30 April, 2013

End This Depression Now! by Paul Krugman [Clare, Massey Library]

We are all very aware of government policies both here and overseas which are dealing with the ongoing financial crisis. This book is an excellent and easy read which looks at the issue in-depth and gives us an idea of what the consequences may be for the future.

Paul Krugman is a world-renowned economist who is at present Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, has written 20 books and writes op-ed pieces for newspapers such as the New York Times. You could say he knows a thing or two.

The Global Financial Crisis started in 2007-2008 and Paul Krugman was one of those who warned about its possibility. In this book, he explores how it came about and examines how the world's banking system and politicians are dealing with it. He explains in layman's language the dangers and consequences we may have to face in the future as a result of the global belief that austerity is the way to fix the crisis.

Title: End This Depression Now!
Author: Paul Krugman
ISBN: 9780393088779
Publisher: W W Norton
Published: 2012

 - Clare, Massey Library

28 April, 2013

Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone by Johnny Ramone [Aimee, Howick Library]

Johnny Ramone is one of my all-time guitar heroes.  I aspire to play Ramones songs as expertly as him (seriously - nobody wants to hear my excruciatingly slow version of Do You Wanna Dance).  But when I heard of this posthumous autobiography, I realised I knew nothing about him as a person.  It turned out to be a rather interesting and illuminating read.

Turns out, yeah, he was a hard nut.  But a lot of that was necessary.  Without Johnny being the tough guy the other band members tended to flake out a bit.  What disillusioned me a little at first was learning he viewed the Ramones as a business.  Of course the art of making awesome music was incredibly important to him, but he also wanted them to be successful.  The more I read though, the less I cared about that.  If he hadn’t pushed everyone along they may not have become the great, influential band that fans know and love.  What it really came down to was a strong work ethic and an idealistic goal to be the best.

The constant theme in this book is his brutal honesty.  It seems partly because he was a straight-talking guy, and also maybe because he knew he was dying and therefore just didn’t care what anyone thought?  Whatever.  He seemed like a guy who cherished his loved ones, and was truly cool to the fans.  And that’s pretty awesome.

Gabba gabba hey!

Title: Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone
Author: Johnny Ramone
ISBN: 9780810996601
Published: 2012
Publisher: Abrams Image

- Aimee, Howick Library

Making and Drawing by Kyra Cane [Joyce, New Lynn Library]

Before working in Libraries I worked in the design industry/education sector and still use my sketch book, aka a visual diary, for reference and development of ideas so I found this book very interesting.

Drawing and Making by Kyra Cane explores the different ways artists use drawing in the creative process of  developing and creating ideas.  

This is  not an instructional “how to book” as it uses interviews with artists to show examples of how the recording of inspirational sources and the development of that idea is the  hidden creative process part of creating an object. 

 Drawing focuses the mind on the subject matter and today is not limited just to paper and pencil, the brief chapter on drawing with technology considers how technology can be part of that relationship of  looking and recording images and I  must admit love my iPad Drawing App.

The book has a feel of the coffee table book with its wonderful visuals and quality paper and I would recommend anyone interested in the design process to borrow this book.  The narrative explains the artist's process and development of the initial idea and  method of working and makes up for the limited, for me, images from some of the sketch books. 

The author Kyra Cane is a successful potter and an experienced art educator and examiner and this book includes examples of her work and also from a broad range of disciplines, artists who all use drawing as a thinking tool and in the planning and development of the finished object.

I don't  want to return this book and as the due date is looming I have bought  my own copy.

Title: Making and Drawing
Author: Kyra Crane
ISBN: 9781408134511
Published: 2012
Publisher: A. & C. Black

 - Joyce, New Lynn Library

27 April, 2013

My Ideal Bookshelf with art by Jane Mount, and edited by Thessaly La Force. [Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library]

Oh hi there. You seem like the kind of person that likes to be recommended books. Right? Or else you wouldn’t be hanging around here, now would you? I have a huge treat for you. A gift, really. There is this book that is full of recommendations. But not just from people like me, your humble small-time librarian, oh no. These book lists come from cool people. Famous people. Writers! Designers! Extreme sports-people! Composers! Artists!

Back the truck up, I hear you say! Okay here it is: Super cool artist Jane Mount had been painting piles of her books for a while and lots of people really liked them, so she kept receiving commissions to paint shelves stocked with her customer’s favourite books. She had the idea to make a book full of these picture-lists, if you will, with each page being dedicated to a different cool person’s most-loved books. Great idea. Thessaly La Force interviewed each participant and Mount whipped up glorious paintings of each well-chosen book shelf.

In the spirit of asking a chef where she goes to eat out, this book gives us a delicious peak into the minds of some of our favourite people. And trust me, there are so many that there are bound to be some of your favourite people in here. Michael Chabon, Kim Gordon, Tony Hawk, Miranda July, and James Franco are included, to name but a few.

What is particularly lovely is to witness each interviewee wax passionate about how much each book means to them and why. We have the life-changing novels, the steadfast companions, and the inspirational tomes. It is great fun to look at the shelves, see the obsessors who couldn’t restrict themselves to just ten books and got greedy, we have the minimalists and those who kinda over-think the whole process. We start to plan our own shelf of books not to be without, we think about why we love them.

NB: Read with pen and paper at the ready - you will want to request a whole lot of books after you are through with this sucker.

