29 June, 2015

Feed by M.T. Anderson

It started out like any ordinary trip to the moon. In a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains, Titus, a well to do boy content with his consumerist and ignorant lifestyle meets Violet, a lower class girl fighting against the Feed and its omnipresence and fighting for the right to think for herself. 

Books you have to study in school are usually read grudgingly and seldom become favourites. This book defied both odds and I can easily say it's one of my favourites. Dystopian, check. Satire check. Successfully mixing two genres I love to read, Feed, in my opinion, offers the most realistic vision of the future that I have read about so far. 

The plot was interesting, the characterisation spot-on - Titus is the perfect embodiment of Anderson’s shallow world and Violet represents the forgotten society wonderfully - and the issues and themes that Anderson alludes to are very relevant.

Addiction to technology and the internet, slang and swearing in everyday language, a corporate society where information about you can automatically be gathered, a lack of environmental awareness, decreasing interest in knowledge, language and thoughtthese are all addressed in Anderson’s novel, but they could just as easily be about our own society today and in the near future. 

The best, and scariest, thing about this book is that Anderson offers no finality or solution, he just shows us a world with many flaws and lets it creep under your skin and make you wonder about where we are headed.

This book is a great read for teens or adults: it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cringe, it’ll make you feel sad. But most importantly, it’ll make you think. Check it out.

Title: Feed
Author: M.T. Anderson

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.

The extreme centre : a warning by Tariq Ali

Why are so many people the world over, not voting?

Why are politicians (together with journalists, but that's another story), so untrusted by most people?

How can those who don't vote now, be convinced that their votes do count?

Tariq Ali, a leading left-wing author and journalist in the UK, examines the problem and proposes solutions. He takes us on a very readable history of the past forty years in the politics of the Western countries.

He shows us how most people were led to believe that if you voted for the centre party, such as Tony Blair's New Labour, then you were voting for more reasonable and moderate governments.

However, in his view, the centre has been taken over by business-friendly, pro-corporate lobbyists who exist only to serve their masters, and contribute freely to political parties who are both centre-left and centre-right.They push neo-liberal, small government and pro-privatisation policies and have led to the growing inequality of society and most of the world's wealth being held by a tiny minority of super-rich.

For this reason the centre has become extreme and not fair and balanced in the interests of the whole of society. It's a well-thought out, well-researched look at the problem that most Western countries are facing today. And it gives us good reasons and answers to the question of how to fix it.

Well worth a read, and if you don't vote, it just may convince you to give it a go.

Title: The extreme centre : a warning
Author: Tariq Ali

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 Mad Boy, Lord Berners, my grandmother and me by Sofia Zinovieff

I do love an English eccentric (or two). Full of naughtiness, madness and frivolity this book is a delightful treat.

Lord Berners was a gifted composer, painter and writer who lived a life of pure fantasy in his country mansion (pre-war) with his much younger companion, Robert Heber-Percy (the Mad Boy) at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

A background of wealth and privilege is the usual spawning ground for English eccentricity. Edith Sitwell, being one herself, even wrote a book called The English Eccentrics where she says that the aristocrat is not afraid of the opinions of the masses. (of course it helps if you never have to bother with seeking paid employment!)

Growing up in an eighteenth century edifice with turrets and Gothic flourishes set in beautiful parkland with twenty house servants not to mention the gardeners and estate workers, Lord Berners moves on to owning a house in Rome near The Forum then another in London in fashionable Belgravia.

He then inherits Faringdon, a large Georgian house in Oxfordshire. Welcoming an array of fascinating and famous house guests, he entertains lavishly. A flock of doves dyed bright pink and a white horse in the drawing room are but a few examples of his wit and humour.

Strangely enough the Mad Boy goes on to have a liason with a 'society girl' who then produces a daughter.

At the age of twenty five Sofia Zinovieff unexpectedly inherits Faringdon from her grandfather, the Mad Boy. She is the author of this intriguing tale which could almost be fiction.

Title: The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, my grandmother and me
Author: Sofia Zinovieff

Recommended by Claire S, Central Library

Claire S enjoys biographies about creative, interesting characters,  reads non-fiction  connected to the Arts, food, women, New Zealand and even reads the ocassional fiction.

28 June, 2015

Better than before: mastering the habits of our everyday life by Gretchen Rubin

“Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life.”

Have you ever woken up late thinking, “I should have gone to bed earlier”? Do you find it hard to start new habits? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then this is definitely the book for you!

