28 January, 2014

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Masterful”, “shimmering” and “splendid”  are the kinds of superlatives that have been showered upon this second novel of Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri.

The Lowlands,
which was shortlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize, is indeed a wonderful read. It draws you in slowly but surely and even though it moves at a langorous pace, the journey through the book seems to end almost too soon.

The story begins in the Indian city of Calcutta where we meet two young brothers, inseparable from each other. The older, Udyan grows up to be an activist and reactionary, and plunges into the politics of 1950s and 60s India. His life is cut short and he leaves behind a devastated family including a young, pregnant wife. Meanwhile, Subhash, the other brother, diligent where Udyan was adventurous, has moved to America to study. He visits India to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death and in a surprise turn, marries his widow, the fiercely intelligent Gauri - in a bid to rescue her and the child she is carrying from an isolated life.  
Once in America, Gauri begins to get restless and soon withdraws into a world of academia. One day she simply walks away from her home and family. Never quite having gotten over the death of Udyan and her love for him, the years pass; Gauri grows old tormented by guilt for having abandoned her daughter at a tender age; the daughter grows into a woman and learns the secret of her identity and Subhash who has protected her always, finds love again. Lahiri has given us an epic story written with empathy and poignancy, of the possible repercussions of life decisions, of family and  parenthood, love and loss, distance and separation, loyalty and betrayal.
5 stars and a must-read from me.

Title: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
ISBN: 9780307265746
Published: 2013
Publisher: Knopf

Proxima by Stephen Baxter [Tim G, Northcote]

Stephen Baxter, author of series such as the Xeelee Sequence, the NASA Trilogy, and the Destiny's Children, has earned his place in the pantheon of science fiction writers. Baxter is influenced by H. G. Wells and writes at a level only seen in the masterful works of  Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. He is also on par with more recent science fiction authors such as Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton and Iain M Banks.

Baxter drops us into the mind of our protagonist Yuri Eden, as he wakes from involuntary stasis in a hospital which, by 23rd-century standards, seems poorly equipped. The gravity seems Earth norm, so he's not about to complain, having spent his last period out of stasis in a Mars labour camp, where the gravity was never quite right.

From this  kernel of experience, the story expands to encompass an intricate tale spanning two star systems, between which humanity's first interstellar steps are being made toward the Proxima system and an inhabitable world. However, these steps are being propelled by Kernels, mysterious high-energy exotic matter anomalies which can be harnessed to power space craft.

Throughout the story, we are led to question the costs at which humanity's progress is being made, and the effect the process is having on the fate of human civilisation. What I liked about this book was its scope. As the narrative extends into centuries, we are walked through them with a masterful collection of human interactions and character development.

Title: Proxima
Author: Stephen Baxter
ISBN: 9780575116849 (trade)(hbk.)
Published: 2013
Publisher: Gollancz

 - Tim G, Northcote Library

27 January, 2014

Tumble Bee (CD), by Laura Veirs [Laura, Parnell Library]

If I were to tell you that Laura Veirs lives in the world capital of the hipsterhood, Portland, it might give you the wrong idea about this album of sweet folk songs. This is an album with very little pretension (no offence to the hip of the world) and a whole lot of simple harmonies and musicianship that will get your toes tapping even if you are much older than the intended audience.

I was introduced to this gorgeous CD by my sister, who would play it in the car for her wee boy. Yup, as the cover says it's a collection of "folk songs for children", but they are all so darn lovely I would recommend anyone who appreciates a good folk tune has a listen.

The songs are mainly traditional American numbers, with classics such as Jump Down Spin Around (pick a bale of cotton) and some Woody Guthrie thrown in for good measure. My favourite tracks are The Fox (went out on a chilly night), which my Mum used to sing to us as kids, and King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O, a neat little traditional number that I could play over and over.

If you're looking for something new to play for the kids, or just something new for yourself, don't misjudge the hipsterhood - get you some Laura Veirs and you'll be singing away to soothing lullabies and uplifting hoe downs and wishing you played the fiddle. Or is that just me?

