29 July, 2013
22 July, 2013
The Rosie Project is certainly the 'laugh out loud' book it promises to be.
Don Tillman, quirky Professor of Genetics, has decided it's time to find a wife. He draws up a very detailed questionnaire aimed at screening out all unsuitable applicants. Along comes Rosie, who does not seem to fit any of the criteria...but for some strange reason, Don likes to spend time with her. Rosie has her own project though, and Don steps in to help.
The Rosie Project has had great reviews and it won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for an unpublished fiction manuscript.
I did thoroughly enjoy the book, but a little nagging voice wondered about some aspects of the story. The book reminded me that we all think so differently, and so need to be more accepting, but was the humour at times at the expense of sufferers of Aspergers - I can't know, but I hope not.
Read it - it's an unusual romance, an engaging comedy, and a little crazy. This is Simsion's first novel, and I am already waiting to see what he does next.
Title: The Rosie Project
Author:Graeme C. Simsion
Publisher: Text Publishing, Melbourne
- Judy, Orewa Library
Set in North Korea this book follows the life of Pak Jan Do who is the Orphan Masters son. He is raised the same as the other boys in the work camp for orphans, who routinely get the most dangerous jobs. He becomes a tunnel soldier trained to fight in complete darkness, then he is part of a group assigned to kidnaps Japanese citizens, then he works on a fishing boat as a radio operator. Finally he ends up in a prison mine and ends up killing and impersonating Commander Ga, the countries greatest military hero. Yes, a bit fantastical, but the way the author describes life in North Korea, where it seems that even ones thoughts are censored for fear of denunciation, there is no-body brave enough to speak out, so he gets away with it. People have been trained to accept any reality presented to them.
Adam Johnson describes North Korea as “the most difficult place on earth to be fully human…I had to use imagination to do it, because North Koreans aren’t allowed to tell their own stories.” His description of life in North Korea is fascinating, descriptions of privations and barbarities are matter of fact. Based on research and a bit of imagination, the story he tells is riveting. AND it is the WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE for fiction 2013. Highly recommended.
Author: Adam Johnson
IBSN: 9780812982626 (pbk.)
Publisher: Random House
- Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library
― Sebastian Faulks, A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts
A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks is a novel in five parts. Five parts in which you don’t ever meet the same characters again, nor are you ever in the same place or time period. As such it’s impossible to describe this book by plot or setting, because it moves in no apparent order between a cricket loving teacher enduring the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp in world war two, a boy given away to a work-house in the early 19th century who makes a success of his life, forbidden love and science in a futuristic 2029, the life of a nursemaid looking after children in a French village in the 1800s and the 1970s music scene which sees a passionate love affair and the rise of a music star in the U.S. What connects the five stories or novellas is a web of shared themes - of love, separation, opportunities missed, and within them, new possibilities discovered. Harsh conditions and adversity often bring a heightened awareness to the job of living and this is a thread that runs through the book. The protagonist in each part is artfully created and even though they are as diverse as you could possibly get, each character is credible and all the more likable for having a touch of the misfit in them; an evocative style with a lovely combination of descriptive, deep writing, and snappy dialogue gives the book that unputdownable quality. While you may enjoy one story more than another, I loved the writing, the story-telling, the people and the moods created and gave up lots of other things that I should have been doing, simply because I couldn’t stop reading.
Author: Sebastian Faulks
- Suneeta, Highland Park Library
- Suneeta, Highland Park Library
19 July, 2013
On the cover of this comic book is a weird deer. Is it a deer? Maybe not. It is deer-shaped, with four deer-ish legs, a kind of deer face, and antlers- all the bits are in the right deer places. But something about it tells me that it is not actually a deer. I think because it seems to be made out of some kind of oozing, red substance and because its eye is like a big flat dish. And it kind of has a beak.
Something is wrong with something familiar. Or else something weird is treated as if it was the most mundane thing in the world. This is what Deforge plays around with in this collection of short comics.
There is a faux-natural history comic, called ‘Spotting Deer’, that explains that the creature on the cover is actually a common Canadian quadrapedal slug. The narrator in another story is a teenage guy who is super excited to be hanging out with a cool local band. We the readers see that the band is made up of these disgusting meaty blob-monsters, but do the other characters notice this? No one mentions that the singer, Gabe, looks like a piece of fried chicken. Are all the kids oblivious? or brainwashed?... or just living in a world where monsters are pretty ordinary? This weirdness is so underplayed that it seems all the more weird and Deforge draws it just right- in a cartoony, clear line style, so that nothing looks exactly normal. Everything seems to be made out of the same fleshy, viscous gloop. Post
Title: Very Casual
Author: Michael Deforge
Publisher: Koyama Press
16 July, 2013
The pace of this story moves along rapidly. Elly comes up with lots of tactics to avoid being found and this makes interesting reading, with the suspense building up as her investigations reveal more and more about the deception she is caught up in. The settings in Melbourne and Sydney are genuine and anyone who has travelled to those cities will recognise the well-known locations. I couldn't put this book down as it got near the end setting up a climax revealing Elly's pursuer and his motives.
