30 November, 2016

The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh

In some circles, Aucklander Nalini Singh is a well-known author. For others, not so much. 

It all comes down to ‘genrefication’ – her books are classified as paranormal romance, so are skipped over by those who don’t read romance and/or paranormal.

However, you could well be making a mistake.

If you like complex world-building, character-driven stories – try it out.
They straddle the science-fiction/fantasy line.

Science-fiction, because they are set in a slightly future alternative world, with psychics, who have trained out emotions (with massive repercussions). 

Fantasy, because they feature changelings – it is hard to find a scientific explanation for people who can shape-shift into an animal form.

Romance, because the focus within (most of) the stories is a romantic relationship between two characters. 

Do not let your genre blinkers blind you to this amazing series, by a local author we should be celebrating. 

The long issue periods over Christmas/New Year are the perfect time for some binge reading (there are 15 in the series so far, plus a few novellas). I will be (my personal copies, as I kept needing to re-read them at random times, when library copies were not readily available – ie 2am), and I’m hanging out for the next installment, due in June. *sigh*. 

Title: The Psy-Changeling series
Author: Nalini Singh

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. 

29 November, 2016

Working class boy by Jimmy Barnes

My introduction to Cold Chisel was at the first ever rock concert I went to in Wellington, where the band was Rod Stewart’s support act. We didn’t really know who they were, but Jimmy’s energy jumped out from the stage and the music was great.

Once I moved to Australia, Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes music was always around on the radio and at parties, so when I saw this book I was keen to find out more about the man.

I knew he had had come from a rough background and played hard but this book really tells what shaped him. Violence, child neglect, drinking, drugs, and petty crime all feature in his upbringing.

Jimmy’s family moved from Scotland to Australia in the early 1960's expecting a better life. Some things turned out to be better, but a lot remained the same.

This book covers Jimmy’s early years before he went on to success with Cold Chisel and is more about his family life than his music, however music is always in the background and this is the foundation of Jimmy’s show that he will be touring in New Zealand next year.

It’s very well told, and the writing flows with lots of anecdotes and yarns, as if Jimmy is there talking to you. Many of his descriptions made me laugh, this one about his sister’s boyfriend especially; “he wasn’t real smart but what he lacked in intellect he made up for in stupidity”.

Jimmy shares his feelings with us all throughout and despite some awful experiences he always looks at the positive side. Sad in parts. but honest; the love for his family shines through.

There’s great humour and in the end an acceptance and understanding of his parent’s struggles to bring up children, carrying on the legacy of how they themselves had been raised.

This book has been so popular the library has added many copies in print and ebook.
To quote Molly Meldrum (an Australian music journalist): “do yourself a favour” and read this one!

Title: Working class boy
Author: Jimmy Barnes

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.

23 November, 2016

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

On their second anniversary, Chaz surprises his wife, Joey, with a week long cruise on the cruise liner, the Sun Duchess. After a nice dinner and a few too many glasses of wine, Chaz throws her overboard.

Joey knew their marriage wasn’t great but didn’t think Chaz would resort to murder. Thanks to separate bank accounts and a will that give her fortune to charity, Joey is worth more to Chaz alive than dead, so why did he do it?

After washing ashore Joey decides to stay dead for a while, and with help from some new friends and some of Chaz’s enemies, she is going to get her answers.

I picked up Skinny Dip on a whim, I had never read anything Hiaasen had written before, but I liked the opening with Joey plunging off the ocean liner, and after reading a few chapters I hated Chaz and wanted to find out how it would end.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald and has written over a dozen books (some for children, like Hoot) and they are mostly funny crime thrillers set in South Florida with sun, corruption, intrigue, oddball characters, slapstick situations and a tight plot. So if you like Skinny Dip you are going to like his other books.

Title: Skinny Dip
Author: Carl Hiaasen.

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library

Murray works at the Devonport Library and likes mysteries, sci-fi and horror.

20 November, 2016

Me before you [DVD videorecording]

This movie is based on a romantic novel with the same name by Jojo Moyes, published in 2012.

The film talks about a high-achieving young man, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), who becomes completely paralyzed after a motorcycle accident. For the next two years, he struggles with his situation which he finds hopeless. He decides to find his way back to his former self in “his own way”.  

During this period of time, a special bond grows between him and his caregiver, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), an enthusiastic, kind-hearted young lady. Their souls become intimately connected to each other, and they gradually change each other's lives.

Will this amour shake Will’s decision?

This is a brilliant film with a 7.5 rating in IMDB. A very serious ethical theme is explored in this beautiful, moving love story. 

The author cleverly has Will mention “My Left Foot” (Christy Brown’s autobiography, a man who was born paralysed) in conversation. 

He faces the same issue as Christy Brown, but decides to choose a different solution. I think they have both profoundly impacted the world. 

What is the purpose of human life? How do we define bravery? 

This story is available as a book, eBook, audiobook and sound track in our collection.

The voice of Sam Claflin who stars as Will is so rich, and mellifluous, giving an extra element of emotional intensity to the film. When reading the book, the voice seems to surround you, talk directly to you. The feeling is fantastic -- I bet you will love it!

Title: Me before you
Directed by: Thea Sharrock
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin

Reviewed by Honour Z, Northcote Community Library

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

13 November, 2016

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Set in 1960s Ireland, Nora Webster, Colm Toiban’s most recently published novel, tells the story of recently widowed Nora, mother to four, who has been a dedicated house wife all her life.

Having always had decisions made for her, now she is faced with a future of her own making. Mourning the loss of her husband, she must forge her identity and passions as something other than a wife and a mother, she must find her own personal happiness.

This book is about re-evaluating, self discovery and independence. As with Colm Toiban's novels, he masterfully portrays the intricacies of ordinary lives and creates drama through characters that are flawed but strong, and relationships with depth and history.

Title: Nora Webster 
Author: Colm Tóibín

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

12 November, 2016

Jay to Bee by Janet Frame

When reading fiction, are you, like me, curious about authors' personalities and their real life adventures? Surely, one does not have to live an exciting and eventful life to be able to write stories. This is and is not the case of Janet Frame, remembered as a painfully shy and introspective creature, whose dramatic personal history became well known in New Zealand and worldwide through a classic film by Jane Campion An Angel at my Table, based on Frame's three autobiographies.

Jay to Bee is a newly published collection of Janet Frame’s letters to the American painter William Brown whom she met at an artists’ colony in the United States in 1951. Since their meeting, the two artists from the different hemispheres began exchanging letters which for the first time now are available in print.

Every exciting letter has enclosures,
And so shall this – a bunch of photographs,
Some out of focus, some with wrong exposures,
Press cutting, gossip, maps, statistics, graphs;
I don’t intend to do the things by halves.
I’m going to be very up-to-date indeed.
It’s a collage that you’re going to read.

Over two decades, Frame wrote more than 500 letters to Brown, about 140 of which comprised the collection. They include her observations of people and events, arts and politics, household chores, quotes (like the one from W.H. Auden’s letter to Lord Byron I re-quoted above), all mixed up with drawings, photographs, doodles and collages. Witty and humorous, they reveal Frame’s warm and sensitive personality as well as her individual style of drawing and design, unknown earlier to the public.

Title: Jay to Bee: Janet Frame's Letters to William Theophilus Brown
Editor: Denis Harold

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 fiction.

11 November, 2016

Lecretia's choice by Matt Vickers

Does the name Lecretia Seales ring a bell in your mind?

She was the smart, successful 42 year old Wellington based lawyer, who died of incurable brain cancer last year, after a brave and ground-breaking fight for physician assisted dying.

This book, written by her husband Matt Vickers, has love and admiration for her shining out of every page. It chronicles their years together, their happy times, friends and family, and professional successes, as well as their personal struggles. The first was trying to have a child, a desire that was left unmet even after a series of medical procedures and intervention and much money spent, which left Lecretia, particularly, disappointed and saddened.

Alongside this was the coming to terms with her illness which was first diagnosed four years before her death. An operation to remove the tumor in her brain was partially successful, and her life limped back to a kind of normal.

Then came the chemo and radiotherapy needed as the prognosis clearly became less and less optimistic. Through all this Lecretia was supported by her husband, family, friends and colleagues which was always something she expressed gratitude about.

Holidays surrounded by loved ones and trips away, travelling in foreign parts were something she undertook with a passion, almost as if one eye was fixed on the ticking clock.
The other task she put all her quickly depreciating energy into was that the end of life choice should become legal – that terminally ill patients like her should have the right to put an end to their suffering without risk of their physician facing prosecution.

In the end, she lost that battle but she gave voice to an issue that that has sparked enormous public interest and which has forever made a mark on the medico-legal fabric of our society.

As her husband continues to fight on, this is a must-read for all of us living in New Zealand, no matter which side of the debate we find ourselves on.

Author: Matt Vickers

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.

09 November, 2016

We’re all damaged by Matthew Norman

There is a certain pleasure to be had  reading well written books that look at life’s cruelties and pain points. Not in a comparing or judgmental sense but rather a wry recognition.

Matthew Norman’s novel hits the spot,  making you wince with recognition at how you find yourself, (at least once) as an  adult, looking around you in bewilderment and wondering how on earth this life differs so dramatically from what you had imagined.

Granted your life situation might not have the same checklist of disasters, as Andy Carter, the protagonist in this novel, yet there is something about a return to the family home, at any adult age and stage that causes an unpleasant frisson of nerves. Perhaps this is due to  the ghosts of hopes and dreams that seem to linger and mock you for your less than spectacular adult life.

Slightly too Eeyore in tone for you? It's not at all, but rather about seeing the past, looking it in the eye until it loses its power to shame or wound you, and then taking one tiny step after another to begin to overcome emotional inertia.

This was in fact the  perfectly timed book to read as I was in fact, on a visit south to visit my own family home.

I love the self deprecating humor of the protagonist Andy, he knows he is a mess;  it's hard to shame someone into making changes when they are all too aware their life resembles a train wreck. What better place to highlight the catastrophic failure of your adult life than a return to your hometown to visit a dying grandparent. Especially if the initial departure was more of an escape than a graciously executed rationally considered move to advance health and well being.

There is empathy for this character, he is lovable, ridiculously flawed, but then so is everyone around him. Sometimes having a scapegoat in our midst allows us to conveniently ignore that great hulking plank poking out of our own eye.

This is a light and tasty read, just like the cereal, it won’t bog you down, but offers enough substance to be enjoyable and engaging. Fans of Nick Hornby and Matthew Quick should enjoy this novel. And of note, we should all have a Daisy figure cross our paths at some point in life.  I imagine at the very least she would have some fascinating stories to tell.

Title: We're all damaged
Author:  Matthew Norman

Recommended by: Sue W (Central Library)

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.

07 November, 2016

Gut : the inside story of our body's most underrated organ by Giulia Enders

I am a sucker for those 'learn how things work' type of books (so long as it doesn't get too technical of course).  This one does not disappoint, informative while still being accessible to the casual reader you learn many  things about your digestive system and why it is so important for good health. 

Not just a boring run through the mouth to anus journey, this book is full of humour and funny anecdotes and encompasses a great deal of knowledge. For example: studies have shown that our gut bacteria has the ability to influence cravings in our brain for particular foods. 
As she says: "We do not yet know whether different bacteria express different desires. When we give up sweets, we eventually stop missing them so badly at some point. Is that because the gummy bear and chocolate lobby has been starved out? We can only speculate."

Communication between gut and brain is one of the fastest areas of medical research, and our gut reactions are intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being. Enders uses up to date research to show how scientists are finding out more about how the gut can affect the body in surprising ways, like the links between certain gut flora and depression, risk taking and suicide. A treasure trove of fascinating information.

Recommended for those who would like to know more about how their bodies work, but are afraid of biological/medical jargon. Also try Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal / Mary Roach

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

04 November, 2016

Relentless pursuit : a true story of family, murder, and the prosecutor who wouldn't quit by Kevin Flynn

This is the story of a real-life murder and the detective who never gave up in his quest for justice for the victims. He visited their graves and promised that he would do everything in his power to find out who had killed them and make them pay for it.
The story is set in an underprivileged area of Washington DC and as it unfolds the horror of what happened to the mother and daughter traumatises both the police and the local community.
It is also a moving story about a grieving family who react in such a way that they not only helped Detective Flynn in the investigation, but also in coping with his own personal tragedy.

He was inspired by their generosity of spirit towards him and his colleagues.
A glimpse into the world of police and what they are dealing with in solving a murder, and also into how this particular community reacted.   

Title: Relentless Pursuit
Author: Kevin Flynn

Reviewed by Clare K.

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.