28 June, 2016

Neurologic: the brain's hidden rationale behind our irrational behaviour by Eliezer J. Sternberg

Are you a Pepsi person or a Coke person? Are you sure? Though a lot has been written about the famed 'Pepsi Challenge', how much of our preference for either Pepsi or Coke is affected by our brain and how it perceives each brand?

Neurologic by Eliezer Sternberg is a fascinating look at why we do (or in the above case, choose) the things we do. Sternberg looks across the breadth of neuroscience and investigates human logic in unconscious situations.

Sternberg uses a variety of examples and anecdotes, and explains them in scientific terms which are easy to grasp and understand. He is also aware enough to explain that though much of the neuroscience investigations are preliminary (due neuroscience's 'newness'), that does not deplete from the intrigue with which much of the scientific questions are asked and explained.
Such as:

Episodic memory vs Habitual (or Why did you forget to get the milk when you clearly reminded yourself that morning?), Why is yawning contagious? Can you be hypnotized into committing a crime? What do people born blind see in their dreams…and why? And more...

Sternberg gives up some compelling evidence in his support of these question. While hardly exhaustive (it feels like many of these phenomena are doorways to separate books in themselves), Neurologic felt just the right length to keep me thoroughly interested in the subject to the end. Read it.

Title: Neurologic: the brain's hidden rationale behind our irrational behaviour
Author: Eliezer J. Sternberg

Recommended by James W Māngere Bridge Library

James W was particularlY OccUpied in this Light bOok reViEw by THe sectIon on Subliminal messages which eveRyonE Very much thInks is complEte tWaddle.

27 June, 2016

Whose beak is this? by Gillian Candler

Gillian Candler is an award-winning writer whose previous children's books, like this one, focus on the beauty of nature and the great outdoors. It is no surprise that this fantastic picture book has been shortlisted for this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children.

Candler invites the reader to guess the bird from an illustration of its beak. The names of the birds are all given in English and Maori. The favourites are all here – Kiwi and Tui and others – but also some lesser known birds like the Toroa. The text accompanying the images is short but informative and consistently interesting.

Where the book is so clever is that it teaches science almost without you realising, introducing the concept of adaptation. Children not only see the bird in its natural environment but also gain an understanding of its evolution. It is rare to see science blended so successfully into a picture book aimed at such a young audience.

This is Candler’s first collaboration with the artist and illustrator Fraser Williamson, and Williamson’s illustrations are simply delightful, sharp and vivid and jumping out at the reader. They provide the perfect counterpoint to the text and Candler’s inviting questions.

This book is a real pleasure for any adult to read with their young child and one you will want to pick up again and again. You may be surprised at how many beaks your child knows, and how few you recognise!

Author: Gillian Candler

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. 

Something new [graphic novel] : tales from a makeshift bride by Lucy Knisley

I have been to very few weddings in my life, and only ever helped prepare for one.  Still, my minimal experiences with the planning and running around like headless chickens have been enough for me to know – organising a wedding is serious business.

Enter cartoonist and comic artist Lucy Knisley, who has never really thought about getting married – and certainly not with John, her ex-boyfriend (who she was still madly in love with at the time). However, one thing led to another and before she knew it, Knisley was organizing wedding dresses and arguing with her mother about how many people to invite.

If you’ve ever read anything of hers before, you’ll know that she doesn’t shy away from being honest with herself and her readers. Putting parts of her life on show that you don’t often see or think about (like her terrible, no-good, first ever big argument with her mom; the pressure – from advertising and otherwise - that suddenly bombards you when you update your social media to ‘engaged’; the joy of seeing her fiancée and knowing she’s going to 'marry the heck out of him') and depicting how she reflects back on her own values while suffering through these ‘small’ (not to a bride to be, I’m sure) trials, Knisley makes a lovely autobio comic about the highs and lows of planning the wedding she never expected.

I was a huge fan of Lucy Knisley’s before, and still am now. Art-wise, her books have gotten clearer and more polished (compared to French Milk, which was already beautiful) and her storytelling skills the same. As autobiographical comic artists go, Lucy Knisley is a fave of mine and Something New did not disappoint.

Title: Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Author: Lucy Knisley

Recommended by Dana S, Central Library

Dana S is a library assistant who loves any kind of organising or planning, especially when it involves a list or two and some crafts. She is not, however, very good at:
  • organising;
  • planning; and/or
  • crafts.
As you can see, she's pretty darn good at making a list though - and one out of four ain't bad.

26 June, 2016

Slice Harvester – A Memoir in pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

What first attracted me to this book was of course the triangular beacon of delicious, greasy NYC pizza pie that takes center stage on the cover. And as with the promise of its cover, the pages within rose to the challenge to continue grumbling my tummy. And in my case - and to my husband’s delight, three trips to my local Sal’s pizza. 

Colin is a self-proclaimed punk, a man who has his own personal set of demons that he deals with, while on a mission to try all the pizza joints in New York city and write a review blog about them that becomes an international sensation. 

Shadowing Colin is a hard lifestyle of alcoholism (while working in a bar), coupled by a tendency to compulsively lie to all around him – including himself.  However after 2 ½ years and 436 slices of pizza, his mission helped give him a path forward and an opportunity to indulge his pallet and his gift for writing.

Colin has a clear and authentic punk rocker voice that will make you cringe, laugh and occasionally salivate at his vividly human anecdotes.

Author: Colin Atrophy Hagendorf 

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

24 June, 2016

Art forms in nature : the prints of Ernst Haeckel : one hundred color plates

This is a stunningly beautiful book that will appeal to art lovers as well as those fascinated by the weird and wonderful variations of forms in nature. With 100 plates of amazing illustrations there is plenty to study and enjoy. Submerge yourself in the details, it is a feast for the eyes.

Ernst Haeckel, (1834 - 1919), was born in Prussia, and was a zoologist, evolutionist and professor of comparative anatomy at the University of Jena. He has been credited with introducing the terms phylum, phylogeny, and ecology. He identified many new species of living beings and gave names to thousands of them. Obviously he was also a skilled artist as well.

This volume highlights the research and findings of this natural scientist. Powerful modern microscopes have confirmed the accuracy of Haeckel's prints, which even in their day, became world famous.

Title: Art forms in nature : the prints of Ernst Haeckel : one hundred color plates
Author:  with contributions by Olaf Breidbach and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt and a preface by Richard Hartmann ; [translated from the German by Michele Schons ; edited by Michael Ashdown].

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..

21 June, 2016

A brush with Brown: the landscapes of Capability Brown by Tim Scott Bolton; foreword by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

This book combines two subjects of interest to me; painting and gardening.
Tim Scott Bolton has spent two years completing the 90 or so paintings that grace the pages of his first book and for 40 years he has travelled round Britain painting many of its well known homes in oils and watercolours.

Lancelot (‘Capability’) Brown was born in 1716. Influenced by William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape gardening, it is estimated he was responsible for over 170 gardens in Britain surrounding the finest country houses. His naturalistic landscapes done on a grand scale replaced the older style of formal gardens.
Interesting to see how well he was paid – 6,000 pounds a year in the 1760’s which is the equivalent of 740,000 pounds in todays money. Eventually he bought his own large estate.
A number of books have been released to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth. ‘Capability Brown & his landscape gardens’ by Sarah Rutherford is also in our library.

The author/artist was able to access about a third of the estates that were landscaped by Brown. The paintings are beautiful and it’s interesting to realise that the mature trees we see now were only there in Brown’s imagination at the time of planting.
Bolton says “ Lancelot Brown was lucky to have been born in an aesthetic age, the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment. Today we live in utilitarian times and I fear all I see is ugliness in much that is new.”

Title: A brush with Brown: the landscapes of Capability BrownAuthor: Tim Scott Bolton 
Reviewed by: Claire S.
Claire S works in Information Services, Central Library and enjoys reading, biographies ,art, New Zealand and other interesting bits and pieces.

18 June, 2016

The silent cry by Cathy Glass

Cathy Glass has been a foster parent and has helped many children in her care. It was amazing to see how empathy by the foster carer for the child and their family , makes a difference to them psychologically, and helps them  adjust to the problems that they are facing . Every child is unique and the author shows how a foster parent has to take into consideration the environment that they come from. She shows how to handle boisterous kids  who actually are quite scared and vulnerable underneath their tough exterior. Innocent kids learn the ways of the world through the parent/caregiver who gives them the right guidance . This helps them to grow into well adjusted adults.

Cathy also shows how not to brush off depression problems that young mothers may have after a pregnancy and how important it is to address them with specialized care if a solution is needed. Parents often need help with their children as, it can be overwhelming at times and the foster carer supports them in their journey.

The book shows the importance of a good carer who is sensitive to the needs of a child and is flexible to the demands of a job which can call on their services at a very short notice.

