29 May, 2015

Nature anatomy : the curious parts & pieces of the natural world by Julia Rothman

Julia Rothman is an author, illustrator and designer who recently released Nature Anatomy - a book about the science behind a little bit of everything.

Wanting to get back to her outdoorsy, country roots, Rothman decides to take more notice of the greenery around her (mostly parks) and learn about the nature that she had once found easy to ignore. In doing so, she created Nature Anatomy, the second of her Anatomy series (the first being Farm Anatomy, which I'm reading now) about the wonderful things happening all around us, if only we take care to look.

With simple and lovely yet effective illustrations and some quick notes to go with them (varying from what the rings in a trunk really mean to the anatomy of a honeybee), Rothman has made learning more about our world in an easy, gentle way that keeps moving right along - which I admit, made me love it even more. I've never been one for reading repetitive theoretical tomes about what makes a canyon so large, but I could read Rothman go on about holes in the ground and the differences between a brook and a stream for another fifty pages.

An absolute joy for those who don't mind a good picture accompanying their learning, and want to know just a little bit more about the grass on your lawn, the ants in your sugar, the kind of nest a sparrow builds in your letterbox when you aren't watching.

If you like this one, you are sure to like many of her others that we luckily have for you to borrow.

Title: Nature anatomy : the curious parts & pieces of the natural world
Author: Julia Rothman with John Niekrasz

Recommended by Dana S, East Coast Bays Library

Dana S reads a lot of manga and indie graphic novels, among other things like fantasy, general and mystery fiction as well as almost anything that has food and/or magic. She draws and animates sometimes too. Dana also writes for the blog, popculturAL, where she mostly just doesn't know how to hush up and writes passionately about how everybody should read comics. Well, they should!

28 May, 2015

Good omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Part satire, part parody and completely irreverent, Good omens  a joint project between prolific English authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman  is a clever and crazy speculative novel.

According to the incredibly accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, just before dinner, to be precise. But plans for the armageddon go awry when a scatterbrained Satanic nun misplaces the Antichrist in a complex baby swapping procedure. Soon, the armies of Good and Evil start to amass, predicted omens manifest and the Four Horsemen ride their motorbikes with purpose, leaving the suave demon Crowley and the somewhat stuffy angel Aziraphale to save the world they have grown rather fond of without letting their respective sides know.

The characters are hilarious in their stereotypes yet still manage to take on a life and shape of their own that is refreshing, while the writing is easy to digest, funny and sharp with snarky prose that is characteristic of British humour and a plot that unravels like a puzzle. 

Despite its appearances, this book is surprisingly insightful. Buried beneath all the zaniness are complex themes that inspire thought, like: what is the ineffable plan for mankind? Is there only Good and Evil, or rather, just grey? Does the Antichrist have free will? Do foretold events remain predetermined even if one actively turns towards a different outcome?

This book surprised me. Despite both being highly recommended, I hadn't read much from Pratchett or Gaiman. So, while I went into Good omens expecting good things, I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea. 

Boy, did it deliver. I ended up staying up at night to finish just one more chapter. I lugged it (it's a pretty thick book) to university so I could read it on the bus, all the while trying to keep from grinning too widely in front of strangers. I'm even considering buying a copy for my personal collection. 

If you enjoy the mysterious, the magical, and the sometimes topsy-turvy, check out Good omens.

Title: Good omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch 
Author: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Recommended by Sucheta R, Grey Lynn Library

Sucheta R is based in Grey Lynn Library. When she doesn't read, she has an overflowing shelf full of books and an ever-growing to-be-read pile. When she does read, it’s two or three books at the same time: a few chapters here, a few chapters there and a few more somewhere else. Sucheta likes dystopian sci-fi, contemporary fantasy, satire, young adult and the occasional classic.

Make and give: simple and modern crafts to brighten every day by Steph Hung and Erin Jang

I love homemade gifts, I give them and, if I’m lucky, I receive them. Lately I’ve learned that the expression on the face of the person receiving my unique handmade creation is less awe and gratitude and more like What on earth is this homemade garbage?