Title: My Ideal Bookshelf
Author: Jane Mount, Thessaly La Force
ISBN: 9780316200905
Published: 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

 - Carmel, Mt Roskill Library

26 April, 2013

The Wisdom of My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Grandmothers. We all have their blood running through our veins. This book pays homage to the greatness and goodness of these wonderful women and their importance in our lives. It is a story of two remarkable women imparting wisdom from the past, contemporary enough for their granddaughter of today.

Simple virtues like common sense, hard work, the ability to bear misfortune and belief in the strength of family are some of what this book is about. I would recommend it to those who yearn to incorporate these values in their lives, or who would simply like to be reassured that the traditional values still hold true in these times. I would also encourage you to read it if you have had a special relationship with your grandmother, because you will feel a sense of knowing in some of the rememberences. The author’s truly loving relationship with her two nonnas is evident in her writing, and the “delish” recipes of these resourceful women (featured at the end of the book) are quite good too!

Purely coincidentally, this book has a small connection to my previous pick,  The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, for the reason that  Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and is the author of the best-selling Big Stone Gap novels.

Title: The Wisdom of My Grandmothers: Lessons to Live By, from One Generation of Remarkable Women to the Next
Author: Adriana Trigiani
ISBN: 9780857204226
Published: 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library

24 April, 2013

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell [Zoë, Central City Library]

Karen Russell's second collection of short stories is certainly an uneven read, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. I enjoyed the stronger pieces enough to get over the let-down of what I thought were the weaker ones.

The collection seems oddly titled too; the title story is a delicately written, and (incredibly enough) fresh take on the vampire ouvre. Yet it's nowhere near as memorable as the utterly haunting Proving Up, which is still spooking me out weeks after having read it.

Some of the stories in this collection reminded me strongly of another short story collection I reviewed recently, Kij Johnson's At the Mouth of the River of Bees, in particular, the magical, mythical quality of Reeling for the empire and New veterans.

Russell got more than a few snorts out of me with the witty and cynical Dougbert Shackleton's rules for Antarctic tailgating, while other stories seemed unfinished or unresolved, especially Seagull army descends on strong beach: 1979, in which the complexity of the concept seemed limited by the form.

Overall though, Russell's sheer imaginative force and skillful writing make for a fulfilling read.

Russell also wrote St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Other Stories, and the novel it spawned, Swamplandia!

Title: Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Author: Karen Russell
ISBN: 9780307957238 (hardcover)

Published: 2013
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

 - Zoë, Central City Library

Faction 1 by Damon Keen and Amie Maxwell [Baruk, Birkenhead Library]

Quite simply, I liked this enough to buy my own copy, and that doesn't happen often. Especially not when it is also available for free (legal) download!

Faction 1 is a Kiwi comic anthology, from 14 very different writers/artists. One of the joys of anthologies is the unlikely juxtaposition of very different styles, and Faction does not disappoint. The artwork moves eclectically from Ned Wenlock's bold primary colours, through Damon Keen's delicate shading, or Ralphi's yellowish-greenish-brownish and Karl Wills' detailed black-on-white to Mark Holland's lush painterly style. I can honestly say I enjoyed all the artwork very much.

I enjoyed the majority of the stories, though I must admit some were better than others. It is not easy to achieve a coherent and engaging story in a few pages, and some of the stories seemed to be more suited to a longer telling that would give them the chance to flesh out. It struck me that the stories (even the ones I didn't love) very well matched the artistic style used to tell them.

Faction was created through crowdfunding, and it is nice to see contributors named on the back page (dammit, I missed my chance at fame!). The Faction website has links to individual artist websites, and a free subscription to the (digital) anthology which promises to be released every six months.

If you like anthologies, you may also enjoy Syncopated, an anthology of non-fiction picto-essays. Or not.

And if I sound like a fanboy, that's because I am.

Title: Faction 1
Editors: Damon Keen, Amie Maxwell
ISBN: 9780473228026
Published: 2012
Publisher: 3 Bad Monkeys

 - Baruk, Birkenhead Library

22 April, 2013

Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo [Laura, Central City Library]

It's hard to cook in a tiny kitchen, right? Wrong, according to Rachel Khoo, the stylish cook who defies space and time to whip up food, glorious food galore in her little Paris kitchen.

With red lipstick and a cinched-in waist, Khoo makes French cooking (and living) look like a breeze. Little Paris Kitchen is a wonderful collection of modern French recipes - a bit more sophisticated than Jamie Oliver but thankfully not more complicated. The book is beautifully presented, with photography that makes the food Khoo cooks and the lifestyle she lives seem attractivley within your grasp (follow @rachelkhooks on instagram for more). Surely I could be this stylish living in Mt Eden?

As always, I went straight to the sweet section and made the delicious clafoutis, which would be at home on any dinner party table but made for one or two lasts a while in the fridge - and is great served with yoghurt. Just saying the word 'clafoutis' makes one feel tres chic, non?

If you're after a hip new chef to get behind and are looking for some swish new dishes to whip up for friends (chicken soup with dumplings, anyone?), Khoo could be your next kitchen standby, as well as your next style icon. So go on, put your lippy on and cook up a storm (trench coat and bicycle optional)!

Title: Little Paris Kitchen: Classic French Recipes with a Fresh and Simple Approach
Author: Rachel Khoo
ISBN: 9780718158118
Published: 2012
Publisher: Michael Joseph

- Laura, Central City Library

21 April, 2013

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

I think I annoyed the hell out of my family when I was reading this book, the reason being that I kept on reading aloud to them fascinating titbits that I just had to share.