Title: Tumble Bee
Author: Laura Veirs
Publisher: [S.I]: Raven Marching Band, 2011
ISBN: 9786314511234 

- Laura, Parnell Library

26 January, 2014

Gantz (DVD) a Nikkatsu Studio production [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

This was one of best movies I watched in 2013. 

Made in Japan, it is subtitled, but this did not detract from the movie experience. We get sci-fi action with dudes in cool costumes fighting some creative alien creatures and a mysterious black orb which is controlling the lives of our protagonists - who just happen to have died already and have been brought back by Gantz to fulfill its missions. 

Mix it all with a bit of humour and enough budget for excellent special effects, plus the Tokyo setting, and this movie is fresh and enjoyable - enough for me to order the sequel straight away (Gantz perfect answer). 

Now I am reading my way through the original Manga series by Hiroya Oku. Note: the movie streamlines the manga storyline and has way fewer unrealistic body types in it.

TitleGantz (DVD)
Director: Shinsuke Sato ; written by Yusuke Watanabe
Published: 2011
Rating: R16 - Restricted to persons 16 years and over. Note: Horror scenes & violence.

Sixties Fashion by Jonathan Walford [Ina, Mt Albert Library]

If somebody gave me a time machine today, I would send myself straight to the 60s. The excitement and revolutionary spirit of the decade has always had massive appeal to me and when I was younger I (deludingly?) wished I was a true hippie. As that's all a bit out of reach, I resort to books instead and therefore, being a huge fan of Twiggy & Co, I could not walk past this volume.

It's way more than a book full of gorgeous pictures (although there are definitely plenty in there and more than half made me squeal with joy), as it also includes plenty of insightful commentary by the author on the massive social and economic changes that were the undercurrent of these brave new fashions. Together with newspaper clippings, illustrations and photographs, the author brings the era truly alive for the reader. Like a whirlwind, the book carries you from Asian embroidery dresses to the miniskirt to Space-Age designs, Pop Art and on and on. It doesn't get boring.

I got such helpful and easy-to-understand background info as to why and how things developed that I now feel like I have a much greater knowledge of not only the styles and designs of the 60s but also of that decade's whole attitude in general. And don't think it's just dry and boring history. I learned about random quirks like the "one-time-use bold pattern print dresses made out of paper" or why suddenly everyone went crazy over ethnic blouses. Jonathan Walford definitely knows what he is talking about and even readers knowledgeable about fashion will take away something from this book. If you don't care about all that stuff, just look at the incredible images, they will be enough.

Title: Sixties fashion : from 'less is more' to youthquake
Author: Jonathan Walford
ISBN: 9780500516935
Published: 2013
Publisher: London : Thames & Hudson Ltd

23 January, 2014

Sane New World: taming the mind by Ruby Wax [Clare Kitt, Massey Library]

Ruby Wax is a well-known US-born but London-based comedian. She spent many years fighting depression and going from one manic episode to the next. Desperate to break the cycle, she determined to find out why her brain and mind behaved the way it did. She had a mother who had her own problems, as many of us have, but the old tape kept playing in her head and she wanted to change it.

She somehow got into Oxford University (she's still not sure how) and earned a degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Here at last was the answer. She discovered that thoughts are just thoughts, they don't have to be listened to. The brain is plastic enough to change at any age, and mindfulness is the tool to use. Any negative thoughts can be ignored, or replaced with other more positive and beneficial ones.

Of course, it's not that easy, but becomes so with practice.
Ms Wax takes us through her own personal journey and shows us how to make our minds and thoughts our servant, not our master. She does so with her characteristic humour and vivacity. It is a well-written, easily-read book and I highly recommend it for anyone, not just those suffering from stress overload, anxiety or depression. 

Author: Ruby Wax
Publisher:  London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2013
ISBN:  9781444755732 (hbk.) 9781444755749 (pbk.)

22 January, 2014

Hart of Dixie (DVD), created by Leila Gerstein [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

Summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on TV series that I've missed out on due to other commitments. This year I chose to watch Hart of Dixie as I’d seen bits of the second series buried away on a Sunday afternoon timeslot and was curious to see it from the start.