But, thanks to this lovely new book, I can now go from being a talentless and broke giver of homemade gifts to being awesome and generous (but still broke). For that, my crafty readers, is the whole point of giving: gifts that are thoughtful and personal yet inexpensive, something that this book has in abundance.

Some of my favourite ideas include the housewarming gifts, novelty business cards, any of the gift ideas that involve crafting with candy, and the neat ideas for packaging fancy tea and coffee or for turning fruit and veg from the farmers market into stylish gifts.

The book includes all the templates for each project as well as online sources for crafty supplies, and the authors worked at Martha Stewart Living so you can be assured that they know their awls from their X-Acto knives.

So, if you have more heart than talent check out this book and you’ll never again have to see that weird expression on your friend’s face when you give them a homemade gift.

Title: Make and give: simple and modern crafts to brighten every day

Author: Steph Hung and Erin Jang

Recommended by Louise H, Central City Library

Louise H likes reading nonfiction books, especially ones with pictures. Her super power would be either time travel or interior decorating.

27 May, 2015

Who killed Scott Guy? by Mike White

I found this book fascinating as the author has carefully woven together the story of two families-The Guys and the Macdonalds, whose lives were turned upside down, when Ewen Macdonald the son in law who was a very good farm manager at the Manawatu farm was arrested for killing his brother in law Scott Guy on 8th July 2010 They both had parents, beautiful wives and young children who were caught up in this tragedy and the case was riveting to the public.

Ewen Macdonald had also committed other violent crimes and people could not understand how an upright looking family man could have such a violent side to his persona. This made a large percentage of the public think he was quite capable of pulling the trigger.
There were no winners in this case and the question remained unanswered as to who had killed Scott Guy. This book is a good read as the author explains the legalities of our New Zealand courts in detail. It also showcases the brilliance of the defence team led by Greg King and his team, in making the jury aware of the gaps in the police case in the murder of Scott Guy.
I thought the book presented a balanced view of what really happened. The jury had to decide on the evidence that was found at the time and Ewen Macdonald was found “Not Guilty”.
Title:  Who killed Scott Guy?
Author: Mike White
Recommended by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library. I enjoy reading biographies, non-fiction and real life stories. I love to travel.

26 May, 2015

Elephant Company: the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II by Vicki Croke

Sometimes a book introduces you to a character who is so interesting and admirable, that you wish you could be transferred across time and place to meet him. That’s how I felt when I read about Lt. Col James Howard Williams, also known as Elephant Bill.  

After serving in World War I, Elephant Bill applied for a job in Burma (now known as Myanmar), working for a company whose business was harvesting teak in the Burmese jungle using elephants to haul the logs. He was an animal lover and set out to learn everything he could about the elephants, and to improve their lives.

The descriptions of the loyalty and intelligence of the animals, and the hazardous life in the jungle with the uzis (the elephant handlers) is an amazing insight - something I will never forget. The climax of the book is the incredible story of how Elephant Bill’s favourite majestic elephant, Bandoola, leads a group being pursued by enemy troops up a steep cliff to safety. 

This is a very uplifting book about a courageous man and the animals he loved and their contribution during the Japanese occupation of Burma in World War II. It’s well written and totally heart warming, especially for animal lovers. 

Author: Vicki Croke

Recommended by Judy W, Orewa Library

Judy W may appear to work as a library assistant but in her own mind she is a top criminal defence lawyer and animal rights activist. She can hardly move for the piles of books in her small house. 

25 May, 2015

Why nations fail : the origins of power, prosperity and poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

What the heck is going on these days? Why is there so much turmoil, war and economic inequality in the world? Is there more behind the sectarian, religious and geographical strife that we see and if so, what can be done about it?

Early in the book the authors look at various theories for why nations fail, such as culture, geography or educational ignorance and why none of these seem to affect the success or otherwise of a country.We are shown the similarity between communism, Nazism, totalitarianism and various other isms which the authors argue are just buzzwords for authoritarian state control.

In a very readable and detailed fashion, we are led through the history and culture of different countries and continents and how they evolved into what we see today.

Those which appear to have succeeded are in the main the democratic countries, whose citizens have fought long and hard to get the standard of living that they now have.
Throughout the book the authors talk about extractive societies, that is, those who take from their citizens without giving back and inclusive regimes who take the welfare of all into account, not just the elite.

Yes, it is quite a thick book and looks daunting but the layout and the progression of ideas, is clear-sighted and easy to follow.

If you're looking for some kind of explanation of the world as it is, this will certainly add to your ideas of how and why nations fail.

I recommend it.
Authors: Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Reviewed by Clare K. Massey Library

Clare K works at Massey Library in West Auckland. She believes that there is nothing you can't learn from a book, and the more you know the more you grow.

The many lives of Miss K : Toto Koopman - model, muse, spy by Jean-Noel Liaut

What a surprise to discover another notable independent, original woman from the early 20th century. Most of her contemporaries have had numerous biographies written about them but “Toto” Koopman appears to be a new discovery.

Beautiful, stylish, charismatic, adventurous, bisexual, intelligent (she spoke five languages), mysterious, versatile and adaptable... where does it end! A girl ahead of her time, ignoring all the rules and living life to the fullest (her way).

Born in Java then on to Paris where she modelled for Chanel and appeared on the cover of Vogue. Moving from mingling with cafe society’s rich and famous to espionage in World War II then imprisonment by the Nazis in a concentration camp, Toto appears to take it all in her stride.

After the war she lived in London with Erica Brausen, the art dealer who launched Francis Bacon’s career, gained a degree in archaeology and set up a home with Brausen on the island of Panarea (in the Aeolian chain north of Sicily).

Be inspired by a gal who would fit right into modern times. Toto Koopman makes Madonna and Lady Gaga look boring! One of the best biographies I've ever read.

The author has also written biographies about Givenchy and Karen Blixen.

Title: The many lives of Miss K : Toto Koopman - model, muse, spy.
Author: Jean-Noel Liaut

Reviewed by Claire S, Central City Library

Claire S works in the Information Services/Arts Team and loves reading biographies, contemporary fiction and non-fiction (art and anything related to New Zealand).

Epitaph : a novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

The older Earp boys learnt to protect their younger siblings from their violent father, later they would band together to try and protect their town from the rowdy, cattle-rustling Cow Boys. 
John Holliday was raised to be a Southern gentleman, later when weak and in pain with T.B. he is still courteous and chivalrous.  These good but flawed men would be severely challenged by the events of 1881 in Tombstone, a rough frontier town where law enforcement consisted of an elected sheriff plus whoever he could call upon to form a posse.  The shooting at the O.K. Corral lasted mere moments leaving men dead and badly wounded.  A long history of delayed and irregular justice lay behind this eruption of gunfire. More was to follow. This novel gives us an insight into the thoughts of the taciturn men of the Old West.

Author: Mary Doria Russell
Reviewed by Christine O.
Christine O has worked in libraries on the North Shore for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible

24 May, 2015

Something from the Nightside by Simon R Green

Something from the Nightside is the first book in the Nightside series by Simon R. Green, an author who has written several stand-alone novels but mainly writes sci-fi/fantasy series. This story is set in the Nightside, a secret world hidden in the heart of London, where it’s always 3am and gods and monsters drink alongside mortals.

John Taylor, detective and child of the Nightside, has been living in London proper after fleeing the Nightside several years ago with a bullet in his back, courtesy of a friend. The search for a client’s runaway daughter has lured him back. It should have been a simple job - get in, find the girl, get out and get paid - but something in the Nightside has other plans.

I liked John Taylor, who is typical of Green’s main characters; they are underdogs, more cynical and stubborn than heroic. Taylor prides himself on never letting down a client down and relies on brains and dirty tricks to take on enemies far more powerful than himself. I also liked Taylor’s relationship with Walker, his nemesis, sometimes father figure and the closest thing to the law in the Nightside.