In Better than before, acclaimed writer Gretchen Rubin, tackles the question ‘How do we change our habits?’ and identifies every approach that really works. She uses extensive research and herself as a guinea pig on the different theories around habits. Drawing on these and cutting-edge science related to habits, willpower, and decision making, Rubin also examines the experiences of her family and friends.

What fascinated me personally after reading this book was not just her engaging storytelling she used to extrapolate her theories, but the questions she has you asking yourself. Once I had understood the differences between the Four Tendencies that influence habit-formation and identified myself within this framework, I realised that I could adapt my habits to suit my personality. The 21 habit-changing strategies that Rubin talks about in this book allowed me to put my new found self-knowledge into action. Everything that Gretchen Rubin talks about in this new book has opened up my eyes to the different habits that propel my life.

Interspersed with inspirational quotes and Rubin’s own “Secrets of Adulthood”, this engaging and informative read is one that will change your life irrevocably. Once you answer the questions in this book and find out everything you need to know about yourself you will be able to shape your habits for a happy life.

If you wanted to read one self-help book this year, make sure it this one as it has the power to change your perception on life!!

Gretchen Rubin has also authored The Happiness Project and Happier at home, both claiming spots on the New York Times bestseller list.

Title: Better than before: mastering the habits of our everyday life
Author: Gretchen Rubin

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.

26 June, 2015

Celebrating the southern seasons: rituals for Aotearoa, by Juliet Batten

The generation in which I grew up was perhaps the last in New Zealand for whom it was quite normal to receive – and send – Christmas cards featuring snowy landscapes, red-breasted robins and well-covered Santas.

More recent Christmas imagery in the southern hemisphere has shown Santas in swimming togs, and flowering pohutukawa instead of English robins.

But I think many of us have yet to engage fully with our immediate natural environment and its seasonal changes. Only in the last decade has the flowering kowhai become the chief symbol of spring for me. Over the same period I have begun to see how winter scarcity brings more native birds into urban back yards to feed.

My change in perspective stems partly from this book. Celebrating the southern seasons came out in 1995, but when I first read it in 2005 (in the tenth anniversary edition), it still felt fresh and new.

That’s ironic given that it draws on age-old cultural practices. Author Juliet Batten closely examines season-related traditions from both pre-European Aotearoa and Europe (pagan and Christian), footnoting meticulously all the way.

Each chapter looks at a different time of year – be it a solstice or an equinox – and each ends by suggesting related rituals for this country, today. These will resonate with people whose focus is spiritual but they have the potential to interest a much wider readership.

I particularly enjoyed Batten’s information about how the flora and fauna of these islands respond to the seasons, and the response of Maori life and traditions in turn.

An early field of study for this author was English (in which she has a doctorate), and this is quietly evident: she is a good communicator, and draws on a deep well of poetry for suggested readings.

▪ Juliet Batten speaks on “Matariki meets Winter Solstice: a new year for Aotearoa” at Grey Lynn Library, 474 Great North Road, 1.30pm on June 30, 2015.

Title: Celebrating the southern seasons: rituals for Aotearoa
Author: Juliet Batten

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.

25 June, 2015

Unabrow. Misadventures of a late bloomer by Una LaMarche

You’ve seen the cover of this book so no surprises at the title of this memoir. This is  vitamin c for the mind to immunise against the winter blues.

There is something hugely appealing about meeting someone who is willing to mine their own flaws and imperfections for comic material. Think Jacqui Brown, Miranda or Lena Durham. Funny females are powerful.

You know those awkward cringe inducing period of your life you choose to bury? Una Lamarche deliberately goes fossicking around for them, pulling out the most ludicrous shame making memories.

All those fashion choices thought to be the height of sophistication, clumsy attempts to lure boys once hormones started stirring, not to mention the shame of a virginity that refuses to leave home.

This memoir is never going to be a contender for literary greatness however it is funny, irreverent and so recognisable. All in all a perfect antidote to gloomy mood.

 If you are wanting to peruse a smorgasbord of similar humour, might I also suggest the following books;

Chelsea Chelsea bang bang by Chelsea Handler

On my knees   by Periel Aschenbrand

Title: Unabrow. Misadventures of a late bloomer.
Author:  Una LaMarche

Recommended by Sue W, Central City library

Sue W  loves to read and never has enough time to do so. Sue's cats are jealous of books and feels she pays the written word way too much attention at the expense of more important things, like feeding them.

