31 March, 2013

Sound City: Real to Reel (DVD) [Aimee, Howick Library]

 - SOUND CITY - REAL TO REEL 'Sound City' is Dave Grohl's directorial debut which recently premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
When Dave Grohl pulled up at Sound City with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic to record Nevermind, he thought it looked like a bit of a hole.  But looks are deceiving.  Lurking inside the shabby studio: the Neve 8020 analog mixing console.  This is the point in the documentary where we’re shown shots of grown men acting like squeeing fanboys over the might and awe of the Neve (we’re not worthy! we’re not worthy!).  Turns out this Neve is so amazing, Grohl bought it when the studio closed its doors in 2011.

Starting with Sound City’s humble beginnings in 1969, the documentary tells the story of the people and the music that made the place great.  There are tales in this film to delight a range of rock fans – straight from the mouths of musicians who recorded iconic albums there.  There’s also footage of some epic collaborations orchestrated by Grohl, which can be heard on the movie’s official soundtrack.

The main message Grohl’s trying to get across is that modern technology (which ultimately put Sound City out of business) shouldn’t be used in a way that removes music’s humanity.  It’s a celebration of getting back to the roots of music, with all its little imperfections.

I’m still on the waiting list for the DVD, but saw Sound City at the movies in January.  Can’t wait to share it with friends and family.  This is a must see for any self-respecting rock fan.

To get a real idea of what I'm on about, check out the trailer here.

(Image courtesy of JB Hi-Fi).

Title: Sound City: Real to Reel
Director: Dave Grohl
Published: 2013
Publisher: Roswell Films

 - Aimee, Howick Library

This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen [Stanley, Ranui Library]


A tiny fish with a bowler hat is the star of this enthralling picture book. This simple story about a fish stealing a hat and what happens as a result of this is highly readable, and funny to boot.

This is similar to the author’s highly-acclaimed I Want My Hat Back, except it is told from the perspective of the thief. The naughty minnow justifies his actions, telling us "it was too small for him anyway", and makes for the thick seaweed, where the much larger fish won’t be able to find him. But will his cunning plan work?
This all takes place near the bottom of the sea, and the dark and subdued illustrations really suit the mood of the narrative. The fishy characters and plain backgrounds are portrayed beautifully, with subtly-drawn expressions to let you know what they’re thinking or feeling.

I found the conclusion humourous, and had to re-read it several times to bask in the quality of the pictures and the satisfying way the story was told.

Title: This Is Not My Hat
Author: Jon Klassen
ISBN: 9780763655990
Published: 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press

 - Stanley, Ranui Library

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier [Joyce, New Lynn Library]

The Last Runaway is the provocative story set in the early 1800's of Honor Bright a young English Quaker who arrives in Oberlin, Ohio in the pre-Civil War decade.

Great  development of characters and perfect use of imagery with rich historical details and the characters truly seem to fit in the times.

Honor’s letters home comparing the light and the differences of people’s attitudes and buildings will resonate with anyone who has left or spent time away overseas. It is also a stark reminder of how dependent we have become on instant communication as  letters take three months to arrive and the family left behind in Bristol have no knowledge of her change in circumstances.

The details of her quilting and her use scraps of material to document one's life is also an additional layer to the story as she starts out with a  methodical precision and subtle  approach  and finds  herself  in a world where the choices are bolder and more difficult.

Honor must confront her beliefs and responsibilities concerning slavery and discovers what happens when we try to put our beliefs into action. 

The result is an interesting portrayal of personal dilemmas, marriage and commitment and trying to live life according to your principles and convictions.

Oberlin was an important stop on the Underground Railway that helped slaves escape to Canada and while there was no slavery in Ohio the Fugitive Slave Act punished anyone who helped the slaves.

The pioneer Quaker settlement don’t want to get involved and would prefer if Honor kept her head down and ignore the sounds of people cowering in the woods.

Title: The Last Runaway
Author: Tracy Chevalier
ISBN:  9780525952992
Published: 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins

 - Joyce, New Lynn Library

30 March, 2013

vN: The First Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

So, what we have here is your basic robo-clone-zombie-fembot slash Dorothy-Pinnochio-Lolita-Prospero-Terminator figure in a minty bildungsroman..tic dramedy, tangy wiith gotterdammergrunginess.

It's an existential adventure thriller! a buddy movie! a feminist tract!.. and it turns out, as an incidental just-for-starters punch-in-the-pukka sort of thing, that the point of all that computing power is to make pedophilia socially acceptable. Cos the androids are, like, really lifelike.

Cue the clang of jaws shattering feet.

Don't be put off by the tentacle porn on the cover though, Ashby sticks it to such facile corniness with a host of interesting ur-female, neo-feminised, and androgynous characters bucking off much more than this in unsentimental witty fashion.

The vN - von Neumann -androids - reproduce parthenogenetically. Which is sort of like cloning, but it's not just repetition, it's reiteration. Their offspring, the droids insist, are a step on, the next version. Something similar could be said for the way Ashby has melded all the influences, SFF and otherwise, as she rollicks along.

Roll on the the second dynasty!

Title: vN: The First Machine Dynasty
Author: Madeline Ashby
Published: 2012
Publisher: Angry Robot

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

29 March, 2013

How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees [Tim, Central]


  David Rees is an artisanal pencil sharpener. If you send him a pencil, he will sharpen it. For a fee. In a month or so your pencil will be returned to you- perfectly sharpened in one of a number styles, and accompanied by its own shavings, carefully bagged and labelled. You turn to an expert like David Rees to get the ideal point. But for every day use, you can certainly attempt to sharpen your own pencil, as I do. You will get an adequate result a lot of the time, but some of the time it will go horribly wrong and you will experience some terrible frustrations and want to give up. Why is this always going wrong? Why does the point break? Why is it this weird shape? Now, with this book, you can all learn to make the perfect point.
 David Rees takes you through the basics- different types of sharpening equipment, parts of a pencil, proper posture, different points for different occasions through to more advanced techniques like the 'Jimi Hendrix'. This book is fun to read and full of encouragement. As David Rees says -"If you can carve a totem pole with a chainsaw then you can sharpen a pencil".

