28 February, 2013

Michael Michalko

Creative Thinkering by Michael Michalko ( Clare, Massey Library)

This is a great read for anyone who wants to stimulate their imagination. The author examines two sides of the creative process- creative thinking, and the creative thinker.

In Part One we learn how the brain goes about the process of creative thinking. There are examples and lots of Thought Experiments to challenge our own creative thinking processes.

Did you know that neither Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci were formally schooled? The author believes that this is why they were so innovative in their thinking. They weren't schooled to think in certain ways, and so their imaginations could roam free.

In Part Two the creative thinker is described, with practical ways to enhance our own imaginations and change the way we think. There are some very helpful exercises and thought experiments that demonstrate the principles behind creativity. He believes we rely too much on logic, which the left brain controls and need to incorporate the right brain's intuitiveness into our thinking.

This is a book that stays with you long after you finish it. It is a brilliant addition to the current ideas and discoveries happening in neuroscience and enhances our knowledge of how, why and what the brain can do.


Title: Creative Thinkering
Author: Michael Michalko
Published: 2011
Publisher: New World Library

You Lose These + Other Stories by Goldie Goldbloom [Zoë, Central City Library]

To really get a taste of this book, imagine just-picked, freshly-squeezed, organic homegrown lemon juice being lovingly squirted in your eye by Johnny Depp. Preferably as he appeared in The Rum Diary. Or perhaps by Kate Winslet in The Reader. Whatever, your call.

What I'm trying to get at is, Goldbloom seems unable to ever shy away from the grisly, the cruel, and the tragic in human experience, yet manages to deliver these harrowing stories with a tender, ferocious, good-humoured skill that surely could only be mustered by a fair-dinkum Aussie mother of eight.

As Goldblooom herself reflects;
I have an immense appetite for black humour and I like to see people misbehaving. I like all the ways things can go wrong, and I love, especially, all the quirky ways people are themselves.
If it all sounds like it might be a bit heavy going - it's not. Goldbloom's wit and the brevity of these tangy little stories will carry you through even the darkest parts of the collection. And hey, there's also an array of animals, a messiah in the outback, and a bloke reading Suicide for Dummies thrown in for good measure. Something for everyone really.

Perhaps most excitingly for me, as in the outstanding I Have Tasted Muskrat, Goldbloom revives that classic short-story form, the kind that builds steadily with careful foreshadowing, before delivering a twist that hits with such force, it's difficult to imagine that it's fiction.

The way Goldbloom seems to have one foot firmly planted in Australia and the other in North America is also admirable - she flings around an Aussie vernacular convincingly and then switches to stories about American lesbian Orthodox Jews. 

Also going on my reading list is Goldbloom's award-winning novel The Paperbark Shoe (published as Toads' Museum of Freaks and Wonders in the States).

Title: You Lose These + Other Stories
Author: Goldie Goldbloom
ISBN: 9781921696879 (pbk.)
Published: 2011
Publisher: Fremantle Press

 - Zoë, Central City Library

27 February, 2013

Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan [Baruk, Onehunga Library]

I found Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan an excellent exploration of the moral greys we often inhabit, and a great example of the power of voices and the spoken word.

Set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building at night, the play revolves around a doorman (Jeff), his strict supervisor (William), a rookie police officer (Dawn) and her corrupt partner (Bill). All of the characters are flawed, but all also have a 'good' side to them. Each person's expectations and motivations are complex, and it is hard not to sympathise. While entirely conversational, there is plenty of new information to add suspense and hold interest. Much humour comes from the interaction between a constantly joking Jeff and the other humourless characters. The ending leaves one hanging...wondering...and in my case, rather contemplative.

Intended as a 'watched' play, the audiobook focuses attention on the voices and the words the characters use. The voices contrast with each other and reveal personality - the slightly whiny voice of Jeff, the tightly held back anger of William his supervisor, Dawn's nasal twang, and the gruff arrogance of her partner Bill. Considering the exposition is entirely through conversation, this may be a more effective experience!

Lobby Hero has contributed to resurrecting my love of the spoken word, and understanding the power of sounds and voices to add texture to a story.

You may also enjoy This Is Our Youth by the same playwright.

Title: Lobby Hero
Playwright: Kenneth Lonergan
Performers: Tate Donovan, Cedric Sanders, Emily Swallow, Michael Weston
Directed by: Bart DeLorenzo
ISBN: 9781580818490
Released: 2012

- Baruk, Onehunga Library

25 February, 2013

Shaolin Burning by Ant Sang [Stanley, Ranui Library]

Full of graphic martial arts action and mayhem, Shaolin Burning is a thrilling and fast-paced adventure through Qing dynasty China.

The plot centres on Deadly Plum Blossum’s journey to challenge The Monk Who Doubts, who has been terrorising China. Events like the destruction of the Shaolin Temple, and the legend of the five surviving elders place this in a time of kung-fu legends, and martial arts monks.

The illustrations of BroTown’s Ant Sang skillfully capture the chaos of the combat; the parries and thrusts of the sword, feints and blows of the fighters come through in the black and white shading and ink, and deftly illustrate the action.

I found the characters another highlight of the book. They are unique and intense figures with legendary pasts, and equally awesome names. I also like the subtle humour that ran throughout the book, with skillful plays on words, quirky names like The Benevolant Laughing Monkey Palm Gang, and the tiger-costumed group The Killer Tongs. The themes running through this – the need to control desire, the perils of revenge and the sacredness of life – make this more than just an entertaining read.

Recommended for any teens or adults keen on fast-paced action, martial arts or graphic novels in general.

Title: Shaolin Burning
Author: Ant Sang
ISBN: 9781869508135
Published: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins

 - Stanley, Ranui Library

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan [Laura, Leys Institute Libary]

I have loved Ian McEwan's writing ever since I read Atonement in one go on a long haul flight back in 2007. I was disappointed by his last effort, Solar, which I just couldn't get into, so was glad when I found myself really enjoying the Booker Prize winner's latest offering.

Sweet Tooth tells the story of accomplished Cambridge graduate Serena Frome and her ambitious entrance into the ranks of MI5 during the economic and social turmoil of the 1970s. While Frome is a bit of a bland character - there's nothing especially endearing about her apart from her voracious appetite for novels and her habit of going after the wrong men, even when undercover - it is McEwan's enduring gift for spinning a yarn that makes Sweet Tooth such a great read.