A little bit of trivia - Jenny Spence is the wife of Bruce Spence, the New Zealand-born actor who has appeared in Mad Max and Star Wars movies. There's an interview with the couple in the June edition of Good Reading magazine which you can read through our digital library or in print at a number of Auckland libraries.
Title: No Safe Place
Author: Jenny Spence
- Kathy, Collections Orewa
15 July, 2013
What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-One Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most by Elizabeth Benedict [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]
One of the reasons I picked up this book was obviously because of the gorgeous cover. Just looking at those vibrant gift boxes made me want to pick it up and see that the book was all about. This lovely volume is a collection of individual stories of gifts that touched the lives of some best selling and famous daughters.
Each story is uniquely told in their distinct voices.Among the contributors we find Pulitzer prize winners, best selling novelists and celebrated broadcasting journalists. All of them have one thing in common; a gift that their mother gave that touched them to the core and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in their own life.
Within each story the author explains how their mother instructed them in the ways of womanhood, encouraged their talents or just reminded her of her mother's love. I found that no matter how modest the gift, each story told of powerful bond between each mother and daughter.
While I read this, some of the stories brought a few tears to my eyes. It took me to my own childhood to the very first book my mother gave me to read; and to the many more she bought over the years. I would say that my mother gave me the best gift of all; a love of reading and a love for books. She opened up my mind and helped my imagination soar.
This is indeed a very special book! I would recommend it to everyone who shares a special bond with their mother.
Title: What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-One Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most
Author: Elizabeth Benedict
Publisher: Chapel Hill / NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
- Surani, Waitakere Central Library
13 July, 2013
"Jo Nesbø's Headhunters" is a film that's really vibrant and suprisingly full of (at times rather black - I warned you) humour which tells the story of past-time art thief Roger Brown who steals famous paintings to keep his high end lifestyle afloat and his wife happy. When he hears of the old master painting a new aquaintance (who is more like a rival) is supposed to own, the temptation is too great - he thinks up a clever plan to steal it and retire forever rich. What he doesn't know is that he just got more than he bargained for, with the "victim" being an ex black ops tracker who doesn't take kindly to being stolen from and never gives up. Now Brown turns from hunter to hunted and it is a delight to see how he deals with the turned around situation, especially when nothing is as it seems.
I loved to suspense of trying to figure out who is playing whom, and as more information is revealed, you start to really root for Brown who has to think on the spot to turn a bad predicament into a revolutionizing fight for his own life. At times things become so crazy you start to wonder where it all will go, but somehow it is just so wrong that it feels totally right again.
If you love good thrillers that are a bit off the beaten track and like some great cinematography set in beautiful Norway, you will have some crazy fun with this one.
Title: Jo Nesbø's Headhunters
Director: Morten Tyldum
Publisher: Yellow Bird Films
Note: R16 - restricted to persons 16 years and over. Contains violence and sex scenes.
- Ina, Mt Albert Library
And so it was, in fact, not just interesting but outrageously funny. A satire on sexuality, contemporary life, office politics and political correctness run amok and rampantly ridiculous in it's far fetched premises. Despite its sexual theme it is surprisingly not terribly rude and when you stop to reflect, lots of more graphic details are left to the imagination, which your mind will happily supply becuase its just so darn funny.
Ok here's the ember that sparks the flame. Joe is a hardworking salesman looking for his opening niche whereby he can supply a new product that satisfies a previously unidentified need. With lots of time on his hands due to poor sales,one afternoon's steamy daydreams sparks a "what if" scenario and the concept of the lightning rod is born. Thats all I'm going to divulge, read it and enjoy. Definately unique, seriously funny.
Title: Lightning Rods
Author: Helen De Witt
Publisher: New Directions Books
- Sue W, Central City Library
11 July, 2013
Title: Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Publisher: New York: Random House
- Sarah, East Coast Bays Library
10 July, 2013
Moving between 1949 and 1969, Michele Forbes ‘ debut novel narrates the story of Katherine Bedford ,a young actress, and the changes she and her native Ireland experience in that period. The story starts in 1969 with Katherine, her husband George and four children enjoying a day at the seaside. Their picture of apparent domestic bliss is cut short by Katherine’s near-drowning experience. The shock of the experience jolts her and takes her back 20 years to her life in amateur theatre and the passionate love she felt for Tom, the tailor whom she met on the eve of her engagement to George.
