30 June, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman [Aimee, Howick Library]

It's quite simple really: this book RULES.  And people should know about it.  But it's far from a simple story, and I'm not quite sure where to begin.  Beautiful and complex is how I'd describe both the story and the characters.  The type of book that warrants a re-read.  Plenty in there that may have been missed first time through, ready to be discovered another time.  Personally, I love stories like this.

Let's go for the simple synopsis approach.  Returning to Sussex for a funeral, the un-named narrator decides to take a breather by visiting the site of his childhood home.  Memories then surface of a friend who lived in the old farmhouse down the lane.  He ends up sitting by the lake (which his friend, Lettie Hempstock, insisted was an ocean) and is flooded with memories of the evil that was unleashed there 40 years ago.  Things he’d completely forgotten about.  Very dark things that no seven-year-old should have to deal with.

The wee lad, Lettie, and her mother and grandmother are the heroes of the story.  I was so invested in their plight that it was almost unbearable.  You know that feeling of wanting to race through the pages but at the same time not wanting the story to end too soon?  Well yeah, it’s like that.  And the villain… Ugh, shivers up the spine combined with the desire to punch a face in.  Frightening.

At the time of posting, there are 127 holds on this book.  Not too bad in the grand scheme of library request lists.  And well worth the wait!

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 9781472200327
Published: 2013
Publisher: Headline

- Aimee, Howick Library

29 June, 2013

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler [Judy, Orewa Library]

It's great timing for this recent book about Zelda, wife of F.Scott Fitzgerald, with the new movie version of his book, The Great Gatsby hitting the cinemas. The Fitzgeralds were the glamour couple of their time and the world was their playground. Their romance and marriage is an American legend, and this is just one interpretation - there have been many others over the years.  After reading 'Z', I admired Zelda for her talent, her adventurous spirit, and I felt the thrill of the excitement they shared as they became incredibly successful and famous.

It's an easy read, which takes you back to the wild and reckless times of the Jazz Age, and gives you a taste of the Fitzgerald creative partnership. I'm caught up in the story now, and about to order Nancy Milford's book, Zelda, written in 1970 to high acclaim. I'll see how that compares......

Title: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
ISBN: 9781444761405
Published: 2013
Publisher: St Martins, New York

 - Judy, Orewa Library

28 June, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer [Clare, Massey Library]

It is just after World War Two in a drab, war-weary London, and the author Juliet Ashton is looking for inspiration for her next book. She corresponds with her publisher and we learn of her successful career as a novelist and hopes for the future.

She gets a letter from a man living on Guernsey Island which is occupied by the Germans during World War Two. He has found her name and address inside a book and writes to her. She is charmed by his letter and gradually they develop a relationship by correspondence and she learns about the history of the island during the war. Some other residents also write and it is while she is in the throes of a new relationship that she decides to at last visit Guernsey Island and meet her new friends.

The ensuing events are told with a light, humorous and moving style. I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it for someone who is looking for a good, easy and historical read.

Highly recommended.

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer
ISBN: 9780385340991
Published: 2008
Publisher: The Dial Press

 - Clare, Massey Library

Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus : Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison by Deborah Jiang Stein [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

To be born heroin-addicted, in a prison, is not something to be wished on any child. What is amazing about Deborah Stein is how she has taken this misfortune and turned it into a gift for others. After spending the first year of her life in prison during her mother’s sentence, she was adopted by two professors and raised in middle-class privilege. Her well-meaning parents however were uncommunicative about Deborah’s birth and roots. At 12, she accidentally stumbles upon the letter that contains the circumstances of her birth. The years after, are filled with turmoil as she struggles with the secrecy and shame of her identity and spirals uncontrollably into crime, drugs and violence. It is only when she is in her late twenties that she finally emerges out of the dark hole that is her life.

Today Deborah shares her experiences to reach out to others. She is a motivational speaker for women in prison and her story is a shining example of coming to terms with one’s past, the capability to turn around a life, a story of redemption and joy.

Written honestly, in a clear, direct style, this memoir is filled with bitter-sweet thoughts and insights from a life, which like the tutu in the title, is one that is “fierce and frill all in one”.  A book that in some small way is sure to change you.

Title: Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison
Author: Deborah Jiang Stein
ISBN: 978187345507
Published: 2012
Publisher: Cell 7 Media

 - Suneeta, Highland Park Library

26 June, 2013

Advice to Little Girls [Baruk, Birkenhead Library]

"Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under particularly aggravated circumstances."