It’s set in Bluebell, Alabama and is centred around a young doctor, Zoe Hart, who inherits a share in a doctor’s practice there. The town is full of eccentric characters - a true Southern belle, a handsome lawyer, a former NFL player turned mayor, and a charming ‘bad boy’ bartender. As Zoe settles into town there are numerous conflicts between her big city ways and the conventions of a small town.

Billed as a comedy drama, it is a mostly lighthearted look at small-town values, relationships and family dynamics. It could be classed as chick lit, but the male in my house seemed to know a lot about the show despite appearing to be on his computer while the TV was on. I loved the setting, the distinctive characters and the quirky humour of the storylines.

After watching all 21 episodes complete with all the clichés of Southern USA and a mostly country music soundtrack, I felt like I’d visited Bluebell on my holidays! I hope to get back there some time soon with series two.

Creator: Leila Gerstein
Published: 2012
Distributor: Warner Brothers. Entertainment Australia.

21 January, 2014

A Period of Juvenile Prosperity by Mike Brody [Nick, Central City Library]

A Period of Juvenile Prosperity is a collection of gritty and emotive photographs by Mike Brody, documenting five years of his train-hopping travails across the United States in the company of a ragtag group of bohemian cohorts. The prints are hewn from earthy hues of warm and slightly faded colour, at times luminous in the soft golden light of dawn or dusk, and appear as if distilled from the dirt and grime of months on the road.

Together the body of work forms a brawny narrative, of defiant young outcasts, rough sleeping and hard living vagabonds with an unerring sense of post-punk style, traversing the seamy margins of society, and framed amidst stark, transitory, and anonymous landscapes.

The depictions of free-wheeling camaraderie, and the lonely beauty of the itinerant lifestyle could easily slip into romanticism, but for Brody's candid depictions of the adversity he encounters. Here, weathered youths with drawn and pallid faces make their squats amidst the rusted hulks of dirty carriages, scavenging food amidst rail-side detritus, a coal heap for a bed, a battered copy of The Rum Dairy for a pillow.

The emotional tenderness of Brody's work stands as testament to his total emersion in the lifestyle. The images are highly subjective and communicate a powerful authenticity of experience I often find lacking in contemporary art. There is no pretense in Brody's work, for him the journey is the destination, deeply felt and lovingly photographed.

Title: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity
Author: Mike Brody
ISBN: 9781936611027
Published: 2012
Publisher: Santa Fe, N.M : Twin Palms.

20 January, 2014

Ernest and Celestine (DVD) Screenplay & dialogue by Daniel Pennac [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

Witty, delightful, clever, great storytelling! This French animated DVD is based on author Gabrielle Vincent's children's picture books about Ernest the bear and Celestine, a mouse. In Ernest and Celestine, the bears live above ground, the mice have their town below and both have their own police. Ernest and Celestine are both outcasts from their own communities and are soon on the run from their respective gendarmes, leading to some very clever, very funny "cops and robbers" chases.

Just about anyone aged from 5 up, and many younger, will enjoy this film although parents or older siblings may have to read the English subtitles to children learning to read. That could add to the fun, but you do not need children in the house to appreciate this pearl of French film animation. Unfortunately, you do need to be able to play Region 2 DVDs.

The artwork and muted colouring closely follow the illustrations in the books. This will appeal to children who are familiar with the books but some children who are used to brightly coloured, Disney-type cartooning with frenetic characters and soundtrack may find it dull. Borrow it anyway, you are sure to enjoy it!

Auckland Libraries has several of Gabrielle Vincent's Ernest and Celestine titles both in English and Chinese and one in Korean.

Title: Ernest and Celestine 
Director: Benjamin Renner
Published: 2013
Publisher: StudioCanal

Consider the fork: a history of invention in the kitchen by Bee Wilson [Surani, Waitakere Central library]

If you are one of those curious types like me you would look at this cover, turn it over to read the blurb and think twice before putting it back down!

Inside this book is the most fascinating history of inventions in the kitchen. You wouldn't think it, but it took countless inventions, small and large, to get to the well-equipped kitchen we have now.