While it is better to read the books in order, Green gives you enough back-story so you don’t have to. The series is well written; fast paced and has a supporting cast of interesting characters. While each book is a self-contained story, a larger story line links the books to each other and the big question of the series is "who or what is Taylor's mother?" She disappeared shortly after John’s birth and his father drank himself to death after finding out.

Check out the Nightside series if you like a detective story mixed with urban fantasy.

Title: Something from the Nightside
Author: Simon R. Green

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library.

Murray L works at Devonport Library and enjoys reading mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and the occasional biography.

21 May, 2015

My teen romantic comedy SNAFU. Series collection [DVD]

Japanese anime has a way of calling to me and this DVD title hit an inner checklist that made me want to watch it. Teen (check, I love teen titles, DVDs and books alike), romantic (check, who doesn't love happy endings?), comedy (check, yes I have been known to laugh out loud once or twice) and SNAFU (check, have no idea what this means but who doesn't love a little mystery, am I right?). Once my interest was piqued, I was all in and requesting it straight away.

My curiosity paid off. This anime is based on a young loner boy called Hachiman Hikigaya who is forced to join a school club called the Services Club with only one other member - a girl named Yukino Yukinoshita. She also is an aloof loner. The Services Club is essentially a club that can help you overcome things that might be hindering you in life. Some students also think that this club magically grants wishes.

The story follows Yukino’s quest to help people, with a wide variation of requests, and Hikigaya comes along to help solve his own problem (doesn't know how to connect with people, doesn't want to and is surprisingly proud of both facts), while helping other students along the way. Follows the intricacies of high school life, never predictable and shows interesting viewpoints with hints of a budding high school romance.

This DVD will make you start every conversation with your friends with “Ya-hello!” and taking a more in-depth look at your relationships with other people. And yes, after watching this I now know what SNAFU means.

Title: My teen romantic comedy SNAFU. Series collection [DVD]
Authors: Watari Wataru, Ai Yashimura

Recommmended by Emma W

Emma W, a library assistant from East Coast Bays Library, can be found zoning out constantly, requesting way too much stuff or humming along to the elevator music in her head.   

Promises to keep by Jane Green

I think Jane Green writes particularly well on relationships and this book is a great example of her style. She manages to cover situations that could be extremely sad in a thoughtful and gentle way and creates characters that we can all relate to.

This story is set around Callie, mother of two and a breast cancer survivor. When Callie becomes ill again, her family and friends are devastated. They rally around to support her and her husband, and in the process discover what is important in their own lives. Chapters are dedicated to each character, rounding out their stories and their relationships with Callie and all have interesting tales of their own.

Food is mentioned quite a lot in each chapter, and recipes are included, which inspired me to copy them down to try out one day (some are on Jane Green’s website).

This is one of those annoying books that has two different titles to confuse us - it is also published as The love verb. The good news is it is available in print or as an eBook.

This is a memorable book about experiences many of us have to face in one way or another. You may require tissues…

Title: Promises to keep / The love verb
Author: Jane Green

Recommended by Kathy N, Central City Library

Kathy N can't go to sleep unless she has read a bit before she turns the light off. As well as most fiction, she enjoys craft and lifestyle books to get inspiration for projects for her rural home.

20 May, 2015

Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys by Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine is a guitarist and songwriter who co-founded the influential and pioneering all-girl punk band, The Slits. They blazed a trail for some of my favourite female musicians today: Courtney Love, PJ Harvey and local all-girl bands CUTTS and Las Tetas.  

Clothes, music and boys are all subjects close to my heart and Viv Albertine has woven many interesting tales about them throughout her book. A ‘Clothes’ story she describes is going out in a Vivienne Westwood fetish-inspired ‘tits’ t-shirt, rubber stockings and studs and chains which, in the late 1970s, were considered very scandalous and dangerous attire indeed.  

‘Boys’ include her long-time love Mick Jones from The Clash, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren et al and ‘music’ is at the epicentre of the punk scene exploding around her. 

It’s not a typical ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ musician’s autobiography. Well, there IS a bit of that, but because it’s written from a female perspective there’s none of the usual male braggadocio involved. There’s a hilarious and awkward sexual encounter with Johnny Rotten, which I bet he didn't write about in his recently published memoir!  