In my (heh) book, any book with this opening should be compulsory reading. A book that is full of such sage advice? Everlasting classic. End of. 

Evocative pictures too. Nice, even. 

And you can't borrow it just yet because I've renewed the only copy in the system. I'm trying to memorise all the wisdom so I can pass it to my niece. No, her parents don't know.

Title: Advice to Little Girls
Author: Mark Twain
Pictures: Vladmir Radunsky
ISBN: 9781592701292
Published: 2013
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

 - Baruk, Birkenhead Library

23 June, 2013

White Cloud Worlds: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artwork from Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Paul Tobin. [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

http://www.syndetics.com/index.php?isbn=9780473215040/lc.jpg&client=elgar&type=hw7 Bet you didn't know that New Zealand had such an outstanding bunch of science fiction and fantasy illustrators. If you love creativity and imagination then do not miss out on this book, (and it's prequel White cloud worlds: volume 1).

There are 41 emerging and established artists in this book. Each artist has written a short blurb about themselves, their work, background and aspirations which can be very entertaining. Then there is a showcase of their work, usually two or three pieces all printed in lavish full colour. (lovely word: lavish).

This gorgeous book has a cornucopia of illustrative styles, and what is more, once you have finished looking at the book you can look up all the artists on their websites and blogs which are included in the book. I have bookmarked all my favourites!! Get this book and have a look for yourself.

Title: White Cloud Worlds : An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artwork from Aotearoa New Zealand, Volume 2
Editor: Paul Tobin
ISBN: 9780473215040 (hbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins

- Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

22 June, 2013

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

This absorbing historical novel is ideal for a relaxing winter weekend. It tells the familiar story Marie Antoinette but from a new perspective, that of Count Axel von Fersen, generally thought to have been her lover at some stage, and is definitely so in this book. It is equally his story and is told by his sister, supposedly using his journal and letters, which are real and have been studied by the author. Von Fersen led a full life; he held offices under the Swedish monarchy, fought with French volunteers against the British in the American War of Indepence, travelled frequently and organised the escape of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette which would probably have succeeded had his plan been followed properly.

Tension builds up quickly in the story as the monarchy collapses, Louis and Marie Antoinette are abandoned by their brothers and other European monarchies and their prisons become more and more dire. Sometimes the book reads more like history than a novel but this does not detract from its drama. In fact it is hard to put down.  Despite being Marie Antoinette's lover, von Thersen is sympathetic to Louis who is portrayed more fully than in many novels about Marie Antoinette. It is often hard to know what is fact and what is the author's invention but rather than being annoying,  I find it has inspired me to read more on the subject.

If you like a dramatic story with a serious historical setting you should enjoy The Queen's Lover. Auckland Libraries has several other titles by Francine du Plessix Gray notably, in this case, At Home with the Marquis de Sade:A Life. 

Title: The Queen's Lover
Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
ISBN: 9781594203374 (hbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin Press

 - Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

18 June, 2013

The Writing Class by Stephanie Johnson [Zoë, Central City Library]

Apparently Stephanie Johnson first titled this book "A Novel: How to Write a Novel". Which would have been brilliant. As it is, even by a different name, The Writing Class is so clever as a work of fiction, it's almost vulgar. On top of that, it's a pretty cute writer's manual too. So perhaps the more commercial title makes the whole thing a little more accessible.

What's clear is that this novel, like all great art, has a sense of inevitability about it - reading it, you feel that this is a book that had to be born; someone, somewhere, someday just had to write it. And apparently Stephanie Johnson was the woman to do it.

Stephanie Johnson has a depth and breadth of writing experience that spans poetry, short stories, literary and historical fiction, theatre, and radio. There are lots of "ins" to her work; my fandom was secured by her funny, tough short fiction, but yours may equally have been won by quite a different genre. No matter; The Writing Class stands alone as the summit of Johnson's literary experience and prowess, poured forth genrously into delicious, bite-size chapters.

The novel's structure itself is laid bare in its chapter headings, which read like a writing guide:Ways of Beginning”, “To Be Going on With”, “The Writer’s Life”...The book embraces the gamut of upcoming and established writers' experiences too: mentoring, rivalry, writer's block, creative writing classes, and the challenge of e-publishing.

To say that it work self-consciously calls attention to itself would be an understatement - it's a blow-by-blow account of how to write a novel, played out by willing characters. Yes, it is heavily self-referencing (Johnson even mentions herself by name at one point, and much of the material reads as veiled autobiography), but never uncomfortably so. The narrative is wry, there's tenderness and warmth for the characters, and enough intrigue in the plot to make this book as readable as it is clever.

