28 September, 2016

Bust magazine

Bust is an alt-feminist publication from New York that definitely deserves a shout out. I love fashion and beauty and I enjoy reading women’s magazines, especially Vogue and Marie Claire, but I also find them at odds with my feminist ideals. Let’s face it – most lady mags are primed to make us feel insecure and therefore consume more, which is why I find Bust so refreshing.

Bust manages to strike a balance between feminism and femininity.  Articles on serious women’s issues such as rape culture and equal pay appear alongside items about celebrities, make up, food and other girly goodies.

With a slogan “for women with something to get off their chests” you won’t find any features on trashy reality TV stars here. On the cover of the July/August edition is one of my favourite people ever: Kathleen Hanna – original Riot Grrrl and rock’s reigning feminist. Previous cover girls include Courtney Love, comedian Sarah Silverman and singer and stylista, Beth Ditto.

True to 3rd Wave Feminism, Bust champions body positivity and sex positivity. All fashion editorials showcase non-mainstream and non-normative models. The latest edition features the sultry and tattooed Kristin Welch from indie band, The Dum Dum Girls, as well as an item on plus size swimwear.

There are also regular columns on women’s sexuality which promote women’s enjoyment of it – rather than Cosmopolitan magazine’s sex writing - which is all about pleasing men.
Also, unlike mainstream women’s mags there are no ads for ‘feminine hygiene’ products. Bust sticks it to The Man and his Tampon Tax with ads for cheap and eco-friendly washable, reusable sanitary pads and menstrual cups.

With a focus on indie/alternative pop culture, I find Bust’s book, music and film reviews really useful for finding interesting new things to request at the library. If you’re looking for an empowering, thought provoking, fun and inspiring read then check it out.

Title: Bust
Publication info: New York, NY : Bust, Inc.
Frequency: Bimonthly

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.

26 September, 2016

Wendy Whiteley and the secret garden by Janet Hawley; photography by Jason Busch

Wendy Whiteley was muse, model and wife to the Australian artist Brett Whiteley, and this beautifully illustrated coffee table volume is a celebration of their life and creativity.
In 1974 they purchased a rundown Federation house overlooking Lavender Bay, with a magnificent view of the Sydney Harbour bridge and the city on the far side of the harbour.

The history of Lavender Bay is interesting. Once a v-shaped natural cove edged with sandstone cliffs, in 1890 it was filled in so the railway line could travel round the foreshore. This left a wide valley between the railway embankment and the cliff top which, over the years, became a tangled mess of feral plants and dumped rubbish.

In 1992 Brett died of a drug overdose and Wendy threw herself into cleaning up the wasteland and creating a garden in an attempt to put some order back into her life. Fifteen years later, with the help of numerous volunteers, her vision has become a reality.
People come from far and wide to visit. Tourists and locals wander through, wedding ceremonies often take place and office workers lunch there, but the land belongs to State Railways and there is still no guarantee that it can become a permanent public park. Hopefully, this book will contribute towards that happening.

Strangely enough, (or not so strangely) Wendy’s favourite book as a child was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett!
It’s definitely on my 'to do' list when I next visit Sydney.

Title: Wendy Whiteley and the secret garden
Author: Janet Hawley; photography by Jason Busch

Recommended by Claire S, Central Library, Information Services. 

Claire S's reading includes biographies, art, New Zealand, and other interesting bits and pieces.

Dead by sunset by Ann Rule

None of the women that Brad Cunningham dated and married had any idea of his true nature.Seemingly a successful businessman, good-looking and charismatic, he came from a good family and was liked by all who knew him.

Sheryl Cunningham was his fourth wife, with whom he had three beautiful sons, and a seemingly charmed life. But Sheryl had hidden Brad's true nature from herself and her family for a long time, and had now decided to leave the marriage. She told her brother, who was staying with her, that she was meeting Brad that night, and said if she didn't come back, to come immediately and get her.

But she wasn't where he thought she would be and it was only when a motorist on a main freeway stopped to help a van which had stalled in the fast lane, that the truth became apparent.

In light of the horrific level of New Zealand child and spousal abuse, this is a timely and very relevant story. If only women and families could read the signs, many women would stay away from men who later go on to abuse and sometimes kill them.

Title: Dead by sunset.
Author: Ann Rule

Reviewed by Clare K at Massey Library

Clare 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.

Hope in a ballet shoe by Michaela and Elaine Deprince

Hope in a Ballet Shoe : Orphaned by War, Saved by Ballet - An Extraordinary True StoryThis book is a teen read but is interesting to people of all ages.

"Ballet is probably the only career in which you begin training as a preschooler".

This shows Michaela's passion for ballet at a very young age. She proved a black girl could be a ballerina as well, where white girls were preferred.The moves of a ballet dancer on stage are artistic and emotional. The audience does not witness the pain and hardships that the ballerina has gone through.

Michaela was born in Sierra Leone, Ghana to loving parents who loved their daughter in a society that prized boys. This time was short lived, as they were killed in the atrocities of a war that made her early childhood unbearable. She lived in an orphanage where she was number 27 and the least loved child. She was exposed to horrors that no young child could comprehend.

Thankfully her adoption by a very loving American family at age four gave her the security that she had always yearned for.

A movie called First position based on her life was released in 2011. She was an inspiration for other children. She was motivated to make the best of the opportunities she had been given by her family, and finally joined the Dutch National Ballet, which was one of the top classical dance companies in the world.

Her motivation came from the photograph of a young ballerina on a magazine cover which blew into the orphanage all those years ago. I think if we all carry a burning desire to achieve our dreams like this little girl did, we will get there in the end!

TitleHope in a ballet shoe
Author: Michaela & Elaine Deprince

Reviewed by Kanchan T from Blockhouse Bay library.

Kanchan T is drawn to inspirational stories and believes that we can learn from them.

25 September, 2016

Have mother, will travel: a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world by Claire and Mia Fontaine

Memoirs in general can be said to give us access into the lives of the rich and famous, where we can see a glimpse of the real person they are underneath and the colourful stories that make up their lives. In the case of this book, that is not the case. Both Claire and Mia Fontaine give us an honest and powerful account of not just the different lives they lead, but also of the strength of their relationship.

Have mother, will travel is the second book this mother-daughter duo have penned. Their best-selling memoir Come Back, moved and inspired readers with the story of Mia Fontaine’s harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire’s desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her. Have mother, will travel, picks up their story a decade later when they both find themselves facing a defining moment in their lives. Determined to transform their relationship and themselves once again, the pair set off on a five-month around-the-world adventure.

What follows is an extraordinary, often hilarious journey around the world where they ride elephants in South-East Asia, get lost in China, and end up in the south of France. Despite the hilarious adventures recounted, both mother and daughter complete their journey with a deepened sense of who they both are and a clear vision of which direction they see their lives going. Told in their unique dual voices, this remarkable memoir is a testament to the power and beauty of the mother-daughter relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this inspirational book from start to finish. If I wasn’t weeping silently, I was trying to suppress my laughter. The strength of their bond shows me that there is hope for us all to strengthen our own bonds we have with our mothers. I would recommend this book to anyone, and also share it with your mothers!!

Title: Have mother, will travel: a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world
Author: Claire and Mia Fontaine

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.

22 September, 2016

Grunt : the curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach

So its official, Mary Roach is incapable of writing a bad book, or even  a slightly dull read. Every time I see a new title out by this author I’m intrigued as to whether, true to form, she will be able to marry the quirky and humorous with seemingly dry scientific topics.

If you’ve already happened upon some of Roach’s work you will be ignoring the rest of this ode to Mary and ordering your copy of Grunt, newly released this year. Maybe you haven’t discovered Mary Roach before but like your writing odd ball flavoured with a side of black humour. Begin with Stiff,  the science of dead bodies; lusciously, wickedly dark.

 But where was I? Back on track, Roach’s latest book GruntThe curious science of humans at war  passed the litmus test   with flying colours, wonderfully entertaining and enlightening at the same time. I am in no way shape or form remotely interested in reading about war, or anything related to warfare yet I will pick up any book written by this author, regardless of the topic. I imagine she could write a book about rivets that is well, riveting.

If you need more convincing, let  me wow you with some of the topics she covers. Stink bombs, genital reconstructions, full genital transplants, the impact of diarrhea on soldiers in critical positions (don’t be rude, I mean their military role), how combat medics are prepped for the gore they might encounter.  If this might sound a little voyeuristic, it’s not, it is fascinating and scientifically accurate and superbly written.

Mary Roach is the most engaging and creative science writer around, long may she write.

Title: GruntThe curious science of humans at war
Author:  Mary Roach

Reviewed by: Sue W

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours. However, since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

21 September, 2016

150+ screen-free activities for kids

If you’re struggling to find something to keep under-7s occupied – check this gem out. 

Most of the activities can be done with things lying around at home: cornflour, shaving foam, food colouring… 

From such simple ingredients you can make erupting volcanoes, sidewalk chalk, puffy paint, dinosaur worlds. Honestly, this is one of the coolest, best books I’ve come across recently! 

Title: 150+ screen-free activities for kids: the very best and easiest playtime activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com! 
Author: Asia Citro

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. A life-long love of children’s books, particularly picture books, helps in her day-to-day role as a children’s librarian. 

20 September, 2016

The Vintage Springtime Club by Beatrice Meier

Philip returns to Germany having spent 30+ years working at a medical outpost in Mali.  On a whim he invites an old friend to join him in a flat-share, an arrangement that he then has to scurry around to arrange.   The five of them, plus dashhound, settle down in this large upstairs flat.  If you think that the idea of people in their sixties and seventies flatting together a bit ridiculous, so do they.  Not the flatting so much, as the being so old!. There are personality clashes and irritations but also a warmth; maybe geriatric flatting might be worth a try!  

Title: The vintage springtime club
Author: Beatrice Meir

Reviewed by
Christine O.
has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

The breath of God by Harry Turtledove

The breath of God is the freezing wind that comes off the huge glacier that is so much of the landscape of this book.

The Bizagot clans (similar to Inuit of the past of our world) live in its shadow, hunting and gathering as they have for centuries.  The glacier is melting, a gap has formed and people from the far side of the glacier have come through, bent on conquest. 

These self-styled "Rulers" are well armed, disciplined and riding war mammoths.  The fractured clans are no match for them.

Count Hamnet and Ulrick, a professional adventurer, both from the southern empire, are looking for weaknesses in the aggressors and a way to inspire the empire and the remaining Bizagots into an alliance to repel them.

Hamnet, for all that he is unlucky in love, is shrewd, maybe he can save the world that he knows. He finds a powerful ally in the last place he would have contemplated.

Sequel to: Beyond the gap.

Title: The breath of God
Author: Harry Turtledove

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

The girl from the train by Irma Joubert

A six year-old Jewish girl and a young Polish man are brought together in World War Two when Gretl’s train to Auschwitz is mistakenly blown up by a bomb intended for a German troop train. She is the only survivor. Resistance member Jakob, devastated by his group’s mistake, takes Gretl to his family home.

Gretl remains there for three years, hiding her Jewish origins from Jakob’s Catholic family, until Jakob seizes an opportunity to send her to South Africa to be adopted by a Protestant family.
Again, Gretl has to hide her religion, this time pretending to be Protestant, and changing her name to Grietjie.

She settles into life in South Africa with her new family but never forgets Jakob and her past in Europe. As she grows into a young woman, circumstances align to bring back her past.

I was expecting a harrowing story of wartime but this story is quite gentle in a way. There are sad parts but they do not dwell on the brutality and injustice, they are there to tell us more about the characters and what has made them who they are. It’s an interesting tale and makes you think about the influences of religion and culture on individuals.

The changing nature of Gretl and Jakob’s relationship lies at the heart of this book but a lot of other topics are covered, especially family, love, loyalty and tolerance.

It is also available as an eBook and on audio CD.

Title: The girl from the train
Author: Irma Joubert

Recommended by Kathy N, Collections Development

Kathy N can’t 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.

18 September, 2016

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Take Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, replace the Indian jungle and talking animals with an English graveyard and ghosts and you have the Graveyard Book, a young adult novel by Neil Gaiman.
As a toddler Bod’s family are murdered by the “Man Jack”, escaping into the graveyard he is taken in by a group of ghosts who protect and raise him. As Bod grows up he meets other residents of the graveyard, has adventures and explores its dangers. But outside the graveyard wall the Man Jack waits.
Gaiman has a distinctive style that he brings to his work, similar to early Tim Burton movies, so if you liked “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands” you may like his work. If you find you enjoyed the Graveyard Book but want something more adult, check out “Neverwhere” (available as a novel or graphic novel) a short fantasy novel about an average man finding a hidden world under the streets of London.
Author: Neil Gaiman

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library
Murray L enjoys horror, sci-fi, fantasy and mystery books

12 September, 2016

Memory of trees by F.G. Cottam

In spite of being a skeptic when it comes to the presence of ancient mystical powers of any sort, I found myself completely engrossed by this book. Arboreal expert Tom Curtis accepts a reforesting project for billionaire Saul Abercrombie on a site with an ancient mythical history. It is a massive project and well paid, which Tom needs to help with a situation in his private life. As the work proceeds the forest appears to be imbued with a life of its own, and begins propagating itself faster than they can plant trees.

Then people begin to disappear. It becomes apparent that there is an ancient malevolent power at work, and that Abercrombie knows more than he will admit. This is a horror story that draws you in and carries you along to witness extraordinarily powerful forces of evil growing in strength once again, making a mockery of the characters modern understanding of the world.

Set in Pembrokeshire with its bleak coastline, this well written novel begins with a sense of unease which grows deeper and deeper until it develops into foreboding, and then horror. This is a gripping tale that will have you looking at the greenery in your garden in an entirely different way. Thorn bushes must be removed. Fans of a good horror story should definitely read this one.

Author: F.G. Cottam 

Reviewed by Lynda T, East Coast Bays Library.

Lynda T reads anything that grabs her interest, but is particularly interested in science fiction and young adult novels.

09 September, 2016

The Benny Goodman story [DVD videorecording]

If you love jazz or swing music, or you love to listen to wind bands, then this film is for you.

Directed by Valentine Davies and released in 1954, this old movie is a biographical film of Benjamin Davies Goodman, an American clarinetist and bandleader, who is also known as the “King of Swing”. 

There is beautiful music throughout the movie. Several milestone events from Benny’s life are portrayed—from a kid living in Chicago’s poor suburbs taken by his father to join a music class run by a synagogue; to a teenager who left home to chase what he most wanted to do—playing music; becoming a young clarinetist working towards his own “wild dream”, playing the way he feels; to a musician who eventually conquered Carnegie Hall successfully.  

A romantic relationship between Benny and his prospective wife Alice develops in parallel with his music career. 

The acting of Steve Allen and Donna Reed, as well as the famous music played by Benny all contribute to the vivid atmosphere of the film. 

In the film we also see a wise and firm parent, who kept his children from bad influence, and gave them a good education to achieve a better life; and later a compassionate father supporting his son in pursuing his dream.

Overall, this is a movie which will bring wonderful entertainment to your ears and your spirit! 

Directed by Valentine Davies

07 September, 2016

Just William by Richmal Crompton

There are precious few children’s fiction series from yesteryear that thoroughly entertained me as a child and continue to delight me as an adult. Perhaps the foremost of these is the Just William series by the incomparable Richmal Crompton.

Incredibly, it is almost 100 years since Crompton’s most famous literary creation, the schoolboy William Brown, first appeared in print (and no, I was not around to read the first editions!). British newspaper The Sunday Times described the series as “probably the funniest, toughest children’s books ever written”.

Just William contains a dozen smart, funny and entertaining stories about William and his intrepid adventures. William’s ability to get into trouble is matched only by his family’s inability to understand his good intentions. No-one in the history of children's fiction is more misunderstood than William!

In the opening story, William sends his father flying into rhododendron bushes, makes the girl next door ill from dirty sweets, tells people he is suffering from consumption, meddles in his sister’s love life and nearly sets fire to his bedroom. All in a day’s work!

My favourite story is when William decides to leave home to become a gold-digger. He ends up in a local gentry house very briefly “working” as a servant, bringing chaos to a world of order. His long-suffering father pays the price once again.

A splendid series of misadventures and jolly entertaining! They don’t make them like they used to!

Recommended for readers 8+

Author: Richmal Crompton
Title: Just William

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. 

06 September, 2016

The new mutants: superheroes and the radical imagination of American comics by Ramzi Fawaz

I bought my first comic just over 20 years ago (I'm old as). Not sure if my parents understood why I spent so much (time and money) on them, but I'm a pretty dark and complex guy... :p. Maybe it was the escapism: Rich dudes using their cash to beat up bad dudes and sexy men and women with awesome powers battling world threats.

What I didn't put a lot of thought into were the underlying influences. The new mutants looks deeper into superhero comics from the 60s and 70s using ‘queer theory’ and the clash of superhero characters with the radical issues of the day (civil rights, sexuality, women’s liberation etc.). Examples range from the X-men, Hulk and Fantastic Four as economic ‘dead-beats’, to possession as a reflection of either liberation or societies fears taking over. Yikes!

Pretty heavy stuff, though there are issues that are glossed over, such as contemporary race issues as an alternative explanation, while some explanations such as Hulks losing control of his emotions ("traits commonly associated with femininity") and Sue Storm ‘playing’ with her gendered expectations (Sue the character didn’t write the Fantastic four… boys did) were... interesting interpretations.

The writing is quite academic, so much so that I half expected to be asked if I had 'done the reading this week' after finishing the book. Don’t let that put you off though, once you get into it The new mutants is a rewarding read and worthy of debate as well as further scholarship.

Like comics? Pick it up! Really like comics? You've probably already read it right? What'd you think?

Title: The new mutants: superheroes and the radical imagination of American comics
Author: Ramzi Fawaz

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

James W believes you should always be yourself… Unless you can be a superhero, ALWAYS be a superhero.

05 September, 2016

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

This medley of 12 muliebral short stories will have your brain ticking back over them, perhaps as you rub off your red nail polish, or as Bravo goes to a commercial break, or possibly as you iron your husband fourth white work shirt.

Each story is filled with its own unique dark, dry humor of the serious business of being a housewife and the particular kind of entitled weirdness that leads people to say “only in America”. Helen Ellis writes vivacious stories your imagination might stray to, but would never repeat out loud; along with providing sound instruction on how to be a “grown-ass lady”.

You will look forward to relaxing with your glass of Merlot and this book, whatever time of day.

Author: Helen Ellis

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

02 September, 2016

Speaking Truth to Power: Public Intellectuals Rethink New Zealand edited by Laurence Simmons

the chattering classes…
the ivory tower…

Speaking Truth to Power opens up debate on the intellectual life of the 21st century New Zealand. The book begins with contemplative essays by Roger Horrocks, Andrew Sharp and Stephen Turner on the nature of New Zealand intellectualism, and is organised around interviews with leading contemporary intellectuals Brian Easton, Nicky Hager, Lloyd Geering and the late Michael King.

In the introduction, Laurence Simmons, the editor, notes very few contemporary New Zealanders, even university professors, feel comfortable, or want to accept, the label 'intellectual'.

Traditionally, Kiwis prefer to see themselves as practical and adaptable, the values which are likely to extend back to the country's pioneering background and settlement history, favouring pragmatic action over thought and imagination.

Roger Horrocks suggests despite certain parallels between anti-intellectualism in New Zealand and in some other English-speaking countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, where hostility towards intellectual pursuits has been similarly strong, the New Zealand case still remains unique due to the particular mixture of circumstances such as small population, isolation, ruralism, puritanism and egalitarianism.

Stephen Turner compares an ancient kynic, whom he regards a true intellectual, and the contemporary cynic, a false intellectual, insisting on the position of an outsider still being crucial for the modern intellectual.

Brian Easton sadly points towards lack of careful, rigorous thinking and little opportunity for public debate in the contemporary New Zealand:

"We are still a society which is very nervous of having proper debate, we are very nervous of intellectual excellence".

Title: Speaking Truth to Power: Public Intellectuals Rethink New Zealand
Editor: Laurence Simmons

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand writing.

Pen & palate: mastering the art of adulthood, with recipes by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen

If you like reading cookbooks and knowing about people’s experiences and adventures in cooking, try this delectable dish from the writers of the acclaimed food blog Pen & Palate. A funny, touching memoir of friendship told through stories, recipes and gorgeous hand drawn illustrations. 
Through an on-going narrative between the authors, we read about how these two best friends grow up together, discover similar interests, share their goals and aspirations with each other, and move into adult hood, each experiencing her  own share of challenges – mostly (though not always) being there for each other.
A common love of food and cooking allows them to soothe away difficulties and some delicious family recipes sweeten the story. I attempted Lucy’s chocolate chip cookies while reading the book and thoroughly recommend them.
Along with a bottle of wine, this book would make a great gift for a best friend.

Pen & palate: mastering the art of adulthood, with recipes
Authors: Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen
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.