In this book Bill Bryson takes us through the rooms of his house, a Victorian country rectory that was built in 1851. He uses each room as a starting point to explore the origins of all sorts of things, like toilets, stoves, stairs and lighting, but he gets gloriously side-tracked into all sorts of subjects and meanders from one to another in his usual entertaining way.

Many of the domestic objects are so familiar we don’t think of them at all, but somewhere in history there had to be the first one. Stairs for example didn’t really become used in homes until the fireplace was invented. Before then, when the smoke from a fire just escaped through a smoke-hole, dwellings could only be one story, but once the chimney was invented houses could have more than one level.

Just to name a few subjects covered - the bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on. He looks at gardens, the telephone, premodern surgery, servants, how the Crystal Palace was built. Each new subject brings a new swathe of connections: lighting produces a section on the history of whaling – whale-oil being essential to oil-lamps; fashion leads on to thoughts on string ('the weapon that allowed the human race to conquer the Earth’, one of his sources says: by the time he has finished explaining it, this at-first startling statement seems blindingly obvious).

Yes this book is a bit of a rambling mess but one in which you can find all sorts of nuggets of fascinating info. Read it from start to finish like I did, or dip into it at random, but I challenge you not to read bits of it to whoever is close by.

Title: At Home: A Short History of Private Life
Author: Bill Bryson
ISBN: 9780385608275 (hbk.)
Published: 2010
Publisher: Doubleday

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

Nox by Anne Carson [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Sure, ebooks. Then there's something like this, an item that wants to be even more of a physical object than a 'book.' Here we have one folded sheet of maybe 101 pages welded together, folded up, and boxed. A book-in-a-box then.

Opening it up and splaying it out is like, well, if you're as clumsy and unfamiliar with the format as I am - like removing an intestine. You can work it so you display a series of 'pages'  next to each other, flipping hither and widdershin. It's quite odd to see the front and back side of the same page juxtaposed. It's rather cubistic. I was particularly disconcerted by being able to see the front and the back of the same staple simultaneously. Or more accurately, the image of a staple. Ceci n'est pas un pipe.

Yeah, but what is this 'book' about? Ostensibly its a sort of memorial to the poet's brother. Someone Carson felt strange if not estranged from, so trying to understand and explain him  - to herself as much as anyone - became like an act of translation. Or because she's also a professor of classics, an historical investigation, that necessarily involves a certain amount of deconstructing.. 

I guess it sounds heavy going, but it's not. Actually it's intriguing how it unfolds as she unpacks everything. By the end I found the words all up in the air, and this book more than ever as some thing: a babbling tongue maybe, a black box, an urn.

Title: Nox
Author: Anne Carson
Published: 2010
Publisher: New Directions

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

20 April, 2013

Lawless (DVD) by John Hillcoat [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I'm going to give my verdict right at the start: I believe "Lawless" will become one of these classic outlaw hero movies, it just has everything you want - gripping and believable characters, amazing cinematography, beautiful classic romance and a good dash of gritty violence. Even though the main characters are actually criminals, you root for them straight from the start, and not only because the corrupt authorities are so good to hate.

The story is based on true events, telling of Jack (played by Shia LeBeouf) and his brothers, brewing moonshine in Franklin, Virginia under their legendary name of the "immortal" Brothers Bondurant during the prohibition era. At first things go smoothly, even though Jack feels unappreciated by this older brothers and is looking for a way to fit in, but when the deputy and other authorities want their share of the profits and the Bondurants flatly refuse to play ball, things get messy. Especially Special Agent Charlie Rakes turns out to become a real pain for the brothers as things progress. As a result, Jack wants to prove to himself (and his love interest Maggie) that he can turn the small bootlegging business into something really profitable, despite the odds and a steep learning curve. However, the opposition is not ready to give up and things turn even wilder as both sides try to win the upper hand.

I simply loved the acting in this movie, all the characters have such a strong physical presence and especially Forrest Bondurant, played by Tom Hardy, has real magnetism. On the opposite end of the law we see Guy Pearce bring out another amazing performance as the psychotic and sadistic Rakes and Gary Oldman makes a small but impressive appearance as a dangerous fellow "distributor" of moonshine.

The movie is based on a true story novel The Wettest Country in the World written by Jack's Grandson, Matt Bondurant, and knowing this makes the movie even more compelling. The story was then adapted into the screenplay by no other than Nick Cave (who of course has his hand in the music as well) and so, together with truly atmospheric settings, this movie is a feast all around. Go get the soundtrack as well if you love some good American folk music.

Title:  Lawless (DVD)
Director: John Hillcoat
Screenplay: Nick Cave
Released: 2012

 - Ina, Mt Albert Library

19 April, 2013

The Way the World Works: Essays by Nicholson Baker [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

If you haven't encountered this author before (like me) and are put off by the subtitle "Essays", don't be! This book is a very enjoyable collection of brief and short essays which you can read in your lunch hour or between you favourite television programmes, for instance. The collection gathers together contributions to books and periodicals such as The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Magazine and Harpers Magazine. It is written in a generally light, engaging style but with an underlying seriousness and covers a broad range of topics gathered under the headings Life, Reading. Libraries and Newspapers, Technology and War. Baker is passionate about preserving the printed word and in Take a Look at This Airship, relates the lengths he and his wife went to to rescue the last hard-copy holding of Joseph Pulitzer's defunct newspaper, The World, which was being sold by The British Library in 1999.  He is not anti-IT, however, and writes about using his new Kindle 2 in Kindle 2.  He is also a pacifist, arguing in Why I am a Pacifist that Germany would have accepted an armistice half way through World War II that would have prevented the Holocaust and the millions of other deaths. My favourite is a short piece on Daniel Defoe and Journal of the Plague Year; is it fiction or factual fiction?

