30 August, 2014

And then there's this: How stories live and die in viral culture by Bill Wasik [Clare Kitt, Massey Library]

Bill Wasik takes on a wild digital journey, beginning right from the early days of the internet culture that we now experience on a daily basis. The information highway which envelops us, through twitter, facebook, email, online newspapers, blogs and more and more apps which connect us to each other in different ways, is evolving in ever new and exciting ways.

He was there in the early days of the internet and decided to try an experiment.He sent out emails to friends and acquaintances asking them to meet at a prearranged location. They would meet, outside a store or inside a mall, and do nothing. Just meet and stand silently; and then they would disperse. He was fascinated by human behaviour and looking at how humans imitate the laws of nature.
In this case he was investigating how we can be manipulated to do things together, in ever larger groups.

He called them 'Flash Mobs'.

He is a now a senior editor at Harper's magazine and writes about culture, politics and media.As the interweb becomes more and more pervasive in our lives he and others are still studying the science behind the spread of Youtube sensations and stories. He touches on memes, which are a variant on genes, but of the viral information variety, not medical.

It could be a very stuffy and hard-to-digest book. Certainly I find many writers about the internet, technology and information science go off into a realm that is beyond my technical capabilities. But he keeps it fresh, showing us through his history with the subject, and if it does get a bit bogged down in parts with techno-stuff you can always skip those bits, as I did.

Title: And then there's this: How stories live and die in viral culture.
Author: Bill Wasik
ISBN: 9780670020843
Published: 2009
Publisher: New York, Viking.

29 August, 2014

Stoner: a novel by John Williams [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

William Stoner. A less likely hero would be hard to find. Born poor, in 1891, on a small farm in the American Midwest, he is sent to the state university to study agriculture. Instead he falls in love with English Literature and from then on lives the life of a scholar, teaching at the same institution until his death.

Good things do happen to Stoner, but they are always accompanied by disappointment. He marries into a “proper” family, but knows within a month that his marriage is a failure. He is estranged from his daughter by his unstable and highly-strung wife and while he loves his work and his students, his career is thwarted. He finds new love with a younger instructor, but this experience too ends under the threat of scandal.

By no means is this a grim novel. It is in fact, a beautifully written and deeply moving story – one that offers glimpses into the workings of the heart and an understanding of life.

Stoner was first published in 1965 and quite unexpectedly, became a best-seller, almost 50 years later. Its revival was in some ways sparked off by the popularity of its French translation. The Guardian hailed it as “the must read novel of 2013” and the New Yorker called it “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of”. I think that the author John Williams said it best, when he described the book as being “substantially good”.  One that that stays with you long after you’ve read it.

Author: Williams, John
ISBN:    9780099561545                            
Published: 2013
Publisher: Allen Lane

27 August, 2014

The Vorrh by B Catling [Kelly, Central Library]

Sometimes you just want a big, crazy, twisted word to throw around. Especially when you have just read something that is big and crazy and twisted. 

The free online dictionary tells me that phantasmagoria means: 1a. A fantastic sequence of haphazardly associated imagery as seen in the dreams or fever. b. A constantly changing scene composed of numerous elements. 2. Fantastic imagery as represented in art

That will do nicely for The Vorrah. Big and crazy and twisted it is, also; weird, sexy (wildly), violent (extremely), haunted, maudlin, intense, upsetting, long, savage, and, maybe, a little confounding.

The Vorrh consists of numerous strands of story, the fictional dovetailed with the historic; a Cyclops discovers the world he has been hidden from, photographer Eadweard Muybridge pursues an unobtainable truth, two hunters stalk one another across an awesome landscape, French surrealist Raymond Roussel explores an imagined Africa, a women struggles to understand a strange new world and a stranger lover.

The Vorrh is not a two pages before bedtime, comfy read. It will not sooth you and pat your knee and say everything is alright. From it’s strange mesmerising cover through to the final page The Vorrh will wrestle with you and slap you around and whisper peculiar secrets in your ear. It’s all for your own good. You will emerge from The Vorrh’s pages with an altered consciousness and a more expansive view of the world.

