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Librarian’s Choice




  • Art, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, New Zealand, Nicola, You might like

    You might like…books about art and artists (Part 1 of ? )

    24.05.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on You might like…books about art and artists (Part 1 of ? )

    Book cover courtesy of the SyndeticsI’ve been inspired to write this post by a visit to our neighbour, the City Gallery, and their excellent exhibition This is New Zealand, which is based around how New Zealand artists convey national identity. But this post isn’t just looking art, it’s looking at artists as well. I’m sticking with drawing and painting this time – there may be more entries on this subject. Artists’ lives can be as interesting as the work they produce…of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some top picks. Think of this selection like a jumping off point: find something you like, and investigate further!

    Book courtesy of SyndeticsLet’s take a look about our fiction first. The guy, the girl, the artist and his ex by Gabrielle Williams is a great look at love, death, human emotion and, of course, art. Then we have Dear Vincent, from New Zealand’s own Mindy Hager. This is a heart-wrenching novel about a young woman who finds comfort – and similarities – in the life and art of Vincent Van Gough. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has a more fantastical integration of art into the narrative; in Brooklyn, Sierra Santiago notices that the murals that are a feature of her neighbourhood start to change, revealing a strange and dangerous new world. Finally, we have another testament to the saving power of art; Draw the line, which is written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, deals with a young artist who uses his obsession with superheroes to work through a hate crime that happens in his small town.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThen there’s our non-fiction collection. For the sake of brevity, we’ll leave graphic novels aside. For a look at the creative process of one of my favourite artists, Shaun Tan, pick up The bird king : an artist’s notebook. One of my other favourites is Subway Art, which is huge, so bring your bag if you want to take it out!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMoving on to the adult collection now: there’s certainly not shortage of amazing books here. Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring deals not only with art, but the artist, his model and the historical and social context in which this famous painting was created. An artist of the floating world by Kazuo Ishiguro deals with similar themes, but also asks harder questions of complicity and integrity – not just artistic, but personal. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood focuses on the female artist and her own past feeds into her development.
    Finally, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt examines the theft of a famous painting by a teenager and the impact it has on his life. Like I keep saying, this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’re looking for a more thorough booklist, here are some: female artists from Electric Literature, a top ten list from the Guardian and this utterly insane (667 books) list on Goodreads.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnd now, on to the non-fiction section. Try to pick a selection from this would be an act of madness, so here’s a few (and I mean A FEW) call numbers for you to investigate:
    1) 704.03994 : Maori art and artists
    2) 709.45 : Renaissance Art
    4) 751.73 : Graffiti
    5) 741.5 : Comic book art (I couldn’t resist, after all!)

    If you’re looking for some great documentaries and movies, we have some of those as well!

    I recommend:

    1) Jean-Michel Basquiat: the radiant child (documentary)
    2) Maudie (film)
    3) Exit through the gift shop: a Banksy film (documentary)
    4) Simon Schama’s Power of art (documentary)
    5) Séraphine (film)

    That’s all for now. I think my next one will be on photography! Stay tuned.


  • Classic novels, dystopia, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, You might like

    You might like…dystopias

    04.05.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on You might like…dystopias

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDystopias are a constant in YA fiction – what happens when imperfect humans try to create a perfect world. The dictionary defines it as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” But I think the idea that this was an attempt to make a perfect world is an important one. Of course one must ask: perfect for whom?

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSeries like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner being among our most popular titles. Other notable titles include Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon – which won the Carnegie Medal in 2013. The Giver by Lois Lowry is a classic of YA literature for good reason, although it has a subtler approach to the genre than others.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsOf course we have the two “parents” of the genre. 1984 is the George Orwell classic. Later we have Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Another book that’s in the media a lot and – warning, it’s tough going – is The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood. Another favourite classic is Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.


  • Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Not Library Related, Real Life, Today in History

    International Women’s Day

    08.03.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on International Women’s Day

    Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s a few must-reads (in no particular order) from our YA collection.

    1) Rejected princesses : tales of history’s boldest heroines, hellions, and heretics, Jason Porath.

    2) Being Jazz : my life as a (transgender) teen, Jazz Jennings.

    3)Here we are : feminism for the real world, edited by Kelly Jensen.

