Readers Choice fiction selections

Reviews from library patrons are a great way to find out what people have loved reading from the new additions to the fiction collection. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material.  You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

Here are some recent reviews featuring an interesting mix of subjects and genres: mysteries, historical novels, science fiction, humour, psychological fiction, thrillers and New Zealand environmental activism.

The changeling : a novel / LaValle, Victor D.Book Jacket for: The changeling : a novel
“This captivating retelling of a classic fairy tale imaginatively explores parental obsession, spousal love, and the secrets that make strangers out of the people we love the most. It’s a thrilling and emotionally devastating journey through the gruesome legacies that threaten to devour us and the homely, messy magic that saves us, if we’re lucky.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Excellent. An unusual voice, but marvellous blend of modernity and fairy-tale, with powerful themes and insight.  Very Satisfying.” (5/5 stars)

Book Jacket for: Stranded

Stranded / MacLeod, Bracken
“Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was suspenseful, gripping and well researched. Doesn’t lean on the numerous clichés of the horror genre which makes it so engaging.  A great read!” (4/5 stars)

Book Jacket for: Hanna who fell from the skyHanna who fell from the sky / Meades, Christopher
“With lush, evocative prose, award-winning author Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world–and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “What a well written novel, thoroughly enjoyed it, well worth reading. Never read any of Meades novels before would love to read more of his material.” (5/5 stars)

Book Jacket for: The last hoursThe last hours / Walters, Minette
“When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Well written, engaging, couldn’t put down – read all night. Can’t wait for the sequel this year.” (5/5 stars)

Book Jacket for: EurekaEureka / Quinn, Anthony
“Summer, 1967. As London shimmers in a heat haze and swoons to the sound of Sergeant Pepper, a mystery film – Eureka – is being shot by German wunderkind Reiner Kloss. The screenwriter, Nat Fane, would do anything for a hit but can’t see straight for all the acid he’s dropping.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Was an enjoyable read, especially in it’s evocation of London in the ‘swinging sixties’.” (4/5 stars)

Book Jacket for: KrusoKruso / Seiler, Lutz
“It is 1989, and a young literature student named Ed, fleeing unspeakable tragedy, travels to the Baltic island of Hiddensee. Long shrouded in myth, the island is a notorious destination for hippies, idealists, and those at odds with the East German state.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was compelling.  Via fantasy and fact Seiler deftly weaves a story about East German idealists, refugees and escapists told through the perspective of a challenged young man” (5/5 stars)

Eye of the songbird / Munro, Michael
“What happens when a New Zealand team of scientists find one of the world’s largest flawless diamonds on the last piece of sovereign-less land, Antarctica?” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “A highly relevant New Zealand thriller with it’s plot centred on one of the big issues of the day; climate change.  Highly recommended” (4/5 stars)

The miranda : a novel / Nicholson, G. J.
“The Miranda is at turns a biting satire about the secrets we keep from our neighbors, and about the invisible and unceasing state of war in which most Westerners unconsciously live.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was like a Coen Brothers movie: darkly satirical. The detachment of the protagonist is key to this novel – he was a psychologist turned government agent training operatives to withstand torture. He is not disaffected, quite the reverse, but he is clinical , perceptive and interesting. A good dark read.” (4/5 stars)

Kamila Shamsie: Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. The prize was previously known as the Bailey’s and the Orange Prize. The author is described as creating a book that “spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties love and politics.” Commended for her mastery, the book is written in five parts, each voicing their truth in the tale. Based on the struggles of Antigone who wrestled with loyalty to family or the ruling elite, this modern setting places characters sensitive to ethnicity, religion and ideologies. British Muslim characters, with family connections to extremism, face prejudice and personal dilemma in reaction to family, the state and justice.

Home fire / Shamsie, Kamila
“Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love? A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.” (Catalogue)


Craft, it’s not just about fibres, paper and glue, but also indulges in the hard stuff.  Metals that have been beaten into panels, rolled into sheets extruded into wires and drops of solder to hold stuff together.  This post is a product of wire, consecutive loops conjoined to form chain mail that can be presented as adornment or battle dress. You probably could use #8 fencing wire if you wanted to make a colloquial statement.  Wearable Arts ideas anyone?
So break out your pliers and try your hand at a technique over 2000 years old.

Sources on library shelves vary from the practical instruction manual to visual inspiration and ideas for utilising other media.   Anticraft : knitting, beading, and stitching for the slightly sinisteroffers clear instructions in chain-mail creation.  The instructions in the back of the book can be adapted for any form you choose to assemble.
The authors have also posted more information online about chain-mail.

Chain mail jewelry is on order, so get your reserve in and be the new kid on the block with chain mail creations.   This book offers techniques and designs for links, which brings us neatly to the next book title: Links.  These techniques might be incorporated in something you’re creating that evokes the days of yore.  In fact the name chainmail dates back to the gothic revival of the Victorian era (thank you Wikipedia).