Title: The Writing Class
Author: Stephanie Johnson
ISBN: 9781775532590 (pbk.)
Published: 2013
Publisher: Random House New Zealand

 - Zoë, Central City Library

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick [Kathy, Collections, Orewa]

Robert Goolrick has a writing style that is a pleasure to read. From the first sentence 'the thing is, all memory is fiction' I was drawn in to the story of a small American town and the unique characters that live there.

It's set in Virginia in 1948 -'the kind of town that existed in the years right after the war, where the terrible American wanting hadn't touched yet'.

Charlie Beale arrives in town with his butchers knives and a case full of money (which is never explained). He gets a job with the local butcher Will, and settles in to life in Brownsburg. Will's five year old son Sam is captivated by Charlie and the man and boy spend a lot of time together. Things start to get murky when Charlie falls for Sylvan Glass, the young wife of the town's richest resident. The resulting love affair brings tragic consequences; nothing like I'd expected.

Goolrick's descriptions create vivid images in your mind of the setting and the people which remain well after you finish the book. I was a bit disappointed by the way everything turned out in the end but still think this is a great story by a talented writer.

Title: Heading Out to Wonderful
Author: Robert Goolick
ISBN: 9781565129238
Published: 2012
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

 - Kathy, Collections, Orewa

17 June, 2013

Ancient Light by John Banville [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]

Actually the 3rd book in a trilogy, but I didn’t realize until I’d finished it, and it certainly can stand alone.

I really enjoyed this book, though at times I did feel like I was over the characters – particularly the main character, who was so terribly self-absorbed! But I felt this was deliberate, and I’m not sure that the author wanted us to be entirely sympathetic towards his character.

Two key themes of the book are memory and grief, and I felt both were both handled with amazing skill. Banville considers questions like: How much does the past haunt us? How much does it colour our daily lives? How much is it a thing we create ourselves? And while his character indulges in constant forays into memories of a long past affair, it gradually dawns on you how much he is doing it to avoid other memories. Memories of his dead daughter, which he skirts around for fear of being sucked in to a grief that lurks like a dark mass within his mind.

Throughout the novel Banville delights in sending his readers to the dictionary. There were many words I didn’t know, e.g. p.104 “Leporine uncertainty” – ‘Of or resembling a hare’ – and I really enjoyed this playfulness with language. If you manage to read it without going to the dictionary once, I take my hat off to you!

Title: Ancient Light
Author: John Banville
ISBN: 9780670920617
Published: 2012
Publisher: Viking

- Rhiannon, Waiheke Library

15 June, 2013

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman [Sue W, Central City Library]

How can you not pick up a book with a title like this? Chuck Klosterman is like the funny guy everyone knew at high school, with an opinion on everything, and a rapid fire comeback for every attempt to outsmart him.

Sometimes irritating sure, but as a collection of essays on pop culture and the absurdities of modern life, he is hugely entertaining. The best part being that you can skip over any essay that doesn't interest you or shut the book when you feel you've reached your tolerance level. This book is best read by dipping into it in small bites and picking whatever essay interests you at a given time rather than in a sequential  cover to cover manner.

Klosterman's small asides at the end of each essays on his personal life are especially entertaining, making no apology for his intense self interested focus throughout the book. I especially enjoyed reading his 23 questions he asks of potential partners before deciding if he can really fall in love with them. There is alot to like about this book, best enjoyed knowing that nothing written can be taken too seriously, but rather enjoyed for its superficial yet somehow fitting commentaries on popular culture.

Title: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
Author: Chuck Klosterman
ISBN: 9780743236010
Published: 2004
Publisher: N.Y.: Scribner

 - Sue W, Central City Library

About Face: Supermodels, Then and Now DVD [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I have this curiosity about people who work in jobs with a limited shelf life, like sports and in this case modeling, and I love to learn how their life, attitudes and outlook changes as they move on to something else. "About face" is a documentary that gets back all the great supermodels from decades ago and asks them some big questions, about their lives in the job and after. Featuring the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Cheryl Teigs, Beverly Johnson, Christie Brinkley, Pat Cleveland, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova and many others, the film manages to show us candid stories of the highs and lows of the fashion industry.

