Reader’s Choice – the reviews are in!

Shadowless Book Cover

From translated writing, science fiction and contemporary fiction, the variety of readers feedback is from across the fiction spectrum. This month it’s the new and classic titles that have the eyes of literary browsers. As with all reading experiences they are unique to the reader.

The Readers’ Choice selections are books nominated by people who want to pass on their reading experience to the library community. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material. You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

Syndetics book coverShadowless / Hasan Ali Toptaş ; translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely and John Angliss.
“In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he staggers to bed that night, drunk on raki and his own well-deserved success, the village is prosperous. But when he is woken by his wife the next evening he discovers that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared without a trace in the dead of night, and the community begins to fracture. Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, Shadowless is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement from one of the finest, most exciting voices in Turkish literature today.” (Syndetics summary)

“I thought this book would be better as a short story. There were some good observations but as a novel it didn’t hold my attention”⭐⭐⭐(3/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverJosh and Hazel’s guide to not dating / Christina Lauren.
“Most men can’t handle Hazel. But her best friend Josh isn’t most men. Josh has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air. Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?” (Syndetics summary)

“Fun, light, chick-lit novel. Quite funny and enjoyable if you want a light easy romance novel”⭐⭐⭐(3/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverElefant / Martin Suter ; translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch.
“What would you do if you woke up to see a living, breathing, tiny, glowing, pink elephant? If you’re anything like Schoch, who lives on the streets of Zürich and is decidedly down on his luck, you might well think it’s time to put away the bottle before your hallucinations get any stranger, and go back to sleep. But what if the tiny pink elephant is still there when you wake up? And clearly needs someone to take care of it? And what if you discover that it’s been created through genetic engineering, by a group of scientists who just want to use it to get rich and don’t care about the elephant’s welfare? And that they’re in cahoots with a circus and will stop at nothing to get it back? What if this little elephant is about to change your life?” (Syndetics summary)

“Ingenious. The humans involved are some of them rather tedious. But the central figure does develop excellently” ⭐⭐⭐(3/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverThe winter soldier / Daniel Mason.
“Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War One explodes across Europe. From the gilded ballrooms of Imperial Vienna to the frozen forests of the Eastern Front; from hardscrabble operating rooms to battlefields thundering with Cossack cavalry, The Winter Soldier is the story of war and medicine, of family, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and, finally, of the mistakes we make, and the precious opportunities to atone.” (Syndetics summary)

“This was a superb read from start to finish. Austrian med student in remote E European field hospital in WWI. Doesn’t sound promising? Believe me this will be winning Oscars in the Hollywood version in a few years. Riveting.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverStrangers with the same dream / Alison Pick.
“‘We came into their valley at dawn.’ So begins this taut roller-coaster of a novel. From three vastly different points of view, Alison Pick relates the same vivid and riveting story of one transformative year. That year is 1921, and a band of young Jewish pioneers, many escaping violent homelands, have set out to realize a utopian dream–the founding of a kibbutz–on a patch of land that will later become Israel. Writing with a tightly controlled intensity, Alison Pick takes us inside the very different minds of her three key characters–two young unmarried women, escaping peril in Russia and Europe; and one slightly older man, a group leader who is married with two children–to depict how idealism quickly tumbles into pragmatism, and how the utopian dream is punctured by messy human entanglements.” (Syndetics summary)

“I thought this book was cleverly written about the beginning of something that continues to challenge international relations. A triptych that reminds that there is always multiple versions of history and the truth” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverThe fortress / S.A. Jones.
The Fortress asks questions about consent, power, love and fulfilment, and is absorbing, explicit, confronting and moving. Jonathon Bridge has the corner office, the tailored suits and the impeccable pedigree. He has a fascinating wife, a child on the way and a string of nubile lovers on the side. His world is our world: the same chaos and sprawl, haves and have-nots, men and women, skyscrapers and billboards. But it also exists alongside a vast, self-sustaining city-state called The Fortress where the indigenous inhabitants — the Vaik — continue to live much as they have always done. The Vaik is an all-female civilisation where Johnathon will have to live as a supplicant for a year.” (Syndetics summary)

“I thought I didn’t like fantasy as a genre but it turns out I wasn’t the target audience. It was an immensely satisfying read to the end. Fantasy is usually overly populated with books targeted at white cis men!” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverPhone / Will Self.Phone
“Meet Jonathan De’Ath, aka ‘the Butcher’. The curious thing about the Butcher is that everyone who knows him – his washed-up old university lecturer father, his jumbling-bumbling mother, his hippy-dippy brothers, his so-called friends, his spooky colleagues and his multitudinous lovers – they all apply this epithet to him quite independently, each in ignorance of the others. He knows everyone calls him ‘the Butcher’ behind his back, but he also knows that they don’t know the only real secret he maintains, encrypted in the databanks of his steely mind- Colonel Gawain Thomas, husband, father, highly-trained tank commander – is Jonathan De’Ath’s longtime lover.” (Syndetics summary)

“Interesting in parts, but needs a good editor. I enjoyed his earlier works, which had black humour, sadly lacking in this latest trilogy” ⭐⭐(2/5 stars)

Syndetics book coverSo long, and thanks for all the fish : volume four in the trilogy of five / Douglas Adams ; foreword by Neil Gaiman.
“Thirty years of celebrating the comic genius of Douglas Adams… There is a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. It’s not an easy thing to do and Arthur Dent thinks he’s the only human who’s been able to master this nifty little trick – until he meets Fenchurch, the girl of his dreams. Fenchurch knows how the world could be made a good and happy place. Unfortunately she’s forgotten. Convinced that the secret lies within God’s Final Message to His Creation they go in search of it. And – in a dramatic break with tradition – actually find it… Volume four in the trilogy of five” (Syndetics summary)

“I enjoyed it when I first read it in the ’80’s but less so this time. The basic concept of uplifted dolphins seems sillier now. However it is written well and is a classic, so it will appeal to some” ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Reader’s choice: Engaging with fiction titles

Recent selections from our collection by patrons include thrillers, science fiction, historical and contemporary fiction. Some reviews will make you wonder if your reading experience will be a little or a lot different.

The Readers’ Choice selections are books nominated by people who want to pass on their reading experience to the library community. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material. You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

The last girl / Hart, Joe
“A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than one percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women. Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away, told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.” (Catalogue)

“Although the pace was a bit slow to start it developed into a very exciting book. I look forward to the next in the series.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The wife : a novel / Wolitzer, Meg
The Wife is a wise, sharp-eyed, compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. But it’s also an unusually candid look at the choices all men and women make for themselves, in marriage, work, and life. With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer invites intriguing questions about the nature of partnership and the precarious position of an ambitious woman in a man’s world.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book very apt in this 125 years of suffrage, as Joan Castleman finally decides at the age of 64 years to have another chance at life.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 star rating)

Man out of time / Bishop, Stephanie
“One summer, a long time ago, Stella sat watching her father cry while the sky clouded over. He had tried to make amends: for his failures, for forgetting to buy the doll she once hoped for, for the terrible things he had done. The first time Stella sensed that something was wrong was on her ninth birthday. There was an accident, and when she opened her eyes there was the tang of blood in her mouth. Leon was beside her. But not quite there. In the winter, when her father finally came home from hospital, he looked different. Looked at her differently. Now he was missing, and Stella held the key to his discovery. But did he want to be found?” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was bleak and the only way I could deal with it was to dip into it every 20 pages or so.  Nothing like My Name Is Lucy Barton, which I loved.” (Unrateable)

The late bloomers’ club : a novel / Miller, Louise
“Two sisters, beloved diner owner Nora and her short-on-cash filmmaker sibling, Kit, are inheriting the property of local cake-making legend Peggy. The town is divided on whether the sisters should sell the land to a big-box developer, which Nora opposes, but everyone wants to find Peggy’s lost dog. Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, is perfectly happy serving up coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what’s “the usual.” But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her free-spirited, younger sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town’s beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was a great light read. I didn’t want to put it down.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

River under the road / Spencer, Scott
“Thirteen parties over the course of two decades–an opium infused barbeque, a reception for a doomed presidential candidate, a fund-raiser for a blind child who speaks in tongues, a visit to one of New York’s fabled sex clubs–brilliantly reveal the lives of two couples. Funny and cutting, affecting and expansive, River Under the Road is Scott Spencer’s masterpiece of all that lies beneath our everyday lives-a story about the pursuit of love, art, and money, and the inevitable reckoning that awaits us all.” (Catalogue)

“Well written and well developed characters.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐  (4/5 stars)

Belladonna / Drndić, Daša
“Andreas Ban is a writer and a psychologist, an intellectual proper, full of empathy, but his world has been falling apart for years. When he retires with a miserable pension and finds out that he is ill, he gains a new perspective on the debris of his life and the lives of his friends. In Belladonna, Dasa Drndic pushes to the limit the issues about illness and the (im)possibility of living (and dying) in contemporary, utterly dehumanised world where old age and illness are the scarlet letters of shame thrown in the face of the advertised eternal youth and beauty.” (Catalogue)

“Most interesting and unusual. I feel I should read it again to pick up all the points.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  (5/5 stars)

The history of bees / Lunde, Maja
“This novel follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees–and to their children and one another–against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis… Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.” (adapted from Catalogue)

“A great read… I can envision an film.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

The orphan of Florence / Kalogridis, Jeanne
“In this irresistible historical novel set in the turbulent world of the Medicis, a young woman finds herself driven from pick-pocketing to espionage when she meets a mysterious man.” (Catalogue)

“Excellent, good storylines and interesting plot.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

Reader’s Choice Fiction selections

Sometimes reading gives you those “I can’t believe they did that!” moments, when an author turns around a plot or a character arc, or kills off the last person you expected!  Sometimes you get an “I see what they did there” when writing unexpectedly speaks directly to your own life experience. Sometimes you want to tell someone about it…

The Readers’ Choice selections are books nominated by people who want to pass on their reading experience to the library community. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material.  You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

The surrogate / Jensen, Louise
“Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream. But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets. And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye. As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was a really good psychological thriller with a good twist at the end.  Overall would recommend it to other fans of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Couple Next Door, etc.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5 stars)

Stick together / Hénaff, Sophie
“After their successful solving of three cold cases and exposing corruption at the very highest level of the Paris police force, Anne Capestan’s squad of misfits and no-hopers should be in a celebratory mood. However, now despised by their colleagues at 36 quai des Orfevres and worried for their future, morale has never been lower among the members of the Awkward Squad. Capestan does her best to motivate her troops, but even she cannot maintain a cheerful facade when she has to investigate the murder of Commissaire Serge Rufus, the father of her ex-husband.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was entertaining and well written with characters that were unusual enough to be memorable.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

A dangerous crossing / Khan, Ausma Zehanat
” For Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty, the Syrian refugee crisis is about to become personal. Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.” (Catalogue)

“The murders are incidental to the main (or more important) story – that of life as a refugee in a Greek refugee camp.  It is written from an outsider’s perspective, but I almost felt I was in the camp at times…” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The girl in the moon / Goodkind, Terry
Angela juggles multiple jobs to live a secluded life in a cabin in the mountains. But she also lives a secret life, right under everyone’s noses. Because her family’s bloodline carries the ability to recognize killers, she adopts a solitary, violent existence in service of her own, personal mission in life. When Angela unexpectedly finds herself the prey of a group of international terrorists, she is the only one who knows the truth of what they are about to do. She might look like an unlikely hero. She might also be our only hope.” (Catalogue)

“Fantastic. I will definitely read other books written by this author. I hope this author writes further in the series with the lead female, Angels Constantine.” (no star rating given)

I am watching you / Driscoll, Teresa
“A missing girl. A tormented witness. A web of lies. And someone is watching… When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it – until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls – beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard – has disappeared. A year later, Anna is still missing. Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night – and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own. Someone knows where Anna is – and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ells.”  (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was an excellent read. A great story that kept me glued.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 star rating)

Latest Reader’s Choice Fiction selections

The Bight Edge of the World cover

Read something great, intriguing, surprising or satisfying? Want to let other people know about it?

The Readers’ Choice selections are books nominated by people who want to pass on their reading experience to the library community. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material.  You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

Shelter in place / Roberts, Nora
“Sometimes, there is nowhere safe to hide. It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived. The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “One word, ‘Brilliant’. There is a reason why Nora Roberts is an international bestseller, her books just keep getting better and better.” (no rating, but I guess it would be high!)

Ascendant / Campbell, Jack
“In the three years since former fleet officer Rob Geary and former Marine Mele Darcy led improvised forces to repel attacks on the newly settled world of Glenlyon, tensions have only gotten worse. When one of Glenlyon’s warships is blown apart trying to break the blockade that has isolated the world from the rest of human-colonized space, only the destroyer Saber remains to defend it from another attack. Geary’s decision to take Saber to the nearby star Kosatka to safeguard a diplomatic mission is a risky interpretation of his orders, to say the least.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “A good entry in a good series, although you get more out of it if you’ve red the books that come before it. A more thoughtful approach to political issues than is usual for military science fiction.” (4/5 stars) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tane’s war / Weir, Brendaniel
“One lifetime, two battles. It’s 1953 and Briar is a dreamer living with his father in Pukekohe. His behaviour sees him sent to a training farm to be “turned into a man”. But the plan backfires when his arrival awakens feelings in fellow shearer, Aussie. Tane is the farm foreman and his Maori heritage sets him apart. Briar and Aussie threaten the walls Tane has built around his own secret past; walls created in the trenches of WW1. Tane is confronted with a choice. He cannot change history but maybe he can help change the future.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was excellent. It was very cleverly constructed with different interweaving timeframes and connected characters… It was also a sad eye-opener of cruel homophobia. Luckily views in Aotearoa are more tolerant now… (review abridged)” (5/5 stars) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The boat runner : a novel / Murphy, Devin
“Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy’s harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people’s stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was an excellent read for all mature readers… As an avid reader of books in the War genre I think this novel is among the very best with many unexpected twists and turns.  It certainly is thrilling” (5/5 stars) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kompromat / Johnson, Stanley
Kompromat reveals how the devilishly cunning machinations of Russian President Igor Popov succeed in crucially influencing the electoral outcome on both sides of the Atlantic. Plot, counterplot and subplot are deftly woven into an “alternative” account of events which ends as Britain’s new Prime Minister, Mrs Mabel Killick, seeks her own mandate to deal with Brexit-related turbulence.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “A different slant on political events made this book very entertaining but at times a bit confusing. It told a reasonably plausible story which while not deep was thought provoking. Bang up to date too!”. (4/5 stars) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

To the bright edge of the world / Ivey, Eowyn
“Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. Forrester leaves behind his young wife, Sophie, newly pregnant with the child he had never expected to have. Adventurous in spirit, Sophie does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband carves a path through the wilderness. What she does not anticipate is that their year apart will demand every ounce of courage and fortitude of her that it does of her husband.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was great.  Brought an era to life with a present day contrast to a colonial era.” (5/5 stars) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Readers Choice fiction selections

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

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

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

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

Book Jacket for: Stranded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader’s Choice 2011 – what are your picks?

What did you read in 2011? What authors and series did you discover? Were there books you loved and would recommend to anyone? We’d love to hear!

We put this question to our followers on Twitter, and received some great recommendations back. Here they are, together with a few Reader’s Choice reviews we received through the year. We always love hearing what Wellingtonians are reading (and getting ideas for our own reading lists!), so if you discovered your new favourite author in 2011, or found a wonderful new title – let us know!

Picks from Twitter:

Syndetics book coverThe complete Maus / Art Spiegelman.
Published to mark the 25th anniversary of the original publication of Maus, this was @sidcarter‘s pick – a “beautifully drawn comic”.
Here’s a review from Amazon.com:
“The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times). Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.” (Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverThe broken book / Fiona Farrell.
@sarahjbarnett’s pick. Our catalogue says:
“The Broken Book consists of four essays about life and walking, bookended by a preamble and an afterword, and interrupted by 21 poems about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath” (Publisher description)

Syndetics book coverThe help / Kathryn Stockett.
@jopsonb chose The Help – on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2011 & 2009, and also made into a feature film in 2011.
Here’s a summary from our library catalogue:
“Aibileen is a black maid, raising her 17th white child, but with a bitter heart after the death of her son. Minny is the sassiest woman in Mississippi. Skeeter is a white woman with a degree but no ring on her finger. Seemingly as different as can be, these women will come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.”

