31 May, 2013

Oranges and Sunshine

This compelling true story describes the journey of an English social worker who discovered a child migrant scheme and spent decades working to reunite families. Margaret Humphrey's life changed when a woman in Nottingham, England, asked her to trace her family, claiming that she had been separated from them when, aged four she was sent by ship to Australia.

Despite doubting the credulity of the claim, Margaret investigated and was horrified by her discoveries. Her searches revealed that almost 150,000 English children had been sent overseas to new lives without their parents' knowledge. In most cases, rather than the sunshine and oranges they were promised in their fresh starts, most of the children experienced years of abuse and hard labour in institutions.

Margaret embarked on her mission in 1986 and was appalled to learn that the last known migration was as recent as 1967. Margaret Humphrey founded the Child Migrants Trust and travelled as far as Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe to follow leads in order to bring together children, siblings and parents. Her book describes the emotional rollercoaster this journey resulted in and the impact it had on her life and those she worked so hard to help.

Published originally as Empty Cradles, her story stunned all who read it and it was adapted into a film in 2010. This moving book is well worth reading.

Title: Oranges and Sunshine
Author: Margaret Humphrey
ISBN: 9780552133354
Published: 2011
Publisher: Corgi

 - Biddy, Highland Park

The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana Henriques [Clare, Massey Library]

Bernie Madoff will go down in history as one of the most notorious fraudsters ever. During the global financial crisis of 2008, he was unmasked as the ringleader of a giant $50 billion Ponzi scheme. This is a system whereby someone takes your money to invest, but instead pays it out in interest to already established investors.

The book outlines his history. It tells how he started on Wall Street and then got himself into the situation where he had to lie to people and cover up what he was doing. He did have trusted employees who were hidden away on a inaccessible floor of his swanky New York offices. They were employed in making fictitious spreadsheets and records of non-existent financial transactions.

These were shown to regulatory authorities and those who became suspiscious of his never-ending success. But nobody investigated in depth.His giant subterfuge unravelled when the 2008 financial crisis meant that some of his clients needed their money out of his scheme, and of course there was not enough money available to comply.
I enjoyed this book as it revealed how easy it is to fool people most of the time. It gives an indepth look into how Wall Street operated and a background to the global financial crisis.It shows how gullible people were when they were told how good a return his scheme gave. Nobody really looked at how his system really worked, they were just happy to be making money. A real eye-opener.

Title: The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust
Author: Diana B. Henriques
ISBN: 9780805091342
Published: 2011
Publisher: Times Books/Henry Holt

 - Clare, Massey Library

The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Lucky for us, The Misleading Mind is not yet another self-help guide, filled with new-age, pop psychology written by some minor celebrity or “spiritual guru” that seem to  get churned out on a daily basis. What it is, is an informative  guide to the mind and the human dilemma, based primarily on age-old Buddhist wisdom, explained in a contemporary, psychological context. If read correctly, it can help us change the way we deal with life’s problems and challenges.

In the words of the author, “we can achieve true, lasting happiness by understanding the nature of our mind and by changing the way we approach our emotional struggles.”

What I found most useful in understanding the ideas were the simple yet meaningful exercises at the end of each chapter, which put into practice what the author was writing about. The simple act of breathing correctly to centre one’s focus, is a powerful technique in taming our unruly minds – one which any person can avail of at any time.

While this is the kind of book you can dip into without feeling guilty that you aren’t reading every page, its benefits are possibly greatest if you read it in order from cover to cover.

I recommend this easy-to-read book about a hard-to-understand topic that challenges one’s thinking whether one is a Buddhist or not.

Title: The Misleading Mind : How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them
Author: Karuna Cayton
ISBN: 9781577319429
Published: 2012
Publisher: New World Library

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library

30 May, 2013

Instruction Manual for Swallowing by Adam Marek [Zoë, Central City Library]

And for my next trick: an absurdly feminist review of Instruction Manual for Swallowing, by Adam Marek! Because sometimes I just can't help myself.

In a shotgun approach to story-telling, Marek blasts you with a series of short, explosive, heavy-hitting stories that impact like a kind of Boys Own on the drugs that killed River Phoenix. Marek loves putting ordinary people (read: men) in the path of the dangerous and the surreal: giant centipedes, robot wasps, a minotaur, there's even a tamagotchi for goodness's sake.

Don't think that I didn't enjoy this unique collection. I did. Immensely. Especially Meaty's Boys, which is a brilliant imagining of a group of restaurant workers who cater to zombies in a future dystopia. But the collection did spark rather a long internal monlogue about gender in fiction. Which I won't subject you to here. Or rather, this is the abbreviated, PG-rated version.

