Thursday, 13 December 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Is a book written sixty years ago still relevant and accessible? Does a book even need to be read when there is a film version starring the delightful Audrey Hepburn? Yes, Yes and Yes!

Set in Manhatten during the Second World War the unnamed writer meets the very young socialite Holly Golighlty when she forgets her key to the apartment complex they both occupy. Although they don’t meet properly until she enters through the fire escape (avoiding her gentleman caller who has a penchant to biting) he has been observing her from afar for quite some time.

So starts this platonic relationship that centres completely around Holly. Capote in a 1968 Playboy interview said of Holly...” she was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check …if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas”.

It is Capote’s descriptions that linger long after the last sentence has been read. Those menagerie of men who attend her exclusive apartment parties; the weather updates Holly passes on from the incarcerated Sally Tomato; and that slim cool black dress, black sandals, and a pearl choker that brings clearly to mind Audrey Hepburn.

For it is hard to not think of Hepburn when reading this novella even though the film version alters so wildly from the book. Capote’s Holly is more complex, more vivacious while the unnamed narrator is a different character entirely in the movie.

Whether you love the movie or have never seen the movie you should read the book. It’s short enough to be devoured in a sitting and good enough to want to re read it straight away.

Oh and Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golighty – sacrilegious. 

Reviewed by Miss Moneypenny

Catalogue link: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Thursday, 6 December 2018

On Some Faraway Beach : The life and times of Brian Eno by David Sheppard

This is an in-depth look at Brian Eno’s extensive career. Now that David Bowie has returned to the stars it is worth looking at his contemporaries.

This biography starts in his early days with Roxy Music, moves to Brian’s solo albums, David Bowie, Talking Heads and later U2.

A sonic alchemist is what he is called, and that is an apt description. Brian Eno was for a very long time ahead of curve when it came to electronic sounds. He wasn’t the only one experimenting in this area of course, but from the beginning he gained a reputation for being able to add something to an album.

Whether this was a lot or a little, whether he was just a sounding board or someone to break the deadlock (or to move things along), it’s probably all lost in time.

Along the way he invented Ambient music, made art installations, and created albums with legends like John Cale, Robert Fripp and David Brynne; to note just a few.

He has been called a Renaissance Man and that’s a pretty big call, but he seems to have had a tireless work ethic, a near inexhaustible number of ideas, and the will to put those ideas into being. So maybe Renaissance Man isn’t far off.

Albums to check out:
Brian Eno : Here Come the Warm Jets or Before and After Science.
David Bowie : Low or Heroes
Talking Heads : Fear of Music or Remain in Light
U2 : Joshua Tree or Auchtung Baby

The Hastings Library has a large collection of Rock biographies please have a look at our catalogue for more information.

Reviewed by Robert Middleton

Catalogue link: On Some Faraway Beach

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Educated by Tara Westover

"As a child, I'd been aware that although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same. They believed in modesty: we practiced it. They believed in God's power to heal; we left our injuries in God's hands. They believed in preparing for the Second Coming; we were actually prepared." Tara Westfield.

To be truthful I nearly stopped reading Educated part-way through.
Tara's life with her End of Days fundamentalist Mormon family was so bizarre, there seemed little hope for her. Except the clue is in the title: Educated is a testament to the power of learning and self-determination in difficult circumstances.

Tara Westover's birth was never registered; she did not have formal schooling until she was 17, never went to a doctor or hospital and, as far as officialdom knew, she did not exist. Her mother was a midwife and herbalist without formal training; her father ran a junkyard (mostly staffed by his children and with conditions that would give a Health and Safety Officer conniptions). In later life Tara came to understand that her increasingly paranoid father was bipolar. Her older brother Shawn also became aggressive, manipulative and threatening toward her.

Tara's loyalty to her family and home in rural Idaho remained, even in the toughest of times. Ultimately her self-education then formal education took her away from her family as she rose above her difficult circumstances, yet they are unable to overcome their radical beliefs.

Such was Tara’s ignorance of worldly matters that she inadvertently isolated herself from staff and students at her first college by asking what the Holocaust was; an honest question from someone who just did not know (she also had no knowledge of World War 2, the Women’s Rights movement, or slavery). Incredibly, and with lots of support and hard work, Tara eventually gained qualifications from Harvard College and Cambridge University.

A well-written memoir from a remarkable woman who is probably lucky to be alive, let alone educated.

Reviewed by Katrina 

Catalogue link: Educated

Friday, 23 November 2018

Recent Book Chat Reading

Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell  is a delightful novel combining a sad story with  magic realism which, along with the chocolate, adds plenty of warmth. Penelope Dalton's young daughter has only months to live, so the two write a bucket list of all the things young Ella wants to do. But the list includes getting a dad, in particular, her biological father, who happened to break Penelope's heart years ago. Recommended.

The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford
This is a very readable mystery novel which
fans of archaeology will enjoy. Recently widowed Clare wants a new start so is happy to help a friend from university go through the papers of a deceased archaeologist. The Hungerbourne Barrows archive is a treasure trove for any archaeologist, but things take a turn for the worst when Clare finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan: This is a charming novel is about Polly, a woman taking time out from a relationship turned toxic, moving to a small coastal town in Cornwall. Filling her time by baking bread, the locals soon clamour for more and Polly opens her own bakery. Pouring all her emotions into the bread, along with local ingredients, including honey from local beekeeper, Huckle, seems to do the trick and the bread gets better and better. A light diverting read.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald:
When 28-year-old Sara loses her bookshop job in Sweden, her pen-pal in Broken Wheel, Iowa, suggests she come and stay for a holiday. But when Sara arrives her friend Amy has died just days before. The locals suggest she stay on at Amy's house, which is filled with books. One thing leads to another and Sara finds herself setting up a bookshop for a town that doesn't read - yet! Really, it's all about finding the right book for the right reader. A quirky feel-good novel.