From the humble cooking pot, with which we were able to eat plants that could have otherwise been toxic if eaten raw, to the stainless steel knives, forks, and spoons we seem unable to live without, this book explores the story of invention behind each item and illustrates their development through the ages and cultures.

Bee Wilson's book might seem extremely comprehensive at times but I found this quite a witty tome to read and enjoy. I must say that after I read this, I gained a profound sense of respect and insight into the world of cooking and the forces of history that have shaped it.

Cooking is not one of the skills I can boast about but after reading the following quote in 'Consider the Fork', I can truly say that I am a changed person:

"The first act of cooking was THE decisive moment in history - we ceased to be upright apes and became more fully human. Cooking... helped make our brains uniquely large, providing a dull human body with a brilliant human mind."

I think everyone should include this title on their must-read list, right after 'War and Peace'!

Author: Bee Wilson
ISBN: 9781846143403
Published: 2012
Publisher: London: Particular 

11 January, 2014

Bekas (DVD) [reviewed by Rochelle, Botany Library]

For those who love a change of pace from the Hollywood movie offerings, Bekas is a wonderful alternative. Set in a harsh 1990s Iraq, Bekas is about two young Kurdish orphan brothers (Dana who is 10 years old and Zana who is 7) who dream of a better life by going to America and finding Superman in order to solve all of their problems.

The film captures the innocent hopes of children and shows the world in the eyes of a child. It touches on the value of brotherhood and the enthusiasm to reach the impossible dream against all odds. It also allows us a glimpse of the real-life hardship of two orphaned boys living in Kurdistan under the rule of Saddam Hussein. While Zana is ever the optimist, Dana is the realist who has to consider the realities that they would need passports, funds and transportation which both do not possess.

Complicating their plan a little bit is the fact that Dana has found a love interest which affects his sense of focus on the brothers’ goal. Moreover, this film provides inspiration, passion, adventure, laughter, hope, tenderness and love. A definite warm-hearted movie worthy of acclaim.

Title: Bekas (DVD)
Director: Karzan Kader
Rating: M - suitable for mature audiences 16 and over

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine - Teddy Wayne [Sue W, Central City]

This book reads like a mockumentary fly-on-the-wall tale of a young popstar, Bieberesque style. It could be the Biebs when he was that bright shiny young thing, aping the big-boy moves and singing of girlfriends and crushes, very candy floss but just the opiate the young tweens craved and needed. Imagine a behind-the-façade tale, the exhaustion, the dissonance between the popstar image and manufactured persona and an 11-year-old boy trying to work out just who he is, and who he should be looking to for role models. It's an odd kind of a read because it's both satire, yet also poignant and hugely entertaining. It's about the impact of the cult of celebrity on one so young, a curse disguised as living the dream. Outwardly the fame, fans and ridiculous amount of money, yet what is real and what is acting and what if all of life starts to feel like some kind of performance? And don’t get me started on the phenomenon of the “stage mother”.  We are not surprised to hear of child celebrities whose stars burn too brightly and they end up with addiction issues or episodes of mental breakdown. What must it be like to realise at the tender age of 15 that your childhood is gone, it was nigh-on nonexistent  and your view of the world is yellowed and stained by cyncism and wariness. Well done, Teddy Wayne.

Reviewed by: Sue W

Title: The Love Song of Jonny Valentine 

Author: Teddy Wayne
Date: 2013
Publisher: Freepress N.Y 

Books vs Cigarettes by George Orwell [Stanley, Central City Library]

Are books too expensive to buy? In this engaging essay – which comes with several other pieces of writing - George Orwell compares the price of new books with other entertainments and vices such as day trips to the beach, drinking and smoking. He argues that they are in fact one of the cheapest forms of entertainment, and offers a controversial conclusion on why many adults in his time did not read as a source of recreation.

Other pieces in this collection touch on things as diverse as freedom of the press, and passionate polemics against totalitarianism. Bookshop Memories was another favourite of mine, describing the varied characters he encountered while working in a bookshop with a lending library.