Oh, there are women in the book too, although you'd be forgiven for confusing them, since they're all desperately vulnerable and sexually available (or pregnant). In one story, Jumping Jennifer, which actually centres around a female character, the poor woman doesn't even get a speaking part, she just tops herself right at the start of the story.

This is an updated edition which includes two extra stories, including Batman vs. The Minotaur, which is tenderly rendered and perhaps my favourite in the entire collection. You also get a little interview with Marek that made me warm to him - he's clearly had so much fun producing this collection that I had to mostly forgive the whole gender debacle.

Title: Instruction Manual for Swallowing
Author: Adam Marek
ISBN: 9781770410800
Published: 2012
Publisher: ECW Press

 - Zoë, Central City Library

29 May, 2013

The Where, the Why and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science [Baruk, Birkenhead Library]

There is something deeply endearing about a collection of 75 'I don't know' answers in a science book. Add some beautiful illustrations into the mix and you have a win! 

The Where, the Why and the How looks at 75 questions that science does not quite know the answer to. These questions range from “Where does Earth's Water come From?” to “Why do we Blush?” and “Do Immortal Creatures Exist?”. None of these questions have definite answers, yet, but each question is given compact yet adequate attention. The writing is largely simple and not too technical (though that can be rather subjective) and will likely appeal to a wide not-quite-amateur-scientist-yet-generally-curious audience. 

And if this was not enough, the book is also a treasure trove of beautiful illustration! Each question+answer has an accompanying image that is lush, stark, dense, conceptual, comical, surreal, pencil, painterly or collage like. The text and images are well credited, with further exploration of the artists work encouraged through links to their websites and blogs.

You will enjoy this book if you love illustration, and finding out what we know of the ability of squirrels to remember where they buried their nuts!

If you like this, you may also enjoy Atlas of Remote Islands and Information is Beautiful

Title: The Where, the Why, and the How : 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science
Editors: Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, Matt Lamothe, David Macaulay
ISBN: 9781452108223
Published: 2012
Publisher: Chronicle Books

 - Baruk, Birkenhead Library

Bust Magazine is awesome [Carmel - Mt Roskill and Grey Lynn Libraries]

It's cool how the library subscribes to tonnes of magazines so we don’t have to, right? Well Bust is one mag I actually buy copies of (well, sometimes) cos it is so darn good. But don’t worry I still get the library copies most of the time. So should you! Just ask your friendly neighbourhood librarian how to order specific copies of magazines. Ok, on with the review.

Straight outta Compton, oh wait, I mean New York City, Bust is “for women with something to get off their chests”. It is a fun, entertaining look at the world through women’s eyes. Regular features range from light -crafting instructions, interviews with pop stars- to deep; each issue includes a round up of women-related news worldwide: this month they featured among other items, the Feminist Mormon Housewives revolt against their church’s dress-and-skirt-only dress code (go Mormon feminists, am I right?). Each issue also includes loads of book, music and graphic novel reviews (you like those don’t you?), a sex/health advice column and a One-Handed Read (hee hee hee).

To further hit home the goodness of this mag, this issue included an interview with badass electropop star Grimes, a piece on the 1940s all-girl jazz ensemble, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm (cool band name, can I steal it?), and a ridiculously fun guide to the modern-day sleepover.

Bust has a decidedly indie ethos, with a big emphasis on challenging media-fed stereotypes about women, and empowering its readers to be interesting, self sufficient and confident people. I like to press it into the hands of impressionable young women because I see Bust as the antidote to all things Women’s Weekly and Dolly. Those magazines (lets get serious here, guys) like to pretend the whole world is pretty, skinny and white, and also enjoy passing judgement on the choices women make and the way women look. Bust, on the other hand, is diverse, celebratory and open-minded. Just like us, right?

All this talk about women, but don't worry, Bust is a good fun read for the menfolk too. Just ask my boyfriend.
Title: Bust
Publish info: New York, NY : Bust, Inc.
Frequency: Bimonthly

 - Carmel, Mt Roskill Library and Grey Lynn Library

28 May, 2013

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones [Anita, Blockhouse Bay]

http://www.syndetics.com/index.php?isbn=9781780330563/lc.jpg&client=elgar&type=hw7Of course the title grabbed my attention which is why I chose it for my book-group. Three of my book-group ladies read it and they all loved it, so when I saw this book on the shelf I grabbed it.