According to John J. Sullivan, Baker is "the author of our culture's most explicit literary sex" (NYT Book Review, November 4, 2012, p.14)  but that is not evident in this collection. If you are interested in the craft of writing or like reading essays and newspaper columnists, you will enjoy this book.

Title: The Way the World Works; Essays
Author: Nicholson Baker
ISBN: 9781416572473 (hbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Standing In Another man's Grave by Ian Rankin ( Hilary, Remuera Library)

Rebus is back! Now retired, John Rebus works in a civilian capacity as an investigator of unsolved crimes. He becomes involoved in an investigation into the  disappearances of three seperate girls on the same piece of road. Always the outsider and guaranteed to annoy his superiors, Rebus gets to work on the case using his long established personal networks  and old fashioned bloodhound methods.Persistent and clever, Rebus drives the investigation along to the annoyance of people he has offended over the years.
I especially enjoyed this book because Rankin brings together his Rebus series and his Complaints series.  The author paints the Scottish setting vividly and  the story unfolds with ever increasing momentum. You can't put this down.
record: http://search.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz/?itemid=|library/marc/supercity-iii|b2702875

16 April, 2013

Two Brothers by Ben Elton [Kathy, Collections Orewa]

A clever idea for a plot - two baby boys are born in Berlin on the same day the Nazi party is launched. They are brought up as twin brothers by a Jewish couple. When the expulsion of Jews begins one of the brothers is found to have Aryan blood and is given the opportunity to be spared. Which one will it be?

I had mixed feelings about this book.

It's a good read but fairly light given the subject matter and some of the dialogue didn't seem genuine (like the use of the word 'cozzie' for swimming togs - I think Elton must be spending too much time in Australia!). The descriptions were written using short sentences so it didn't flow well.

However there are some interesting and strong characters, although I never warmed to Dagma, the object of the boy's affection. Descriptions of life in Berlin in pre and post World War II periods were very well done, especially the experiences of the Jewish residents.

There's plenty to keep you guessing. Occasional chapters continue the story of one of the brothers in 1950s London, but we don't find out which brother it is till near the end.

Make sure you read the afterword where Elton explains his family connections that inspired the book.

On the whole, it's well worth reading.

Title: Two Brothers
Author: Ben Elton
ISBN: 9780593062050
Published: 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press

 - Kathy, Collections Orewa

15 April, 2013

Around India in 80 trains by Monisha Rajesh [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]

In this travelogue, Monisha Rajesh, a journalist from London, embarks on a soul-searching voyage around India on 80 trains!! Her journey is somewhat reminiscent of the Jules Verne classic, but instead Monisha concentrates on train-hopping her way around the Indian sub-continent. She is accompanied by a photographer friend of a friend, who she has aptly names 'Passepartout'!! Monisha covers 40,000km journeying up, down and across India, meeting a whole host of colourful and experiencing interesting adventures along the way.

Monisha discovers that the Indian railways - featuring luxury trains, toy trains, Mumbai's famous commuter trains and even a hospital on wheels - have more than a few stories to tell a well as a colourful cast of characters. My personal favourite is where she experiences a compartment full of Telugu speaking office workers who share the same compartment to work every day!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!! After reading Paul Theroux's 'The Great Railway Bazaar', I found Monisha's journey around a modern yet traditional India very enlightening. Monisha makes us part of her own personal journey as she describes the setting of each of the trains she travels on, what she eats and the trials she faces with unsavoury compartment-mates!! She makes us see the country of India with its many religions, customs, strange and wonderful habits and the different people and the way they think and how they behave, through a new set of eyes.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves travelling as much as I do!!

Title: Around India in 80 Trains
Author: Monisha Rajesh
ISBN: 9781857885958
Published: 2012
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey

 - Surani, Waitakere Central Library

Because I Said So! by Ken Jennings [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]

Do you remember all those wise sayings your parents would trot out, usually to tell you why you should, or shouldn't, do something? Ever wondered how many of them were true?

Now, at last, there is the sane voice of reason which can answer once and for all whether you should 'bundle up or catch or cold', 'drink soda to settle your stomach', 'ignore bullies', 'sit further away from the TV', and 'finish your dinner because of those starving kids in Africa'.

This is one of those books you can dip into rather than read cover to cover, you'll find yourself scanning the contents list, and laughing because you remember your parents saying exactly that phrase to you, or (shock, horror) you've said them to your own kids! :-)

Title: Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes down to Its Kids
Author: Ken Jennings
ISBN: 9781451656251
Published: 2012
Publisher: Scribner

- Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

Why I Killed Peter by Olivier Ka & Alfred [Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library]

Despite the sinister title, it starts innocently enough: a seven year old Oliver enthuses over his idyllic summers spent with his grandparents in Belgium. The only negative being his grandmother’s urge to scare the poor kid with stories of a Catholic-themed hell. Be a good boy! Don’t play with your peepee!

Time marches on and we are introduced to Oliver’s hippy, swinging, atheist  parents, whose wide-open minds (and bodies) confuse Oliver more than a little. Finally we meet Peter, the sweet ‘leftist’ priest who invites Oliver to his summer camp and over time makes him feel important and special. The book spans Oliver’s life from the pivotal childhood and teen years to what might be described as the aftermath - twenty-odd years later.