This is one of Penguin’s Great Ideas series, which offer highlights of the worldviews of key thinkers and writers without dumbing down their philosophies. Orwell has several in this series, including his The Decline of an English Murder, and Why I Write; the latter ironically includes an excellent essay on how not to write! I really like Orwell’s style, which is as good in these pieces as in 1984 or Animal Farm. His polemics are often engaging and always erudite. Some of his reflections are gold, like the hypothesis that independent booksellers would be pushed out of business by larger companies (made over 60 years ago).

For more opinions on books vs other forms of recreations, see this L.A.Review of Books article with personal reflections on the title essay, and the virtues and flaws of e-books. 

Title: Books vs Cigarettes
Author:George Orwell 
ISBN: 9780141036618
Published: 2008  
Publisher: Penguin

10 January, 2014

The Power of Glamour: Longing and the art of visual persuasion [Claire, Central City Library]

We all love the lie that is glamour. Images of glamorous people, objects and places offer us an escape from day-to-day mediocrity. For a moment we can imagine ourselves living in another world more perfect than this one where we can escape to a life of tranquility and ease. Someone or something glamorous represents "that dream-self we all long to be".

Virginia Postrel's theories on glamour are thought-provoking. She explains how glamour is a powerful form of nonverbal persuasion and how it taps into our most secret dreams and deepest yearnings to influence our everyday choices. She gives us some of the history of glamour through the ages. The old Scots word "glamour" described a literal magic spell. A "glamour" made its subject see things that weren't there.

Glamour is an illusion that distorts perceptions and is often used to sell us something. The image isn't entirely false, but it's deceptive. Some details are obscured while others are heightened. I found it interesting to think about how glamour has changed. Warriors have always been icons of glamour, but after World War I the horrors of the trenches changed the way people viewed war. In the 1920s, pacifism became glamorous.

I was surprised to learn how glamour can actually be a positive force. It appeals to our optimism and can drive our aspirations through triggering the imagination. Postrel gives the example of a 4-year-old orphan girl who saw an image of a ballerina on a magazine page that blew onto the orphanage's fence. In the picture she saw everything that she didn't have and thought, "This is what I want to be". Each night she gazed at the picture and dreamed. Adopted by an American couple, she studied dance and at age 17 became a professional ballerina. She said she moved along fast because she was so determined to be like that person in the magazine.

In a world where we're constantly bombarded by images, I found it enlightening and fascinating to learn a lot more about visual persuasion.

Title: The Power of Glamour: Longing and the art of visual persuasion
Author: Virginia Postrel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, New York.
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781416561118

09 January, 2014

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware [Gerard, East Coast Bays Library]

If you knew you had only a few days or a few weeks to live, what would be your greatest regret? The author, as a palliative care nurse, spent many years looking after people who were dying, hearing their life stories and the regrets they had. From this she found certain recurring themes of what people regretted when dying. This led her to initially write an article called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, and then, through public interest in this article, writing this same named book. In so doing she shares the stories of the people she cared for and the story of her own life, and how what she learned from those she nursed helped her.

This is a book I would highly recommend. Although, in saying this, I would acknowledge this is not a book for everyone, being as much a memoir as about the top five regrets of the dying. But to me the stories of the people she cared for and the author’s life helped make the whole subject become alive. It is a book that helps give a new perspective on (or at least reinforces) what is truly important in life, and helps give an insight into how we can make the best of our lives right now.

On a concluding note I should also mention that my first awareness of this book was an article I came across (The top five regrets of the dying), and so I am including a link to this same article to help give you a flavour of what the book is all about.

Author: Bronnie Ware
ISBN: 9781401940652 
Published: 2012
Publisher: Carlsbad, Calif.; Alexandria, N.S.W. : Hay House 