If you want some visual inspiration for a revival of your own there are some great resources to dip your senses in. The Medieval World Complete.   Another great source of visual kicks is Princely Feasts and Festivals; this portrayal of mind blowing  extravagance is worth a peek.
Often the look of an item, the visual impact doses the viewer with a package of era specific resonance.  Stage costuming often relies on audience perception rather than dutiful replication.  Piecework magazine, the January/February 2010 ‘Historical Knitting Issue’ has an article on knitting for the stage which includes a pattern for a short chain-mail hood or coif.  There’s more info on theatrical costuming and other chain-mail creations through our Ebsco databases: MasterFILE Premier.  Searching with the keywords “chain mail” brings up links to articles on mesh purses from the 1800’s to 1960’s iconic dresses.

Let us know if these ideas inspire you or if you’ve found other sources through the library for chain mail or other metal crafting. Ever seen those suitcases made from re-purposed cans?…They’re clever!

Saint Valentine got crafty

Making a something for your beloved or the person whose attention you want to grab is a great tradition in these times of the clamouring heart.

Is doily manipulating the way you’ve operated in the past? Something created by hand (or foot, if toe painting is your thing) carries a wealth of meaning and sentiment.  Try some new twists on the creative path to romance…

Papercraft is a fanatstically accesible medium, The Pop-up book, by Paul Jackson has some great step-by-step instructions to create an unforgetable gift or card.  He has several other titles in the library if you want to check out origami to enfold a message or paper planes to deliver your rendezvous location.  Use tags for papercraft to discover other authors and titles.

There’s some eye pleasing inspiration in Beading with world beads: beautiful jewelry, simple techniques. Wellington has some fantastic sources of beads (google Wellington beads). You could use other stringable items such as shells from your favourite beach or other pieces of interesting flotsam.

If you’re looking for a project to keep children busy while you plan a romantic evening, try Gifts from the heart.  Karori library has dibs on this one, so use your card for a reserve to collect it from any branch.  Or peruse the section in the Children’s non-fiction area with the call numbers J745.5 onwards.

Stitched up softie

Making one of the creatures from the Softies book, proved to be a great way of using up the poly-something filling from a cushion chewed by the dog a couple of years ago (she’s much better behaved now.  Uncannily this replicates the conduct of my brother’s dog –  maybe there is something to sibling behaviour after all!).

creating softie

The last time I used my sewing machine was hemming curtains so dealing with the intricacies of this scaled down cuddly item was very different.  The trickiest thing for me was the face. I used felt and stitched on the eyes and mouth rather than using buttons or eyes as the intended recipient is small and at the chewing or rather gumming things to taste what they are.  Dredging up chain stitch from distant memories of CDT (Craft Design Technology) school days didn’t come as an entire capsule of proficiency, so I had another go.  Mary Thomas’s dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (new Edition by Jan Eaton) originally published in 1934 struck me as an authorative set of instructions.  Apparently chain stitch was the original machine stitch, so go the sewing machine connection!
smaller softies4
I changed the original design a bit by increasing the arm size as I thought the little nubbins that resulted from the first one were a little out of scale.  Esthetic is an individual thing after all, and it’s all there to play with right?  I also forgot to add the horns on the first one, (hemming curtains really is my forte) so luckily I didn’t have to cut out new ones. By the end I was pleased to be stuffing the little creature and stitching up the sides… Tah-dah!

Some other sources for soft toys in the Library:
Stitched toys : 20 stunning but simple designs
Bobby Dazzler’s make your own misfits : 35 unique and quirky sewn creatures
Needle felted figures
and one from the Children’s collection:
Beanbag buddies and other stuffed toys
Do you have any great patterns you’ve found? Or items created from sources in the library? Let us know!

Big Softie

Copy of iStock_000006226913LargeSo having become a new Aunty and being filled with benevolent Aunty type feelings I decided to create a something for the new family addition. Initially I thought mobile, as I’ve always been intrigued by those aerial seesaws and in theory the creation would be out of the grasp of the dog which can grab anything 2 metres away in the 360 degree radius. Then I thought something to grab and chew, by the niece, not the dog, might be better. The library shelves have a lot to offer on the soft toy line. I chose to look at the Softies. Apparently this isn’t a particular brand but a new wave of soft toy making that delights in original shapes using vintage fabric. Perfect, if like me, your bungles or ‘original’ stitching will look like an intentional quirk! The library holds a range of books with ‘Softies’ in the titles, I thought I’d start at the beginning: Softies : 22 friends for you to sew, knit and crochet.

Not being too proficient at crochet (I have crocheted a hat, but that only required one stitch!) I’ll be sewing mine from fabric.  Check back in to see how it all progesses, maybe 2 would be better, one for the niece and one for the dog =)

Other titles the Library holds:

Zombie felties: how to raise 16 gruesome felt creatures from the undead
Simple softies : for the whole family
Softies only a mother could love ; lovable friends for you to sew, knit or crochet
More softies : 22 new friends for you to sew and crochet.

Sock creatures aren’t too much of a leap, the library had a bit of a whirlwind romance with them last year for Leadership week when patrons and staff members created some great versions of their own.

Page 62 of Burda 3/2010 has a similar idea titled ‘exotic creatures’ (Burda).

Also visit these sites for ideas:
The Penguin Softies site (this has a free pattern so if these popular books are all out take a look online =))
Flickr Softies pool for loads of pretty pictures of people’s creations. Great for some inspiration

Leadership Week
absolutely small
Softie making
The Needle Blog