Spring 1924 in a small Welsh village, Wilfred Price is on a picnic with Grace. She is offering him trifle but he has become distracted by her yellow dress. Wilfred is wondering she got into the dress, which of course leads to the thought, how she got out of it. It is in this moment of inattention that he proposes to her, and she accepts.

He realises his mistake, after all he barely knows her and does not love her, but extricating himself is difficult. He tells Grace he cannot marry her, but her authoritarian father, the village doctor steps in and a wedding must take place.  To add to this mess Wilfred has just met another girl, the enigmatic Flora, who may be perfect for him, .

Written in a spare but charming way, I enjoyed how the characters were portrayed and  how they carried their problems close to themselves - in a small village I guess you did. A great read beautifully told.

Author: Wendy Jones
ISBN: 9781780330563
Published: 2012
Publisher: Corsair

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

27 May, 2013

Borgen [Laura, Central City Library]

It's no secret that Danish television has hit the big time. First The Killing took the UK then the rest of the English-speaking world by storm. Then there was The Bridge, in which the Danish and Swedish police faced-off over an increasingly political and just-plain-creepy murder investigation. But Borgen is the Danes' classiest offering yet.

Forget the gritty Copenhagen underbelly you saw in The Bridge, and replace The Killing's captivatingly screwed-up Sarah Lund (and her sweaters) with Birgitte Nyborg, an idealistic politician who finds herself in the middle of a power shift during a national election and winds up in the Prime Minister's office - and it's hers. 

Borgen, or 'the castle' is the nickname for Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish parliament - like The Beehive only more romantic. The show follows Nyborg during her first term in office, showing her struggles in the political world and out, as well as the media circus of journalists and spin doctors interpreting her every move and announcing to the country the stories of the day (or not as the case may be).

But while the politics and journalistic escapades are interesting, if occasionally a little schmalzy (solving Greenland's problems one official visit at a time, anyone?), it was story of the impact of political life on Nyborg's family that has most stuck with me since I sat down to all 10 episodes in the first season (three seasons have aired in Denmark). At times I found it almost unbearable to watch, the emotions were so well-acted, the situations so believable.  

You can search the web for all things Danish TV, but this headline says it best: "Stop what you're doing and go watch Borgen" - just prepare yourself for some emotional turmoil first.

Title: Borgen. Season One. [DVD recording]
Author: Adam Price et al. 
Published: 2010
Publisher: Shock Entertainment
Note: In Danish with English subtitles

 - Laura, Central City Library

21 May, 2013

To Be Loved [Music CD] by Michael Buble [Kathy, Collections Orewa]

It's funny how you can be not that interested in a particular singer then change your mind once you see them live.

My friend talked me into going to a Michael Buble concert in Sydney a couple of years ago and I was won over by his talent, charm and great performance. I like the way he sings a mix of his own songs and old classics, and also his collaborations with other artists.

His latest release, To be loved, is a good example. Familiar songs like the Bee Gees' To love somebody and the often covered Somethin' stupid appear with his new single It's a beautiful day.

To love somebody, To be loved and Who's loving you are my favourites of the covers, Michael does brilliant versions of these classics. I found a couple of tracks had me bopping along to the beat and I could even imagine ballroom dancers spinning around a dance floor with Come dance with me.

Buble's Close your eyes is a charming love ballad and I love the twist of the break-up song, It's a beautiful day, where the singer is happy to be free of a relationship and delivers some great lines like ‘Cause I’m glad that you’re the one that got away' and ‘You may not believe that baby, I’m relieved, when you said goodbye, my whole world shines.'

This album gets better the more you listen to it - the Buble charm worked on me yet again!

(Image courtesy of JBHiFi).

Title: To Be Loved
Author: Michael Buble
ISBN: 093624944973
Published: 2013
Publisher: Reprise

 - Kathy, Collections Orewa

20 May, 2013

Creating Room to Read: A Story of hope in the Battle for Global Literacy by John Wood [Surani, Waitakere Central library]

To start off with I need to clarify that I don't usually read 'proper' non-fiction. I'm more of a fan of armchair travel or the odd biography, but when I saw the subtitle of this particular book, 'a story of hope in the battle for global literacy', I was intrigues. Was it really that much of a battle?

As I started reading this memoir, I found myself engrossed in John Wood's story. He is the visionary behind the lauded non-profit organisation "Room to Read", which promotes education around the developing world by building school libraries and providing books so that every single child in the world can learn and love to read!! The beginnings of this global drive started in his first book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, where he tells the story of the start up of the organisation. In this second book John explains the many challenges he faced next, from managing expansion to raising money in a collapsing economy, and publishing books for children who literally have no books in their native language.

