Hastings District Libraries

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Oxygen by William Trubridge

I now knew that freediving was my passion and my path. I relished the idea of dedicating myself to it, of giving over every aspect of myself in the quest to redefine human aquatic limits.

Be warned – reading this memoir will make you unconsciously hold your breath as you imagine diving to depths of 100-plus metres on a single breath of air.

William Trubridge is a multi world-record holding freediver and he is the current world champion – his deepest dive to date is a staggering 102 metres without the aid of flippers.

The reader gets the feeling this man should have been born with gills; such is his affinity with the ocean. William literally grew up on the ocean; leaving his birthplace of England with his parents and brother when he was a baby, and sailing around the world for most of his childhood before the family settled in Hawke’s Bay.

Trubridge seems to have just the right temperament for an elite sportsperson; single-minded, passionate, dedicated and driven to improving his performance. William practices yoga and has used yogic breathing techniques to his advantage whilst free diving. His relationship with the underwater world seems almost spiritual at times.

Free divers can experience alarming (certainly to me – one can only sympathise with his poor mother!) side-effects from lack of oxygen. Called ‘The Samba’ within the sport, divers sometimes experience involuntary shaking and jerking upon reaching the surface of the water. Briefly losing consciousness when surfacing is sometimes another ill-effect; although ‘safety divers’ are present. Trubridge describes the tragic death of a fellow diver who did not regain consciousness and the effects on himself and the free diving community.

I would highly recommend anyone reading Oxygen look up YouTube videos (including a piece by the American 60 Minutes television programme) of some of William’s dives. Although he describes his dives in the book in great detail, the video footage is amazing and gives you a real appreciation of the skill and dangers involved in this sport.

Oxygen is an in-depth and interesting memoir about an elite sportsperson and his life.

Posted by Katrina

Catalogue link: Oxygen

Monday, 15 January 2018

Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

“3:47 a.m. That's when they come for Wren Clemens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp." - Publisher's blurb

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can't put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive.”

Wren’s home life is pretty stable. She has two parents who want the best for her (even if they have trouble showing that most of the time), an older sister (that tries her best to ignore her, the way older siblings have been known to), and a younger brother (that Wren absolutely adores). You would think that Wren would be relatively well-balanced and grateful for her lot in life. But she’s not. And it frustrates me to no end.

Smoking (both cigarettes and weed) from a young age, drinking, shoplifting – Wren is lost, and heading down a dangerous road. Tired and out of options, her parents sign her up for a brutal, tough-love survival camp to get her to sober up and put her life back on track. But can Wren survive the harsh desert? And more importantly, can she survive being left alone with her thoughts? Wren is forced to take long hikes, learn how to make fires without matches, help dig latrines, and (gasp) live without her cell phone. And she does it all very reluctantly. Kicking and screaming and swearing the whole way.

I found it hard to like Wren at first. She is vindictive, selfish and predictable – a perfect stereotype of a white middle class rebellious teen. Thankfully though it is not because of bad writing, but as a place for her character to grow from. Over the course of her eight weeks at camp she learns a lot. Not just wilderness skills, but about herself. Her insecurities and regrets, her strengths and weaknesses. The girl who leaves camp is definitely not the one who was blindfolded and dragged there at a horrible hour of the morning, still recovering from the night before. Through beautiful and insightful writing Wendelin Van Draanen introduces us to a trainwreck, and shows us how she pulls her life back together.

Posted by Sas

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The first mystery novel featuring detective Aaron Falk, The Dry, took the world by storm, winning for author Jane Harper a CWA Golden Dagger Award. Soon after, she’s back with the second in the series, Force of Nature. This time it’s a missing person’s case set in a mountainous bush area in Victoria, during winter, wet and cold – so unlike the hot, relentless drought of The Dry.

Falk and fellow financial crime investigator, Carmen Cooper, are following a case of money laundering and have their sights set on corporate whistle blower, Alice Russell, to help them close the case. The only trouble is Alice has gone missing during an adventure retreat with her colleagues and bosses, an exercise in team-building. Four women of the group return battered, cold and hungry, without Alice and with no idea of her whereabouts.

The story see-saws from Falk and Carmen’s investigation and the slow turn of events from the women’s point of view as what started out as a challenging few days of working together, soon turned to disaster. The four women all have difficult relationships with Alice. Her boss, Jill, is an easy suspect, part of the family business and connected to the corruption. Lauren has known Alice since school yet they are oddly distant. Twins Bree and Beth have an uneasy relationship, Bree a career girl, while Beth shows signs of addiction and has a prison record.

The difficult terrain also holds secrets, once the stamping ground of serial murderer, Martin Kovak. Could a copycat killer be at large?

Jane Harper works the edgy interactions of the five women to create plenty of tension - each is desperate in her own way and with a well-developed backstory. She’s also great on setting: the claustrophobia of dense bush, the lurking fauna that can so easily sting or bite. Meanwhile Falk is still hampered emotionally by his past, particularly his guilt over his father, which adds interest and offers more development in future books.

Overall, there is perhaps not quite the edge-of-seat drama of The Dry in Falk’s second outing, but Force of Nature is still a good solid whodunit that won’t disappoint.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Force of Nature

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

“One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.” - Publisher's blurb.

I know that they say not to judge a book by its cover, but honestly, that’s how I pick half the books that end up on my ‘to be read’ pile. Knowing nothing about this book other than the fact that it had an intriguing title and a beautiful cover I grabbed it from the new books shelf and had to read it.

I’m glad I did because it is a beautifully written, diverse story about the difficulties of being a teenage girl, loss and heartbreak, all set in a well-developed world of magical realism.