What I particularly enjoyed about this graphic novel was the author's complete honesty about his feelings- it is kind of uncool to admit to one’s vulnerability and the effect that others can have on you. Into the ongoing narrative, Oliver Ka deftly weaves in nostalgic vignettes that perfectly capture the depth of feeling we have as children experiencing so much for the first time.

Without giving the game away, it is important to tell you there are a couple of heart-stopping segments that will have you tearing through the pages to see what happens. We are right in there with Oliver feeling his stress, his anger, his frustration.

Along with the superb storytelling, Alfred’s art style is quite beautiful (similar to one of my favourite cartoonists Michel Rabagliati), and while in places it changes quite drastically (including fuzzy cell phone photographs), there is always an important structural purpose to each style that adds power to the story. A beautiful, heartfelt story, but not without its darkness.

Title: Why I killed Peter
Author: Olivier Ka ; adaptation & art by Alfred ; colour by Henri Meunier
ISBN: 9781561635436
Published: 2008
Publisher: Comics Lit

- Carmel, Mt. Roskill Library

14 April, 2013

The Dinner by Herman Koch [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

An unreliable narrator is so.. reliable. No sooner was I charmed by the wit and the outrageous cynicism, and the good honest this-is-the-way-it-really-is prose, than the cookie started to crumble, big time. That's the conundrum though, innit? For despite realising one can't quite trust what's being read, one must - in order to find out how you are being duped - read on..

Not that there's any cookies here. Plenty of orders though. A couple of couples meet at a posh restaurant.. I'd say more, but the blurb already gives away more detail than you probably want. Right from the start though, it's clear the narrator, one of the diners (Paul, no relation), is put out by the whole event. Weary of the whole artifice of middle-class socialness? Hmm..

Certainly he has a long spiel about restaurants, bookings, waiters, and food - that makes perfect sense in this sense. When he receives yet another absurd fancy dish from the points-with-pinkie waiter "it was the emptiness that was the most striking." Yeah, and no chips. What sort of world is this! It's a metaphor or something.

Chitchat? Coup d'etat? Needless to say, can't really say much. For me, the novel had a final kick - after everything else, I mean. It's a certain kind of realisation, an implication, that a better reader would see was perhaps always there, worming away. Because I'm not certain if I've just imagined it, it's what stays with me. Eats at me, one might say.

Title: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch (translation by Sam Garrett)
ISBN: 9781921758522
Published: 2012
Publisher: Text Pub

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

13 April, 2013

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Mother by Eve LaPLante [Judy, Orewa Library]

I was about 10 years old when I unwrapped what was to be one of the best presents I have ever had - my favourite aunt had given me "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott, and like girls around the world and over different generations, I was mesmerized. I loved this story of the March family (Marmee and her four daughters), and I've never forgotten their joys and tragedies. So when I saw this biography of the author, my inner child awoke and wanted to know Louisa's own story.

Louisa was born into a male-dominated world, with very little chance of a formal education, but her mother was literary and clever, and encouraged her creative daughters. Inspired by the mother she admired and adored, and with a determination to pull the family out of poverty, Louisa became a best-selling author. The greatest pleasure she got from the fame and fortune was seeing her mother with financial security and its comforts at last.

The book is written by Eve LaPlante who is a cousin of Louisa. She had access to documents and diaries previously thought to have been destroyed.

Louisa's story is touching and nostalgic. If you loved Little Women and the rather stroppy Jo, you will love the 'real Jo' (Louisa) - I just know you will.

Title: Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story Of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother
Author: Eve LaPlante
ISBN: 9781451620665
Published: 2012
Publisher: Free Press

 - Judy, Orewa Library

The Gorgle by Emma Fischel [Helen, Waiuku Library]


Gulliver House is the kind of creepy old house that you should be scared of.  But nobody in Finn’s family is – not his sisters, not his mum, no one.  Except for Finn that is.

 Maybe they would be scared if they saw the oddly weird and spookily strange things he’s seeing.  Things that slither and flap and creep.

And then there’s the thing in the wardrobe.  It’s a Gorgle and it’s growing fast.  But nobody believes it exists...

This fast paced book jumps from one surprise to the next.  Not only does Finn have to deal with strange creatures, he has to deal with his two sisters too.  A great funny character for boys to relate to and a story that’s just scary enough...

Title: The Gorgle
Author: Emma Fischel
Illustrator: Peter Cottrill
ISBN: 9781408174135
Published: 2012
Publisher: A. & C. Black

 - Helen, Waiuku Library

With or Without You by Domenica Ruta [Sue W, Central City Library]

syndetics-lc This is a memoir about mother daughter relationships quite unlike any other I have read. Impossible to start and read in measured doses, you will want to keep going in one sitting alternately horrified and fascinated by what the author has to say.

Domenica's mother Kathi, has a  presence that looms elephantine through the book; loud, raucous, living by her own moral code and completely unapologetic about it. Imagine growing up with a mother who teases you about your aversion to drugs, keeps you home from school to watch  movies and repeatedly encourages you to get pregnant while you are at high school so she has a daughter substitute when you are off studying.

What makes this character so complex is that she has love in spades, just a highly unconventional way of expressing it. Sending care packages to her daughter while she was at boarding school, means delivering liberal quantities of perscription only medicine for "stress", encouraging Domenica to crush and snort the pills for better efficacy.