    4)Fight like a girl : 50 feminists who changed the world, by Laura Barcella and with illustrations by Summer Pierre.


  • Art, Blogging, Fantasy, Great Reads, Grimm, Horror, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, Non-fiction, You might like

    You might like….fairy tale edition and first in a series!

    06.03.18 | Permalink | Comments Off on You might like….fairy tale edition and first in a series!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHere is a new feature on the blog! In this series of posts, I will examine various new releases and Librarian’s Choice books and suggest other items in our collection that are related – whether as inspiration or as first examples in the genre. This week, something that’s close to my heart and very popular in YA fiction at the moment: fairy tales.

    Holly Black is one of the best YA authors writing today and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of her books and am especially keen to read her latest book (the first in a series, yay!) called The Cruel Prince. Like many of her other books, it deals with the fae. This time a young woman must navigate the capricious and cruel fae court – politics and fairy tales, excellent!

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is another book I’m really interested in; it’s currently ninth on the New York Times’ YA bestseller list and had a glowing review in the Guardian. It’s rather more controversial on Goodreads, but that just makes me all the more eager to give it a look. It tells the story of Alice, who lives with her mother is chased by constant bad luck; they make their way to Alice’s Grandmother’s (an author of a cult collection of fairy takes) house, in the Hazel Wood of the book’s title.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsShaun Tan’s The Singing Bones is my go-to recommendation for anyone looking to start investigating the “original” Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. It’s a deceptively simple collection featuring a fragment of text from the original Grimm brother’s story and then an image depicting a central moment within that narrative. If you want to read the original stories, we also have the uncensored translation. We also have books about fairy tales and their significance. My favourite and one of the most well known authors on this subject is Jack Zipes: start with Fairy tales and the art of subversion. If you’re more visually inclined, check out Fairy tale fashion by Colleen Hill.

    I’ve hope you pick some of these books up – they’re all wonderful and weird, just like faerie/fairy tales themselves.


  • Classic novels, From the Stacks, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, Real Life, Real Problems, realistic fiction

    From the stacks

    03.06.17 | Permalink | Comments Off on From the stacks

    I’ve talked about our stack collection before and I promised to make it a (semi) regular feature, so here’s more picks from our YA stack collection. This time I’m highlighting some novels about teenagers facing the complexities of their lives.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsTree by leaf, Cynthia Voight

    Clothide is troubled; her father, a veteran of the First World War, has become a recluse. Her brother is away for the Summer and her beloved friend, the family servant, Lou, has been dismissed by her mother. On top of this, her family are talking about selling the peninsula where they live. Clothilde wishes and prays for life to be different; but she finds the cost of these wishes is almost beyond paying. It’s a beautiful novel, which looks at love, life and relationships to the land you call home.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDeliver us from Evie, M.E. Kerr

    Everyone’s talking about Evie Burrman and nothing good. In a small, conservative town this has serious implications for her family. It’s narrated by Evie’s brother Parr, who’s torn between his love for his sister and his need for acceptance. Evie is a wonderful, interesting character in her own right, who stands firm in belief to be true to herself. This book was published in 1994, so some of the writing and attitudes may seem a bit dated, but it’s sensitive and tender – a LGBTQ classic for a reason.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe year they burned the books, Nancy Garden

    Teenagers and adults clash over sex education in this novel, set in a small town. The staff at the school newspaper fight amongst themselves about how to deal with this; issues about freedom of speech, belief and freedom are all debated, and some of the characters have higher stakes in this than others. At its core it is a struggle between what the teen characters want to decide for themselves and what the adults want to decide for them – a topic that is still relevant today. Although that cover hasn’t aged nearly as well!

    The pigman, Paul Zindel

    There are some books that just stay with you, and The Pigman is one of them. Two teenagers entangle their lives with that of a lonely old man, all of them seeking a respite from loneliness. But external circumstances and their own frailty have tragic consequences. It was written in 1968, but still feels incredibly modern in its approach to characters and story.


  • Comedy, Comics, Graphic Novels, Librarian's Choice, New, Nicola, Science!

    New graphic novel spotlight: The unbelievable Gwenpool

    14.03.17 | Permalink | Comments Off on New graphic novel spotlight: The unbelievable Gwenpool

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe unbelievable Gwenpool, written by Chris Hastings, artists Danilo Beyruth, Gurihiru

    What happens when a comic book fan is suddenly blasted into the Marvel Universe? Utter chaos – imagine Deadpool as a teenage girl. Her costume is pink, she has no plans and for a for a while her closest ally is a talking duck. (That would be Howard the Duck, last seen in the post credits scene in Guardians of the Galaxy). Then she gets a job as a freelance assassin, then as a henchmen for a major player in the MU – encountering various other Marvel heroes and villains along the way. I’m looking forward to Gwen’s further adventures…


  • Classic novels, From the Stacks, Great Reads, Librarian's Choice, Mysteries, New Zealand, Nicola, Nostalgia

    From the stacks

    02.11.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on From the stacks

    Did you know that we have a secret area of the library known as the stacks? It’s where we keep:

    *Items that are still in demand which are in a deteriorating condition and cannot be replaced.
    *Out of print items of special interest.
    *Classic titles or titles by classic authors in a deteriorating condition of which replacement editions cannot be readily sourced.
    *Valuable editions of titles.
    *Copies of fiction titles written by major ‘Prize’ winning authors.

    (From our Collection development policy)

    It’s a treasure trove of awesome books which really need a bit more love. You can get these books by reserving them or going up to the second floor and asking at the desk. Here are a few of my favourites. There’s a fair amount in the stack, so I may make this a regular feature.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWatermark, Penelope Todd

    In a month or so we’ll be hitting a record breaking summer. Or at least, we hope so! This is an incredible novel about a summer that’s as wonderful and strange as any you could ever live. Zillah, an eighteen year old who’s having doubts about the future that her life so far have been building to – something has to break. So she heads off, away from safety, to a place suggested by a mysterious letter. There she meets an enigmatic brother and sister. Events take a turn for the dangerous as both the natural world and the people around her move in their own mysterious patterns. There are two sequels; Dark and Zillah.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMontmorency, Eleanor Updale

    A young thief gets a second chance – of sorts – when a doctor decides that rather than consign the unammed man to death, he’ll try a series of experiments to rebuild his shattered body. The man that results from this is named Mortmorency. Mortmorency is clever and quick and tries to engineer his escape, but there are parts of his life that he can’t quite leave behind. Mortmorency’s set in Victorian London, so a literal world away from Watermark.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe sea-wreck stranger, Anna Mackenzie

    Ness is a young woman struggles against the inflexible traditions of her island society. She has the sea in her blood, or so she says, in a place that hates and fears the sea. A stranger washes up with the tide, and suddenly her future becomes even more uncertain and dangerous than she could have imagined. The world that MacKenzie has written is completely fictitious yet familiar and realistic. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while – which makes me happy to have looked in the stacks in the first place!

    Spider Mansion, Caroline MacDonald

    I wasn’t prepared for how creepy I’d find this novel. It’s a simple enough premise: the Day family run a business out of their home, a beautiful historic home. The Todd family come to stay…and don’t leave. The Todds exert a strange hold over the Days, and tensions escalate and events spiral out of control.


  • halloween countdown, Librarian's Choice, Nicola

    Halloween Countdown: monster hunters

    22.10.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on Halloween Countdown: monster hunters

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said something that has formed the basis of many fictional story. “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…” Whether or not the protagonists in these stories have won that particular battle is up to you.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe monstrumologist, Rick Yancey

    Will Henry, an orphan, becomes an assistant to the titular character, an acerbic man called Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe. Be warned: the monsters in this book are nasty and the author pulls no punches in describing the gore and mayhem they cause.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe haunting of Alaizibel Cray, Chris Wooding

    Monsters known as wych-kin have overrun an alternate-history London. Thaniel Fox is one of the best wych-hunters in London, along side his mentor, Cathaline Bennett. But he needs all his wit and skill when he encounters Alaizibel Cray and the horrific conspiracy that surrounds her…This is one of my favourite YA novels ever. This is a book not just about a few characters but an entire city in the grip of a terror caused by human and monster alike. Disease, poverty and violence stalk the streets – the wych-kin are only the beginning of this London’s problems.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsRiverkeep, Martin Stewart

    Unlike the other monster-hunters, Wulliam Fobisher has his sights set on a single monster: the mormorach, a magical but deadly creature that may be able to save his afflicted father. Riverkeep’s one of the most original and interesting novels I’ve read this year, with an enthralling fantasy world populated by all sorts of strange people.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe girl from the well, Rin Chupeco

    “I am where the dead children go.”
    This is a rarity in the “monster hunter” genre. Okiku is an unavenged spirit who seeks to avenge the murdered souls of others – the monsters she hunts are very human and very alive. It starts out with a terrifying chapter in which this is described. This is the first in a series – make sure you read them all, it’s well worth it.


