Welcome to the libraries’ News Blog! Here you’ll find reviews of new books, information about what’s happening at our libraries, and any breaking author news. We’ll also keep you up to date with exciting book award shortlists and prize announcements as they come to us, so check back often!

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Check out the Vogue Archive online


If you love fashion and fashion history you’ll really enjoy this fabulous online resource.  All library members have access to the Vogue Archive, which contains the entire run of issues of US Vogue from the very start in 1892 to the current issues in 2015. You can browse the whole issue – articles and photos or illustrations – and all you need to do is enter your library card details. The Vogue Archive is available via the mygateway.info databases on our website : visit the Arts page to find out more information and to login.
From there it’s incredibly simple to search – you can search by keyword or browse by issues or years. And it’s absolutely filled with great images (in colour where applicable) which can be printed or saved. There’s also an extremely comprehensive, but easy to use, advanced search where you can look for specific fashion items, like ‘dress’, ‘kimono’ OR ‘yoke collar’, and limit by year or decade.

You can access this database from within the library, at home or anywhere really. Please come in and ask us if you want a demo on how to use it.

Some classical music additions

If you would like a break from traditional, tonal music, featured below is a collection of Stockhausen percussion pieces, for adventurous listeners.

ClassicalrecentFeb15b1The Salzburg Recital, Grigory Sokolov.
“Hailed as ‘the greatest pianist alive’ (The Independent), Grigory Sokolov has long been regarded as an exceptional artist, and one who has always shunned the recording studio. Now signed exclusively to Deutsche Grammophon, he makes his debut on the label with a live recording of a critically-acclaimed recital from the 2008 Salzburg Festival” (container cover).

ClassicalrecentFeb15b2Heroes from the Shadows, Handel, performed by Nathalie Stutzmann and Orfeo 55.
“In 2009, contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann founded her own chamber orchestra, Orfeo 55, with which she tours extensively and partners her on this new release. The orchestra, which performs on both baroque and modern instruments, performs not only music from the baroque period, but also works by composers in the 20th century such as Richard Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg. This album focuses on Handel’s contralto arias: music from some of his best-loved operas, but rarely heard independently of full performances. With this release Nathalie Stutzmann gives light to these heroes usually in the shadows, giving these characters and this wonderful music a new perspective – making them the stars of this album” (amazon.com).

ClassicalrecentFeb15b3Symphonies 5 & 6, Nielsen. Performed by the New York Philharmonic, with Alan Gilbert.
“Denmark’s greatest symphonist and national composer Carl Nielsen sought out new musical paths until the end of his life. His last two symphonies, Nos. 5 and 6, complete the picture of the composer’s artistic development, which was always ahead of his surroundings. This recording by the New York Philharmonic and its music director Alan Gilbert sheds new light on the originally conceived, momentous struggle of the Fifth Symphony as well as the Sixth Symphony’s inscrutable irony, which was difficult to understand in its time but supplied succeeding generations of composers with symphonic fuel” (container cover)

ClassicalrecentFeb15b4Complete Early Percussion Works, Stockhausen. Featuring Steven Schick and Red Fish Blue Fish.
For experimental, daring 20th century music you can’t beat Stockhausen. This two disc set features an incredible array of percussion instruments (antique cymbals, Alpine bells (not complete with cows, sadly), celesta, tamtam, plus the usual suspects) in the following works: Refrain, Schlagtrio, Kontakte, Zyklus and Mikrophonie. The Guardian review says it is possible there has only been one other recording of Mikrophonie, produced in the 1960s under the supervision of the composer. In surround sound.

Also recently arrived: a recording of the original 1873 version of Bruckner 3.

Staff Picks DVDs: The Best of 2014 – Part 2

John’s Picks:
Cover imageTreme. The complete fourth season.
Music and food feature as always and there are some standout performances in this season, especially from aspiring fiddle player Annie. The various story arcs are all brought to satisfying conclusions, but to say more would spoil the enjoyment. If you are a fan you will be keen to watch this. If you haven’t dipped in yet, Season 1 awaits.

Cover imageRectify. Season one.
Multi-layered, enigmatic and engrossing, it tells the story of Daniel Holden, released from death row due to new DNA evidence after serving 19 years for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend. The world has changed a lot in that time and the story arcs are about Daniel’s adjustment, the small town’s reaction to his freedom and, if he didn’t do it, then who did?

Cover imageMasters of sex. The complete first season.
‘Masters of Sex’ is based on Thomas Maier’s biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love and, despite the treatment having one or two minor flaws, the story is compelling, the events depicted are historically accurate and it is astonishing to be reminded of how far societal attitudes have changed in just a couple of generations.

Cover imageEuropa report.
This all too rare example of intelligent, low key, indie sci-fi, similar in style to Duncan Jones’ excellent Moon, tells the story of a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, to discover whether life exists on other planets.

Cover imageRay Donovan. Season one.
Similar to the early Sopranos, this is a contemporary crime drama centred on a criminal deeply enmeshed in a suburban family lifestyle. The acting is excellent, depicting characters who are genuinely fleshed out, the production is impeccable and the storyline entertaining and engaging. Miss at your peril.

Cover imageMuscle Shoals.
With lots of stock footage from the times, this documentary traces the history of the now legendary ‘Muscle Shoals sound’ and is a must see for anyone interested in the history of popular music.

Cover imageGood ol’ Freda.
This low key doco tells the story of the early days of The Beatles from a new and totally charming perspective. Freda Kelly, an exceptionally humble woman, now in her 60’s, happened to be the Beatles’ secretary for the ten years of their career, from 1962 until 1972.

