30 May, 2014

Sunny Volume 2 by Taiyo Matsumoto [Tim,Central]

Image for Sunny, Vol. 2In volume 1 of Sunny, a boy named Sei arrives at the Star Kids Home- a foster home for orphans and abandoned children. The other kids are excited and show him around.

One thing that the kids like is an old abandoned yellow Datsun Sunny. “It’s our clubhouse.” Sei asks if it goes: “You can move it with telepathy” they say. The kids play in the car- alone or in small groups- different kinds of secret fantasy lives. Sei is not an orphan. His mother left him there and promised to pick him up before the summer.

In Volume 2 a new boy arrives and Sei, who has given up on waiting for his mum, shows him around. He shows him the Sunny- “This place is just for kids. Everyone comes here when they feel sad.” The new boy has a mother who left him too. Sei feels bad for him.

When I read about Matsumoto I found out that his parents left him to grow up in a foster home so I think this story might be quite autobiographical. I also found out he is married to Saho Tono, who is also great and  draws the best comics about kids. Everything in their comics is a little bit nuts and a little bit ordinary and where those two things meet they find the perfect tone. Matsumoto, like his wife, draws with refined vigour and tells stories that feel like fleeting glimpses at something deep. That stops Sunny getting bogged down in sadness. Mostly it feels energetic and strange.

This is my favourite comic of the year so far.

Title: Sunny Volume 2
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
ISBN: 9781421555263
Published: 2013
Publisher: VIZ Media

29 May, 2014

Beautiful Inez by Bart Schneider (Juliet-Mangere East Library)

syndetics-lcA beautifully strung novel that explores the complexity of lives, of dangerous liaisons and the cruelty of depression.

Beauty and musical ability go hand in hand with Inez, but behind the talent, the reputation and the facade of perfection lies a woman struggling to cope with all that she is perceived to be. Since the birth of her second child Inez has been plagued with a depression so raw and consuming that thoughts of suicide constantly cross her mind. Her husband Jack, equally projecting to the naive world the illusion of perfection - he's charming and attractive a campaigner of civil rights - just can't seem to curb his philandering ways.

When Syliva Bran, a waitress supplementing her income with playing the piano in a music store, lays eyes upon Inez she is instantly drawn into an obsession with her. They develop a passionate affair and she is shown through Syliva the meaning of self abandon and desire.
This novel has been skilfully crafted to weave a sense that as the story unfolds a musical recital takes place.

 The ending may surprise some, but for others it is anticipated, signalled upon early on as the story unfolds. An enjoyable and enrapturing read, highly recommended.

Author: Beautiful Inez
Author: Bart Schneider
Published : 2005
Publisher: New York : Shaye Areheart Books
ISBN: 9780813039749

Bomb girls. Season 1: same war, different battles (DVD) [Emma, East Coast Bays Library]

Bomb Girls follows four women who build bombs in a munitions factory during World War Two. Lorna, a supervisor of the munitions factory and wife of a crippled soldier, Kate, running from her abusive father, Gladys, a socialite who's life is not her own, and Betty, the tomboy who becomes the poster girl for the war.  This DVD shows how life was like for women working in this time period. From being sexual harassed and not valued at work, to the pride they feel serving their country, this story is quite entertaining and enthralling. This series will be right up your alley if you like historic television programmes, like "Downton Abbey" and "Call the midwife." I thoroughly enjoyed this DVD - and am making my way through the second series. 

-Emma, East Coast Bays Library

Title: Bomb girls. Season 1: same war, different battles 
Starring: Jodi Balfour, Charlotte Hegele, Meg Tilly  
Published: 2013Rating: Pg- Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers.
Note: Course language and sexual references. 

27 May, 2014

Spare Brides by Adele Parks [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

The 'spare brides' in the title of this book refers to the British women that were destined to remain unmarried because so many young men of their generation died in the Great War. The story follows the lives of four friends, two sisters, Beatrice and Sarah, and their society friends Ava and Lydia. Lydia is the only one with a husband; Sarah is a war widow and the others have never married.