Like a mix between Atonement and the Booker-winning Amsterdam, Sweet Tooth is a love story and perhaps a tragedy, but all told with a wry sense of humour served up with a good dollop of reader manipulation. When I finished Atonement half of me felt annoyed with the author for leading me up the garden path, but with Sweet Tooth I was in full admiration of McEwan; the book is much too tongue-in-cheek to provide any real attachment to the characters, who in my book deserved all they got, and the reader is much more aware that there is something not quite right - that there is surely an epigrammatic sting waiting to be revealed, which makes it rewarding rather than heartbreaking.

If you're a fan of McEwan, and even if you're not, give this novel a go and you will not be disappointed. It's his slickest work to date and its sweetness is made to be savoured.

Title: Sweet Tooth
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9780225097376
Published: 2012
Publisher: Jonathan Cape

 - Laura, Leys Institute Library

24 February, 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson ; translated by Rod Bradbury [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

For starters the title of this book grabbed my attention, it promised a fun and intriguing story and I wasn't disappointed.

Allan Karlsson decides he doesn't really want to attend his 100th birthday celebration in the old folks home so he climbs out of a window and disappears. That was a great start and his ensuing adventures were fun enough, involving a suitcase full of cash, lots of vodka, an odd assortment of acquaintances picked up along the way, (including an elephant named Sonya), with crooks and police pursuing them into the bargain. But the book really begins to be highly entertaining when we go back in time in alternate chapters. His outlandish life story is revealed, from his childhood in a small town in Sweden and his interest and career in explosives, (which features in his later escapades in many different countries). It got laugh-out-loud when Allan Karlsson accidentally plays a pivotal role behind the scenes in many momentous events of the twentieth century and he manages to meet several of the worlds most influential people along the way as well, from General Franco in Spain, to Harry Truman, Stalin, Kim Il Sun and Mao Tse Tung.

I suppose you could say there are similarities to Forrest Gump, but Allan is an altogether different character, and for a really fun read I would recommend this book, although to really enjoy it would help to have a reasonable knowledge of the history of the twentieth century.

Title: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
Author: Jonas Jonasson ; translated by Rod Bradbury
ISBN: 9781843913726
Published: 2012
Publisher info: Hesperus

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

23 February, 2013

Dear Lupin…: Letters To A Wayward Son by Roger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer [Judy, Orewa Library]

Dear Lupin is a short read which consists mainly of the letters written by Roger Mortimer to his only son, Charlie. The letters were written over a period of 25 years and Charlie, sensing they were something special, saved them.

Roger was an eccentric, rural middle-class Englishman – a published author with a wicked sense of humour. His ‘quiet country retirement’ is an endless saga of wild exploits of family, friends and acquaintances which he relates to his son using often impolite and politically incorrect terms. (Of course he wouldn’t have known they would be published). There are plenty of alcoholics, food poisoning incidents, home maintenance disasters and pampered pets.

Between the gossip, Rogers offers advice to Charlie (who admits in footnotes that he lacks any hint of stickability). Roger is pretty sure the advice will go unheeded:
“Dear Charles, I suppose writing a serious letter to you is about as effective as trying to kick a thirty-ton block of concrete in bedroom slippers…”
The lasting impression I got from the book, is of the affection between a Dad and his son, and a reminder of the unconditional love we have for our kids, even when they don’t succeed at Eton. This book made me laugh, and I think you will be as pleased as I am that Charlie saved the letters for us to enjoy.

Title: Dear Lupin…: Letters To A Wayward Son
Authors: Roger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer
ISBN: 9781780330037
Published: 2011
Publisher: Constable & Robinson Ltd

- Judy, Orewa Library

Katy Perry - The movie: Part of me by Katy Perry [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I am not (or better was) really a fan of Katy Perry, pop music is not my favourite genre. But somehow I have huge admiration for this girl, she really lives her true self and I admire that in anybody. So I was looking forward to get a peek into her life and personality through her own documentary.

She doesn't disappoint. If nothing else, you get a huge boost of confidence, positivity and belief in yourself out this movie.

She includes a lot of areas and times of her life but in the center is the huge tour around her bestselling and recordbreaking album "Teenage dream". It's bombastic and fun and at times silly, but all of the music feeds back into Perry's message: Live your dream.

She is open and vulnerable, not only in regards to her relationship with Russell Brand, but also with her fans and family. You get to see her most important people like her real best friends, the 90 year old Grandma, her sister who works for her but also the staff that is part of the tour, most of whom are long time friends anyway. Perry shows up without makeup and includes interviews from her 18year old younger self, so you get to experience many aspects of her personality. For all the "fakeness" of her pin up style, her character is the exact opposite.

I was absolutely amazed at how hard she worked and how much she does for her fans. Touring a whole year with hardly any days off, you see that there is so much work behind the show. Perry reveals herself as a true Art Director with strong input into all of the aspects of the show. If you want to see a true artist at work who realizes her fantastic and inspiring own dream world and includes the whole "real" world in it, you won't regret watching this. It doesn't matter if you listen to her music or not, in the end she will have you believe in it anyways...

Title: Katy Perry - The movie: Part of Me
Author: Katy Perry
Published: 2012
Publisher: Universal Pictures Australasia

 - Ina, Mt. Albert Library 

21 February, 2013

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Simon Mawer [Doris, Central City Library]


The story's heroine Marion, a very young and beautiful woman who is half French and half British, is part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a spy network that dropped agents into France during the Second World War.

I found the story very intriguing and exciting. I can very well imagine that this book will soon be made into a movie; the story is just perfect for it. The style of writing is just poetically beautiful but I guess you can expect this from an author who has been short listed for the Man Booker Prize (for The Glass Room in 2009). The author captured the mood of the time just superbly and when reading the story I could sympathize with all the main characters. I also liked that a few sentences were in French, which gave me the chance to dig out my old school French. I would call the book a literary spy thriller with an unexpected twist at the end, the emphasis on literary. Highly recommended.

If you like the theme I suggest you read William Boyd’s Restless and Sebastian Faulkes’s Charlotte Gray.

Title: The Girl Who fell form the Sky
Author: Simon Mawer
Published: 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown

Note: Also published under the title The Trapeze.

 - Doris, Central City Library

20 February, 2013

A Home-Grown Cook: The Dame Alison Holst Story by Alison Holst with Barbara Larson [Anna D, Botany Library]

Alison Holst is a bit of a legend in New Zealand cookery – it’s been nearly 50 years since her tv show “Here’s How” began in the mid 1960’s, and since then her 100+ cookbooks have sold over 4.5 million copies. Her lemon-poppy seed cake is my go-to recipe for staff afternoon teas and I use her butter chickpea curry recipe (from the Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook) all the time. Despite my love of her recipes, I regularly mix up Alison Holst with Allyson Gofton, who was on Food in a Minute, so I thought it would be a good idea to read Alison’s autobiography.

Alison’s had a busy life; I found it particularly interesting how she ended up on TV almost accidentally through her job lecturing at the School of Home Science at the University of Otago. I also didn’t know she had lived in the United States with her husband while their family was young.

A Home-grown cook was easy to read. It also has some of Alison's favourite recipes at the back and the covers of her many cookbooks; it was interesting to see how styles have changed over the years!

I recommend A Home-grown cook for those who like biographies and anyone who loves Alison Holst’s recipes.

Title: A Home-Grown Cook: The Dame Alison Holst Story
Author: Alison Holst with Barbara Larson
ISBN: 1877382671
Published: 2011
Publisher: Hyndman
  - Anna D, Botany Library

19 February, 2013

Over The Moon: The Autobiography [Compact Disc] by David Essex [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

OK, this will date me, but I’ll admit to having a David Essex poster on my wall as a teen.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks communing to work and this is one of the titles that has been a pleasure to listen to.

It’s David Essex’s biography covering his childhood in the East End of London, his years in the music industry and his acting and theatre careers. Best known here for his hit “Rock On” and for his early role in Godspell, then later as a part of the Eastenders cast, I hadn’t realised what a successful and varied career he has had. At one stage he simultaneously had a hit single, a lead role in a stage show, and was starring in a movie.

David describes how he got into the music business, and provides lots of detail about life behind the scenes and what is involved to get a show on the stage, or an album into production.
He comes across as a very modest man who is almost surprised about how well he has done and doesn’t seem to take it for granted.

The best part for me was that David reads the audio himself, so you get all his emotion and personality in the narrative. He allows himself a little chuckle now and then and you can also sense when something sad has affected him.

Of course, the downside to listening to an autobiography is that there are no photos, so I will have to seek out a print copy to see all the characters that are featured in his life and see those pinup images from my teens!

Title: Over the Moon: The Autobiography
Author: David Essex
ISBN: 9781448143016
Published: 2012
Publisher: Random House Audio

 - Kathy, Birkenhead Library

18 February, 2013

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden [Stanley, Ranui Library]


If your homeland was invaded, what would you do? This story offers a glimpse inside the lives of a group of teens who find themselves at the centre of this question.

This is set in an unnamed rural Australian setting, and begins when a group of seven teenagers go on a trip to explore ‘Hell’ – a beautifully-described lush paradise of cliffs, trees, and pools. On returning home, they find out everything has changed, and Hell becomes a refuge for them. The characters really bring this story to life. Childhood friends Ellie and Homer are foils for each other; both are resourceful and gutsy – and wanting to lead.

The plot is full of heart-stopping action. If you love adventure, you will be thrilled at the twists and turns, as the crew evade capture, find out the truth about their predicament, and manage to engage in a lot of creative sabotage.

Though these situations are larger than life, I found they come off as devastatingly realistic. It is easy to find yourself in the character’s shoes as they battle with the invaders, clash with each other, and reflect on the serious consequences of their action. You wonder what you would do in the same situation. This is not a Hollywood blockbuster with “good guys" and "bad guys”, bulletproof heroes, and a trite happy ending.

I would highly recommend this for all teenage readers, or older readers that love action, but not the mindless kind. You may find yourself hooked.

Title: Tomorrow When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
ISBN: 9780330403801
Published: 1993
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

 - Stanley, Ranui Library

Lehrter Station by David Downing [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library


Lehrter Station, a spy and war thriller, continues the story of British/American journalist, ex-communist and reluctant spy John Russell in Nazi Germany into the immediate post-war period. At the end of the previous book, Potsdam Stationhe had managed to bring his German girlfriend, their orphaned ward and his German son to safety in England.  He is now being blackmailed by the Russian NKVD into returning to Berlin to spy on German communist groups. Yet again he must play off different espionage agencies against each other to protect himself.
Lehrter Station refers to the Berlin railway station where daily trains disgorge thousands of displaced Germans from forfeited eastern  regions into the bombed-out city and it symbolises the chaos, misery and comparative lawlessness of the city. The state of the Berlin is almost as important a story as John Russell's and is portrayed memorably through the  encounters and experiences of Russell and of his girlfriend (who arrives later) as she searches for missing friends and family members. As cover for his presence in Germany,  Russell is also researching for an article on the Aliyah Beth, the Jewish underground emigration to Palestine, and this increases the risk and danger in the book.

The series, John Russell, begins in 1939 with Zoo StationIf you haven't read any earlier titles, it would be best to start at the beginning as characters and storylines develop through the series.  If you like Alan Furst  and Philip Kerr, you will find this a pleasure.

Title: Lehrter Station
Author: David Downing
ISBN: 9781616950743
Published: 2012
Publisher: Soho Crime

 - Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]

Kate Morton's new novel had me gripped into the small hours of the night!! It was a tantalizing novel filled with mystery, murder and enduring love. This story, just like her last three books, wove a spell over me and I found myself immersed in war-time England along with a gripping mystery to follow.

This historical fiction novel is mostly told through the voice of Laurel Nicholson, now a famous actress, as she finds a secret her dying mother has kept in her trunk hidden away in the attic. We switch to the voice of her ailing mother Dorothy, who once Laurel started demanding answers from, starts dreaming of her past. Dorothy's tale takes the reader from pre-World War 2 through the Blitz and to the 60's and beyond. Her story is woven from three strands, Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy's; three strangers from vastly different worlds who meet by chance in wartime London and find their lives forever entwined.
Despite the changing voice from mother to daughter, Morton's special branch of magic keeps the reader from feeling detached from the main story. Morton has a clever way of interlacing different voices and events from the past to make 'The Secret Keeper' the success it is!

Told in Kate Morton's signature style, fans of her bestselling The Forgotten Garden, will find this book just as exciting. If you are someone who enjoys historical fiction then make sure to add this to you 'to-be-read' list!!

Author: Kate Morton
ISBN: 9781439152805
Published: 2012
Publisher: Atria Books

 - Surani, Waitakere Central Library       

16 February, 2013

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan [Sue W Central City]

This is a glorious celebration of book geekery. Ancient tomes, secret societies of readers, the hallowed air of old books, and a centuries old mystery, private sleuths attempting to crack codes and discover the hidden encryption of forbearers long gone. What's not to love?

The novel begins when Clay Jannon finds employment manning the desk at Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour bookstore. The narrow bookstore with shelves that stretch upwards toward the heavens seems to attract little in the way of customers other than an odd assortment of quirky patrons who have a lending arrangement with the enigmatic owner and request very specific volumes from the lofty upper shelves of the bookstore.
Just how does the bookstore stay afloat when so few patrons actually buy books, and why is Clay ordered to  record seeming inconsequential details of what each of the "lending" patrons wear and their general demeanor in excruiating detail? This novel is very much a  celebration of knowledge both old and new. It is  bound to appeal to biblophiles who recognise that the printed word and technology are not necessary arch enemies.

Title: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Published: 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 - Sue W, Central City Library

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

I’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 the Pick-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.

Previously published as an e-book called The Palmyra Impact and also by Pocket Books, titled Rogue Wave.

Title: The Tsunami Countdown
Author: Boyd Morrison
ISBN: 978-1-8474-4487-5
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sphere

 - Helen, Waiuku Library

15 February, 2013

Fire in Babylon (DVD) directed by Stevan Riley [Annie, Central City Library]

This documentary, about the rise and rise of the West Indian cricket team to the worldbeaters of the late-70s and 80s, featured at the 2011 International Film Festival, but I missed it. And, I missed the screenings at the Academy Cinema later. Workmates had gone, and raved about it. One went to the opening night at the Academy, with Sir Richard Hadlee, who pointed out that the team's test series loss to New Zealand in 1980 isn't mentioned... But, this was the team (apart from New Zealand, of course) I first watched playing cricket. 'Calypso callapso' was part of my childhood. Watching the Windies team in action brought back so many memories.

It is a fascinating documentary, particularly with the background of politics and racism. The special features are worth watching, because they provide different perspectives on the team, as the documentary itself is told solely from the West Indian perspective.

It is a must-watch for cricketing fans. But it has broader appeal, invaluable for those interested in the history of colonialism and racism.

Title: Fire in Babylon
Director: Stevan Riley.
Released: 2010.
Duration: 83 minutes.
Rating: PG - some coarse language

 - Annie, Central City Library

13 February, 2013

Nom de Plume: A Secret History of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru [Ana, Central Library]

This great book comprises 16 chapters, each of which is the account of a significant author and the story behind their nom de plume.  Each account is quite separate so you can read any chapter independently. The book’s jacket starts the intrigue, having a solitary photograph of a face with the book title in heavy capitals superimposed across it, so that we cannot recognise the person. Individual stories provide a remarkable insight into the authors, their writings, their personal situation, and the society at the time.  Some authors have similar reasons for using nom de plumes but their use of their pseudonym is very different.
The Reverend Charles Dodgson was an eccentric mathematician who was obsessed with keeping his writing hidden from his ‘normal’ life.  He refused to acknowledge his pseudonym; any mail addressed to that name was returned unopened, and if the name or writings were mentioned in a social conversation, he would withdraw and go home. Of course this shy man is ‘Lewis Carroll’ and his writings, including Alice in Wonderland, and Alice through the Looking-Glass are some of the most popular stories of all time.  Ms Ciuraru provides some fascinating details about the man and his work.
Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontё wrote under the pseudonyms Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell.  Their first publication was a joint collection of poems, published at their own expense.  They used male names because female writers were looked on with prejudice.  This was very true, and there was growing suspicion with some of their later writings that they were written by female hands.  The hypocrisy can be seen by the Economists review of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre: the novel was ‘a triumph if written by a man, “odious” if written by a woman’.
Another fascinating account is that of Fernando Pessoa.  This Portuguese writer and poet used innumerable names, many of which he built individual biographies for. Some of these pseudonyms wrote in different languages; some acted as ‘critics’ to the writings of the others.  In fact one of the pseudonyms, Alvaro de Campos, even claimed that Pessoa did not exist.
And what of our author, Carmela Ciuraru?  Contary to what we might think, that is her real name.  She lives in New York and writes extensively for American publications.
This is an entertaining and revealing book; it is fascinating to go behind the names and find out all about the authors’ lives, their secrets, and the literary world of their times.

Title: Nom de Plume
Author: Carmela Ciuraru
Published: 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins

 - Ana, Central City Library

11 February, 2013

Until Further Notice, I Am Alive by Tom Lubbock [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

It doesn't reveal much to say that Tom Lubbock dies in the end. That is the point of this book, grim as it is. The arc of events is all there in the harrowing prologue by his wife. You read to discover how Lubbock deals with his own unwinding.

There are ways and ways to do this.

What stood out for me here, as Lubbock noted, is that you get no privileges of intuition because you are dying. All there is is a visceral realisation of an intellectual truism. That makes the reader, no matter how nice a person they are (and I'm sure you are splendid), a voyeur.

Still with?

Two elements of the book then: Lubbock tries to come to terms with the diagnosis, partly by spraying out emails of mind-numbing details of medical to-fro to unsuspecting friends. Horrific - and boring. Reaction to which is all part of the fascination.

Then there are Lubbock's attempts to catalogue the demise of his language ability as the tumor moves through his brain like a pac-man in a maze, chomping on grammar.. By the end - one could read that last chapter first - he was writing, or dictating leftovers, or poetry.

Yes, it felt Socratic. (No, not the dialogues).

Until further notice then...

Title: Until Further Notice, I Am Alive
Author: Tom Lubbock
Published: 2012
Publisher: Granta

 -  Paul, Birkenhead Library

09 February, 2013

Furry Vengeance [DVD] by Roger Kumble [Campbell, Central City Library]

Watching this film was one of the first things I did this year. It came after sleeping, waking up, taking pain medication, being melodramatic and eating a bag of bagel crisps and a fish cake.

The film concerns the abuse and torture of Brendan Fraser by a group of forest animals. He is trying to take their homes from them to make a lot of money for his family. These are fierce animals and very smart. Some of them drive. At the start of the film they actually kill a guy for littering and driving too fast. They have rigged up a contraption on a hill that eventually drops a boulder onto a road knocking his car off a nearby cliff. They try this on Brendan Fraser too but narrowly miss and he survives.

Brendan Fraser is not looking so good. It is quite a shame really. He still looks young but also very old. He was cast perfectly in this film. I felt stuck between feeling sorry for him and taking the side of the animals. Either way it makes for great viewing.

There was a break in our watching of the film, some friends came over and cooked a late breakfast about one hour into the film. They sat down to watch the last half hour and I felt a little embarrassed. The first two thirds are definitely better than the last. Sometimes resolution can be a bad thing.

Title: Furry Vengeance
Director: Roger Kumble
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Year: c2010

 - Campbell, Central City Library

The Romanov Conspiracy by Glenn Meade [Joanne, Howick Library]

The Romanov Conspiracy revolves around the events leading up to the execution of the Tsar and his family as well as the mystery of what really happened to Grand Duchess Anastasia. The story starts from a discovery made by Laura Pavlov, an archaeologist, when her group was excavating an area known to be the last resting place of the Romanovs. Her discovery forces her to travel to Ireland and from there the story of what really happened to the Romanovs slowly unfolds.
I find The Romanov Conspiracy possessing the criteria of what a good book is to me. It touches on intrigue, mystery, history, love, friendship and redemption which makes it a really impressive book. I love reading historical fiction and the way the book was written really made it hard to put down. Glenn Meade made me want to read more on the Romanovs if only to help discern certain facts presented in the book to be true or not. Overall, this is highly recommended!

Title: The Romanov Conspiracy
Author: Glenn Meade
ISBN: 9781451611861
Published: 2012
Publisher: Howard Books

 - Joanne, Howick Library

08 February, 2013

The Travels of Marco Polo: The Illustrated Edition [Nick, Central City Library]

Marco Polo’s travels open a window on antiquity, into a distant past when medieval cultures existed as island universes, when the world was large and mysterious beyond imagining, and travel to unknown continents was beset by untold dangers.

I’m guessing that Marco Polo’s tales have been as fascinating for me, glimpsed through the shrouded veil of time, as they must have been for Medieval Europeans, captivated by the fabulous descriptions of inaccessible lands, cocooned within the vast and inhospitable expanses of an untamed world.

I found this shifting context interesting. For the contemporary reader the cultural peculiarities are refocused through the lense of history, and the destinations now remain as shadows of our modern culture, distanced not by geography, but by the ruinous march of time. Whereas historically, Marco Polo’s worlds were unapproachable amidst hostile environs, plagued by the warring of Mongol Khans who presided over realms forgotten by God, where customs and superstitions were so unusual as to beggar belief.

The stories seemed so outrageous at the time that few believed them, Marco Polo’s travels became known as the million and one lies, little more than inspired folk stories to titillate the imagination. Regardless of perspective, this famous journey speaks the language of mystery and adventure, and has endured through time, providing a magical portal into a distant world. Morris Rossabi’s richly illustrated edition has recreated that journey anew, the oldest travelogue in print.

Title: The Travels of Marco Polo: The Illustrated Edition
Author: translated by Henry Yule ; revised by Henri Cordier ; Morris Rossabi, general editor.
ISBN: 9781402796302
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sterling Pub

 - Nic, Central City Library

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova [Christine, Takapuna Library]

What could ever stop Sarah, a super-busy executive, wife and mother? A car accident does.  This, after most of her injuries have healed, leaves her with a condition known as 'Left Neglect'. This is an inability to notice objects on her left or the leftmost portion of things. We share her frustration with telling the time on an analogue clock or eating the whole meal on her plate. More troublesome than these, her conditon makes walking a perilous undertaking. Sarah's career crashes to a halt.

I enjoyed seeing the ways her family, friends and therapists came up with imaginative ways to direct her attention to the left.

Author: Lisa Genova
ISBN: 9780857202673
Published: 2011 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 - Christine, Takapuna Library

07 February, 2013

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell [Danielle, Central City Library]

This award-nominated post-apocalyptic horror is a lonely, lovely, brutal and philosophical delight from start to finish. Bell has a deft touch with bringing the wrecked and ruined landscape to life as the characters make their way through rural, suburban and urban wastelands full of both decay and hope.

Just as vampires are the reigning poster boys for paranormal romance, zombies seem to be the in thing for horror these days, the go-to guys for a post-apocalyptic gorefest. The reapers are the angels doesn't do much that is new with the basic material - unspecified 'zombie plague' type event, small pockets of survivors, tough hunters guarding the borders - but instead of trying to answer any questions about the undead menace, it chooses to focus on it's central character, 15 year old Temple.

The prose is poetic and follows Temple's musings as she concentrates on surviving and finding the odd moment of grace in a fallen world. She is a great character - brave, honest, and unflinchingly true to her moral code. Her relationship with the man hunting her - who also lives by a code that is, in it's own way, honourable - is fascinating, and reminds me of the relationships you sometimes see in old Westerns between protagonist and antagonist.

A bit of a tough pick to recommend - it was plenty violent, but the violence wasn't really the point of the story, more the fallout from living in a harsh world. What stood out to me more was Temple's ongoing delight in the presence of 'God', redemption through natural miracles, present even in the worst of situations.

Title: The reapers are the angels
Author: Alden Bell
Published: 2010
Henry Holt and Co.

 - Danielle, Central City Library

06 February, 2013

100 Cult Films by Ernst Mathjs & Xavier Mendik [Jonny, Central City Library]

Have you got a favorite film that you watch repeatedly? Do you own the special edition on DVD? Have you been to a party dressed as a character from the film? Do you know all sorts of obscure facts about the characters or story? Will you defend that film against any criticism...then you might just be part of a cult...

This book gathers a selection of the films the author's feel are worthy of being called a cult film. There is never going to be a definitive list of course but this is a good place to start if you want some idea of the diversity of cult cinema.

Some of the films mentioned in this book have well known cult followings, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars
might be the least surprising inclusions. Star Wars pretty much created the phenomenon of 'fandom' and both films have a colossal legion of fans who will trumpet devotion at conventions and online.

Other cult films have a minuscule following by comparison, to these fans the exclusiveness of their intimate obsession with a film is part of the appeal.

Some of the films included in the 100 selected are lurid, low-budget classics, others are exploitative in the most extreme way -there are porn movies here alongside masterpieces of cinema like Beauty and the Beast (1946), The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, 2001 A Space Odyssey. And there are many truly exceptional films: The Big Lebowski, Near Dark, Fight Club and Django to name a few.

The only thing that can be said for sure about all these films is that they will be watched again and again by their fan(atics)...

The authors combine relevant contextual detail and witty commentary and feel just long enough to get an impression of each film. They are convincing in their justification for most of the films inclusions. Of course if, like me, you love films you may well be outraged by the exclusion of your favorites and inclusion of others. These sorts of appreciators' arguments are part of the fun of reading a 'best of ' list.

If you are a fan of cult cinema, like me, this selection could provide you with some new ideas about what to watch next. Or if you just enjoy veering off the path of the mainstream once in a while, this is a good place to start as you venture into the outer reaches of film.

Title: 100 Cult Films
Author: Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik
ISBN: 9781844574087
Published: 2011
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman [Sam, Mt Roskill Library]

Fiction. As a big fan of Klosterman's insightful pop-culture essays I was excited to see what he could do in the novel format when he released his first (bonus recommendation!), Downtown Owl, a solid, enjoyable debut effort. The Visible Man, however, is an impressive step up.

The story is told by a female psychiatrist who has an unusual patient, a man who wears an invisibility suit, referred to only as Y____. Y____ uses this suit to break into people's homes and observe them as they go about their mundane existence, he then attempts to introduce positive change to his subjects' lives as sort of a creepy, subtle guardian angel. This poses an interesting dilemma for our narrator, and us the reader: If privacy and the law are breached in order for a net improvement (and nobody ever realises), then are the results morally justified?

I really enjoyed wrestling with the main question at the heart of this novel, and the frequent pop culture references were an added treat. Though the ending does leave a little to be desired, this is still a great read.

Title: The Visible Man
Author: Chuck Klosterman
ISBN: 9781439184462
Published: 2011
Publisher: Scribner

 - Sam T, Mt. Roskill Library

Moa by Quinn Berentson [Annie, Central City Library]

Who would have thought the story of the moa could be so fascinating and have so many twists and turns. Nothing about the moa, it seems, is straightforward. Who 'discovered' the moa is a matter of debate. How many species there were - anywhere up to 48 has been posited. How did they die out? When did they die out? How did they look? What did they sound like? Who needs dinosaur conundrums when we have such an intriguing creature on our doorstep, as it were.

These, and other questions, are thoroughly explored in this beautifully presented and well-crafted book.

In the early chapters the moa itself is overshadowed by the almost larger-than-life characters of the humans involved in the drama and battle for scientific recognition and supremacy. There is the conniving and obsessive Richard Owen; the unfortunate and somewhat persecuted (and obsessive) Gideon Mantell; not to mention the very public disputes between Julius Haast and James Hector.

It is through the stories of the people involved that the author brings to life the story of the moa - from its discovery by the scientific world, through the latest research. (During the writing of this book - 2009-2012 - new discoveries were made, which altered some of the story.) Yet, there is still more to learn about these elusive birds.

The story of the moa also illuminates the story of New Zealand's human populations - from the initial arrival and settlement of the Maori, through the early European period, the goldrushes, farming, right unto the recent devastating Canterbury earthquakes.

It is time to rediscover our own prehistoric megabeast and Berentson has done a magnificent job in making that process easier and enjoyable.

Recommended for fans of history, science, and otherwise curious New Zealanders.

Title: Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand's Legendary Bird
Author: Quinn Berentson
ISBN: 9781877517846
Published: 2012
Publisher: Craig Potton

 - Annie, Central City Library

05 February, 2013

Lord of the Rings console game [Erika, Central City Library]

The release of any Lego game is greeted with great excitement in my household and the release of Lego Lord of the Rings was no exception.  The creators of the Lego games have a knack for creating action packed games with a sly sense of humour that appeals to a wide audience (although some of the jokes are over the heads of younger players).  Because Lego Batman 2 had been something of a disappointment, being too complicated and "clever" for its own good, I was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Lord of the Rings to see if they had made any improvements. 

Overall, the game is not as disappointing as Batman, although there were a few glitches along the way that meant restarting the system so we could keep playing (I had assumed it was only our system but a friend also had problems).  The split screen that made game play so much fun in earlier games has been ramped up to include playing two completely different parts of the game at the same time, this was annoying and distracting at times for both of us.  I found it best to play parts of the game by myself rather than deal with the split screen - but that may just be me.

A great game that I will come back to at a later date to play in free play mode rather than story mode.  Once you get used to the idea of Lego characters that actually talk, and the fact that the game doesn't follow the story exactly, it was another fun game for all members of our family.

Title: The Lord of the Rings
Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360
Year: 2012

The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance by Louis Borgenicht, M.D., and Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D. [J-Lee, Manurewa Library]


You have received, or are about to receive the most precious gift, a baby, and are finding the prospect of changing, feeding and general maintenance daunting? This book is for you!

I am counting down the weeks until I myself am about to relive the joy of having another baby, and found this book sitting on our new books shelf. I picked it up thinking it would be good for a laugh and was pleasantly surprised by how useful I thought this would be for the clueless father-to-be or the apprehensive/nervous mother-to-be.

Throughout your pregnancy, you are bombarded with all the nurturing information and about how great it is going to be when that bundle of joy arrives. But, this book cuts to the chase and offers clear concise information through clever schematic diagrams on dilemmas such as “how to swaddle your baby”, trouble shooting tips and step by step instructions.

One thing I will take away from this book are the great charts they have designed so you can track your baby’s sleep patterns, feeding patterns (right down to which side you fed on last time … trust me you need to know this!) and even keep note of peeing and pooing frequency! I know it sounds silly but it is actually useful to keep track of these things, especially for doctor’s visits.

If you like this book, there’s plenty more where that came from as the Borgenicht duo have also compiled The Pregnancy Instruction Manual and The Toddler Owners Manual.

Title: The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Author: Louis Borgenicht, M.D., and Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D.
ISBN: 9781594745973
Published: 2012
Publisher: Quirk Books

Kaffe Fasset: Dreaming in Color: An Autobiography by Kaffe Fassett [Claire, Central City Library]

Kaffe Fassett's sensational craft books have always been very popular with library patrons. Jam packed with an abundance of pattern and colour they provide the reader with a visual feast and oodles of inspiration.
Now in his seventies, this talented individual has produced this lavishly illustrated story of his extraordinary life.

Born in 1937, he spent much of his youth in Big Sur, California, where his parents bought a cabin from Orson Welles and transformed it into the world-famous Nepenthe restaurant, a gathering place for artists and bohemians. After attending a boarding school run by the disciples of Krishnamurti then studying painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, he travels to England which then becomes his home. From there he begins to design knitwear then moves on to needlepoint, mosaics, rugmaking, tapestries, yarn and fabric design, costume and set design, and quilting.

In this beautiful book he tells some fabulous stories of the highlights of his productive life.

I was most interested in reading about his childhood and the famous and creative people that were drawn to Nepenthe. He grew up with extraordinary freedom in an environment where everyone was encouraged to express their individuality so it comes as no surprise that after such a rich childhood he went on to create such a vivid and unique life.( If you wish to read more,I recommend 'My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food,family and Big Sur' by Romney Steele).

Kaffe Fassett is a gifted individual who exists in a zone of joy and overabundance. His 'over the top' approach to colour and design and their endless variations is a true celebration of life.

Title: Kaffe Fassett: Dreaming in Color: An Autobiography
Author: Kaffe Fassett
ISBN: 9781584799962
Published: 2012
Publisher: Stewart,Tabori & Chang

The Trouble With Marriage [compact disc] by Debby Holt [Olga, Central City Library]


There is not only one compact disc.  It is 10 hours and 2 minutes unabridged catch-up with good quality chick lit.

Honestly, I cannot say exactly how well it is written, because I have been listening to it.
It is read by Jilly Bond, who appears as an actor with a wealth of experience in theatre. She's a popular narrator for audiobooks. She plays with her voice so well that you don't notice when a simple story becomes a kind of emotional journey, instead of something safely plain for the half-hour drive between home and work.

Robin and Tilly are husband and wife, with maybe a few marriage troubles. So far they have two kids, a dog, a house, and Tilly's parents as a babysitter. They were conventionally happy with their life, married for ten years, when things start to happen.

Robin's parents (they never thought Tilly was a good match for their son) suddenly decide to retire and move a house closer to Robin (and the grandchildren). Robin has financial problems, Tilly discovers she is pregnant with a third child – and on top of it, Robin's ex-girl friend comes to town. Things really start to snowball from there.

But it's not just suspense. The author poses extremely painful questions, and important decisions must be made by the main characters:

Being a good wife and fulfill others expectations, or being happier with yourself and follow your own feelings?  What price do you want to pay to keep your family together?  What price are you willing to pay to keep yourself together? What steps you can take? How brave are you? Is it enough to stand up for yourself? What are your real life values?

A main problem with audiobooks – there is no cheating.  You are not able to flick even one page ahead to have a sneaky look at where it's going.

Don't worry, after an hour sitting in abandon car, listening to this book, your will interrupted by your husband, who will come and check to see if you are still alive – because he heard your car arrive a long time ago, and he's getting worried … and hungry!

Oh, what? One hour? But you were just wondering if Debby Holt will manage to kill someone, and who will it be…

Title: The Trouble With Marriage
Author: Debby Holt
ISBN: 9781408401316
Published: 2008
Publisher: Chivers Audio Book
Description: 8 compact discs (10 hr., 2 min.)

04 February, 2013

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam [Biddy, Highland Park Library]


Vincent Lam's first novel is a story of the Vietnam War written from an unusual perspective.Percival Chen is a second generation Chinese immigrant whose family moved to Vietnam in search of the "mountain of gold". He believes firmly in the superiority of his Chinese heritage and passes this conviction on to his son, with alarming consequences. Percival manages to continue his hedonistic existence in Saigon, seemingly oblivious to the tragedies and atrocities of the war around him. Ultimately his belief that money can buy his way out of any problem is tested and the novel had me enthralled as the unpredictable twists kept coming.

This book is guaranteed to maintain the reader's interest from the first page to the nail-biting conclusion. The characters-from the womanising, gambling Percival Chen and his sophisticated ex-wife Cecilia - to his great friend, the inscrutable Mak, each have their own complex background tales and individual traits. The reader is simultaneously appalled by the cruelty of the war and filled with compassion for those experiencing it on both sides. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War in particular or simply as a strongly written, good read.

Title: The Headmaster's Wager
Author: Vincent Lam
ISBN: 9780007340354
Published: 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins

 - Biddy, Highland Park Library

03 February, 2013

1356 : Bernard Cornwell (Joyce, New Lynn Library)


1356 is, as the title suggests, set during the hundred year’s war between England and France and part four of Bernard Cornwell's “Grail” series, though it can be read as a standalone novel.

With lots of satisfying historical and cultural details, the focus is on the lead up to one of the classic against the odds battles when the small outnumbered army of Edward of Woodstock defeated the French in September 1356 near Poitiers, and became part of the legend of medieval warfare along with Crecy and Agincourt.

The main characters are interesting and quite believable, and as well as Thomas Hookton, the main protagonist of the Grail Quest series and the leader of a mercenary company of bowmen and men -at-arms, you have a virgin knight who believes in chivalry and Sculley who is with a contingent of Scot's fighting with the French .

Bernard Cornwell’s strength is in making the period come alive as he describes the food they eat, the clothes and even the way they talk, the battle scenes are very real so not for the faint hearted.

I introduced Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series to a friend housebound after a very bad accident and that series ignited in them a need for more information on the period and Napoleon.  A customer also recently made a similar comment that “Bernard Cornwell books makes you want to learn history,” and a full account of this decisive battle Victory at Poitiers: The Black Prince and the Medieval Art of War by Christian Teutsch is a very readable account.

Title: 1356
Author: Bernard Cornwell
ISBN: 9780007331840
Published: 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins

 - Joyce, New Lynn Library

John Dies at the End by David Wong [Aimee, Howick Library]


When a drug known as Soy Sauce arrives in the town of “Undisclosed”, things get… weird.  It gives you powers of perception.  Sounds cool?  Not so much.  This is what David and John discover when the drug enters their systems: basically turning them into reluctant defenders of the human race against unfathomable evil.

