30 October, 2015

Everything I never told you [compact disc] by Celeste Ng.

Afraid of isolation, eager to be accepted, sexual blossoming as a young adult, hungry for fame, marriage fatigue, rebellious teenagers, forcing children to realise the dreams which their parents weren’t able to achieve, how cruel and unfair this is to an innocent and individual life, how vulnerable a child is, and how deeply but invisibly parents’ actions can attack their childrens’ spirit… 

Like a master florist, Celeste Ng cleverly arranges all of these facets together. A tragedy is displayed to the reader vividly and profoundly, step by step.

This story is set in a Chinese-American mixed race family in America between the 1950s and 1970s. 

Reading the book, you will be driven into the story, become part of the characters’ lives, sigh with them at their regrets, feel their sadness, cry their tears, feel heartbreak at their losses and rise with hope for them at the end …

There are a lot of things you will never know if you do not read this book. So read it and sleep on it.

This item is also available from Auckland Libraries as a book and large-print book.

Author: Celeste Ng.

Recommended by Honour Z, Northcote Library

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

29 October, 2015

Another by Yukito Ayatsuji

Koichi Sakakibara transfers to Yomiyama middle school following a nasty medical emergency. Upon starting class he finds his fellow students already in the midst of a mysterious crisis that is linked to a decade’s old curse.

I had noticed the hype for Another online and verily, was glad when it got a western translation in print form. Wise decision. Being within the horror boundaries you realise right off the bat some of the characters “will not be long” for these pages. Ayaytsuji however structures the story so that each incident progresses the story and you’re not needing to keep track of dead people’s names.

There is also an overarching sense of mystery surrounding not only the unlucky class, but also Koichi’s families past (particularly his mother's) and that of his new acquaintance, Mei. Trying to unravel these mysteries gives Koichi impetus to attempt breaking down the other characters walls of silence.

Another carries a sense of creepiness about it rather than scariness and builds an atmosphere where needing to know what is going on and what it all means becomes slightly obsessive. Is this for you? Japanese middle schools! Dolls! Creepy girls! Myna Birds! Sounds good right? Teens+

And check out that sweet cover! What? You want the whole story drawn? ...Fine, go check out the manga adaptation here.

Title: Another
Author: Yukito Ayatsuji
Recommended by James W, Mangere Bridge Library

James W now works at Mangere Bridge Library. Cool eh? James owns one cardigan. Unfortunately it is not home knit. James is rubbish at knitting.

The secret history by Donna Tartt

Every now and again you pick up a book that you read years before, thinking it cannot possibly be that good second time around, and you are delighted with every page you turn. Donna Tartt’s The secret history is one of those reads. Clever and funny, compelling and scary, with hints of Golding’s Lord of the Flies, this is thought-provoking fiction at its finest.

The central character is Richard Papen, a scholarship student at an elite college in Vermont. He meets a group of students of Greek, and is drawn into their circle led by the intelligent but enigmatic Henry. His initial excitement at being included in this circle is transformed into something darker as he becomes entangled in their obsessive and ultimately murderous world.

The detailed, unfolding characterization, and the relentless building of menace and foreboding is so impressive for a debut novel. The darkness is lit up by occasional moments of real humour. Tarrt leads the reader through the academic world effortlessly and convincingly.

The Greek milieu is created with great thought and provides a sense of history although the setting is modern times. Classicist readers will be rewarded with extra narrative allusions but this book is written for anyone who enjoys intelligent fiction.

You have to like long books to read Tarrt, but the reward is being taken on a journey few can create. You start this book knowing what happened, you end it knowing why and how it happened, and then you spend the next week or three thinking about everything in between.

Title: The secret history
Author: Donna Tartt

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.

28 October, 2015

Down with the Royals by Joan Smith

If you are a royalist this is not a book for you. The author, Joan Smith, is an English novelist, journalist and human rights activist (and obviously not a royal supporter).

In this book she tries to look objectively at the position of the royal family in the British establishment, and also at the general environment of the royals in the British media. She refers to the monarchy as “an aberration in the modern world” and queries why the heads of state in Britain for possibly the next hundred years have already been decided; they will be males probably in the twilight of their lives (very much over the hill when they become king), will not be elected nor have any democratic basis for appointment.  She notes that at birth Prince George became the third in line to become head of state, when he had no understanding of the requirements and consequences of this, and in fact was not yet able to talk.

Ms. Smith notes that in addition to this undemocratic process of leadership, there is a deep process of underlying support to maintain the status quo.  The media typically report positive stories of the benefits of, and widespread public support for, the monarchy - such as the proportion of the population who support the royals, and the royal family’s influence on tourism.  Joan Smith says they are not objective and states that the reported figures are often adjusted or misrepresented, and the tourism factor is far from positive compared to other similar countries.  She is critical of the ‘royal correspondents’, whom she likens to cheerleaders.

