30 November, 2013

The design Cookbook – Recipes for a stylish home by Kelly Edwards [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

I seem to be a little obsessive compulsive regarding interior design books. No matter what they are about, I have to pick them up and have a good look through them. And with most of them, that is enough. There is the “pretty pictures but boring living” type, the “all those fun little details” type, the “look at me I’m rich” type and the “looks great but unrealistic/impractical” type. They are all fun to look at but aren’t really useful when thinking about decorating your own home. They might bring you some inspiration, but the translation and execution into your home is your own problem. This book is not like any of these. It actually works the other way around.

In this book, Kelly Edwards did what we would do: looking at amazing examples and dissecting them for the everyday house - but with her keen eye and great experience she does a much better job at it than we could. Some of her examples are her own, but many come from famous interior design blogs and smart people with great ideas. The pictures have small notes that break down each message into a sentence and are easy to absorb and learn from.

Then, she has easy to follow DIY recipes throughout that make you yourself one of these smart people with clever home design ideas that results in situations like: people coming in and say “oh what a great lamp/table/headboard you have” and you reply “Thanks, I made that” – everybody being really impressed.

I loved Edwards’ clear and approachable attitude towards design; she loves a high-end, stylish and contemporary look without expecting a high-end budget. And even if her “recipe” includes a few luxury pieces, there is enough inspiration in the book to find an amazing replacement for a small budget. It’s fun, colourful and makes you feel positive and excited about interiors. What more could you want.

Title: The design Cookbook – Recipes for a stylish home
Author: Kelly Edwards
Publisher: Medallion Press
Date:  2013
ISBN: 9781605425320

29 November, 2013

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell (Biddy, Highland Park)

Hannah Richell's second novel has all the ingredients for a good read-intrigue, mystery, complicated relationships and very believable characters. The book covers two parallel storylines set in a remote cottage in the Peak District, England, 30 years apart.

Four friends, recent university graduates, decide to forego their planned careers to take a year off and live the simple life together in the derelict cottage they come across in the countryside. This rite of passage "drop out" experience is something that I would certainly have found tempting and I am sure tantalises the imagination of most readers.Inevitably, this close co-habitation results in tensions and these are exacerbated by the arrival of Freya, Kat's younger sister.

Thirty years later, Lila, a young woman grieving the loss of her baby, arrives at the same remote cottage. She too is drawn by the magic of the place and elects to spend long periods of time there, renovating the cottage and becoming increasingly intrigued by the people who'd been there before her.

The characters, their histories and their relationships are revealed as the story evolves. Richell's writing is detailed and absorbing. The novel is perfect summer holiday reading and would appeal to readers of general fiction and mysteries.

Author: Hannah Richell
Publisher: Orion, London
Date: 2013
ISBN: 9781409142980

27 November, 2013

The Enfield Conspiracy by Ken Brewer [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

This enjoyable military fiction is the first novel by a New Zealand author originally from Devonshire so it is no surprise that it begins and ends there. In between it travels to India, Australia and early New Zealand and goes around The Cape of Good Hope three times. It takes in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, convict transports to Australia and the unrest of the early land wars in Taranaki. Although the plot brings to mind Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels the main  character and hero is very different from Richard Sharpe; Nicholas Reede is an upright, earnest ensign not yet twenty years old and more like the young Hornblower. However, he faces villains just as treacherous as Sergeant Hawkeswill.                                                                                         
The Enfield Conspiracy encompasses interesting historical events which the author has researched but the action is the dominant feature in this novel. The plot is fast-moving and full of dangers, both man-made and natural, and Ensign Reede's life is under threat several times. He and his small detail of soldiers have been charged with taking warning of  plot back to England through the turmoil of the mutiny and the determined opposition of the powerful and well-equiped plotter. I enjoyed this historical novel for its fast, exciting plot and also because it included some Australasian historical events.

Ken Brewer is a policeman living in Auckland and has written histories of the polce in Otahuhu, Waiuku, Papakura and Tuakau. Auckland Libraries hold all these but some must be used in the holding library.                                                                                                                                  
 Title: The Enfield Conspiracy
 Author: Ken Brewer
 ISBN: 9781592324002
 Published: 2012
 Publisher: Seaburn

25 November, 2013

Eat, pray, eat: one man's accidental search for equanimity, equilibrium and enlightenment by Michael Booth [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

I must  admit that I didn’t especially go in search of this book. It fell into my hands and because of the success of Eat, Pray, Love, the title that obviously inspired  this one,  my curiosity was piqued. The story centres around the middle-age crisis of a food-loving, unfit, anxious, dipsomaniac who travels to India accompanied by his  intelligent, no-nonsense but devoted wife and family, to get a grip on his life. In a search to find oneself there is no more clichéd place in the world to go to than India, but that is where any comparison ends. With a self-deprecating humour, Michael Booth presents an unsentimental account in which the country provides the background for his personal journey through yoga and meditation as a means to transform himself. While the challenges and surprises of being in a foreign land, especially one full of contrasts like India, are a part of the story but this is not a book about the country, nor (as was originally hoped by the author) is it a foodie travelogue. What it is, is an often funny, honest portrayal of a man and how he experienced three months in India. I recommend it for its engaging, keep-reading style and ability to evoke empathy, especially in those of that certain age in life.

