30 May, 2016

King's property by Morgan Howell

I have always loved fantasy. There's something about a fantasy book that opens doors straight into the imagination and keeps it captive till the very last page.

Some fantasy books I steer clear from. Ones with unpronounceable names, maps and the never ending glossary of a foreign language put me off completely. I like to be utterly enthralled, not skipping through pages to see where the army of Orcs and Humans is now located or trying to decipher in a foreign language what is going on.

Putting all my prejudices aside, this book changed all that. This book has contained within it a glossary and a map, and some of the names are kinda normal, so I can remember the characters halfway through the book. I was not expecting to like this book as I usually like the fluffier side of fantasy but this book was totally worth every word deciphered.

There are Orcs who are made out to be the monsters in the start, but gradually become the heroes, showing how cruel human nature can be. Dar, the heroine of this story, is a spirited woman fighting for her life using intelligence and bravery. She becomes conscripted into the King's Army, basically a servant until she befriends an Orc and slowly defies the odds against her and the Orc’s being used for the benefit of the army.

This book totally blew my mind, made me realise that I can be a bit judgmental against books outside of my comfort level. Now I've requested the next book in the series and cannot wait.

Title: King's property
Author: Morgan Howell
Series: Queen of Orcs Book 1

Recommended by Emma W, East Coast Bays Library

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.

29 May, 2016

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Judy Blume’s latest novel “In the Unlikely Event” was not written for young adults, like many of her well know classics - but it is coming of age.

Multiple characters’ lives are muddled together after their neighborhood is victim to three unrelated plane crashes over the course of three months. This novel, though fiction, is based on real events that occurred in New Jersey in the 1950s. With this as the backdrop, Blume draws on these series of events, to explore the impact it had on the community, from both in the sky and on the ground as their lives are interwoven with one another.

As always Blume’s characterization and writing is smooth and spot on. She understands humans, their questions, worries and dynamics. Despite some of the sad subject matter her book will leave you in a warm nostalgic haze having found a familiar companion or two within her pages.

Title: In the Unlikely Event
Author: Judy Blume

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

27 May, 2016

The imitation game

This film won four out of eight Academy Award nominations in 2014, it was directed by Morten Tyldum.

It tells the true story of how Alan Turing, the mathematical genius from Cambridge, led his team to conquer all difficulties, beating the impossible, and helping the Allies crack Enigma (considered the most unbreakable code ever created) with his Turing Machine (what we would now call a computer) during the Second World War. This ultimately enabled the Allies to win the war two years earlier than estimated.

The brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch brings Alan Turing vividly to life. An eccentric prodigy, a gay man, a kind “boyfriend” caring about his girl so much but having to pretend to be a monster to drive her away for her own safety. 

Two subordinate story-lines cover Alan’s life before and after the war. A suffering, bullied “odd duck”, he developed an intimate relationship with his supporter and comforter in Sherborne School in the 1920’s, and we see his fate as a homosexual professor in 1950’s in England. 

The three story lines ingeniously intertwine and enhance each other, telling you about Alan’s painful life. 

It is a movie that makes you think. Yes, each individual is just “a small cog in a very big system”, but who makes this system works, and should each cog be worth treating respectfully or do they have to fit into a standard model?

As Bob Dylan wrote, “How many years can some people exist before they are allowed to be free?”, “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” 

The movie got an 8.1 rating in IMDB.

The Book, Audio CD, graphic novel, and the music sound track are available in Auckland Libraries.

Let me know in the comments what you think about “The Imitation Game”.

Title: The imitation game

Director: Morten Tyldum 

Recommended by Honour Z, Northcote Library

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

25 May, 2016

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

If you are a fantasy reader of any level – casual, middling, speaks-fluent-Elvish-obsessive – you owe it to yourself to pick up Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, or at least its first book, Titus Groan.

Published in 1946, Peake’s sprawling Gothic fantasy is at least as important to modern fantasy as the Lord of the Rings books, although woefully under-read, something which celebrated author Marcus Sedgwick credits to Gormenghast being just ‘too good’ and too weird.

Titus Groan is a fantasy, but a curious one, with no elves, no swords and no sorcery. Instead, the book follows the birth to the first birthday of the heir to Castle Groan, baby Titus.

The story takes place in the vast, crumbling and imposing Castle Groan, under the shadow of craggy Gormenghast mountain.

