31 March, 2016

The man who couldn't stop: OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought by David Adam

At a time where you can't seem to move for self-help books, how to guides and survivor memoirs, this book stood out among the many.

What drew me to it initially was the promise of something different, and it didn’t disappoint. The author, David Adam, is a science and environmental correspondent with an impressive CV, having written for both the Guardian newspaper in the UK and science journal ‘Nature’. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disruptive and illogical disorder which defies all reason and the fact this book was written by a scientist who himself lives with OCD nudged the book off the shelf and into my hand.

This book is a breath of fresh air and a revelation. Having lived with OCD myself for over two decades and read numerous books on the subject, this is the first book I could fully relate to, which made sense. It spoke to me on a personal level and from a very humanistic perspective about the reality of living with OCD. The strong journalistic narrative style successfully blends memoir with scientific fact. Many other books on this subject take a broad brush approach to this condition which can manifest in quite unique ways from individual to individual.

What David Adams' book provides the reader with is an unflinchingly honest depiction of what it is like to live a life with OCD, in all its idiosyncratic horror. Laying bare the intrusive, unrelenting thoughts, their origins, and the destructive - and sometimes tragic - impact these thoughts can have on the life of the sufferer and the ones they love. He manages all this with a humour, modesty and humaneness which is at once empowering and heart-breaking.  The scientific observations, historical stories, and factual anecdotes woven through the narrative are like finding shade from the sun, and serve as a welcome break from the intensity of David Adam's personal recollections.

As an examination of obsessive compulsive behaviour this books stands head and shoulders above the rest, and helps the reader to understand the behaviour within the context of the broader human experience, providing a place from which hope can spring.

Whether you are have been diagnosed with OCD yourself, or are a family member looking for insight to support a loved one, a student of psychology or simply interested in the curious nature of human behaviour, read this book!

Title: The man who couldn't stop: OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought
Author: David Adam

Reviewed by Jo C, Central City
Jo C works as a Libraries Advisor in the Service Development Team at Auckland Libraries. She enjoys reading crime fiction, most contemporary fiction and also non-fiction books that inspire creativity and open her mind! Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood and Stephen King

30 March, 2016

The QI book of general ignorance: the noticeably stouter edition by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.

Most readers will have seen the QI programme on television (where QI stands for ‘Quite Interesting’) in which Stephen Fry is the quiz master of a game- show that seeks out interesting facts and exposes popular myths and beliefs.

This is labelled as “The Noticeably Stouter Edition”; there have been a number of QI books published and this further volume in the series. It is a thick little paperback that is packed with facts and trivia.

It contains about 300 different topics,  Each starts with a simple question, then there is about a page of background, explanation and researched facts, which generally discredit the conventional understanding of the question.

The subjects are diverse – the universe, history, famous people, biology, medicine. The first question raised is “How many wives did Henry VIII have?”  We all know it was six.  But no, after reviewing the details of each of his marriages, we find out that legally, it was two.  And “How many toes has a two-toed sloth?” – the correct answer is six or eight.

What is the best floor of a building to throw a cat from?  The answer is anything above the seventh floor. From seven and above, cats are able to orientate themselves into a shape to reduce their velocity and land safely. Below seven, they can’t do this fully and can land with more impact.

This is a fun book to just pick up and delve into anywhere.  You will be amazed and amused.  Finally, how many commandments are mentioned in the Bible?  Ten?  Wrong.  The answer is 613.

Title: The QI book of general ignorance: the noticeably stouter edition.
Author: John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.

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, crime: the Scandinavian crime writers, Patricia Highsmith and some others.

Flower Addict by Saskia Havekes

Saskia Havekes  specialises in boutique floral art, creating for the likes of Vogue fashion shoots and high end (think lofty peak, boy-the-air-is-thin-up-here high) corporate and society functions.

This book  captures some of those creations, and in the process provides  a visual feast for your eyes. It is an oasis for the tired, the jaded, those in need of rest and respite from the mechanics of day to day life, those that feel a touch of melancholy at the thought of winter with its grey and cold. Medicine in book form if you will.

The perfect book to take home for 28 days and position lovingly on the coffee table where you dip into each night and gaze at a floral masterpiece until sated.

No matter if you need to return it after 28 days due to someone else wanting it (how dare they), Saskia Havekes has two other books, so potentially you can wander through more of her floral wonderlands.

Everything about this book is beautiful, not just the content and creativity, the physical presence of the book, Lantern publishing always do a fine job in crafting their books, so much so that I think of them as covet books, books you yearn to own. Take this book out and ease your way into Autumn.