Title: How to sharpen Pencils
Author: David Rees
Publisher:Melville House

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap : A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Ever dream of giving up the rat race? Of simplifying your life? Stopping everything unnecessary to do only the meaningful?

This inspiring memoir is the work of Wendy Welch, who escapes a lifestyle in which she feels she only “rents in her own skin” and  works a  job in a “snake pit” where there are “all snakes and no ladders”.  Along with her husband, two cats and two dogs she moves into a tranquil Appalachian  mountain town of Big Stone Gap. Here,the couple realise their dream of opening a pre-loved book shop. With not much money at all, very few resources and some ups and downs, they try to set up a new life. Eventually, not only does their business thrive, but they find themselves happily woven right into the heart of this closely knit community.

Written in contemporary, conversational style, the story keeps up a good pace, is packed with warmth and humour and interspersed with lots of lovely quotations from a collection of literary figures past and present.

This book about books will capture your heart, whether you are a bibliophile and believe in the power that books have to bring people together, or are an admirer of those who live with purpose.

If, like me,  you happen to be both, so much the better – read it soon.

Title: The Little Book Store of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book
Author: Wendy Welch
ISBN: 9781250010636
Published: 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library

28 March, 2013

HHhH by Laurent Binet [Biddy, Highland Park Library]

HHhH - an intriguing title! It refers to Reinhard Heydrich, considered by members of the SS to be the brains behind Himmler- "Himmlers Hirn heist Heydrich" (Himmler's brain is called Heydrich). Also known as "the Butcher of Prague" and "the Blonde Beast" he was considered the most dangerous man in the Third Reich. He became one of Hitler's favourites and promised to deliver the Final Solution to the Jewish problem.

This is a novel with a difference. The author refers to the sources of his research and continually corrects details to ensure historical accuracy. Throughout the book he conducts a narrative discussing the writing of the book and his thought processes defining what he should and shouldn't include. At times he is an onlooker, part of the set of the horrific and, finally, heroic incidents he describes.

The central story is about Operation Anthropoid, the mission of two Czech British-trained soldiers parachuted in to assassinate Heydrich in Prague. Binet teases the reader, beginning the description of the attack several times and then meandering off to side and background issues. At last, it begins and it is a white-knuckle reading experience!

Binet was awared the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier for this, his first novel and it was translated into English in 2012 by Sam Taylor. Anyone interested in the history of World War II should try this unique account of this dark piece of history. I'm glad I did.

Title: HHhH
Author: Laurent Binet
ISBN: 9780374169916
Published: 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

 - Biddy, Highland Park Library

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary by David Sedaris [Zoë, Central City Library]

The first story in this collection is The Cat and the Baboon, and as it happens, you can hear a free sample of David Sedaris himself reading it on the library record for his e-Audiobook Live for your listening pleasure.

And a pleasure it is indeed. Sedaris's accent and intonnation really set the scene if, like me, you find yourself "doing voices" when you read. Which is different than hearing voices, might I add.

This is a perfect commuter collection - the comic illustrations are perfect interludes for the early morning public transport ordeal, and the abbreviated yet satisfying story forms are heaven for a snoozy after-work brain.

Sedaris refers to these stories as his "little fables" and they certainly do fit the format, but that's about where the similarities end. These are stories not for the squeamish. And not for your lunch break! Sedaris packs in everything from vomit-eating, faeces, and AIDS, to eyes being pecked out, and well, other things happening to other body parts.

Sedaris has a steely, coal-black wit, and a superb knack with dialogue and characterisation, but it's a sheer silliness of this collection that did it for me; the perfect light/dark relief.

Sedaris's other recent publications include Me talk pretty one day and Naked, and aside from Live for your listening pleasure, he has another collection of short stories called Holidays on ice.

Title: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary
Author: David Sedaris, Ian Falconer
ISBN: 9781408701669 (hbk.)

Published: 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown

Zoë, Central City Library

27 March, 2013

Pondicherry by Sebastian Cortes [Jonny, Central]

Photographer Sebastian Cortes' stunning collection of photographs from Pondicherry, on the Southern coast of India.

The first part of the book is made up of  what are simultaneously portraits of the person/people and of the buildings built when Pondicherry was a French colony.

Layers of history mingle with modern life: statuettes of Napoleon and Hindu deities sit alongside fax machines and sports bags. The soft insistent light in Cortes' images make the deep, rich colours glow, giving them a vibrant life.

In the second part of the book the photos mix interior and exterior photos exploring the streetlife of the town. Cortes' style here is slightly less formal, occasionally surreal and just as stunning.

The book includes three excellent short essays by different writers reflecting on their impression of Pondicherry.

I had massive problems trying to put the sensation of looking at these photos into words, they really need to be looked at, experienced firsthand. Basically, they made me want to sell my parents and jump onto the next plane to Pondicherry.

Title: Pondicherry
Author: Sebastian Cortés ; essays by Pascal Bruckner, Akash Kapur and Amin Jaffer
ISBN: 9788174368720
Published: c2012
Publisher: Roli Books

 - Jonny, Central City Library

graf/AK by Fraser Munro [Baruk, Onehunga Library]

Graffiti is a transient art form, even more so in the aftermath of the Rugby World Cup 2011 preparations in Auckland. It is unfortunately getting (slightly) harder to stumble on a good piece that hasn't been buffed. Which is why books like graf/AK by Fraser Munro are such a joy.

In this series of photographs taken between 2007 and 2010, Fraser lets the graffiti pieces speak for themselves. As the publisher points out though, he has given them the photographic respect they deserve, accounting for composition, light sources, and time of day. Fraser consciously chooses to photograph graffiti (focus on the name/tag) over street-art, and explains his reasons in a very thoughtful introductory essay. This is interestingly an 'outsider' appreciation of graffiti, as Fraser is not himself a writer, and did not make connections with the artists.

The lack of commentary and the seemingly random layout of the photographs threw me at first, but the more I look through it, the more I enjoy the ability to start at any page and go in any direction. Individual pieces are not labelled with the writer's name, and that makes me focus on appreciating and interpreting the tag in the photograph. On one level this is a quick browse coffee table/bathroom book, but the longer I spend with it I find myself thinking about the pieces photographed, the world of graffiti and (heh) what it all means.

You may also like InForm and Bad Graffiti from the library collection, and the Auckland Graffiti Flickr group.

Title: graf/AK
Photographer: Fraser Munro
ISBN: 9780473221225
Published: 2012
Publisher: Beatnik

- Baruk, Onehunga Library

26 March, 2013

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman [Sam, Remuera Library]

If there were a list of compulsory reading for adults, Thinking, Fast and Slow should be somewhere near the top.  It's so rare to find a book like this - impeccably researched, written by a giant in the field (Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, so he knows what he's talking about here) and above all, eminently readable.

The main focus of the book is decision-making, and the common errors and mistakes that people make when faced with important decisions.  Drawing on an extraordinary body of experimental work conducted over the past fifty years, Kahneman guides the reader through the current understanding of how our minds work - our fast-acting, split-second intuitions, based on prejudice, convenience and handy mental shortcuts, and the slower-acting, logical but fundamentally lazy part of our mental processes that makes considered judgements and does its best to keep our feet out of our mouths at dinner parties. He also gives a fascinating account of the differences between experience and memory, and the lapses in judgement that can result from misunderstanding these aspects of our minds.

This kind of book could be extremely dull, the sort of thing you start reading with the best intentions, but toss aside half-way through chapter two in the face of an impenetrable swamp of jargon. Thankfully, it isn't - Kahneman's writing is clear and engaging, and his examples are always interesting and sometimes fascinating.  He consistently manages to relate abstract and complex concepts to the everyday experience of the reader in a way that encourages active thought and greatly facilitates understanding. This is a book that will surprise you, draw you in, and make you feel smart when you read it on the train.

Title: Thinking, Fast and Slow
Author: Daniel Kahneman   
ISBN: 9781846140556
Published: 2011
Publisher: Allen Lane

 - Sam, Remuera Library

25 March, 2013

Miranda [Laura, Central City Library]

Miranda Hart is fast becoming the second best friend I don't have (Jennifer Lawrence is still in the lead). I have come rather late to the Miranda party, but it's a party I feel everyone should know about and it's one I want to stay at for a very long time. This woman is simply hilarious and her eponymous sitcom is one of the best pieces of comedy to come out of the UK since - I'm going to say it - Fawlty Towers.

Miranda, like Fawlty, is one of few comedic characters who can make me laugh so hard I snort. The show's classic sitcom formula, excellent writing and acting are all refreshing; it's slapstick without being forced, charming without being saccharin, and heartwarming without being vomitous (I'm thinking about the later seasons of Scrubs, here).

The series follows the escapades of Miranda, a 30-something single woman who runs a joke shop with her friend Stevie. She barely tolerates her boarding school friends (including the fabulous Sally Phillips of Bridget Jones fame - she played Bridget's friend Shazzer but Helen Fielding based the character of Bridget on Phillips), avoids her marriage-minded mother, gets herself in and out of sticky situations (often involving the hilarious loss of clothing) and tries to win the heart of chef Gary (played by the lovely Tom Ellis).

If you're feeling a gap in your life with Offspring currently on hiatus, then this will fill the void nicely. Expect to find yourself searching the net for your very own Heather Small face-on-a-stick - or in the very least reaching for Ms Hart's literary work (after you've watched season two, of course). She'll be your new second best friend in no time!

Title: Miranda. Series One [DVD videorecording]
Author: Miranda Hart et al. 
Published: 2011
Publisher: Hopscotch Entertainment

 - Laura, Central City Library

24 March, 2013

Snail Mail my Email by Ivan Cash [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

The subtitle says its all: handwritten letters in a digital world. One man's art project that got crowd-sourced. Nostalgia made possible by the very technology it seeks to circumvent. Nice ironies, and pushing the envelope, if only gently.

What marks out many of these letters is the accompanying illustrations. A massive squad of "letter artists" had the task of taking somebody else's words and turning them into something else, and yet stay the same, stay faithful to the spirit (- which, 'nother irony, was supposed to be absent due to the austerities of email). In any event, you get that fascinating unlikely joinery of word and picture.

The book does a good job of displaying a choice selection of the over 10,000 letters. It's just a pity they left out any sort of commentary. From my flickyflick, for example, I thought it was interesting that most chose to write upbeat even cheesy stuff, like a whole pizzas worth. I admire the sentiments, if not the verse. (Come on people, where's the inspired hate?)

Still I liked many. Take this one, accompanied by a bear-ogling pie wedge:

"Bear, I am more than blessed to have you in my life. Love, Pie"

Which is cute, funny, and the more you think about it, kind of dark. (Ok, maybe you have to see the expression wedged on the pie.)

Title: Snail Mail my Email: Handwritten Letters in a Digital World
Author: Ivan Cash
ISBN: 9781402273827
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

23 March, 2013

Pinfluence by Beth Hayden [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I have recently become quite addicted to Pinterest and love finding great images to save and "keep", it's really fun. As Pinterest is the fastest growing social media platform out there, it seems that I am not the only one with this obsession. I always love learning how things work and like looking at these phenomena from a business perspective, so I read "Pinfluence" by Beth Hayden, a marketing and social media expert. The book explains the best methods for this fascintating world to attract more customers to your business.

I quickly learned that using Pinterest for business purposes is quite different to pinning for fun as a personal user would. Hayden herself acknowledges that without a strategy in place, using Pinterest would be a big waste of your precious working time. But if done right, you can turn customers into loyal fans, easily direct them back to your website and have your followers continue to advertise for you for a long time after pinning yourself. No other community on the net is as ready to buy products as Pinterest users, so all this sounds like marketing heaven for businesses. Therefore Hayden puts a lot of effort into explaining the most useful techniques and tricks in a way that even applies to beginners. She does a great job of giving you the best ways of staying on track so that you don't get lost and distracted with all those tempting images out there and instead focus on your own work, customers and ideas. For example, it is much more useful to pin your own images (vs. repinning) therefore injecting fresh content into the stream and to have outstanding images to show off your ideas.

I loved Hayden's straight forward approach with easy to follow examples and ideas that can easily be adapted. Her thorough research covered a wide variety of issues and gives a great overview of Pinterest. I believe it's a great guide for venturing out and trying this amazing new tool to gather customers and connect with them in a fun, playful way. The book could even help users who only use Pinterest for fun with the aim to grow their following, so if you like the new social world, open up an account, read this and get pinning!

Title: Pinfluence
Author: Beth Hayden
ISBN: 9781118393772
Published: 2012
Publisher: Hoboken, N.J.

 - Ina, Mt Albert Library

21 March, 2013

The Girl Below by Bianca Zander [Doris, Central City Library]

syndetics-lcMarch is New Zealand Book Month so I thought I would review a book written by a New Zealand author.

The Girl Below is about 28-year-old Suki Piper, after the death of her mother she travels from London to New Zealand to be with her father. She remains in New Zealand for 10 years before finally returning to London and her childhood home again.

Suki finds herself becoming the caretaker for Peggy, the woman who lived above her family when she was a child. Peggy still lives in the same house. She finds herself getting involved in Peggy’s live and her dysfunctional family. Suki finds herself drawn to the 16 year old grandson and has an odd relationship with him (looking at the age difference).

The book is partly psychological and I could certainly tell that Suki has got issues. She is depressed and has no direction for her future. Something happened to her when she was a child and Suki needs to work this out. It also has got supernatural elements in it, which gives the story another level.

I am not sure if I liked the supernatural part of the book and I thought the ending was a bit disappointing but I certainly enjoyed the different style of writing.

Title: The Girl Below
Author: Bianca Zander
Published: 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

 - Doris, Central City Library

19 March, 2013

Give Me Tomorrow by Alex Katz [Claire, Central City Library]

Alex Katz is one of my favourite contemporary American painters.Now age 85 he is still prolific and producing 'modern art" that is extremely relevant.

This publication accompanies his retrospective exhibition held recently at Tate St. Ives and Turner Contemporary Galleries in England with a particular emphasis placed upon paintings he's made in his seaside home of Lincolnville, Maine where he has spent summers for the last 50 years.

Plenty of quality colour plates are accompanied by 3 new essays and a 20 question interview with Katz to give us new insight into the painter's thoughts and techniques. This is a great read for painters but will also be of interest to anyone who enjoys art and contemporary painting.

I love the freshness,the 'brand-newness', the colours and spontanaeity of Katz's paintings. The subject matter is friends and family and nature. Using sweeping brush movements he captures the essential elements of a scene in a style that reminds me of advertising or billboards. I love the way they are so'American'. Usually painted in one session, they are gestural and direct and very 'of the moment'.

Katz takes style seriously. Style is all about attention to detail. He says "Style is the content of my painting, and style belongs to fashion."

My favourite quote in this book is by Marshall McLuhan - "Poets and artists live on frontiers. They have no feedback, only feed forward. They have no identities. They are probes. The job of the artist is to respond to things at their very moment: - to witness their significance - perhaps unconsciously - even before we understand what that significance may be."

Title: Give Me Tomorrow
Author: Alex Katz
ISBN: 9781849760409
Published: 2012
Publisher: Tate Publishing

 - Claire, Central City Library

The Child Thief by Dan Smith [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

"In the snow, death is not the coldest thing waiting for you" states the subtitle of this book. It certainly is a chilling story with plenty of suspense and tension.

Luka is an ex-soldier who lives in a small village in the Ukraine. The year is 1930, between the World Wars and right in the midst of forced collectivism where Soviet soldiers raided villages and sent the inhabitants to work camps. Luka’s village has so far managed to avoid the clearings but the villagers are suspicious of any strangers.

Returning from hunting one day, Luka and his twin sons see a man dragging a sleigh. On the sleigh are the mutilated bodies of two children. The man dies before he can reveal what happened.

When Luka’s niece goes missing, he, his sons and his brother-in-law set off into the countryside to find her. They realise they are following a cunning killer and Luka has to rely on all his skills to keep them alive.

Told in Luka’s voice, the story moves along at a quick pace and is very descriptive. I read quite a few thrillers and this did not disappoint. I especially liked the way it was set in a place and time I know little about, and delves into the character's minds as well as describing their actions .

A scary, engrossing read.

Title: The Child Thief
Author: Dan Smith
ISBN: 9781409142614
Published: 2012
Publisher: Orion Books

 - Kathy, Birkenhead Library

Tenth of December by George Saunders [Gareth, Central Library]

I was pleasantly surprised to see two of my favourite authors - Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen - supplying quotes for the cover of this collection of short stories. It is great to see George Saunders being raised into this milieu of writers, since he is a satirist with a similar ability to present serious subject matter with humour and gusto. His vision is darker and more warped than the two afore-mentioned writers, so it may not be for everyone, but his fiction shows a path forward from new fiction - managing to be essential to the current moment.

His work also manages the difficult feat of both attempting to push the boundaries of fiction while, at the same time, remaining very readable. In this sense, he is the natural inheritor of writers such as John Barth and Donald Barthelme.

In one story, he describes a lower-middle-class family trying to keep up with their rich neighbours by purchasing a set of foreign orphans to put on display in their yard. The tale is just as peculiar as it sounds, but is laid out in such a convincing, informal voice that the reader is carried through to its eerie conclusion.

Title: Tenth of December
Author: George Saunders
ISBN: 9780812993806
Published: 2013
Publisher: Random House

 - Gareth, Central City Library

18 March, 2013

The Mighty Boosh (e-audiobook of radio show) [Gareth, Auckland Central Library].

Click image to view full cover
The Mighty Boosh started as a cult live show, before going on to achieve widespread acclaim as a quirky television comedy (available on DVD through the library). However, the item I want to talk about in this post is the radio show that came in between. The radio version provides a great representation of the witty patter and oddball musical numbers that made the Mighty Boosh such a massive crossover hit. At the heart of the show is wannabe pop star, Vince Noir, and his side-kick Howard Moon (who often gets offside with Vince, due to his love of experimental jazz). The pair work at a zoo, which gives them the opportunity to come into contact with a weird array of characters including Bollo (a table-tennis playing gorilla), Bob Fossil (the scheming zoo owner), and the mysterious 'Spirit of Jazz."

Many of the stories weren't transferred across to the television show so these episodes will be new to even those who are longtime watchers of the Boosh. The other bonus of the audio show is that it features an interview with the main writers/performers, Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding.

All six episodes of the radio show are available as one package through the library's Downloadable Media service. This just one of the great BBC produced shows that you can access through this service. Others include - Stephen Fry's history of the cellphone, The Little Britain radio show, and a Dr Who documentary about the latest incarnation of the show.

Title: The Mighty Boosh
Authors/Performers: Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding
ISBN: 9780297859383
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd, AudioGO Ltd

 - Gareth, Central City Library

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

The Crown is an enjoyable historical thriller set during the  time of the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII's reign. It contains danger, intrigue, prophecy and interesting historical detail and is the story of a Dominican novice, Sister Joanna Stafford, who must find the legendery crown of long-dead, Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan to gain the release of her father from the Tower of London. The crown is a religious relic believed to bestow power on anyone of Elizabethroyal blood who possess it and it is sought by more than one party. In the background Dartford Priory, Sister Joanna's convent, faces the threat of closure by Henry VIII's commissioners who are also after the crown. Catharine of Aragon, Bishop Gardiner and the Duke of Norfolk are secondary characters in the story and the routine of medieval monastic life is an integral part of it, as is the religious turmoil of the time.

Interestingly, the author is descended form a French Protestant who emigrated to America in 1661 to escape religious persecution. She has recently published a sequel called The Chalice (which has just arrived in Auckland Libraries) so Sister Joanna's story does not end with The Crown. You can read more about the author and her two books on her website: http://www.nancybilyeau.com/

While there is some Dan Brown-like fantasy in the story, the historical content makes it more like books by Elizabeth Chadwick or Philippa Gregory.

Title: The Crown
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
ISBN: 9781409133063
Published: 2012
Publisher: Orion

 - Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson [Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library]

Lost at Sea is an anthology of dozens of British journalist Jon Ronson's articles on eccentrics and bizarro happenings. It is hilarious. Read it.

Ronson has a gorgeously humble way of ingratiating himself with people or companies usually inaccessible to us lay-people (for instance Robbie Williams, inventors of the most human-like robots, fancy car company Aston Martin...), gaining unprecedented access to them. He is both genuinely interested in, and comically baffled by the behaviour and beliefs of some of his subjects, walking a fine line between jounalism and satire.

He trawls through the late Stanely Kubrick's obsessive collections, chats with robots, and meets the parents of psychic so-called Indigo Children.

In an attempt to retrace a classic road trip taken by James Bond through France, Ronson finds himself constipated rather than indulged after eating, meal for meal, the diet prescribed by the Bond book. Instead of a lusty companion named Tilly, his is a burping photographer named Dave who has little patience for Ronson's enthusiam at the Aston Martin's iPod plug.

When pop star Robbie Williams is off to a conference for UFO believers, Ronson comes along for the ride, engaging with Williams and conference speakers with a seemingly open mind, all the while asking the questions we want him to ask.

Ronson manages to observe the most fascinating phenomena in our world in a terrifically deadpan, folksy manner, leaving me informed, impressed, and in fits of laughter.

Title: Lost at sea : the Jon Ronson mysteries
Author: Jon Ronson
ISBN: 9781447222576
Published: 2012
Publisher: London : Picador

 - Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]

I came across The Night Circus when I was doing my writing challenge for NaNoWriMo. Erin Morgenstern had written a really good pep talk for the rest of us and it made me curious about her own novel. What I discovered was my favourite book of 2011, and I still haven't read another book as good yet!

The Night Circus is a magical realist story about two young magicians, Celia and Marco, trained from a young age to take part in a magical duel. The night circus itself is at one and the same time the vehicle for their duel, and the most spectacular and unusual circus the world has ever seen. What their mentors hadn't counted on, however, was that they might fall in love. Celia and Marco's competition transforms into an expression of their unrequited love through feats of magic more poignant and breathtaking with each move in the game.

However, the terms of the game were never fully explained to them, and when they realise that they are meant to duel to the death, their game becomes a race to unwit the men who had tried to bind them to their fate.

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
ISBN: 9781846555237
Published: 2010
Publisher: Doubleday

- Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

16 March, 2013

Injustice (DVD) [Judy, Orewa Library]

The handsome actor on the cover of Injustice is James Purefoy and, as criminal defence barrister William Travers, he is in turmoil. Faced with a moral dilemma of his profession i.e. the possibility that his client is guilty, he's struggling.

I am always drawn to the criminal law genre, and I was especially interested when I saw this one was written by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is extremely popular in the library as a teen and children's author and now I've discovered he's been a writer for popular television series including Midsomer Murders and Foyles War.

Injustice was shown in five episodes on British TV,  but I'm glad I didn't have to wait for the next instalment because I became so involved that I watched the whole 224 minutes in one sitting. The story is full of twists and turns with courtroom scenes and murders. I can confidently recommend it to fans of this genre.  It will keep you entertained for an evening or two, or better still, put aside a lazy afternoon and get the popcorn out.

Title: Injustice DVD
Published: 2012
Publisher:Anchor Bay Entertainment
Note: R13

- Judy, Orewa Library

A Letter To My Dog by Robin Layton [Sue W Central City]

This lovely little gem hit the bookstores just before Christmas 2012, perfect timing when you are searching for the gift for someone whose dog is a cherished part of the household. This a lovely little book, an ode to our canine friends and the love they bring into the lives of their humans. It is saved from the schmalz factor by great photography, quirky angles and the hilarious facial expressions of the stars of the books. No easy feat, given that animal photography is saturated with cutie cutie pictures that all take on the mantle of sameness. no bows and baskets here. The letters themselves are heartfelt and humorous, as much about acknowledging the less than endearing qualities as well as the big personalities of the dog in question.

Author: Robin Layton
ISBN: 9781452114422
Published: 2012
Publisher: Chronicle

 - Sue W, Central City Library

15 March, 2013

Homeland Series 1 DVD [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Gripping. I promised myself that I would never, ever use the word gripping in a review. Then again, I promised myself since the first Iraq-American War for Dependence that I wouldn't watch any of the inevitable mongerings about it or its sequels (Somalia, Afghanistan, etc). Well, I have; and it's gripping. Gripping.

Not that I don't have a few gripes, mind. I mean, is it just me, or is there something preposterous about the premise? Would it really take terrorists years to plot an attack in America? Kids there seem to do it fairly regularly, and they don't have global networks, millions of dollars, or a cunning plan. Perhaps one of the really interesting things this series accidentally does then, is make one wonder why it hasn't happened.

One thing for sure, it's not because the various security agencies are entirely awesome. Their rivalries seem to be an emergent property of their natures: secret, elite, bureaucratic. Then there's the politicians..

Not that 'Homeland' is about terrorism really. More the spectre of it. (Well, not quite.)  Still, there is a lot of personal and family drama here, but it's good stuff -  and it fits in and feeds off the larger themes, so it all resonates quite grippingly.

Perhaps what makes the series truly gri- addictive is that when you get down to the level of characters the whole good-bad, nice-awful distinctions are wretchedly entangled, yet still tempt one into thinking you can tease them out if you just pay  close  enough  attention..

Title: Homeland Series 01 [DVD]
Released: 2012
Publisher: Fox

14 March, 2013

Nancy Wake: A Biography of Our Greatest War Heroine 1912-2011, Peter FitzSimons [Jacqui, East Coast Bays Library]

I am not a history buff. I did not choose this book deliberately as part of any research; in fact (I’m ashamed to admit) I had never heard of Nancy Wake before I picked the book up.

But boy, I'm glad I did!

It tells the fascinating story of New Zealand born Nancy Wake’s life: her progression from nurse, to journalist, to member of the French Resistance and ultimately to the top of the Gestapo’s ‘most wanted’ list.

This book has all of the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster, with lots of drama, plenty of suspense, and even a bit of romance. It’s fast-paced and exciting, so if you're a fan of biographies, interested in the Second World War, or just looking for a thumping good read, then this is the right choice for you.

Title: Nancy Wake: a biography of our greatest war heroine 1912-2011
Author: Peter FitzSimons
ISBN: 9780732295257
Published: 2011, revised and updated 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

-Jacqui, East Coast Bays Library

11 March, 2013

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne [Ana, Central Library]

An English couple, David and Jo Henniger, are driving through the Moroccan Desert to the house of their friends Richard Galloway and Dally Margolis. They live in a magnificent retreat, a huge and beautiful place with multiple swimming pools and many servants.  They are holding a luxurious party where there will be delicious food and anything the guests could possibly want.

On the way there, two local boys selling fossils by the side of the road (as they do in Morocco) appear suddenly in front of their car, and David,  who has been drinking,  runs over one of them and kills him. With no emergency services available, David and Jo take the body of the boy in their car and continue to the party.

The local Moroccans are already outraged by the disgusting goings-on of the foreigners -“the infidels” - who drink too much, take drugs, and frolic naked in the pool. Now one of them has appeared at the party with the body of a young Moroccan, and the police, who were called, have come, gone away again, and done nothing.  The foreign infidels can get away with murder because they have money.

This is the thrust of the novel - the story of two cultures which clash with each other. But this is a very complex novel which also describes the failing marriage between David and Jo. The story is beautifully written in a very unsentimental way; all the characters are very human and flawed. The atmosphere is very tense, full of resentments and hatred and guilt; while in the background the party goes on. I loved reading it and I enjoyed the setting of the novel - I’ve always been fascinated by the desert.  The end is a surprise. I recommend this book to everybody who loves good books, and to book clubs because it offers so much to discuss.

Title: The Forgiven: A Novel
Author: Lawrence Osborne
ISBN: 9780307889034
Published: 2012
Publisher: Hogarth

 - Ana, Central City Library

The Next Day by David Bowie [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

This album is out March 11, and already the waiting list is drumming its fingers ziggily. Okay, I've only heard the two singles that have been released, Where Are We Now and  The Stars (Are Out Tonight), but hey that's more than many full albums deliver - so its so worth talking about already! alrighty?

First thing I note as a mere consumer (cf a critic) is how this album's come out in a way that means I've seen it as much as heard it. (Ok, now, I know its on itunes.) It's curious to have youtubelets shaping ones perception. For examples, there seems to be rather long lead times into the actual singing, and a lot of story-building going on, which is gotten away with because its a video first.. Then again maybe Bowie was always a bit of a dog-and-pony pantomime on Mars type of guy.

Actually the big visual hit is indeed Bowie himself: still a long thin space oddity, though time has told: now he's a card-carrrying cardy-wearer. Yes, he's aged. Obviously being out of the limelight is not good for the skin. It's no suprise then, that this is what infuses the music. Sombre, bleak, melancholic, wistful - pick your adjective. The androgynous new neighbours in 'The Stars' are reminiscent of his old young self, hyper and alien, overwhelming his quiet codgerly life.

Perhaps it's a bit daft having Bowie pretend he's ordinary, but I suppose the converse would be insufferable. Anyway, the music's the thing. Looking forward to the full album's release.

Title: The Next Day
Author: David Bowie
Publisher: Columbia, 2013.

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

09 March, 2013

Big Bang Theory Season 5 [Rochelle, Howick Library]

The Big Bang Theory Season 5 DVDRip XviD-DEMAND
Season 5 shows Sheldon and Amy taking their relationship to the next level, Leonard and Penny giving their relationship another go, Howard making that final step that will take him to the new frontier and Raj still all alone. This season follows on from the dramatic cliffhanger from Season 4 where everyone was kept wondering whether the dynamics between these 4 geeky friends will ever be the same.

To be honest, I did not find Season 5 as funny as hell compared to the previous 4 episodes. Admittedly, it is funny to see Sheldon make sense of bringing his relationship with Amy to the next level. His awkwardness of trying to live up to the ideals of being a boyfriend is at times both painful and funny to watch. As to the other three nerdy guys, they weren't funny at all most of the times. The interaction between Penny and Sheldon which, for me, generates the most laugh out loud moments in the show was seriously lacking in this season.

Mind you, this is the funniest sitcom to have come out since Friends. I still love it though, even after this disappointing season. Maybe I will just have to play Sheldon's “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” when deciding if I want to watch this season all over again.

Title: The Big Bang Theory (Season 5)

 - Rochelle, Howick Library

Journalism by Joe Sacco [Stanley, Ranui Library]

An accomplished comic artist and journalist, Sacco’s latest collection focuses on what he is known for – stark portrayals of people living in areas of conflict. Taking Robert Fisk’s maxim that “reporters should be neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer”, he casts a critical eye on situations as varied as a war crimes tribunal in the Hague, the second Gulf War in Iraq, and the plight of the under classes of rural India.

His piece on Malta offers an unsettling look at his homeland from the perspective of an expatriate. Treated as an outsider, locals speak openly in Maltese – while unaware he understands their every word. This offers him an inside glance at their perspectives on the thousands of refugees that come to their tiny island every year. In “Down! Up!” we see the archetypal ultra-staunch Marine drill sergeant putting hapless Iraqi recruits through their drills; I found this intense clash of cultures uncomfortable to read, and equally hard to put down.

Like his previous books Palestine, and Safe area Goražde, he illustrates most of these articles in a realistic and highly-detailed black and white pencil style. I find this an appealing way to get into the stories, without needing to read overly-detailed descriptions of unfamiliar places and people.

I’d recommend this for any readers interested in politics, social justice or world news.

Title: Journalism
Author: Joe Sacco
ISBN: 9780805094862
Published: 2012
Publisher: Metropolitan Books

 - Stanley, Ranui Library

08 March, 2013

History's Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them by Stephen Weir [Christine, Takapuna Library]

Some history books cover a small incident in great detail; this is not one of them.  It takes the broadest sweep possible from Adam and Eve with the first bad choice to eat forbidden fruit to the corporate greed that bought down Enron and severely dented the U.S. economy in 2001. There are many disasters were caused by British individuals or the War Office, but greed, sloth and pride are by no means vices limited to English-speaking people. Mao's Great Leap Forward for instance led to the starvation of upwards of 30 million Chinese as they endeavoured to make steel in homemade furnaces rather than tending to their crops. Each 3 or 4 page entry starts with naming the main culprit, the damage done and the vices or misplaced virtues that are responsible. Well-intentioned blunders, such as the introduction of rabbits to Australia or the use of Thalidomide to alleviate morning sickness, become monumental damage. Each incident is well-told with coloured illustrations and appropriate maps. Human fallibility and veniality abound!

Title: History’s Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them
Author: Stephen Weir
ISBN: 978171960518
Published: 2005
Publisher: Pier

 - Christine, Takapuna Library

07 March, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion [Aimee, Howick]

I enjoyed this book so much that I kind of hate Isaac Marion.  It’s quite petty really, but I wanted to write a human-zombie love story!  *shakes fist*  My best friend and I had been tossing ideas back and forth for ages.  It was an epic plan: one which would result in riches, glory, and cabana boys.  But alas, due to general laziness and half-heartedness, it wasn’t to be.  So yeah.  BOO-URNS to you, Marion.  But also, yay to you, because I really liked this story.

The idea of a zombie falling in love with anyone sounds silly, but the tweaks he made to the typical zombie archetype made it work.  ‘R’ looks and acts like a zombie but has it going on upstairs.  He may eat brains, but he also has brains (yeah, that happened).  He’s a very likeable and well-rounded character.  After he meets Julie, he begins to realise that he really doesn’t want to be dead.  This new lease on life evolves in a surprising way.  Feeling sympathy for a zombie horde is a weird reading experience.  Marion imagines the extreme loneliness felt by zombies and creates some un-dead characters that I could really empathise with.  He also threw in some laughs which is always good value when zombies are involved.

The fact that the movie adaptation is out next month is another good reason to pick up the book.  I saw Nicholas Hoult demonstrate his zombie run on Graham Norton – should be worth a watch.

Title: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion
ISBN: 9780099583820
Published: 2010
Publisher: Vintage Books

 - Aimee, Howick Library

06 March, 2013

BBC History Magazine [Annie, Central City Library]

I've become a recent convert to the BBC history magazine. As I history fan, the only issue I have is that it has, for some unknown reason, taken me a while to cotton on to this treasure.

Each issue is full of wonderful things: educational articles, entertaining columns, erudite letters, and engaging book reviews. The reviews are so marvellous, that I end up with an ever-growing request list by the end.

Thanks to recent issues of the magazine, I'm now waiting to read:

  • Secret days: code-breaking in Bletchley Park by Asa Briggs
  • The woman reader by Belinda Jack
  • Shieldwall by Justin Hill - yes, they review historical fiction, too
  • Winter king: the dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
  • The day parliament burned down by Caroline Shenton
  • Azazeel by Yousef Ziedan, translated by Jonathan Wright
  • Surnames, DNA, and family history by George Redmonds, Turi King, and David Hey
  • Tower: an epic history of the Tower of London by Nigel Jones

  •  And, that's only part of the list! (I do hope to read them all, too...)

    They even have a travel column, writing a travel guide to a particular place and time like Bahamas in 1718 (March 2012 issue) with a sidebar about the place today.

    One of the most interesting regular features is the 'World news in context' which, as you'd imagine, looks at the historical background to a current issue, like the relationship between Jersey and Britain (September 2012).