- Gerard, East Coast Bays Library

06 January, 2014

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

How do you remember your past?  Is your memory true?
Tony Webster is taken back to his past and memories of his friend Adrian who committed suicide many years ago when he receives a lawyer's letter from an old girlfriend's mother.  This begins his recollections of his schooldays, his first girlfriend, and his friends.
Gradually Tony tells his version of the past happenings as they relate to these people, and thus we are brought to his present.  He meets his ex-girlfriend who is still an enigma to him.  She scathingly says, "you didn't get it then, and you don't now"... but she annoyingly never tells him anything straight out.  So not until the final pages does he work out how his past actions could have changed the present in ways he wouldn't have ever thought they could.
You can't help but be sympathetic to Tony, who seems like a pretty nice, fairly ordinary kind of guy who becomes dogged in his determination uncover the events of the past.  His retells his story in an understated way, yet it retains your interest because of the ideas he explores.  Personal history, memory, and one's story of one's own past can take on a different light if we are given even a little more information...thus he seeks, and finds, the sense of an ending for himself...
This book won the Man Booker Prize 2011.

Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
ISBN: 9780224094153
Publisher: London : Jonathan Cape, 2011.

A Girl Like You by Maureen Lindley [Biddy, Highland Park]

Satomi, born to an American father and a Japanese mother,has never felt that she "fits" - neither with the Japanese families in town nor the white Americans. As tensions escalate and result in the start of World War II, her singularity cannot be avoided and the ease of her life in Angelina, California, comes to an end.

Soon the attitudes to the family can no longer be ignored and Satomi's father signs up and is killed at Pearl Harbour. Despite the fact that he died fighting for America against the Japanese, the community alienates Satomi and her gentle mother, Tamura, completely. The situation deteriorates beyond their worst nightmares when President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 declares that anyone with "one drop of Japanese blood" will be interned.

Satomi and Tamura find themselves in the dire conditions of Manzanar, a filthy, disease-filled internment camp. Both women maintain their pride and grace and soon establish a small but close-knit circle of friends.

The author discovered this shameful piece of American history while researching Pearl Harbour and felt that the story needed to be written. It was an eye-opener for me but, even with the atmosphere of prejudice and hardship that the Japanese people encountered at that time, the story and its protagonists have a charming appeal. Recommended to readers who enjoy historical novels set in World War II, coming-of-age-stories or simply as a good summer read.

Author: Maureen Lindley
Publisher: Bloomsbury, New York
Date: 2013
ISBN: 9781608192656

Toxicology by Jessica Hagedorn [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

New York City: Filmmaker Mimi Smith is needing some encouragement to help her career. Money or cocaine will both assist, but only when her 14-year-old daughter Violet is not around. Fortunately, her neighbour, legendary writer Eleanor Delacroix (who at 84 is really too old to be doing such things), is happy to help. Since her partner Yvonne died, Eleanor has been lonely, and she has fancied Mimi for a long time. Not to mention, some young upstarts have requested Eleanor do a reading and an interview for their magazine, which makes her slightly nervous...

Fast-paced, fun and light-hearted, this book doesn't really have a full-on storyline to it, but it tells plenty. It is all about the characters, and I was gripped by their lives. We learn about Mimi and her pianist brother Carmelo, who grew up in the Philippines until their parents were killed by a bomb. We follow Violet and her friends as they hang out and play up. We hear about Eleanor's past, and her relationship with the gorgeous and talented Yvonne, a renowned painter.

The book begins fairly tongue-in cheek - a bit like Elmore Leonard for artists and chicks - but then it gets more serious, and a bit sad.  I didn't get too sad, because c'est le vie, and everyone was true to themselves.

I also never got bored, because no one was ever boring, and that was just what I needed at the time. The title is apt - don't read it if you are shocked by drug-taking.

Title: Toxicology
Author: Jessica Hagedorn
ISBN:  9780670022571
Published: New York, Viking, 2011

04 January, 2014

Micro Green [Stanley, Central City Library]

From the author of Tiny Houses, this highly pictorial guide to compact living and sustainable architecture is the perfect coffee-table book. It features everyday houses, artists’ studios and more, from across the globe – from the spartan to the luxurious.

One of the highlights is the “free house” made with shipping pallets and other scavenged materials. Many other creations blend in with their natural surroundings, such as a sleepout/artwork in the Netherlands inspired by trees that grow in the woods nearby, or a shipping container repurposed as a surfer’s beach house. Some are off the grid, or away from civilisation altogether. 

One I particularly liked was Valhalla, which resides in Iceland, set in a terrain of fractured lava covered in moss and lichen. Then there’s the almost industrial/military-inspired 4m sq sleep-out (that sleeps seven!) on wheels… a marvel of corrugated aluminium and DIY panache.

Whether you’re looking for ideas for the bach, creating an eco-house, or just for escapism, this is pure eye candy for a lazy summer or winter holiday. 

Author: Mimi Zeiger
ISBN: 9780847835836
Published: 2011
Publisher: Rizzoli International Publications

03 January, 2014

Jessi-Cat: the cat that unlocked a boy's heart by Jayne Dillon [Erika, Central City Library]

Lorcan Dillon is a bright and bubbly child who likes to play with toy soldiers, rough house with his brother and the family dog, and loves to make noise - he also lives with the challenge of having selective mutism, an anxiety disorder which sometimes leaves him unable to speak to certain people or in certain situations. Like his older brother Adam, Lorcan also faces the challenge of having Asperger sydrome.

Lorcan's family are supportive and struggle against the public health system to get Lorcan diagnosed so he can receive the early help he needs and have success at school and later in life. Through patience and perseverance, Lorcan's family is able to get some help, but they have no idea that the best therapy they could ever wish for would appear in the guise of a Birman kitten who is quickly named Jessi-Cat.

Through Jessi-Cat Lorcan is able to connect more with the world around him, and in Jessi-Cat he finds a mischievous companion and friend. Jessi-Cat is a heartwarming read about one little cat who changed the life of one child and his family, and in doing so won the prestigious Cats Protection National Cat of the Year in 2012.  There are loads of books around about the benefits of the human-animal bond people share with dogs, but this time the animal therapist is a cat - who truly deserves all the attention she has received. A thoughtful and thought-provoking book. 

Title: Jessi-Cat: the cat that unlocked a boy's heart
Author: Jayne Dillon with Alison Maloney
ISBN: 9781782431244
Published: 2013
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books

- Erika, Central City Library

01 January, 2014

Adventures with the wife in space by Neil Perryman [Annie, Helensville]

A new year heralds a new Doctor Who, with Peter Capaldi making his full-bodied debut in the 2013 Christmas special. 

How better to celebrate than to explore the Doctors’ past, through the experiment of Who fan Neil Perryman who challenged his wife Sue to watch ALL the classic Who episodes – even the lost ones. 

The full episode feedback is available on his blog, but this book goes into more detail: how they met, some of her reaction to the show, and the public’s reaction to their blog. Sue has her chance to speak, too.

This is great fun, with no quarter given. Favourite episodes and Doctors are pulled apart. Beloved Pertwee is known as ‘The Pompous One’ – and that’s Sue being polite. So, yes, some language may offend. It ends with Neil and Sue watching ‘The Name of the Doctor’, the episode that introduced John Hurt into the timeline. 

A perfect read for Doctor Who fans, whether you’ve visited the blog or not. Something to fill in the time before the next series appears... *sigh*.

~ Anne.

Author: Neil Perryman
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780571298105

Aimless Love by Billy Collins [reviewed by Paul, Birkenhead]

Naturally one of your New Year's resolutions - apart from keeping the sand from your sandwiches out out of your ereader* - is to read more poetry. In which case, who better to start with than Billy Collins. His writing is so lucid it transparently must be about something trickier than that. You're no sooner in than you're out the other side looking back. Such is the wave upon wave of ironies he could roof a barn. He certainly knows how to twerk a word.

What stands out is the voice: witty, bleak, gleeful, restrained, self-deprecatory -  your inner thesaurian will nod itself into extinction coming up with words of praise. Yeah, it's a performance, yet such is the palpable feel and depth of this narrator, it is tempting to identify him with Collins, himself coming across in much the same way in interviews and such (check out YouTube). Not that you should. Right?

What does he write about? Being aware in the world, suburban hubris, language as a mobius striptease. Shrug, I dunno. Read the poem about the hippo, that'll help.

*Also available in audiobook form (batteries not included).

Title: Aimless Love
Author: Billy Collins
Publisher: Random House, 2013.

Reviewed by Paul, Birkenhead Library.