Title: Flower Addict
Author: Saskia Havekes

Reviewed by: Sue W

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

29 March, 2016

I dreamed I was a very clean tramp : an autobiography by Richard Hell

Richard Hell is one of the founding figures of punk rock. Not only is his autobiography chock full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll (as all good rock bios should be!), I also discovered how much Hell’s look, sound and attitude influenced the nascent punk scene in the mid-1970s.

Hell explains that his trademark spiky dishevelled hair and ripped clothes held together by safety pins were inspired by the bums hanging out on New York City’s Bowery. In turn, Hell’s look was appropriated by fashion and music impresario Malcolm McLaren who styled the Sex Pistols after him. In addition, McLaren credited Hell’s song ‘Blank Generation’ as the inspiration behind ‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Pistols.

I couldn’t help drawing parallels between Hell’s book and Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, which I’d just finished reading before his. They share the same timeframe and terrain, from their respective suburban upbringings in 1950s middle America to New York City, performing at the legendary CBGBs alongside other emerging bands such as The Ramones, Blondie and The Talking Heads.

Despite the impact Hell has had on music, he considers himself to be a poet and writer first. Like Patti Smith, he was heavily influenced by the French Symbolist poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. The latter became the adopted moniker of Tom Verlaine who, with Hell, cofounded the ground breaking band, Television. Coincidently, as Hell reveals, Verlaine and Patti Smith were also couple for a while.

At first, I was surprised at the connection between French Symbolism and punk rock. Originating at the end of the 19th century, Symbolist writing was considered very decadent and subversive at the time, so I can understand now why Hell used their ideas as fuel for punk’s angry, nihilistic and anti-establishment ethos.

True to rock bio form, Hell definitely had a way with the ladies. Every few pages is a new conquest: writer/actress Cookie Mueller; ‘super-groupie’ Sable Starr; writer Kathy Acker; a very young pre-Bob Geldof Paula Yates, a pre-Sid Vicious Nancy Spungen(wtf?) and many, MANY more.

Which, lastly, brings us to the drugs. Hell’s book is pretty much a drug fuelled debauch. Once glamorously dubbed ‘The Junkie-poet of New York’ by the Guardian  newspaper, he struggled with a lengthy and unglamorous heroin addiction. His book ends in the mid-1980s when he stopped playing music to focus on his writing and kicking dope (which he did eventually). Things could have turned out very differently – as he reflectively puts it: “If I had died in 1984…as could easily have happened, there would have been left such scant evidence of me that my life would be mostly a sad cautionary tale.”

Title: I dreamed I was a very clean tramp : an autobiography
Author: Richard Hell

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.

The girl in the photograph by Kate Riordan

Years ago I enjoyed reading gothic suspense books by authors such as Daphne Du Maurier, Susan Howatch and Mary Stewart. The girl in the photograph reminded me of that style with its haunting, moody undertones.
Set in an old manor house the story is of two women living in different eras, Alice from the 1930s and Elizabeth from the 1890s.

Unmarried and pregnant, Alice is sent to stay at Fiercombe Manor where her mother’s old friend Mrs Jelphs is the housekeeper. The owners live overseas but there are traces of them everywhere in the house and grounds, including photographs that intrigue Alice. She senses there are underlying secrets about the family and begins to piece together the past from snippets that Mrs Jelphs reveals and the fortuitous discovery of Lady Elizabeth’s diary. Elizabeth too was pregnant, so Alice feels an empathy with her and is keen to learn what happened to her and her child.

This is a well-told story where twists in the tale are revealed slowly. Chapters are narrated by both women and as Alice finds out Elizabeth's sad story, the reader does too. I found myself thinking about the conclusion well after I'd finished the book which is always a good thing!

Title: The girl in the photograph
Author: Kate Riordan

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. She spends most of her working day buying books for Auckland Libraries.

24 March, 2016

Horimiya By Daisuke Hagiwara

This story begins with Hori-san, the bright bubbly high school girl. She's popular, pretty and the all-round perfect student that cannot put a foot wrong at school.

Miyamura-kun is a boy in class who is a bit of a loner, shies away from making friends and tries his best not to be noticed. But when they are out of school it is a whole different ball game.

She becomes dowdy, domesticated and plain as she watches over her little brother Souta and keeps the household ticking. Miyamura-kun on the other hand is covered in tattoos and piercings which he hides at school so people aren't intimidated by him or expelled from school. They meet through Souta and their friendship begins.

I super love this manga (even though I have only read the first two in the series), and I cannot wait to see read the rest of them.  I really like how their personalities are different to what their perceived everyday stereotyped characters are and also the mystery that surrounds Miyamura back story. Cute and light, it is a joy to see their relationship blossom (yes it’s a bit fluffy but don’t let that put you off) and them slowly uncover who they really are.