Reader’s Choice Reviews:

Syndetics book coverThere should be more dancing / Rosalie Ham.
Reader review: “Should be required reading for all middle-aged children wondering how best to cope with elderly parents! Fiction, but a lot of truth as well”.
And here’s a plot summary from our catalogue:
“Margery Blandon was always a principled woman who found guidance from the wisdom of desktop calendars. She lived quietly in Gold Street, Brunswick for 60 years until events drove her to the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel. As she waits for the crowds in the atrium far below to disperse, she contemplates what went wrong; her best friend kept an astonishing secret from her and she can’t trust the home help. It’s possible her firstborn son has betrayed her, that her second son, Morris, might have committed a crime, her only daughter is trying to kill her and her dead sister Cecily helped her to this, her final downfall. Even worse, it seems Margery’s life-long neighbour and enemy now demented always knew the truth. There Should be More Dancing is a story of Margery’s reckonings on loyalty, grief and love.”

Syndetics book coverThe last 100 days / Patrick McGuinness.
Reader review: “I thought this book was enthralling, terrifying and very funny. Partly autobiographical, this is the story of a young student caught up in the pre-Revolution madness of Bucharest as the insane, corrupt Ceauşescu “vampire” and his wife bring the country to its knees.”

Syndetics book coverSalvation city / Sigrid Nunez.
Reader review: “This book is a winner! I picked it up by mistake (not my sort of interest, fundamentalism), but found the characters real, the writing precise and thoughtful without sentimentality, and the process and journey very satisfying. Read from cover to cover in 3 days flat – read this book!”
And here’s a review from Amazon.com:
“After a flu pandemic has killed large numbers of people worldwide, the United States has grown increasingly anarchic. Large numbers of children are stranded in orphanages, and systems we take for granted are fraying at the seams. When orphaned Cole Vining finds refuge with an evangelical pastor and his young wife in a small Indiana town, he knows he is one of the lucky ones. Sheltered Salvation City has been spared much of the devastation of the outside world. But it’s a starkly different community from the one Cole has known, and he struggles with what this changed world means for him. As those around him become increasingly fixated on their vision of utopia – so different from his own parents’ dreams – Cole begins to imagine a new and different future for himself. Written in Sigrid Nunez’s deceptively simple style, Salvation City is a story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness, weaving the deeply affecting story of a young boy’s transformation with a profound meditation on the true meaning of salvation.”

Syndetics book coverRagnarok : the end of the gods / A. S. Byatt.
Reader review: “The crux of this narrative is the relating of a number of Nordic myths by a child in wartime England. Not a re-interpretation but rather some straight-forward retellings. Though the material feeds familiar, the treatment of the myths through the ideas of the ‘then child’ were enchanting and compelling and made me able to read the myths as if for the first time once more.”

Syndetics book coverEmily, alone / Stewart O’Nan.
Reader review: “This book was a really moving and insightful consideration of old age. Older people as real people, with feelings and attitudes, rather than just the bit-characters they usually are in a younger person’s world or story. Excellent – not sentimental.”

Syndetics book coverDouble Dexter : a novel / Jeff Lindsay.
Enjoy the Dexter television series? Here’s a review of the latest in the series of books this popular television show is based on: (This book was reviewed multiple times…)
“This definitely lived up to the example set by the author’s prior novels. […] Great plot: twisted and darkly humorous as always, Dexter Morgan at his best. The best bits would have to be the descriptions – right down to every gory detail; uncensored and honest.”

Syndetics book coverThe invasion year : an Alan Lewrie naval adventure / Dewey Lambdin.
Reader review: “Very entertaining, a good continuation of the series. Bit of a slow first half that warms up to an exciting finish. Dewey Lambdin is an excellent writer.”
And from our catalogue:
“Lambdin’s latest high-seas adventure takes Captain Alan Lewrie from the shores of Haiti to the English Channel to defend Britain from Napoleon’s planned invasion.”