Title: The Vorrh
Author: B Catling 
ISBN: 9780957142718 (pbk)
Publisher: Croydon : Honest
Year: 2012

Whisper By Chris Struyk-Bonn [Hannah, East Coast Bays Library]

"Whisper" by Chris Struyk-Bonn is the story of a 16 year old girl named Whisper with a deformity; a cleft palate. She is a "reject" and lives with other "rejects" who have been ostracised by society. Whisper and the other "rejects" may live in the forest away from their blood family, but they have become their own family.

The book follows Whisper's journey when she hears that her mother, who used to visit her only once a year on her birthday, has died. From this point, Whisper's life changes and she is taken away from her family in the forest to live with her blood family. Just when Whisper thinks society will never accept her, a stranger changes her life and gives her hope.

I enjoyed this book and the way it described a world that openly rejected people with physical "deformities". Whisper was a strong character who often surprised me with her decisions. The idea that family is not about blood but about love, support, and those who can be depended on was reinforced throughout the book.

Title: Whisper
Author: Chris Struyk-Bonn
ISBN:9781459804753 and 1459804759
Published: 2014
Publisher: Victoria, British Columbia: Orca Book Publishers

24 August, 2014

Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] by John Allison [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]


September is comic book month, so here is a good one for you all to enjoy. . .  Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] / by John Allison ; edited by James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton ; designed by Keith Wood & Jason Storey.

This graphic novel made me laugh and want to share it with everybody. Don't get put off that this book lives in the teen area, or that it is about six adolescent kids in their first year at High School. It is well plotted, the dialogue is just spot-on and it is also superbly drawn in a simple graphic style, (the artist gets the facial expressions and body language beautifully). This is a large beautifully produced book which does justice to the full coloured panels of artwork, a real pleasure to read through.

Set in Tackleford, England, this first book follows three girls who want to help a mysterious old immigrant woman to keep her home, while three boys investigate the apparent curse on the football stadium. What I like is that you get a look at the characters in their family settings, as well as with each other. Plenty of sardonic banter and snarkiness makes me wonder how much the author hangs out around this age group of kids. The adults in this comic are also not just portrayed as a backdrop to the kids either, they have their moments too, as this bit of advice from Amy , (a hip young wife of one of their teachers) show: "Tattoos are a big decision Mildred. If you want to see what you'll look like with one when you're old . . . make your gran get it first."

This is the first book, and if you like this there is a sequel to it in the library. Check out  Bad machinery. [Vol. 2], The case of the good boy. This was originally published as a serialized webcomic, so if you are really enjoying this comic then you can check out the website here: scarygoround.com

Title: Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] 
Author: John Allison
ISBN: 9781620100844 (pbk)
Published: 2013
Publisher: Portland, Or. : Oni,

20 August, 2014

Cat sense : how the new feline science can make you a better friend to your pet by John Bradshaw [Christine, Takapuna]

Cat Sense : How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet

The feline member of our family is a stroppy little madam. I chose this book looking to improve our relationship and understand what makes her tick..
I was reminded that cats are not naturally gregarious.  Some cats are genetically loners, introverts.  They are unlikely to be friendly with other cats or people.  Kittens should be handled at about 3 weeks or they will never be affectionate or accommodating.
This book explores the nature/nurture dynamic in forming feline personalities. John  Bradshaw presents recent research in a very readable form, with a few anecdotes and line drawings illustrating his points. 

Title:Cat sense : how the new feline science can make you a better friend to your pet.
Author: John Bradshaw
 Publisher:Basic books
 Date: 2013

cat sense

19 August, 2014

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman [Kathy, Birkenhead Library]

A story of families and history for family history month, Lighthouse Bay cleverly weaves together the stories of Isabella in 1901 and Libby in the present day.

Unhappily married Isabella Winterbourne was travelling to Australia from London with her husband to deliver a valuable gift to the new Australian Parliament when the ship founders on the Queensland coast, leaving Isabella as the only survivor. Matthew Seaward, the local lighthouse keeper, takes her in and helps her make a new start.

Over a hundred years later Libby returns to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay after her lover dies. She is unsure of the reception she will receive from her estranged sister but is keen to reconcile and put the past behind them. The discovery of Matthew’s journals in the old lighthouse has implications for all.

Both main characters are likeable in different ways. Isabella is vulnerable, yet strongly determined to escape her old life. Libby has to redeem herself and forgive herself for her past mistakes and I found I became more sympathetic to her as the book goes on. There is a good mix of mystery and romance, and some thoughtful handling of different and difficult relationships.

Although the women live in different times, their stories have similar aspects, and remind us that often our decisions can have far-reaching consequences.

Title: Lighthouse Bay
Author: Kimberley Freeman
Published: 2012, 2013
Publisher: Hachette, Quercus Publishing Plc

18 August, 2014

Mapping The Wild Mind - A Field Guide to the Human Psyche by Bill Plotkin [Clare, Massey Library]

When I first saw this title, I imagined some kind of existential, maybe new-ageist book, and I was right, but only to a point. The author, Bill Plotkin is described as a psychologist gone wild, who looks to heal the human psyche. He focuses on the part that the natural world plays in our development as human beings, and encourages us to connect with nature and animals in order to overcome psychological problems.

At first, I found it a bit heavy going, but perseverance pays off, especially for those who want to work on themselves and heal the hurts and psychological wounds that we all have. He talks about loyal soldiers and wounded children, and the different roles that we take on in childhood which help us to survive. Integrating these different roles into a whole and rounded human being is his aim, and he describes the way to do this clearly and lucidly.

For anyone wanting to dive into who you are and why you do things, reading this book is a lot cheaper than going to a psychologist. Especially as I read recently that psychologists have now discovered that the more you talk about your problems the more traumatised you can become! There are many other excellent books in the library espousing mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy and other methods of healing yourself psychologically.

Of course, if you are deeply wounded you may realise that you do need professional help, and for many people that is a part of the healing journey. But for the curious and those seeking an aid to healing and wholeness this book is very useful and helpful. I certainly have taken some of the ideas on board and I hope that you too will find it healing.

Title: Mapping the Wild Mind- A Field Guide to the Human Psyche
Author: Bill Plotkin
ISBN: 9781608681785.
Published: 2013
Publisher: Novato, Calif. : New World Library

Small move, big change: using microresolutions to transform your life permanently by Caroline L. Arnold [Surani, Waitakere Central library]

New Year's day, the whole world gets up after a crazy night and resolve never again to drink, eat too much, or in my case try and curd my reading habits! We all make up resolutions and try our best to stick to it but something always gets in the way and before Easter, we're back to our old selves!! If this sounds a lot like you then this is definitely the book for you!

In this book Caroline Arnold, a successful Wall Street innovator, has come up with a complete set of rules, models and examples to help us master the art of instant and sustainable self-improvement. Microresolutions are compact and powerful commitments that focus self-control on a precise and achievable behavioural target. According to Arnold, 'microresolutions deliver immediately and benefits for a lifetime'. Throughout the book the author contrasts her own career successes with her personal resolution failures and recounts how she analysed her own behaviour to engineer her resolutions to succeed every time. Small move, big change is filled with examples from people who have successfully used the microresolution system and changed their behaviours and ultimately their lives for the better.

This book is not just a lifestyle guide; it's a universal self-improvement tool kit that is guaranteed to work for almost any personal or professional gain.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to improve their lives for the better starting today!!

Title: Small move, big change: using microresolutions to transform your life permanently
Author: Caroline L. Arnold
ISBN: 9780670015344
Published: 2014
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Viking

14 August, 2014

Minecraft: the unlikely tale by Goldberg & Larsson [Paul, Birkenhead]

Really I wrote this review block by pixel block, only your browsers is malfunctioning so it prolly looks like Courier font..

A goodly biopic of the man and his phenomenal game, being neither servile, hyperbolic or dastardly or even overly geeky, but.. fair. As in, fair enough.

We see Markus 'Notch' Persson as he very well might be and as he in all likelihood came about. A difficult but not impossible childhood seems to have fed into a natural nerdiness to produce a talented, hardworking obsessive bloke who made his own luck and lo, behold, out popped Minecraft. 

The authors do a tidy job of putting it all in context. Home life yes, and Swedish society, gaming, gamers, programmers, the global tech world, conventions and corporations. Weirdly I felt like l learned something, and  it  was  fun. Particularly fascinating I thought was the add-ons: like the multiple ways in which the game  became a YouTube phenomenon too.

Also curious: the tale of Minecraft's most immediate precursor, Infiniminer. This was a game that didnt quite make it, in part because the code was leaked. Incompatible versions sprang up on the Net making its management difficult, and so it was abandoned. Which makes one think about whats out there: a primordial rubble of 'incompatiblities' ready for a spark to soup them all together..

Its not at all a techy book and to the extent that technical ideas crop up they are well explained and smoothly integrated with this story's big question: why is Minecraft so popular.

Well, cos its awesome.

Title: Minecraft : the unlikely tale of Markus "Notch" Persson and the game that changed everything. 
Author: Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson ; translation by Jennifer Hawkins.
Publisher: New York: Seven Stories Press, 2013.

10 August, 2014

The End of Eve-Ariel Gore [Sue W, Central]

I didn’t know this author before this book passed through my hands. The cover image alone is enough to make you pick it up, Gothic undertones and all. It is clear from the opening pages this book will have a resonance  beyond its textual form. 

Ariel Gore is a published writer, poet and writing professor, and this work is about the period of time from when her tempestuous, high maintenance  diva of a mother announces she has inoperable, stage IV lung cancer. The estimated time frame is a year and Ariel swings into action, listening and acquiescing to her mother’s demands. This is so much more than an account of that year, bearing in mind that estimated expiry dates for terminal illnesses are just that. 

There is such eloquence to the way Ariel writes and the figure of Eve looms tall and almost mythical from the pages of the book. Eve is a living contradiction, majestic, commanding, beautiful, querulous, devious and cruel. There is not judgement to be found in these pages more a portal into a period of time in her life, how the period of her mother’s illness affected her, events that transpired. 

But all that sounds far too mundane to really do justice to the beauty and richness of the writing. You have such a  visceral sense of the saturated colours and stark beauty of the desert, the thick emotions and carnage wrought at times by a woman, Eve, who does not know how to dial down her communication to a neutral and honest dialogue between people. Stunning, guaranteed to make you want to search out anything else Ariel Gore has written.

Author: Ariel Gore
isbn: 9780986000799
Publisher: Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts, [2014]
Portland Oregon

06 August, 2014

Legends in black by Tom Johnson (with others) [Annie, Helensville Library]

The All Blacks are the most 'winningest' side in sporting history. And, that’s a fact. Their winning percentage has been over 76% for more than 110 years. Good luck finding another team with stats like that.

What makes them great, and has done for so long? How do the All Blacks impact our society? How did professionalism change them? What is the future of the team? Interesting questions about a great team. There are insightful interviews with All Blacks captains and coaches, and articles by academics, all investigating these, and other, questions. 

One of the most interesting chapters is that by Dr Farah Palmer, former captain of the Black Ferns. The similarities and differences between the men’s’ and women’s sides are not explicitly stated, but are obvious.  And, statistically, the Black Ferns are even more winning than the All Blacks, themselves. 

A fascinating insight that will make this a perfect Fathers’ Day gift for any dads into rugby and / or management. Yes, there are lessons for the corporate world in here. How to create organisational cultures, positive attitudes, become a good leader, etc. All things the All Blacks have honed through the years.

Title: Legends in black: New Zealand rugby greats on why we win.  
Authors: Tom Johnson with Andy Martin, Geoff Watson and Margot Butcher.
Published: Auckland, Penguin Books, 2014.
ISBN: 9780143571803. 

05 August, 2014

Close your eyes, hold hands by Chris Bohjalian [Biddy, Highland Park]

Emily Shepard is an extraordinary girl. She is living an apparently ordinary life when aged 16, she is evacuated from her school because of a meltdown at the nuclear power plant in Vermont where both her parents work. As well as being orphaned by the disaster, Emily is shunned by the community as they blame her father for the destruction of their homes and loss of their loved ones.

Emily flees and gives herself a new identity, living from day to day, dealing with the horrors of the life of a homeless person with courage and determination. Despite dabbling in drugs and resorting to stealing and prostitution to survive, Emily’s real values emerge as she takes on the care of 9-year-old Cameron, on the run from abusive foster parents.

Bohjalian uses first-person narration to tell Emily’s story and it makes compelling reading. Despite being saddened and appalled by the ordeals of her existence on the street, the reader has to admire her fortitude.

Although never an enthusiastic student, Emily is obviously intelligent and is an aspiring poet and novelist. An ardent admirer of her namesake Emily Dickinson, she quotes her throughout her narration and feels a connection to her. She aims to be a writer because she sees it as a “career choice that meant little or no human interaction” and identifies with Emily Dickinson’s life lived in isolation.