Spare Brides begins on New Years’ Eve in 1920 when the friends attend a glamorous party to bring in the new year. It is here that the main character Lydia meets a 'striking yet haunted' officer, which is the start of a year of change for all the women. Relationships are the main theme - women looking for husbands, illicit affairs, women's friendships, marriage problems and family responsibilities.

The period details were very well described which made it easy to imagine the look and atmosphere of the time and is similar in feel to the television series Downton Abbey. Certainly Ava as the daughter of an American mother and titled English father could easily be one of the Crawley family - Lady Mary perhaps?  

It's a fairly light read but does cover some serious topics, especially the huge changes the aftermath of World War I brought to British society.

Title: Spare Brides
Author: Adele Parks
ISBN: 9781472205384
Published: 2014
Publisher: Headline Review

26 May, 2014

Why do only white people get abducted by aliens?: teaching lessons from the Bronx by Ilana Garon [Surani, Waitakere Central library]

I guess you could say the title grabbed me first, then the quirky drawings that adorned the cover!

To begin with Ilana Garon points out that her book is not the typical 'hero teacher who saves the dysfunctional students from the inner-city schools' that usually get written. Once you read past the violence, abuse, and other horrifying truths, you see some remarkable characters emerge. Everyday Garon had to interact with students like Kayron, Carlos, Felicia, and Tonya - young people dealing with real life addictions, miscarriages, turf wars and gang violence. These students also brought with them big dreams and uncommon insight, and they challenged everything Garon thought she knew about education.

In her book, Garon explains how she learned that being a new teacher was about trial by fire, making mistakes, and sometimes learning from the very students she was teaching. There are times in this book that Gaon admits that she may not have answers to the tought-provoking (and sometimes amusing) questions her students ask of her.

This book is filled with anecdotes from the many interactions Garon has with various students throughout her career. The emails she sends home bring her to life and make you realise she is human after all.

I really enjoyed Ilana Garon's unique writing style. She doesn't drape anything fancy over her words, just the modest truth of what she encountered. Some of the trials these inner-city students faced made me realise how lucky I was in my life and appreciate the world I grew up in.

This is a fascinating read, just ignore the occasional swearing and abuse!!

Title: Why do only white people get abducted by aliens?: teaching lessons from the Bronx
Author: Ilana Garon
ISBN: 9781626361133
Published: 2013
Publisher: New York: Skyhorse Publishing

23 May, 2014

A long way home / Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose [Clare Kitt, Massey Library]

http://www.syndetics.com/index.php?isbn=9780670077045/lc.jpg&client=elgar&type=hw7As a young boy of only five, Saroo was out with his older brother in India. His brother was working on the railways, and meant to be taking care of him while he worked. Only somehow they became separated. Saroo tried to find his brother, but couldn't and boarded a train, thinking it would take him back home. But it didn't. It took him to a huge and frightening, completely unfamiliar city, Kolkata (Calcutta).

For seven weeks he survived on the streets of Kolkata, meeting people who helped him and some who meant him harm. Eventually, he was taken in by an orphanage and within weeks was adopted by a childless couple in Tasmania, Australia. He then found himself on an plane, together with his orphan friends, winging his way to a whole new life.

He tells how his Mum in Tasmania listened to his story and helped him draw a map and write down his recollections of where he'd come from, while they were still fresh in his mind. He never forgot his mother and brothers and sisters and the home he'd lived in until he was five.

Many years later, he decided to try and search for his home town using Google Earth. His wonderful Australian parents had kept his culture alive for him, eating the foods he'd grown up with, and encouraging him in his search.

This is a wonderful true story about love and family and childhood and determination. The picture on the cover shows a little lost boy, clutching a bar of chocolate, his very first. Starting from a life of poverty and deprivation he moved to a world of free education and privilege. But no matter what the circumstances of your family, love knows no bounds. 

A wonderful read.  

Author: Saroo Brierley
Publisher: Melbourne, Vic. : Viking, 2013.
ISBN: 9780670077045 (paperback).