John begins this memoir by recounting the opening ceremony of the 10,000th library the organisation helped build!! His story is delivered in a very simple voice that is all his own.

This book was an eye-opener for me since I carved a love for reading from a very young age thanks to my equally book-loving parents who went to every extreme to provide me with books of all size and shape that fuelled my imagination. To learn that almost two-thirds of our world is illiterate was astonishing!!

I urge everyone who loves reading as much as I do to check out both of John Wood's books and make a difference in the world!

Title: Creating Room to Read: A Story of hope in the Battle for Global Literacy
Author: John Wood
ISBN: 9780670025985
Published: 2013
Publisher: Viking

 - Surani, Waitakere Central Library

The Juice Diet: Lose Weight - Detox - Tone Up - Stay Slim and Healthy by Christine Bailey [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]


Ok, so, I’ve started a juice diet, and if you knew me you’d know that’s a big deal! This is day three and I’ve resisted free chocolate cake and pancakes with cream and jam (I think the universe was testing me!). There’s a large number of books out there about juicing, but I wanted to mention this one because it makes the diet possible for a chocoholic like myself.

There’s a wonderful smoothie recipe in it, which is rich and filling, and very chocolatey. The programme lets you adjust slowly, and the juice recipes are delightful!  I may even make it through the week :-)

Title: The Juice Diet : Lose Weight - Detox - Tone Up - Stay Slim and Healthy
Author: Christine Bailey
ISBN: 9781844839643
Published: 2011
Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers

 - Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler [Juliet, Central City Library]

Poland 1944, a young girl takes on the identity of a dead woman in order to escape to freedom.

When "Lily" arrives in Montreal, Canada, she expects to marry a man she has never met.

Sol Kramer sees her and turns her down.

His brother, Nathan, decides to marry her instead.

Her life as Lily Aserov/Kramer ends when she disappears, leaving a new husband, baby daughter, a diary and a large uncut diamond.

Readers share Ruth's journey to find, understand, and love the mother who abandoned her.

Richler paints a rich image of the Canadian Jewish community, their customs and family relationships in a past century.

The odd Yiddish words and phrases add a special flavour to the text.

This tale of historical fiction transported me from Montreal to war-torn Europe and back again.

It's good, old fashioned story telling at its best.

Author: Nancy Richler
ISBN: 9781250010063
Published: 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 - Juliet, Central City Library

19 May, 2013

Forks Over Knives (DVD) written and directed by Lee Fulkerson [Judy, Orewa Library]

Here is a dvd that's food for thought, and it may even save your life.

The cover of this dvd shows a hand grasping a fork above a surgeon's scapel, which illustrates the message of this dvd - the claim that we have control over our own health, and do not need to end up on the surgeon's table, undergoing bypass surgery or other drastic treatments for degenerative diseases.  The movie is largely about two doctors (very fit 70+ year-olds), one, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, and the second, a top surgeon, who have both researched the effects of animal-based diets on health. We see real patients with chronic conditions who have adopted a whole-foods plant based diet to treat their conditions, and have achieved amazing results.

The documentary contains a lot of scientific content, including comparisons between countries regarding nutrition and disease, and it touches on environmental and animal welfare issues.It is endorsed by Dr Oz (well known here from The Dr Oz Show) who says "I loved it and I need all of you to see it".

The perfect snack while you watch this one? A bag of bean sprouts - yum!

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" Hippocrates

For more info: www.forksoverknives.com

Title: Forks Over Knives
Author: Lee Fulkerson
Published: 2011
Produced by: Monica Beach Media

 - Judy, Orewa Library

Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan [Reviewed by Paul, Birkenhead]

Must confess what I did in bed last night: I fell asleep with a book. I know, imagine a librarian doing that! So reckless. Somehow I must've got the light off too though, because then it was dark and I realised I wasn't actually asleep because I could see something glowing and it was keeping me awake. Then I realised, it was my book!

Rarely have I experienced as much excitement between the covers as I did at the sight of the outside of this one. Naturally I turned to my other constant companion, my cellphone, and tried to take a photo. Surely, if anything was ever worth tumblring, this was.

However, once I had recovered from repeatedly blinding myself from the blaze of the screen coming on (during my moment of agony it would timeout and I would have to press it again, and- and it took me a while to conquer this cycle), I realised I couldn't take a photo. It was Heisenberg's uncertainty principle all over again: it was either a glowing book or a blazing phone, not both. Which is possibly The Moral for our Times.  All I got was an image of a very dark black screentangle. Which is also possibly The Moral for our Times.