The novel explores the excitement of this brief affair and the double-life Katherine lived then and the effects it has had on her marriage. Parallel to the story of the Bedford family is that of the escalation of political unrest taking place around them in Belfast and the way it impacts their lives. The story is meticulously crafted and the reader is taken on a journey on several levels, discovering more about the characters and their environment as it is read. A real gem. Ghost Moth is highly recommended.
Title: Ghost Moth
Author: Micháele Forbes
Published: New York, NY 2013
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
- Biddy, Highland Park
08 July, 2013
The 10 pm Question doesn't play along to standard YA conventions. It turns its back when you grumble at the chunky internal monologues. It puts its nose in the air and suggests you try a little Harry Potter as you grouch at the characters being so well filled-out they're just about fit to burst. This book takes a little patience to get into, but it rewards like a degustation at The French Cafe for your efforts.
The 10 pm Question certainly is character-driven, featuring a truly sympathetic depiction of an extremely anxious, intensely creative boy called Frankie, his so-odd-they're-normal family, and his two best friends. All the characters have their own demons to battle, especially Frankie's mum, who is horrifically agoraphobic, a disability that that has deep ramifications for Frankie's own sense of the world. The New Zealand setting is depicted with a refreshingly light touch, and the reader is left with a satisfying sense of obstacles faced and sometimes, overcome.
Best of all (and this is really just me being pedantic), the bird on the cover is not just there because it makes for an attractive book cover. It's actually significant to the story (!).
Title: The 10 pm Question
Author: Kate De Goldi
ISBN: 9781877460203 (pbk.)
Publisher: Longacre Press
- Zoë, Central City Library
Windy, even overblown, yet still breath-taking: the new Culture novel. Iain M Banks chucks one out and the best thing you can do is catch it. It'll dent your chest. I'd quote you some but this review has sub-galactic dimensions. Which doesn't seem to be so for many of IMB's sentences, often as long as a piece of string theory.
After a dozen or so Culture books expect all the startling usual. Like the titular sonata for an instrument not yet invented, which - by the time of the telling of here - has been. Etc. (Oh yes, etcetera!). The metalogical metaphor of the novel itself, perhaps.
Who knows! Such is the scale, the operatic artistry, the Jovian knowingness it's almost like one of the Ship Minds has slowed down enough to write something we can sort of kid ourselves we read with understanding. Sometimes I wonder if there's even need of a plot; the digressive nature of much of the writing works splendidly. Like the elaboration of what exactly a GSV "system" ship is..
It's the Minds you keep coming back to, of course. Their humour and morality and, well, earthiness. The Culture series is really just one big probe of what these things are. I'm struck by how they make most SFF characters seem just too American. There's something about that British self-deprecatory self-servingness.. Still, we might feel differently, if we knew what really happened in the Iridian War. Maybe the next book will tell.
Title: The Hydrogen Sonata
Author: Iain M Banks
ISBN: 9780356501505 (hbk), 9780356501512 (trade)
- Paul, Birkenhead Library
Title: The Hydrogen Sonata
Author: Iain M Banks
ISBN: 9780356501505 (hbk), 9780356501512 (trade)
- Paul, Birkenhead Library
06 July, 2013
The Accidental Apprentice is the story of hardworking middle class working girl, Sapna Sinha, who is being given the opportunity to run a global empire by Vinay Mohan Acharya, the owner of ABC Group of Companies. As Sapna is faced with what seems like an insurmountable “daily life” problems, she accepts the offer but has to first pass seven life tests to prove that she is worthy to be called CEO. If she as much fails one test, then the deal is off and she goes back to the daily grind of her ordinary life.
It takes a really long time for the book to get to its main point. The prologue took its time by focusing too much on Sapna’s background, the reason why she came to this point in her life etc before coming to focus on the main premise of the story. After the first 50 plus pages, the reader is finally taken through a chapter each of the seven life tests and this is where things get really interesting. After getting through the prologue, I literally could not put the book down. The surprise ending more than makes up for the really slow start to the book.
In saying this, anyone who has read Q & A by the same author might be a tad disappointed with this one. The book tackles a more serious subject and parts of it can be really heavy reading but stick to it and I guarantee you a really good read.
Title: The Accidental Apprentice
Author: Vikas Swarup
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Rochelle, Howick Library
Get Real: How to Tell It Like It Is In a World of Illusions by Elaine Glaser [Stanley, Central City]
In a world where oil companies tout their supposed environmental credentials and millionaire politicians play up their status as common people, Elaine Glaser takes aim at the sacred cows of our age. Controversial without necessarily trying to offend, virtually no one is spared from her well-reasoned polemics.
Most of her examples are as true of NZ as they are of the UK or United States. One example is the travesty of the many “grassroots” political movements orchestrated and/or funded by millionaires, from the Tea Party to climate change skeptics. (Locally, I think of the tobacco companies’ crusade against plain packaging.)