Cover imageAll is lost.
Robert Redford gives a remarkable performance in this role that features a lone yachtsman facing a sailor’s worse nightmares. With not a word of dialogue this film manages to grip the viewer from start to finish.

Cover imageMad men. The final season, Part 1.
The final season of this acclaimed series has been released in two halves – so remember they say that anticipation is the greater part of pleasure! The focus is once again squarely on Don Draper as he inexorably moves toward……what?

Cover imageBoardwalk empire. The complete fourth season.
The role of well-mannered hoodlum Nucky Thompson may well eclipse any other film roles Steve Buscemi has been cast in. Season 5 is the last and the show is getting darker as storm clouds gather.

Cover imageMonty Python live (mostly) : one down, five to go.
Subtitled ‘One Down, Four To Go’, this DVD of the Monty Python crew’s final performance in London last year is more than just a bunch of old guys having a get together. It was a huge production, incorporating dancers, an orchestra and AV projections and it is a surprise to see how risqué their humour remains almost half a decade on.

Sandy’s Pick:
Cover imageBoyhood.
‘Boyhood’ was a standout! An unusual concept to film the same actors over 12 years and it paid off – so well-acted, true-to-life and relatable that I felt I knew the family and cared about them.

Maxine’s Picks:
Cover imageSunshine on Leith.
The ‘Paddington’ film was a great unexpected joy as was ‘Sunshine on Leith’.

Cover imagePaddington.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries in April]

Yu’s Picks:
Cover imageEdge of tomorrow.
“New Special Forces recruit William ‘Bill’ Cage (Cruise) is equipped with a powered exoskeleton and sent on a mission to fight a fierce alien race known as Mimics, who are ultimately unstoppable. Cage soon dies in combat but, caught in a time loop, he finds himself very much alive and once again facing the same battle. This process repeats itself several times but with every fight Cage grows stronger and more adept. He meets tough warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt) and together they try to bring down the enemy once and for all.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageSnowpiercer.

Cover imageGuardians of the galaxy.
“An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageThe railway man.
This is a movie of the Autobiography by Eric Lomax. Starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. A story of Eric’s Life coming to grips with the tremendous horror and torture he went through at the hands of the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp in Burma. He had to work on the infamous Burma-Siam railway. He had always been a railway fanatic and was an engineer. In the camp he makes himself a receiver radio to hear what is happening in the war so is accused of spying by the Japanese and is tortured. The movie has sadness and horror but great forgiveness and redemption in it. Eric meets his wife (Nicole Kidman) on a train in Britain and they marry quickly afterward.. The horror of his earlier life suddenly hits him and the two of them must journey together to his recovery. Like so many men who came back from the second world war what happened to them and what they faced is kept locked away from their families. There are some very harrowing moments in this movie. It is a very moving movie. Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman at their best. Eric Lomax was an amazing man. He died in 2012.

Cover imageEnough said.
This is a lovely romantic comedy. There is great chemistry between the two main actors who meet at a party. Both are struggling with the empty nest syndrome as their daughters get ready to leave for University, and getting over their divorces. Eva (Julia ) is a therapeutic masseuse who meets Albert (James) a specialist audio visual Librarian at a party. They are getting along well until she unknowingly befriends his ex-wife. It is nice to see gentle romances with characters over 40 in them. This was enjoyed by both my husband and myself so has overall appeal. This was the last movie before James Gandolfini died and he was a brilliant actor. He was so different from Tony Soprano. More cuddly teddy-bear in it than gangster. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was very good as well.

Cover imageBy any means.
This is a new British series. It is a series about a special crime unit set up to catch the criminals who are getting away with their crimes by using the justice system. Their brief is to use any means necessary. They have to think up genius plots to play the criminals at their own game. It has a great cast and has excellent storylines. The series is a bit of a cross between The Professionals, Person of interest, & Hustle. My husband and I really enjoyed this.

Cover imageBelle.
Inspiring story and beautifully done. Costumes are gorgeous and the actress (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is beautiful. Also stars Miranda Richardson, Matthew Goode and Emily Watson. Enjoyed by multiple generations in our house. Well worth a watch. If you enjoy this you may also like Amazing Grace the story of William Wilberforce and his fight for the abolition of slavery in Britain. The library also has copies of this DVD.

Cover imageThe monuments men.
This is an interesting war film directed by and starring George Clooney, set amidst the war torn Europe in the early 1940’s. The British and Americans put together a platoon who will search for the treasures of Europe which Hitler and the Nazi’s had started to steal from all the museums all over Europe. It is believed that Hitler was starting his own museum called The Fuhrer Museum. The soldiers selected for this task all had experience in Museums and restoring art. They were aided by a French Museum worker who was aware of the thefts. It was a race against time to retrieve the art before it was all destroyed. They believed that the art was so important because it showed the achievements of people who have gone. This is an interesting movie and well worth a look. Had war scenes in it but the search was the main point of the film. Does contain some violence.

Cover imageDelivery man.
We really enjoyed this story. It is about a man who is over his head in debts and owing to loan sharks. He discovers that he is father of over 500 children after the fertility bank which he helped out 18 years ago had overused his donation. Over 120 of his children want to find out about him and take a class action against him to get the confidentiality clause removed. He does meet some of them without their knowledge. Funny movie. Definitely an Adult movie. It is an M, suggested 16 and over.

Rachel’s Picks:
Several of my picks are from the 2014 NZ International Film Festival so some aren’t available from our catalogue quite yet, but they will be soon!

Cover imageSnowpiercer.
I had been looking forward to this for a long time, having followed stories of the cancellation of an international release, then the recutting of the film for an American audience. I was extremely pleased to be able to see the original director’s cut, and it was worth the wait. In Snowpiercer the Earth is covered in ice and the entire remaining population lives on a train that travels perpetually around the globe. The train is divided by class, with the richest at the front and poorest in the tail section. Curtis (Chris Evans) is willing to risk everything to lead a revolution from the tail section to win control of the train and shape the future of humanity. This film is visually stunning, intensely contrasting grime with decadence, mesmerising in its surreality and Tilda Swinton’s fantastically acted part reminded me of an even more intense Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter.

Cover imageFrank.
Inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona of musician & comedian Chris Sievey, Frank follows the sudden rise of a band whose lead singer is perpetually wearing a giant paper mache head. Again with the surreal elements, Frank is very charming and shows how social media can create hype around something that may not even exist.

Cover imageThe double.
Simon James lives a very ordinary life, until one day his doppelganger James Simon turns up and is everything Simon wishes he could be. The Double has the best lighting design I have ever seen on film. Based on The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Cover imageWhiplash.
An incredibly intense film about a jazz drumming student who will do anything it takes to make it to the top. The Oscar wins for J.K. Simmons as Best Supporting Actor and for film editing and sound mixing are well-deserved.

Cover imageInterstellar.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries in April]
Interstellar takes on a spectacular journey through space and time in the stunning cinematic style of Christopher Nolan.

Cover imageGod Help The Girl.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries in April]
A fun musical film featuring the songs from the 2009 concept album “God Help The Girl”, a side project of Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch. It received funding from a Kickstarter campaign and follows the life of young Eve, recently released from rehab for an eating disorder, as she tries to make it as a singer in Glasgow. Thoroughly enjoyable and amazing costumes throughout!

Cover imageWhite Bird In A Blizzard.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries]
A great performance by Shailene Woodley (The Fault In Our Stars, in a very different role) about a girl whose mother disappears one day, completely out of the blue. We see how she deals with the consequences of the unknown, and the unresolved mysteries in her life.

Cover imageBirdman.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries]
A recent winner of 4 Oscars, Birdman follows the life of a washed-up actor, known for playing superhero Birdman, as he tries to resurrect his acting career through theatre. The categories it won Oscars in were Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Believe the hype, it’s well-deserved.

Cover imageTwo Days, One Night.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries]
An amazing performance by Marion Cotillard of a woman who has lost her job so that her former co-workers could receive a raise. She convinces her boss to reconsider, and she has one weekend to persuade her co-workers to forgo their bonus and let her keep her job. Harrowing and emotional, this film is an interesting study of the intricacies of people’s lives.

Cover imageThe One I Love.
[Forthcoming to Wellington City Libraries]
A couple are having some relationship issues, and decide to go on a cottage retreat. But when they get there, the cottage contains secrets that they have only just begun to uncover. Featuring some mind-boggling film trickery, The One I Love will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Beliefs Recent Picks for February

Several explorations in spirituality, either within the context of traditional beliefs or subjective experiences, are included in this month’s list, together with recent books by popular authors Deepak Chopra and Philip Yancey.

Syndetics book coverSpirituality : a guide for the perplexed, by Philip Sheldrake.
What exactly is spirituality? Is it different from religion? This book is a guide to different spiritualities as areas of study, religiously, historically, philosophically and in the social sciences. It explores the tools used to study spirituality or interpret spiritual classics from different times and cultures. Mostly, themes associated with five major world religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism – are represented, but especially Christian Spirituality from its early days. A useful overview.

Syndetics book coverThe future of God : a practical approach to spirituality for our times, by Deepak Chopra.
Describes the development from unbelief to faith to knowledge. Although covering Richard Dawkins’ arguments for atheism, this is not really an apologetic for theism, and science is no enemy. He offers possible ways forward in spirituality in a readable and balanced way as he explores spiritual living without eschewing secular knowledge.

Syndetics book coverWhy can’t they get along? : a conversation between a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian, by Dawoud El-Alami, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, George D. Chryssides.
The 21st century is no stranger to conflicts over religious conflict. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all can trace roots back to Abraham so what are the differences? Three men discuss what their faiths teach on the big issues of life, and what can be done to form closer partnerships? How can they get along?

Syndetics book coverThe lost Gospel : decoding the ancient text that reveals Jesus’ marriage to Mary the Magdalene, by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson ; translation of the Syriac manuscript by Tony Burke.
Explores a first-century manuscript that asserts that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene; that she was gentile, not Jewish; that they had children; and that there was another plot on Jesus’ life prior to his trial and execution.

Syndetics book coverYou can’t make this stuff up : life-changing lessons from heaven, by Theresa Caputo with Kristina Grish.
Author Theresa Caputo shares the insights she’s learned through her spiritual work as a medium. Client stories are shared and include discussion of themes such as choice, faith, fear, gratitude, healing, surrender, relationships, compassion, and living each day to the fullest, as well as spiritual topics such as Angels, Heaven, signs, miracles, and dreams, to help people to better understand the spiritual world.

