Hastings District Libraries

Thursday, 27 July 2017

See You in September by Charity Norman

"It doesn't look like a scene of death.  It looks like paradise."

So says Diana in the prologue to See You in September, while visiting the site of a cult her daughter Cassy had belonged to.

In See You in September twenty-one year old Cassy goes on a backpacking holiday to New Zealand with her boyfriend, and becomes entangled in a cult.

When Cassy discovers she is pregnant, then breaks up with her boyfriend while hitching a ride to Taupo she is rescued by a van of irresistibly shiny happy people. They persuade her to detour to their remote and beautiful self-sufficient farm on the shores of Lake Tarawera.

Cassy is treated warmly and soon becomes part of the extended 'family'. She begins an idyllic relationship with kind and competent Aden; whose wife walked out on him with two of their children, leaving one behind. Justin, the enigmatic leader of the group lives on an island on the lake and is loved by all.
However, lack of reliable cell phone coverage and internet lead to frantic worry for her parents at home in England.

Cleverly and terrifyingly woven through the story are excerpts from a scholars study on The Cult Leader’s Manual: Eight Steps to Mind Control.
What could possibly go wrong…?

Author Charity Norman is well-known to Hawke's Bay readers. She is a lively and generous speaker, an ex-barrister who was born to missionary parents in Uganda, grew up in England, and married a Hawke's Bay man. Norman always explores an interesting and different theme for each of her novels. For her previous novel The Secret Life of Luke Livingston her main character was a transgender person; other novels have focused on adoption, ex-convicts, and methamphetamine use in teenagers.
Reviewers have likened her to Jodi Picoult and Joanna Trollope. I would agree to some extent but must say I enjoy Norman’s books more. She has moved into the realm of my ‘safe bet’ authors; one of those favourites for whom you look forward to new releases from and know you will enjoy reading them.
She has also released an ebook short story called Best Served Cold, about Cassy’s younger sister Tara, which is available at Hastings District Libraries eBook platform ePukapuka.

Reviewed by Katrina
Catalogue link: See You in September

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Who wouldn’t like to go on an all-expenses-paid Nordic cruise upon a luxury yacht fitted out for a small but select clientele? For travel journalist, Lo Blackwood, taking a berth on the Aurora Borealis for her magazine couldn’t come at a better time. A burglary has driven her anxiety problem through the roof, so checking out billionaire Lord Bullmer’s new enterprise is a godsend. After all, nothing can hurt her while she’s cruising the Norwegian fjords, can it?

Things soon take a peculiar turn when Lo discovers a mysterious woman in the cabin next door, which the crew declare is empty. Bumps in the night, a scream and what sounds like an ominous splash all send Lo on a mission to uncover the truth, but if she’s not careful, the only thing she’ll get to the bottom of is the North Sea.

Ruth Ware slowly draws you into a story full of suspense and drama. There are plenty of suspects with various motives not only for the perpetrator, but the mystery woman herself. Meanwhile the luxury cruise setting is seductive yet also interestingly claustrophobic, made worse by the lack of Internet connection leaving Lo with no means to raise the alarm.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a deftly written, escapist read with plenty to make you shiver and Ruth Ware's third outing in the psychological suspense genre. You can read a print copy version or download it from Epukapuka.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue links
Print copy: The Woman in Cabin 10
Ebook: The Woman in Cabin 10

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Agatha: the real life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti

I was never a great comic reader as a child. I didn’t know if you were supposed to read the speech bubbles first then look at the picture or the other way round. So when the graphic novels craze took off and were added to library shelves I ignored them. However deciding to push myself out of my comfort zone I recently read my very first graphic novel Madeleine L'Engle’s children’s novel A Wrinkle in Time. I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was in the story although I still struggled with what to read first; the speech bubbles, the written descriptions or look at the picture.

After this moderate success it was now time to enter the wide world of adult graphic novels. Not one for super heroes (and there are a fair few graphic novels depicting super heroes) I picked up the fictional biography of crime writer Agatha Christie. Right from the first frame I was hooked. The story was fast moving and very descriptive considering the sparseness of words. The illustrations are true to the first half of the 20th century and although simple they have enough detail to add layers to the story.

The story starts in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared for ten days and her then husband Archie Christie is suspected of doing away with her. Flashback takes the reader back to Christie’s childhood before continuing on through her life. We experience two world wars through the eyes of Mrs Christie as well as the successes she had with fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The novel ends with her death aged 85 in 1976.

There is no disputing that graphic novels are a quick read. However the blending of written text and illustrations make for a more complex read than you would think possible with just 100 pages. If you haven’t read a graphic novel give one ago. You too may be pleasantly surprised at just how good they are.

Posted by Miss Moneypenny

Catalogue link: Agatha: the real life of Agatha Christie

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

There are certain must-have’s in this kind of ‘chick noir’ thriller. First off you need an edgy heroine, preferably with a past full of secrets and the potential to be an unreliable narrator. (Think Girl on a Train.) She’s someone you want to believe, but just how far can you trust her? And she has to be likeable enough that you are happy to spend time in her company.

Then you need a shadowy malefactor. Maybe the story even flips into his creepy and very unpleasant world from time to time. This will add that touch of dramatic irony – where you know something bad is just around the corner before the heroine does – to help ratchet up the tension. There should be the potential for one or two male characters the heroine trusts to be this malefactor, making the reader nervous whenever they appear in the same scene.