Title: Horimiya
Author: Daisuke Hagiwara

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.

22 March, 2016

Kiss of steel by Bec McMasters

Kiss of Steel is set in a dark and gritty steam-punk London. Humans are ruled over by an echelon of aristocratic ‘Blue-Bloods’ (Blue-Bloods = pretty, pale, blood suckers; Vampires = blue-bloods gone all yuck). It is a world with werewolves, servant robots and metal-jackets… Oh yes!

Honoria is a bright and proper young woman living in the dingiest part of London known as the rookeries. She must seek the help of the super hunky protector of the underground known as Blade. Honoria must deal with the legacy her father has left her, the pressure of raising two siblings, the danger posed by the sinister Vickers and the studly advances of Blade if she wishes to survive. Enough to be getting on with then.

I’m hardly the target audience for this book (Bec McMaster: “But what about my core 30 something male audience?”) but I thought I’d try something different. It was difficult finding something I didn’t put back on the shelf after two pages so a big shout out to smartbitchestrashybooks.com for the recommendation. Admittedly I felt the chemistry between Honoria and Blade was… what it was, but the story was entertaining and fast moving. McMaster also paints an engaging world and pulls off a really fresh take on vampire fiction. So thumbs up!

If you like resourceful women with giant handguns, swaggering cockney rouges and a good dose of steam-punk then Kiss of steel is a great read. Add in some sexual tension and you have a great excuse for a long sit down.  

Title: Kiss of steel                              
Author: Bec McMaster

Recommended by James W Mangere Bridge Library

James W heard Romance is dead. But apparently it was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hallmark and Disney, homogenized, and sold off piece by piece. *cough* Simpsons *cough*

21 March, 2016

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In is part sci-fi part police procedural. Set in the near future, the Hayden virus has spread across the globe, for those who are infected many experience nothing worse than a mild flu, however for the unlucky one percent the virus causes locked in syndrome leaving the victim unable to move or speak but fully awake and aware.

Over the next twenty-five year’s technology is developed to help Hayden suffers interact with the world. Medical pods are developed to keep their paralyzed bodies safe, a virtual world is created for Haden suffers to inhabit, robotic bodies are made to allow them to interact with the physical world and a new profession called “Integrators” emerges, an integrator can rent out their bodies to Hayden suffers allowing them to experience sensations they could not in a robotic body.

Chris Shane FBI agent and Hayden sufferer has been paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to investigate a murder involving an integrator suspect who had let out his body at the time of the murder, which should be impossible as an integrator can eject a user if they choose to.
The government is under pressure to reduce the amount of money spent on Hayden issues and tension is high between the Hayden infected and non-infected. As the government withdraws services private organisations step in to make a quick profit.    

The main characters Chris and Leslie are well drawn and interesting and the plot is well thought out and well-paced. If you are a fan of police procedural/ mysteries, it’s a good read.

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library

Murray L enjoys horror, sci-fi, fantasy and mystery books.

A table in the orchard : my delicious life by Michelle Crawford

Before my position at Central Library, there was a smaller library in Rodney, in a town where you could turn in every direction and in the distance you could only see green. After spending every day in the city, reminiscing is bound to happen.

Michelle Crawford (of blog hugo and elsa) is living my dream - the 'simple' country life, where she and her small, growing family spend their spare moments growing potatoes, apple scrumping (from their own orchard?) and despairing over the amount of roosters she accidentally bought one day. In Huon, Tasmania, Michelle has wrangled her house and garden into shape... and then written a book about it.

A Table in the Orchard: My Delicious Life is like a diary entry of how Crawford found 'home' in a small town in Tasmania, how she accidentally grew edibles over her (overflowing) septic tank, how she became obsessed with planting apple trees and all the other good and bad things that come with small-town rural country living.

With recipes to make you wish you were within walking distance to a farmers market (which I am not) and photos to show you how truly beautiful rural life is, A Table in the Orchard is enough to make a city-dweller think about selling up and moving away from the hustle and bustle. And if this is already your life, then you can probably take pride in the fact that there is at least one person (me) who is desperately jealous of you.

Title: A table in the orchard : my delicious life
Author: Michelle Crawford

Recommended by Dana S, Central Library

Dana S has had one dream her whole life: to own chickens (oh, make that two - she'd like to win the lottery as well). Unfortunately, the 'burbs in Auckland don't make such a nice place to raise chickens, but that's why she likes to read books about people who do, and is fond of romanticizing gardening, composting and noisy farm animals. Dana is very good at conveniently forgetting that most of these things include poop and/or mud, which, inconveniently, she doesn't enjoy.