Syndetics book coverTo walk a pagan path : practical spirituality for every day, by Alaric Albertsson.
Contains inspiration and ideas for living as a pagan through every day of the year, not only on full moons and holidays. This is a practical guide to cultivate a meaningful Pagan practice by developing a personalised sacred calendar, making everyday activities sacred through your own rituals, and expressing your spirituality through craft projects.

Syndetics book coverVanishing grace : what ever happened to the good news? by Philip Yancey.
Why does the church stir up such disdain? Popular author Yancey explores whether Christians have contributed towards these negativity by presenting their beliefs in judgemental and critical ways. Yancey offers stories of how faith can be expressed in gracious ways.

Syndetics book coverWe make the road by walking : a year-long quest for spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation, by Brian D. McLaren.
Meditations organized around the traditional church year include Why we worry, why we judge ; The choice is yours ; Peace march (Palm Sunday) ; A table. A basin. Some food. Some friends. (Holy Thursday) ; Everything must change (Good Friday) ; Doubt. Darkness. Despair. (Holy Saturday) ; The uprising begins (Easter Sunday) ; The uprising of discipleship.

Syndetics book coverA storm of witchcraft : the Salem trials and the American experience, by Emerson W. Baker.
Mention Salem, Mass., and the infamy of its 1692 witch trials, is bound to spring to mind quickly even today. Around 170 people were accused and 19 hanged as witches. Baker’s approach places the trials in the larger context of American and English history, examining what made them so different from other witch trials of the era. He ends the book comparing 17th-century concerns about witches and 21st-century concerns about terrorists. Writes at a scholarly than populist level.

Syndetics book coverThe incarnation : finding our true self through Christ, by Tom Ravetz.
The Incarnation in Christianity is a key belief of Christianity : God becoming human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This discusses the theology of the Incarnation, and traces the development of beliefs in it. The author pays particular attention to Rudolf Steiner’s ideas about the Incarnation and shows how incarnation is reflected in each one of us (from Galatians “Not I, but Christ in me”). He argues that the Incarnation can make a difference in our own lives today.

Nursing our boys: a Kiwi aboard the first hospital ship

Nurses RegisterCharlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais is a distant relative of mine, who joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. Her registration details can be found in the New Zealand Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933, from the Ancestry database (available in-library only. Check out our Genealogy page for further information). She was one of fourteen nursing sisters who were selected for the first voyage of Hospital Ship No. 1 (the ‘Maheno’), which left Wellington 10 July 1915, and was bound for Gallipoli.

Here is a photograph of the ship in the 14 July 1915 issue of The New Zealand Herald, retrieved for the PapersPast database accessible from our Newspapers and History database pages. The page is full of War-related articles, a year into the 4 year campaign. (Click on the image to enlarge)New Zealand Herald, July 14, 1915 SMALL

Lottie completed her voyage, and was posted to the retired list 21 June 1916. On her return to New Zealand, she married her fiancé, Charles Gardner, with whom she had two children. Lottie died in 1956.

Two of Lottie’s four brothers served in WWI – Leddra (Leddie), who was killed in action at Gallipoli 23 July 1915, and Owen, who fought in France, and survived the war to return home.

A book was written about Lottie, and this is in our collections:

Lottie: Gallipoli Nuse coverLottie : Gallipoli nurse / text by John Lockyer ; illustrations by Alan Barnett.
“An extraordinary account of a nurse’s journey to Gallipoli aboard the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno. Her experiences include caring for the wounded and coping with the death of her brother Leddie, who was killed in action. Based on the letters of Lottie and Leddie Le Gallais and the war diary of John Duder.” (Syndetics summary)

Other titles

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses / Peter Rees.
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.” (Syndetics summary)

White Ships coverThe white ships : New Zealand’s First World War hospital ships / Gavin McLean.
“In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these ‘mercy ships’ and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries.” (Syndetics summary)

Recent Sustainability and Environment books

A book on DiY WiFi features this time: “It brings to life an Australian version of WiFi”.

