New Graphic Novels for August

This month we have a wonderful selection of new graphic novels that covers many genres. From mystery to science fiction, fantasy to thrilling suspense, and of course several first volumes of new series. All this and the typically brilliant variation in art work, provides a reading pleasure for all graphic novel enthusiasts.

Syndetics book coverKill or be killed. Volume one / Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.
“The twisted story of a young man forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret from destroying his life. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverElias the cursed / Sylviane Corgiat [writer] & Corrado Mastantuono [artist].
“Fallen king Elias is on a quest to reclaim the face that was stolen from him by the mighty sorcerer Melchior. With the help of an unlikely gang, of all fantastical shapes and sizes, and amidst magic both good and evil, Elias The Cursed will attempt to save his face, and perhaps his soul.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeowulf : a graphic novel / by Santiago García and David Rubín ; edited by Image Comics ; translation, Sam Stone and Joe Keatinge.
“The myth of Beowulf, which has endured for a thousand years and inspired an epic poem of the same name, became a foundational piece of English literature. It tells of the tale of a Scandinavian hero in lands that would become what is now Denmark and Sweden: A monster, Grendel, has arrived in the kingdom of the Danes, devouring its men and women for 12 years until Beowulf arrives to save them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLaid waste / Julia Gfrörer.
“In a plague-ravaged medieval city, survival is a harsher fate than death. As corpses accumulate around her, Agnes, a young widow possessed of supernatural strength, must weigh her obligations to the dead and dying against her desire to protect what little remains. Laid Waste is a graphic novella about love and kindness among vermin in the putrid miasma at the end of the world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlabaster : the good, the bad, and the bird / written by Caitlín R. Kiernan ; drawn by Daniel Warren Johnson.
“A new evil haunts the sun-scorched back roads and ghost towns of the American South, murderous twins who command a legion of ghouls. Once again, Dancy must face down demons, those who walk the world unchallenged and those in her own shattered mind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBy the numbers / Laurent Rullier, writer ; Stanislas Barthélémy, artist.
“The misadventures of Victor Levallois, a timid accountant that gets pulled into a life of danger. It all starts in 1948 when Victor is entrusted with an unusual errand: to deliver a suitcase to the port of Marseilles. But, when the suitcase is stolen, Victor finds himself bound for Saigon and the decadence, intrigue and ‘adventure’ of a colonial war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverClear blue tomorrows / Meyer, Gazzotti, Vehlmann.
“In the future, the entire population is under a de facto dictatorship because of cerebral implants invented by one F.G. Wilson. Nolan Ska, an engineer, manages to travel back in time, with the intention of changing history by encouraging Wilson’s first career as a novelist. But the man who will eventually become a seemingly immortal despot turns out to be a poor writer, and it will be up to Nolan to use his own memories to be his ghost writer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe abominable Mr. Seabrook / Joe Ollmann.
“In the early twentieth century, travel writing represented the desire for the expanding bourgeoisie to experience the exotic cultures of the world past their immediate surroundings. Journalist William Buehler Seabrook was emblematic of this trend-participating in voodoo ceremonies, riding camels cross the Sahara desert, communing with cannibals and most notably, popularizing the term “zombie” in the West. He had a list of bestselling books, but of course, there was a dark side. Seabrook was a barely functioning alcoholic who was deeply obsessed with bondage and the so-called mystical properties of pain and degradation. What led the popular and vivid writer to such a sad state? Cartoonist Joe Ollmann spent seven years researching Seabrook’s life, accessing long neglected archives in order to piece together the peripatetic life of a forgotten American writer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Spire / written by Simon Spurrier ; illustrated by Jeff Stokely.
“The Spire is a mountain of metal and stone, a vast city that rises out of the middle of the radioactive desert. Filled with twisting tunnels, grinding elevators, and ancient machinery, it is home to over a million human and non-human residents. Sha, the last of the species known as the Medusi, is responsible for keeping the hodgepodge of forgotten technology and new biology safe as Commander of the City Watch. But when a string of grisly murders are committed just as a new Baroness of the Spire is about to be sworn in, Sha will have to find the killer and bring that individual to justice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBalkans arena / Philippe Thirault [writer] & Jorge Miguel [artist] ; Mercedes Claire Gilliom, translator.
“When widowed former soldier Frank Sokol returns to his native Croatia with his Canadian-born son, Ben, he must face his estranged family and the ghosts of the civil war. When 11-year old Ben is kidnapped by the local mafia and forced into the underground world of illegal online cage-fighting, Frank will stop at nothing to get him back. But the cost may be even higher than he’s willing to pay, and his son could be changed forever.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New non-fiction: a biography of Elizabeth Warren, race and racism in Britain, & more

This month we have a wide range of titles in our new non-fiction, from a biography of rising American academic and politician Elizabeth Warren, to climate change and the future of the planet, as well as a look at the CIA, and issues of race and racism in Britain.