Add some impending doom – time running out for someone is always a winner – and sharp writing, and you have chick noir of the highest order. Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan ticks all of the above boxes.

Our heroine is Margot Lewis, a school teacher who freelances as an agony aunt on a Cambridge newspaper. She’s in the throes of a messy divorce when her life is complicated by the arrival of letters from Bethan Avery, a schoolgirl who disappeared nearly twenty years ago. Margot is already worried about missing student Katie Browne, who everyone believes has run away from home. Margot is certain she has been abducted, and almost certain she’s been taken by the same man who took Bethan.

The police aren’t falling over themselves to find Katie as she is old enough to leave home, but out of the blue, criminologist Martin Forrester contacts Margot, keen to see the letters. The two form a team intent on finding Katie and her abductor before it’s too late.

The story rattles along – the mounting pressure brings Margot to breaking point, with glimpses of her dark past. She’ll need a lot of grit and determination to outfox the perpetrator who has plans of his own. Dear Amy is a great escapist read, full of twists and edgy writing. If you enjoy this genre you won’t be able to put it down.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Dear Amy

Saturday, 8 July 2017

June Reading at Book Chat

The Liberation by Kate Furnival

The Liberation is set in Italy, 1945 as Allied soldiers have finally reached Naples. Surely now the war is over for Caterina and her family, but with her father dead, a new threat appears and she must find a way to clear his name of treason. But who can she trust? A historical novel that recreates post-war Italy with plenty of mystery thrown in.

Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson

A body surfaces in Northern Sweden when a river thaws, that of a young woman, but where is her missing boyfriend? Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson teams up with the police to solve the mystery. Somehow there is a connection to a plane carrying German supplies from the war which never arrived. And what about those strange dreams Rebecka has been having? A must-read for Scandi-Noir fans.

Spirits of the Ghan by Judy Nunn

This story is told over several generations leading up to 2001 when Jessica Manning arrives in Northern Territories just as the Ghan railway is to be opened. Jessica’s job is to listen to the concerns of the Aborigine elders of the area and to reassure them their sacred sites are protected. Her encounter with surveyor, Matthew Witherton, throws up new mysteries and the story of an ancient wrong. Powerful storytelling and a wonderful outback Australia setting.

The Truth About You by Susan Lewis

Lainey Hollingsworth’s mother refused to reveal the origins of her birth and the reasons for her fleeing from Italy. Now that her mother is dead, Lainey plans to take her family to Umbria on holiday to find out more. However her world is turned on its head when she discovers her husband has been keeping something from her. A dramatic and moving relationships story with family secrets aplenty.

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Another six stories in the Grantchester Mysteries series featuring Ely Archdeacon and amateur sleuth Sidney Chambers. It is 1971, the era of hippies, folk singers and a new permissive society, but there are darker undercurrents afoot it seems when Sidney discovers a body when out walking his dog. Further stories feature his old flame, Amanda, and of course drinking buddy and policeman, Geordie Keating, will require plenty of help. An unmissable series for cosy mystery lovers.

The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

There is something unusual about the cemetery at Elmwood Springs. It’s a resting spot for all the local residents, but it’s anything but still. A warm-hearted story of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, beginning with Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, their descendants and neighbours. Oozing with wisdom and humour.

Posted by Flaxmere Book Chat

Friday, 7 July 2017

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The late Paul Kalanithi was a dedicated and passionate Neurosurgeon and writer who died of lung cancer in 2015.
After completing a Literature degree Kalanithi spent 10 years training to become a neurosurgeon.  His dedication and passion for his choosen career had been having a detrimental affect on his marriage.  Prestigious job offers were coming his way as he was ignoring back pain and continuing incredibly long working hours.  A diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer changed everything and When Breath Becomes Air documents Kalanithi's confrontation of his illness and mortality while his life continues and his baby daughter is born.
If you like this kind of medical memoir I recommend Things that Matter by David Geller; Middlemore Hospital's Senior Intensivist.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link: When Breath Becomes Air

Monday, 3 July 2017

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

You’re in art school, you hate it, you drop out, you move to New York City. For most people, moving to New York City is a gesture of ambition. But for you, it signifies failure, because you grew up there, so it means you’re moving back home after you couldn’t make it in the world. Spiritually, it’s a reverse commute.

So begins All Grown Up, a quirky novel about what it means to be a single woman in a world of couples and families. It’s one of those books that you pick up and somehow find you’ve read to the bottom of the page and then just keep reading.

The entire first chapter is written in the second person, and somehow this works, before the rest of the book slips into an intimate first person narration, detailing the reverse commute and subsequent ‘growing up’ of Andrea, a failed artist who now slums it in advertising.

In a series of vignettes, Andrea talks about her lifestyle, bad habits and her past – there’s quite a lot of sex – and all the while she debates whether she could ever settle down with one person, buy the house and raise a family, like other ‘grown-ups’. Her own childhood has left her with a bitter taste of what this might entail. Andrea’s brother’s marriage to the wonderful Greta is sorely tested by the birth of their severely disabled daughter.

There’s also a lot of New York here – the apartment lifestyle and the cafés, the subway and the art shows. But throughout all is the warm, witty and ultimately wise voice of Andrea, who is such wonderful company in that New Yorker kind of way. All Grown Up is a brilliantly different read, with a surprisingly moving and thoughtful ending.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: All Grown Up