Title: The Silent Cry
Author: Cathy Glass

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library
Kanchan T loves reading biographies and inspirational stories

Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the arts and the media by Roger Horrocks

This newly published book offers an insightful personal commentary on major shifts in New Zealand cultural history from the 1930s until nowadays. It is especially valuable as it is written by a person who, through the most of this period, has been directly involved in shaping and re-inventing the New Zealand art and culture scene.

More than in others, the author is interested in those writers and artists who remain in New Zeland but have a strong international awareness. In a similar way, “think globally, act locally” turns up to be his own life principle.

Emeritus Professor Roger Horrocks is widely known as an expert on the life and work of New Zealand-born artist Len Lye. He founded the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at The University of Auckland and co-founded the Auckland International Film Festival. 

He regards himself a critic, organiser and teacher. Once in a while, he takes a role of an artist too, believing it is beneficial for any good critic, organiser and teacher to experience the process of making art. 

The selection of 21 essays written in the last 30 years covers a whole range of themes related to New Zealand literature, visual arts, music, film and television. With masterly skill, Horrocks discusses the most complex issues in a lively and engaging manner, often referring to his personal interest and experience:

“If I am excited about something new, I want to share it, and most of my essays have taken their starting-point from that impulse – a crusade of sorts”.

Title: Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the arts and the media
Author: Roger Horrocks

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.

17 June, 2016

Before we visit the goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Before we visit the goddess is the latest novel from the author of the much-acclaimed The mistress of spices and One amazing thing.

This Indo-American tale takes us on an extraordinary journey from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston,Texas.

It showcases the lives of 3 women related by birth - a grandmother, mother and daughter. Each is estranged from her mother, for various reasons, sometimes silly reasons, as is often the way in families. While breaking off ties brings with it a sweet sense of freedom, it’s also accompanied by loneliness and anguish that must be borne on one’s own.

Mistakes and misjudgements are painful aspects of the relationships and they give us an inside look into the struggles many mothers and daughters experience. Love choices don’t necessarily offer the escape that they first promise, and there is no happily ever after ending.

The story is told from the 1950s to 2020 in no chronological order and always from a different point of view; but even though the voices are from different generations, they appear to face the same troubles that the older generation faced. It also shows quite powerfully, how decisions made early in life can affect others, including future generations.

A few other characters shape the lives of the three women and their impact is brought in naturally and realistically. In fact every complex emotion in this book is portrayed authentically, which I think is possibly its greatest strength.

This warm and wise story about keeping connections and one’s independence has got to be instantly recognisable to most women. Read it.

Title: Before we visit the goddess
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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.

15 June, 2016

Very good lives: the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination by J.K. Rowling

Rarely do I get a chance to recommend a speech as an entertaining bedtime read, but when J.K. Rowling is the writer, an exception must be made.

This book is the published commencement address that Ms Rowling gave at Harvard University in 2008, an honour which she took seriously enough to be ill over. The book has been placed in the Dewey area of “personal improvement": a do-goody area I usually avoid as reading within it usually has the perverse effect of making me feel worse about myself. However, it could just as well have been classified under “humour”: a much more palatable choice and one bound to make anyone feel good.

For her lucky Harvard University audience, J.K. Rowling discusses the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination succinctly and wittily in this light volume that is interspersed with descriptive graphics that reinforce the story on each page. It is a lovely looking little hard-cover and is the sort of book that improves with multiple readings and would make a very good gift for a new graduate (or a struggling would-be writer).

Since reading this little gem, I’ve started taking a closer look at the do-goody section lately in the hopes that another witty treasure may be found amongst them.

Very good lives: the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination by J.K. Rowling.

Reviewed by 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.

14 June, 2016

Always the bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Chick-lits aren't my go-to when I pick up a book. I tend to prefer - well, scroll down to the bottom, that little paragraph about me will fill you in.

Sometimes though, I just want to read outside my usual genres, and there is something to be said for browsing the catalogue with no expectations and borrowing a title on a whim. 

It was during such a time that I borrowed Always the bridesmaid on OverDrive, and this whim left me pleasantly surprised.

In this book, we meet Maddie Fraser, a young woman perpetually stuck in the background: her crazy boss treats her like a slave, her ex traded her in, her friends take her for granted, and she's always the bridesmaid.

Suddenly, one best friend is in wedding countdown while the other faces marriage meltdown, and let's add to that the fact her ex is also headed down the aisle.

Maddie soon finds herself juggling bridezilla texts, late night counselling sessions and a chance at promotion at work, only to wonder whether it's time to stop putting everything and everyone else first, and go after what she wants.

Despite having no expectations when I began this book, I really enjoyed it. It was light, moved along quickly and Maddie is very sympathetic as a main character - there was many a time where I became offended on her behalf! 

I also liked Kelk's exploration of female friendships, how she took Maddie on journey from people-pleaser to self confident woman and her take on different kinds of relationships.

If you're keen for a light-hearted but heart-warming chick-lit, check out Always the bridesmaid now!

Title: Always the bridesmaid
Author: Lindsey Kelk

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.

13 June, 2016

Boundaries: people and places of Central Otago by Brian Turner

From the deep South comes another fabulous book by poet, author, cyclist and conservationist  Brian Turner.
Raised in Dunedin he now lives in Oturehua (population around 30) in the Ida Valley,  Maniototo, Central Otago.

To many of us in the north, Central is a mythical land tinged with the romance of the gold mining days. Vast unpopulated landscapes, mountain ranges capped with snow, vineyards, rivers, tussock, historic buildings - scenery to die for in other words. Small close knit communities – ‘the way New Zealand used to be’…. we think.
Hmmnnnn….. Read this book and think again. Turner tells it as he witnesses it.

The attack against nature is taking place here as it is world-wide. Wilding pines, tussock removal, dairying degrading water quality. Financial gain coming before preserving natural landscapes.
Beautiful photography, Turner’s poems and local stories create a wonderful sense of this special place.
Loved it.

Title: Boundaries: people and places of Central Otago

Author: Brian Turner; photography by Steve Calveley
Recommended by Claire S, Information Services, Central Library

Claire S enjoys reading biographies, art, New Zealand and other interesting bits and pieces.

The Five Stages of Collapse by Dmitry Orlov

Well yes I agree the title sounds awful and negativity is bad right?

Actually, no. Without being all 'we're doomed', we can look at the real world, see where things are going wrong and need fixing. And then make it so that things don't turn out the worst possible way.

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer who writes about the state of humanity and it's systems and institutions and where we may be headed. He has written other bestselling books and many articles.

He lists the five stages as Financial, Commercial, Political, Social and Cultural collapse and warns that we definitely need to arrest the decline of our society at stage 2, as going beyond that is much harder to deal with.

It is fascinating to look at the various countries around the world, such as Somalia where these events have happened and see how and what could have been done to prevent it.

Since the global financial crisis in 2008 the world seems to be teetering on the edge. Banking fraud, climate change, tax havens, political scandal, corporate media, the EU, Brexit in the UK, the unprecedented rise of opposite political mavericks in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the list goes on.

Here in New Zealand we have a housing crisis, infrastructure crisis (notably in auckland with woeful public transport) and the defunding of health, education, public broadcasting and other spheres and the slow dismantling of the welfare state which gave us a very successful egalitarian society.

You would think that this is a book which condemns us to a very uncertain future, but Mr Orlov believes it is possible to work together to avoid the worst. Being clear-eyed and honest about the risks and then working to mitigate them is up to all of us.

As a new grandmother I'll be doing my utmost to make a better country for them to inherit.

Highly recommended.

Title: The Five Stages of Collapse
Author: Dmitry Orlov
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.

12 June, 2016

A million years in a day: a curious history of everyday life from the Stone Age to the phone age by Greg Jenner

Did you ever wake up one morning, turn off your alarm and get out of bed thinking, ‘How exactly did this all start?’ Who invented beds? When did we start telling time?' Greg Jenner, in this delightful and funny tome, does his best to give us the answers to such questions.

This book takes the reader on a journey through history of how your everyday routine came to be. Greg has taken an ordinary Saturday to structure this book and each chapter visits the different routines we as humans tend to follow on such a lazy day. Covering topics ranging from time, food, clothes, sleeping, alcohol, communication and many other basics in our modern daily life, Greg Jenner manages to give a representation of the history of each, usually starting at how early humans did things and then jumping forward to the big revolution in each area.

Now I don’t want anyone to think, “This is going to be so boring,” and not venture further into this review. The best part is; Greg Jenner just happens to be an historical adviser for the Horrible Histories TV show. So this book, in most parts, reads a lot like a Horrible histories book for adults, with silly jokes and a look at some of the more disgusting angles of history too. Be warned, eating your lunch while reading most chapters will be hazardous to your health!!

Greg Jenner, in my opinion, is an immensely hilarious and intuitive writer. Filled with facts, information, history and everything in between, this book will either have you glued to it or choking in laughter!! After reading this book, I have learned more about our own existence than I would have liked to!!

So, if you are curious like me about the everyday things that rule our lives, have a read of A million years in a day.

Title: A million years in a day: a curious history of everyday life from the Stone Age to the phone age
Author: Greg Jenner

Recommended by Surani R, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

Surani R enjoys reading biographies, travelogues, some non-fiction, and loves fiction that makes you laugh out loud. She also finds comfort in children’s fiction with thought-provoking stories.

09 June, 2016

What comes next and how to like it. by Abigail Thomas

Is it naff to describe this book as a celebration of life? It is isn’t it? 

So instead (and running the risk of too many cringe worthy superlatives), lets just say this book is a collection of reflections, meditations on life, following wherever the author’s  mind wanders. It is told in simple anecdotes, some only a paragraph on a page, most never more than one page long.

 Each thought or reflection has a simple heading and then it is as if Abigail Thomas is having an intimate conversation with just you, the reader. She doesn’t need to paint a laborious back story so you understand networks of relationships, her artistry is such that with an economy of words you understand the currents of life and regard between people. 

You don’t need to have read Thomas’ earlier work in order to appreciate the understated beauty of this book, although I have in fact read her earlier work and that was equally as beautiful. I kept turning to the back cover of the book to look at the author’s photo because even though she is clear about her age and stage in life, her writing has an ageless, timeless quality.

 I feel as though it would be impossible to ever tire of reading Abigail Thomas, her train of thought, her reflections. She ignites a certain something within the reader, a sort of  awakening or heightened  sensibility where you look anew at the patterns and symmetry in life, celebrating both the harmonious aspects and learning to appreciate the quirks for their sheer awkwardness. 

I think I want to own this book, and that is a big thing to say since I have long considered the library as my own outsized personal bookcase of my favourites. 

Author:  Abigail Thomas

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 earns the title of worst-mother-ever.

08 June, 2016

Real modern

As someone brought up by 50s parents (although I wasn’t born during this period), this book helped prompt discussions with my mother. 

Vintage / retro appeals to me – although I’m not planning to redecorate my house, or completely change my style, to suit. But there are definitely aspects of this period which draw me in. 
And, not just me. As the profusion of vintage / retro items / shops / events show. It’s a style that has become popular and fashionable. 

Real modern, lavishly illustrated with photographs of everyday objects which represent the era, places these items firmly in their historical context. Instead of a homogeneous world with little strife, 1950s and 60s New Zealand comes to life. 

If you have older family members around, and want to trawl their memories before they, sadly, can’t share them any more, then get out Real modern and use it as a conversation starter. 

Title: Real modern: everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s.  
Author: Bronwyn Labrum. 

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. 

Vernacular: The everyday landscape of New Zealand, by Philip Smith and David Straight

Is it possible to write a book about Kiwi ingenuity without using that phrase, or mentioning tired old number-eight wire? Philip Smith may have done just that in Vernacular: The everyday landscape of New Zealand.

A landscape designer, Smith travelled New Zealand with photographer David Straight. Together they looked for interesting power poles, boardwalks, bike racks, manhole covers and other public constructions that are integral to people’s lives but unsung and often unnoticed.

The modesty of these useful things and the anonymity of their creators is refreshing in an era where expensive or exotic materials, identifiable branding and all-round “look at me”-ism are all the rage.

Plenty of books purport to celebrate national quirkery but are really little more than quick and colourful stocking-fillers. Vernacular, published in 2015 by Potton and Burton (formerly Craig Potton Publishing), is not one of those. 

It can hold your attention: it’s singular and intriguing, as judges for the inaugural NZ Photo Book of the Year Awards said when they chose Vernacular as a finalist. They praised its good photos, great depth and pared back design (by an unnamed designer) that “doesn’t shout at you – it creates a harmonious balance between the text and the images”.

Smith is known for designing gardens that bring together our rarer native flora and underappreciated perennials: the flowering plants of many twentieth-century childhoods. Here his thoughtful, musing essays further explore his interest in the intersections between nature and artifice as well as between form and function. 

Straight lets his pictures speak for him, online (with Instagram and his website), in magazine work and in Vernacular

The book is arranged mostly under plain, practical headings like Urban, Rural, Wild Places, Across, and Up and Down ­– but there are also riffs on such tantalising topics as “Anonymous Genius of the Suburbs” and “Democracy of the Goat Track”. 

I found this a thought-provoking publication, pleasing to the eye and the mind. 

Title: Vernacular: The everyday landscape of New Zealand
Author: Philip Smith

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.

03 June, 2016

Time travelling with a hamster by Ross Welford.

The idea of time travel has always fascinated me, and this children's book deals with the conundrums posed by this method of travel in an easily understandable way. Al Chaudhury's  adventure begins when he attempts to carry out the instructions in the letters from his father that are given to him on his twelfth birthday. Written just before his untimely death, he tells his son of the time-travelling machine he invented in the hope that Al can change history and prevent the childhood accident that will eventually kill him.

If Al decides to try, as he obviously does, he must travel back to 1984 to carry out certain tasks, all without losing Adam Shearer (the hamster) who he takes along for the ride. Fun and problems follow because changing the past is not quite as simple as it would at first appear.

 A humorous read, although slightly darker in places than I expected, it certainly highlights the possible pitfalls of trying to change history. A gripping read that informs while posing interesting questions, all without detracting from the story. This book will captivate young readers interested in science, time travel or just a great story.

Title: Time Travelling with a hamster
Author: Ross Welford
Reviewed by Lynda T, East Coast Bays.

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

02 June, 2016

Storm front by Jim Butcher

Storm front is the first book in Jim Butcher’s “The Dresden Files”. An urban fantasy set in Chicago, it’s written like a cross between The Maltese Falcon and Harry Potter.

Harry Dresden, private eye and Chicago’s only professional wizard, gets called in to investigate a gruesome double murder that has the police stumped. A couple have been found in a locked hotel room, their hearts ripped from their chests: someone is using magic to murder.

To find the culprit Harry will have to cross paths with Chicago’s mob, a vampire madam, demons and the mysterious Shadowman. Plus he’ll have to find the guilty party quickly because the White Council, a group dedicated to keeping the supernatural secret from the public, has dispatched its own investigator and has decided Harry’s probably guilty. Harry must find the real murderer or die in their place.

The Dresden Files is a well written series with a great blend of action, humour and drama. There’s a large supporting cast of interesting characters who feel as if they have lives of their own and are not just there for Harry to explain things to.

So far The Dresden Files are fifteen books long (around twenty have been planned), a collection of short stories (Side Jobs) and a novella (Back Up) featuring a supporting character in the main role (contains spoilers: do not read before finishing book 6).

If you like detective stories and well written urban fantasy check out The Dresden Files, also Benedict Jacka’s “Alex Verus” series which is similar to Butcher’s in tone, premise and hero’s back story.

Title: Storm front
Author: Jim Butcher

Recommended by Murray L, Devonport Library

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

Just kids by Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s memoir reads like a beautifully crafted mythical tale. A 20 year old girl arrives in New York City with a head full of poetry inspired by Blake, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Genet. She lives to create, through words and drawing and painting. She meets a beautiful boy who is an emerging visual artist and a kindred spirit. They become lovers and each other’s muses and supporters. His name is Robert Mapplethorpe and Just Kids is partly their love story and also about their coming-of-age as artists.

Downtown New York in the late sixties and early 1970s, seen through Smith’s eyes, is a magical place filled with wonder and possibility. Patti and Mapplethorpe’s social and cultural lives centre on the Chelsea Hotel (where they lived for a time) and the legendary club, Max’s Kansas City, where they rub shoulders with Janis Joplin, William Burroughs, Andy Warhol and his Factory scene.

Eventually they separate, due to Mapplethorpe’s emerging homosexuality, but stay close friends and remain a significant creative force in each other’s lives. Smith moves on to form relationships with playwright Sam Shepherd and then Basketball Diaries' author, Jim Carroll.

Smith’s book is a mixture of levity (including a funny anecdote about Allan Ginsburg offering to buy her a sandwich, mistaking her for an attractive young boy) and gravity (Mapplethorpe’s death at the age of 42 from AIDS in 1989).

I loved the evocative black and white photographs accompanying the book – some are pictures of their early work, and of the couple posing together looking symbiotically beautiful and androgynous. Those of you hoping to see some of Mapplethorpe’s decidedly NSFW stuff will be disappointed though. However; it is Smith’s words that are the most evocative - with the same poetry, rhythm and cadence of her beautiful song lyrics.

Title: Just kids
Author: Patti Smith
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.