24 June, 2015

The dawn of the deed by John A. Long

With a subtitle of The prehistoric origins of sex, prurient curiosity will attract many a reader (including myself) to this book, but it is the author’s authoritative, yet approachable, writing style that will keep you reading.
Who hasn’t wondered how dinosaurs did ‘it’? Their size and/or attachments (think of the Stegosaurus) create a logistical conundrum (and odd mental images).

Get over any embarrassment about reading such a book (after all, if it wasn’t for sex, we wouldn’t be here), and be prepared for some fascinating, obscure, and truly bizarre facts (as evidenced by the Australian edition’s title Hung like an Argentine duck). 

The author steps us back even further than the dinosaurs, to the earliest evidence of sex. He does so in such a way that the layperson will never feel lost or overwhelmed by jargon or scientific facts. But he also acknowledges, without over-indulging, the ‘snigger’ factor inherent in discussion about sex, even among academics. 

I’ve been on a science reads binge recently, so there are a few similar titles I’d recommend for those with a science-bent: 

Title: The dawn of the deed: the prehistoric origins of sex.  Also published as Hung like an Argentine duck: a journey back in time to the origins of sexual intimacy.  
Author: John A. Long. 

Recommended by Annie C, Helensville Library. 

Annie C is a voracious and versatile reader, but her habitual reads are fantasy, romance, and a diverse selection of non-fiction subjects.  

23 June, 2015

The lost swimmer by Ann Turner

Ever feel like you have no control over something? Rebecca Wilding does. She is an archaeology professor at an Australian university and has been accused of misappropriating department funds. She also suspects her husband Stephen is having an affair and that he has been making risky investments with their money.

Rebecca hopes a shared working holiday to Europe will give her an opportunity to investigate the discrepancies with the university bank accounts and work on her relationship with Stephen. But before she can resolve anything, Stephen disappears while swimming at the beach near their Italian hotel and Rebecca is accused of being involved.

Ann Turner describes situations and settings in great detail. An encounter with a kangaroo at Rebecca’s home in Australia was particularly vivid and memorable. The scenes in Italy had me imagining I was there (or wishing I was), and I felt outrage on her behalf when she was accused of something she hadn’t done.
The plot was interesting and kept me involved and curious about what was going to happen next. How was Rebecca going to discover who was framing her for fraud and what was Stephen hiding from her?

I did feel the main characters were fairly shallow and that a number of secondary characters didn't seem significant until well into the book, meaning I had to go back and revisit their initial appearances, but overall this is a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

Ann Turner's website is worth checking out with an excellent trailer for The lost swimmer and lots of other interesting snippets on her writing.

Title: The lost swimmer
Author: Ann Turner

Recommended by Kathy N, Collections Development

Kathy N can’t go to sleep unless she has read a bit before turning the light off. As well as most fiction, she enjoys craft and lifestyle books to get project ideas for her rural home. She spends her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.

22 June, 2015

The healer's apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

The lovely fairy tale-esque YA fiction, written by renowned Christian and Romance author Melanie Dickerson, is a fantastical take on Sleeping Beauty.

Rose is a woodcutter’s daughter and is constantly battling her mother’s attempts at selling her to the highest bidder arranging her marriage. The only thing that has really saved her this long is that she is also the town healer’s apprentice – in line to be in a position of honour, respect and free to stay unwed. Unfortunately, after saving Dukes’ son, Lord Hamlin, from an otherwise disabling wound, she has also caught the eye of both Lord Hamlin and his brother, Lord Rupert. As a peasant seen carousing with Rupert, she quickly gains a reputation in the towns although she has done nothing untoward and protects her dignity with a steady faith.

Meanwhile, Lord Hamlin is trying to find a sorcerer of black magic, who is in pursuit of his betrothed, Princess Salomea – who is in hiding and who Hamlin has never actually met. But in the midst of his hunt for the sorcerer, he still finds himself thinking of the healer who mended his leg, despite his love for her being impossible as he is still promised to the missing Salomea.

Dickerson has created a world filled to the brim with magic, faith, and romance that combines into an absolutely charming story. As a fan of fairy tales and Fantasy, but not so much of Christian, Historical or Romance fiction, this one was a surprise and a delight as it still hit all the right notes for me and my fussy checklist of what makes a good book.

This is the first in a series, which I will undoubtedly be reserving for myself – all loosely based on the classic fairy tales we all know and love.

Title: The Healer's Apprentice
Author: Melanie Dickerson

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 has heaps of hobbies but reading gets in the way of most of them. Dana also writes for the library blog, popculturAL, where she just rambles on and writes passionately about how everybody should read comics. Well, they should!