So you'll just have to take my word for it. Or get the book out and see for yourself. I can assure you it's worth it. Need I say more? Meh, that's what tags are for.

Title: Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: Farrar, Sttrous & Giroux, 2012.

Paul, Birkenhead Library

18 May, 2013

Marrakesh by Design by Maryam Montague [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

Do you love to look through coffee table books of exotic countries just to get excited by rich visuals that inspire you for your own home décor? I often get great ideas for any creative endeavors in home DIY by reading these books and if you can relate, “Marrakesh by Design” is for you.

As a colour addict, I absolutely love the flair and atmosphere of the Orient with that relaxed elegance that anything Arabic brings into interior design and this book is an absolute treasure trove for anything Moroccan. The pictures are so beautiful, rich and lively that you feel like stepping right through the pages and hang out in these colourful, cozy but stylishly trendy spaces. Montague writes with real expertise of Arabic Architecture and Interior design and her informative text is infused with interesting stories, details and background knowledge, so it never gets boring. The good graphic design throughout the book helps break up text with images, patterns and space so that I just kept on reading and reading, even though I usually read only sporadically between images.

Now, I love interior design books, but I do find it a bit hard to get inspired to take action when all I see is finished pictures of glamorous rooms full of expensive furniture without much being talked about the specific design principles or how to realize certain ideas (without the millionair budget). This book is different. You get “how-to” instructions, buying tips for even the smallest details like doorknockers, ideas for patterns, quick tips to get “the look” and cultural background info pages, including cooking recipes or health and beauty treatments to help you create a complete experience.

I loved this book so much that I wanted to book tickets straight to Marrakesh, but instead started looking for furniture and trinkets while thinking about the DIY ideas, just to bring a bit of that "Arabic Nights" -romance back into my home. Even though Montague gives us enough ideas for a complete home design, I think even getting a few details into your home will bring interest and flair to your own.

Author: Maryam Montague
ISBN: 9781579654016
Published: 2012
Publisher: Artisan

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson [Sue W Cental City]

Jenny Lawson had the type of childhood whereby her parents were a profound source of embarrassment, more so than the average adolescent who views their parents as an alien species. For a time Jenny would insist on playing at her friends' houses after school and would no doubt dread the eventual expectation of reciprocity. This was largely due to a father who was  a passionate hunter and taxidermist and would leave 'surprises' around the house of bloodied, still steaming carcasses. Most of the time this was amusing, sometimes annoying, but only within the inner sanctum of the family. At an age where blending in is paramount, the "weirdness" of the Lawson family was to be contained as much as possible. Thanks to such a colourful life Jenny passes on the hilarious moments and just how extraordinary her childhood years were. Equally hilarious are Jenny's recollections about the grounded man she meets and later marries, who acts as a counterbalance to Jenny's flamboyance. This is definatetly one of the funniest memoirs I have read in recent years. As an added bonus I discovered Jenny writes a blog, the bloggess. Perscription: daily viewing to make you smile!!

Title: Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Author: Jenny Lawson
ISBN: 9780732295462
Published: 2012
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

 - Sue W, Central City Library

13 May, 2013

The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk edited by Thierry-Maxime Loriot [Claire, Central City Library]

This large, beautifully produced  book, which serves as a catalogue for the exhibit of 140 costumes from the past 35 years of his couture and ready to wear collections in Montreal, is an absolute stunner. I enjoyed the photographs but was particularly interested in the text. Jean Paul Gaultier, the 'enfant terrible of fashion' is remembered by  employees, models, celebrities, fashion critics, friends and many others. It's a fitting tribute to his life, career and artistic talent.

The interviews with the man himself are particularly interesting. Never having studied formally he learnt alot about fashion from his grandmother, magazines, the flea markets and the streets. "I am nourished by the street - it has always been a symbol of liberty and creativity."

Saint Laurent was his idol and while still in school he was hired by Pierre Cardin and later worked for Jean Patou. The rest, as they say, is history.

Borrowing from a multitude of sources and fighting the uniformity of the masses, his shows make statements about society and spread the message of tolerance. Famous for Madonna's cone bra and skirts on men he is interested in the ambiguity of the sexes and breaking taboos. He realizes that there are all different kinds of beauty - not just the accepted standards. Models of all different shapes, sizes and ages appear on his runways. His ad in a French daily read, "Non-conformist designer seeks unusual models - the conventionally pretty need not apply."

Injecting his couture with kitsch and wit his radical codes have turned fashion upside down. Thanks to Gaultier we have all been liberated to have alot more fun with fashion and to celebrate our difference and diversity.

Title: The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
Author: Thierry-Maxime Loriot
ISBN: 9781419700026
Published: c2011
Publisher: Abrams

 - Claire, Central City Library

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan [Paul, Birkenhead Library]

Yet another splendid reworking of dragons. A bit like early, obsessive Robin Hobb, or even more so like Naomi Novik with its slightly fastidious, formal narrator. It also has its own unique steampunkish take. Alt-futuristic then, yet shaped as an old-fangled memoir, with a lurid 'industrial' revolution only alluded to in the story. This could have felt crass, pluggy of future books, only it didn't. Rather it added to the scope of a world not quite ours, the sense of great moments to come. It will be interesting to see how Brenann unfolds the series.

I admired the way 'Victorian' sensibilities of class, gender and race are worked in through the narrator Lady Trent. Instead of giving us some feisty woman, with an anachronistic sense of outrage, we get something more delicate - Trent is victim, yes, yet also has a certain angular snootiness of her own. This ambiguity is not something to get enraged about, as some have, but a reflection of Brennan's deliberate skill: she's given us a character (and a culture, and a story) that charms greatly and yet jolts too. Pushing us away only to pull us in deeper, neh? One might even expect the young Lady Trent will, you know, develop.

In fact, I'm sure it could be mentioned how the retrospective narration adds in a whole layer of cleverness to the point of view - but who cares about that when there's sparklings! Are they not the smallest coolest dragons ever?!

Title: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Author: Marie Brennan
Published: 2013
Publisher: Tor

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

08 May, 2013

The Barbed-Wire University: The Real Lives of Prisoners of War in the Second World War by Midge Gillies [Christine, Takapuna library]

So many books and movies have been written about daring escapes from POW camps.  This book is not one of those, it is about the men who found creative ways of using the time that they were confined.   Some found ways of continuing hobbies that they had in peace time: bird-watching or amateur dramatics, others found things to make or do that they had never had time or inclination to do in their former lives.  They learnt from each other and from textbooks.  I was impressed with the men's ingenuity; they made tools and sports equipment from the packaging of Red Cross parcels, adapted and scrounged materials to paint or perform surgery!   Many first hand accounts are quoted here to show the pathos or sometimes the humour of  situations.  It is a celebration of human resilience as much as a record of hardship.

Title: The Barbed-Wire University: The Real Lives of Prisoners of War in the Second World War
Author: Midge Gillies
ISBN: 9781845136291
Published: 2011
Publisher: Aurum Press

 - Christine, Takapuna Library

Noise [Annie, Central City Library]

It’s New Zealand Music Month, and I tried my best to review something related. Plan A resulted in me requesting a book about my kiwi music icons, but it didn’t live up to my hopes. Plan B was me reviewing a book about the same people, that I’d read when it was first released. Alas, it didn’t live up to my memories…

So, on to Plan C! A brand new book about noise (which I’d seen reviewed in my magazine of choice) arrived at the perfect time. Surely, it’s vaguely music-related, isn’t it?

But, what is noise? Is it sounds ‘all mixed up and as it were tumbled about in confusion’ – or sound ‘out of place’ (both definitions referenced in the introduction)?

This is a social history of sound – its uses and abuses. The power behind it – who makes it and who hears it. From the acoustic possibilities of ancient caves and Neolithic monuments to the perceived noise pollution of the modern world. Not just the topic is fascinating, but also the ways used to uncover the soundscapes of the past. Sound, by its pre-technological nature (ie most of history), is transitory and elusive. Sound is also a very public matter – it is hard to contain and keep private.

Sound both connects us and divides us. There’s the powerful feeling of being part of crowd, singing the same song – whether at a concert, or the national anthem at a sporting event. Then there’s the cacophony that surrounds us and can become overwhelming. When the sound ‘they’ make is referred to as ‘noise’ – the noise coming out of the teens’ headphones; the loudness of ‘them’ talking in their first language – noise  becomes is a loaded concept. Silence, the antithesis of noise, is also socially and politically loaded. Soundproofed workspaces are often available only to companies with money. Personal space that allows us to be surrounded by silence, is elusive but easiest found by people with money, who can afford a room of their own.