Syndetics book coverThis fight is our fight : the battle to save working people / Elizabeth Warren.
“Senator Elizabeth Warren has long been an outspoken champion of working people, and by the time the people of Massachusetts elected her in 2012, she had become one of the country’s leading progressive voices. Warren grew up in Oklahoma, and she’s never forgotten how difficult it was for her mother and father to hold on at the ragged edge of the lower middle class. An educational system that offered opportunities for all made it possible for her to achieve her dream of going to college, becoming a teacher, and, later, attending law school. But now, for many, these kinds of opportunities are gone, and a government that once looked out for working families is instead captive to the rich and powerful…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe CIA as organized crime : how illegal operations corrupt America and the world / by Douglas Valentine.
“Author of three books on CIA operations, Valentine’s research into CIA activities began when CIA Director William Colby gave him free access to interview CIA officials who had been involved in various aspects of the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. It was a permission Colby was to regret. The CIA would rescind it, making every effort to impede publication of The Phoenix Program, which documented the CIA’s elaborate system of population surveillance, control, entrapment, imprisonment, torture and assassination in Vietnam. While researching Phoenix, Valentine learned that the CIA allowed opium and heroin to flow from its secret bases in Laos, to generals and politicians on its payroll in South Vietnam…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy I’m no longer talking to white people about race / Reni Eddo-Lodge.
“In 2014, award-wining journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote on her blog about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge has written a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary examination of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverToo late : how we lost the battle with climate change / Geoffrey Maslen.
“In Too late, Geoffrey Maslen paints a sobering picture of the state of our planet and discusses how successive governments have failed to initiate change. Drawing on the work of leading climate scientists, this book is an urgent reminder that we have reached the point of no return. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about our planet’s future and what we leave for the generations to come”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverI was toId to come alone : my journey behind the lines of Jihad / Souad Mekhennet.
“For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for the Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other. In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighbourhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalised and the Iraqi neighbourhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNo free lunch : can New Zealand feed the world sustainably? / volume editor: Barbara Burlingame ; series editor: Claire Massey.
“The world needs nutrition-driven agriculture that operates within planetary boundaries. But how do we engage the agriculture, health and environment sectors to address the pressing local and global problems that have taken us to the edge of — and beyond — the planet’s limits to growth? What are the solutions? Do they involve short-term hardship in order to not put future generations in peril? Twenty experts give their view on how New Zealand can lead the way with robust policies and best practice for sustainable food consumption and production.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe IRA / Tim Pat Coogan.
“This updated edition of the best-selling history of the IRA now includes behind-the-scenes information on the recent advances made in the peace process. With clarity and objectivity, Coogan examines the IRA’s origins, its foreign links, bombing campaigns, hunger strikes and sectarian violence and its role in the latest attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Meticulously researched and featuring interviews with past and present members of the organization, this is a compelling account of modern Irish history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPost-truth : why we have reached peak bullshit and what we can do about it / Evan Davis.
“Low-level dishonesty is rife everywhere, in the form of exaggeration, selective use of facts, economy with the truth, careful drafting – from Trump and the Brexit debate to companies that tell us ‘your call is important to us’. How did we get to a place where bullshit is not just rife but apparently so effective that it’s become the communications strategy of our times? This brilliantly insightful book steps inside the panoply of deception employed in all walks of life and assesses how it has come to this. It sets out the surprising logic which explains why bullshit is both pervasive and persistent. Why are company annual reports often nonsense? Why should you not trust estate agents? And above all, why has political campaigning become the art of stretching the truth? Drawing on behavioural science, economics, psychology and of course his knowledge of the media, Evan ends by providing readers with a tool-kit to handle the kinds of deceptions we encounter every day, and charts a route through the muddy waters of the post-truth age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSugar : the world corrupted, from slavery to obesity / James Walvin.
“The story of mankind’s love of sweetness – the need to consume honey, cane sugar, beet sugar and chemical sweeteners – has important historical origins. To take a simple example, two centuries ago, cane sugar was vital to the burgeoning European domestic and colonial economies. For all its recent origins, today’s obesity epidemic – if that is what it is – did not emerge overnight, but instead evolved from a complexity of historical forces which stretch back centuries…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPedagogy of the oppressed / Paulo Freire ; translated by Myra Bergman Ramos
“This text argues that the perceived passivity of the poor is the direct result of economic, social and political domination. The book suggests that in some countries the oppressors use the ‘piggy bank’ system – treating students as passive, empty vessels – to preserve their authority and maintain a culture of silence. Through cooperation and dialogue, Freire suggests, the authoritarian teacher-pupil model can be replaced with critical thinking so that the student becomes co-creator of knowledge. Crucial to Freire’s argument is the belief that every human being, no matter how impoverished or illiterate, can develop an awareness of self, and the right to be heard.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRadicals : outsiders changing the world / Jamie Bartlett.
“…From dawn raids into open mines to the darkest recesses of the internet, Radicals introduces us to some of the most secretive and influential movements today: techno-futurists questing for immortality, far-right groups seeking to close borders, militant environmentalists striving to save the planet’s natural reserves by any means possible, libertarian movements founding new countries, autonomous cooperatives in self-sustaining micro-societies, and psychedelic pioneers attempting to heal society with the help of powerful hallucinogens…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJournalism and climate crisis : public engagement, media alternatives / edited by Robert A. Hackett, Susan Forde, Shane Gunster, Kerrie Foxwell-Norton.
Journalism and Climate Crisis: Public Engagement, Media Alternatives recognizes that climate change is more than an environmental crisis. This book enquires into which approaches to journalism, as a particularly important form of public communication, can best enable humanity to productively address climate crisis. Bringing together perspectives from the fields of environmental communication and journalism studies, the authors argue for forms of journalism that can encourage public engagement and mobilization to challenge the powerful interests vested in a high-carbon economy… Ultimately, the book argues for a fundamental rethinking of relationships between journalism, publics, democracy and climate crisis.” (Syndetics summary)

Classical CD Picks for August

Our spotlight on new classical music additions is an eclectic bunch: a little-known 18th century Italian work featuring period instruments, an exciting performance of Mahler song cycles, and two contemporary trumpet concertos.