This is a small book, but Ms Smith fills it with her strong views and detailed background facts. As a last comment on ‘God Save the Queen’, she says “… in the 21st century we shouldn’t still be imploring an imaginary deity to save an inherited head of state.”

Title: Down with the Royals
Author: Joan Smith

Reviewed by: Ana, Central Library

Ana enjoys reading and listening to music, travelling and many other things. She reads fiction, non-fiction and from genres, only crime: the Scandinavian crime writers, Patricia Highsmith and any new and good writer.

20 October, 2015

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This is an absolutely stunning book set in  a horrifying future dystopia where females are the chattels of men.

Picture an education facility where girls from the age of four undergo 12 years of intensive training and grooming to be presented as offerings to the “inheritants”. Yes that’s right, the males, because as it is written “the men shall inherit the earth. It’s the old Madonna/Whore dichotomy, to be chosen as companion is the penultimate goal, the revered perfect, all subservient adoring wife.

Girls are rated publically and their flaws analysed in microscopic detail so they can compete to be chosen. To not make the grade leaves you with the  option of concubine or the aesthetic, teacher. Think sack cloth and ashes, a life of celibacy married to the greater good of the institution, preparing and perpetuating the factory processing and moulding of future generations of girls.

Lessons revolve around “appropriate” female behaviour, girls are encouraged to perform the obsessive rituals of checking their appearance and how they rate against their counterparts. Calorie blockers are taken to make sure girls do not go above their target weight, and indications of appetite or appreciation of any morsel of food is seen as weakness and a character flaw. Ok, in my excitement about this novel I’ve basically rewritten the plot summary. Oops. Such was my enthusiasm I couldn’t stop myself. This book has similarities to Margaret Atwood’s classic text A Handmaid’s Tale. Read it immediately, and wince at the ease at which you can imagine this nightmarish future.

Title: Only ever yours
Author: Louise O'Neill

Reviewed by: Sue W Central Library

Sue W obeys her cats and lives to please them, sometimes she is allowed some free time to read so long as she answers the service bell when it rings.

The wrath & the dawn by Renée Ahdieh.

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights this teen novel is no tired retelling of this old story.  In fact it is a potent page turner full of intrigue, mysteries to be discovered, motives to be explained and magic. Yes, there is romance, but it blends with the story rather than being the dominating factor.

Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. Sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. She plans to exact revenge for the death of her best friend and she has a plan to survive. She must use all her wits to stay ahead, and she is a great character to read; clever, honest, outspoken and sassy. In fact all of the characters are well drawn, and the rich, Middle Eastern cultural context adds to the whole feeling of the world they live in. 

Set against a backdrop of political intrigue and building discontent there is more to deal with than just relationships. In true Arabian Nights fashion, it's a cliff-hanger. Like the caliph, we will just have to wait for the rest. Yes, I got to the end of this book and now I have to wait for the sequel - aaaarghh. 

Aimed at teens I feel this book is just too good not to recommend it to all. Well paced it wont take you too long to read, in fact you are likely to stay up late to finish it.

Title : The wrath & the dawn 
Author :  Renée Ahdieh

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.

19 October, 2015

The puppet boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver

Life for all Polish people was harsh under the Nazi rule during World War II, much more so for the sizable Jewish population.  In Warsaw accumulated restrictions forced Mika's family and all Jews out of their own homes and into a cramped ghetto, leaving behind most of their belongings.

Mika inherited two things from his grandfather, a many pocketed coat and a troupe of puppets.  With these, though he was little more than a child himself, he enacted simple puppet plays to give moments of joy to the children of the ghetto.  At one of these performances he was abducted and made to perform for soldiers and officers.  This became a regular appointment, terrifying for Mika but also mildly profitable as he got an extra bread ration and was able to smuggle very young children out of the ghetto under the voluminous coat.

It is only under extreme hardship that kindness requires massive bravery, as shown here.

Title: The puppet boy of Warsaw
Author: Weaver, Eva

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.

The little Paris bookshop: a novel by Nina George; translated by Simon Pare

The little Paris bookshop is an unusual, heart-warming story of a floating book barge, set on the river Seine. Its owner, 50 year old Jean Perdu heals his buyers through literature, by instinctively prescribing the exact book a reader needs. And so he mends their hearts and souls. Yet his own heart which was broken 21 years ago, is still in smithereens.

The adventures that follow and which entwine Perdu and the companions he makes along the way are charming, romantic, and fable-like. This physical and metaphorical journey is followed by an entertaining list of "emergency" books – a pharmacy for emotional ailments, as prescribed by Perdu - with  a selection of delectable Provencal recipes as accompaniment!

Everywhere you look, this internationally acclaimed best seller, translated from the German, has received nothing but praise. Though I found the writing a tad stylized in parts and the plot somewhat idealistic, it is in essence a sweet tale about the healing properties of books, love, food and a summer spent in the south of France.

Reflective and introspective, it has been recommended for those who especially enjoyed Muriel Barbary’s The elegance of the hedgehog. I recommend it to book lovers everywhere because it celebrates reading and literature and because it totally lives up to its description of being a "love-letter to books".

Title: The little Paris bookshop
Author: Nina George

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.

18 October, 2015

The Manly Art of Knitting by David Fougner

Have you been searching for the perfect book of knitting for the man in your life? Or do you just want to learn to knit simply without the complicated bells and whistles that you find in most craft books?

You can turn to The Manly Art of Knitting for a fuss-free, instructional book about the basics of knitting that will appeal to men and women with a sense of DIY and good old number 8 wire mentality.

Originally published 1972 by keen knitter Dave Fougner, this cult classic has finally been reprinted for the modern men (and women) ready to pick up the needles and reclaim the ancient, manly art form. Fougner is a knitting enthusiast with a mission – to encourage men to take up knitting and to get the undercover male knitters out there out in the open.

Fougner’s book is practical, easy to follow, and adorably idiosyncratic. The small book features ideas for simple projects such as a basic beanie, a simple dog blanket, a knitted horse cover, and my personal favourite – a hammock knitted from rope using shovel handles as needles.

If this isn’t enough to convince you, just take a look at the cool knitting cowboy on the front cover.

Title: The Manly Art of Knitting
Author: David Fougner

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.

16 October, 2015

My grandfather would have shot me by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair

I was drawn to this book as the story was one that seemed highly impossible. It is a story of a German Nigerian woman called Jennifer Teege. Her story has so many twists and turns that even a script writer would find it hard to envisage it. She goes to a library as an adult, and finds a book called "I have to love my father, Don't I?", written by Matthias Kessler which is about her biological mother Monika and her grandmother. She realises that she has a grandfather called Amon Goeth who was the commandant at Plaszow concentration camp in the Nazi era. She shivers to think how he  would have reacted to her if he had known of her existence. She was born out of wedlock to Monika and a Nigerian man and was given away to an orphanage at birth. She was adopted by a Christian family who loved her. Being black made her feel different to her adopted family and her search for her past becomes all consuming.

She finds her real mother who is still trying to  come to terms with her past, and the bond that had broken between the two when Jennifer was a baby, is hard to bridge. Jennifer finds it hard to understand how her grandmother who she remembers as gentle and beautiful could have lived with a man who committed such atrocities against innocent human beings (Jews in particular). Amon Goeth is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the movie " Schindler's List". Her grandmother did not denounce him and enjoyed the "perks" that came with his job though she knew he was wrong.

Jennifer lives in Israel, studies in Hebrew and has close Jewish friends. It is as if she is atoning for her grandfather's sins. Learning about her past starts the healing process. Her husband and sons give her the courage to carry on. Her Jewish friends accept her. She finally understands she was not responsible for all the evil. Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction and this book definitely shows that.

Author: Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair
Reviewed by Kanchan T , Blockhouse Bay Library
Kanchan T is a voracious reader and likes books on travel, true life stories and biographies.

12 October, 2015

The wardrobe wakeup : your guide to looking fabulous at any age by Lois Joy Johnson

And now for something completely different.......

Yes I know most of our reviews are on worthy tomes, but sometimes we need relief from worthiness.

So how about finding out what we can wear to suit our shape, colouring and budget, along with lots of professional tips and tricks?

Is what we wear important you ask? I believe it is.

What we think about ourselves and how we look is one of the pressing issues of our time. Women's magazines, advertising and others, have us struggling to look like all the beautiful people, with body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia and overeating as a consequence.
If we can find out how to go out in public without feeling ashamed or embarrassed, then all power to us.
So, Ms Lois Joy Johnson's book has real people in it, of differing ages, talking about how and what to wear. I especially liked that it is for older women, and not for bright young things who can wear anything and look good.
I found it very helpful and educational. Not so much a wardrobe wakeup, more a gentle nudge.

Title: The wardrobe wakeup : your guide to looking fabulous at any age
Author: Lois Joy Johnson

Reviewed by Clare at 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.

11 October, 2015

Life from scratch: a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness by Sash Mitchell

We all love challenges in every form and some of us even enjoy them. This lovely story is about one such woman who decided to cook, and eat, a meal from every country in the world. Food writer and blogger, Sasha Martin, describes how she cooks 195 recipes from 195 countries in a smashing 195 weeks, in this delightful memoir.

Sasha Martin learnt cooking from an early age in her eccentric mother’s kitchen in Boston, but her young life was far from easy. We find ourselves delving into Sasha’s memories of her youth as she and her brother Michael go into foster care, move overseas, and end up with her acceptance into the Culinary Institute of America. Sasha's adult life follows a whirlwind of cooking and boyfriends until she meets the love of her life, marries him and finally becomes a mother herself. This is one inspiring success story from start to finish!

Throughout this memoir, what struck out for me was the raw honesty in Martin’s writing as she describes her past and the passion she feels for her cooking. Each chapter is embellished with a recipe for readers to try and replicate. Some of the ingredients may sound strange but I think Auckland’s diverse markets and culinary specialists may provide them!

Often poignant and heart-breaking at times, Life from scratch, takes us on a journey illuminating the power of cooking to bond and to heal – and to celebrate the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

If you are one of the many who enjoy sampling recipes from far flung destinations, then this is the book for you!

For similar food-related memoirs you can try:

Julie & Julia: my year of cooking dangerously by Julie Powell

The pioneer woman cooks: a year of holidays by Ree Drummond

Title: Life from Scratch: a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness
Author: Sasha Martin

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 October, 2015

A sting in the tale, by Dave Goulson

If killing the things you love is a prerequisite for becoming a biologist, then Dave Goulson made an excellent start as a very small boy. The opening chapter of A sting in the tale catalogues his catastrophes with childhood pets, from fish (electrocution) to quail (frostbite).

Having then indulged in the habit of pinning dead insect specimens to display boards, he metamorphosed into a professional scientist, with tenure that enabled him to pursue his passion for bumblebees. Since then his experiments have not always gone according to plan, but nor have they necessarily been fatal.

This attractive little book is about the bumblebee’s life and hard times. Its fair dollop of research, undertaken with help from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of PhD students, is presented in a straightforward and engaging manner for armchair entomologists and ordinary folk.

The main focus is on Britain and France, but New Zealand gets more than a look-in. This country had no bumblebees until enterprising nineteenth-century migrants shipped some across to help pollinate the red clover they had imported earlier. Quite by chance, the introduced bumblebees included a few from a species that later became extinct in Britain.

Goulson attributes the demise of the short-haired bumblebee in the Old Country to agricultural changes such as the intensification of British farming and the resulting reduction of hedgerows. Not content simply to note its disappearance, he travelled here to see if he could reintroduce ‘our’ short-haired bumblebee to England.

Did he succeed? Read and find out!

A sting in the tale was shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

Title: A sting in the tale
Author: Dave Goulson

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.

07 October, 2015

The making of home by Judith Flanders

‘Home’ is more than a house. More than somewhere to sleep. But what makes a home? What is a family? 

Flanders explores these issues and, as you’d imagine, many more in her exploration of homes in, mainly, Northern Europe (England and the Low Countries on the whole, with the US as they developed). 

The reason for this tight focus is that, according to Flanders and her research, only the Germanic languages have a word for ‘home’ that is distinct from their word for ‘house’. 

This is a fascinating read – with snippets art history added to the social history mix. It made me ponder what ‘home’ meant to me. What image did the word conjure in my mind. What pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac do I need to have in the places I live. As long as my bookcases fit, I’m happy.  

For other explorations of ‘home’, try: 

Title: The making of home
Author: Judith Flanders. 

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. 

06 October, 2015

The revenant: a novel of revenge by Michael Punke

Based on the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the American West, this portrait of life on the frontier is a gripping read.

Severely injured by an attack from a grizzly bear, Glass is left to die in the harsh American frontier after being abandoned by the men who were entrusted to tend to him. He is furious that they not only left him, but took his gun and hatchet, leaving him without tools for protection and survival. Revenge is a strong motivation and Glass forces himself to follow them across hundreds of miles in an environment where the inhabitants and the landscape threaten life regularly.

The author, Michael Punke, brings the West to life by describing the physical landscape and action in depth allowing the reader to fully imagine Glass’s struggles. Glass comes in contact with many people in his travels and there are some interesting characters among them, especially the Indian braves.  

I recently read the excellent book, The Martian, and although The revenant is set in a completely different world, both books share the theme of a man surviving after being left for dead in a harsh environment. Like The Martian, The revenant has been made into a movie due to be released in 2016 with Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass.

This book is a great choice if you want to read about the American West, but don’t want a classic Western. It’s also fairly short at around 250 pages so perfect for the times you prefer a reasonably quick read.

Author: Michael Punke

Reviewed 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 most of her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.