Title: Eat, pray, eat
Author: Michael Booth
ISBN: 9781444812978
Published: 2011
Publisher: F.A. Thorpe

24 November, 2013

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]


This book really gets in your head and stays there. It was definitely hard to put down, hence a late night for me. The whole book is told from the perspective of a five year old boy called Jack. It soon becomes apparent as he narrates his day and surroundings that he is the child of an abductee, and that his whole world consists of Room, which is a space 11 x 11 feet, with a locked door and a skylight. The most important thing in Room is his Ma. She has raised him to the best of her abilities and done her best to keep him from the attention of her kidnapper. At night Jack sleeps in the wardrobe to avoid encounters with him as he visits to bring supplies and use his mother. Each day is spent doing activities, playing games and doing reading and math activities with television as a reward. Everything is makeshift as there a few resources available.

Jack as a bright boy and as his mother becomes increasingly desperate about their situation they hatch a plan for escape, however when they have achieved this they both must adjust to life outside, which at first is utterly overwhelming. Up to now his Ma has been the only person in his life, Jack has to get used to new people, big spaces and new objects. Even stairs are unfamiliar and scary, so is rain. And now his mother often seems like a stranger to him. He longs for the familiarity of the things he knew in Room, while she would be happy never to see them again.

This is a beautifully written narrative, believably told and the fact that it was told from the child's point of view left out some of the possible disturbing aspects of his mothers treatment, (however these we can readily fill in for ourselves). I enjoyed the voice of Jack and the way he describes things, it is unsentimental, sometimes funny and very endearing.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010.

Title: Room: A Novel
Author: Emma Donoghue
ISBN: 9780330519014 (hbk.)
Published: 2010
Publisher: London: Picador

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

23 November, 2013

Stealing Athena : a novel by Karen Essex [Christine, Takapuna Library].

Women were often expected to be invisible and inaudible in public life.  If a woman was talked about it was because she was notorious, brazen, unnatural. The two female protagonists here challenge these social conventions.  They are linked through the great building project of the Parthenon. The first, Aspasia, is the mistress of Perikles.  She lived in the 'golden era' of Greek history  when the city of Athens was being rebuilt and temples were created to honour Athena..  Aspasia had acquired an education through eavesdropping and dared to discuss ideas with men. The other woman is Mary, the wife of Lord Elgin also living in a 'golden age', that of  British expansion.  Elgin is prepared to throw vast resources at retrieving the beautiful sculptures that adorn the Parthenon, spending money that is not his.  Mary is a great asset to him, charming the Ottoman Turks into giving permissions to remove statues and friezes that they saw as having no value.  

Making habits, breaking habits : how to make changes that stick by Jeremy Dean (Clare Kitt, Massey Library)


If you have found yourself on New Years Eve making resolutions that you can never seem to keep, then this is the book for you. We all have bad habits or would like to start new ones, but so far there hasn't been any scientific method to help us.

This book is a very large step in the direction of actually being useful. It seems that the key to the whole vexed problem of making the desired changes to our fraught existence is-wait for it- routine. The author lays out a very easy to follow programme of daily and weekly practice of your desired behaviour.

He uses the results of hundreds of scientific studies to describe how he arrived at his solutions and shows how the brain can be used to outsmart itself. It is a surprisingly entertaining and interesting read, in spite of the subject matter. Who knew that brain processes were so fascinating?

So get out there and start that new diet, or exercise programme or the great novel you've had stewing inside you for years. This time, using the methods proscribed, you can actually succeed.  

Title: Making Habits, breaking habits: How to make changes that stick
Author: Jeremy Dean
ISBN: 9781851689897
Publisher: London: Oneworld, 2013

21 November, 2013

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides [Ana, Central Library]

Jeffrey Eugenides most recent book is The Marriage Plot but The Virgin Suicides is very good too and I have chosen this one now.
More than a ‘coming of age’, I would call this novel an “interrupted coming of age”.  The five daughters of the Lisbon family all commit suicide while each is in their teens.  The reader is already prepared for this from the title of the novel, so it is not as shocking as it might be.  
The members of the Lisbon family keep very much to themselves; the parents are jealous guardians of their children -they cannot go out except to attend school or go to church.  In spite of their private way of living, the family is very much under surveillance, as their neighbours - and especially the teenage boys -  spend a lot of time spying on the girls.
The most intrepid boy talks to Mr Lisbon, who is a teacher in their school, and after much insistence he gets permission to take the four girls (Cecilia is already dead) out with his mates. The parents insist that they should all stay together and be back at 11:00 pm, and Mr and & Mrs Lisbon let them go.  The girls really enjoy themselves but Lux arrives home late - after the others - so that is the end of their outings. The house, and the surroundings, start to deteriorate and the inhabitants retreat completely inside the house.  The four remaining Lisbon girls commit suicide, each in her own way.
Why do they all commit suicide? The novel, or the neighbours speculate:  has capitalism brought spiritual bankruptcy? Were the girls deficient in serotonin? (serotoning is a mood regulator). Was it something sick in the heart of the country that had infected the girls? Or was it that they felt, in their isolation, already more dead than alive?
The novel is written in a cynical and black humour, both sad and funny at the same time, and certainly without any sentimentality.

 Title:              The Virgin Suicides
Author:Jeffrey Eugenides
Publish info:New York : Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 1993.

20 November, 2013

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves [Kathy, Collections Orewa]

With a summary that mentions a handsome policeman, a lonely housewife, and a depressed husband, this book could have easily turned into one of those steamy romances, but is instead more about a marriage than an affair.Claire's husband Chris has returned to a demanding job after a period of unemployment and is hardly ever home. He seems to have lost interest in his wife, so when she meets Daniel, a local policeman, she welcomes his friendship. The friendship however is always on the edge of developing into something more serious and Claire struggles with this.

The story is told by the three main characters, mostly by Claire, sometimes by Chris, and briefly by Daniel. I liked how this gives the different viewpoints and this reinforces the fact that there is always more than one side to a story.
It's not all about the relationships between the three main characters; the book also touches on family, friendships, depression and diabetes (Claire is a diabetic).
As the relationship between Daniel and Claire got more intense I was curious to find out how it was going to end -in this situation there's not going to be a happy ending for at least one of the characters. Tracey Garvis Graves crafts believable scenes with realistic characters and I felt like they were people I knew, not just characters in a book. That's probably why I liked it so much, it was set in a suburban world with situations that we all know.
A thought provoking read and a good book club choice as there are lots of issues to debate.

Title: Covet
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
ISBN:   9780525954071
Published: 2013
Publisher: Dutton

18 November, 2013

Brotherhood:dharma, destiny, and the American dream by Deepak Chopra and Sanjiv Chopra [Surani, Waitakere Central library]

In this unique book, Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra share the story of their personal struggles and triumphs as doctors, immigrants and brothers. The distinct voices of both brothers tell us their story of growing up in India surrounded by a loving family and goes on to recount their journey to America. The Chopras were among the most eager and ambitious of the new generation who emigrated to the United States in the 1970s.
We hear how Sanjiv struggled with a young family to reconcile the beliefs of his birthplace with those of his new home. Deepak's story took a different route and although he swiftly rose in the ranks of the hospital he worked for; he encountered resistance from the American doctors over what he called the mind-body connection. Eventually the brothers embraced America as the place to build their life and families, and went on to great achievements.

Filled with anecdotes from their own and their father's medical profession, the Chopra brothers hae made this memoir an exceptional read. I particularly enjoyed reading about Deepak's journey into Transition Meditation after he met Maharishi; and how he forged his way into becoming the great spiritual leader and best-selling author he is today!! Sanjiv's achievements are equally impressive as he went on to become a world-renowned medical expert in his field and a professor at Harvard Medical School!!

'Brotherhood' is a fascinating book that can inspire anyone to keep working hard at what you love and achieve well beyond your dreams.

I really enjoyed this book and I have my mother to thank for recommending it to me!!

Title: Brotherhood: dharma, destiny, and the American dream
Author: Deepak Chopra and Sanjiv Chopra
ISBN: 9780544032101
Published: 2013
Publisher: Boston, MA: New Harvest/Houghton Miffin Harcourt

16 November, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half [Sue W Central ]-Allie Brosh

How has it taken so stupidly long for me to hear about Allie Brosh? She has a blog with the same title as the book and has a huge audience of loyal fans. There is something both child like and slightly manic about her illustrations, which just makes her all the more endearing. This book is a memoir but narrated with illustrations, wonderfully deceptively simplistic looking cartoons. Its impossible not to be charmed by the author, both through her illustrated incidents of her life and the stories themselves. I love the fact that her illustrated form doesn’t change from childhood anecdotes through to adulthood, somehow reinforcing that sense of never fully being or feeling like a certified “adult”. I think my personal favourites from this book are the stories about her two cray cray dogs, “simple” dog and “helper” dog. Not to mention the sugar incident from childhood. This last one made the list because those of us driven my a need for sugar, recognise that this impulse is unfortunately not one you necessarily outgrow. Read the book-check, saved the blog to favourites-check.
Reviewed by: Sue W

Author: Allie Brosh
ISBN: 9781451666175
Simon and Schuster

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman [Sue W]-Eve Harris

I loved this book. It was like having a peephole into the ancient and private world of the world of ultra-orthodox Jew in contemporary London. Narrated from the viewpoint of several characters from within the community it reveals both the lifestyle and carefully observed religious laws of the faith as well how the faith is privately and individually experienced by each of the characters. Eve Harris has done a fabulous job. The novel begins with young Chani Kaufman dressed uncomfortably in her wedding garb on the eve of her wedding, and tracks her trepidation and excitement back and forth in time from the expression of interest communicated via the community matchmaker, through to the culmination of the wedding. The   young people must bravely face one another as man and wife when they have barely had any private contact beyond being in a  room together.

Then there is the narrative of the Rebbetzin, or Rabbi's wife who has been instructing Chani in preparation for her wedding while privately experiencing a crisis of faith and dissatisfaction with the life she has been living. Her story takes us back to her student days during an exchange year in Israel and how she became  Orthodox after falling in love with a young Jewish boy who was going through his own journey of religious discovery.

We also touch on the perspective of the young bridegroom and his domineering mother, learning fascinating insights into how the courtship process is handled and the currency of young good frum Jewish girls who are on the markets for marriage and how an expression of interest is handled.

Avromi, the son of the Rabbi is studying at a secular university and his story focuses on the difficulty of being on the contemporary world but not of it and what happens should one fall for one of the goyim.

A really special read, this book is one that really breathes life into a world that is steeped in ancient traditions and beliefs and beings to life not only its challenges for community members but the intense joy of a tradition that spans hundreds of years.

Title: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Author: Eve Harris 
ISBN: 9781908737434
Published: 2013. 
Publisher: Dingwall: Sandstone

14 November, 2013

The girl you left behind By Jo Jo Moyes [Phyllis, East Coast Bays Library]

"The girl you left behind" begins in France, 1916 in the middle of the first world war.

Sophie Lefevre runs a hotel and the small village in which she lives has now been taken over by German soldiers. She is ordered by the new Kommandant to make meals in the evenings for him and his soldiers. This puts Sophie in a very difficult position.

There is a portrait of Sophie, painted by her husband, that hangs in the hotel and the new Kommandant becomes quite obsessed about the portrait and this obsession in the end leads poor Sophie to make a terrible decision.

The book then jumps to London 2006 where the portrait now hangs in the home of Liv Halston. It was bought for Liv as a wedding gift from her husband who sadly has passed away. Liv of course loves the portrait and, through a series of difficult events, she finally gets to find out the history behind the picture.

Jo Jo Moyes' books are all different genres and "The girl you left behind" is historical. It’s not the kind of book that I would normally read but I would have to say that I was hooked from the very first chapter. I really couldn’t (nor wanted) to put it down, I had to keep reading until I knew how it ended for Sophie.

If you want a book that covers romance, a bit of history and a nail biting finish, this book is the one for you.

Author: Jo Jo Moyes
IBSN: 9780718157845
Published: 2012
Publisher: London: Michael Joseph 

-Phyllis, East Coast Bays Library

09 November, 2013

Chasing Ice (DVD)

For anyone who is still unsure whether global warming is happening, this DVD is an eye opener.

This documentary is based on the time lapse photography made by James Balog, a National Geographic photographer, to capture the effects of the weather change on the glaciers on various locations in the Northern Hemisphere.  Balog started the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) project in 2007 and the goal is to visually capture the effects of climate change to the environment, more specifically on the glacial ice.  The pictures allow nature to speak directly to the viewers on how the environmental warming is affecting planet.  Since “a picture paints a thousand words”, this DVD clarifies and beats the long verbal and scientific debate regarding the climate change that many people are getting confused about.  In essence, to see is to believe and this documentary creates a very strong impact on the audience that has encountered these pictures.

This DVD also gives a rare glimpse on the beauty and awe-inspiring wonder of glaciers and icebergs.  It shows the pristine picture of these ice wonders built over hundreds of years and inspires the viewers to realize that we all can do something to help improve this planet’s future.

For nature lovers and those curious about the climate change issue, this is a highly recommended viewing.

For those interested to read about this work, Auckland Libraries also has two (2) books by James Balog entitled “Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers” and “Extreme Ice Now: Vanishing Glaciers and Climate Change: A Progress Report”.