Syndetics book coverSustainability : the basics / Peter Jacques.
“Sustainability is concerned with the issues around the ongoing and mutual preservation of both society and the environment. It is a widely used term and supposed goal for many governments but it is also easily misunderstood. Sustainability: The Basics offers an accessible and interdisciplinary introduction to the concept, and discusses key questions such as: How do we decide who or what should be sustained? What lessons can we learn from the collapse of previous civilizations? Sustainability studies is in a position to ask some of the most interesting questions about human purpose, identity, modernity, ethics, and the nature of “progress”.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHarvesting Space for a greener Earth / Greg Matloff, C. Bangs, Les Johnson.
“What was our planet like in years past? How has our civilization affected Earth and its ecology? Harvesting Space for a Greener Planet, the Second Edition of Paradise Regained: The Regreening of the Earth, begins by discussing these questions, and then generates a scenario for the restoration of Earth. It introduces new and innovative ideas on how we could use the Solar System and its resources for terrestrial benefit… Not only will the solutions offered here avert a crisis, they will also provide the basis for continued technological and societal progress.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDiY WiFi : re-imagining connectivity / Katrina Jungnickel.
“Who makes WiFi? Why do different makers matter? What do barbeques and backyards have to do with the internet? This book explores how WiFi is made from the ground up, or in this case from the backyard out. Forged around barbeques, made of found, adapted and off-the-shelf materials and installed in ordinary domestic spaces, this book documents the collective work of individuals committed to making ‘Ournet not the internet’. Drawing on rich ethnographic material, Jungnickel’s research on community WiFi networking provides an overdue account of the innovative digital cultures and practices of ordinary people making extra-ordinary things.” (from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverSustainability : a history / Jeremy L. Caradonna.
“The word is nearly ubiquitous: at the grocery store we shop for “sustainable foods” that were produced from “sustainable agriculture”; groups ranging from small advocacy organizations to city and state governments to the United Nations tout “sustainable development” as a strategy for local and global stability; and woe betide the city-dweller who doesn’t aim for a “sustainable lifestyle.” Seeming to have come out of nowhere to dominate the discussion-from permaculture to renewable energy to the local food movement-the ideas that underlie and define sustainability can be traced back several centuries.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe self-sufficient home : how to provide for your family and prepare for the unexpected / Nancy Hoffman.
“Whether you’re looking to lead a healthier life, protect the environment, or save money, The Self-Sufficient Home will show you have to transition from your current lifestyle to a self-sufficient one with in-depth advice that you can start using right now. You’ll not only improve your day-to-day life with these basic living skills, but you will also prepare yourself for any disaster that might arise in your area. Complete with detailed instructions for living more simply, this book teaches you everything you need to know about building a self-sufficient home…” (adapted from book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe compost-powered water heater : how to heat your water, greenhouse, or building with only compost / Gaelan Brown.
“Here is a revolutionary approach for heating rooms and generating hot water. The author has worked with engineers and compost scientists to refine methods of composting that can heat greenhouses, barns, buildings, and hot water, all without combustion.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLittle house in the suburbs : backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living / Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin.
“Gardens, goats and chickens in the suburbs? Absolutely! The easy to follow advice in this book will show you everything you need to know to enjoy an abundant, independent life on food and products grown in your own backyard.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverA place in the sun : green living and the solar home / Stephen Snyder ; introduction by John Hix.
“Green living meets good design in this luxuriously illustrated volume. These environmentally responsible, perfectly designed solar-powered houses will inspire readers to see their homes as places that can blend sustainability and beauty. The book vividly demonstrates that living green does not have to mean sacrificing comfort and living with less. In truth, it is living with so much more-peace of mind, better health, and the elegance of sustainable design that maximizes natural lighting, natural ventilation, and natural textures and materials and puts an emphasis on craftsmanship.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Staff Picks DVDs: The Best of 2014 – Part 1

Mark’s Picks:
Cover imageCold in July.
Based on the 1989 novel by Joe R. Lansdale, ‘Cold In July’ is set in East Texas, where homeowner Richard Dane (Michael C Hall) shoots and kills a burglar in his house one night. Assured that the man he killed was a wanted felon Richard becomes a small town hero, only to have his life begin to unravel when the dead man’s ex-con father (Sam Shepard) arrives in town and begins to terrorize & threaten his family. However, Richard soon begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems when he sees that the face on the felon’s ‘Wanted poster’ is not actually that of the man he killed…This itself would be enough plot for most movies, but it is just the first 30 minutes of ‘Cold In July’, which starts out in one direction, only to become something else, and then something else again. Influences range from Film-Noir, to Sam Peckinpah, to the 70s novels of James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss) as it all barrels down a Southern highway towards a brutal heart of darkness. Great acting from all three leads (Hall, Shepard & Don Johnson as an over-the-top Private Eye). The best ‘indie’ movie I saw last year. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed last year’s True Detective TV series.

Cover imageHappy Valley.
Voted the best TV show of last year by the Guardian, and rightly so. Shades of Fargo colour this gritty drama set in a rundown West Yorkshire valley. The kidnapping of the daughter of a prominent local businessman spirals out of control, and brings local police sergeant Catherine Cawood (a fantastic performance from Sarah Lancashire) into contact with one of the kidnappers, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), who she believes is responsible for the death of her daughter, and might be the father of her troubled grandson. Full of post-industrial squalor & dysfunctional domestic dramas. Bleak but gripping.

Cover imageThe bridge. The complete series two.
Over a year has passed since Danish and Swedish Detectives Martin & Saga worked together. When an oil tanker veers off course heading for Øresund Bridge, Malmö Coast Guard board crewless ship discovering three Swedish and two Danish youths drugged & chained below deck. What begins as a kidnapping soon takes a ominous turn as it seems the youths were exposed to a deadly toxin. A chilling internet video sees a group of Eco-terrorists take responsibility, but is there more going on than meets the eye. You know there is… Another great entry in the Scandi-Noir cannon that holds up the standard set by the first season.

Cover imageTrue detective.
A cross between the crime novels of James Lee Burke, with their moody Louisiana milieu & woozy existentialism, and the epic cops vs. serial killer madness of James Ellroy’s work. The story begins in 2012 with two ex-Detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) being interviewed about a case from 1995, & then flashes back & forth in time with the original case playing out against the current interviews. Brilliantly structured, it’s just a tour-de-force of acting & storytelling. For once, as good as the hype made it out to be.

Cover imageOrphan black. Series two.
Sarah Manning (a brilliant Tatiana Maslany) is a streetwise con-artist with a dubious past, struggling to regain custody of her daughter. When she witnesses the suicide of another woman, Beth (also Maslany) who appears to be her doppelganger, she sees an opportunity to assume the woman’s identity & drain her bank accounts. But Sarah gets more then she bargained for, discovering that Beth is not just a Police Detective, but is covertly investigating several other young women – all of whom also look like her… A clever & gripping series, which drops you right in the middle of a story where the plot twists come thick and fast. Season 2 gets the nod over Season 1 due to a slightly more consistent tone.