Another intriguing idea she puts forward is that political Left and Right divisions are still alive and well – but disguised in other forms. Ideology doesn’t die; it just takes on a new name and gets better PR. Her beef is less with those of a different political colour, and more with those who use claim to be ideologically-neutral, pragmatically-guided political animals.
Glaser writes incisive and cultured prose that is a pleasure to read. Her section on “food porn” is excellent. (“We are becoming like orally fixated toddlers, transfixed by Nigella’s cupcakey bosom, Starbucks’ vanilla frappuccinos and Michelin-starred creamy, frothy sauces.”)
Although many of her ideas are not new or novel, the presentation of them makes this worth the read. Recommended for skeptics and idealists alike.
Title: Get Real
Author: Elaine Glaser
Publisher: Fourth Estate
- Stanley, Central City Library
04 July, 2013
How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, and Civil Servants [Louise, Central Library]
- John Hodgman, writer
I cannot tell you what inspired me to pick up this book, but until I read How to Sharpen Pencils, I had not fully considered the skill required to correctly sharpen a pencil. Frankly, I was ill equipped. I failed to warm up adequately beforehand, I was using an ineffective technique, and I was ignorant of the right tools needed to get my pencils to a high standard of writability. And this is the entire point (ba-dom chhh!) of this book: sharpening pencils. It is over 200 pages long, with no less than seven chapters on how to properly use various pencil sharpening tools and their effects on the point of your pencil. No detail is too small – in fact, the details are nothing but small: consider, for example, a whole chapter (with diagrams!) on Pencil Anatomy. Who knew there was a name for the metal bit that holds the eraser on? I’ll tell you who knows: David Rees knows. (I’ve forgotten).
If you use a pencil in your work, study or even just recreationally, then its effectiveness as a writing tool depends on you reading this book. But, should you feel that your pencil sharpening skills are not up to the task, then you can always post your pencils to David Rees in New York where, for a small fee, he will artisanally sharpen it for you, and send the perfectly pointed pencil back to you with the shavings carefully labeled in a Ziploc bag. This would be the most perfectly sharpened pencil you will ever see, which is why most internet commenters seem to prefer to frame the pencil, rather than use it.
How to Sharpen Pencils is earnest and thorough to the point of hilarity. Hands down, the best book about sharpening pencils I have read this year.
Title: How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, and Civil Servants
Author: David Rees
ISBN: 9781612190402 (hbk.)
Publisher: Melville House
- Louise, Central City Library
03 July, 2013
If you’re reading a library blog, I have to assume that you, too, love (or are exceedingly fond of) books and reading and libraries. What if you found out that books really were magic? That certain people could use books and words to perform some amazing things? That you could reach into a copy of The lion, the witch and the wardrobe (on the correct page, of course) and pull out a vial of Lucy’s healing potion? Or, looking for a particular book, reach into Robin McKinley’s Beauty and use the Beast’s library to locate it? Think of the power. Think of the temptation.
Taking all of the above into account, I was impatient to read Libriomancer, featuring Isaac and librarian and libriomancer. It is due to Hines’ writing, however, that makes the story entrancing, and keeps you reading. You know you are reading something written by a fellow booklover and ponderer. Hines is not one to take himself seriously, and that attitude comes through his writing. It’s an attitude I like. (Need evidence of this? Check out his Cover Pose series on his blog).
The perfect read for a fantasy bookloving fan (liking Sherlock Holmes – the original text – will enhance your enjoyment).
Author: Jim C Hines
Publisher: DAW Books
- Annie, Central City Library.
01 July, 2013
Leah - Yellow; Madonna, Culture Club, Thompson Twins; Harrison Ford; E.T.
Leah and Keisha (Natalie) and Felix and Nathan. Went to the same school, live in the same area, grew up in the same estate. Don't all know each other, though Leah and Keisha were best friends since age 4. I have not ever been to NW London. But I reckon if I go there now I'd feel like I had. The sense of the place pervades this story.
The novel is in four sections which feature in order; Leah, Felix, Keisha/Natalie and Nathan. So we get a chance to hear what makes each person tick. Characters are strong, but story is also strong. The tragedy that is central to this novel involves you deeply in the characters lives.
I related strongly to the girls, and understood the boys. Why?..... It is because Smith taps into some universal experiences - and her references to the small things we do may surprise and delight you. On a grander scale there is the growing up and growing older thing, how we change and what we hold on to: falling off, falling on, and - growing more together, or not. The way we really all just continually muddle along.
It was funny, it was sad, it was tragic, it was smart and it was my best book in ages. Each time I put it down, I looked forward to when I'd next get to read.
Off to read Zadie Smith's White Teeth next. I hear that's a good one too.
Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
- Emma, Birkenhead Library