Mahler Song Cycles. Performed by Alice Coote and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.
This compilation includes performances of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder and Kindertotenlieder. The acclaimed mezzo-soprano Alice Coote gives a performance many are praising for its freshness (and idiosyncrasy) and she is well-matched by the orchestra, in the safe hands of Marc Albrecht.

Sonate da Camera Nos 1-6, Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli. Performed by The Illyria Consort.
“In certain respects, Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli does not quite fit the eighteenth-century mould. For a neo-Corellian, he is unusually fond of complexity, both technical and compositional, and also unusually open to other contemporary influences, such as those of Handel and Vivaldi. But the quality of his music speaks for itself – virtuosic and joyously melodic…” (cover).

Håkan Hardenberger plays Dean and Francesconi. Performed with the Gothenburg Symphony.
Two demanding contemporary works for trumpet, performed by a master soloist. Dean’s work, Dramatis Personae, is much praised for its theatricality. Interestingly, one of Francesconi’s inspirations is legendary jazz figure Miles Davis, and with this in mind the ear will listen out for any references!

New books on learning English

Asking where the library is or how to buy a train ticket may be useful for backpacking but if you want get a job or go for that promotion your English skills may need some specialized upgrades. The books below are the next stop for anyone who wants to go from holiday to working holiday or further in New Zealand.

Syndetics book coverCOBUILD English grammar.
“With a user-friendly style and simple explanations, the Collins COBUILD English Grammar provides a comprehensive and authoritative guide to modern English grammar, using grammar terms that learners will understand. [Also features] Notes on the various situations in which certain grammar points typically appear, authentic examples, and information on the key differences between British and American grammar.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEnglish for everyone. Course book. Level 1, Business English / Victoria Boobyer.
“English for Everyone is an exciting and comprehensive self-study course for adults learning English as a foreign language. […] Learn business English by reinforcing key language skills, grammar rules and vocabulary with listening, speaking, reading and writing exercises…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEnglish for everyone. Practice book. Level 1, business English / Thomas Booth, Trish Burrow.
“This Business English Beginner Practice Book introduces business topics such as meetings and presentations, telephone language, company history, and business lunches.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Continue reading “New books on learning English”

Soundscapes and Literary Greats – Recent Travel Books

This month, discover Paris and London in very different ways. Janice MacLeod’s A Paris Year is a love letter to Paris (in illustrations and words) through the eyes of an artist. On the flip side, Streets of London : the story behind London’s most famous streets takes a layered approach, uncovering some of London’s fascinating back doubles and alleyways, often passed by and ignored.

In a month of contrasts and different approaches, we also feature two books about Antarctica.  Philip Samartzis, author of  Antarctica: An Absent Presence, travelled south with the Australian Antarctic Division on several occasions and his recordings of the unique sounds of Antarctica have been used to create soundscape compositions which wrap around the words and images in this book. The flip side here is a personal narrative leading towards the icy continent from rural America, in Andrew Evans’s The Black Penguin.

Finally we have a literary bent, with the collection of New York Times columns in Footprints examining the locations that influenced famous writers, and The Writer Abroad featuring the actual travel writing of some of the greats.

Antarctica : an absent presence / Philip Samartzis.
“This beautiful volume of soundscape compositions, images and words from Philip Samartzis is an invitation to share in a remarkable journey of enquiry. Antarctica is a paradox of the sublime and prosaic: with its vast expanses of ice, snow and mountains and traces of human habitation, from weathered huts to abandoned machinery. Samartzis travelled south with the Australian Antarctic Division on several occasions and his recordings of the unique sounds of Antarctica have been used to create soundscape compositions which are meticulously realised on three CDs of the music included in this book.” (Fishpond.co.nz)

Syndetics book coverA Paris year : my day-to-day adventures in the most romantic city in the world / Janice MacLeod.
“Part memoir and part visual journey, A Paris Year chronicles, day by day, one woman’s French sojourn in the world’s most beautiful city. Beginning on her first day in Paris, Janice MacLeod began a journal recording in illustrations and words, nearly every sight, smell, taste, and thought she experienced in the City of Light. The end result is more than a diary: it’s a detailed and colorful love letter to one of the most romantic and historically rich cities on earth. Combining personal observations and anecdotes with stories and facts about famous figures in Parisian history, this visual tale of discovery, through the eyes of an artist, is sure to delight, inspire, and charm.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe black penguin / Andrew Evans.
“A devout young boy in rural Ohio, Andrew Evans had his life mapped for him: baptism, mission, Brigham Young University, temple marriage, and children of his own. But as an awkward gay kid, bullied and bored, he escaped into the glossy pages of National Geographic and the wide promise of the world atlas. Ejected from church and shunned by his family as a young man, Evans embarks on an ambitious overland journey halfway across the world. Riding public transportation, he crosses swamps, deserts, mountains, and jungles, slowly approaching his lifelong dream and ultimate goal: Antarctica. Evans’s 12,000-mile voyage becomes a soulful quest to balance faith, family, and self, reminding us that, in the end, our lives are defined by the roads we take, the places we touch, and those we hold nearest.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStreets of London : the story behind London’s most famous streets / Lucy McMurdo.
“With a history going back 2000 years it is hardly surprising that so many of London’s streets are known throughout the globe. Even today several Roman roads pass through the capital, and London’s financial center, The City of London, is full of winding alleys and ancient ways with names from times gone by. Author Lucy McMurdo encourages you to turn off the main trail and discover more of London’s fascinating back doubles and alleyways, so often passed by and ignored.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTourist trains guidebook / [from the publishers of Trains magazine ; editor: Randy Rehberg].
Tourist Trains Guidebook, Sixth Edition describes 500 of the most popular train attractions, museums, and railroad vacation destinations in the U.S. and Canada. A unique travel guide that appeals to train buffs, individuals interested in historic trains and sites, and families looking for kid-friendly vacations. The digest book size offers a portable format that fits inside a backpack or tote. As passenger train travel enjoys a real renaissance today, a comprehensive railroad travel guide will be a valuable addition to your product line.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFootsteps : from Ferrante’s Naples to Hammett’s San Francisco : literary pilgrimages around the world / The New York Times ; introduction by Monica Drake.
“Based on the popular New York Times travel column, Footsteps is an anthology of literary pilgrimages, exploring the geographic muses behind some of history’s greatest writers. From the “dangerous, dirty and seductive” streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante’s famous Neapolitan novels, to the “stone arches, creaky oaken doors, and riverside paths” of Oxford, the backdrop for Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Footsteps takes a fresh approach to literary tourism, appealing to readers and travel enthusiasts alike.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe writer abroad : literary travels from Austria to Uzbekistan / selected by Lucinda Hawksley.
“From the grand tour to the global village, novelists and poets have made particularly observant travelers. Many writers have been prone to wanderlust, eager to explore the world and draw inspiration from their travels. They recorded their notes in letters, journals, essays and books. This collection takes us on a literary journey around the world, through extracts from Arthur Conan Doyle in Australia, Aldous Huxley in India, Charles Dickens in Italy, Henry James in France, Mary Wollstonecraft in Sweden, and many more.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWays to see Great Britain : curious places & surprising perspectives / text and illustrations by Alice Stevenson.
“Driven by curiosity, restlessness and a desire to better understand her own country, artist Alice Stevenson spent two years exploring and drawing Great Britain. With an eye for the odd and an antenna for the unexpectedly beautiful, she documented her slow, attentive forays. The result is a book celebrating detail, of landscape and architecture, and creativity, an essential human urge. A rich, artistic journey through a land deep in natural and man-made puzzles and wonders.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Unwavering convictions – Latest Beliefs books

Holding steadfast to decisions characterises many of the books in this months new releases – even when those decisions were counter-cultural or unpopular, bringing personal cost.

Syndetics book coverMartin Luther : renegade and prophet, by Lyndal Roper.
2017 is a milestone 500 years since the emergence of Martin Luther as an influential change agent in the church. This is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Distinguished Oxford University historian, Lyndal Roper looks inside the heart of this complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects–both good and ill. “This is Luther in colour.” (The Times) “Anyone seriously interested in one of the most influential figures of the last half-millennium will need to make time to read this one.” (Literary Review) The library has also recently purchased Martin Luther : Catholic Dissident.

Syndetics book coverThe souls of China : the return of religion after Mao, by Ian Johnson.
“From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a revelatory portrait of religion in China today–its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China’s future. China is now filled with new temples, churches, and mosques–as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty–over what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is searching for new guideposts.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEverything is workable : a Zen approach to conflict resolution, by Diane Musho Hamilton.
“Conflict is going to be part of your life–as long as you have relationships, hold down a job, or have dry cleaning to be picked up. Bracing yourself against it won’t make it go away, but if you approach it consciously, you can navigate it in a way that not only honours everyone involved but makes it a source of deep insight as well. Seasoned mediator Diane Hamilton provides the skill set you need to engage conflict with wisdom and compassion, and even–sometimes–to be grateful for it.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA nun’s story : the deeply moving true story of giving up a life of love and luxury in a single irresistible moment, by Sister Agatha, with Richard Newman.
“One happy day, in the midst of writing to her fiancee, her hand stopped writing unbidden; then it continued by itself, etching the words which would change her life forever: “. . . but there’s no point now, as I am going to be a nun.” That bolt from the blue set events in motion that caused Shirley to lose her mother and sisters, her husband to be, her horses, her parties and life of ease. Within months, Shirley had become Sister Agatha. But her faith in her choice never faltered, …. Now 85, she looks back on an incredible life of love, loss, and belief. …. Sister Agatha’s momentous life will touch and inspire, while reminding us that it is perhaps better to accept that not everything in the world is yet explained.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSecular Buddhism : imagining the Dharma in an uncertain world, by Stephen Batchelor.
The practice of mindfulness is more common in mainstream Western culture, although many have little interest in the religious aspects of Buddhism. Is it possible to recover from the Buddhist teachings a vision of human flourishing that is secular rather than religious without compromising the integrity of the tradition? Batchelor explores the complex implications of Buddhism’s secularization and offers a detailed picture of contemporary Buddhism and its attempt to find a voice in the modern world. (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSalafi-jihadism : the history of an idea, by Shiraz Maher.
“While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accurate understanding of jihadist beliefs has never been greater. Shiraz Maher charts the intellectual underpinnings of salafi-jihadism from its origins in the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the jihadist insurgencies of the 1990s and the 9/11 wars. What emerges is the story of a pragmatic but resilient warrior doctrine that often struggles … to consolidate the idealism of theory with the reality of practice.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnwavering convictions : Gao Zhisheng’s ten-year torture and faith in China’s future, by Gao Zhisheng.
“Gao Zhisheng was one of Beijing’s most successful lawyers. Self-taught and brought up in poverty, he came to prominence through his defense of individuals persecuted by the Chinese government for their religion and practice of Falun Gong, before being detained, tortured, and imprisoned himself by the same regime. These pages are not an easy read, because they detail the regime’s attempts to break one of the greatest spirits of our time. Despite this, Gao Zhisheng’s unwavering convictions, profound beliefs, and commitment to humanity shine through.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hidden school : return of the peaceful warrior, by Dan Millman.
“In the long-awaited conclusion to the international bestselling Peaceful Warrior saga, Dan Millman takes readers on an epic spiritual quest across the world as he searches for the link between everyday life and transcendent possibility. Continuing his journey from Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan moves from Honolulu to the Mojave Desert, and from a bustling Asian city to a secluded forest, until he uncovers the mystery of The Hidden School. While traversing continents, he uncovers lessons of life hidden in plain sight–insights pointing the way to an inspired life in the eternal present.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDays? or ages? : the Genesis question : a layman looks at Creation’s calendar, by Jerry Harmon.
“This work summarizes a thorough examination of Genesis 1, including relevant passages from other parts of the Bible, all in plain, straightforward language. … it draws from a wealth of scholarly works by some of the world’s leading theologians and other learned professionals. Whatever one’s opinion might be, this thesis will be informative reading and a significant resource to help clear away some of the clouds of mystery surrounding one of the Bible’s most challenging subjects.” (Syndetics summary)

New TV, documentaries & movies in August

New DVDs for July feature documentaries, with one of the most watched National Geographic shows ever with Morgan Freeman’s ‘The Story of God’, the tragic ALS documentary ‘Gleason’, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Before the Flood’. New movies include the charming remake of ‘Beauty and the beast’, lively German comedy ‘Toni Erdmann’ and historical drama ‘Alone in Berlin; while new TV includes the final season of ‘Bones’ and new Jude Law Vatican drama ‘The Young Pope’.

The story of God.
“This is an epic new series that explores how religion has shaped the history of the world – and how it continues to mould the lives of every single one of us today, no matter what our faith – or lack of faith – may be. Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman travels to some of the holiest sites in the world – from the Pyramids of Giza and Buddha’s Bodhi Tree to Mayan ruins and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. He meets people of all faiths and speaks to religious leaders, scientists, historians and archaeologists in an effort to understand how religion evolved and adapted as our society changed and, in turn, how religion transformed the evolution of society. Morgan attempts to shed light on questions that have puzzled, terrified and inspired us from the beginning, including the creation of the universe and the belief that the world will end in apocalypse.” (Syndetics summary)

Gleason.
“Steve Gleason was a star athlete who, tragically, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s journey to get his relationships in order, provide support to other ALS patients, and adapt to his declining physicality.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Before the flood.
“If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change – would you want to know? Before the Flood features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change, and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news. Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Bones. The final chapter.
“Brennan’s uncanny forensic skills help resolve even grislier cases, including a retirement home murder, a possible death by robot, and the slaying of close friend. Along the way, family tragedy strikes and Booth lands in the crosshairs of a serial killer. The fascinating storylines, heart and humor of these twelve episodes wrap of the final season of this hit series.” (Syndetics summary)

Beauty and the beast.
“The journey of Belle, a bright and independent young woman who takes her father’s place as the prisoner of a beast in his castle. As Belle befriends the castle’s enchanted staff, she and the Beast slowly begin to look beyond their initial reactions to each other and see who they truly are. But back in Belle’s village, her father’s fears for her safety drive him to rally the villagers to free Belle from the castle–a plan that goes awry, with dangerous consequences, when Belle’s would-be suitor Gaston twists the rally into a mob and leads an attack on the castle.” (Syndetics summary)

Toni Erdmann.
“Winfried doesn’t see much of his working daughter Ines. He pays her a surprise visit in Bucharest, where she’s busy as a corporate strategist. The geographical change doesn’t help them to see more eye to eye. Practical joker Winfried annoys his daughter with corny pranks and jabs at her routine lifestyle of meetings and paperwork. Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to go home to Germany. Enter Toni Erdmann: Winfried’s flashy alter ego.” (Syndetics summary)

Handsome devil.
“Ned, the bullied outsider, and Conor, the new boy and star athlete, are forced to room together at their boarding school. The boys take an instant dislike to each other, and seem destined to remain enemies until an English teacher, Mr. Sherry, begins to drill into them the value of finding one’s own voice. This lesson, however, isn’t appreciated by everyone, particularly rugby coach Pascal, who has his own agenda and harbors some deep suspicions about the boys’ teacher.” (Editorial Reviews Amazon.com)

The young pope. Series 1.
“Lenny Belardo, aka Pius XIII, is the first American Pope in history. Young and charming, his election might seem the result of a simple and effective media strategy by the College of Cardinals. But, as we know, appearances can be deceptive. Especially in the place and among the people who have chosen the great mystery of God as the guiding light of their existence. That place is the Vatican and those people are the leaders of the Catholic Church. And the most mysterious and contradictory figure of all turns out to be Pius XIII himself. Shrewd and naïve, old-fashioned and very modern, doubtful and resolute, ironic, pedantic, hurt and ruthless, Pius XIII tries to walk the long path of human loneliness to find a God for mankind. And for himself.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)


Alone in Berlin.

“How did an ordinary, middle-aged couple become a symbol of defiance against Nazi brutality? This tale of courage unfolds against the tumultuous backdrop of Berlin in 1940. Otto and Anna Quangel are a working class husband and wife doing their best to ride out the war. Their son is killed fighting on the frontlines. They begin pouring their rage and grief into postcards emblazoned with anti-Nazi slogans, risking everything to disseminate their messages of protest across the city.” (Syndetics summary)

Aftermath.
Aftermath tells a story of guilt and revenge when an air traffic controller’s error leads to a catastrophic mid-air collision that causes the death of a construction foreman’s wife and daughter. Starring Hollywood legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, two family’s lives are irrevocably changed by tragedy in this dramatic thriller, proving that vengeance is a journey with no return.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Bold, unusual necklaces & fabulous craft ideas

We have ideas and inspiration for you in this month’s collection of craft books, with a focus on jewellery — bold unusual necklaces and lots of techniques to get you started. Plus, learn how to make pottery you will love, and use, and explore fabric art journals. Above all, have fun creating.

Syndetics book coverEasy-to-make statement jewelry : bold necklaces to dress up or dress down / editors, Colleen Dorsey & Katie Weeber.
“Style up with bold accessories that you make yourself! DIY Bold & Beautiful Necklaces offers 20 unique jewelry projects that you can create in just one afternoon. From chunky stone and edgy angles to vintage charm, each of these standout necklaces will add instant drama to the simplest of outfits. Even if you never made a necklace before, step-by-step photographs and simple instructions get you started.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSoutache / Donatella Ciotti ; English translation by Burravoe Translation Services.
“Discover Soutache, the art of creating modern and unique jewelry from looped braids. Donatella Ciotti shows you how to create stunning, expensive-looking costume jewelry, from earrings and bracelets to brooches for hats, with full-colour, detailed photography to guide you through each process. There is even a gallery of images at the end of the book to inspire you to create your own, bespoke soutache masterpieces.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFashion jewelry : a beginner’s guide to jewelry making / Courtney Legenhausen of Lotus Jewerly Studio.
“Learn how to make beautiful jewelry from an up-and-coming designer with her own line! Bead stringing, wire wrapping, pearl knotting. This beginner-friendly guide, created by Courtney Legnhausen (owner of Lotus Jewelry), teaches all the basics of fashioning fun and attractive bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings. […] Even novices can make chandelier earrings, a pearl bracelet, a stone pendant, and more.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaking pottery you can use / Jacqui Atkin.
“Create cups, mugs, bowls, and more pieces that are perfect for you! Everyone who owns a beloved mug that has just the right handle, an agreeably “deep” cereal bowl, or a plate that fits perfectly in the dishwasher knows that once you’ve found these pieces, you wish you had more of them. In Making Pottery You Can Use, you’ll learn how to create the pieces that will work best for you. […] Successful teacher, designer, and author Jacqui Atkin explains how to throw and hand-build pieces that are beautiful and practical, from plates, cups, and saucers to casserole dishes, pitchers, and tureens.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFabric art journals : making, sewing, and embellishing journals from cloth and fibers / Pam Sussman.
“This is the first comprehensive book that offers complete step-by-step instruction and patterns for creating unique book structures from cloth. Fabric Art Journals offers vital information on getting started, from choosing fabrics and creating patterns to basic sewing techniques. In addition to learning how to make various styles of fabric books, readers will learn embellishment techniques that include painting, writing, decorative stitching, print and transfer styles, machine and hand embroidery, and quilting.” (Syndetics summary)

Our favourite CDs this month

Our music enthusiasts John and Neil J. select their favourite music over the last few months. Check them out!

John’s picks

Real Estate – In Mind
In a world of constant change predictability can sometimes be a comforting thing and once again, indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop. It is exactly what fans will expect –tremolo heavy guitars, lovely harmonies and bitter sweet songs, all delivered at a relaxed pace by musicians so tight as to appear telepathic – and the fact that there are no surprises is in this case a definite plus. They may be heading down exactly the same road – but it’s hard not to hope they keep doing so for a while yet.

The Handsome Family – Unseen
Another act that successfully tread a well-honed path are husband and wife alt country duo, The Handsome Family. It would be easy to assume that ten albums in they had exhausted ideas for their dark and entrancing gothic folk country sound, but this would be a mistake as, if anything, the contrary is true, with ‘Unseen’ the best record they have made for a while. The melodies are lovely, their darkly surreal stories as absorbing as ever and the playing as understated and gently off- kilter as to be expected. There was a time when The Handsome Family were a closely guarded secret amongst devout fans, until their title theme for ‘True Detective’ cast them into the spotlight, and the exposure appears to have given them a new confidence.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Well-crafted songs, unpretentious 2000’s indie-rock sensibilities, great hooks – guess what, California’s Grandaddy have made a new record after an 11 year silence! Granddaddy were always singer/songwriter Jason Lyttle’s band and it’s great to hear his esoteric, slightly melancholic slacker take on existentialist angst once again. The production is excellent – not trendy lo-fi and not over produced bombast –and gives the guitar, keyboards, occasional strings and electronics room to breathe under Lyttle’s hushed vocals to create a lovely listening experience. Grandaddy were always slightly out of place and now, probably even more so, but their workmanlike song craft and studied carelessness offer a welcome return.

The United States of America – The United States of America
Released in 1968, this was one of the most progressive records released at the time and among the first to feature electronics within a band setup. Grounded in psychedelia but influenced by the New York avant-garde experimental scene, band leader Joe Byrd recruited a group of UCLA students, well versed in John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to record the group’s lone self-titled LP. The record flopped, but went on to attain cult status and, apart from some of the hippie inspired lyrics such as “Lemonous petals, dissident play/ Tasting of ergot/ Dancing by night, dying by day”, it sounds remarkably contemporary with musique concrete-style tape collages, white noise, tape delay, ring-modulated fade-outs and distorted synthesizers. This re-issue includes 10 extra alternate takes.

Illum Sphere – Glass
The second album on Ninja Tune from UK electronic producer Ryan Hunn finds him ditching the vocals of his debut to present an excellent album of studied electronica. Maintaining a nice balance between abstract and melodic, the tracks wend their way through a variety of styles including minimal four to the floor, sequencer driven grooves, atmospheric ambient and dubbed out chillscapes throughout a confident and beautifully produced immersive listening experience.

Slowdive – Slowdive
It’s always a risk when a band that has attained cult status makes a new album, and the 22 years since Slowdive’s last record is a good case in point. Key figures in the early ‘90’s Shoegaze movement, Neil Halstead’s vast glistening guitar textures and Rachel Goswell’s hushed vocals, last heard on 1995’s ‘Pygmalion’, have been a huge influence on many bands over the past two decades and it is a great pleasure to discover that their 2017 album is a grandiose and spectacular comeback. Everything a fan could hope for is here – deep layers of beautifully textured guitars and lovely plaintive vocals delivering songs, wistful and reflective, within a shimmering production……. and not a guitar solo in earshot.

Gas – Narkopop
In 2000 German electronic maestro Wolfgang Voigt released ‘Pop’, a deeply immersive record, featuring layered loops of orchestral samples to create engrossing electronic ambient music that exhibited all the majesty of classical. Since then he has pretty much created a genre of beatless electronica via his annual Pop Ambient compilations that feature a wide array of electronic artists applying techno production techniques to ambient textures. ‘Narkopop’, his first full release in 17 years, is a follow up to ‘Pop’ and dives deeper into the original template, focusing on texture and reverberation and introducing sub bass pulses to create stunning symphonic electronic chamber music that is as meditative as it is unsettling.

Fazerdaze – Morningside
The latest release from Flying Nun is ‘Morningside’ the debut album by Fazerdaze, an AK band fronted by Wellington born, bedroom pop artist Amelia Murray. Receiving rave reviews worldwide, the album has even been described as ‘generation defining’ on Canadian website ‘The Review’. Since their recent Laneway performance interest in the band has skyrocketed, with their infectious jangly guitar pop finding an audience in a young generation that has been described as the ‘anxious generation’, and if that is true then it is easy to understand how comfort could be found in these simple and stylish songs. Amelia Murray has a sweet voice and her songs hold emotional resonance, revealing a wide range of feelings – anxiety, trepidation, hope, and relief – delivered via confident song structures and diverse arrangements that reveal glimpses of darkness under the apparent innocence.

Fujiya & Miyagi – Fujiya & Miyagi
Six albums in and the Brighton, UK, based band are gradually becoming underground favorites worldwide. Their latest release compiles three eps released over the past year and finds the band fine tuning their sound. They appeared pretty much fully formed back in 2002 and their idiosyncratic sound hasn’t changed a lot since then, but they have grown into a tight band that successfully blends dance floor electro with band sensibilities and their krautrock inspired electro grooves and whispered vocals are presented here with a lot of confidence.

Tycho – Epoch
Another band that bridge electronica and indie rock are Tycho from San Francisco who have developed from the solo IDM project of electronic producer Scott Hansen into one of the best known instrumental electronic bands of this era. ‘Epoch’, their fourth release, received a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album, which is surprising considering the amount of guitar playing and drums that feature on a record that is, essentially, an instrumental post rock album. Generally it’s a four to the floor excursion with a few tracks rhythms verging on math rock and even drum’n’bass, yet overall the swirling guitars and cascading synths maintain a steady flow of highly enjoyable grooves.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Finding Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but some solace can be found in the fact that there are now two bands in Stereolabs place, with Tim Gane’s Cavern of Anti-Matter exploring further into kraut rock while Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia. This is her fourth record since Stereolab split in 2010, and she has proven to be an artist with a clear singular vision which she explores consistently, with the addition of subtle twist here and there. Here she presents her warmest record yet, however the beauty is lodged within shifting abstract song structures that demand a listener’s perseverance – but the effort is well rewarded.

Karriem Riggins – Headnod Suite
Not quite a jazz album and not quite a beat tape, Detroit drummer and producer Karriem Riggins’ second album contains 29 tracks, most of them less than two minutes in duration, that run together to create an engrossing listen featuring vocal snippets and instrumental samples all pushed along by very cool beats. Anyone who has enjoyed the contemporary re-invention of Afro-American fusion explored on Robert Glasper’s remix projects, which re-imagine hip-hop, jazz, electronics and soul, should find this an interesting release. Like classic instrumental hip hop releases such as ‘Donuts’ (Karriem Riggins worked with J Dilla) the multitude of sounds dissipate as quickly as they appear entrancing the attentive listener

Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart – Everything Is Nothing
35 years ago it would have been impossible to foresee the bass player from Johnny Rotten’s post punk band Public Image Ltd making an album of spiritual jazz-funk, but times change and Jah Wobbles latest PledgeMusic funded record is an excellent contemporary fusion of afro-beat, jazz and polyrhythmic funk. Producer Youth has described the record as Wobble’s “Miles Davis opus”, which may be an overstatement; however, this predominantly instrumental album features ten tracks delivered by a talented group of virtuosos who never grandstand but play to the funky polyrhythmic grooves, anchored by Wobble’s dub-infused bass and former Fela Kuti drummer, Tony Allen. Featuring muted trumpet, piano, guitar, Rhodes, vibes, synth, blistering sax (courtesy of Hawkwind’s Nik Turner), flute and strings, this is a big and very funky sound that both references and pays homage to the influential afro jazz that has gone before.

Neil J’s picks

Jesca Hoop – Memories are now
The supremely talented Jesca’s latest release is another subtle, melodic, sophisticated outing. Building on her previous releases it as the cliché says “ rewards repeated listening’s”. Bound to be in many peoples best of 2017 lists when that time comes. A rather beautiful wee album.

Perfume genius – No Shape
Perfume genius’s fourth album No shape is a lush, elaborate, decadent shape shifting album of contrasts. Moving effortlessly from haunting delicate fragile melodies that still somehow sound slightly damaged or decayed to uplifting euphoric rapturous elements often in the same piece of music

Bonobo – Migration
Bonobo aka Simon Green’s latest work is a sonically rich , dreamy and downbeat piece of electronica with the odd vocal sprinkled through. Its easily his most listenable work to date.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
I love the Fleet foxes first two albums and was intrigued to hear that Crack up their third outing starts exactly where the last track of their second album Helplessness blues ends. No band is attempting to do what they do with their sound. It’s really hard to describe their work but here goes experimental, orchestral, modern folk music with a close affection for music from late 1960s American West coast Scene. People like Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. Its lush, its gorgeous, its seductive and it has serious intent too one of my favourites of the year.

More new classical CDs for rainy days

This week we introduce an interesting compilation of works by, and inspired by, Schubert, a recital of intimidating Russian pieces performed by a 20 year old prodigy, and a couple of 20th century cello concertos.

In Schubert’s Company. Performed by Maxim Rysanov and Riga Sinfonietta.
In Schubert’s Company presents violist Maxim Rysanov as a soloist, conductor, arranger and commissioner of new music. Alongside works including Schubert’s Symphony No.5, Violin Sonata No.3 and Polonaise for violin & orchestra are pieces from three contemporary composers who have drawn on Schubert as the source for their works. Winterreise, Erlkönig and his late Fantasy for violin & piano are among the inspirations behind this powerful recital that explores how the haunting beauty of Schubert’s music continues to influence on today’s performers, composers and music lovers alike.” (amazon.com)

À la Russe. Performed by Alexandre Kantorow.
“Not yet 20 years old, the French pianist and son of violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow […] explores his Russian roots, in a recital that opens with Rachmaninov’s weighty First Piano Sonata, inspired by Goethe’s play Faust, and its three main characters, the scholar Faust, his beloved Gretchen and Mephistopheles, the Devil’s emissary. The nostalgic intimacy of Méditation and Passé Iointain, from Tchaikovsky’s Op. 72 collection, offers respite from the drama, but tension returns with Guido Agosti’s virtuosic piano arrangement of three extracts from Stravinsky’s Firebird. Kantorow closes his Russian recital with Mily Balakirev’s ‘oriental fantasy’ Islamey, one of the iconic works of the piano literature.” (amazon.com)

Cello Concertos, Shostakovich & Martinů. Performed by Christian Poltéra, Gilbert Varga and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.
“The two cello concertos by Dmitri Shostakovich were both written for his friend Mstislav Rostropovich but whereas the first is rhythmic and virtuosic, the second is subdued and introverted. Composed in 1966, it is often regarded as a watershed work, heralding Shostakovich’s final stylistic period marked by a certain sombreness and a trend towards more transparent scoring. The op. 126 concerto has become somewhat overshadowed by its older, more accessible sibling, something which also applies to the second work on this disc, for completely different reasons. Having completed his Cello Concerto No. 2 in 1945, Bohuslav Martinu was unsuccessful in his attempts to interest a leading cellist in promoting it [… and the work] didn’t receive its first performance until 1965, six years after Martinu’s death.” (amazon.ca)