With sound, comes listening - part of the subtitle. Listening is not to be ignored. It is not always a passive reaction. When listening to a great speech, we become emotionally engaged. As someone who performs preschool sessions, I know that listening is a learnt activity. Children learn how to become attentive listeners, when to respond, when to be silent. How we interpret sound - whether it becomes 'noise' - is a personal response. Listening is just as important as the sound itself.

This is a beguiling and stimulating exploration of a topic not often researched.

Based on a BBC4 Radio series.

Title: Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening
Author: David Hendy
ISBN: 9781781250891
Publisher: Profile
Published: 2013

 - Annie, Central City Library

06 May, 2013

The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

Guyana is in mainland South America, bordered by Venezuela, Brazil and Surinam.   Guyana is beautiful and poor, it has a history of colonialism (Dutch, British), slavery (African) and indentured labour (Indian) which has led to racial-political tensions today, and a very interesting nation of people.  These are things I have learned since reading this book, and I am enriched. 

It's a novel, but it is a travel book too.  It is filled with gorgeous scenery, cricket talk and reggae music which made me think at first Guyana was in the Carribbean.  Rahul Bhattacharya has made a playlist of the of the ska, reggae, chutney, calypso, soca, steelpan, junkanoo, rake-n-scrape, dub, dancehall sounds which give atmosphere throughout.

The narrator of Sly Company of People Who Care is from India, and has decided to "To be a slow ramblin' stranger" for a year - in Guyana.  Because he went there briefly once before and liked it.  He loves cricket, reggae, drinking rum, and having adventures.  He is looking for something, he doesn't know what.  He is good at hanging out, and at speaking patois.  The narrator embraces life in Guyana and I thought he was almost becoming local himself.  Yet he ultimately retains the security of a return ticket home.  He was a traveller all along.

Title: The Sly Company of People Who Care
Author: Rahul Bhattacharya
ISBN: 780330534741
Published: 2011
Publisher: Picador

 - Emma, Birkenhead Library

Lucky Peach magazine [Sam, Mt. Roskill Library]

As a browser of almost every cook book that crosses the Mt. Roskill Library returns desk, and also a lover of quality essay writing, Lucky Peach seemed right up my alley before I even opened the cover. Upon doing so I was delighted to find that not only was the subject matter interesting, but the design and illustration was of a very high standard as well.

Being published by Dave Egger's McSweeney's imprint allows access to a wide array of quality writers to opine on favourite dishes, restaurants, ingredients and anything else relevant. In the issue I just read (issue 4, on American food) comedian Marc Maron delivers a story about a favourite cast-iron skillet, and The Wire creator, David Simon talks pickles. Let's see Cuisine try that!

The luxury of existing as a quarterly journal allows each issue of Lucky Peach the time to grow into a particular theme, which gives a chance for the sometimes contrasting writing styles to comfortably hang together as a whole. For foodies with a taste (sorry) for snappy prose and excellent illustration, I can't recommend Lucky Peach enough.

Title: Lucky Peach
Editor: Dave Chang
ISSN: 2325-9140
Published: 2011 - Present
Publisher: McSweeney's Pub.

- Sam, Mt. Roskill Library

Under the Baobab Tree: A Memoir of Two Great Loves by Jane Chidgey [Biddy, Highland Park]

This is a love story with a difference. Jane Chidgey was a successful fifty year-old businesswoman, content with her corporate life in Melbourne, when she fell in love. It hadn't been in her plans to fall in love, least of all with her boss, a foreigner and a man twenty years her senior. This relationship resulted in her leaving her city life and moving to a life she had never imagined - on  a wildlife reserve in the Limpopo Valley in South Africa.

Jane Chidgey's account of her life on Makulu Makete will appeal to anyone interested in wildlife, travel and life experienced in contrasting cultures. She embraced the wonders and challenges of her new life in Africa, revelling in the magic of co-existence with cheetahs, warthogs, giraffe and other indigenous fauna and flora. At the same time she was forced to come to terms with the tragedies and anomalies of Aids-torn Africa and to deal with the suffering of people who had become significant in her life.

Chidgey's no-nonsense language portrays a real life story and paints a vivid picture of the majesty of the African savannah dotted with giant Baobab trees where she spent seven years with the man she loved. Her second great love referred to in the subtitle was this foreign way of life that she grew to love despite all the challenges it presented her.