  • Great Reads, Grimm, halloween countdown, Horror, Librarian's Choice, Mysteries, Nicola

    Halloween series: Hauntings

    11.10.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on Halloween series: Hauntings

    Everyone loves a good ghost story, right? We’ve got so many that it was hard to pick my favourites.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe time of the ghost, Diana Wynne Jones

    This was Diana Wynne Jones’ thirteenth book ever published; a Goodreads commenter pondered if this was an accident. Even if it wasn’t, it’s a genuinely creepy story told from a ghost’s perspective, as she tries to work out which of four sisters she is and how to prevent an “accident” she knows is coming. Then there’s a strange malevolent force that the sisters seem to have called up…

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFrozen charlotte, Alex Bell

    A drowning, a fire and a series of mysterious deaths at linked to a closed school; all are connected through a group of mysterious dolls known as Frozen Charlottes. Frozen Charlottes are a real type of doll by the way and their backstory is just as (if not more) morbid than the one in the book.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsLong lankin, Lindsey Barraclough

    An ancient evil stirs when two sisters are sent to live with their reclusive Aunt Ida. This book’s a bit of a slow burn; the terror and unease slowly growing as Cora, the elder of the two, discovers more and more about the mysteries of the old family home. This is not only a terrifying story of a ghost, but an interesting look at how a whole community can be haunted by the spectres of the past.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe graveyard book, Neil Gaiman

    This is a warm, witty and sometimes outright terrifying retelling of the Jungle Book. The young hero, Nobody Owens, is raised in a graveyard by its mysterious and ghostly denizens. But a mysterious stranger threatens his home and himself, and he must find the courage to fight back. Chris Riddell – one of my favourite artists – provides some amazing illustrations as well.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticssJohnny and the Dead, Terry Pratchett

    Johnny, an ordinary guy, meets a bunch of dead people in the cemetery, which is facing destruction at the hands of a local business. They’re not ghosts and get very offended when you suggest that they are, but they’re certainly not keen on being moved from their graves. Johnny decides he has to help. Unlike the others, this is more funny than scary – but well worth reading after if the other titles are keeping you awake…


  • Classic novels, Great Reads, halloween countdown, Horror, Librarian's Choice, Nicola, Short stories

    Halloween series: short story collections

    10.10.16 | Permalink | Comments Off on Halloween series: short story collections

    I enjoy settling in with a long novel as much as the next horror fan, but sometimes I like short stories: they’re like the jump scares of scary books. Here are some great collections.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsExtremities: stories of death, murder, and revenge, David Lubar

    David Lubar’s better known as a writer for younger readers but this definitely belongs in the YA section. Despite the title, some of these stories have a sly, dark humour – but that doesn’t make them any less disturbing.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsScary stories, illustrated by Barry Moser with an introduction by Peter Glassman

    This is a collection of “classic” horror stories – Roald Dahl, H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and our very own Margaret Mahy have stories in here and it’s a good introduction to the other -but perhaps less well known to YA audiences- horror writers such as Saki and Ambrose Bierce. If you’re wanting more names to help broaden your reading. The illustrations are simple black and white – but are creepy as anything.

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSlasher girls and monster boys, stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

    There are some impressive names from YA literature in this collection; Marie Lu and Carrie Ryan to name just two. A more contemporary take on horror themed short stories, I have no doubt these will keep you up past bedtime…

    Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBlack Juice, Margo Lanagan

    Margo Lanagan’s short stories aren’t scary in the conventional sense; there may be things that go bump in the night but more often than not they depict a muted, interior sense of unease that will persist long after you put the book down. Horror doesn’t always come the paranormal – often it’s humanity that shapes a hostile world. Lanagan also has three more short story collections availible; White time, Red Spikes and Yellowcake.


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