19 May, 2014

The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith [Ella, Central Library]

Zadie Smith has charmed me once again with her beautiful new book, The Embassy of Cambodia. I am a big fan of Smith’s novels, which always seem to so perfectly capture a sense of time and place, and this book is no exception.

The Embassy of Cambodia, like many of Smith’s novels, is set in the multicultural community of North-West London. The story takes place over a few days in an unremarkable English suburb, and is narrated by a resident of the local retirement home. Yet it is far from dull.

Zadie Smith weaves together the local and the global in such a way that the book covers big issues from genocide in Cambodia to the fate of African nations, while at the same time focusing in on the domestic dramas and personal difficulties that come up in the day to day experience of Fatou, a young refugee working as a servant for a wealthy family in the neighbourhood.

Though it only gives us the smallest glimpse into Fatou's story, it is such an engaging and original one, with no easy answers or simple conclusions, that I was left thinking about it for days. A novella of only 69 pages this tiny volume manages to say more than most.

Title: The Embassy of Cambodia
Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9780241146521

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

When a young local waitress named Wendy White disappears, everyone in the small town of Haeden, New York, assumes she ran away, or that someone from outside was involved in her disappearance. But one young woman in the town suspects otherwise - Stacey Flynn, local reporter. Flynn's ex-boss calls her a bulldog- she won't let go of an idea, and this time, consequences could be deadly.
Meanwhile, talented teenager Alice Piper is reaching her own conclusions - and they are similar to Flynn's. Alice's observations of boys at her high school and of the workings of society will bring her to disillusionment in her parents hopeful teachings and will influence her subsequent actions. What unfolds is an incredibly suspenseful and disturbing story. Slowly as you read you will piece together what happened in Haeden over one summer, as different people in the town give their impressions. As we hear their testimonies and as the author gradually gives us background on events surrounding those who live there, we can glimpse how this place and its people have come to be this way.
On one level this is a great thriller/mystery. It also brings up issues on gender that really made me think about what I do and don't let pass in day-to-day life. The disturbing thing about this dark story is that Haeden could be any small rural town, and the attitudes of many of the people are not uncommon anywhere. The extent of casually accepted or joked about violence and/or (and this is more insidious) of the claiming of women's bodies by others is embedded in our societies. If we try to gloss over this, we are wrong.  As Alice says, not "beneath the paving stones, the beach", but,"beneath the beach, the paving stones..."

Title : So Much Pretty
Author: Cara Hoffman
Published: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011
ISBN: 9781846059704

15 May, 2014

Sin titulo by Cameron Stewart [Danielle, Youth Service Development]

Sin titulo ('Untitled') was one of the recommendations from the April Auckland Libraries' Horror newsletter, a 2013 Bram Stoker Award nominee in the category of Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel. The web version of Sin titulo won a 2010 Eisner Award. What a wonderful, sinister, spectacularly illustrated book it is.

I've just started rewatching Twin Peaks, and maybe David Lynch is on my mind, but Sin titulo has a similar way of blending everyday locations, everyday people - maybe a little down on their luck, a little messed up, frustrated, with some dubious morality, but ordinary - sitting very uneasily right next to something not remotely everyday, something downright weird and largely inexplicable. It's almost like there is a giant box of weird out there, hidden under the world we know, and all the slightly unlikeable hero Alex has to do is pick off a tiny edge of peeling cellotape to watch the box pop open and his world start to crumble.

The illustrations are fabulous. Stewart uses a very basic palette very effectively; just sepia, black and white. The characters are strikingly designed, and the noirish, sombre (but at times unpleasantly playful) mood is conveyed wonderfully. There is a spareness and a loneliness to the images that perfectly suits the settings; a parking garage, seedy alleyways, an (almost) empty beach. Although the full comic is available online, I recommend getting your hands on a print copy of the graphic novel - it's a short but very satisfying and unsettling bedtime read.

Title: Sin titulo
Author: Cameron Stewart
ISBN: 1616552484
Published: 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics.