20 March, 2016

Illustrious Energy by Leon Narbey

It was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which piqued my curiosity about Chinese immigration to New Zealand during the Gold Rush period in the 19th century. The topic seemed as interesting as underrepresented in New Zealand fiction. But how thrilled I was to learn there is a historical drama film where the events of the same period are told from a Chinese perspective.

It is a pity though the movie has never got near enough attention as Catton’s masterpiece. Unjustly neglected when it first appeared in 1987, it is a lost classic now, yet a must see film for anyone interested in New Zealand history.

The two central characters, played by Chaun Bao and Harry Ip, have been mining in Central Otago without success for many years. They haven’t seen their families for decades now and keep dreaming of going back to China one day. But will their plans ever eventuate?

After a sudden prospect of enormous wealth, the younger of the two goes on his Odysseus' journey to the nearest town. On his way, he experiences seclusion, racism, extreme weather, opium dens and a love affair. He encounters all sorts of different people too.

Such a mix of positive and negative experiences creates a true and unbiased picture of how life was back then. The conversations between European and Chinese migrants on religious and cultural matters are particularly noteworthy.   

Director: Leon Narbey

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.

18 March, 2016

Child 44 [DVD]

From the young, up-and-coming European director, Daniel Espinosa, this film will take you back to the inexorable and ridiculous time in the Great Purges in the Soviet Union. The darkness of political fight, or an abhorrent murderer - which is more ghoulish?

The two story lines in the film sometimes interweave and sometimes run parallel, but they are always very clear and enhance each other.

At the end of the movie, there is a second and subtle climax, when Leo (Tom Hardy) and his wife Raisa go to adopt two orphans, whose parents were killed when Leo, leading his team, was complying with a command. This seems to deliver the message that the light of the human spirit will break through all darkness, and this gives a warm but also a profound ending to a thriller.

Disappointed to see 6.4/10 in IMDb, but I will vote over 8.0 for it. It is not simply a Hollywood type. Yes, the sound and the colour seem a little bleak, but they match the background of the story perfectly.  If you like the European style, I bet you will enjoy it. 

Title: Child 44 [DVD]  
Director: Daniel Espinosa

Reviewed by Honour Z, Northcote Community Library
Honour Z works at Northcote Library. She loves reading biographies and nonfiction in general.

17 March, 2016

Puff, the magic dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton

There are three picture books that I love above all others – A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy, The Little Yellow Digger by Betty and Alan Gilderdale, and Puff, the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton. They are to picture books what The Famous Five was to children’s fiction - simply the best.

Puff, the Magic Dragon is a song written by Peter Yarrow based on a poem by a young university student, Leonard Lipton, and recorded in 1963 by Yarrow’s band Peter, Paul and Mary

The song tells the story of a dragon called Puff and his friendship with Jackie Paper, a young boy who lives by the sea in a land called Honalee. They are the best of friends, but as Jackie grows up and leaves behind his childhood, so he also leaves behind Puff, who becomes depressed on his own. 

It is one of the most poignant stories about growing up and the loss of childhood innocence you will ever come across. The song, if you have not heard it, is on the accompanying CD and, be warned, is extremely catchy (I am humming it as I write!).

The beautiful illustrations in this edition are by Eric Puybaret, and the snow-capped mountains, forests and castles provide the perfect accompaniment to the story.

Author(s): Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton

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. 

16 March, 2016

Ginger Snaps (DVD) dir. by John Fawcett

If you haven’t seen Ginger Snaps, and you like any of the following things - 90s cult horror movies, feminism through a lens of blood and pithy one-liners, extended puberty metaphors, The Virgin Suicides meets Edward Scissorhands meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer or alterna-cool teen female leads – immediately order this movie.

Ginger Snaps follows sisters Brigette and Ginger, a two-person trench-coated teen girl gang obsessed with death and each other. Rebelling against their cookie-cutter suburbia life, the girls spend their time taking morbid death tableau photos of each other, and entering into a suicide pact (‘out by sixteen, or dead in the scene, but together forever’).

But the arrival of Ginger’s first period, and a bite by a werewolf in the woods, changes everything. Lycanthropy is an ingenious metaphor for puberty - as hair sprouts in strange places, Ginger becomes filled with blood-lust and transforms from a child into a (terrifying, unstoppable, hairy) woman.

 The movie is packed with sharp and funny one-liners. As the girls rush to clean up Ginger’s latest victim, she remarks “No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door. We’ll just coast on how the world works.” Another favourite? "I get this ache. I thought it was for sex, but it's to tear everything to f**king pieces."

As a bonus, the film looks beautiful, and the sisters goth-lite 90s style is extremely inspiring. Rent this film now.

Ginger Snaps (2000) dir. by John Fawcett 

For more teen girl horror, try Karyn Kusama's underrated Jennifer's Body (2009).

Recommended by Hannah C., Mt Albert Community Library,

Hannah C. howls at the full moon. 

14 March, 2016

Bill Cunningham's New York

I am hopelessly out of date when it comes to films and admit with some embarrassment  that I am only now extolling the virtues of this beautiful film, some four, that's right FOUR years after it has been released. Don't be judgey. Some of you watch movies with the same regularity that you sit down for dinner, whereas books are my go-to for relaxation.

Like the total ignoramus that I am, I found this DVD and thought "ohhh something on New York! Who is Bill Cunningham?" I'm telling you this so you know you don't need to have a prior knowledge of Bill Cunningham, more of an interest in the vibrancy of New York, and the changing landscape of street fashion from the  people that flow through its streets.

Here's a random interesting thing I found; Anna Wintour does actually smile, she is not a robot. Get her to talk about Bill Cunningham and she thaws. Fashionistas from all levels of the industry adore Bill.

Bill is an icon of the NY streets snapping street fashion, using his incredible eye for detail and artistic flair, firing off an array of images and providing them to the big name fashion publishers.

If its not the fashion and the magic of the image,  that grabs you, I guarantee you will fall in love with the sheer beauty of Bill Cunningham. What an amazing, humble joyous man, deriving pleasure from such simple things in life. He is energised by the creativity of the people he sees around him, sharing this visually through his photography and fiercely protecting his autonomy through refusing to be on anyone's payroll.

Simplicity of lifestyle, following one's passion and having a curiosity in people and an genuine warmth and appreciation for the changing landscape of life seem to the attributes that make this humble, very private man so remarkable.

Watch it, and you'll top up your feel good levels, think of it as visual serotonin to inoculate you against the doldrums of soon-to-be-here winter.

Psssst...I forgot to mention, it's a documentary so you get to have it FREE and for 28 days-boom!

Title:Bill Cunningham's New York
Author: the New York Times and First Thought Films

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. 

Touch by Claire North

Touch by Claire North is a thrilling and unexpected journey through time and people. It starts with a murder in a crowded train station and  just keeps running at full speed. Kepler is dying in her/his latest body Josephine, by a man who is clearly aware of Kepler’s nature and unique abilities. Kepler jumps bodies in pursuit of the mysterious killer hoping to get answers, and ends up wearing the killer’s body itself.

This is a book about the experience of walking in another’s skins. One touch of the flesh, and Kepler can assume a host’s identity – their bodies, their time, their lives. Once, Kepler had a name and a body – but at the point of violent death so many centuries ago on the streets of London, Kepler found he/she is one of the few souls who is able to transfer into the bodies of others. 

The plot is inventive and original. Someone or some organization has been hunting down and destroying the Ghosts, and Kepler is determined to find the truth and avenge her/his beloved Josephine.  North gives the reader characters who will charm or, in some cases repulse. Their flaws and foibles are realistic and may well have the reader wondering about their own reaction to this sort of immortality. North gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “estate agent".

Imaginative and entertaining, Touch has everything I like in a book, likeable characters, humorous dialogue as well as fast paced action and excellent writing.  Lots of fun!

Title: Touch
Author: Claire North

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.

13 March, 2016

One of us : the story of Anders Breivik and the massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad

Before I started this book, I had only a hazy recollection of the news items covering the shocking event that took place on 22 July 2011 in Norway.

Anders Breivik, a 32 year old Norwegian planted a bomb in Oslo as a distraction, then headed to the island of Utoya where a political gathering of mostly young people was underway. He calmly shot dead 69 people. Eight died as a result of the initial explosion in Oslo. The author describes how Norway was totally unprepared for such an event.

Asne Seierstad is a Norwegian foreign correspondent who has tackled this tragedy in a very sensitive and respectful way. On one hand, she presents an in-depth investigation into what motivated Breivik, and the signs that he was deeply troubled. On the other hand, she has written about some of the young victims, bright and hopeful young people, ready to contribute to Norway’s future. When I read about the loss of such beautiful young people, I felt heartbroken for the victims and for their families and friends. So much was lost that day.

Sometimes true crime books can seem like voyeurism, but this one doesn’t. It feels like a tribute to the victims, their families, and to the open-mindedness of Norwegian society. It is a very powerful read.

Title: One of us : the story of Anders Breivik and the massacre in Norway
Author: Asne Seierstad

Recommended by Judy W, Orewa Library.

Judy W may appear to work as a library assistant but in her own mind she is a top criminal defence lawyer and animal rights activist.

12 March, 2016

Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Here’s a little baby, one, two, three.
Sits on his sister’s lap. What does he see?

One of the hallmarks of Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s work is their attention to the everyday details of the stories they tell. Spotting these details is in fact the point of Peepo, where young readers are invited in simple rhymes to notice the things that occupy a baby’s day: the teddy, the ball, the sister in the pond. The mother takes a nap. A dog is at the door. There’s a uniform on the chair, and high in the sky are the little shapes of bomber planes.

Peepo, it turns out, is a spot-the-details book for adults, too. Under the charming bounce of the rhyme and the sunny story of the baby are the everyday facets of a very grown-up world: the air-raid warden with his helmet, the bombed-out houses, the father’s military uniform as he carries the baby up to bed. What’s clever about Peepo, however, is that these details aren’t the central feature of the book by any means. In the same way a child’s world centres on them, the focus of Peepo is the baby’s perspective, and the many details that add up to life in wartime London are a background murmur to the normalcy of waking, eating, sleeping and going to the park.

Given these layers, while the joys and troubles of working-class life during the Blitz are likely to go whizzing over the heads of the book’s target audience, adults (who are more likely to be conscripted into repeated readings) will appreciate Peepo’s multiple levels of complexity, which offer them the chance to spot new details right alongside younger readers.

Title: Peepo!
Authors: Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Reviewed by Valerie T, Māngere Town Centre Library.

Valerie T
loves Shakespeare, fairytales, Trinitarian theology, twentieth century poetry and picture books about bears.

11 March, 2016

The Singing Whakapapa by C.K. Stead

This powerful historical novel is the story of three generations of one Pakeha family living, loving and dying in the country for more than a century. It won the New Zealand Book Award for fiction in 1995 and is one of the finest works of the distinguished New Zealand poet, critic and novelist C.K. Stead.

A sixty-year old retired librarian Hugh Grady tries to make sense of his own life by tracing his family history, his “singing whakapapa”. His great-great grandfather is in the centre of the story: an English missionary agriculturist who, along with other migrants, ventured the seas in search for a better life. In New Zealand, he found himself involved into intertribal musket wars of the 1830s and the controversial signing of the Treaty.

And whatever islands may be

Under or over the sea,

It is something different, something

Nobody counted on.
(Allen Curnow)

While most episodes of the book are based on actual events and people, Stead’s true interest lies in the hidden side of the history, its emotional component and family skeletons. This is something that makes the novel both an exciting and valuable read. There are faces and stories in preference to facts and documents. Love, betrayal, murder and courage. Lost and found lovers, illegitimate children. All at once, the past becomes vivid and alive, enabling the reader to experience the story through thoughts, senses and feelings. 

Book: The Singing Whakapapa
Author: C.K. Stead

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.

Front runner by Felix Francis [christine, Takapuna Library]

Front Runner

Dick Francis taught me all that I know about horse racing.  His son, Felix has the same happy ability to show that world whilst telling a rattling good adventure story.

A race jockey's life may look exciting and glamorous but the physical toll is very high.  Jockeys have to half-starve themselves and limit their liquids before a race, to minimise their weight. So they are performing tasks that require strength and mental agility whilst dehydrated.... and there is always the possibility of being thrown from a horse.

Here, Jeff is an undercover investigator employed to ensure the winners get their places by speed of the horse and skill of the jockey, plus of course, luck.  He finds plenty of scams. 
One very successful jockey calls him and intimates that he is being blackmailed to lose but before Jeff can find out who the blackmailer is, the jockey commits suicide.  Jeff is convinced that he was murdered and strongly suspects that more jockeys are being blackmailed to also lose. 

Title: Front runner
Author, Felix Francis

Reviewed by Christine O.
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

King Rich by Joe Bennett

A first in two ways:
the debut novel of Joe Bennett, much loved New Zealand non fiction writer, who has on five occasions been voted New Zealand columnist of the year; also possibly the first work of fiction based on the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011. From its ruins Bennett has created literature, as an insider who bore witness to the devastation that occurred. 

In the aftermath of the quake, “Rich” a crippled alcoholic retreats into the deserted Grand Chancellor hotel, set for demolition, in the city’s CBD. Here he holes up with the companion dog, he calls Friday, sleeping in different rooms and sustaining himself with the plentiful booze, snacks from the bar and at times food that is slowly perishing in the kitchens.  

Meanwhile, 30 year old Annie, living in England at the time, hears of the disaster and sets out to New Zealand to try and find the father from whom she has been estranged for 20 years. It soon becomes obvious that “Rich” aka Richard Hugh Jones is Annie’s dad. And while Rich’s mission is to stay undetected, Annie’s is to find him. 

The book switches easily between the two characters and along the way, in this race against time, Annie finds clues about her father and the person he was, in the form of people – his friends and acquaintances, significant places and her own memories.

Bennett’s trademark humour, his observations of human quirks and imperfections, his disdain for The Establishment are all very much present. Absorbed, I greedily turned the pages and thoroughly enjoyed his fresh, genuine and heartfelt writing. 

Are Annie and her father ever reunited? Read and find out.

Title: King Rich
Author: Joe Bennett

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta  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.

10 March, 2016

no kidding! Why our kids know more about technology than us and what we can do about it.

All parents will be familiar with this situation, where we find it a struggle to keep pace with technology while the younger generation seem to grasp it with both hands and run rings around us.

The author of this little book is from Australia and the book was published in 2014, so it is quite applicable to the New Zealand situation and is current.

There are eighteen chapters covering a wide range of subjects dealing with technology; the book is well laid out and covers this complicated subject in a very readable manner.  After highlighting all the technology aspects it then describes a lot of websites, programmes, and equipment which will be of interest.  There are sections on travel, languages, fitness, games and creativity.  You can also find quizzes to test how Cybersmart you are.

Finally it details their ‘nokidding.com.au’ website which will give further details and news, and enables the viewer to get the latest information.

This is a great book if you have an interest in technology but are feeling a bit left behind.  It explains the concepts, the equipment, software, programmes, etc. well and in easy-to-understand language.

Title: no kidding! Why our kids know more about technology than us and what we can do about it.
Author: Yvette Adams

Recommended by: Ana, Central Library

Ana enjoys reading and listening to music, travelling and many other things. She reads fiction, non-fiction and from genres, crime: the Scandinavian crime writers, Patricia Highsmith and some others.

The good life on Te Muna Road by Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington, ex Act MP, returns to the country life she loves on a Martinborough vineyard with her new husband Colin Carruthers QC.

Her first life in the town was back in the 70's when she met publisher Alistair Taylor and moved into his large villa Waiura. This was the hippy era of communal living  and the stream of guests passing through is fascinating. Sam Hunt, Tim Shadbolt, Dun Mihaka, Peter Bush and Robin Morrison to name just a few.  It all comes to an end when debt-ridden Alistair is forced to leave town.

Decades later after various stints as a journalist, restaurateur and parliamentarian, she returns to find the booming wine industry is thriving in Martinborough.

Getting to know the neighbours and becoming part of a close knit community has been an obvious highlight for Deborah. Unlike the city, people help each other and rally around to fund raise for various causes.

Ode to small town New Zealand, it can sound a little idyllic at times. No traffic jams, crime or homelessness (strong winds seem to be the only downside!)

Aucklanders wanting to cash up and have a quieter life will be rushing down to the Wairarapa after reading this well written, entertaining memoir.

Title: The good life on Te Muna Road
Author: Deborah Coddington

Recommended by Claire S, Central Library

Claire S works in Information Services, Central Library. Reading interests include biographies,art, New Zealand.

09 March, 2016

The Lincoln myth by Steve Berry

Steve Berry is one of my go-to thriller writers. His novels are intelligent but not dense, intricate but not over-wrought, and every one a page-turner. This is the ninth of Berry’s Cotton Malone adventures, and one of my favourites.

Berry’s passion is history, and history infuses all his books, providing a rich context and fascinating detail but never over-burdening the reader with distractions from the plot. Berry spends more time on the historical elements of the narrative than in previous Cotton Malone thrillers, adding to the length of the book, but I love the complexity and attention to detail that he constructs behind a clever, multi-layered story-line. Few writers can weave history and fiction into such a good story.

The Lincoln Myth will particularly fascinate readers who enjoy American Civil War and religious history, as Berry weaves his tale between the 1860s and the present day, between Abraham Lincoln and modern espionage. A leading role, in the nineteenth century and the twenty-first, is played by the Mormons, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, one of the most influential religious movements in American history.

If you like The Lincoln Myth, Auckland Libraries has plenty more of Steve Berry’s thrillers for you to enjoy!  

Author: Steve Berry

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV. 

07 March, 2016

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

With three degrees in biology, anthropology and French, it might be a surprise that Molly Wizenberg made a career focusing on food. But as with all marvelous things the internet has provided us with (cat videos & google maps being the other things), blogging - and rather the chance to spin your passions and hobbies into careers – has made way for talented writers to share their voice.

A Homemade Life, Molly’s first book, was published in 2009, five years after she had decided to leave her PhD programme and start her popular foodie/life blog Orangette. It is written in a series of chapters about some of her favourite people coupled by some of their favourite recipes. Roughly chronological, Molly’s nostalgia and tributes will touch your heart and make your stomach grumble. 

Much like her blog, the book makes you feel like you have been invited into a dear friend’s kitchen for a cup of tea and a chat. From dealing with her father passing away, to living in Seattle while falling for a man in New York, Molly life is rich in the wonderful, normal day-to-day events that make up a life.

While this book is not about a great leader, a famous fashion icon or a re-known comedian, Molly Wizenberg is a current, likable, glass half full (of whole milk & cocoa) kind of girl! Which is peachy for me, because I have fallen in lunch with her simple, delicious recipes and the stories that go with them.

P.S. I apologize for the terrible food puns.

Author: Molly Wizenberg

Also available as an eBook

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

03 March, 2016

Physics of the future : how science will shape human destiny and our daily lives by the year 2100 by Michio Kaku

Imagine a world where you can telepathically control your home. Where cars are driverless and magnetic, and the internet is in your retinas thanks to special contact lenses. Imagine a space elevator that takes tourists up to the moon and human-controlled robots that make dangerous jobs safe. Organs can be grown on demand and you look 31 when you're actually 61.

Imagine all this, and much, much more, because it very well might be possible in 2100.

In Physics of the future, renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku offers a wondrous vision of our future, referencing technologies that are in development today, or will be in the not-so-distant future. Interviewing at least 300 scientists about their work and theories, he creates a picture that is at the same time mind-boggling as it is believable and inevitable.

Don't let the words 'physics' and 'science' turn you away! This book is readable, engaging, and not just for fans of science fiction or technology. 

Title: Physics of the future: how science will shape human destiny and our daily lives by the year 2100
Author: Michio Kaku

Recommended by Sucheta R, Grey Lynn Library

Sucheta R is based in Grey Lynn Library. When she doesn't read, she has an overflowing shelf full of books and an ever-growing to-be-read pile. When she does read, it’s two or three books at the same time: a few chapters here, a few chapters there and a few more somewhere else. Sucheta likes dystopian sci-fi, contemporary fantasy, satire, young adult and the occasional classic.

02 March, 2016

The soul of an octopus : a surprising exploration into the wonder of consciousness by Sy Montgomery

You don't need to go to deep outer space to find alien intelligence, it is right here just a few kilometres away in the sea.

Octopuses are so different from us, they inhabit a realm that is perilous to us, they are asocial and short-lived, they can change shape, colour and pattern in a twinkling, they are even on the other side of the very basic vertebrate/invertebrate divide.  Yet they think. They are very curious, they can solve puzzles and play.

An octopus will take a fish and pass it along a tentacle, from taste-sensitive sucker to sucker before popping it into its beak.  It could munch on the fish right away, but like us licking an ice-cream instead of just chomping on it the octopus prefers to savour the taste of the fish.

Keen volunteers visit octopus in an aquarium.... the several octopuses seem to enjoy the encounters as much as the people, reaching up out of their tanks to hold and explore the skin of humans who have their hands plunged into cold seawater. They recognise friends. It seems a mystical, enjoyable experience.

Octopuses think, do they also contemplate?

Title: The soul of an octopus
Author: Sy Montgomery

Also available as an eBook

Reviewed by Christine O, 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.

01 March, 2016

Shock value : a tasteful book about bad taste by John Waters

“The Pope of Trash”, “The King of Bad Taste”, or just plain old “Scum of the Earth”, John Waters has been called a lot of things over the years. After reading his memoir Shock value I’ve come to the conclusion that most of these are probably well deserved.

In recent years John Waters has somehow wormed his way into the establishment (and I think Waters is as surprised about this as the rest of us), but Shock value is a reminder that before he was the well regarded film maker, writer and critic that he is today, he was wildly controversial. Written in 1981 ten years after he made the infamous Pink Flamingos but before he made his break into the mainstream with films like Hairspray and Cry Baby, Shock value is Waters in his outsider element.

Waters has a talent for creating films that shock and horrify his audiences, and he is famous for pushing boundaries and taking things way too far. His book answers many of the questions his fans and detractors are desperate to ask (no, he’s not on drugs, yes he does have parents, and yes Divine really did eat dog droppings in that notorious scene…).

Waters is proud of his seedy past and his early life as a self described “juvenile delinquent” and his book is filled with hilarious anecdotes about his younger years messing around in Baltimore with his posse “the Dreamlanders”. Surprisingly, he’s actually a clever and warm-hearted writer, whose disgust for the mainstream and commonplace is only matched by his enthusiasm and love for those individuals who choose to live life on their own terms.

John Waters is one of those people that you can't help but feel strongly about. Whether you love him or you hate him there's no denying John Waters is an icon!

Title:  Shock value: a tasteful book about bad taste

Author: John Waters

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 new and exciting to get her teeth into.