, overweight and agoraphobic mother won’t stop eating; his sisters are irritating; and his mentally disabled younger brother’s care is in his hands solely. Things start to change when free spirit Becky drives into town and she begins to show Gilbert a path out of the hopeless and dull desperation that clouds his life.

This film is a bittersweet dark comedy drama about a dysfunctional family. For me, seeing both Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio fresh faced and without the weight of a lengthy hollywood career was great. DiCaprio’s performance as a mentally disabled teenager is spot on and haunting at times; it was hard for me to link this actor to the one in Titanic!

While the plot is quite simple some of the topics the film tackles do make you think. Gilbert’s situation is not an uncommon one, and after watching I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. Interestingly, this film is one of the few that deals with the issue of obesity and how society victimizes fat people and I think the director has captured the impact of such a reaction quite realistically.

The screenplay for this film was written by Peter Hedges, adapted from his novel of the same name.

Usually forgotten in favour for newer ones, this film is different, interesting and heartwarming, check it out.

Title: What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Published: 2009
Publisher: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

- Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library