We get to see really personal sidesfrom the models, some being quite honest and even wise. What I liked was the objective self-reflection that is possible through the distance of time to events that have marked them, but no longer rule them. Issues like the inferiority complexes, temptations and criticism about age that all are just a given in this industry will speak to any woman and I liked the frank admissions some of them made about it that take us a bit behind the scenes of the glamourous illusions of modelling. Concerning self-confidence, they all suggest  that they are stronger and more self-aware from surviving and succeeding in a career that involves so much criticism and scrutiny.

Interestingly, they all have wildly varying views of the industry (and life!) today, but it probably shows that - through the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and ethnicities - a model's life is as real as ours, even if it doesn't seem so.

Title: About Face: Supermodels, Then and Now
Author: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Published: 2013
Publisher: Madman Entertainment

 - Ina, Mt Albert Library

13 June, 2013

The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton [Heather, East Coast Bays Library]

Kate Morton is a new author to me, An Australian, she follows in the footsteps of contemporary Australian women authors such as Di Morrissey, Judy Nunn, and Colleen McCullough with her tales being perfect for curling up with and reading on a Sunday afternoon.

The Secret Keeper is her latest book. Set predominantly in England, it is the story of an idyllic family life which is ripped apart for 16 year Laurel when she witnesses a shocking crime committed by her mother, Dolly. In adulthood, as her mother lies on her deathbed, Laurel returns to the family home and sets about trying to sort out the mystery of why her mother had acted so uncharacteristically in committing the crime.
Alternating between the timeframes of World War Two, the 1960s and present day, the story is told in the voices of Laurel and Dolly and Vivien, Dolly’s wartime friend, this book is an enjoyable yarn and well worth a read.

Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
ISBN: 9780330477598
Published: 2012
Publisher: N.Y.: Atria Books

 - Heather, East Coast Bays Library

10 June, 2013

Dexter. Season 6 [Paul, Birkenhead]

1, 2, 3, 4, 5... ! I hardly ever watch five seasons of anything. So I'm pretty sure this means I have accomplished something. Or at the very least I feel honour-bound to watch Dexter serial-killer as avenging-angel in the sixth. Or, at the very next least, say I liked it enough to insist I'll be watching the next season. Wait, have I just damned Dex with faint praise? Will this make him angry? Worse, will he soliloquize interminably quasi-religiously?

Doesn't matter. Some things are just too suave to fail. Michael C Hall's melodious monster has you at the first aside as he enacts his opening perversion: trank, wrap, gab, stab, bag, splash. Yes, after so many seasons serial killing becomes eerily glib. Meanwhile, subplots galore, with lots of backstabbing.  Lesser followers - ie non-fans - would probably feel disdain, but I just quirked a lip every time there was a scene interrupted by a cellphone, nodded expectantly at another exterior shot of the Miami Metro Police Station, and tilted forward as the camera tracked Dex driving the same bit of highway, again. Was he on the way to the marina, or back?

Anyway, such is the in-joke fruitiness of film-tv-dom one can only be pleased to notice that Dexter's adversaries include a possible cylon and a man whose father talks to soccer balls. I fully expect by the next series everybody will have at least one 'out there' friend, and they'll all be back-slapping and stabbing each other.

Best watch this soon: the dvd of the 7th season is coming.

Title: Dexter. Season 6 [dvd]
Author: dvd
Publisher: Universal Pictures, 2012.

Reviewed by Paul, Birkenhead.

08 June, 2013

The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult [Christine, Takapuna Library]

Chris and Emily have been friends forever; they have grown up next door to each other, always best mates.   Their families are also close with many shared festivities and celebrations.  Quietly there is the expectation that Chris and Em will marry and the families will be in-laws, closer than ever.  As they mature into their teens, Chris's love for Em becomes romantic and sexual, but for the first time Em is out of step with him.  She still sees Chris as a brother, someone to clown around with, a study partner, an ally when her parents are being unreasonably strict, a confidant... then she asks Chris to do the impossible.

Title: The Pact: A Love Story
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9780060858803
Published: 2005
Published: W. Morrow

 - Christine, Takapuna Library

06 June, 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks [Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library]

“Use your head; cut off theirs.” This is one of the only ways to kill the zombies that come very close to ending humanity. World War Z is a collection of individual accounts where the author plays the role of an agent of the 'United Nations Postwar Commission'. One decade after the story's 'Zombie War', he travels across the world, from decimated cities to the most remote areas of the planet, to record the experiences of men, women and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the undead and survived.

Reading the title, you would think that this book would be about zombies, a war, gore, guts and guns, and you’d be right. However, rather than a grand overview or narrative, World War Z is structured along the lines of an interviewed documentary, where each subject would answer questions. The story begins with Patient X and the first strains, moves to the full outbreak and the fight against it, before finishing with the recovery of various countries after the war. 

Max Brooks successfully conveys the helplessness, fear and chaos that comes with pandemics and war, but also the perseverance and resistance man can show in spite of all that. I found it to be a sobering commentary on humanity and the current state of the world. Replace the Zombie War with any war or health scare that you can think of, and the reactions and actions could be quite similar to Brooks’ novel; the issues and underlying plot points are as relevant today as yesterday or tomorrow. 

One thing I took away from World War Z, is that it's a novel with a truly global scope. There is a contrast in how the Zombie War spreads in and affects urbanized, first world countries like the United States, village-centric rural areas of southeast Asia, and infrastructure-poor wastelands of Russia for example, but simple human interests like selfishness, to tense political crises are common in whatever country you are in. What is also interesting to see is how each society deals with and fights against this epidemic.

Published in 2006, this book has welcomed a recent surge in popularity, most likely due to the motion picture based on it releasing in June 2013. An audiobook is also available.

This book is stark, brutal, thought provoking and not at all what I expected from a novel about zombies. Definitely one of the more interesting fantasy/sci-fi books I’ve read in a while, check it out.

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Director: Max Brooks
Published: 2006
Publisher: Crown

- Sucheta, Grey Lynn Library

English Graphic by Tom Lubbock [Jonny, Central City Library]

Tom Lubbock, who tragically died in 2011, from a brain tumor at age 53 was an artist and art critic.
This book collects his short essays on 'graphic' works which could mean maps, prints or watercolors. The essays were originally published in the Observer.

The works are arranged chronologically beginning with the Uffington white horse. Lubbock each work to think out loud about the work itself and whatever other things intersect in his mind when musing on each piece. The Uffington horse piece includes a succinct discussion of restoration and authenticity in art.
Included in the collection are pieces by well known artists William Blake and illus

Another essay looks at two very early maps of the British isles one from 1250 the other from 1399 and uses them as a springboard for Lubbock's own lateral imagination as he suggests that one of the maps may resemble a human body, links this to Milton's Paradise Lost, then leaps to Hamlet.

It is always interesting to read the thoughts of someone who is a practitioner writing from within their discipline.

As an artist brings his own aesthetic perspective and ideas to each of the works considered.
I was happy to indulge Lubbock's mind to roam around in these short essays, they are just the right length, they never digress too much or outstay their welcome.

Title: English Graphic
Author: Tom Lubbock
ISBN: 9780711233706
Published: 2012
Publisher: London: Frances Lincoln Ltd.

 - Jonny, Central City Library

05 June, 2013

Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn [Annie, Central City Library]

What would happen if The Queen went AWOL? What is it like to never have time off? To live forever in the public gaze – with every action and emotion analysed? What is the significance of The Queen, and the monarchy, in today’s world?These, are other questions, are gently explored by a first-time novelist / long time historian and biographer (whose research into the Victorian era court shines through this novel).

In honour of Queen's Birthday weekend, I thought a review of this recent bestseller was in order. Step back a little from the joy and celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee last year, and pick up this engaging and thoughtful read. One to quietly savour as a gentle pleasure. The hardback version I read gives a subtle tactile pleasure to the read, as well, with its unevenly trimmed pages.

The surrounding cast of six (with a few cameos) enables to author to explore many aspects of modern society including issues around class, age, race, sexuality, and war. Each character is given equal weight, as they support and interact with The Queen and each other.By escaping alone, she has the chance to meet a variety of people, and to hear their stories - very much the voice of the common people, from their own mouths.

This fictional version of The Queen is entirely human and sympathetically portrayed. She is an older woman, pondering her past and her actions.

Other popular culture and fictional representations of The Queen are mentioned, mainly Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader and the Helen Mirren portrayal in The Queen, both worth exploring.

Title: Mrs Queen Takes the Train
Author: William Kuhn
ISBN: 9780062208286 (hbk) / 9781743312872
Published: 2012
Publisher: Harper (hbk) / Allen & Unwin (pbk)

- Annie, Central City Library

03 June, 2013

White Girl Problems by Babe Walker [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

Babe Walker is how I imagine one of Paris Hilton's friends would be. Really shallow, vapid, spoilt, brat-like, but strangely interesting, at least the pages flew by for me! Babe is in rehab, where she went after spending $246,893.50 in one afternoon of compulsive shopping. When she has a fight with her therapist, she finally decides to get out all her problems - by writing these memoirs. 

What really drew me in was that Tori Spelling endorses this book. On the cover.  Now ain't that something, maybe she identifies!

I am putting you off this book yet? No? Good!

Because I reckon certainly if you like fashion, if you like reading celebrity gossip mags even a little, and if you can see the irony in all those celebs who strive so hard (think Posh Beckham, for e.g.) this book will be just the ticket for an awesomely relaxing read. You know you're not like Babe (perhaps Tori does too, but Posh I think does not), and you know Babe is OTT with just about everything. She is so self-centred, vain, unempathetic...but...somehow she avoids being too totally annoying. By a whisker.  Maybe explained when her heritage is (finally) revealed in the final chapters. Poor Babe. No wonder she's like that with those problems.

Get a taster of Babe on her blog: http://www.babewalker.com/

Title: White Girl Problems
Author: Babe Walker
ISBN: 9781401324544
Published: 2012
Publisher: Hyperion, New York

 - Emma, Birkenhead Library

02 June, 2013

The Bone Thief by V. M. Whitworth [Joyce, New Lynn Library]

I was drawn to the  debut novel by V M Whitworth The Bone Thief  by its cover and is set in 900 A.D. in  Anglo Saxon England, a culturally diverse land divided into many different kingdoms and on the brink of change.

The plot is a fine balance  between fact and fiction and  is a compelling tale of  a  naive young cleric called Wulfgar who has led a sheltered life in Winchester Cathedral. He is sent on a mission of great importance to the kingdom by Lady Athelfled  who is King Alfred’s eldest daughter married to the ailing Lord of Mercia.  Don't be put off by the mission as the book has believable settings and a plausible story for the period and has a authentic feel as you walk with Wulfgar. He struggles with his ideals in what was a dangerous and culturally diverse kingdoms and meets some  interesting characters who are instrumental in him changing  his naive view of the world.

England was divided into many small kingdoms and loyalties could change overnight with all the  political ramifications that this brings to any  power game when creating  a united and whole nation. The battles are very real though thankfully without  the detailed descriptions of   Bernard Cornwall's Warrior/Saxon series

The Traitors' Pit takes up the tale some months later and is about loyalty and rivalry and you feel for Wuffa, as he is known to his friends, as he has to divide his attention between loyalty to family when his brother is accused of treason and faces a traitors death, his own needs and allegiance to his Kingdom.

The main complaint about both books is that a map is really a necessity and you can now find this at www.vmwhitworth.co.uk/news/2012/03/map-bone-thief.
The author specialised  in Medieval Literature at Oxford with a M.A and M. Phil from York University and the glossary alone is worth reading especially if you are interested in the development of language.
I was delighted to discover  that “Gossip "  is Old English god-sip (as in sibling) - someone to whom you are related through baptism  and with whom, presumably, you would want to exchange the important news of the day”.

Title: The Bone Thief and The Traitors' Pit
Author: V.M. Whitworth
ISBN: 9780091947217 and 9780091947187
Published: 2012 and 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press

 - Joyce, New Lynn Library

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks [Aimee, Howick Library]

As someone who once had an imaginary friend, I thought this book sounded like a bit of me. In fact, I managed to read it over the course of a single afternoon, wrapped up sick on the couch. The story is narrated by an imaginary friend named Budo. Such a cool kid! Yeah he may be imaginary, but his human friend Max has imagined him so well. He can do all sorts of stuff that your average imaginary friend can’t: he can walk through doors and windows, has the height and appearance of a regular little boy, and is really intelligent. This is all related to the fact that Max has Aspergers. Max is a smart, imaginative boy who lives inside himself, and Budo helps him cope with the outside world. When Max is abducted, it’s up to Budo to save him.

There are some really great characters in this story. Max’s teacher Mrs. Gosk is wonderful. She’s the kind of fun lovely teacher you may have had as a little one – if not, she’s the kind you wish you’d had. The cast of imaginary friends Budo interacts with are also great. There’s a talking puppy, a little girl named Graham, a wee bobble-headed boy, and a big talking spoon, among others. It’s obvious the author has a vivid imagination.

If you like something a bit different with odd characters, you may enjoy this. It might even have you wondering about the fate of your long-lost imaginary buddy ;)

Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Author: Matthew Dicks
ISBN: 9781250006219
Published: 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

- Aimee, Howick Library