Two different groups of teenagers find the spell book, and use it to try and bring back what they lost; a bracelet, a diary, a mother, virginity unwillingly given. But in order to find what is lost, they have to be prepared to lose something even more precious.

Moïra’s writing is very lyrical and easy to read. I got wrapped up in the magic and lost track of the world around me. Clues left through the story helped me to slowly piece it together, and while I did guess the ending, it wasn’t until towards the end that I finally got it.

A great read for those who love magic, mystery and YA.

Posted by Sas

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Bowie : the illustrated story by Pat Gilbert

So I confess, I am a fan - Bowie's music was and will always be the soundtrack to my life. My wife was thinking of buying this book for me for Christmas but lately there seems to be have been a large number of books on Bowie coming out, and it turned up in the library, after all.

The research that has gone into this book is immense but it is still very readable, all the more so by being the illustrated version.

David Bowie had the usual rockstar problems: problem mangers, record companies not happy with his albums and cocaine usage. He could have retired long ago and had the quiet life but he would continue to reinvent himself many times over and find many new listeners. Ask anyone what their favourite Bowie song is and they will all be different, yet with great meaning to the person involved.

He chose to be different, to make different albums, to try acting and collaborate with different people. His willingness to do different things made him many friends, however he would also drop long standing associations if they who didn’t fit into his new plans.

Bowie was cleverly in tune with trends especially when MTV and then the internet came along. Music videos allowed him another way to further showcase his talents and enlarge the story of the song. He was one of the first artists to have music videos and as such they ended up on high rotation on MTV. This certainly helped the sales of his albums.

This book is large format with lots of photos and insights into a complicated and charming man. If you want to see more photos of David Bowie try Pinterest.

It’s sad to think that there will be no more exciting albums or challenging collaborations from Bowie.As the ad said, “There’s old wave, there’s new wave and there’s David Bowie”. May his songs go on forever.

Posted by RobM

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.  - Publisher's blurb

This sounds like it should be some crazy adventure about two teen girls solving a giant mystery, strengthening their friendship and falling in love with boys. And in a way it is, all of that happens, but it’s not actually the important part of the story. You see, Aza has obsessive compulsive disorder, and it makes her life (and the life of those around her) very difficult. She and Daisy have been friends for years, but the strain put on their friendship by Aza’s mental illness could push them to breaking point. Aza and Davis were friends when they were younger, but Davis’ eccentric father and large fortune meant they ran in different circles as they grew up.

John Green has done an amazing job of writing about experiencing mental illness in a way that shows the harsh realities instead of glamourizing it the way some YA novels tend to. He captures Aza's anxiety and compulsions well. That little inner voice that causes you to doubt and question everything - even the things that you were 100% sure about - can be twisted until you are convinced they were wrong. But more importantly it shows that family and friends will stand by you and support you through the hard times, but in return you need to try and be there for them as well.

John Green has the impressive skill of perfectly describing feelings that I previously could never put into words, and knowing about his own battle with anxiety just makes the words more authentic - “Spirals grow infinitely small the farther you follow them inward, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.”

There was a lot of pressure put on John Green while he was writing this book due to the amazing success of his last one (The Fault in Our Stars), and instead of crumbling under the pressure he produced a beautiful book about mental illness, all wrapped up in a story about a teenage girl and her best friend solving a crazy mystery.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Turtles All the Way Down

Monday, 18 December 2017

November Reading from Book Chat

 99 Red Balloons by Elizabeth Carpenter

Grace is only eight years old when she goes missing, a suspected abduction case that throws mother Emma into a spin. The story follows the police investigation and questions emerge about secret emails between Grace’s father and Emma's sister, while facts around a case that occurred years before seem oddly similar. A layered story with multiple viewpoints, this is an engrossing read with a brilliant twist that will keep you guessing.

The Romanov Ransom by Clive Cussler

Neo-Nazis and the tragedy of the Romanov family, butchered by the Bolsheviks, inspire the latest in the Fargo series by Clive Cussler. In this book the husband and wife treasure hunters are seeking the ransom that was allegedly paid by a relative to free the Romanov royal family and save them from assassination. Intermittent danger and a journey across Europe, to Africa and South America keep the reader well entertained in this well-researched thriller.

A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick

A broken marriage is just the incentive Evelyn Dixon needs to up sticks and start over. She opens a quilt shop in a new town far from her old home in Texas, and finds that offering quilting classes is a way to make friends, while solving the problems of life's little ups and downs.  A heart-warming story that will offer wisdom and respite, the first book of seven in the Cobbled Quilt series.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen

Amanda Owen always wanted her own flock of sheep. Her memoir follows how she came to make that dream a reality and her life with husband and nine children and the demands of raising livestock in a rural backwater. It’s a terrific read for anyone who has an interest in farming, but it’s a personal story as well about someone who achieved her dreams, and as such has a broader appeal.

The Red Coast by Di Morrissey

A new Di Morrissey is always something to cheer about, and this is no exception. Set in Broome, on the Northwest coast of Australia, The Red Coast follows the story of Jacqui Bouchard, who settles here after a marriage breakdown. Missing her fourteen year old son, she is soon caught up in local politics when a mining company scores the rights to mine in Broome. Can the township's precious environment be saved? And is there a hope of happiness for Jacqui?

Origin by Dan Brown

In Bilbao, tech magnate, Edmond Kirsch, is to reveal a breakthrough discovery about human existence at an event attended by Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of Da Vinci Code fame. But events take a dark turn before Kirsch can share his secret and Langdon escapes danger to Barcelona on a quest to unlock the mystery of Kirsch’s research. Another rip-snorting yarn, full of spectacular scenes, wonderful settings and loaded with fascinating research.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat