History picks for July

Before Tom Cruise started divorcing wives, Henry VIII had the biggest “celebrity” divorce around! This month’s history books include a new account of this famous divorce. We also have some great new New Zealand histories, along with looks at the Kings of Scotland and the twelve Caesars. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverThe divorce of Henry VIII : the untold story from inside the Vatican / Catherine Fletcher.
“Given the amount of material available on the Tudors, it’s difficult to think that anyone even remotely interested in this era is unfamiliar with the particulars of Henry VIII’s attempts to seek a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the resulting political and religious fallout. Fortunately, in her first book, Fletcher (history, Univ. of Durham, England) has found a new angle by focusing on a little-known figure: Gregorio Casali, England’s Italian-born ambassador to Rome. As one of the diplomats charged with securing the Pope’s approval for the divorce, Casali played a central role in the dealings at the papal court. Though some biographical gaps remain, the information Fletcher has uncovered about Casali’s life-full of clashing politics, professional rivalries, and deep family loyalties-provides a fresh perspective on the proceedings of the divorce attempt as well as an in-depth look at the complex world of 16th-century diplomacy. ” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverThe meeting place : Māori and Pākehā encounters, 1642-1840 / Vincent O’Malley.
“The Meeting Place is an examination of relationships between Maori and Pakeha focusing predominantly on the period between 1814 and 1840 when, O’Malley argues, both peoples lived/inhabited a ‘middle ground’- in the historian’s Richard White’s phrase – in which neither could dictate the political, economic or cultural rules.  Vincent O’Malley begins by introducing readers to pre-1814 encounters between Maori and European from, Tasman and Cook to sealers and whalers. He then provides a thematic analysis of the 1814 to 1840 period, looking at economic, religious, political and sexual encounters as Maori and Pakeha sorted through the meanings of land, money, gods, leaders and sex.  Finally, O’Malley looks at why and how the middle ground gave way to a world in which Pakeha had enough power to dictate terms.  The Meeting Place draws on an impressive range of sources to offer a welcome addition to works concerning Maori-Pakeha interaction in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries including those by Anne Salmond, James Belich, Judith Binney, Hazel Petrie, and others.  It will appeal to the every general reader interested in New Zealand history but will also be useful for teaching.  Its coverage of several major historical debates is likely to serve existing university courses throughout New Zealand as well as the senior secondary school curriculum.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Book Cover Once were Pacific : Māori connections to Oceania / Alice Te Punga Somerville.
“Native identity is usually associated with a particular place.  But what if that place is the ocean?  Once Were Pacific explores this question as it considers how Maori and other Pacific peoples frame their connection to the ocean, to New Zealand, and to each other through various creative works.  Maori scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville shows how and when Maori and other Pacific peoples articulate their ancestral history as migratory seafarers, drawing their identity not only from land but also from water.   Although Maori are ethnically Polynesian, and Aotearoa New Zealand is clearly a part of the Pacific region, in New Zealand the terms “Maori” and “Pacific” are colloquially applied to two distinct communities: Maori are Indigenous, and “Pacific” refers to migrant communities from elsewhere in the region. Asking how this distinction might blur historical and contemporary connections, Te Punga Somerville interrogates the relationship between indigeneity, migration, and diaspora, focusing on texts: poetry, fiction, theater, film, and music, viewed alongside historical instances of performance, journalism, and scholarship.   In this sustained treatment of the Maori diaspora, Te Punga Somerville provides the first critical analysis of relationships between Indigenous and migrant communities in New Zealand.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverThe faded map : lost kingdoms of Scotland / Alistair Moffat.
“This book brings to vivid life the half-forgotten kings and kingdoms of two thousand years ago, of the time of the Romans, the Dark Ages and into the early medieval period.  Though recent politics and logistics have established borders and jurisdictions which now seem permanent and impervious, The Faded Map looks beyond these to remember a land that was once quiet and green. In this fascinating account, Alistair Moffat describes the landscape these men and women moved through and talks of a Celtic society which spoke to itself in Old Welsh, where the Sons of Prophesy ruled, and the time when the English kings of Bernicia held sway over vast swathes of what is now Scotland.  Heroes rode out of the mists to challenge them and then join with them.  The faint echo of the din of ancient battles can be heard as Alistair Moffat takes the reader on a remarkable journey around a lost Scotland.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverThe twelve Caesars / Matthew Dennison.
“One of them was a military genius; one murdered his mother and fiddled while Rome burned; another earned the nickname ‘sphincter artist’.  Six of their number were assassinated, two committed suicide – and five of them were elevated to the status of gods. They have come down to posterity as the ‘twelve Caesars’ – Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.  Under their rule, from 49 BC to AD 96, Rome was transformed from a republic to an empire, whose model of regal autocracy would survive in the West for more than a thousand years.  Matthew Dennison offers a beautifully crafted sequence of colourful biographies of each emperor, triumphantly evoking the luxury, licence, brutality and sophistication of imperial Rome at its zenith.  But as well as vividly recreating the lives, loves and vices of this motley group of despots, psychopaths and perverts, he paints a portrait of an era of political and social revolution, of the bloody overthrow of a proud, 500-year-old political system and its replacement by a dictatorship which, against all the odds, succeeded more convincingly than oligarchic democracy in governing a vast international landmass.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Her Story picks for June

This month’s history recent picks are all about the ladies: a mystery writer touring the world; the women behind the Kennedy political men; an American woman becomes an African King (yes King not Queen!); photographic comparison of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II’s London; and a journalist on the spot during the Libyan uprising. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverThe grand tour / Agatha Christie ; edited by Mathew Prichard.
“In 1922 Agatha Christie set sail on a 10-month voyage around the British Empire with her husband as part of a trade mission to promote the forthcoming British Empire Exhibition. She kept up a detailed weekly correspondence with her mother, describing in detail the exotic places and people she encountered as the mission travelled through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada. Previously unpublished letters are accompanied by hundreds of photos taken on her portable camera as well as some of the original letters, postcards, newspaper cuttings and memorabilia collected by Agatha on her trip. The Grand Tour is a book steeped in history, sure to fascinate anyone interested in the lost world of the 1920s. Coming from the pen of Britain’s biggest literary export and the world’s most widely translated author, it is also a fitting tribute to Agatha Christie and is sure to fascinate her legions of worldwide fans.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverJackie, Ethel, Joan : the women of Camelot / J. Randy Taraborrelli.
“The Kennedys once again are the focus of a biography, but this time the stories bring together three women who married into the famous family: Jackie Bouvier, Ethel Skakel, and Joan Bennett. Although their childhoods are briefly visited, it is the years of Camelot that are the main focus here, with much attention to its poignant collapse upon the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. Filled with anecdotes derived from an exhaustive list of sources, including interviews and personal letters, there are enough tantalizing interpersonal scenes to keep even the most experienced Kennedy watcher alert. Taraborrelli keeps true to his focus by emphasizing the wives’ reactions, feelings, and accomplishments rather than shifting to the Kennedy family members themselves. Although the narrative borders on the melodramatic at times, the comfortable pace, coupled with a rich reading by Beth Fowler, makes this a necessary purchase for any public library collection.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverKing Peggy : an American secretary, her royal destiny, and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village / Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman.King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village
“Bartels was a native of Ghana living in the U.S., working as secretary to the Ghanaian embassy, when a relative called to give her startling news. Following the death of her uncle, a village king, the council of elders had determined that she would be his successor. Bartels, who’d come to the U.S. to study and had become a U.S. citizen, hadn’t been home since the death of her mother. But she accepted the daunting prospect with determination and brio. She would rule part-time, traveling between Washington, D.C., and Ghana. Bartels, along with coauthor Herman, chronicles her journey from secretary to king of the poor and isolated village of Otuam, 60 miles from the capital of Accra. She becomes reacquainted with distant relatives and her estranged husband as she juggles responsibilities such as refurbishing the modest palace, repaving roads, and burying her uncle before the ancestors can be offended all on fees collected from fishermen and a secretary’s salary. Balancing cultural differences and sketchy finances, Bartels finds within herself the strength to tackle poverty, tradition, and personal transformation.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

Syndetics book coverThe queens’ London : the metropolis in the Diamond Jubilee years of Victoria & Elizabeth II / Jon Curry & Hugo Simms.
“In the last years of the nineteenth century, The Queen’s London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Great Metropolis was published. The work, a collection of some of the finest photographs of the capital ever taken, was produced to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of her most excellent Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India. In 2012, when the eyes of the world will be on London, The Queens’ London brings this story up to date. Pairing these beautifully captured vintage views with 180 images taken from identical vantage points in the London of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, it gives the reader a fascinating perspective on the history behind London’s familiar streets.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverColonel Gaddafi’s hat : the real story of the Libyan uprising / Alex Crawford.
“Colonel Gadaffi’s Hat is both a gripping and deeply moving account of the Libyan uprising from the lone journalist who was able to report from the rebel army convoy that captured Green Square, in the heart of Tripoli. Alex Crawford’s daring reports were beamed across news networks from around the globe, and against a dramatic backdrop of celebratory gunfire, Alex and her team showed the world the final symbolic moments of the fall of a regime that had held power for more than 40 years. The euphoria and chaos of that atmosphere of jubilation was soon overcome by the realities of conflict, and the story of the following days that Alex so viscerally tells in this remarkable account is an eye-opening journey full of human stories that are both shocking and touching. A portrait of the last gasps of Gaddafi’s regime, Crawford’s book is an extraordinary insight into modern political conflict and the nature of journalism. The first journalist to be on the scene at a number of key points in the Libyan conflict, Alex has been arrested, shot at, tear gassed and interrogated in the course of her career, and paints a fascinating picture of war journalism. A heart-stopping ride through a dramatic moment in modern history, Colonel Gadaffi’s Hat is a window into both the craft of journalism and the amazing story of Libya’s road to Freedom.” – (adapted from Global Books in Print summary)

Vintage – the new old look

Want to look glamourous and care about the enviroment? Well, Vintage may be the trend for you!

What is Vintage? Vintage Fashion and Beauty is about the look of previous eras. This look can be achieved by finding pre-loved clothing and/or buying modern inspired pieces. Hair and make-up also play a big part. For inspiration Chloe Sevigny and Dita von Teese are just two of many celebs who emulate this trend.

The Vintage trend is also for those interested in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away.

Interested but not sure where to start? We have books on how to buy and style clothing, how to achieve that special hair do or makeup trick, and we haven’t forgotten the men:

Syndetics book coverStyle me vintage hair : easy step-by-step techniques for creating classic hairstyle / Belinda Hay.
“Owner of the Painted Lady salon in London, Hay here introduces readers to some of the most iconic hairstyles of the past, from finger waves and pin curls worn by flappers in the 1920s to the Barbarella style made famous by Jane Fonda in the late 1960s. Each style includes step-by-step instructions and photographs of the finished look on models fully styled in period makeup and wardrobe. They are also shown as contemporary looks on celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson. The instructional aspect of the book could have been improved with fewer full-page photographs and more pictures of the steps. Readers looking for more variations on these hairstyles may prefer Lauren Rennells’s Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step-by-Step Techniques. A companion title from Pavilion, Katie Reynolds’s Style Me Vintage: Make Up, will be released in the United States in November. Verdict Fun, informative, and beautifully designed, this is an inspiring introduction to classic hairstyles.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverStyle me vintage : make-up : easy step-by-step techniques for creating classic looks / Katie Reynolds.
“Step-by-step instructions in a beautiful retro-glam package provide everything needed to create authentic vintage looks-whether you want to look like Louise Brooks, Marilyn Monroe, or Madonna Filled with fantastically inspiring images, tips on the best makeup techniques and accessories, and easy-to-follow instructions, this resource provides everything a fashionista needs to create vintage looks from the 1920s to the 1980s. Vintage styles have never been more popular, with style icons like Scarlett Johansson to Dita Von Teese indulging in retro glamour. Whether the aim is a look that can be worn day-to-day or one for a special outing or occasion, this must-have book has all the instructions and inspiration needed to recreate the decadence and fun of vintage styles.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStyle me vintage: clothes: a guide to sourcing and creating retro looks
“The newest Style Me Vintage, in a beautiful retro-glam package, clearly details how to create authentic vintage clothing looks from the 1920s to the 1980s. Vintage styles have never been more popular, with everyone from major stars to teens on the street looking to indulge in retro glamour. Whether a reader is looking to completely over haul their look, go for complete vintage glam, or just introduce a few key vintage pieces into their day-to-day wardrobe, this book will teach them how. It is packed with tips on how to find unique, one-off items that fit any budget, look fabulous, and will retain their value, and also details what to look for, when to part with one’s cash, and what to avoid. Readers will learn how to determine which era fits their shape, how to build a retro look from the base up, and how to make retro styles work with modern accessories. Filled with fun, detailed photographs showing classic looks from the 1920s to the 1980s, this is essential reading for anyone who has ever wanted to introduce vintage into their wardrobe, but felt unsure where to start.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverMaking vintage jewellery : 25 original designs, from earrings to corsages / Emma Brennan.
“The vintage look is hot. Beginning jewelers can update their own collections with these timeless, handmade pieces that bring individual flair to even the most basic outfit. There is a chapter here on every decade from the refined elegance of the 1910s through the chic glamour of the 1950s, and 25 inspiring projects to explore each one. An art nouveau flower choker, trellis cluster earrings, Egyptian disc necklace: the wealth of styles and endless color possibilities make this collection of sophisticated designs truly extraordinary. There is also a comprehensive techniques section with lavish photography to guide the novice through all the basics, from working with wire to sewing on sequins.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVintage menswear : a collection from the Vintage Showroom.
“Curated by connoisseurs of vintage clothing, the “Vintage Showroom” is a vast collection of rare 20th-century pieces that fashion designers and stylists pay to view, using the cut and detailing of individual garments as inspiration for their own work. Offering one-of-a-kind access, “The Vintage Showroom Menswear” now makes this unique resource available in book form. Featuring 130 of the most influential examples of 20th-century and earlier European, American and Asian utilitarian tailoring and design, the book is divided into three sections of sportswear, militaria and workwear, covering everything from 1940s flying jackets and polar exploration suits to vintage French denims. Stunning full-page bleeds and front and back views showcase ground-breaking designs in concept, shape and cut. Providing over 300 lavishly illustrated pages of rare, must-see designs, “The Vintage Showroom Menswear” is the essential choice of 20th-century vintage tailoring and detailing and an inspirational resource for students and menswear fashion designers and stylists.” – (adapted from Fishpond summary)

Syndetics book coverWearable vintage fashion / Jo Waterhouse & Clare Bridge.
“Wearable Vintage Fashion presents desirable, affordable and accessible vintage clothing and accessories in a new and fun format. Covering the looks of the twentieth century from the 20s to the 80s, this insider’s guide will feature the clothing, accessories and styling to recreate the looks of each decade. By presenting timeless, classic vintage pieces, the items will always be stylish regardless of the era they came from or the fashion trend of the moment. The book will, therefore, serve as a visual reference guide to collecting as well as to wearing classic vintage clothing. Vintage dressing is very much a current fashion trend with lots of people shopping for affordable vintage clothing and trying to recreate vintage looks by mixing new and old. The authors show the reader how to put the clothing and accessories together to create that period look whether for daywear or eveningwear. In addition to interviews with collectors and the story behind their collections, the authors look at vintage street fashion from around the world: showing members of the public combining vintage with, and as, their everyday fashion.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverViva vintage : find it, wear it, love it / Trudie Bamford.
“Whether you’re looking for a knock-out dress for a special occasion or some one-off separates to liven up your existing wardrobe, nothing says style quite like an original. And now, guided by an experienced vintage seller with a passion for great fashion, you will discover how easy it is to find, choose, wear and care for the best twentieth-century clothing and accessories.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMinxy vintage : how to customise and wear vintage clothing / Kelly Doust.
“Crafter, fashionista and vintage vixen Kelly Doust delves through her wardrobe and scours flea markets far and wide to bring together a fabulous collection of delectable vintage finds.This is not just a book about loving vintage fashion: it’s about seeing the wonderful possibilities for updating all old clothes, and how to look fabulous doing so, no matter what your age, location or budget.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

The Joys of Armchair Travel

Can’t afford to go on a holiday? No problem, explore the world through travel books in the comfort of home! They’re creatively written, and often more interesting and comprehensive than travel guides that tend to gloss over certain experiences. Still wishing it was you on a beach? We have all the best travel horror stories that will make you think twice!

Some great authors to try:

Looking for a reason to stay home:

Syndetics book coverSod abroad: why you’d be mad to leave the comfort of your own home / Michael Moran.
“Ok, its not absolutely certain that you’ll catch a fatal bout of food-poisoning or be banged up in jail as a drugs mule. But you might. Why would a sane person risk it? Holidays aren’t economical, they arent ecological, and they’re not much bloody fun. With travel tips, handy warnings and lists of stuff you can only do at home, Sod Abroad will help you kick the holiday habit. Instead, why not spend a fortnight on your sofa, in your home, watching your telly (/reading this book), and eating food that you can actually pronounce.” – (adapted from Fishpond.co.nz summary)

Syndetics book coverDon’t go there! : the travel detective’s essential guide to the must-miss places of the world / Peter Greenberg ; Sarika Chawla, chief research editor.
“We’ve all suffered through bad vacations: tourist traps, endless lines, rundown hotels, and the worst airports on earth. Before you book your next trip, get all of the facts-that “idyllic” beachfront hotel could really be one of the world’s hellholes.In this follow-up to his New York Times bestseller, The Complete Travel Detective Bible, Peter Greenberg shares his experiences and hard-won knowledge of where not to go and why, so you can make sure your big vacation isn’t to a dismal destination.From dangerous roads, crime-ridden cities, and countries overrun with disease to depressing destinations, polluted beaches, and places that (literally) stink, the ultimate travel expert leaves no stone unturned, no garbage heap unexplored, to list the locations you should forget even exist.Backed up by information he has been compiling for years, Greenberg unapologetically exposes misrepresented resorts, corrupt countries, and cringe-worthy cruise ships so that travelers can confidently pack their bags and avoid vacation tragedy. Book jacket.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover101 places not to see before you die / Catherine Price.
“From the Grover Cleveland Service Area to the Beijing Museum of Tap Water to, of course, Euro Disney, 101 Places Not to See Before You Die brings you lively tales of the most ill-conceived museums, worst theme parks, and grossest Superfund sites that you’ll ever have the pleasure of not visiting. Journalist Catherine Price travels the globe for stories of misadventure to which any seasoned traveler can relate-including guest entries from writers such as Nicholas Kristof, Mary Roach, Michael Pollan, Rebecca Solnit, and A. J. Jacobs-and along the way she discovers that the worst experiences are often the ones we’ll never forget.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover101 places not to visit : / Adam Russ.
“101 Places Not to Visit” has it all: dull attractions, pointless festivals, sites famous for their biohazards or radioactivity, tips on how to avoid marriage to locals desperate to escape, and more. Brimming with vitriol and useful information, this eye-opening guide will have you canceling your next vacation. Stopping at every continent, this cautionary companion offers a look at the places that tourist organizations would rather you didn’t know about. Refreshingly abusive, it makes no effort whatsoever to be fair or even-handed. Each entry begins with a unique point system that awards stars for “Boredom Factor” and “Likelihood of Fatal Visit.” This is followed by a history of the destination, a look at its culture or lack of it, non-attractions, and any culinary specialties you might be expected to endure. Throughout, color photos and special features draw attention to particularly ghastly places, people, and events. Don’t leave home without it…or, perhaps, don’t leave home at all.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverOverboard: the stories cruise lines don’t want told / Gwyn Topham.
A cruise was once the trip of a lifetime: a byword for refinement, luxury, romance, the millionaire lifestyle. No longer. Boats are bigger and brasher, and every year more and more people of all ages and walks of life are clambering aboard to join the party. But are they safe? Out at sea, there are no police. Many cruise ships fly flags of convenience, sailing in murky legal waters. Reports of disappearances, disease, death and debauchery are becoming alarmingly frequent. Can you be sure your dream holiday, or your ship, won’t end up on the rocks? Gwyn Topham, travel editor of Guardian Unlimited, talks to crew and passengers in Australia and around the world to find out what really happens on the high seas. In tales spanning ships from the Fairstar to the QM2, he discovers pirates and pollution, missing persons and mutinies, colourful captains and crew, and passengers whose antics would make your hair curl. You cannot afford to get aboard until you have read Overboard: the stories cruise lines don’t want told.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Titanic awards : celebrating the worst of travel / Doug Lansky.The Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst of Travel
“From the worst airport layout to the most confusing subway system to the most overrated tourist attraction, Lansky looks at flawed travel destinations with a gimlet eye and a sense of the absurd.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAround the world by mouse / Harry Pearson.
“Inspired by the efforts of 1950s comic writer Alex Atkinson who wrote a travelogue about the USA without bothering to visit it, Harry Pearson embarks on an epic trip around the globe without leaving his office except for the obvious necessities (snacks, bathroom breaks and removing an electrocuted mouse from inside the toaster). Using the Internet, he traverses an incredible virtual world where natural wonders are rendered all the more remarkable by the florid language of computer translation programmes (“Glorious opinions of the provincial topography can be had from our high-up windows”). By train, car, motorbike, and yacht, as well as homepage, live cam, and blog, the author traverses the planet; fights off wave after wave of Spam-hucksters (“Want to make love like you were a teenager again?” What, you mean, on my own?); barters with locals using the recognized currency of the cyberspace–trivia; tries very hard not to be distracted from the appalling situation in Tajikstan by the news that a group of men in Michigan regularly recreate the great medieval battles using thousands of Playmobile figures; and along the way learns about truth, beauty, and why his septic tank is a ticking time bomb.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Celebrate Matariki!

Matariki 2012

In Pipiri/June each year, the star cluster Matariki (Pleiades) appears in our dawn skies.

The Maori New Year begins with the sighting of the first new moon after the first appearance of Matariki. This year it occurs on 21 Pipiri/June.

Traditionally Matariki marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the planting season. Today Matariki means celebrating the unique place we live in, and giving respect to the land we live on.

Festivities differ from iwi to iwi but for most New Zealanders, Matariki is a time of remembrance, hospitality and new beginnings.

Matariki is a time for inward reflection and renewal. It is a time to consider the year ahead and make plans to improve our lives and enhance our communities. It is a chance to come together and share knowledge and skills.

There are a number of exciting events and activities happening at our libraries and around the city to celebrate Matariki.

Check out:

From the library’s collection:

History Picks for May

We have some great new history books this month from a Kiwi in Afganistan to when U-boats Attack.  Plus revolution in Egypt, a look at the Tower of London, and the assassination of Lincoln.  Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverZen under fire : a New Zealand woman’s story of love and war in Afghanistan / Marianne Elliott.
“I am about to be left in charge of the office. I’m not sure I am ready for the responsibility, so I double-check with my boss. He reassures me. ‘You’ll be fine, Marianne. As long as no one kills Amanullah Khan, you’ll be fine.’ By midday, Amanullah Khan is dead.” In 2006 Marianne Elliott, a human rights lawyer from New Zealand, is stationed with the UN in Herat. Several months into her new role an important tribal leader is assassinated while she is in charge of the local UN office. She must try to defuse the situation before it leads to widespread bloodshed. ZEN UNDER FIRE is a vivid and deeply personal account of a young woman’s time living and working as a peacekeeper in one of the world’s most notorious battlegrounds. As well as sharing the incredible details of her UN work in and around Herat and the remote province of Ghor, Marianne tells of the shattering effects of this high-stress, high-danger environment on her and her relationships – and how, amid the turmoil, she begins to find her way back to herself.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverTower : an epic history of the Tower of London / Nigel Jones.
“Castle, royal palace, prison, torture chamber, execution site, zoo, mint, home to the crown jewels, armory, record office, observatory, and the most visited tourist attraction in the UK: The Tower of London has been all these things and more. No building in Britain has been more intimately involved in the island’s story than this mighty, brooding stronghold in the very heart of the capital, a place which has stood at the epicenter of dramatic, bloody and frequently cruel events for almost athousand years.
Now historian Nigel Jones sets this dramatic story firmly in the context of national – and international – events. In a gripping account drawn from primary sources and lavishly illustrated with sixteen pages of stunning photographs, he captures the Tower in its many changing moods and its many diverse functions. Here, for he first time, is a thematic portrayal of the Tower of london not just as an ancient structure, but as a living symbol of the nation of Great Britain.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverKilling Lincoln : the shocking assassination that changed America forever / Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever
“O’Reilly, the popular and controversial cable news commentator, teams here with Dugard (Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone) to cover Lincoln’s assassination in a simple and morally unambiguous style. They offer no new insights into the death of Lincoln, just a sensationalist retelling of a familiar story. In pages filled with conjecture about the mental states of the protagonists, the authors succinctly describe the closing battles of the Civil War, the assassination, and its aftermath. They frequently speculate on conspiracy theories that involved secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton in the assassination plot, but they never make accusations except to say his behavior was “suspicious.” It will be interesting to see whether fans of O’Reilly’s television show will flock to his first foray into history the way they have to his books on contemporary issues. VERDICT Written from an unapologetically northern perspective, this book is not for academics but may appeal to readers who enjoy fast-paced, conjectural popular history. It includes an appendix reprinting the Harper’s Weekly account of the assassination written soon after.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverCairo : my city, our revolution / Ahdaf Soueif.
“They wanted me to talk to them, to tell them stories about it, to tell them how, on the 28th of January when we took the Square and The People torched the headquarters of the hated ruling National Democratic Party, The (same) People formed a human chain to protect the Antiquities Museum and demanded an official handover to the military; to tell them how, on Wednesday, February 2nd, as The People defended themselves against the invading thug militias and fought pitched battles at the entrance to the Square in the shadow of the Antiquities Museum, The (same) People at the centre of the square debated political structures and laughed at stand-up comics and distributed sandwiches and water; to tell them of the chants and the poetry and the songs, of how we danced and waved at the F16s that our President flew over us. People everywhere want to make this Revolution their own, and we in Egypt want to share it.”
Ahdaf Soueif was born and brought up in Cairo. When the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 erupted on January 25th, she, along with thousands of others, called Tahrir Square home for eighteen days. She reported for the world’s media and did – like everyone else – whatever she could.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverU-boats attack! : the Battle of the Atlantic witnessed by the Wolf Packs / Jak P. Mallman Showell.
“Jak P. Mallmann Showell is the son of a U-boat diesel mechanic, who died in action. Jak is a full-time naval historian, author and photographer. He speaks fluent German. He is considered one of the leading authorities on the Battle of the Atlantic and has produced more than forty books on naval activity during the Second World War, including Hitler’s U-boat Bunkers, Hitler’s U-boat Warriors and Companion to the German Navy (The History Press). He lives in Kent.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

History picks in April

We have some great new history books this month including a look at one man’s jouney through the New Zealand Wars; a history of Jewish lives in New Zealand; and the story of how a struggle between queens and kings, churchmen and explorers made the world’s oceans a battleground. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverFor gallant service rendered : the life & times of Samuel Austin, NZ Cross, 1831-1903 / Barbara Mabbett.
“Samuel Austin’s military career began with the British army and ended with the Wanganui Native Contingent in their campaign to capture Te Kooti in 1870. Drawn extensively from Austin’s own diary, this is the story of his adventurous life as a soldier, settler, and family man. From his childhood in Ireland and service with the 65th Regiment, it vividly details the extensive action he took part in during the turbulent years of the New Zealand Wars, and his later life as a colonist in the growing town of Wanganui.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverJewish lives in New Zealand : a history / Leonard Bell and Diana Morrow, editors.
“The census tells us that 8000 New Zealanders actively identify as Jewish and it is estimated that the broader population is probably around 25,000. There has never been an authoritative history of this country’s Jewish population and yet people of Jewish descent (both secular and religious) have played vital roles in all aspects of our society throughout its history. Auckland alone has had five Jewish mayors. Jews have been prominent in New Zealand’s business, cultural, intellectual, political, medical, intellectual life and more since the 1840s, and successive waves of immigration have added to the tapestry of New Zealand Jewry. This significant book covers key sectors of activity with specialist writers assigned to each. Richly illustrated, it slots another important piece into the jigsaw of our history.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book cover1494 : how a family feud in medieval Spain divided the world in half / Stephen R. Bown.
“Historian Bown (Scurvy) offers an entertaining, though often repetitive, chronicle of intrigue, deception, and power struggles in the early modern world. When Columbus returned from the New World to Spain in 1493, Portugal’s King Joao II claimed that a series of papal decrees clearly guaranteed that these rich lands belonged to him. The Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella sent an envoy to Pope Alexander VI, and following the pope’s decree that Ferdinand, Isabella, and their heirs had exclusive rights to travel in and trade with Columbus’s newfound lands, Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. It extended an imaginary line on a north-south axis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; Portugal retained all lands east of the line, and all lands to the west of the line were the Spain’s sole domain. As Bown points out, both nations benefited from this treaty; Portugal quickly grew rich from its monopoly on the trade routes to India and the Spice Islands, while Spain overtook the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca empires, shipping home vast quantities of gold. Bown’s captivating study presents a fresh glimpse into the origins of the age of exploration and conquest as other nations challenged the primacy of Spain and Portugal.” (Publishers Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe first frontier : the forgotten history of struggle, savagery, and endurance in early America / Scott Weidensaul.
“Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier, the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.
Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground, when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.”
“The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories, like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern Americas tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.” (Global Books In Print) 

Syndetics book coverAutumn in the Heavenly Kingdom : China, the West, and the epic story of the Taiping Civil War / Stephen R. Platt.
“By the 1850s, China’s Qing dynasty had held power for over 200 years, with peasants more and more having to endure privation, starvation, and disease. Ordinary Chinese believed the Qing, who were ethnic Manchu, were ineffective against “foreign devils” and in the Opium Wars with Britain. Enter Hong Xiuquan, failed civil servant and a convert to Christianity who believed he was Jesus’s brother. He set off the immense and brutal civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion and established the breakaway state of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Platt (history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst), as his subtitle shows, prefers to call it a civil war, the most devastating in history, with over 20 million killed, with brutality on both sides. The rebels, the majority ethnic Han, had strength in their great discipline and fanaticism. They would take a city, then move to the countryside enlisting farmers to join the battle against ruling forces. The Qing ultimately crushed the rebellion with help from trading partners in the West. VERDICT Platt’s study of this era will be challenging for general audiences, but specialists and those seeking a serious study of the topic will appreciate it.” (Library Journal)

March History Picks: Writing Māori, letters to the editor, & who killed JFK.

Our picks of the new history books this month includes a beautiful book describing the first encounters Māori had with paper and writing, and the first relationships between Māori and Europeans in the earliest school. Letters to the editor from William Colenso, suggested by some to be an early version of “blogging”. Conspiracy theorists will love the new JFK assination take in “LBJ: the mastermind if the JFK assassination”. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverWords between us : first Māori-Pākehā conversations on paper = He Kōrero / Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins.
This book traces Māori engagement with handwriting from 1769 to 1826. Through beautifully reproduced written documents, it describes the first encounters Māori had with paper and writing and the first relationships between Māori and Europeans in the earliest school. The book tells an image-led story about the earliest relationships between Māori and Pākehā based around the written word and sheds light on a larger story of the first attempts of Māori and Europeans to live together in the early 1800s and the negotiation of the relationship through writing.

Syndetics book coverGrey’s folly : a history of Howick, Pakuranga, Bucklands-Eastern Beaches, East Tamaki, Whitford, Beachlands and Maraetai / Alan La Roche.
“This is a social, economic and political history written for all residents, students, schools and those interested in this particularly historically attractive part of New Zealand. It includes a full history of Maori, the missionaries, settlers, Fencibles, farmers and the development of our strong local communities persevering through wars, droughts and recent growth welcoming new arrivals to share our heritage.” – (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe great divide : history and human nature in the old world and the new / Peter Watson.
“Jared Diamond’s 1999 international bestseller GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL sought to explain the rise of the West; why it was that the ‘Old World’ civilizations reached the point at which they could discover and conquer those of the ‘New World’. Peter Watson develops this a great deal further. For 15,000 years mankind existed on both hemispheres of the planet but with no contact between them. Radically different civilizations produced startlingly different mindsets and cultures. One would wipe out the other in within a generation of first contact. THE GREAT DIVIDE will be the first book to reveal just what was lost in the clash of civilizations that ended thousands of years of separate development. In IDEAS, Peter Watson demonstrated an impressive mastery of every historical discipline. Now he will bring his ability to tell a complex big story in an accessible way to explain how the very different conditions of the Americas affected human civilization, religion, agriculture, technology and above all, thought. Contrasting these strands with the history of the ‘Old World’ is a radical new way to examine the political and intellectual history of mankind.” – (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverGive your thoughts life : William Colenso’s letters to the editor / compiled by Ian St George.
“‘…you have the Press, both open and free: use it. Give your thoughts life; let all good measures be brought forward, discussed, and well ventilated.’ – William Colenso, writing to the Hawkes Bay Herald in 1859. The provincial newspaper columns were the ‘public spheres’ of their time, places for geographically separated individuals to contribute opinions to the debates of an immature democracy. But equally they were the vehicles for the passionately held views of bigots egged on by unscrupulous editors eager for exciting copy. These letters from Colenso, and their replies, show colonial politics to be argumentative, fervent and nasty – and the rants of opinionated, self-styled experts are thrilling in their vehemence.” – (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverLBJ : the mastermind of the JFK assassination / Phillip F. Nelson.
“Nelson is not the first to suggest that Lyndon Johnson masterminded JFK’s murder. Readers of Barr McClellan’s Blood, Money & Power (2003) will note that Nelson goes over much of the same ground, casting LBJ as a ruthless, manipulative power-seeker who, in order to avoid being dropped from the reelection ticket (and to avoid the inevitable scandal from past indiscretions), decided his only option was to have the president killed. But Nelson’s boundless enthusiasm, not to mention his (mostly) consistent theory of how it all was arranged and then covered up, should sell the book to conspiracy mavens. Keen-eyed readers will notice that the author’s argument ultimately rests on a simple assertion: LBJ was the only person who could possibly arrange JFK’s assassination, so therefore. axiomatically. he did it. If you buy that, the rest of the author’s arguments flow (mostly) logically; if you don’t, well, the book is still a fascinating read, full of some very clever creative thinking. On the conspiracy-theory plausibility scale, where 1 is crackpot nonsense and 10 is rigorous and persuasive, this one is close to a 7: Nelson definitely hasn’t proven LBJ’s guilt, but he’s built an intriguing and thought-provoking case.” – (Booklist)