Cover imageBroadchurch.
Grim but gripping English crime drama set in the small town of Broadchurch in south England. When an 11-year schoolboy is found dead on the beach, the case falls to the new outsider D.I. Alec Hardy (David Tennant) who is forced to team up with local police officer Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) who had thought the new promotion was hers.Tennant & Coleman both shine as the unsettling case peels back the hidden layers of a small town idyll. Recommended.

Cover imageAll is lost.
Two films last year experimented with a minimalism that redefined how it is possible to tell a story, and structure a narrative. ‘All is lost’ sees Robert Redford’s unnamed character wake up one morning to find his cabin awash in water as a rogue shipping container has collided with his boat, gashing a large hole in the hull. What follows, largely dialogue free, is a classic tale of man vs. nature.

Cover imageLocke.
‘Locke’ sees Tom Hardy play the title character, the head of a successful construction company about to begin the biggest ‘pour’ in Europe. However he is not going to be on site for the job. Instead he is on the motorway driving from Birmingham down to London. Why he is doing this, the demons from his past that are driving him, and what happens with his personal & professional lives during this journey all unfold over 80 minutes and a series of tense conversations with different people.

Cover imageThe Americans. The complete first season.
On the surface Philip (Matthew Rhys) & Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are an ordinary suburban couple, who own a Travel Agency & have two children. However in reality they are agents for ‘Directorate S’, the foreign espionage arm of the KGB. When their new neighbour Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) turns out to be an FBI agent, newly promoted to the Counterintelligence Unit they think the game may be up… but it’s only just beginning. Both leads are excellent, especially Russell, and the show benefits from its 1980′s settings where there is relatively little technology at play. Hugely entertaining.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageLondon : the modern Babylon.
Part history, part personal and idiosyncratic journey through London’s turbulent 20th century seen through the eyes of London’s outsiders, unique personalities and artists. Mixes music and footage from different periods into a time travelling, essay of sorts. Well worth the expedition.

Cover image12 years a slave.
Caught this one late and free of the usual glut of amazing reviews, and glowing staff recommendations, still really enjoyed it. Outstanding cinematography, a genuine feeling for the period, and solid, natural performances contribute to an all-round success, that not even a late appearance by Brad Pitt could spoil.

Cover imageTrue detective.
Picks up on all the best parts from great detective/serial killer movies of the past and combines them into one extended prestige TV package. The close buddy relationship of Seven, the cinematography and soundtrack of films like Silence of the Lambs and the obsession and unconventional story-telling of Zodiac. Variously disturbing, nihilistic, multi-part and emotionally munted.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageIda.
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski left his homeland when he was 14. He settled in the UK and worked on documentaries before making critically-acclaimed feature films including My Summer of Love. Ida is his first film shot in Poland and became a big art-house hit. Set in 1962, this simple self-discovery tale (before taking her vows, a Catholic nun visits her aunt she has never met and discovers her past she has never known) touches serious theme such as aftermath of war and the dark history of Polish Jews. However, it also offers alluring sweetness thanks to superb artistry, particularly the exquisite black-and-white images and the unique composition. Bach, Mozart and John Coltrane’s Naima complete its aesthetic. A small masterpiece.

Cover imageUnder the skin.
One of the most promising filmmakers, Jonathan Glazer, made two controversial but acclaimed feature films (Sexy Beast and Birth), and with this unconventional sci-fi thriller, he seems to reach a new height. He had been working in the music video industry (notably ones for Radiohead. Check out The work of director Jonathan Glazer) and it gave him a unique aesthetic foundation. As for this film (a beautiful alien seduces men at night in Glasgow), there are no conventional narratives. Glazer’s exceptional sense of visual images, which is strange but poetic, and equally weird yet wonderfully effective soundtracks by Micachu, hold us throughout, and made it one of the most talked about films in 2014. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is certainly ambitious and push the boundary work; great to see that one of the most recognisable stars (Scarlett Johansson) takes this challenging role. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe past.
Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (About Elly, A Separation) once again delivers a first-rate work. It’s another couple, family relationship drama with full of suspense, but multi-layered narrative ingeniously makes what appears to be a straightforward ‘divorce’ story into an increasingly intricate, tense ‘secrets and lies’ drama. The story develops by revealing the past through multiple people’s eyes, while three lead actors exchange terrific performances. Every detail is fastidiously executed including clever sound effect contrasting ‘noise’ and ‘silence’. A master class.

Cover imageA touch of sin.
One of the leading filmmakers of world cinema today, Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke is back to top form with this dynamic work. Mixing excellent artistry with a documentary touch, he often depicts disconsolate young people who are not able to connect to society, and highlights the reality of modern China where massive changes have been going on. This master film also deals with the same theme: the moral and social crisis of today’s China. Ingenious Zhang-ke seamlessly tells four different stories, inspired by shocking real-life events, and portrays the tragedies in ordinary life with an impeccable tension and a superb cinematic aesthetic. Brilliant.

Cover imageStories we tell.
A gifted actress (The Sweet Hereafter, My Life without Me) and a highly individual filmmaker (Away from Her, Take this Waltz), Sarah Polley explores her own family history and reconstructs the life of her mother Diane, who died of cancer when Sarah was 11, and reveals Diane’s painful secret, which in fact concerns Sarah’s identity. Although it’s a very delicate issue to deal with, Polley takes an honest, direct approach with a playful mind. Like many other documentaries, the story basically narrates through old footages and interviews, but she shapes them, with a warm wit, very intriguingly and even experimentally. Truth is stranger than fiction.