Readers can find out more about Jane and the widlife projects she was involved in by visiting her website:

Title: Under the Baobab Tree: A Memoir of two great loves
Author: Jane Chidgey
ISBN: 9780733329425
Published: 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins, Sydney

 - Biddy, Highland Park Library

05 May, 2013

On a Saturday Night: Community Halls of Small-Town New Zealand by Michele Frey [Claire, Central City Library]

I've often driven through isolated little settlements in New Zealand where a glimpse of an old hall has reminded me that in earlier times these areas had thriving communities.

Fortunately, two people have travelled to 39 community halls in the North and South Islands and recorded the life and times of these little gems to share with the rest of us. Social history is bought to life with stories and photographs from the people who used, and often helped build, these halls. The large coloured photographs of the interiors as they are today are fabulous. The great thing is that many of these halls are in original condition.

Dances were held on polished rimu floors, bands played on the stages and ladies bought a plate for the suppers. Social occassions in bygone days included variety concerts, flower shows, balls, meetings, film and card evenings, victory parties at the end of the war and plays.

The culture of country communities has changed over the years and today  halls host exercise groups, bookclubs, Farmers Markets,  jumble sales and many other events.

I really enjoyed the memories of hall occassions shared by people who have spent a lifetime in these communities. "At one hall in Cambridge in 1974 a circus visited. The flame thrower was great. When they all went to go home at the end of the night there was no fuel in their cars. The circus man had siphoned it all off!"

Now when I drive past many of these halls I know a lot more about them and the important place they hold in a community.

Title: On a Saturday Night: Community Halls of Small-Town New Zealand
Editors: Michele Frey and Sara Newman ; with Anna Rogers; photographs by John Maillard and John O'Malley
ISBN: 9781927145371
Published: 2012
Publisher: Canterbury University Press

 - Claire, Central City Library

04 May, 2013

Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by By Paula Begoun [Olga, Central Library]

One of the most useful books I have ever seen about cosmetics. Although Paula Begoun is a writer based in the USA, globalization and the Internet have spread the same brands of cosmetics all over the word.
The book is as fat as 1400 pages can make. I didn`t even know so many cosmetics companies existed.
Of course, not all cosmetic companies in the world are included, regardless, it is a pretty full compendium for every little cosmetic thing you need.
It covers the whole range of decorative and skincare treatments, including  all kinds of stuff for men, women (that’s the biggest section for sure) and babies.
In the first two chapters she writes simple facts about products which she knows inside out, and not only from the beauty side but from chemistry also.

Did you know that a main ingredient for pore strips is a hairspray-type ingredient and there is no big difference between them and band-aids?
What difference does adding an SPF to moisturizing cream make?
Why is the “hypoallergenic” claim meaningless?
She answers all sorts of questions you may not even imagine, but wanted to know.

Although you can find all this information on the author’s website, it is such a comfort and pleasure to riffle pages by flicking through the book.
And the good news is there is a new edition coming out every year, 2012 is the current one, so you will stay up to date.

Title: Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me
Autor: Paula Begoun
ISBN: 9781877988349 (pbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Beginning Press

 - Olga, Central City Library

On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand Pop Classics by Simon Sweetman [Stanley, Central City Library]

Remember RTR Countdown and singles on cassettes? Or maybe the glory days of Flying Nun? On Song features music critic Simon Sweetman's exploration of the stories and personalities behind twenty classic tracks. Equally feel-good and well-researched, On Song takes an in-depth look through interviews and images at songs from the profound (like Emma Paki's System Virtue) to the ridiculous (Can't get Enough).

Sweetman gives his personal take on the last 40 or so years of NZ music (no Blue Smoke or Cheryl Moana Marie), with a broad selection from a range of genres. I liked that he didn’t just choose the most well-known songs of each performer, but focused on the most musically or personally significant tales. The stories are enthralling, and I was inspired to check out many of the featured artists in more depth.

The whole book is nicely illustrated, with many pictures of artists in action, and bits and pieces like ticket stubs, promo material and so on. There are a lot of interesting facts and trivia, as well as explorations of how our music has shaped and reflected our culture.

He puts their songs in the broader landscape of popular music and society, like French Letter capturing us as a nuclear-free nation in the Pacific, or A Thing Well Made taking a unique look at the tragedy of Aramoana. He also explores their influences, linking artists like Dave Dobbyn with Paul Simon, and Chris Knox with The Velvet Underground. The selections take us from awesome one-hit wonders like OMC and Darcy Clay, to legendary songwriters like the Finns who are a permanent part of Kiwi culture.

Fan of NZ music? Check it out.

Title: On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand Pop Classics
Author: Simon Sweetman
ISBN: 9780413568162
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin

 - Stanley, Central City Library