I fully expected Viv Albertine to be a fearless, feminist, badass rebel and she is. She recalls the constant barrage of sexism the Slits had to endure: interviewers asking them about their sex lives, music execs that “treat us like malleable objects to mould or f*** or make money out of”, verbal abuse, slut-shaming and threats of (and in some cases, actual) sexual assault. 

She also writes with honesty and vulnerability about battling insecurity and self-doubt, gruelling IVF treatment and eventual motherhood, losing her identity and creativity in a bad marriage and lastly cervical cancer. Her strength and courage in overcoming these challenges alone is truly badass which is why I found her book so inspiring and fascinating to read. 

Recommended by Karen I, Devonport Library 

Karen I likes reading memoirs and biographies about people with interesting and unusual lives, because she spends a lot of time reading and doesn't get out much.  

Title: Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys 
Author: Viv Albertine

Also recommended: Anger is an energy : my life uncensored by John Lydon ; with Andrew Perry

19 May, 2015

Life of pee : the story of how urine got everywhere by Sally Magnusson

Why on earth would you ever want to read a book about pee I hear you ask?? Because, actually, this book is really very interesting, in fact you will probably annoy your friends and family by reading out stuff from it. 

I am a sucker for these sorts of fascinating fact books, and yes, I learnt a lot, (and yes, I annoyed my family too). For example, did you know that they used to flavour beer with stale urine, (known as lant). WHAT!!! . . . and if your surname is Fuller, Tucker or Walker, there is a good chance that your ancestors used urine to process wool. A fuller had the lovely job of climbing into a knee-deep barrel of urine and jumping up and down on the cloth to clean it, (and if you lived near a fulling mill you could supplement your income by selling your families pee by the bucket load).

This book covers historical uses, but also delves into topics of current debate, such as should you pee on a jellyfish sting to ease the pain, (who remembers that episode of the  TV show 'Friends'? ).

Written in a light humorous tone this book is very accessible. It is written alphabetically by heading, and you can read it from cover to cover or just open it at random, but you will learn an awful lot about the various uses urine has been put to through out the ages, and what a valuable commodity it was. (Even Southern Belles contributed their pee to the American civil War effort to help make saltpetre for gunpowder - who knew?).  It makes you wonder a bit if all the urine we flush away today is a wasted resource.

Title:  Life of pee : the story of how urine got everywhere
Author: Sally Magnusson

Recommended by Anita S, Blockhouse Bay Library

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction, (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids books and .. actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great!
She also loves art and illustration.

The medicinal chef: healthy every day by Dale Pinnock

If there's one thing I love more than great food it is great cookbooks that inspire me to try and experiment with new recipes.

Eating healthily should not mean eating uninspiring food and The medicinal chef: healthy every day is full to the brim with mouth-watering recipes complete with beautiful colour photographs that make you want to rush to the kitchen and whip them up right there and then.

Some cookbooks, like restaurants, can draw you in with a luscious exterior but leave you feeling wanting at the end. Dale Pinnock's recipes not only live up to their visual promises but are easy to follow, well laid out and avoid using a host of complex ingredients that require you to spend an entire day traversing the town sourcing something you will likely never use in the kitchen again.

There is something for all occasions from less conventional breakfast and lunchbox suggestions to hearty comfort food and delicious treats that will still satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.

If I wasn't impressed already this book goes the extra mile providing a short paragraph outlining health benefits of the 'star' ingredient of each recipe and categorising them at the back of the book with an easy-to-use colour-coded symbols. This enables you to quickly search the index by the health benefits you are interested in such as digestive health, skin, joints and bones, immune system, heart and circulation and so on.

By the time I'd finished the book I had a list of recipes I wanted to try and the next fortnight's meals planned out. First on the list was the One-pot Moroccan vegetable tagine, focusing on the use of cinnamon to boost the immune system, lower high cholesterol and support good digestive health - it really was a sumptuous as it looked.

Next on the week's menu is the Beet balsamic beetroot and sweet potato mash topping... my mouth is watering already!

