24 July, 2017

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn.

Imagine that you can time travel back to the time to 1815 London when Jane Austen was alive. You have a mission, to get to know her and attain her unpublished manuscript, (and possibly diagnose the illness that led to her death within two years.)

Two travelers, Liam and Rachel have this project. Posing as brother and sister newly arrived from Jamaica, with a sizeable amount of counterfeit money, they set up house in London. With a letter of introduction to Jane's brother, Henry sets about ingratiating their way into his life, and they wait for Jane to visit so they can befriend her as well. They must secure an invitation to the countryside where Jane lives so they can access the manuscript. 

This book really puts you in that time of history. The details she included about England in 1815 make it easy to visualize the era  The restrictions on woman, the social mores, dealing with the clothes, servants, food etc, all the details give you a sense of place. The two must constantly worry about the risk of discovery, and there is also the possibility of altering the future with their actions, but it becomes difficult not to step in to save the chimney sweep's boy, or try to save Henry's bank, or even to save Jane's life. 

This story really engaged me, I didn't know how things were going to work out, and I like a book I can't predict. It is cataloged as science fiction because of the time travel, but don't let this discourage you from reading this fabulous and creative book. An entertaining read for any reader but a must read for Jane Austen fans.

TitleThe Jane Austen Project
AuthorKathleen A. Flynn

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

23 July, 2017

Five Strings by Apirana Taylor

In the 19th century Russian classic Dead Souls, the protagonist Chichikov wittily declares, “Love us when we're nasty, since anyone would love us when we're nice”. The very same provocative message comes up in this newly published New Zealand novel by distinguished Maori author Apirana Taylor.

Taylor’s characters are anything but nice: homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, prostitutes and gang members scraping by on the fringes of society.

They are not all dead souls though. Mack and Puti are a young couple wandering the streets of Auckland. Drug and alcohol addicts, mentally unstable and prone to violence, they are hardly able to take care of themselves, but they do care for each other.

There is not much romance and sentiment in this relationship. She takes him home when he is wasted and stoned; when she shits herself in bed he cleans it up. Whether you call it love or not, it seems to be something that keeps them both alive.

How long will it last? Will either of them be redeemed?

The narrative time frame shifts, looking back into the characters’ childhood, teenage years and more recent history. Gradually, we get to know and understand them better, realising where and when it all started and what made them the way they are.

Five Strings is the first Maori novel published this year and the second novel by Taylor, who is also a poet, musician and painter. The book launch took place in May at the Auckland Central Library, depicted in the novel as a place where one of the characters likes to hang out.

Title: Five Strings

Author: Apirana Taylor

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 July, 2017

SOME WORLDS by Emmy Rākete

It’s International Zine Month, Auckland Zinefest is on and Central Library is launching people facefirst into zines.

I’m never quite sure what to make of zines. Sure, there’s something thrilling about making and shoving our creations immediately into people’s hands, genuinely published, even if self-published. There’s a rawness to the DIY self-expression vibe that frees us to make things that are crappy or bewildering or personal or imperfect. Like other self-publishing formats, zines validate our desire to create wildly, to say something, to be heard and treasured and seen, even if briefly.

It does mean, however, that as readers we frequently shipwreck on the shores of philosophical aesthetics. Without official publishers as gatekeepers, we end up having to do our own screening, and there are so many zines. What should I pick? Is this zine good? What’s a ‘good zine’-?

See: Some Worlds. It’s an A5 booklet, black and white, flimsy. Small virus-like creatures squirm across the page. “These are my machines,” Rākete writes. “The page is their world. Just like this planet is our world. I control my machines by putting them on the page.”

Holes appear in the paper. They grow as you read, eating the white spaces. Machines multiply. “They are digging through the page,” Rākete writes. “All the time they are producing holes in their world. Holes to the outside.”

Holes spread. The machines spawn limbs, push words away. “The page is their home,” Rākete writes, “but also a technology used to control them. There is something exterior to the page... we can only recognise this exteriority as a hole.”

The last page barely holds together. It’s mostly holes.

“NO EMANCIPATION”, Rākete writes, letters contorted in the gaps, “WITHOUT APOCALYPSE.”

What is this?

Is this good? It’s bewildering, the visual simplicity of a picture book paired with political theory. It’s compelling too, adult theories of power explained like a child's story about digging machines. It’s a metaphor about finding freedom by destroying the world. It’s pared-down leftist ideology about escaping the devil we know. It was probably made in Microsoft Paint. I love it.

I love it. Does that make it good? Is this a good zine? But what's 'good'-?

Author: Emmy Rākete

Reviewed by Valerie T, Central City Library

Valerie T 
loves Shakespeare, fairytales, Trinitarian theology, twentieth century poetry and picture books on political ideologies.

17 July, 2017

Damn his blood : being a true and detailed history of the most barbarous and inhumane murder at Oddingley and the quick and awful retribution / Peter Moore (book)

When we think of 18th century England, we think of the Brontes, Jane Austin, Thomas Hardy and others. Demure drawing-rooms and afternoon teas, balls, coaches and an idyllic rural life peopled by dimpled dairymaids and bucolic farmers.

Here we have the portrayal of the rural working-class as they lived and worked in a small English village. The farmers and the landowners, the parson and all the working-class servants, farm-hands, visiting tradesmen and others.

It's a gripping and realistic portrait of the relationships in a small rural community and the tensions which can arise living so close to each other. The circumstances of the murder and its aftermath make fascinating reading, and the author brings the characters very much to life.

The murders featured in the book were notorious at the time and even now the local inn has a sign telling visitors the story and what happened.

Recommended if you fancy a true story, with a gripping yarn and a whodunit, with a twist at the end which shows us who the murderer was and why.
Reviewed by Clare K. Massey Library

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.

16 July, 2017

A year between friends: 3191 miles apart by Maria Alexandra Vettese & Stephanie Congdon Barnes

With a simple design and elegant lines this delightful book caught my eye as I browsed through the shelves. I’m not usually one who makes her own soap or tie-dye clothes for that matter, but for some reason I felt compelled to read and find out. Perhaps it was the friendship that was being celebrated and shared that sealed the deal.

Maria and Stephanie began their friendship a decade ago when they embarked on a year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings  on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. A year between friends delves into their most recent project from the year 2015. Organised into monthly chapters we see into the private lives of these friends and share their joys, heartbreaks, and triumphs. Readers get to enjoy handmade crafts, seasonal recipes, notes on simple living, daily inspirations, and almost 400 photographs.

I enjoyed it all; especially their personal stories which were filled with snippets of wisdom, love, loss and new life. The joint portrait of these two inspirational women in this book offers more to readers than your average craft book. We see into their lives through the lenses of their cameras along with their letters. We share their triumphs and tears. And mostly, we get a glimpse into the strong bond of friendship between them. What captivated me the most were the delights of motherhood both women shared.

Readers who are after inspiration to start living a simpler life, a recipe on making fabulous scones, mending a sweater or making a mobile from a cherished collection will greatly enjoy this read.

Title: A year between friends: 3191 miles apart
Author: Maria Alexandra Vettese & Stephanie Congdon Barnes

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.

12 July, 2017

Victorians undone by Kathryn Hughes

Fascinating – an investigating into how the Victorians thought about bodies, as expressed through five subjects. The author also makes you think about biographies and the lack of physical detail. And discusses how physical the Victorian era was - how 'in-your-face' other people's bodies were. 

There is the story of Lady Flora – a member of young Victoria’s court – and her ever-growing stomach. Was she pregnant? Which sheds light onto Victorian medical examinations. Diagnosis by mail, anyone?

What about the popularity of beards – fashionable? Unfashionable? How does this reflect the Darwin’s Origin of Species?

Or poor Fanny Adams – the source of the saying ‘Sweet FA’. 

Obscure, seemingly disconnected facts are well-woven together in an entertaining manner. 

Title: Victorians undone: tales of the flesh in the age of decorum. 
Author: Kathryn Hughes. 

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. 

01 July, 2017

The dog master by W. Bruce Camaron

Way, way back in time groups of Homo sapiens co-existed in an area somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  They each have their own traditions and are more than a little wary of each other.  This story follows  a man on his own, estranged from his people and two other groups, one calling themselves the Kindred the other the Wolfen. 
The fellow on his own dens in with a paralysed she-wolf and her cubs, gaining acceptance from them as he is their only provider of meat.  He seems the most likely person to forge the first human-canine pact, but the Wolfden have especial affinity for wolves and model their society on wolf packs and even donate meat to a favoured wolf.  All of the humans know that wolves are dangerous, but then all of their lives are full of danger. 
The people here may not have many possessions but they are fully human; proud, greedy, wilful, kind, curious and prepared to invent explanations for the ways of the world around them. 

Title:The dog master : a novel of the first dog
Author: Cameron, W. Bruce

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