    There's often fascinating extras on their website, historyextra, linked to articles. By which I found out that there's a high chance I would have been persecuted as a witch during the witch trials... (December 2012 issue). (Take the witch quiz yourself and see how you'd have fared.)

    If you like history, then try this magazine out. You, too, will probably become a fan.

    Title: BBC History Magazine
    Publisher: BBC Worldwide

    - Annie, Central City Library

    04 March, 2013

    The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski [Sam, Mount Roskill Library]

    Danielewski is an author that polarises opinion amongst my friends. Some, like me, enjoy the coloured fonts, weird formatting and frequent asides, others absolutely loathe his work. One point that we can all agree on though is that his books are always inventive. The Fifty Year Sword does not disappoint on this front; the story is told in verse by five different characters who are each assigned a different coloured set of quotation marks, and features abstract hand-stitched illustrations. Probably a nightmare to publish, but the end result is well worth it.

    All of this would be a case of style over substance if the content wasn't worth reading though, luckily though the story told is a pleasingly tense and spooky one. A kind of scary campfire story for grown-ups about a sword that always cuts, but only damages the victims after their 50th birthday. It's a short book, many of the 284 pages are blank or feature only a few words, but one full of gripping atmosphere. Try it, you'll either love it or hate it, but either way you'll remember it.

    Title: The Fifty Year Sword
    Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
    ISBN: 9780307907721
    Published: 2012
    Publisher: Pantheon Books

    - Sam, Mt Roskill Library

    The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood [Biddy, Highland Park]

    Set in Cambridge and Grantchester, an area steeped in the history of poets and scholars, this novel first caught my attention as the blurb recommended that it would appeal to fans of Ian McEwan of whom I'm a great fan. It did indeed remind me of Ian McEwan's style although I feel that Benjamin Wood has some way to go before he reaches the level of accomplishment McEwan exhibits as a wordsmith.

    The reader is quickly drawn into the lives of two generations of fascinating characters. Oscar Lowe, brought up on an urban estate escapes to the privileged community of Cambridge where he finds pleasure in the music, culture and literacy of his surroundings despite working as a care assistant in a local nursing home. All this changes dramatically when he falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a Cambridge medical student , becomes part of her circle and is introduced to their world of indulgence.

    This book explores several themes, two being the fine line between sanity and madness and the role of hope versus faith in the modern world. It is packed with intriguing characters, the most compelling being Iris’ brother, Eden, a musical prodigy with delusions of grandeur, convinced that he is able to use his music to heal people with terminal illnesses. The plot develops when Herbert Crest, an elderly eminent psychiatrist, agrees to allow Eden to treat him for his brain tumour. This enthralling story of psychological suspense spirals towards a shocking conclusion guaranteed to leave the reader with plenty to think about. Highly recommended.

    Title: The Bellwether Revivals
    Author: Benjamin Wood
    ISBN: 9780857206954
    Published: 2012
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster

     - Biddy, Highland Park Library

    Too Good To Be True: A Memoir by Benjamin Anasta [Emma, Central City Library]

    Imagine your mother's therapist hanging a sign around your neck saying "too good to be true".   Not a recipe for success...but the story ends happily -  with publication of this book, which must have been a great help (financially, recognition-wise, self-esteem-wise) to Benjamin Anastas.
     He started writing in desperation – broke, nothing published for years, marriage ended, trying to be a good father, hiding the extents of his debt from his lovely new (but not infinitely patient) girlfriend.

    I was struck by the feeling that Anastas had no idea when he began where this book was going to end up.  This made me reflect how when I read most books I feel like the authors have planned them - thought of a story, characters, a beginning and ending.  But this book really felt like a writing of the present time as it unfolded, and I found this incredibly compelling - what would he do next I kept asking myself? 

    This book really was an exploration of the things that had happened in Anastas’s past as the clock ticked over his present and he reflected on what really does matter - such as his young son's happiness.

    It could have read like a public kind of therapy, but Anastas brought humour to his story and he was incredibly buoyant through all the hard times.   The redemption of this book is I think because his frank telling revealed the lighter side of things that could otherwise be truly dreadful.  I wonder how his present fares now…I hope heaps better!

    Title: Too Good To Be True: A Memoir
    Author: Benjamin Anastas
    ISBN: 9780547913995
    Published: 2012
    Publisher: New Harvest, Boston

     - Emma, Central City Library

    03 March, 2013

    Gold Digger by Frances Ffyfield [Joyce, New Lynn Library]

    In the 1920’s and 1930's the genre of crime was a whodunit puzzle and  presented as a sort of intellectual exercise and the pleasure for the reader was solving that puzzle. The solving of the crime or mystery is still at the heart of the detective story but like all forms of entertainment this has evolved and today and with the uncertainties of the modern age the whodunit is more a psychological exercise.
    The  unimaginatively titled   Gold Digger  by Francis Ffyfield's has this psychological element and her understanding of the way people behave when jealousy and resentment power their actions is insightful and the liveliness and range of her characters is a key factor.  Set in the  quiet seaside town of  Deal Kent, quaint streets and houses the only reminder of its long history, it is the story of a spring autumn relationship and a family at war. A family who don't worry about lying and the emotional blackmail they inflict on the younger members of the family all with the intention of enriching themselves financially. The plot is developed with a  focus on the location  and characters and when crimes start to be committed, we don’t notice a shift in gear. The twists in Gold Digger are not only did she do it, was it an accident or a natural death there is the issue of an earlier disappearance.
    I have to admit Francis Fyfield was not always on my radar of authors  though I had  read some of her earlier Helen West series and  I will be looking again at the catalogue. 
    Described as the natural successor to P D James and Ruth Rendell, Fyfield worked as a solicitor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK so she has a wealth of knowledge in relation to the ordinary everyday elements that contribute to a crime and are part of the job of a prosecuting solicitor

     Awards include the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger in 2008 , the Edgar Award and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policiere's International Category.

    Title: Gold Digger
    Author: Frances Fyfield
    ISBN: 9780751549669
    Published: 2012
    Publisher: Sphere

    Joyce, New Lynn Library