Title: The medicinal chef: healthy every day
Author: Dale Pinnock

Reviewed by Jo C

Jo C works as a library assistant at Central City Library and enjoys reading crime fiction, most contemporary fiction and non-fiction books that inspire creativity and open her mind! Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood and Stephen King.

Adult onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Mary Rose McKinnon has it all: wife, home, family, fame as a writer. She’s also isolated, anxious and (she thinks) a greater threat to her two-year-old daughter than their placid pit-bull terrier, Daisy.

So far, so North American. But author Ann-Marie MacDonald – who is Canadian, actually – brings much more to Adult onset, her latest novel.

Intruding upon Mary Rose’s present life is the past: her own and that of her mother Dolly, behind whose WASP-ish name and old-lady coquetry lie her Lebanese heritage and a history of terrible depression.

There are the bone cysts that beset Mary Rose in childhood and that remain as what her doctor calls “remembered pain”. And there is the hateful behaviour of times gone by. The love and pride her parents now express for her and her partner are, Mary Rose finds, hard to square with the icy hostility and “wish you had cancer” curses hurled when she came out as a lesbian.

Remembering is perilous. But “If you forget the past, it grows inside you,” the author’s real-life 11-year-old daughter told her not long ago, and that truth is also central to Adult onset.

The novel, both achingly sad and sharply funny, is Ann-Marie MacDonald’s third in as many decades, and it is just as powerful as its predecessors, Fall on your knees and The way the crow flies. Read them all and pass them on. MacDonald deserves to be better known beyond Canada’s borders.

Title: Adult onset
Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald

Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library

Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about there being a crack in everything.

18 May, 2015

Meet me in Atlantis: my obsessive quest to find the sunken city by Mark Adams

Best-selling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, Mark Adams sets out in this book to uncover the truth behind the infamous lost city of Atlantis. What attracted me to this title was the faint hope that Mark succeeded in finding a possible location or evidence towards one.

Mark Adams had discovered a few years ago that everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis originated from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. The unexpected consequence is the obsession that leads Mark from one side of the Atlantic to the other in search of answers from the experts and amateur explorers who still actively search for Atlantis using the clues Plato left behind.

Traipsing from America on through Europe and North Africa, Mark interviews experts and amateurs alike on Atlantis, and tries to determine if any of their theories could prove its existence. We get to know the personalities of these people through Mark’s observations and his ability to ask the right questions. From chapter to chapter, Mark follows clues which lead to more clues, and gathers up a huge amount of knowledge and information about Atlantis. At the end he examines all of his findings and comes up with his own conclusion.

Meet me in Atlantis wasn't just an ordinary travelogue to me. It also chronicled the author’s extensive journey and immense research into one compact book that opened my mind to so many things. Sometimes a nugget of information provided a host of other possibilities towards the end result. Told in his own candid voice, with a dash of his humour added in, Mark lays down all the theories that are out there surrounding the tale of Atlantis.

I really enjoyed this book, but I must admit that some of the mathematical reasoning was a bit too technical for my liking. However, if you like enjoy the thrill of research into history and archaeology; then this is definitely for you!

Title: Meet me in Atlantis: my obsessive quest to find the sunken city
Author: Mark Adams

Recommended by Surani R, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson. 

Surani R enjoys reading biographies, travelogues, some non-fiction, and loves fiction that makes you laugh out loud. She also finds comfort in children’s fiction with thought-provoking stories. 

09 May, 2015

The wallcreeper: a novel by Nell Zink

Nell Zink’s debut novel The wallcreeper follows Tiff, a wildly funny, acerbic and often profound Chicago ex-secretary married on a whim to Steven, a bird-watching scientist who quickly moves them both to the city of Berne, in Germany.

Tiff and Steven move across Germany and Western Europe in a whirlwind of extra-marital affairs, captured rare birds and Zink’s biting one-liners.

After Tiff describes sex with one of her paramours, Elvis, as "loving and beautiful", she clarifies “loving and beautiful in the expressionist, pathetic-fallacy sense in which you might say a meadow was loving and beautiful even if it was full of hamsters ready to kill each other on sight, but only when they’re awake.”