Uncle John's Robotica, mechanical marvels and mind-melting machines of the past, present, and future by the Bathroom Readers' Institute

“Robotica” is a small book which is packed full of interesting facts and trivia relating to robots. Each page covers one topic You can flick through the book and read as you want – an article here or there, whatever you fancy.

So we have basic facts, like the word ‘robot’ which is taken from the Czech word for ‘slave’. The book questions what a robot is, and whether artificial intelligences and computer programmes are robots.  It solves the issue simply by concluding that robots can be explained as “… being saddled with all the work we don’t want to do”.

In Japan, Panasonic have developed the Head Care Robot which will wash and style people’s hair. This is in use now in rest homes for elderly and handicapped persons. In the medical field, surgical robots have been in use for 30 years – these perform minor surgical procedures and can be calibrated to carry out precise and delicate work.

At Osaka University engineers have come up with an answer to how impersonal business meetings via video conferencing or Skype can be improved to provide the traditional hand shaking, to conclude a successful meeting or business deal.  They have created a silicone robotic hand that can be shaken realistically, and it is hoped in future this will mimic the person’s grip and actual movements.

There are even “Robostitutes” functional sex robots that are already available: Roxxxy is a 120-pound fake lady equipped with lifelike silicone skin that warms to the touch – an artificial intelligence engine that can be programmed to learn its owner’s likes and dislikes.

A final note: there is no one author credited with writing this book; it is “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Robotica”, from the Bathroom Readers Institute.  The last page of the book confirms that the Bathroom Reader Series is in fact published with the ‘bathroom reader’ in mind.  This book is an interesting find and well worth reading at any time.

Title: Uncle John's Robotica
Author: The Bathroom Readers' Institute

Recommended by Ana, Central Library

18 June, 2015

I love Dick by Chris Kraus

It feels like I must be the last person in New Zealand to read I love Dick, artist Chris Kraus’ genre-bending memoir/novel/theoretical text/love letter.*

The book was first published in 1997, but has recently experienced one of those unexpected renaissances that really good books sometimes do (see also: 2013’s revival of the beautifully bleak John William’s novel, Stoner).

Born in New Zealand but spending much of her career in Los Angeles, Kraus’ writing contains marks of her previous film and performance art work, blending critical theory, fact, fiction and poetry.

I love Dick chronicles Kraus’ infatuation with the titular Dick (real life counterpart: media theorist and sociologist Dick Hebdige) after Chris and her husband, academic Sylvère Lotringer, spend a boozy night at Dick’s country abode.

Chris’ letters to Dick, which begin as an almost-joke and finish as something else entirely, form the bulk of the novel, chronicling Chris’s obsession with Dick and uncertainties about her own life.

Poet Eileen Myles puts it best when she writes that in I love Dick “Chris' ultimate achievement is philosophical. She's turned female abjection inside out and aimed it at a man… I love Dick boldly suggests that Chris Kraus' unswervingly attempted and felt female life is a total work and it didn't kill her.”

Read this book as soon as you can, and as an added bonus, enjoy the scandalised looks people on your commute will give you when they catch a glimpse of the cover.

Kraus’ other books (Aliens and Anorexia and Summer of Hate) are also available in the Auckland Libraries catalogue. 

*I’m not though - Lorde Instagrammed a picture of a copy gifted to her by Lena Dunham just a few weeks ago. I win this round, Lorde (although you still have better hair).

Title: I love Dick
Author: Chris Kraus

Reviewed by Hannah C, Mount Albert Library

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

13 June, 2015

Good leaders ask great questions by John C. Maxwell

As the number-one New York Times best-selling author, John C. Maxwell is a very productive author indeed. His works cover leadership, relationships, self-development and attitudes to life.

Leadership sounds like a trendy word in today’s society, it always appears in job descriptions, CVs and interviews.

The more the word leadership shines in our life, the more deeply people think about it. 

Could leadership be cultivated or it is part of your nature? What is the requirement for a good leader?

“Good leaders ask great questions” will lead you to explore issues relating to leadership and how you can be a good leader layer by layer, like peeling an onion.

But this is not the only good thing about this book, it also deals with questions such as “how to succeed working under poor leadership as a follower,” “how to resolve conflict and lead challenging people,” “how to integrate service into the leadership role” are also discussed in the book. The author offers heart-felt suggestions from his own experience with difficult cases as examples. 

This is a book not only worth reading but also worth keeping in your book case and reading every now and then to get refreshed as well.

Author: John C. Maxwell

Reviewed by Honour Z, Northcote Library

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

12 June, 2015

The walls of Byzantium by James Heneage

The walls of Byzantium is set at the end of the middles ages in the dying stages of the Byzantine Empire. It follows the adventures of Luke Magoris, a young Varangian (think large-mercenary-axe-wielding-man) in service to the empire, who is caught between destiny, duty, passion and love. His journey will take him from the gates of Europe to the steppes of Asia while facing betrayals, making friends, fighting battles and butting heads with the most powerful individuals in the world.

​I loves me medieval history so The walls of Byzantium was always going to get a tick from me. If I'm to be honest (*cough* which I always am), this period in history is a hive for great storytelling: falling empires, tested loyalties, court intrigues; so Heneage really cannot go wrong here and thus makes a great fist of it.

The decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire hasn't been popularised as much as other periods of history, which allows Heneages characters to flourish and interact with historical figures without too much history 'getting in the way'. One great positive is Heneage's tone which expresses positivity and hope from (and for) the main character Luke and his friends despite the overarching sense of dread of a period of history coming to an end.

The fast paced nature of this book means that those of you usually bored stiff by anything featuring dates and people in fancy dress waving metal objects about (you know who you are), will get swept up in the constant movement around Europe's middle sea. There are saucy women, saucier men, nasty battle scenes and a dashing English lad here to save the day. The walls of Byzantium is recommended for mature readers who love high adventure and especially those of you who like a bit of fact with their fiction.

Title: The walls of Byzantium
Author: James Heneage

Recommended by James W, Sir Edmund Hillary Library Papakura

James W is entering his third year of librarianship. James doesn't dislike people who pour milk secondly, he just believes they are incorrect. James has mastered walking and chewing gum at the same time (blowing bubbles is another matter entirely).

Into the river by Ted Dawe

Into the river is a gripping, emotional read by one of New Zealand’s most respected young adult fiction writers. Dawe’s first book, Thunder Road (2003), won the young adult fiction category at the 2004 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Dawe described his style then as "plot driven stories that aim to give the young adult reader all the rewards that adult readers get from a well written book, with a concerted effort to avoid moralising and finger wagging".

Into the river, written as a prequel to Thunder Road, meets those same criteria and was judged Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

The lead character is Te Arepa Santos, a teenage Māori boy from a rural community. When he is dragged into a local river by a giant eel, he comes into contact with the spirit world. Years later, far from home, there is a price to be paid, an utu exacted.

Te Arepa is smart but naïve, tough but vulnerable, and the depth and richness of Dawe’s narrative draws you into caring deeply about how his life unfolds. Riveting from beginning to end, constantly engaging and sometimes shocking, this book unflinchingly tackles themes including sexual relationships, drugs, violence and the struggle for cultural identity.

Although pitched as young adult fiction, like Thunder Road before it, the moving storyline and expertly developed characters of Into the river will ensure that this book is also much loved by adult readers. This is coming-of-age fiction at its very finest and helps fill the void of New Zealand literature focused on adolescent males.

The book has been restricted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification to persons aged 14 years and over.

Title: Into the river 
Author: Ted Dawe

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading 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.

07 June, 2015

Death sentences, edited by Otto Penzler

Death sentences - what a great title for a book of short stories that involve both crime and literature. In fact the complete title is Death sentences : stories of deathly books, murderous booksellers and lethal literature from the world's best crime writers, which sums it up very nicely.

Here we have 15 short stories from some well-known crime writers such as Jefferey Deaver, Anne Perry, Laura Lippman,  C. J.  Box and Nelson deMille, (rather enjoyed his one).This is a great way to read  and get a taste of some authors you haven't tried yet. Who knows, you might discover a new favourite.

The pace and style varies quite a lot,  but this is a good thing. Not all will hit the mark but I am sure you will enjoy a good portion of them. To quote Forrest Gump, it's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. And being short stories, there is less temptation to read far into the night, which is definitely a plus for a book addict like me.

A handsome-looking book, these stories were specially commissioned, and were edited by the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, Otto Penzler. So go on, order this book and get reading!

Title:  Death sentences : stories of deathly books, murderous booksellers and lethal literature from the world's best crime writers
Authors: various - introduction by Ian Rankin ; edited by Otto Penzler

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.

05 June, 2015

The savage detectives by Roberto Bolano

The Savage Detectives is the novel that sent Bolaño hurtling above the radar and up into literary fame. It is a book of contradictions in many ways.

It is an award-winning, widely acclaimed novel with a cult audience. The characters are compelling even though we are kept at a distance from them. Indeed, none are more elusive than the main characters, two “visceral realist” poets by the names of Arturo Belano (the resemblance to the authors name is no coincidence) and Ulises Lima.

Though they are self-appointed revolutionary poets, we never see nor hear of them writing poetry. They are more likely to be getting embroiled in drug transactions and altercations between pimps and prostitutes, or loitering at bars.

There is a rambling bohemian tone to much of the writing that calls to mind Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The end goal of this rambling, the journey that comes closest to embodying the Odyssean namesake of Ulises Lima, is their long and ultimately ill-fated search through 1970’s Mexico for the founding mother of Mexican poetry, Cesarea Tinajero.

The novel is a homage to Bolaño’s early literary days as something of a Rimbaudian enfant terrible, and also to many of his favourite writers. There is a pulp fiction flavour to much of The Savage Detectives (Bolaño was as much of a James Ellroy fan as a James Joyce fan) and each small chapter tends to detail its events in a simple linear fashion. Yet the sheer number of different narrators, and the Joycean shifts in tone from character to character make the overall reading experience anything but simple or linear.

My lasting impression was of the ultimate disconnection between so many of the characters and their disparate motives for their actions, and of a skepticism from the author for not only the literary establishment he himself liked to rail against, but also many of the pretenses towards railing against it, and the futile methods chosen for doing so. I don’t mean it as a slight when I say the characters won’t stay with you after you finish the book. It is their shadows that stay with you.

Title: The savage detectives
Author: Roberto Bolaño

Recommended by Simon C, Central City Library

Simon C works in Readers Services for Auckland Libraries. His special reading interests include 19th-century French poetry and 20th-century modernist fiction. He likes to take psychogeographical walks in his spare time, sometimes not even leaving his desk to do so.

A history of loneliness by John Boyne

“It was what I suppose could be called a long dark night of the soul.”

Father Odran Yates is a good man. But is he a weak man? In this story we see how silence and denial are just as much crimes as the act of committing them.
After a devastating family tragedy, 17-year-old Odran is told by his mother that he has a vocation and must join the Catholic priesthood.

It is the early 1970s in Ireland when the church is still a much respected institution. Odran enters the seminary full of faith and optimism, but as time goes on he finds himself looking on at its dark and troubled side – the molestation of young boys by the clergy.

We see the tragic effects of abuse in the isolation and loneliness of men, now grown and we see the distrust against clerics that rises in an angry community.

As the story goes back and forth in time, Odran observes how his best friend Tom is moved from parish to parish as are some of  his other brethren; despite the clues and implications, he hides from himself what he truly doesn’t want to see, because he wants his faith in the Church and his friend to remain intact. Even though his own family may be affected.

Eventually, his inaction creates a tragic dilemma he must confront as he faces himself in his later years.

Author of The absolutist and The boy in striped pyjamas, this is John Boyne’s first novel set in his home country, Ireland. Once again he has turned out an engrossing story on a provocative issue that I would recommend to anyone interested in a thoughtful and empathetic read.

Author: John Boyne

Recommended by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

02 June, 2015

Moon California road trip by Stuart Thornton

I didn’t know what ‘Moon’ in the title referred to, but I soon found out that there are a whole series of ‘Moon’ travel guides, mainly on the United States but also several other countries.

This is a compact traveller’s guide much like a Lonely Planet guide.  This particular one is ‘California Road Trip’ and the author creates a 14-day road trip around the top destinations in California.  He assumes you will embrace California’s love affair with the automobile, and will choose to drive.  His day-by-day itinerary will take you to the key locations, which are within a day’s drive of each other.

The key locations include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the Pacific Coast Highway.  In addition to giving great information about each of the locations he outlines how to travel there, and things to see and do along the way.

This little book is packed with photos, 36 maps, and loads of information on what to see, where to stay, where to eat.  Even if you are not doing a road trip, the detailed information he provides on the locations is excellent.  As this is a 2015 publication it is completely up to date.  Don’t be put off with the ‘Road Trip’ in the title, it contains information on all types of travel and even if you are only going to one city or area in California you will find the book indispensable.

Title: California road trip
Author: Stuart Thornton

Reviewed by Ana W, Central City Library

Ana W works on the Readers Services Team at Central Library. She loves reading both fiction and non-fiction and is always scanning the catalogue and shelves for an interesting book.