Hastings District Libraries

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

“I am a blood soaked girl.”

Right from the first line I was hooked.

The book follows Minnow Bly (obviously) as she finally escapes from the Kevinian cult where she spent the last twelve years of her life. She is promptly arrested for the violent assault on a young man, questioned about the destruction of the community where she lived, the death of its Prophet, and is shipped off to juvie.

Oh, and she has no hands.

We learn right away that they were cut off by someone at the community, but it is through a series of flash backs and interviews that the story of her dark past comes to light. We come see how she was always struggling against ‘The Prophet’ and his strict way of life; she was whipped and beaten for any disobedience, her once close mother became distant and emotionally removed, her sister (born in the community) served the Prophet with religious zeal and would not leave the community no matter how hard Minnow tried, and we finally learn the horrific truth about her hands, and the lengths that the Prophet would go to make sure that his will was followed.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. The Kevinian religion seemed quite ridiculous – God was born in the 1700’s and is a boy named Charlie, and women were forbidden to read or voice their opinions and had no choice over who they would marry. Anyone who questioned the Prophet was punished, in some cases by death. They were incredibly sexist and racist and all the things that most cults are portrayed as being. But Minnow's story was so interesting and heartbreaking that I kept reading. It was horrific, dark and definitely not for the faint-hearted, full of incredible details, allegations of sexual abuse, and a (quite tame) look at what goes on at a juvenile detention centre. I wouldn’t recommend it for those new to the YA section, but it is definitely a book I think you should read.

Posted by Sas

Thursday, 20 October 2016

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell

Master storyteller, Maggie O’Farrell, is back with a fairly ambitious novel following the life and loves of Daniel Sullivan, a linguist from New York. At the start of the book, Daniel is married to recluse ex-actress, Claudette, who he admits is crazy. It’s a happy marriage, until Daniel is undone by discovering that a woman he dated as a student died soon after he returned home for his mother’s funeral. He’d never heard from her again.

The story switches back and forth, between Daniel and Claudette, filling in the details of their former lives. How Claudette was discovered by a Swedish filmmaker, with whom she went on to make Oscar winning movies, as well as having a son, Ari. Then there’s Claudette’s daring escape to the wilds of Ireland. Both Daniel and Claudette are difficult characters - impulsive, passionate, determined. Daniel seems frequently bent on self-destruction, drinking too much and walking out on family, on friends. Claudette has no forgiveness for infidelity, having learnt the hard way.

The narration is picked up by numerous other characters: Daniel’s flatmate, Todd; his children, Niall, Marithe and Phoebe, as more gaps are filled in, taking us from the mid-1980s to the present day. This makes for quite a disjointed narrative flow and as a reader I found I was just getting to know a character, when all at once the story flips back or forward, to another continent and to yet another viewpoint. It’s a lot to get your head around.

Nevertheless, I persevered. Like Daniel, the reader is dragged to some fairly low places, before a flicker of hope begins to rekindle. What keeps you going is O’Farrell’s lively writing, full of warmth, wit and intuition. She is a writer of immense compassion, not only for her characters, but for the human condition in general. Over all, This Must Be the Place is well worth the effort.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: This Must Be the Place

Monday, 17 October 2016

Spring Cleaning

Traditionally Labour weekend is set aside for the annual spring clean in many New Zealand homes. Maybe you adhere to this regime or you just like reading about cleaning and sorting. If so, read on for tried and true tips for a clean and tidy house.

Most cleaning experts start with the decluttering process. Starting with Throw Out Fifty Things: clear the clutter, find your life. Gail Blanke, author, life coach and motivator, encourages the reader to eliminate both physical and emotional clutter. She advocates for the three bag approach; one for throw outs, one for giveaways and one for selling.

In Rosalie Maggio’s The Art of Organizing Anything, the benefits of making lists is one of the book’s ten principals to getting your home, your office and even your life into order. One of the useful tips I am keen to do is a simple solution to the multitude of power chargers we seem to accumulate. Plug all the charging cables into a surge protector power board and bundle the cords into a cable cover.

If the thought of being so organised is a bit beyond you then check out Messie No More by Sandra Felton. Here the reader is given the tools to overcome the roadblocks to being organised.

But no more philosophising! Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of spring cleaning. For the perfectionist there is Cindy Harris’s Keeping House. No part of the house is overlooked although I am not sure I could keep up with her regime of cleaning the bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms as well as washing and vacuuming the floors every day!

For a more gentle approach to the art of sorting and cleaning (and real quick tips) try 10-Minute Housekeeping by Rose R Kennedy. Although I have to say her handy tips, like not turning on all the lights so visitors can’t see the dirt, may not appeal to everyone.

Recovering Martha Stewart junkie, Lisa Quinn, gives the modern mother all the short cuts to domestic liberation in Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets. From having a clean house 30 minutes before guests arrive to seventeen meals from a deli chicken, Quinn has got everything covered.

Looking for other uses for lemons and grapefruit? Janey Lee Grace’s Imperfectly Natural Home recommends using lemons for cleaning the kitchen bench and the use of grapefruit and a bit of salt for really grimy surfaces. Baking soda has traditionally had many uses around the home but did you know you can use it to scrub plastic items that have developed, with age, that tacky feeling? Bicarbonate of Soda: cleaning, health and beauty, recipes has this and many more tips for use in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry.

So whether you are looking for motivation to spring clean the house or ideas on sorting out your home then visit one of our libraries. Alternatively skip the spring cleaning books and head to our magazine section and browse through our lovely selection of house and garden magazines!

Posted by Miss Moneypenny

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer - an audiobook

I have recently been trying out audiobooks through ePUKAPUKA. I chose this as it was listed as Sci-fi dystopia.

An unnamed catastrophe happens and our unnamed female character is walled off in an area around a winter lodge. The wall is unseen and impassable. Parts of a town can be seen from the edge of the wall, but no explanation for the disaster is ever actually attempted.

The premise was quite original and the story goes along quite nicely for a while, but then it suffers from a lack of further development. I checked later what year this was written and it was 1963. As such Haushofer suggests some ideas that were well ahead of her time and that are again taken up by other authors years later. Especially Stephen King in Under the Dome. Of course many authors have done similar things dealing with isolation and the breakdown of normal society.

As an audiobook The Wall is slightly limited as there is only one character in the book and one voice gets a bit monotonous. Altogether it comes in at around 9 hours.

There are plenty of interesting audiobooks including a number of older Sci-fi ones available on the ePukapuka site. Well worth having a look.

Posted by The Library Cat

Catalogue link: The Wall

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Compound by S A Bodeen

“Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they've become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy… Eli's father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—or sorry?” – Goodreads Blurb.

I really enjoyed this book, I did. I just felt like there needed to be more. Not in a way that I loved it so much I just didn't want it to end. More like it took a while to get to the dramatic plot twist, and from there on it was very hurried.

I still liked it. I just felt like it needed to be more fleshed out in places. Like why was the father crazy? Why did he want to hide from the world? WHY was he worrying his family about potentially running out of food when he could have easily got Phil to bring more?! There were just a lot of unanswered questions. Then the novel stopped so abruptly, so of course there are more novels. At least one that has already been published, and there are probably more to come.

Honestly, I don’t think I’d bother with the rest. But if you’re a fan of books like The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games, but don’t like all the emotions, romantic relationships, or hefty political views, then maybe give this one a read.

Or maybe just wait until they turn it into a movie. They’re turning all YA books into movies these days.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: The Compound

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Invincible Summer is a story about friendship, ambition and loyalty, and how people’s expectations change over the course of their lives, or in this case the twenty years between Chapter One and the end of the book.

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien are four friends in Bristol who have been meeting up regularly and are now on the brink of new things. Eva has an internship at a London bank; Benedict is embarking on a doctorate that will put him at the forefront of physics research; brother and sister, Sylvie and Lucien, are planning a trip to India.

Slowly the reader learns of Eva’s unrequited fascination for Lucien, while Benedict pines for Eva, and of party-girl Sylvie’s hopes of being taken seriously as an artist. Lucien makes a good income in nefarious ways. The shifting sands of their relationships form the backbone of the plot while in the background are world events we can all remember - the dawn of the new Millennium; the suicide bombers of September 11; the collapse of the financial markets in 2009. The hedonistic London club scene and Eva's hectic career as a trader contrast nicely with more bucolic episodes set in Corfu and Languedoc. And the summers whiz past.

Each character is put through the mill, making mistakes that throw their lives off-course until by the end of the book, they have grown up enough to make some sensible decisions. The title comes from these words from Albert Camus: In the depths of winter, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer, which fits nicely with the way the friends overcome difficulties in their lives and their occasional meetings in summery settings.

Alice Adams has created a page turner that kept me reading in spite of the lengthy time span and the less-than-original cast of characters. What she does really well is create people you care about, giving them challenges and building towards a satisfying resolution. This is a debut novel and I shall look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Invincible Summer

Thursday, 6 October 2016

It Chooses You by Miranda July

We’ve all done things to procrastinate when the task at hand seems simply too hard. It Chooses You is Miranda July’s personal form of procrastination. It started simply enough; reading the PennySaver (America’s version of Trade and Exchange) as a way to avoid working on a screenplay she was struggling to finish. But July found that reading the ads was simply not enough, she wanted to know more about these people, why were they selling this hairdryer/leather jacket/care bear and what did it say about them? The result is a wonderful collection of interviews and accompanying photographs of everyday people living their personal version of everyday life.

July is a writer/director/actor with a very particular style. The ability to observe everyday mundane things with a unique honesty of detail lends reality to her work that’s often more true than life itself. She talks often about the most human of things, the everyday habits and obsessions we would never share with anyone she talks of openly and thoughtfully. She’s not scared to share her personal world, which is told throughout the book and somewhat links the interviews. Perhaps her willingness to share and her understanding of human nature is the reason the interviews get so deep so quick, though that might just be the kind of people that sell in the PennySaver.

It Chooses You is a voyeuristic look into another world, often slightly left field but always touching and real. July lets herself get wrapped up in the lives of the people she’s decided to meet. She uses them to disconnect, and then reconnect, with the characters in her neglected screenplay. There’s a quirkiness to July’s work that I can’t help but love. I’ve enjoyed her novels and her movies, and if you enjoy this one you’re in for a real treat.

Posted by Jessica

Catalogue link: It Chooses You