The novel moves at breakneck pace – Tiff and Steven can be in an entirely new city in the blink of an eye, and is never boring (how could it be when the cast of characters includes a radical priest, a bird named Rudolf Durriti and a donkey trek through the backwaters of Albania?).

Zink’s background in environmental activism shines through the pages, and between the scorpion-sting observations and riotous plot is a meditation on femininity, self-knowledge and consumerism. Through Steven and Tiff's morally murky ecological activities, Zink explores what happens if we allow outside forces to plunder ourselves and our environment.

If this seems terrifyingly accomplished for a debut novel – fear not. Zink, an American expat living in Germany, has been writing for years in the form of ‘impromtus,’ pieces of writing for only one person, often her friends.

In interviews, Zink notes she has written "whole novels just to illustrate a point in conversation". The wallcreeper started life as one such impromptu, for Zink’s penpal American author Jonathan Franzen, after Franzen teased her for only ever writing for an audience of one.

If this brief but wonderful novel is just a taste of what Zink can do, I can’t wait to read what she comes up with next.

Title: The wallcreeper: a novel
Author: Nell Zink

Recommended by Hannah C, Mount Albert Library

Hannah C likes reading almost anything, but will never forgive Donna Tartt for The Goldfinch.

Lost and found by Brooke Davis

This book is too delightful not to review. Actually, it is a tough one to find the words to encourage you to read it, everything has been eloquently stated in the blurb on our website. I found this book a little sunburst of loveliness and sparkle, and that is  where I will leave the superlatives.

This is the type of book that will catch your eye with its cover art and definitely make you take a further look when you read the plot summary.

Somewhere though,  tiny warning bell might ring  perhaps suggesting  this book might be heading towards twee. I ordered this book and when it arrived I was reluctant to start it in case I was disappointed with a case of  too much sugar and spice and all things nice. Fear not buttercup, this is lovely stuff.

The author has really captured that delightful innocence and questioning of Millie Bird, the young protagonist, not to mention the lovely eccentricities of the two septuagenarians who gad about with young Millie.

You will need to join the queue for this one, but it is worth the wait.

Title: Lost and found
Author: Brooke Davis

Recommended by Sue W, Central City Library

08 May, 2015

The thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence

The thieves of Ostia is set in the Classical time of the Roman Empire. Flavia Gemina, the precocious young daughter of a merchant captain, aims to solve a small mystery for her father, but soon ends up involved in a much greater mystery. Along the way she meets new friends and discovers a whole new side to the Roman port in which she lives.

The thieves of Ostia is the first in Caroline Lawrence's The Roman Mysteries series and is both an easy and entertaining read aimed at a younger audience. Flavia and her friends lead the reader through the streets of Ostia in an adventure ranging from the light-hearted setting of the Roman house and market life of Ostia, to the dark and sometimes more macabre setting of the catacombs or slave docks.

While the story itself builds gradually to a Scooby-doo-esque climax, the seamless effort with which Caroline Lawrence moves her characters around Ostia while providing facts about the ancient Roman world made this book both easily digestible and educational.

The thieves of Ostia will appeal to children and adults looking to either introduce themselves to a little ancient history or dip their toes into a little crime and mystery. The tone I believe is aimed at a learning mature young reader as it does touch on themes such as religious tolerance, slavery and dealing with loss (but hey, rock 'n' roll, it was ancient Rome!).

We've got the series on DVD too!

Title: The thieves of Ostia
Author: Caroline Lawrence

Recommended by James W, Sir Edmund Hillary Library Papakura

James W somehow managed to get a degree in History and Ancient History. His passions include sitting quietly and keeping your feet off the furniture.

Into the wild by Jon Krakauer

This is a book really worth reading. A sad story but not a dark book. On the contrary, it is a book that makes you explore a lot when you read: how a family can influence a child, how to balance one’s dreams and reality, how to deal with the dark side of our life and unfairness occurring in our community.

On the surface, the book is written about Chris McCandless, a 20-year-old man seeking an “independent” life by going into the Alaskan wild alone. But he ended up starving to death. When we expose the background layer by layer, we can see the family situation Chris grew up in. American society in the 1970s and 1980s is also reflected in the story.

This is an unusual story. It not only leads readers to think about the wild outdoors but also give them chance to access the “inner wild” which is deep inside the soul of humans…

Title: Into the wild
Author: J. Krakauer

Reviewed by Honour Z, Northcote Library

Honour Z works at Northcote Library. She loves reading biographies and nonfiction in general.

Other works written by Jon Krakauer:
Into thin air : a personal account of the Mount Everest disaster
Where men win glory : the odyssey of Pat Tillman
Under the banner of heaven : a story of violent faith

07 May, 2015

The spirit of Rose-Noëlle: 119 days adrift, a survival story by John Glennie and Jane Phare

Have you ever read a book that makes you want to thank your lucky stars that you are reading it from the comfort of your warm, dry bed and not, say, in a capsized trimaran, drifting somewhere in the vast Pacific ocean with three people you don’t like all that much? This is that kind of book. By the end you will be filled with immense gratitude that you are not in this situation, and full of admiration for the men that survived under such difficult conditions.

This is the true story of a boat that capsized after a massive wave en route to Tonga in 1989 and drifted around the ocean for 119 days. The captain, John Glennie, built his dream boat, planned his dream voyage, and, as he was so keen to get on with his adventure, he assembled an inexperienced crew of whoever was available at the time and set off. After three days at sea they sailed into a huge storm that capsized the boat, leaving the four men squashed into an upside down cabin the size of a queen-sized bed. For four months. Take a moment to let that sink in.

The author documents how they survived by rationing food, catching fish and birds and collecting rainwater. He describes their utter despair, the crew’s resentment of Glennie, the failed emergency locater beacon, the many things that went wrong, and also their incredible luck that they survived at all. Their return to land is another extraordinary aspect of the story.

There’s a New Zealand TV movie coming soon about the Rose-Noëlle, so I’m really excited to see how they tell it. I’m going to watch it from my warm, dry couch.

Title: The spirit of Rose-Noëlle : 119 days adrift, a survival story
Author: John Glennie and Jane Phare ; sketches by Joan Grehan ; line drawings by John Glennie.

Recommended by Louise H, Central City Library

Louise H likes reading nonfiction books, especially ones with pictures. Her super power would be either time travel or interior decorating.

More fool me by Stephen Fry

More fool me is the third volume of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, following on from the successful and acclaimed Moab is my washpot and The Fry chronicles. More fool me finds Fry in his early thirties, burning through the late 1980s and into the early 1990s as a high-functioning writer, playwright, comedian and star of stage and screen with an ever-growing cocaine dependency. An incident-packed recounting ensues, veering from amusing to painfully honest but always engaging.

Wry, witty, in places rambling, Fry meanders from amusing anecdote to hilarious tale with self-deprecating dexterity. Never mean to others, he is unfailingly candid about his own shortcomings and weaknesses. He makes no apologies for the choices he has made but acknowledges the bullets he has dodged more by luck than judgement. Throughout his adventures and misadventures, Fry’s values, particularly the importance of friendship, shine through in a refreshingly simple fashion.

Fry’s name-dropping is off the scale, but remember that this is the person accredited by the Oxford English Dictionary for first using the term ‘luvvie’ (or ‘lovie’ as Fry spells it) as a humorous synonym for ‘actor’. He has also kept the company of some incredibly fascinating and talented actors, writers, philosophers and artists over the last three decades, and has a story to tell about them all.

Fry’s understanding of the human psyche is acute and his observations invariably insightful. He has the sharpest of eyes for the follies of human nature and how ridiculous the world can be. His writing is surprisingly optimistic given that he lives with bipolar disorder and has attempted suicide several times. As addicted to writing as he once was to illegal narcotics, there will doubtless be more to come from Fry’s pen, and I, for one, cannot wait.

More fool me by Stephen Fry

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading autobiographies, crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV.