30 September, 2015

Sing it all away By Walk off the Earth [Music CD]

"Walk off the Earth" first caught my eye with their crazily coordinated and visually stunning video clips that would pop up while browsing my endless Facebook feeds. I "suggested for purchase" this C.D to be brought and after acquiring it, listened to it in my car for two weeks straight, until I got the dreaded email saying that I had to return it.

These two weeks were the best of my life (in a musical sense). In my car I sang, danced (safely, of course), and made a complete idiot of myself to and from work everyday for those two awesome weeks (my car windows are not tinted so everyone could see me looking like a fool).

The band is well known for doing covers and using unusual instruments in their songs. They also have done a remix with Steve Aoki for one of the songs on their newest album. This C.D blew my mind and I'm sharing my love of this band with you so you too can also sing and dance (SAFELY!), in the confines of your car/house/anywhere you want and can also look like a total goofball like me. If this C.D does not totally rock your world then try their other C.D's that we have in our collection.  I tell you that it is totally worth it.

Title: Sing it all away (C.D)
Corporate Authors: Walk off the Earth

Recommended 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.

26 September, 2015

Travelling to infinity by Jane Hawking

After reading My brief history by Stephen Hawking, I became more interested in his private life than his scientific achievements.

What is his first wife, Jane Hawking who stayed with him for twenty-five years, like? What did his family life look like? And especially, how did he deal with his family while his physical body was gradually collapsing?

Jane Hawking, an ordinary lady with the same human needs and wants as anyone else, led me through this extraordinary period of her life with her vivid, heartfelt writing. She details her struggles in balancing between the normal physical needs and commitments of marriage, being a sacrificing wife and a professional woman, a loving mother and a care giving partner.

An amazing emotional love triangle involving Jane, Stephen and Jonathan is also confessed to without any glossing over.

The book has not only answered all of my questions but also led me to think infinitely beyond them - about the possibility, reality, and unknowability of the human being.

This item is also available from Auckland Libraries as an audio book, eBook, large-print book and DVD.

Author: Jane Hawking

Recommended by Honour Z,  Northcote Library

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

The girls : a novel by Lori Lansens.

Rose and Ruby are inseparable.  They are sisters and best friends but they are also literally inseparable; they are joined at their skulls and share a major vein. When Rose looks north, Ruby is right beside her looking north-east.

Although the girls are in each other's company all the time, they have quite different personalities and interests.  This is where the appeal of this novel lies for me, the exploration of how they maintain their separate identities. They both work at the local library, part-time, in different roles at different times.  Their house is full of mirrors so that they can see each other.

This reads more like a biography than a novel. It answers questions that would be too rude to ask.

Title: The girls: a novel
Author: Lori Lansens

Reviewed by Christine, Takapuna Library

Christine O has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years. She likes her fiction to be credible and her nonfiction to be accessible.

19 September, 2015

A modern way to cook by Anna Jones

A modern way to cook is the much anticipated follow up to A modern way to eat, the hugely popular debut cookbook by Anna Jones.

You might not have heard of her before but Anna Jones has worked in the industry for many years behind the scenes as part of Jamie Oliver's food team, and is now coming out from behind the kitchen and into the spotlight with two cookbooks of her own.

I'm a big fan of Jamie Oliver, regardless of his do-gooder reputation. His approachable, down to earth style works for me, and Anna Jones has a similar breezy, relaxed approach to cooking. Like Oliver, Jones is a cook – not a chef, which means that there's nothing too fancy or fiddly to make in her cookbooks. It's everyday food, quick and easy to prepare but full of colour, flavour and importantly – vegetables.

Rather than being organised by meal type or ingredients, this cookbook is split into sections according to how long they take to cook. There's the “Ready in twenty” chapter for a busy weeknight, or the “Investment cooking” chapter for those times you want to make something a bit special. When you're really desperate you can turn straight to the first chapter in the book “In the time it takes to set the table” that is full of one pot meals and quick salads that you can quickly whip up. That's my kind of cooking.

All of the recipes in this book are vegetarian, most of them gluten and dairy free, or easily adaptable. All the food trends of recent years make appearances. Kale chips, quinoa, zuchinni noodles (Aka zoodles) etcetera but all done in tasty and inspiring ways. If this is modern living I'm all for it.

Title: A modern way to cook
Author: Anna Jones

Recommended by Ella J, Central Library

Ella J is a library assistant who has equal amounts of time for literary masterpieces as she does for pop culture icons, and is always looking out for something fresh and exciting to get her teeth into.

17 September, 2015

Genshiken omnibus. 1 Shimoku Kio

Genshiken (Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai or "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture") is a manga series about a University club for otaku (obsessive fans of a variety of media) and their trials dealing with university life, culture clashes and each other.

This manga is great and while I have an affinity toward many of the characters (having some otaku tendencies myself... don't tell my mum), it's the more recognisable elements of each character and interaction which keeps me glued to each story arc. The fear of exposure or acceptance, conformity, pressure from society and peers, sexual attraction and unrequited love. All these appear within the dynamic of this group and are applied not only plausibly by Shimoku, but skillfully also.

Shimoku has created a great dynamic within the Genshiken group with each character well defined artistically and personality wise. Much of the drama is created via personality and/or social clashes with entertaining and sometimes heated exchanges. The artwork is clean and consistent with a special mention to the backgrounds which in some scenes look painstakingly detailed. I mean woah!

Ever wanted to know the inner workings of an otakus mind? Wish their was a group as cool as this at your school/Uni? Read Genshiken! It's great! Teens+

Title: Genshiken omnibus. 1
Author: Shimoku Kio
Recommended by James W, Sir Edmund Hillary Library Papakura

James W wa, nihongo o benkyou shimasu. Mo amari yoku nai desu. Kare wa hon no hou ga terebi yori ga suki da to omotte iru. Sorry sensei, I'm getting better, honest.

14 September, 2015

The pirates and the nightmaker by James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe is a Christchurch-based poet and children’s fiction writer, author of The loblolly boy (2009) and The loblolly boy and the sorcerer (2011). The loblolly boy is a magical, Peter-Pan type creature who has the gift of flight, is invisible to almost everyone and can swap identities with people.

In The pirates and the nightmaker Norcliffe goes back to tell the origins of the loblolly boy, and reintroduces characters that lit up the earlier books including the dark and mysterious sorcerer, Nicholas Wicker, the enigmatic Captain Bass and the ingenious but sometimes foolish gadget-maker Daniel Flynn.

The year is 1740 and the ship Firefly is captured by pirates in the Caribbean. The ship’s boy is set adrift with the captain, a passenger called Mr Wicker, and some of the crew. When the starving crew eye up the boy for dinner, Mr Wicker transforms him into an unearthly flying creature with emerald-green wings. The boy learns of the sorcerer’s plans to find a magical astrolabe that can plunge the world into darkness and allies with the captain of a ghost ship and the pirate captain’s daughter to stop him.

Norcliffe is a wordsmith whose fiction writing is infused with his poetic talents. He weaves beautiful and intelligent stories that twist and turn effortlessly until you are surprised to reach the end of the book and realise how many hours have passed. Written for the 10-14 age-bracket, this is sophisticated children’s literature that will delight many adults. If you wish to hide this guilty pleasure, I suggest reading the book to your children.

Title: The pirates and the nightmaker
Author: James Norcliffe

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.

Stroppy old women: 52 Kiwi women, who've been around long enough to know, tell you what's wrong with the world compiled by Paul Little and Wendyl Nissen

Wasteful plastic packaging. Sexism. Sloppy language.  Social inequality. Ill designed bras and public loos. World hunger and chronic illness.

These are just a few of the things wrong with the world, according to some of New Zealand’s best known “old” women. In honest, humorous and plain speaking terms they rant  about  things, big and little, that make them really grumpy about the current state of affairs and about the world in general.

You may identify with some of these pet peeves yourself, be moved or amused by others and I’d say that whether you are 25 or 85 (or male), you will thoroughly enjoy the voices of these wonderful, interesting women of Aotearoa New Zealand!

P.S. If you haven’t already, read  the equally enjoyable Grumpy old men books 1 and 2, in which 95 Kiwi blokes sound off on a range of subjects.

Title: Stroppy old women
Authors: Paul Little and Wendyl Nissen

Reviewed 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.

13 September, 2015

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

We often forget the problems of old age when we are young and able. "Being Mortal" opens our eyes to this reality in a very sensitive manner. The author takes us through a gamut of emotions and makes us think deeper. It is only when we need the support of our family, we realize how hard it can be for the person needing this support and also for the person who is accepting it.

Even as a doctor, the author grapples with the idea when it is his immediate family, (in this case his father who is also a doctor),for whom he has to make decisions which are in his best interests.

With the advancement of medical technology, there are new ways to fight our diseases. However, a time comes when a sick person needs to spend the time on this earth with their near and dear ones and call it a day. This is palliative care. This decision  can sometimes be the hardest.

Medical interventions have to work in tandem with the wishes of the patient. How does one end one's life story? It is people close to the dying person that help them make this decision.
I think this book is a must read for medical students, doctors, caregivers and anybody who values the elderly.

Title: Being mortal
Author: Atul Gawande
Recommended by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library. I enjoy reading biographies, non-fiction and real life stories. I love to travel.

09 September, 2015

Nimona [graphic novel] by Noelle Stevenson.

Nimona is a perfect gem of a graphic novel and my personal favourite for this year. (Actually for a bit longer than that, as it began as a web comic, and the wait between updates was agonising). Feel privileged that you can read this in one go you lucky people, because it is very good!

A mash up of magic and science, we have medieval outfits and settings, plus modern accoutrements such as TV's, computers and rayguns, and it all works on every level -  there is humour, action and cool characters (with interesting names). 

We start with Ballister Blackheart who finds himself with a self-nominated young sidekick called Nimona. He soon finds out she is a powerful shapeshifter with impulsive tendencies who is keen to help him in his role as a supervillain. His nemesis is the kingdoms champion, Ambrose Goldenloin, who used to be his best friend. As the story unfolds we find out that The Institute of Law Enforcement, led by the 'Director' doesn't really have the best interests of the citizens at heart and it is up to Blackheart to find the truth and foil their plans, with a bit of help from Nimona. Does she save him or is it her that needs saving?

I love the unique drawing style of Noelle Stevenson, she started this as a student project and you can see how she evolved her style over the comic in the drawing and colouring. Her story telling is spot on and you will see why she gained quite a following in the on-line community.

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson

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.

07 September, 2015

Behind the gates of Gomorrah : a year with the criminally insane by Stephen B. Seager

Dr Stephen Seager wrote Behind the gates of Gomorrah not simply to cash in on his interesting experiences as a psychiatrist at a hospital for the criminally insane, or to entertain voyeurs, but to advocate for the staff and patients at Napa State Hospital and to ultimately change the way the criminally insane are treated in the United States.

Dr Seager communicates his experiences as a vulnerable and terrified human being exquisitely, and it is almost as an afterthought that he describes himself as a psychiatrist. In this way, we are dragged throat-first into his first hours, days and months of working at Napa: his is the learning curve of an innocent pushed into a lion cage.

By sharing his story with us, Dr Seager nails home the flaws in the current psychiatric and legal systems: that the criminally insane are treated as patients first and dangerous criminals second, and that they are always in danger of being released back into society.

I began to fear so much for Dr Seager’s safety that about half way through the book I stopped to check his credentials online so that I could relax a little, knowing that he really was a psychiatrist and was trained to deal with dangerous situations. And that he survived his ordeal largely intact, unlike others in the story.

I could not put down this book, and a whole new world has been opened to me, previously locked behind razor wire and steel doors: the world lived daily by the criminally insane, their families and those who have chosen to care for them. They have my attention, my empathy and my support.

Author: Stephen B. Seager

Reviewed by Monica F, Orewa Library

Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.

Wave of destruction : the stories of four families and history's deadliest tsunami by Erich Krauss

The tsunami of 2004, which devastated so much of South-East Asia and beyond, killed over 200,000 people.

The author was in Thailand on the day the waves came ashore, and some days later, he arrived with relief supplies.

He found not only a village wrecked beyond repair, but also people whose lives had been shattered and whose stories were full of horror and despair.

And yet. They wanted to talk; and he let them.

The author has concentrated on just four families to represent their countrymen out of the hundreds of thousands who survived, and how they dealt with the aftermath.

The Thai people are resilient and tough. It is eye-opening to hear their stories and impossible not to identify with them and hope that their future lives will be better.

A memorable and moving book.

Title: Wave of destruction : the stories of four families and history's deadliest tsunami
Author: Erich Krauss

- Reviewed by Clare K, Massey Library

Clare works with the Massey Library team, and enjoys reading fiction and nonfiction, but especially enjoys true-life stories.

06 September, 2015

To love a sunburnt country by Jackie French

Best-selling author and Australia’s National Children’s Laureate for 2014 and 2015, Jackie French has delivered yet again, an unforgettable story that kept me gripped until the very end.

To love a sunburnt country continues the Matilda saga with another strong-minded and amazing female character, Nancy Clancy, the 16 year-old granddaughter of ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. The story is set in 1942 when the world is at war. Nancy has been sent to Malaya to bring her sister-in-law Moira and baby nephew Gavin back home. Though they narrowly survive the bombs that fall on Singapore, they are unlucky to be stranded on an island where they are eventually captured by the Japanese soldiers. The events that follow describe the horror of internment in a Japanese camp.

Based on true events, this powerful and confronting novel had a profound impact on me after I completed reading it. Part of me was happy to see characters from Gibber’s Creek older and wiser, struggling to survive through the war years; but the other part of me was horrified at the cruelties and violence that only war can create. Jackie French has woven an amazing story of one woman’s courage, resilience and her sheer will to survive in this novel. In her usual way, Jackie expertly weaves in the stories of the other characters and all that they had to endure through those years of war and delivers this amazing novel.

From my perspective, Jackie French not only told a story of how the war affected Australian society, but has captured the true essence of Australian history in this book and masterfully delivered a story about the ultimate survival and the deepest kinds of love.

I would recommend this book for older teens and adults who enjoy historical fiction.

Title: To love a sun burnt country
Author: Jackie French

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. 

03 September, 2015

Demon Road by Derek Landy

For those who love Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant books here is the first in a new series.

The opening sentence "Twelve hours before Amber Lamont's parents tried to kill her, she was sitting with them in the principal's office . . . "  sets the tone, and the action gets going very quickly, particularly when she discovers that she is not just an ordinary 16 year old girl, (not very confident in her looks but smart). In fact there is a whole lot she needs learn about her family and herself, which soon becomes apparent.

Amber does irritate me a little in the start due to her naive responses and bad decisions, but then again she has a lot to take on board in a very short time.  The novel hits its stride soon enough, and when they are joined by a young man called Glen, (Irish, annoying , but also endearing in a run your mouth off type of way - a typical Derek Landy character), the characteristic humour comes through.

Amber is forced to go on the run and ends up on an action packed road trip where she encounters vampires, demons, undead serial killers and many more supernatural beings, (even a killer car), all the while being hunted by her parents and their friends. 

Derek Landy does not shy away from grisly details so if you are squeamish be warned, but the mix of scariness and humour works. Obviously if you are familiar with his other books you will know exactly what you are in for. I would also say that if you like the TV series Supernatural then this would be a good book for  you. Recommended for 13+

Title: Demon Road
Author: Derek Landy

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.

02 September, 2015

Ignoring gravity by Sandra Danby

I'm not giving anything away mentioning that this book is about a woman who discovers she is adopted, it is stated in the publisher's blurb.

After their mother dies Rose and her sister Lily find diaries that reveal that Rose is adopted. This comes as a complete surprise and Rose feels like she has been lied to all her life. She sets out to see what she can find out about the circumstances of her adoption and endeavours to come to terms with the impact this revelation makes on her relationships.

When I started this title I thought it was a bit too 'chick lit' for me, but as I got into the story I really enjoyed it. The underlying secrets give depth to the story and encourage you to read on to find out about Rose's past. I liked the other characters in Rose’s life, and that we were told their stories as well. A satisfying and believable resolution ended the book perfectly.

This is the first in the series, Rose Haldane: Identity Detective, so I’m looking forward to reading more about Rose and her investigations into family mysteries in the next title due in 2016.

Title: Ignoring gravity
Author: Sandra Danby

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 most of her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.

Chaucer’s tale by Paul Strohm

From something to nothing to one of the greatest: 1386 was the year that made Chaucer famous. 

Before then, he was a bit-part player in English politics, helped by his family connections. Although he only lived for a few years after 1386, it was the literary achievements of 1386 that wrote his name into literary history. 

I fell in love with Chaucer’s work at high school when we read (translated) extracts from ‘The general prologue’. At university, I met and admired ‘The Wife of Bath’, and pondered the description of ‘The Knight’. 

To think that none of these literary wonders (and the rest of The Canterbury tales) would probably never happen if Chaucer had remained in favour. Or, in the least, hadn’t been so closely linked to those who lost power. 

This is the period that lay the seeds for the Wars of the Roses, and Chaucer was firmly tied to the Lancastrian side. By 1386, support for the king, Richard II, and his party was in decline. And the bureaucrats and local politicians at this time had FIFA well-beaten when it came to allegations of corruption. 

Unlike today, some of Chaucer’s associates were punished by death. Put like that, Chaucer was lucky to get away with losing his job and house. 

This microbiography will fascinate any medievalists out there. 

A more general biography is Chaucer by Peter Ackroyd. 
One of my favourite Chaucerian reads (of the non-fiction variety) is Who murdered Chaucer? 
A feminine fictional approach to Chaucer’s time is Katherine by Anya Seton. In real life, Katherine [Swynford] was Chaucer’s sister-in-law – and the mistress of John of Gaunt.
Another microbiography you might like to try out is: 1599: a year in the life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro.

Title: Chaucer's Tale: 1386 and the road to Canterbury (also published as The poet's tale: Chaucer and the year that made The Canterbury tales). 
Author: Paul Strohm. 

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. 

01 September, 2015

The Ghan - Australia's grand rail journey by Ian Grady and Don Fuchs

We all know of the Ghan, Australia's outback train, but this book gives us the full picture from the earliest exploration through the centre of the Australian continent, right through to the latest premier tourist service.

The book starts with the story of the telegraph service in the outback, then leads to the spread of settlers and their need for supplies and access. The name "Ghan" originates here; camels were imported to help transport goods to the remotest parts, and with them came Afghani camel handlers. They became known as "ghans" and the name of this outback service stuck, even though most of the Afghanis eventually returned home.

The Ghan now runs from Adelaide to Darwin, through famous places and landmarks like Port Augusta, Alice Springs, the ‘Red Centre’, Coober Pedy - where people have their houses underground due to the heat - and Katherine.  While the first part of the train service was constructed in the 1870’s, it took another 130 years before the Ghan service finally reached Darwin in 2004.

The book outlines the history of the service, details the various sections of the route and provides spectacular photos of the locations.  It is well laid out and easy to read.  If you have travelled on the Ghan, or are interested in going, or are just interested to learn more about this unique and historic service, then this will be a great read.

Title:The Ghan, Australia's grand rail journey
Author: Ian Grady and Don Fuchs

Recommended by Ana, Central Library.

Ana loves reading. She reads mainly fiction but also non-fiction and Scandinavian thrillers. I have many favourite authors but some of them are Ian McEwan, William Boyd, Lionel Shriver.