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford: This is another imagining of what might have happened when Agatha Christie went missing during a crisis in her marriage. In this story she boards the Orient Express in disguise. Two other women passengers she meets also have secrets and as the train continues to the Middle East, their stories converge. A brilliant read with lots of interest in the recreation of the journey and the stops along the way.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat

Saturday, 17 November 2018

A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison

There is nothing more satisfying than discovering a new detective series. There is the delight of meeting new characters that you know are going to become part of your fictional family plus the satisfaction of knowing you have guaranteed good reads for the next little while.

In this the first of the Reverend Mother Mysteries, we are introduced to the unlikely sleuth solving trio of Reverend Mother Aquinas, her friend and physician Dr Scher and her former pupil and member of the newly formed civic guard, Sergeant Cashman.

Set in 1920s during the Irish Civil War, the novel starts with flood waters sweeping down the streets of County Cork, leaving behind sewage and dead bodies. It is on one of these wet and rainy mornings that the Reverend Mother discovers the body of a young woman dressed in an evening gown with her purse containing a dance programme, a large sum of money and a ticket to the midnight ferry to Liverpool. The body is soon identified as that of Angelina Fitzsimon, a respected tea merchant’s daughter, who was about to turn 21 and in a few months was set to inherit a fortune. Although her death is ruled as suicide neither the Reverend Mother nor Sergeant Cashman are convinced of this and so begins the both public and behind the scenes investigations.

The everyday life of the Reverend Mother’s teaching nuns is woven tightly into this historical mystery. With her own privileged background plus fifty years of working amongst Cork’s poorest, the Reverend Mother is in a unique position to move across these social divides. Gleaning access to the content of the police interviews via Sergeant Cashman, combined with the medical knowledge of the somewhat unwilling Doctor, gives the Reverend Mother the ability to solve this complex mystery.

Cora Harrison has crafted a dark and atmospheric Cork with the wealthy living high on the hills looking down on the poorest of Irish citizens in their crowded, damp tenements. However this is not a gloomy, depressing mystery. With a quick witted protagonist in the Reverend Mother, well-crafted supporting characters, a most satisfying plot, this a great read. And with five more mysteries already written in the series there is much to look forward to.

Reviewed by Miss Moneypenny

Catalogue Link: A Shameful Murder

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages by Linda Trubridge

‘This story is for all explorers. The passages we weave through our lives find their truth in those we touch along the way’. Linda Trubridge

In the 1980’s, Linda Trubridge, her husband and two young sons left their established life and recently renovated stone cottage in England to purchase a steel yacht named Hornpipe; ten years later they would settle in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

The family had to be completely self-sufficient for weeks at time. Linda’s husband David was responsible for navigating by the stars and sun to ensure they arrived safely at tiny island destinations. Linda’s responsibilities reflected the often ‘invisible’ work of women everywhere, as she ably educated, cared for and courageously guided her children through life ‘passages’ in every sense of the word, while trying to maintain a sense of self and adult relationships in a very small space.

What is striking about Linda’s autobiography is her eloquent writing style which is almost poetic at times. There is also a certain spiritual element to Linda’s life, evident in her yoga training and affinity with nature. Passages is an honest and frank biography and although many aspects of the trip are idyllic (beautiful tropical islands in the Caribbean and Pacific anyone?) this is an incredibly open and honest story.

The Trubridges are a family of creative and resourceful people, which must surely in part be influenced by their amazing extended sea voyages and adventures. Linda is an artist and yoga teacher; David a world renowned furniture and lighting designer; Sam an artistic performance director and William a world-record holding freediver.

Lovely drawings from all family members are scattered throughout the text.


Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  Passages

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Have you discovered the phenomenon that is Nalini Singh? This prolific writer has written over 16 books in the Psy-Changeling series and because she was raised in New Zealand we can call her one of our own.

Ocean Light (number 2 in her Psy-Changeling Trinity series) is the latest offering from Nalini. The story and takes place in an alternate future where Humans, Changelings (shifters) and Psy (people with varying psychic powers) live together after a tenuous peace accord has been reached.

Bowen Knight wakes up from a coma after being shot by a bullet meant for his sister. The ‘Consortium’ which he is the head of has a traitor in its midst and it is up to him to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. So far, this could be any ‘who-dun-it story but the reality is far different. When Bowen wakes, he is not in some city hospital, but instead in Ryujin, the deep underwater base / habitat of the Black Sea Shifters.

This is his story of coming to terms with the fact that he has a ticking time bomb in his head and the experimental surgery he has offered to be a part of has a 50% chance of either killing him or leaving him brain dead.

This is also the story of Kaia, a scientist turned cook who is a member of the Black sea shifters and whose blossoming relationship with Bowen is central to the story. Kaia has no time for humans who have caused her much heartache, and the last thing she wants to do is to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking, but she simply cannot stay away from Bowen.

When Kaia is taken by those who mean her harm Bowen will do anything to get her back even if it means striking a devil’s bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy.

If you haven’t read other books in the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini, this may not be the best place to start, as her storylines and characters all intertwine to create a totally satisfying reading experience, however for fans of her book, you will not be disappointed in this latest offering.

Reviewed by Fiona Frost

Catalogue link:  Ocean Light