The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry by Gabrielle Levin (Biddy, Highland Park)

The author, Gabrielle Levin, "was raised by parents who took her to the library like it was church". So says the blurb of this delightful novel that had me smiling from the first page to the last.

Maya, aged two, is abandoned by her desperate mother, on the floor of Island Books, the only bookshop on Alice Island. The owner, A.J.Fikry, is less than delighted to find her - she appears to him to be yet another trial to overcome in his life. He has recently lost his wife tragically in a car accident, book sales have reached an all-time low and his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen.

Despite himself, A.J. finds his life changing for the better with Maya's arrival being the catalyst that starts a chain of events guaranteed to enchant and amuse the reader. The tale Levin weaves is heart-warming and, at times, poignant. Her characters are eccentric but lovable and, for anyone who read-and loved-"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" or "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", this book is a must-read. It's a book that I will certainly read again and one to own and dip into for Levin's charming writing style and A.J.Fikry's life wisdom e.g.:  "People tell boring lies about politics, God and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favourite book?"

Author: Gabrielle Levin
Publisher: Little, Brown, London
Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781408704622

14 May, 2014

On Ugliness, edited by Umberto Eco [Ana, Central City Library]

This is an authoritative art book, edited by Umberto Eco – the highly regarded Italian philosopher and academic who wrote The Name of the Rose.  He had already written On Beauty, and so is not surprising that he would follow with On Ugliness.

The book includes extensive information and discussion; quotations, references, and colour plates of works of art from early pre-history right through to today’s punk rockers.  Some of his sections include the classical world, religious views, renaissance and baroque periods, witchcraft, romanticism, avant-garde, kitsch and ‘Ugliness today’.

It is a fascinating and deeply thoughtful book. It challenges some of our perceptions of ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’. It has extensive prints of works of art, all in some way reflecting ugliness, but are they ugly?  In various cases we have an ugly subject, but the artist has managed to capture the humanity of the subject and we are left to query our own feelings.  A painting of a tramp, who is accepting of his position in life but still displaying an air of fortitude; the portrait of an ugly old man with his grandson – while there is the contrast of the beauty of the child with the ugly old man, we still admire his humility and affection.

The reader can take what they want from this book – a cursory flick through  the pictures from a fascination with the title, to an in-depth reading of this definitive study of art, human nature and history.

Title: On Ugliness
Author: Umberto Eco
Publisher: London : Harvill Secker
Year: 2007
ISBN: 9781846551222

Tudor roses by Alice Starmore [Annie, Helensville Library]

This book! This is pure knitting porn. These are the sorts of patterns you drool over, fantasize about making – maybe even buy the yarn… but do you make them?

Regardless, the awesomeness of this book makes it worth the while. It is lavishly presented, with glorious full colour photos. The patterns are clear, and use charts – a heads-up for those non-chart-ists out there. 

It’s actually quite difficult to review or recommend this without being overly effusive. It really is that good. 

So, for those who like knitting / history / textiles / challenges… really, this book has them all. 

Oh, did I mention the jewellery? Fashioned by sundry scholars at City of Glasgow College – amazing. 

Title: Tudor roses: being a collection of rich and curious works in hand knitwear inspired by diverse women of the Tudor dynasty that ruled over England from AD 1485 to 1603
Author: Alice Starmore
Publisher: Calla Editions
Publication date: 2013 (revised and expanded edition)
ISBN: 9781606600474

11 May, 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lanin Taylor {Suzy from Panmure Library}

I’m not usually the type of girl to like fantasy. I prefer Jeanette Wells’ ‘The Glass Castle’ memoir to angels and demons any day. That was until I read the first in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DSB) Laini Taylor. My manager, a fantasy fanatic, saw it on my desk, waiting to be recovered and raved to me how good the series is. Fortunately I had just finished my last book, a creepy psychological book, and was on the lookout for something a little less dark, DSB hit the spot.

Set in Prague, 17 year old Karou a blue haired, mysterious art student fills her sketchbook with hideous creatures, complete with their own personalities and lives – the chimaerae, who are the only family she has ever known. Karou search for understanding of her own history, along with her makeshift family leads her to venture through unexpected places and into unexpected arms, she will capture your imagination and her spunk and tenderness will have you attached to her within a couple of pages. 

Since its release in 2011, DSB has been held to much acclaim, being listed in numerous book lists including New York Times' notable Children’s book awards, School Library Journal best books and Amazon’s #1 teen book of 2011 along with its film rights being sold to Universal Pictures. Taylor crafts a whole world, a history that mirrors our own in many ways, that will keep your bedside lamp on well beyond a decent time. And the best part as there are two more books in the series...

Enough Said (DVD) [Judy, Orewa Library]

I picked up this DVD after hearing a glowing review on the radio - I'm so glad it didn't pass me by.

Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorcee and her only child is about to leave home for college - and she's really feeling it. When her friends take her to a party she meets Albert, a single divorced man played by James Gandolfini. At the same party she also meets a divorced woman, and develops a friendship with her. She begins a relationship with Albert, but she is nervous because relationships between older people are tricky. When she learns her new female friend is Albert's ex-wife, she is too intrigued by what she is finding out about him to reveal her new relationships to either - and yes, it becomes complicated.

The two main characters are so likeable, and the movie is what you could call 'charming'. Its a real treat with no lingering angst and some days, that's exactly what we need.

Title: Enough Said
Author: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini
Released: 2013

-Judy, Orewa Library

The Full Ridiculous-Mark Lamprell [Sue W Central City]

This is a great light read. Kind of lad lit if you will. By that I mean in the same oeuvre as Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons. This isn't meant to denigrate the book, because it is sweetly funny while the protagonist lurches from one tragicomedy to another. It isn't funny when you are the one undergoing these trials which seem like a sadistic  joke from some malevolence master puppeteer but certainly does prove the point  that "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger". It may take you right up the crumbling edge of the cliff in terms of reaching your last crumbs of fortitude but somehow, moment by moment, the protagonist takes breath after painful breath. I think the strength of this book is that it is easily digestive but skilfully wrought enough to make you engage with the protagonist and wan to follow his journey to see what plays out. 

Author: Mark Lamprell
Publisher: Text Publishing, Melbourne
Year: 2013
ISBN: 97819221472

07 May, 2014

Blackfish DVD [Erika, Central City Library]

On February 24, 2010 Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau died in what her employer described as a terrible accident - after watching Blackfish you will never look at this tragic incident in the same way again.  Opening with the dramatic phone calls from that day, Blackfish grabs you from the first minute and keeps you captivated until the final frames 80 minutes later.  
Orca, also known as killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family and they are intelligent, develop deep bonds with their trainers, and have dynamic family relationships that scientists are only now beginning to understand.  

The orca in Blackfish are introduced to the viewer through a blend of historic footage of how the first ones were captured 40 years ago through to the personal stories of the former Sea World trainers who used to work with these amazing animals.  At the centre of the documentary is a whale named Tilikum, an orca captured in the wild when he was two years old, and who spent his first years in captivity in an environment that would drive any creature insane.  As you learn more about this animal, and the dozens of others in captivity, you quickly realise the entertainment of orca shows has a very high cost - and it is the orca who pay that cost.

This is not a documentary for the faint hearted, and it is a documentary that Sea World does not want you to see!  They refused requests for interviews and are now actively involved in a campaign to discredit Blackfish - only you can decide where you stand on the issue, but Blackfish arms you with the other side of the story to make an informed decision.  Even if you are not an animal welfarist, this is a documentary that deserves to be seen.  Imagine spending "20 years in a bath tub" - that is the reality for some of these orca and their offspring.  The interviews are thought provoking, and while some of the footage showing attacks and "accidents" is shocking, it really brings home just how much damage these animals can do when they are bored or frustrated.