I’ve seen reviews describe this book as being quite scary.  I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me, but I didn’t think so.  It has dark creepy moments, definitely, but overall I just found it really amusing.  In that way where you hope the other people in the lunchroom don’t ask you what you’re laughing at.  Because it’s not the kind of humour everyone would enjoy.  The evil entities tormenting the characters have a wickedly juvenile sense of humour.  My common reaction throughout the book was basically “Dude, that’s gross! Hahaha!”.  Yes, I freely admit I enjoy the simplicity of a bit of silly, gross, potty-mouthed comedy.

One of my favourite moments (that can be repeated in polite company):

"She sat one of the fluffy cats in my lap and stuffed the other down my shirt. She turned and left.

'There,' said the large man. 'The kittens will make your sad go away."

A weird, silly read with elements of horror and sci-fi.  Not for everyone.  Put it this way: if you’re partial to some gross-out comedy now and then, you may enjoy this one.  It's also been made into a movie, though I'm not sure when/if it'll be released in New Zealand.

Title: John Dies at the End
Author: David Wong
ISBN: 9780312555139
Published: 2007
Publisher: Permuted Press

 - Aimee, Howick Library

02 February, 2013

Feed by M.T. Anderson [Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library]

It started out like any ordinary trip to the moon. In a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains, Titus, a well to do boy content with his consumerist and ignorant lifestyle meets Violet, a lower class girl fighting against the Feed and its omnipresence and fighting for the right to think for herself. 

Anderson has masterfully created a world which is startlingly similar to the one we live in today. When I first read it, the slang and the very casual use of swearwords and slang put me off a little, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. The plot was interesting, the characterization spot-on - Titus is the perfect embodiment of Anderson’s shallow world and Violet represents the forgotten society wonderfully, - and the issues and themes that Anderson alludes to are very relevant.

Addiction to technology and the internet, slang and swearing in everyday language, a corporate society where information about you can automatically be gathered, a lack of environmental awareness, decreasing interest in knowledge, language and thought - these are all addressed in Anderson’s novel, but they could just as easily be about our own society today and in the near future. The best, and scariest, thing about this book is that Anderson offers no finality or solution, he just shows us a world with many flaws and lets it creep under your skin and make you wonder about where we are headed.

I could go on and on and on about this book! I like to read dystopians, and this is one of the best aimed for young adults that I’ve come across so far. 

This book is a great read: it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cringe, it’ll make you feel sad. But most importantly, it’ll make you think, check it out.

Title: Feed
Director: M.T. Anderson
Published: 2002
Publisher: Candlewick Press

- Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library

01 February, 2013

Black Spring by Alison Croggon [Harriet, Pt Chevalier Library]

Inspired by Wuthering Heights, Black Spring is a modernistic take on the Gothic classic. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Wuthering Heights, it is a passionate yet doomed love between Cathy and her foster brother, Heathcliff. Their story is given a voice through a traveller, Mr. Lockwood, who becomes curious about the past and asks his housekeeper to tell him what happened. Croggon has kept faithful to this structure with Lina and Damek taking the places of Cathy and Heathcliff, Hammel being the traveller, and Anna his housekeeper. However, there is a refreshing atmosphere to the story by an added element of fantasy.

In Croggon’s moors, Royalty and Wizards rule the people. These men together decide the law of the land, and oversee the phenomenon of vendetta. It is difficult to give justice to this idea -- you really must read the book to understand its horror. Put simply, one person is killed and a chain of murders occurs over years to avenge each previous death. Families live with the knowledge the vendetta will reach the men in their family. It is only a matter of time until just the females remain; the families honour their only solace. This is the bleak world where the story of obsessive love between Lina and Damek takes place. The wrongful nature of vendetta parallels with Lina, as a witch she is under threat the entire course of the book. Had she been born a man she would have been both accepted and revered. Though not the narrator, Lina is ever the centre of attention but would be nothing without her Damek.

Although it sounds as depressing as the original, the characters and beautiful prose make this, in my opinion, a more enjoyable read than the classic.

Title: Black Spring
Author: Alison Croggon
ISBN: 9781406339581
Published: 2012
Publisher: Walker Books Australia

 - Harriet, Point Chevalier Library

"E" Is For Evidence by Sue Grafton [Hilary A, Remuera Library]

"E" Is For Evidence is one of the earlier Grafton novels featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone. In this edition, Kinsey is shocked to find evidence planted in a crime scene which incriminates her and seems to indicate that she is on the take. Throwing caution to the winds,she will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of who torched a warehouse, who  is killing people  and who seems to know her every move. Grafton moves the story along at a cracking pace and sets the scene for an exciting denoument.

The thing that is so good about this series is that Sue Grafton just gets better and better. Having read all of the Kinsey Millhone books, I went back to re-read some of her earlier offerings and find that they are very readable and enjoyable. Just think - if you like this - they get even better as you work your way through the alphabet! Grafton has since gone on to nearly finish the alphabet with subsequent stories.

Title: "E" is for Evidence
Author: Sue Grafton
Published: c1988
Publisher: Macmillan

 - Hilary A, Remuera Library

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin lessons in life, love and language by Deborah Fallows [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]


 Lovers of language, linguistics and of life in ancient lands will enjoy this book which highlights the nuances and influences that the structure of language has on a culture.

Dreaming in Chinese is an engaging memoir of the everyday experiences of author and linguist Deborah Fallows, who goes to China to live and learn Mandarin for 3 years. Funny in parts and easy to read, each chapter in the book focuses on a word or phrase around which the author weaves a story.

Without giving away too many specifics, I particularly enjoyed learning about the doubling of words, the rude-friendly manner that denotes intimacy, the power of “lucky” numbers and the chapter on orientation, maps and giving directions.  It is easy to feel transported straight to the streets of Shanghai or Beijing, as you read.

As entertaining as it is informative, you will find this a warm and humorous guide to Chinese urban life and the famously confounding tongue!

A must-read, particularly as we get ready to celebrate the Year of the Snake.

Title: Dreaming in Chinese : Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language
Author:  Deborah Fallows
ISBN: 978082779137
Published: 2010
Publisher: Walker & Co.

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library