New ‘Other Genres’ fiction for February – This month featuring translated novels

Translated novels are featured in this month’s ‘Other Genres’ fiction. The selection from all parts of the world includes two Nobel Prize Literature winners, Mo Yan in 2012 and Patrick Modiano in 2014.

Syndetics book coverWhere the day begins : 61 shortcuts from my travels in New Zealand / Martin Bettinger ; translated by Andreas Richter.
“Arriving in Golden Bay in the 1990s, Martin Bettinger expected to find a quiet place to write. Instead he found an intriguing mix of people: expatriates from many countries, mavericks, bach owners, alternative life-stylers and those down on their luck, most of whom were drawn to the bay to build a new life. Travelling and working through the South Island he found that this land of promise provided no new answers, just another opportunity to make the same mistakes anew.” (Adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverThe end of days / Jenny Erpenbeck ; translated by Susan Bernofsky.
“In the Hapsburg Empire, a newborn baby dies suddenly, leaving her parents to grieve into eternity. But what if fate had taken a different turn? Perhaps she survives and grows up in Vienna? Over the years, she faces death again and again, only to live on in another place and time. Her journey traces the history of war, of religious and political conflict that comes to define Eastern Europe in the 20th century.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe arc of the swallow / Sissel-Jo Gazan ; translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund.
“When controversial Professor Kristian Storm is found hanged in his office, his assistant Marie Skov refuses to believe that he has committed suicide. Having just returned from West Africa on a research trip, the late scientist had uncovered a shocking truth about immunology programs in the developing world. Former police detective Soren Marhauge is determined to prove what really happened to the professor. While Marie grapples with Storm’s disputed legacy, Soren leads them both beyond legal boundaries and behind the scenes of the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe vegetarian : a novel / Han Kang ; translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith.
“Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe little old lady who struck lucky again! / Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg ; translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury.
“Can the group of elderly friends work together to outsmart the younger robbers and get away with their biggest heist yet? Or will this job be a step too far for The League of Pensioners?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrog / Mo Yan ; translated from the original Chinese edition by Howard Goldblatt.
“A respected midwife, Gugu combines modern medical knowledge with a healer’s touch to save the lives of village women and their babies. After a disastrous love affair with a defector leaves Gugu reeling, she throws herself into enforcing China’s draconian new family planning policy by any means necessary. Her blind devotion to the party line spares no one, not her own family, not even herself.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe search warrant / Patrick Modiano ; translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin.
Missing: a young girl, Dora Bruder, 15, height 1.55m, oval-shaped face, grey-brown eyes, grey sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes. All information to M. and Mme Bruder, 41 Boulevard Ornano, Paris. The author chanced upon this notice in a December 1941 issue of Paris Soir. The girl has vanished from the convent school which had taken her in during the Occupation. She had apparently run away on a bitterly cold night at a time of especially violent German reprisals. Moved by her fate, the author sets out to find all he can about her.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThere once lived a mother who loved her children, until they moved back in : three novellas about family / Ludmilla Petrushevskaya ; translated with an introduction by Anna Summers.
“In this latest collection of three novellas, Russian author Petrushevskaya is interested in the emotional and psychological toll living in Soviet Russia took on families, with an emphasis on how women, specifically mothers, coped.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe tower : a novel / Uwe Tellkamp ; translated by Mike Mitchell.
“In derelict Dresden a cultivated, middle-class family does all it can to cope amid the Communist downfall. This striking tapestry of the East German experience is told through the tangled lives of a soldier, surgeon, nurse and publisher. With evocative detail, Uwe Tellkamp masterfully reveals the myriad perspectives of the time as people battled for individuality, retreated to nostalgia, chose to conform, or toed the perilous line between East and West.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe seventh day / Yu Hua ; translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr.
“Yang Fei is dead. Arriving at the funeral parlor as directed, he’s denied eternal rest because he has “neither urn nor grave”; over the next seven days, he revisits his short 41 years. Yang Fei was temporarily famous as “the boy a train gave birth to,” having accidentally slipped from his birth mother through a toilet opening on a moving train; he was rescued by a railway employee who became his devoted father. When Yang Jinbiao falls morbidly ill, Yang Fei abandons job and home to care for him. Unwilling to drain Yang Fei further, Yang Jinbiao disappears, setting in motion an afterlife journey for both father and son.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction for February

In this wonderful selection of New Contemporary fiction this month you will find psychological thrillers, futuristic and suspense, humour and debut novels. Highly recommended is the suspense/thriller by Paula Hawkins titled The Girl on the Train.

Syndetics book coverHoly cow / David Duchovny ; illustrations by Natalya Balnova.
“When a cow named Elsie Bovary inadvertently learns about something awful called an industrial meat farm, she instantly organizes an escape with a Torah-spouting pig named Shalom, newly converted to Judaism, and iPhone-proficient turkey Tom.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe book of strange new things / Michel Faber.
“After an emotional leave-taking from his wife, Bea, protagonist Peter is strapped into a hyperspace vehicle bound for a distant planet. Under the auspices of USIC, a corporation secretly colonizing the planet Oasis, Peter is tasked with serving the planet’s indigenous population. A group of these cloaked humanoid beings has a hunger for the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, which they call “The Book of Strange New Things,” and cultivating them is a priority because USIC needs the food they provide for a barren Oasis. Peter rapidly goes native and bonds with the aliens, though at the expense of his long-distance relationship with Bea, who is struggling for survival.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDon’t ever look back / Daniel Friedman.
“In 1965, a master thief known as Elijah, a Jew who survived the Holocaust by doing whatever he needed to, invited Buck Schatz, then an officer with the Memphis, Tenn., police department, to join a plot to rob a bank, hoping that their shared religion would make him agreeable. Schatz declined, but despite his best efforts to foil the robbery, and despite a seemingly impregnable bank vault, Elijah pulled off the heist. In 2009, Elijah resurfaces and tells the 88-year-old Schatz, who now resides in an assisted-living facility, “I need you to keep me safe as long as you’re able, and if I am killed, I want you to rain vengeance upon my enemies.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwist / Tom Grass.
“Eighteen-year-old Twist, one of the most daring street artists in London, doesn’t have much. When he finds himself on the run from the police, Twist knows he’s about to lose the one thing he has left, his freedom. That’s when he’s saved by the mysterious Dodge who introduces him to charismatic art ‘collector’ Cornelius Fagin and the beautiful but dangerous Red. Twist is soon drawn deeper into the group and thinks he finally has the chance to be part of something. But as his feelings for Red grow, he discovers she has a secret – one that binds her to the bullying Bill Sikes and means that, unbeknownst to Fagin and the crew, they are no longer playing for money. They’re playing for their lives.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary

Syndetics book coverThe girl on the train / Paula Hawkins.
“Rachel Watson is obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom. She’s having a hard time putting the past behind her, especially since she confronts it daily, during the hour long commute to London, when her train passes the Victorian house she once shared with Tom. She also frequently spies an attractive couple, four doors down from her former home, who she imagines to be enjoying the happily-ever-after that eluded her. Then, suddenly, the woman turns up on the front page of the tabloids as missing. The police want to question Rachel, after Anna, Tom’s new wife, tells them that Rachel was in the area drunkenly out of control around the time of Megan’s disappearance.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)

Syndetics book coverCold Cold Heart.
“TV reporter Dana Nolan, for days raped, tortured, and disfigured, is on the floor of a van driven by a serial killer. In one last, desperate attempt to survive, Dana buries a screwdriver in her tormentor’s head, killing him. Now the beautiful, confident “Before Dana” is gone, replaced by a new Dana, suffering from post-traumatic stress and memory gaps. The media frenzy turns the spotlight on the disappearance of Dana’s best friend from high school, Casey, who vanished without a trace the summer after their graduation. Are the two incidents related? What happened to Casey? Dana is determined to find out, but the truth may lead her down a path of no return.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crooked house / Christobel Kent.
“Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family was no unhappier than anyone else’s, or so she thought. Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she’s to have any chance of happiness, she has to confront her past. As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sacrifice / Joyce Carol Oates.
“A teenage black girl named Sybilla Frye is raped and left for dead in the basement of an abandoned New Jersey factory. Sybilla accuses white police officers of the crime. Her mother, Ednetta Frye, refuses to cooperate with police as outrage boils over in their community of Red Rock, N.J. After the spotlight-seeking Rev. Marus Mudrick starts the “Crusade for Justice for Sybilla Frye,” the crime devolves into a nationwide spectacle. The town begins to splinter, and once-certain facts turn to doubts and intrigue until the true reason for the attack becomes clear.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSometimes the wolf / Urban Waite.
“Sheriff Patrick Drake tried to lead an upstanding life and maintain some financial stability until his wife passed away. He did okay for a while, singlehandedly raising his family in a small mountain town. Then he was hit with money troubles, fell in with some unsavory men, and ended up convicted of one of the biggest crimes in local history. Twelve years later Patrick is on parole under the watchful eye of his son Bobby, who just happens to be a deputy sheriff in his father’s old department.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWeathering / Lucy Wood.
“Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river, the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. Or why, for that matter, she’d been stupid enough to fall down those rickety stairs. Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago, with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light and no company apart from echoing footsteps on the damp floorboards. With her daughter Pepper, she starts to sort through Pearl’s things, clearing the house so she can leave and not look back. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

Some disparate choices this week, I couldn’t find a connecting theme.  Maybe too much choice is the theme?  But, let’s take this as a good sign!  That’s because there are too many good books coming out that I just want to share them all with you.

Syndetics book coverDisclaimer
A psychological thriller with female protagonist. Catherine, a wife and mother to a grown up son, starts reading a book that appears on her bedside table. Unfortunately the book ends up being about a dark secret from Catherine’s past. An incident that she’s ashamed of and that she thought only one person knew about – and they’re long dead. Described as creepy and film rights have already been sold!

Syndetics book coverGorsky
This is about a Russian billionaire (Gorsky) who decamps to London (of course!) to try and woo his Russian sweetheart Natalia (who happens to be married to someone else). But this is not a book about love or glamorous lifestyles. That’s because it’s narrated by the bookseller Gorsky hires to help him create an impressive library in his mansion, a Serbian immigrant to London. The bookseller sets about acquiring all the first editions he can, seeing all the wealth and privilege, before a tragedy strikes. Amazon says “a captivating tale of big money, Russian beauty and good books.”

Syndetics book coverAt hawthorn time
This story starts with a car accident in the British countryside. It involves Howard and Kitty, an older couple who moved to the countryside to escape London and patch their failing marriage; Jamie an young car enthusiast who’s lived in the area the whole time; and Jack a vagrant farm worker. Their works literally collide and the book looks at their interconnectedness and their connections to the land. “At Hawthorn Time is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss.” (Amazon)

Here’s some extras that sound good too:

Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover

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