The relationship between the pair is a  complex and entangled web of a perverted and suffocating love and a shocking kind of neglect as well. WIthout a doubt Kathi has a big and courageous heart and her daughter is her greatest achievement, yet she oscillates between a kind of jealous neediness and protective pride.

 I loved this book, it was powerful, larger than  life in so many ways and described growing up in an environment utterly foreign to that most people will be familiar with.

Title: With or Without You
Author: Domenica Ruta
Published: 2013
ISBN: 9780812993240
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

 - Sue W, Central City Library

11 April, 2013

Jackpot DVD [Jo M, East Coast Bays Library]

Do you like your comedy black?  Don’t mind a bit of blood and gore and can read subtitles while still catching what is happening on the screen? 

Then this is the movie for you.  Jackpot is a Norwegian movie, based on a Jo Nesbo story, about four criminals who win big and try to eliminate the other three in order to have the money for themselves.

Thoroughly entertaining and slightly illuminating about your own personality when you find yourself bursting into laughter over a head on display on the sideboard!

(Image courtesy of JB Hi-Fi)

Title: Jackpot
Starring: Kyrre Hellum, Mads Ousdal, Henrik Mestad.
Year: 2011
Rating: R16 - Restricted to persons 16 years and over. NOTE: Violence, offensive language & horror.
Language note: In Norwegian with English Subtitles

 - Jo M, East Coast Bays Library

The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael [Jonny, Central City Library]

Pauline Kael is my favourite film critic and one of my favourite writers. Kael wrote for the New Yorker for 23 years until her forced retirement because of Parkinsons.

Collected here are reviews from Kael's earliest years right through to near the end of her career. This is a small selection, for those enticed by these reviews the library has the much weightier collection 'For Keeps' and also some of the  many other collections from which these reviews are drawn: Movie Love, Reeling and others.

Kael's reviews always surprise me, even when I think I have an idea of what her impression of a film may be, I am often wrong, and she slices through my expectations.  Many times I have gone back to a film and re-examined my ideas after reading her provocative, scintillating words. Even if I don't always agree with her, like all good critics, she forces me to crystallize my ideas about a film or pushes me into new ways of thinking about cinema.

Kael was amongst the first to spot the talent of the '70's Hollywood mavericks, Scorsese, Altman and De Palma and the first to praise kiwi talent in Utu and Smash Palace.
Her influence on film makers is far-reaching too, both Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson have sighted her reviews as a vital influence in their formative years.

Kael never pulled her punches with anyone, even those whose work she had dearly loved in the past were not above reproach. On one of her favourite's and mine, the late Robert Altman, she wrote rapturous responses to his films Nashville and McCabe and Mrs Miller (both reprinted in this collection) and damning reviews for some of his other films.

She examined films on her own terms, she never kowtowed to opinion of film academics, other critic's or popular opinion. She often was at odds with all of the above. She had extremely catholic tastes, she found something to enjoy in big commercial films like E.T.- "It's a dream of a movie a bliss-out", and was open to the more experimental side of cinema, her review of  La Chinoise by one of cinema's boldest artists Jean-Luc Godard, is one of my favourites.

Kael had a far-reaching and deep knowledge of not only film (unfortunately a rarity amongst a lot of critics today) but literature, music and art. All of which she could draw upon and blend into her reviews. I miss her voice in film criticism. I often try to imagine, in vain, what she would have thought of contemporary films, though, I know, she would always confound my expectations as she does repeatedly in this amazing collection.

Title:  The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael
Author: edited by Sanford Schwartz
ISBN: 9781598531091
Published: c2011
Publisher: Library of America

 - Jonny, Central City Library

08 April, 2013

Winter of the world by Ken Follett [Christine Takapuna Library]

You will need some stamina and time to tackle this book.  Follett uses a very large canvas, a large part of the world and over 25 eventful years of the 20th century, and a fine brush for detail work.  Greg an American diplomat  is the half brother of Daisy who is married to a English lord and Nazi sympathiser, and also cousin to Volodya, a Russian who during WWII ran a spy ring in Germany.  These people and numerous others either witness or participate in the events of those days.  Follett was a thriller writer so his narrative is full of verve and action. I learnt why Fascism never gained much ground in Britain and the nature of the Spanish Civil War.  It is a tale of individual heroism and duplicity, the characters are making decisions, moral and practical, changing history as they go along. Magnificent!  

Author: Ken Follett
ISBN: 9780230710108
Published: 2012
Publisher: Macmillan

 - Christine, Takapuna Library

HHhH by Laurent Binet [Ana, Central Library]

What I liked about this book is that it’s not only a thriller and a page turner, but also is very original and entertaining.  It is easy to read because the chapters are basically paragraphs.  HHhH is a mixture of historical fact and fiction, and it’s self-reflective. Binet keeps calling our attention to what he’s doing and doubting, and criticises himself: “I’ve been talking rubbish”. He favours fiction over history because it allows one to be more flexible, but the novel is based on historical fact.

The plot is the assassination of Heydrich, Himmler’s right-hand man and the organizer of “the Final Solution”. He runs the Protectorate of Czechoslovakia in 1942 and is responsible for the murder, or exile to concentration camps, of thousands of Jews.  The assassination is the idea of the head of the Czech government, Benes, who is in exile in London and who needs a coup like this to restore the morale of the Czech people. It takes place at the hands of two heroes: Gabcik, a Slovak, and Kubis, a Czech, both of whom the author admires very much.  They are sent off on a suicide mission and they know that once they are in Czechoslovakia and have done their deed, their chances of escape are minimal. Binet shows that they are not the only heroes though, as many other people pay with their lives for helping and hiding them.

If you are fond of history, and would like to read of this important period, portrayed in an entertaining and appealing way, then this book is for you.

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

 - Ana, Central Library

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Yes, its your worst nightmare: trapped in a library overnight with a librarian who rants at you in one long paragraph for 80 pages about life, love, patrons, books, reading, work. Just like real life really, only usually there are zombies involved.

This novella was a great conceit, (well, I would say that), yet oddly anachronistic in its descriptions of libraries and librarians.  Or maybe Europe is just backward. According to the author bio-blurb Divry "likes aubergines" and -  it doesn't add - but she probably wasn't or isn't, a librarian. That's ok, nobody's perfect, though her unnamed Everylibrarian is a bit typecast: obsessive, compulsive, anal retentive, neurotic, prim, prissy, repressed, shy, embittered, opinionated, liberal to the point of conservative. Gosh, I've never met any staff like that.

Still, Divry nice and slyly works up a carry on about about many things, including an ambiguous relationship to books as both pleasure and menace. Then there was that startling metaphor about the back of the neck of her heart's desire..

It's an accessible book, and by-the-by beautifully produced. It makes a great, if slight, introduction to the idea of a novella It certainly made me want to explore who else could do what with 20,000 or so words. Any suggestions gratefully accepted.

Title: The Library of Unrequited Love
Author: Sophie Divry (translated by Sian Reynolds)
Published: 2013
Publisher: MacLehose Press

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

06 April, 2013

Up Pohnpei by Paul Watson [Stanley, Ranui Library]

Paul Watson had a dream: to play football internationally. After years of playing no higher than at a semi-professional level, he decides to try and become an international player by playing for “the weakest team in the world”. So begins his journey of over 10,000 kilometres to a beautiful and remote Pacific island with a population of 35,000, whose last match was a 16-1 loss against tiny Guam.

Inspiring and a little bit ridiculous, Up Pohnpei is a story of supreme dedication in the pursuit of an outlandish dream. Becoming the manager of Pohnpei at short notice - and with no coaching experience - he and his flatmate Matthew attempt to put together a team from an island who do not even have a league.

It becomes a rewarding comedy of errors at times, as Paul and Matthew face many setbacks, including constant rain, culture shock, logistical nightmares and toad-infested playing fields. Up Pohnpei is also satisfying as a kind of travel writing, offering a glance at the culture and society of one of the lesser-known Pacific Islands.

I felt they really captured the insane stresses of organising the team while they struggled to get funding and a sponsor. I liked the enthusiastic spirit of the author and his assistant through all of this, as well as the tenacity of the local players. I was almost literally cheering for them near the end of the book.

This is grass roots sport at its best, with little room for egos or prima donnas. Recommended for football/soccer fans.

Title: Up Pohnpei: A Quest to Reclaim the Soul of Football by Leading the World's Ultimate Underdogs to Glory
Author: Paul Watson
ISBN: 9781846685019
Published: 2012
Publisher: Profile Books

 - Stanley, Ranui Library

Fringe Season 4 DVD [Rochelle, Howick Library]

Fringe - Season 4 (6-disc) (Import Sv.Text)
Let me just state that I am not a huge fan of SciFi. Admittedly, there are some good books and tv series out there that are worth their salt. Fringe, however, is a totally different matter all together. When I first started watching it, I found the plot lines so far fetched and out of this world! There were some story lines that were totally mind bending and at times frightening to watch. However, I must say that it is this reason that makes this tv series a must watch on my list.

Last season showed Peter disappearing entirely from the world and from everyone's consciousness. It was the best ending to a great season 3. Season 4 follows on from that premise and shows both worlds continue to move on without Peter in it. But of course, Fringe wouldn't be Fringe without Peter as he is central to the story of how both universes managed to seep into each others awareness. As Peter comes back, he needs to find a way for both Olivia and Walter to remember him as well as try to save the entire universe from being obliterated by “mad scientists” trying to establish a new world order. Whew!

And again as with the last season, season 4 ended with a dramatic cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more! I can't wait for the next season :)
Note: R16 - Restricted to persons 16 years and over. Horror scenes & violence.

Title: Fringe the Complete Fourth Season DVD
Creators: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Year: 2012
Distributors: Warner Bros

 - Rochelle, Howick Library

04 April, 2013

The Traveller's Tool [Compact Disc] / Sir Les Patterson by Barry Humphries [Monica, Orewa Library]

When I checked out this audio book, a colleague grimaced and said: “Are you sure you’ll be able to stomach all of that?” I replied that that was the joy of the audio book: when one has had enough, one simply switches it off.

I not only got through all four discs, but felt bereft when it finished. I have spent the last couple of weeks quoting Sir Les in a bad Australian accent, mostly in inappropriate situations, and singing “Give her one for Christmas” while feeding the chickens. I have always been a Barry Humphries fan, and have only recently been introduced (digitally, thank goodness) to the irascible Sir Les.

As much as I loved it, I have to warn you that this is not a family audio book: it is crammed with sexual innuendo, sexism and homophobia. If you are sensitive, this is not for you: as Sir Les himself puts it: "If any of the fairer sex are upset by that, well it serves them right for wandering out of the kitchen".