Within the castle, Dickensian-ly named characters like Sepulchrave, Earl of Gormenghast, his faithful servant Flay and the hideous head cook Swelter exist in a kind of suspended animation, bound by the millennia of complex ritual that rules life in Castle Groan.

Peake’s prose is beautiful and poetic without ever being showy, and moves the reader from the mud huts of the villagers that dwell outside the castle walls, never to see within, to Countess Groan’s sumptuous rooms, carpeted with her many hundreds of white cats, with ease.

It’s obvious that Peake was also an artist, as he lovingly describes, light, textures and skin. He's also really funny.

The two most interesting characters in the novel are Sepulchrave’s daughter, Fuchsia, and the conniving, Machiavellian kitchen boy Steerpike.

Both characters are unique because they seem to be the only people with capacity for change within the castle, or at least the only people who are able to voice their resentment with the stifling atmosphere of Castle Groan.

Titus Groan is not only a masterpiece of fantasy, but a masterpiece of literature, period. You can order it today through Auckland Libraries.

Title: Titus Groan
Author: Mervyn Peake 

Reviewed by Hannah C., Mount Albert Community Library

Hannah C. doesn't speak Elvish but she is fluent in emoji.

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Silva is an American former political journalist who gave up writing about politics to pen cracking espionage thrillers. It is twenty years since his debut novel, The Unlikely Spy; he has averaged nearly a book a year and all have been bestsellers. He is a master of intelligent but fast-paced story telling with strong, credible characters.

The English Spy is his fifteenth novel to star Gabriel Allon, an Israeli spy and assassin with a love of art restoration. The incongruity of Allon’s work and his passion are part of a richly drawn persona that develops through the earlier novels.

This time Allon is tasked by British intelligence with tracking down the killer of an iconic member of the Royal Family. Working alongside Christopher Keller, a former commando turned assassin on the British payroll, Allon follows the trail to an Irish master bomb-maker called Eamon Quinn, a mercenary with international terrorist connections.

With a twisting storyline that criss-crosses countries and a final confrontation full of action, suspense and surprises, The English Spy is a page-turner and definitely one of Silva’s finest novels. All the ingredients for a thoroughly enjoyable read are skilfully blended and served up with a dash of panache. Turn off the TV, put on your slippers and enjoy!

Author: Daniel Silva

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. 

24 May, 2016

A primate's memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky

A Primate's Memoir : A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons
Chimps and gorillas have a certain charisma and books, even research works about them are well known and have reached a popular audience.  But what about baboons? In some ways they are more like us than the tree-dwelling primates.  They too are largely ground-bound and live in complex social groups.

To study savannah baboons, Robert camped in the home territory of one clan, living a very simple life for weeks at a time over 20 years, often his only human contact a fellow scientist, also studying a much maligned creature; "Lawrence of the Hyenas" one valley over. 

He admires the leaders of the baboon clan over the years that he studies them, but he learns most from the less socially competent members.  Living on the Serengeti is a tough game. If you are not fast or big you need family and friends; fellow baboons that reciprocate aid; who will babysit if you need time out or will take your side in an argument and who know you will do the like for them.   Naked social politics.  

Title: A primate's memoir ;  A neuroscientist's unconventional life among the baboons.
Author: Robert M. Sapolsky

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.

The secret chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret ChordNatan is a prophet.  As such he occaisionally receives blinding headaches and instructions from God.  Most of the time he is like the rest of us, using common sense to work out the best way forward.  Being the mouthpiece of the Divine earns Natan respect but also is a fearsome responsibility. 

His role is to speak truth to power, the power being King David. David had been a mere shepherd who rose to be a great psalmist and king over Israel.  David knows that he has God's favour and he believes that he is under that protection.  As his reign continues he slips into thinking that God approves of all that he does, he becomes a tyrant. 

This is a full-fleshed account of the intertwined lives of two men of the Old Testament, complete with  their foibles and urges. Natan and David's newest wife Batsheba are engaging, likeable characters, David, not so much.

Title: The secret chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks

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.

23 May, 2016

The Safe-Keeper's secret by Sharon Shinn

Lover of magical realism am I, and always fond of a simple story with some fairy tale-ish whimsy. Give me a female lead with a goal and throw in some magic, intrigue and 'olden times' and I am there in a heart beat.

The Safe-Keeper's Secret, a teen fiction by leading fantasy author Sharon Shinn, is the first in a series of three. A simplistic world - no fairy dust or dragons here - with a little twist: there are Safe-Keepers - who can be told a secret and trusted to never share, Truth-Tellers - who are unable to let a lie past their lips, and the Dream-Maker - destined to live a life of misery, but grants the wishes of those around them.

One night, while in labour with her own child, Damiana, Safe-Keeper of small town Tambleham, is delivered another secret for the night: a second child, from who-knows-where, to be kept safe from who-knows-what. She names them Fiona and Reed, and bring them up together as siblings. As they get older, Fiona is determined to follow in her mothers footsteps and become a Safe-Keeper, no matter what Thomas the Truth-Teller says - and Reed just wants to learn and try everything he possibly can, no matter the town rumors that he may be the illegitimate child of the heirless King.

A slow-paced but lovely tale, The Safe-Keeper's Secret is for those who like a hint of romance and magic but aren't in need of a grandiose battle or war. Similar to authors like Robin McKinley who infuse every story they spin with a wondrous flair, Sharon Shinn has created a fantastic little world for us to drop into.

Title: The Safe-Keeper's secret
Author: Sharon Shinn

Recommended by Dana S, Central Library

Dana S isn't bad at keeping secrets, and she usually tells the truth. She definitely won't tell anyone you ate the last cookie from the cookie jar - and did you know, you look lovely today?

20 May, 2016

The believing brain by Michael Shermer

The believing brain is a book by noted science writer and leading skeptic Michael Shermer that investigates the human belief system. Specifically the way beliefs are born, formed, shaped, reinforced, challenged, changed and extinguished. Shermer looks at real personal journeys, human biology, religion, politics, science and the cosmos in finding out not only why, but how we believe what we do.

There is some good stuff in here and Shermer is not afraid to put his neck on the line in explaining his own former beliefs, scepticism, politics etc. at the risk of colouring the reader’s bias against his argument.

Personally I found his explanations very interesting with terms such as ‘agenticity’ (belief that the world is controlled by invisible agents) for things such as souls, spirits, gods, conspirators and so forth. Also the way people tend to see patterns (‘patternicity’) in both meaningful and meaningless things. Shermer demonstrates why science (and positive evidence) is the tool to discern belief from reality.

I picked up The believing brain while at some ones house and was drawn in from the first page so I can’t really give much higher praise than that. With his background as a science writer he gets his teeth into the nitty-gritty of scientific terms which will appeal to those looking for substance behind his explanations. Check it out!

Title: The believing brain 
Author: Michael Shermer

Recommended by James W Māngere Bridge Library

James W wants to confirm that the preceding staff pick of The believing brain is true. And by true I mean false. It’s all lies. But they’re entertaining lies, and in the end isn’t that the real truth? The answer is no.

Stories men tell: New Zealand men talk about their lives edited by Neville Aitchison and John Keir

Described as a gym where the workout is only incidental to relaxation and comradeship, the Atrium Club, a private men only club in Central Auckland, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the establishment released a book. 50 years, 50 stories contributed by its wide cast of characters.

Members, who include doctors, lawyers, journalists, wealthy businessmen, school teachers, salesmen and academics, were asked to write about "a moment in their lives: one that may have enriched them for the better or shaken them for the worse, but a moment that has a continuing resonance.”

The stories and yarns that they may have shared anecdotally at the treadmill, in the sauna or over a whiskey are told here. They are original, insightful and honest.

One man spent his childhood in a Japanese POW camp, another flew the first New Zealand troops into Vietnam, one was sued by David Lange for defamation, another played cricket for New Zealand, one helped save Sir Edmund Hillary on Mt Everest, another lost a child to terrorism in the 2005 London bombings, and one walked away from a horrific plane crash.

While some of the bodies that are exercised at the Atrium Club are those of rich-listers, others are not necessarily well known. Some are born raconteurs, others not. But what is evident from the stories are that the qualities men most value in each other are loyalty, courage and good humour, along with a good dollop of self-effacement.

I think it safe to say that some of the contributors of his anthology possibly enjoy the health benefits of friendship over any unnecessarily vigorous exercise available within their club's walls!
A recommended read on and by some good Kiwi blokes.

Title: Stories men tell: New Zealand men talk about their lives
Author: edited by Neville Aitchison and John Keir

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.

12 May, 2016

Wyrmeweald. Returner's wealth by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Wyrmeweald is a hard, brutal place where only the strongest survive. Micah, a young farmhand from the plains, decides to undertake a journey to this harsh place in order to gain returner's wealth. He believes that this will help him win the hand of a young woman with whom he has fallen in love.

Mountainous Wyrmeweald is home to the kin and their dragon partners. The plains people, known as the kith, are their enemies. They come hoping to obtain wealth by hunting the dragons for the rich rewards they can earn by harvesting their valuable bones and organs. The harsh, rough terrain matches the characters of many of the people who manage to survive there.  

A tale loaded with plenty of action, adventure and memorable characters that draw you in. Chris Riddell's art adds to the story with his depictions of the various dragon types and some of the more depraved dwellers of this region.

This is the first novel in the Wyrmeweald trilogy. A teen novel that I would recommend to fantasy fans and dragon lovers, although not for the squeamish. I'm looking forward to exploring this world further in the sequels.

Title: Wyrmeweald. Returner’s wealth.
Author: Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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.

11 May, 2016

Dot con by James Veitch

James Veitch did what they tell us all never to do: he replied to a very obvious scam email and hilarity ensued. He very kindly put the best of these email communications in a book to cheer us all up and to teach us a thing or two about digital intelligence along the way.

In Dot Con, James Veitch poses as a modern day Wooster to lure his scammers in while his inner Jeeves exposes their clumsy attempts to scam him. I have my favourites, as you will have yours: mine are Solomon the gold dealer and the would-be Russian bride.

So far, I have not read one luke-warm review on Dot Con and I am rattling my brain cells to find superlatives to describe this book that haven’t already been used. What can I say except that I loved, loved, LOVED it! I was kicked out of the lunch room for guffawing and spluttering. This comic gem is an easy read, a pick-me-up, a treat on a rainy day. I can’t wait for a follow-up book, but James Veitch may have to change his online name as, he tells us, the scammers seem to be onto him and are now giving him a wide berth.

Dot con by James Veitch.

Monica F, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

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

10 May, 2016

Perth by David Whish-Wilson

This latest little gem in New South’s  city series takes us to sunny Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Isolated geographically from other major Australian cities Perth is located on the coastal plain where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean. Fremantle is it’s port.
Home to the author since he was 10 years old and surveyed in 1829, it was the first Australian city to be built to a plan. Surprisingly, it’s also one of the windiest cities in the world, with a south westerly called “the Fremantle Doctor” that sweeps in off the ocean.

Throughout four fascinating chapters;  River, Coast, Plain and Light, Whish-Wilson weaves a magical spell of history, flora & fauna, personalities and memories.  
Gliding through his rich layering like the Swan River itself, which flows in two directions at once at certain times of the tide, I was willingly lured into this dream of Perth. The picture he paints is so tangible you can almost feel the heat, so it’s no surprise that the dozens of local beaches play a central role in Perth’s sense of self.

Unfortunately, like most stories of colonisation, there is  also a sad side to the story. The aboriginal people of the area were known collectively as the Whadjug and the coast, swamps and lakes were their hunting grounds but hostile encounters with settlers led to massacres, diseases, and the loss of their traditional lands.
Like the others in this series Perth is a highly recommended read.
Title: Perth
Author: David Whish-Wilson
Recommended by Claire S, Information Services, Central library
Claire’s reading includes biographies, art, New Zealand and other interesting bits and pieces.

09 May, 2016

Waking Up in Time: Finding inner peace in times of accelerating change by Peter Russell

In light of the turmoil over the many problems that humanity and the globe is facing at the moment, this is a good read and may help to understand what is going on.

Without dwelling on our problems negatively, it is sensible to examine them and try and work out solutions. This is true on both a personal level and a global one.

Peter Russell studied with Stephen Hawking, and has spent a lifetime working on the nature of consciousness and philosophy, mindfulness and meditation.

He examines how we got to this point in time, and how we have dealt with our problems in the past, and what is needed at this point in time to overcome them.

He believes we have a choice. Either choose sustainable, less materialistic and more sane answers to our problems, or continue on our merry way and risk disaster.

A very good, intelligent and thoughtful discussion of how we might manage to avert global problems and reach peace and tranquility within ourselves.

Author: Peter Russell

Reviewed by Clare at Massey Library

Clare loves reading and thinks that working in a library isn't really work at all.

08 May, 2016

Project blastoff by Mark Kelly

Every once in a while you find yourself reading stories that keep you laughing long after you’ve finished them! For me, Project Blastoff, was one of those. New York Times bestselling author Mark Kelly, takes us on a journey into a thrilling and hilarious adventure based on his own childhood with his twin brother Scott.

The summer before sixth grade, Mark and Scott get into trouble with their dad and as a punishment they are sent to their grandfather’s house in New Jersey. The only problem is that Grandpa has no TV and soon the twins are up to their usual antics. On Grandpa’s suggestion to channel their abundant energy into building a go-kart, the twins decide to take it to another level. With the help of Jenny, nicknamed Egg, and a crew of can-do local kids, the twins set out to build a real-live rocket that will blast off and orbit the Earth. What follows is a novel that is jam-packed with adventure, aeronautical science, and laugh-out-loud sibling rivalry and camaraderie.

This story captivated me from start to finish. If not for the aeronautical terms and physics theories that kept me fascinated, it was the twins’ relationship and their hysterical pranks that had me laughing all night! Mark Kelly’s first middle-grade novel is very well written with vivid description and attention to detail that will beguile anyone with even a smidgen of interest in science! The most interesting aspect of this book is that it’s based on the actual childhood of two real-life NASA astronauts. That’s right, both Mark and Scott are now retired NASA astronauts and are the only twins to have traveled in space!

Reading books about real people and seeing how they have succeeded in life should be more than just inspiring, but motivational enough for anyone to believe they can reach the stars themselves!

Author: Mark Kelly

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. 

07 May, 2016

The Siege by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark

The Siege : Three Days of Terror Inside the TajI found this book very interesting as I lived in Mumbai before migrating to New Zealand. All the places in the book are familiar to me and it was like going down memory lane and back to the terrorist bombs that took place in 1993. I was there when it happened, but the fear of what havoc terrorists can create on innocent people cannot be forgotten. "The Siege" has been put together so well by acclaimed British foreign correspondents documenting each incident with so much detail.

The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai was opened in 1903 and the founder was Jamsetji Tata a philanthropic Parsi gentleman. Hollywood stars and famous personalities from all over the world visited the Taj. The architect William Chambers made sure people would gasp with it's opulence.

Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Jihadi organization from Pakistan, sent ten insurgents for an assault on the Taj, The Leopold  Cafe, Chabad House and Churchgate Station. It was 26th of November 2008 and the holy warriors let loose their anger on  unsuspecting people. The staff efforts to save the guests and the will of people to survive against all odds has been brought out so well The heroic efforts by police officers and even ordinary people to save lives when death stared them in their face has been portrayed so beautifully in this story of squashed dreams and mayhem that lasted for three terrifying days.

Title: The Siege
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott -Clark

Reviewed by Kanchan T at Blockhouse Bay Library.

Kanchan loves to read biographies and inspirational stories.

05 May, 2016

How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman

I've become a bit of a fan-girl over Ruth Goodman - her TV documentary series, and her books. 

She's lived as a Tudor, Victorian, Edwardian, and as a worker on a medieval castle building site. So, she can talk authoritatively about  such subjects.

When she talks about baking bread, sewing, cooking... you know she's done it. She lives the history we hardly ever read about it books. The history of the everyday, lived by normal people - not the aristocracy. 

A joy for any one interested in this period of history. 

Title: How to be a Tudor: a dawn-to-dusk guide to everyday life
Author: Ruth Goodman. 

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. 

Mortal fire by Elizabeth Knox

A good book is one that grabs me after three months of reader’s block. According to that definition, Mortal fire is a Stonking Good Book.

In Southland, the fictional but somewhat familiar country introduced in Elizabeth Knox’s ‘Dreamhunter’ tales, Canny is transfixed what she calls the Extra: writing that hangs in the air. Like the air, it can’t be seen by most people.

When she travels with her half-brother and his girlfriend to a mining town for an oral history project, they are unexpectedly held up in the Zarene Valley. There, an unusual community comes under the strict control of its elders, and Canny learns that the Extra is part of every day ... something she can use herself.

Our heroine is Canny by nature as well as by name. She’s a calculating individual, literally and figuratively. A maths whizz (wizard?), she also has skills of manipulation that far exceed the considerable abilities of the average teenager. And yet in Knox’s hands she is a very believable 16-year-old.

Written for young adults, Mortal fire has depth, layers and nuancing that I find lacking in some popular YA novels, such as Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Knox’s characters are more than a means to an end, and her purpose goes beyond meeting a target market.

Turning her pages, we delve into a complex world, one that Knox says draws on games of imagination from her childhood. 

The experience of reading Mortal fire reminds me a little of first encountering Northern lights (aka The golden compass), the first part of Philip Pullman’s brilliant ‘His dark materials’ trilogy, with its equally precocious and mysterious heroine Lyra. It was spellbinding; it rewarded rereading. So might this book.

Title: Mortal fire

Author: Elizabeth Knox

Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library

Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about there being a crack in everything.

Aha, Awakening. Honesty. Action. : the god moment that changes everything by Kyle Idleman

I have to say, Kyle Idleman’s writing is not a comfortable read, but rather like an intensive light glaring its mega wattage   into the messy crumb littered detritus of the self, the Christian self that is.  This book is for anyone who identifies as being a practising Christian, more than the “well, I went to Sunday school as a kid/I was baptised” kind of Christian.

Idleman's  message is that with the best of intentions, our own interests,  the lure of all the little baubles of life  nicely packaged as self care and self esteem, get in the way.  And of course we all can identify with this, in whatever form or behaviour our Archilles heel takes.

This is not a judgmental you filthy sinner type of book, but rather look at it as going in for a spiritual tune up. You might wince at the work needing doing and the effort/cost involved in getting the spiritual warrant, yet necessary.

The “Aha” premise is threefold. First you have the realisation there is a “situation” or behaviour that isn’t sitting comfortably with your professed faith and then you get honest about it, where you own it, walk around the wreckage and assess the damage and avoid doing an Adam -“she made me” blame response.  Then there is the third step, where you self correct and begin the sometimes painful actions that might be  necessary. Really isn’t all of life a series of these moments? I guess the more you check in and go for regular  “maintenance” sessions, the less severe the correction or tune up needed.

If this sounds pretty heavy going, its not. The writing is direct, compassionate, anecdotal and gently humorous. It is the honesty and precision of the writing that makes it is so compelling and yes, uncomfortable. I read two of Kyle Idleman’s books back to back, certainly powerful stuff and food for thought. I would absolutely recommend you read his earlier work,  Not a fan, which is also available in an   E-book format.

And as a humorous aside, one of the things the author talks about is the posturing we all do to a certain extent, to project a certain something to the outside world. Now every time I go the gym (which is not often) I smile as I remember Idleman saying when he moves from a weight machine he casually moves the pin lower to make it seem  as though he has been lifting heavier than the reality. I guess that’s kind of like, saying “well I only have maybe a one to two glasses of wine during the week”. Riiiight.

Title: Aha, Awakening, Honesty, Action. : the god moment that changes everything.
Author:  Kyle Idleman

Recommended by: Sue W

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and uses time out to think about bad behaviours, she has been known to forget about the miscreant and then earn the title of worst-mother-ever.

03 May, 2016

The darkest hour by Barbara Erskine

Barbara Erskine had huge success with her 1986 novel Lady of Hay so comparisons are always going to be made to it for any later stories. The darkest hour still has the supernatural aspects, but instead of being set in ancient times, covers an era that is still fresh in the minds of many.

It was fitting that I finished this book on ANZAC Day when we commemorate those that have served in wars. Set around a British airbase in WWII and simultaneously seventy years later, it portrays some of the difficulties and experiences of servicemen and civilians in wartime.

The plot revolves around Lucy, a widow who is writing a biography of Evelyn Lucas, a renowned wartime painter. Evie’s grandson Michael has agreed to help Lucy by providing access to Evie’s studio and papers. Unknown to him, Lucy owns a painting that she believes was one of Evie’s.

As Lucy becomes involved in researching Evie’s life a number of unusual things happen around the painting and it appears that supernatural forces are in place. She realises that as well as people in the present day trying to stop her discovering what happened seventy years ago, there are some from the past who are reaching forward to warn her off.

I always enjoy stories where the past and the present merge and got engrossed in this tale. Historical detail is where Erskine excels so I found the parts about the airbase and the flyers very interesting and it gave me some understanding of the era. A large cast of characters, good and bad, make a good mix and all have a part to play in reconciling the past with the present.

Title: The darkest hour
Author: Barbara Erskine

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