2014 BAFTA Awards Nomination: Best Documentary

Official selection Sydney Film Festival, 2013
Official selection Sundance Film Festival, 2013
Official selection Melbourne International Film Festival, 2013

Title: Blackfish 
Year: 2013
Written by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Eli Despres
Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Produced by: Manuel V. Oteyza
Distributor: Madman Entertainment

- Erika, Central City Library

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson [Angela, Central City Library]

Brandon Sanderson knows how to write sweeping epic fantasy, as he shows in Words of Radiance, the second book in the popular new fantasy series the Stormlight Archive. After taking up the reins of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, after the death of the author, he has many new fans and is one of the rising stars of the fantasy genre. 

Sanderson demonstrates deftness with character development and world building in this sequel to The Way of Kings. He does an excellent job showing the internal development of his primary characters, really allowing the reader a front-row view of their struggles.

Kaladin learns to master his new Windrunner powers and seeks to protect Dalinar from the Assassin in White, who is killing rulers all over the world, while Dalinar must lead the human armies into battle against the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains. Meanwhile, Shallan and Jasnah are looking for the legendary city of Ulithuru but many obstacles lie in their way.

I really enjoyed this story, especially Shallan's journey and how she came to rely on her own strengths and explored her abilities. Sanderson is a master at world-building and the world and magic system he has created here are utterly unique, Roshar really comes to life in these pages. There are beautiful maps and illustrations all through the book, which runs at over 1000 pages, so it's a treat to read and sure to please epic fantasy fans.

Title: Words of Radiance
Author: Brandon Sanderson
ISBN: 9780765326362
Published: 2014
Publisher: Tor

05 May, 2014

The man with the compound eyes by Wu Ming-Yi (Anita, Blockhouse Bay)

This is a strange tale that vacillates between science and myth. On Wayo-Wayo, an uncharted, floating Pacific Island, second sons are destined to canoe into the sea to die. Such is the fate of gifted son Atile'i. But as death approaches, he lands on an immense floating island of trash. In the meantime in Taiwan, Alice is coping (or not) with the loss of her family.  Several narratives from different characters alternate throughout this book but blend into the one story.

Things I really enjoyed in this book were descriptions of life in Taiwan from various points of view, especially weaving into the story characters who belong to some the original aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, (who predated the Han Chinese). It also prompted me to actually google about the Pacific trash vortex which features in the book - now this is a truly awful man-made disaster zone.  It saves Atile'i and then the part of it he is on ends up colliding with Taiwan, which causes huge environmental issues. Atele'i encounters Alice which changes both of their lives, however I found the ending a bit unresolved: the story had charm but left me wanting more.  Let me know what you think.

Title: The man with the compound eyes
Author: Wu Ming-Yi ; translated from Taiwanese by Darryl Sterk.
Publisher:  London : Harvill SeckerISBN: 9781846556715 (trade)
Publication date: 2013


03 May, 2014

Jiro dreams of Sushi (DVD( [Ina, Central Library]

Are you a fan of Japan or sushi? I certainly am and this documentary gives amazing insight into both. Jiro Ono is the master chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro,  a restaurant in a Tokyo Subway Station that only serves sushi and has been awarded three Michelin Stars for its food.

This unusual combination would be enough to make this place documentary-worthy, but you get much more because of the intriguing characters in Jiro's story. On his own from the age of 9, Jiro's secret to success is ultimate passion, hard work and a strong will to improve, even if you are 85 years old, like him now.

His two sons have adopted his attitude and are in the same business, the older one to once take over the restaurant, the younger with his own branch in the Roppongi Hills. It's interesting to see the relationship between the three and their overlapping lives due to their work and their comments, along with other chefs' and foodies, brings real insight into the life and society of the Japanese.  

It is a quiet, elegant film and apart from Jiro, the food is its own star. It shows the preparation, the dedication to finding the ultimate ingredients and produce, the expertise gained through long years of improving and experimenting which all results in beautiful but simple sushi. It's a shame you can't taste through television, it's all you want  to do throughout the film. All visitors swear the food at Jiro's alone would be worth a trip to Japan, and with high claims like that, it might make the 30,000yen (US$300) per meal worth it. 

Title: Jiro dreams of Sushi (DVD) 
Director: David Gelb
Publisher: VM Distribution : Gryphon Entertainment
Year: 2012