The listener has to be open-minded and have his or her self-esteem firmly intact, as Sir Les’s sexual over-sharing can take a psychological toll on the listener. When your spouse says he had been “working late at the office” (a typical Sir Les euphemism for chasing his research assistant around), he could well find himself in a bit of domestic trouble with the audio book listener who has survived a few discs of The Traveller’s Tool!

Title: The Traveller’s Tool [Compact Disc] / Sir Les Patterson
Author: Barry Humphries
ISBN: 9781743100530
Published: 2012
Publisher: Bolinda Audio

 - Monica, Orewa Library

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards [Danielle, Central City Library]

A quirky, magical and moving fantasy debut novel, Snake Ropes tells the story of two young women living on a remote, unnnamed island. Mary is a daughter of the island, supporting what remains of her family with her ‘broideries’, and on a desperate hunt for her missing toddler brother. Morgan is a mainlander, brought over to the island by her paranoid parents and living as a virtual prisoner behind a painted wall.

There is both magic and realism here, a-plenty. Mary’s story shows a world fraught with dangerous wonders, from her grandmother’s tales of sisters on a nearby island, twined together by their hair and wild jealousy, to the ominous Thrashing House, the island’s place of punishment, which turns its victims into meaningful objects as a sort of commentary on their crime. Her life is also grim, lonely, and dangerous in more understandable and human ways, as the story gradually reveals. Morgan’s life is an endless round of housework for her ungrateful family, but her reading of fantasies and fairytales gives her a naïve reading of events around her, which she only begins to question as her story meshes with Mary’s.

I loved this book. It took a little while to relax into the dialect of Mary’s story, and a friend I recommended it to also struggled with the fairly poetic style, but the blend of eccentric magic and reality worked really well for me, the characters were courageous and had me cheering for them, and the ending hit me with an emotional impact similar to that of Emma Donohue’s Room.

Title: Snake Ropes
Author: Jess Richards
ISBN:  9781444737837
Published: 2012
Publisher: Sceptre

 - Danielle, Central City Library

They Also Serve by Bob Sharpe [Kanchan, Blockhouse Bay Library]

This is an amazing book as it describes a butler's real life story when in service with the very rich in London. It shows how he rose from the lowest rungs working at the most menial of jobs in a big estate. Life was very difficult then, but they just accepted life as it came. They accepted that the rich were born to live a privileged life while they stood, hand and foot, to look after their needs.  The book is written with a lot of detail of the times and shows how there was a very hierarchical set-up that could never be upset. Everyone knew their place and the limits that they could go to. The lowest in the rung were invisible to the employers they worked for.

This book emphasizes how much society has changed since the 1920s . The incidents mentioned in the book are very  humorous and the stark contrast to our lives today makes it a good read.

Title: They also Serve
Author: Bob Sharpe
ISBN: 9781444735925
Published: 2012
Publisher: Hodder& Stoughton

 - Kanchan, Blockhouse Bay Library

03 April, 2013

The Team That Never Played [Annie, Central City Library]

This is not a review as such, more of a heads-up on something I want to read.

Listening to cricket this summer (the test match in Dunedin), I heard interviews with some of the men interviewed for this book as they discussed their experiences during and after the Wahine disaster. As the anniversary is next week (10 April), I thought it timely to raise awareness of this title.

The book came about through casual chats, as so many things do.

This is the story of the Otago University cricket team which never made it to the Easter tournament in Palmerston North. Instead, they were caught up in the tragedy of the Wahine sinking, and its aftermath.

Many of these men had never spoken of their experiences. At least one of them still finds it difficult to be near the wharf in Wellington.

The Wahine disaster remains a touchstone moment in New Zealand's history, and it is worthwhile reading and learning all we can about it, and its impact on the psyche of both individuals and the country as a whole.

(Image courtesy of The Cricket Publishing Company).

Title: The Team That Never Played: Wahine and the 1968 Otago University Cricket Team
Author: Ronald Cardwell and Bill Francis
ISBN: 9780980572773
Published: 2013
Publisher: Cricket Publishing Company

 - Annie, Central City Library

01 April, 2013

Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World [Emma, Central City Library]

You know they say "don't leave home until you've seen your country".  This book might work either way for you, perhaps you'll want to get far away after reading it or maybe your curiosity will be piqued by somewhere not far from your front door.  This is what happened to me.

This is a (mostly) New Zealand travel book. The places described are not those on any conventional tourist trail.  Perhaps this is why this book really brings New Zealand alive. 

While the scenery is often lovely and wonderfully described it is always the people who make the place interesting, or best avoided, who give real life.  All kinds of people are here, those who you might call ordinary, or weird, those who write signs all over their houses and/or cars, mysterious people , nice people, and a very few mean-spirited folk.

As well, you travel with the author.  I have found myself thinking about and appreciating his valuing of old habits and looking out for new habits to enjoy.  I noticed how he was truthful about people - such as the man in Winton, of whom he felt afraid - and began to hate.  But, he also noticed, this man listened, was generous and had a sense of humour.  Steve Braunias talked to all kinds of people and insulted none, even when you could tell he possibly didn't like them.  I found that very admirable.

I've been to nine of the places. I couldn't wait to leave some of them. Some of the places I have never heard of and still have no intentions of visiting.

And yet ... now I am going travelling in my own backyard.  I am going to start with a trip to Mount Roskill, after I've done my groceries at Pak'n'Save.

Title: Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World
Author: Steve Braunias
ISBN: 9781877551352
Published: 2012
Publisher:  Awa Press

 - Emma, Central City Library