This novel is shocking, moving and captivating. Bohjalian is never afraid of tackling tough issues and once again does so with skill, producing a read that is difficult to put down.

Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday, New York
Date: 2014

04 August, 2014

A History of Silence: A Memoir by Lloyd Jones [Claire G, Central Library]

One of New Zealand’s best storytellers now tells the story of his own family, something he retrieved and restored like scattered pieces of a broken earthenware vessel.

Lloyd Jones won New Zealand’s top fiction award for The Book of Fame, a novel based on the 1905 British rugby tour of the NZ team dubbed ‘the Originals’. (It’s one of my favourite books of all time, surprisingly lyrical and deep.) Since then his own fame has increased as a result of Mister Pip, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and more recently adapted for the big screen.

A History of Silence begins by quoting a book about geology. “Faults may appear haphazard,” it says, “but they are never random. There is always a hidden control or reason for their presence….” The reason for the quote soon becomes clear. Lloyd and his siblings (who include our best-known self-made man, Sir Robert Jones) were the children of people so damaged they decided that their family history started with them, and thus sought to be the authors of their destiny. As a result, myths developed, truths remained hidden, characters seemed inexplicable.

Lloyd’s History of Silence is, on the face of it, slight: it may not satisfy those family historians who are relentless, requiring depth as well as detail. But gaps and questions will always remain when family truths have been buried and when documentation is minimal. The book is readable, engaging, moving. Its talk of earthquakes will resonate. 

More importantly, perhaps, A History of Silence reminds us that in New Zealand it is still possible for a nobody to become somebody ... not necessarily physically (in the way that a certain fitness company means it, or as with Bob Jones’s pugilistic exploits), but intellectually, culturally and even genealogically. Lloyd Jones has done it.

Note: In July 2014, A History of Silence was named a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Title: A History of Silence: A Memoir
Author: Lloyd Jones
Published: Penguin Books, Auckland, 2013

ISBN: 9780143569473

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

This is a big book. On the outside is a glimpse of a painting called 'The Goldfinch', and I loved how (in the hard-cover edition anyhow) this painting was reproduced, glossy, on the inside cover in full. The novel is structured around this tiny picture of a chained bird, painted in 1654 by Carel Fabritius. Fabritius died in an explosion and this is one of a few of his paintings to survive.

In this book, 'The Goldfinch' (painting) again survives an explosion; along with Theo, a confused and lost boy. You can feel Theo's loneliness like a dull ache throughout the book. He survives one catastrophe after another - in the first he loses his mother, and narrowly avoiding foster care, is sent to live with a family he barely knows. He then is moved on - to his neglectful father in the backblocks of Las Vegas. No shining strip and sparkling lights in this tumble-weed town. In Vegas, shell-shocked Theo meets Boris, a Russian delinquent. It's just as well neither boy has a parent who cares, as what they get up to may make a person's hair curl. Yet they both manage to reach adulthood, and are life-long friends, of a sort, reconnecting several years later in the underground world of dodgy art deals.

Theo is trapped by his secret, and only Boris knows. It's colourful, it's subtle, it's epic.

If I was to nominate my favourite book of the year, this would be it.

Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Published: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2013
ISBN: 9780316055437

01 August, 2014

Freudian slips: all the psychology you need to know by Joel Levy [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Did you know that despite being experienced by one out of 10 people in the U.K., claustrophobia is not even one of the top 10 phobias? The most common phobia is, in fact, arachnophobia, an extreme fear of spiders. 

Did you know that there is no such thing as brain washing? Did you know that the opposite of déjà vu is jamais vu - an instance where someone is unable to recognise an everyday thing that should be familiar? 

Here is a guide that will reveal all this and way more besides. It tells of the foibles and fetishes of the mind and the workings of the human psyche. This clear and concise compendium based on important theories and experiments describes and delights in a manner that is both comprehensible to the average reader as well as being sophisticated enough for those with scientific bent. 

Enjoy it beside the fire, read it aloud as a part of dinner table conversation or just quietly read while awaiting an appointment. You may learn a bit more about things that you already know, or learn something completely new about people’s personalities and what makes them tick. Levy has also included some interesting biographies of well-known psychologists and practitioners, so go ahead - find out exactly why Freud smoked that cigar!

ISBN: 97817828430087
Published: 2013
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books, London