Wedding Fashion

Until April 22nd 2012 Te Papa is host to the exhibition Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

If you can’t make it to see the exhibition or you have had your interest sparked, explore our Weddings Popular Topic page, and take a look at some of collection on Wedding Fashion:

Syndetics book coverI do : 100 years of wedding fashion / Caroline Cox.
“I Do is a captivating review of wedding fashion over the last century. Chapter by chapter, the book outlines the changes from the ostentatious Edwardian wedding gowns of the early twentieth century to the knee length flapper gowns of the 1920’s, inspired by Parisian couture and the designer Coco Chanel. By the 1930’s Hollywood reigned and film-star weddings, publicised both on the silver screen and in fan magazines, brought a touch of glamour into the ceremony, which was soon to be cut short by the restrictions of the Second World War. By contrast, the war bride had to cope with walking up the aisle in ‘make-do-and-mend’ concoctions of muslin and parachute silk. Since the 1950’s romantic styles have dominated, influenced by Dior’s New Look and the American ‘sweetheart’ line – despite incursions from street styles and high fashion. But the 1960’s mini – seemingly a rejection of marital bliss and a symbol of independence – was worn by few brides, and despite the effect of the hippie counterculture and feminism, marriage still survives today. A widespread subversion in the look of the bride has yet to happen, suggesting that the white wedding is here to stay.” (Amazon)

Syndetics book coverThe wedding dress : 300 years of bridal fashions / Edwina Ehrman.
“From the romance of its evolution to the splendor of its design, the wedding dress is unlike any other garment, a talisman from a fantasy world, the manifestation of dreams coming true. This book draws on wedding garments in the V&A’s renowned collection along with photographs, letters, memoirs, and newspaper accounts to explore the history of the white wedding dress and the traditions that have developed around it from 1700 to today, when designers from Vera Wang to Vivienne Westwood continue to challenge the aesthetic. Paintings, drawings, and wedding photos depict queens, princesses, celebrities, and everyday women- including Kate Middleton – in their gowns. The text considers the dress in the context of the commercialization of weddings that began in the Victorian era. The Wedding Dress is not only about costume, but also about the cultivation of the image of the bride.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverVintage weddings : one hundred years of bridal fashion and style / Marnie Fogg ; [foreword by Bruce Oldfield].
“A visual journey through 100 years of wedding styles and dresses, “Vintage Weddings” takes a close look at the key periods, diverse styles, iconoclastic designers, significant ceremonies and cultural influences in wedding fashions. Organized chronologically, this book shows the reader how to recognize the silhouette that will best suit their body shape, identify luxurious fabrics, contrast various styles, and to source appropriate accessories, from gloves and shoes to flowers, veils, jewellery and table decorations. Throughout the book, individual pieces that epitomize the defining characteristic of each designer or decade are analyzed in detail. This book is for those interested in collecting and acquiring all aspects of authentic vintage pieces relating to the wedding ceremony, and also for prospective brides who are buying new, but are looking for sources of inspiration.” (Amazon)

Syndetics book coverWedding dress across cultures / edited by Helen Bradley Foster and Donald Clay Johnson.
“Editors Foster and Johnson use the term “dress” for more than clothing. They include body modifications, supplements, and usage based on terminology developed by Ruth Barnes and Joanne Eicher in Dress and Gender: Making and Meaning in Cultural Contexts (CH, Dec’92). These 14 essays by international scholars in art history, textiles, anthropology, folklore, and theatrical costume provide a spectrum of wedding clothing, symbolism, and customs from traditional Swazi bridal garments, Inca sandals and tunics, the Moroccan Berber bridal Aabroq (cloth-and-jewelry headdress and face covering), and Korean embroidered whalot robes to Greek wedding crowns and Slovak bride capping. Several studies cover changes over time within cultures: contemporary political attempts to lower inhibiting dowry requirements for Rabari families (Hindu pastoralists in Kutch, western India); modern marketing through packaged elite weddings in Osaka, Japan; modifications to Alaskan Inupiaq atikluks (parka-style dresses and jackets); and the latest US playful theme weddings (e.g., Renaissance, cowboy, Celtic, Halloween, 1920s), which reject tradition and allow for the ultimate in free choice. The colorful cover might deceive readers looking for a lush coffee-table book, but this small volume, though rich in content, is limited in illustrations. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All libraries. B. B. Chico Regis UniversityCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” (CHOICE)

Syndetics book coverQuest for the dress : finding your dream gown without losing your sanity, friends, or groom / Nancy Di Fabbio.
“Having run a bridal gown shop for over 20 years, Nancy Di Fabbio has seen everything from botched plans for a plus-sized bride to wear a petite grandmother’s dress to knock-down, drag-out family fights over the veil. In “Quest for the Dress, ” she draws on her irrepressible sense of humor, experience, and entertaining stories to create one guidebook that helps brides find their dream dress without losing their sanity in the process. The guide includes tips on creating a game plan for the wedding before making any plans, choosing shopping companions carefully, finding the right accessories and the perfect headpiece and veil, a crash course in fashion and fabric, avoiding alteration problems, and caring for a dress after the big day. Perfect for future brides and those close to the bride, “Quest for the Dress” is an enjoyable and useful present for a shower or engagement.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBridal couture : fine sewing techniques for wedding gowns and evening wear / Susan Khalje.
“Create a fantasy! Susan Khalje guides readers through the principles and techniques of designing, constructing, and embellishing wedding gowns and evening wear. Ideal for the bride-to-be or seamstress. Learn how to choose the right fabric, work with lace, and problem solve tricky construction issues.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Knot book of wedding gowns / by Carley Roney.
“What’s the real difference between an $800 gown and an $8000 gown? Is Dupioni better than Duchesse? When do you need a crinoline, and what is a crumb catcher? From the creator of the #1 online wedding resource, The Knot Book of Wedding Gowns provides the answers to these questions and thousands more. The perfect gift for a bride-to-be, this lavishly illustrated book–more than 250 color photographs and illustrations–tells her everything she needs to know about the single most expensive and important piece of clothing she will ever own. The only fully comprehensive book on the subject, The Knot Book of Wedding Gowns dissects the construction of the dress; profiles the numerous styles; defines and illustrates hundreds of varieties of fabrics, laces, embellishments, and accessories; and provides straightforward counsel on which cuts work best with which fabrics, and what styles look best on which body types. In addition, informative sections explain how and where to search for a dress, how to pull everything together to achieve the perfect look, and how to care for the masterpiece when the wedding is over. Fascinating bits of history throughout unveil the traditions and significance of this most important piece of clothing. For that all-important decision of a lifetime, The Knot Book of Wedding Gowns is the ultimate book on the ultimate dress.” (Syndetics summary)

History by Twitter and some other great picks

In this month’s pick on new history books you’ll find ‘The Twitter Year’, a look at 2011 through the medium of social media. Ever wondered where your name comes from and how it relates to your family history?  Take a peek at ‘Surnames, DNA, and Family History’.  ‘The good, the bad & the unlikely: Australia’s prime ministers’ shows us that maybe our lot aren’t that bad after all; and Michael E. Smith has an up-to-date revisionist look at the history behind the interesting Aztec peoples.  Enjoy! 

Syndetics book coverThe Twitter year : 365 days in 140 characters / compiled by Kate Bussmann.
“The first ever social-media almanac presents 12 months as witnessed by the 100-million-strong tweeting community. It captures a dramatic year in news, culture and sport, from the death of Osama Bin laden to the Royal Wedding – all told through tweets, graphics and fascinating facts. Distilling from the 230 million tweets that are now sent each day, this is history through a lens.” (Library Catalogue)
In the year the social network celebrates its 5th birthday, Twitter continues to grow at an incredible rate. There are now over 200 million accounts across the world, including Lady Gaga, the British monarchy, Lord Voldemort and a lot of pets. A Twitter Year gathers some of the funniest and sharpest tweets to bring you a unique celebration of the way we talk now. (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverSurnames, DNA, and family history / George Redmonds, Turi King, and David Hey.
“This book combines linguistic and historical approaches with the latest techniques of DNA analysis and show the insights these offer for every kind of genealogical research. It focuses on British names, tracing their origins to different parts of the British Isles and Europe and revealing how names often remain concentrated in the districts where they first became established centuries ago. In the process the book casts fresh light on the ancient peopling of the British Isles. The authors consider why some names die out, and how others have spread across the globe. They use recent advances in DNA testing to discover whether particular surnames have a single, dual or multiple origins and whether various forms of a name have a common origin. They show how information from DNA canbe combined with historical evidence and techniques to distinguish between individuals with the same name and different names with similar spellings and to identify the name of the same individual or family spelt in various ways in different times and places. Clearly written and illustrated with hundreds of examples, this book will be welcomed by all those engaged in genealogical research, including everyone seeking to discover the histories of their names and families.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe good, the bad & the unlikely : Australia’s prime ministers / Mungo MacCallum.
Good drinkers, bad swimmers and unlikely heroes. Since the nation’s birth in 1901, twenty-seven politicians have sat in Australia’s driving seat. Their time at the top has ranged from eight days for Frank Forde to eighteen years for Bob Menzies. Whatever the length of their term, each prime minister has a story worth sharing. Edmund Barton united the bickering states in a federation; Billy Hughes knocked US president Woodrow Wilson down a peg or two. The unlucky Jimmy Scullin took office days before Wall Street crashed into the Great Depression, while John Curtin admirably rose to the challenge of wartime leadership. The much-loved Ben Chifley refused to wear a dinner suit to meet the king, and Jolly John Gorton’s partying lost him the job. With characteristic wit and expert political knowledge, Mungo MacCallum brings the nation’s leaders to life on the page. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UNLIKELY tells the fascinating tales of the men and woman who’ve had a fair crack at running the country. It is a wonderfully entertaining education. (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe Aztecs / Michael E. Smith.
“Smith provides a compelling reinterpretation of the standard history of the Aztec empire. Based upon archaeological research conducted during the past 15 years, rather than on subjective chronicles recorded by conquering Spaniards, this revisionist analysis offers a fresh perspective on the political, cultural, and social institutions and mores of the Aztecs. Detailed accounts of the Aztec approach to government, design, urban planning, economics, science, religion, the arts, and literature are also included. In addition, the author offers both an examination of the inevitable destruction and demise of the Aztec empire and a dynamic overview of the modern impact of the Aztec legacy. A significant contribution to the history of an impressive society of Native Americans. –Margaret FlanaganFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)