If we were all as wise as we should be: New crime and mystery

If we were all as wise as we should be, we would have no stories to tell. ― Freeman Wills Croft

In this month’s newly acquired crime and mysteries titles we have the very welcome reissue of The Fatal venture by Freeman Wills Crofts, featuring Inspector French, which was originally published in 1939.

The Fatal venture is a book that dates from the golden age of detective fiction; crime books written mainly in the 1920s and 1930s (though books in the Golden age style are still written to this very day). The Inspector Joseph French mysteries largely employed the classic puzzle mystery template. Inspector French was unusual for a detective of the golden age, or sleuths in general, in that he has no major personal problems. He is happily married and is generally a very pleasant character. The novels were hugely popular in their time, and Inspector French featured in numerous short stories and twenty-nine novels.

One of the interesting things about golden age crime novels, including the Inspector Joseph French mysteries, was that they were written using the Ten crime Commandments. Below are those rules:

“The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.

All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

No Chinaman must figure in the story. (This rule is a very sad indictment of the racism present in mainstream Western culture at this time.)

No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

The detective himself must not commit the crime.

The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.

The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.”

Below are our other selected crime and mystery titles from this months newly acquired titles.

Fatal venture / Crofts, Freeman Wills
“A classic crime novel by Freeman Wills Crofts, ‘The King of Detective Story Writers’, featuring Inspector French, coming soon to television.” (Adapted from Catalogue)



Green for danger / Brand, Christianna
“It is 1942, and at the new Kent military hospital Heron’s Park, postman Joseph Higgins delivers seven letters of acceptance for infirmary roles. He has no idea that one of the recipients will later cause his demise. When Higgins returns to Heron’s Park with injuries from a bombing raid in 1943, his inexplicable death in the operating theatre casts four nurses and three doctors under suspicion, and a second, sudden death brings Inspector Cockrill to the hospital. As an air raid detains the inspector for the night, the stage is set for a tense and claustrophobic investigation with a close-knit cast of suspects in this golden age masterclass of red herrings and tricky twists.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The golden spoon : a novel / Maxwell, Jessa
“When production for the tenth season of the hit cooking competition Bake Week begins at the gothic estate of the show’s host and founder, celebrity chef Betsy Martin, everything seems normal. The six contestants are eager to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy struggles for control of the show with her new co-host, the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition gets under way, things begin to go awry. At first it’s merely sabotage–sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high–but then someone shows up dead and suddenly everyone’s a suspect.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How to kill men and get away with it / Brent, Katy
“A deliciously dark, hilariously twisted story about friendship, love, and murder. Meet Kitty Collins. Friend. Lover. Killer. When a guy from a nightclub follows her home, and won’t leave her alone– she kills him. Not intentionally, of course. But she isn’t sorry, and she appears to have got away with murder. That’s where here addiction started. She’s developed a taste for revenge.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook.

Vera Wong’s unsolicited advice for murderers / Sutanto, Jesse Q
“Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady–ah, lady of a certain age–who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her college-aged son is up to. Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing–a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
The girl by the bridge / Arnaldur Indriðason
“An elderly couple are worried about their granddaughter. They know she’s been smuggling drugs, and now she’s gone missing. Looking for help, they turn to Konrad, a former policeman whose reputation precedes him. Always absent-minded, he constantly ruminates on the fate of his father, who was stabbed to death decades ago. But digging into the past reveals much more than anyone set out to discover, and a little girl who drowned in the Reykjavik city pond unexpectedly captures everyone’s attention.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Portrait of a murder / Jecks, Michael
“Nick Morris is your classic struggling artist. He paints pet portraits to pay the bills but is always just one big commission away from a more comfortable life. Which is why he agrees to paint the reluctant, hot-tempered hotelier, Jason Robart. But Nick gets more than he bargained for when he finds Jason dead from a shotgun blast to the head in an apparent suicide. It turns out Jason owed money to everyone — including some unsavoury Russians. When his girlfriend Elizabeth goes missing, Nick is concerned, but so is Jason’s unpleasant business partner. Nick is knee deep in trouble and to escape he must find Elizabeth, uncover the truth of Jason’s death, and stay alive! If only he had stuck to painting cats…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A death in Denmark / Malladi, Amulya
“Everyone in Denmark knew that Yousef Ahmed, a refugee from Iraq, brutally murdered the right-wing politician Sanne Melgaard. So, when part-time blues musician, frustrated home renovator, and full-time private detective Gabriel Præst agrees to investigate the matter because his ex–the one who got away–asked him to, he knew it was a no-win case. But as Gabriel starts to ask questions, his face meets with the fists of Russian gangsters; the Danish prime minister asks him for a favor; and he starts to realize that something may be rotten in the state of Denmark.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This wallpaper is dreadful: New fiction

“This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.”
― Oscar Wilde

One of the many books that caught our eye in this month’s recently acquired fiction titles was The Company by J. M. Varese, a book about the real-life arsenic wallpaper controversy of the late 19th century. The book is a wonderful serving of haunting and dark Victoriana gothic.

Wallpaper has been hanging around for a long time. The main historical techniques of producing it were stencilling, hand-painting, and woodblock printing and date back to well before 1700. The Renaissance period gentry took to wallpaper big time, especially as it was inexpensive compared to the alternative at the time which were tapestries. Sometimes the wallpapers of the time copied tapestry designs, and artists such as Albrecht Dürer created large wallpaper type prints for the market. It was during this time that France and England quickly emerged as the world’s leading wallpaper manufactures, though Oliver Cromwell, and his Puritan government temporarily halted wallpaper production in England viewing it as “ frivolous”.

In the 18th century there was a big trend for scenic wallpapers which were enormous panoramic scenes. One of the most famous designers of the 19th century was William Morris and his floral arts and crafts designs, some of which are still in production to this day. The 20th century saw wallpaper becoming one of the most popular household items, with designers such as Andy Warhol creating designs for the booming market. These days there are a huge selection of designs and production techniques including custom wallpaper production and even wallpaper that blocks Wi-fi and mobile phone use.

Other books that caught our eye were David Keenan’s sprawling, daring, ambitious and experimental  Monument maker, Emma Hislop’s Ruin : and other stories and Her lost words : a novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Stephanie Thornton.

The company / Varese, J. M.
“Lucy Braithwhite lives a privileged existence as heir to the fortune of Braithwhite & Company — the most successful purveyor of English luxury wallpapers the world over. The company’s formulas have been respected for nearly a century, but have always remained cloaked in mystery. No one has been able to explain the originality of design, or the brilliance of their colours, leaving many to wonder if the mysterious spell-like effect of their wallpapers is due simply to artistry, or something more sinister…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Monument maker / Keenan, David
“An epic romance set in an eternal summer, and a descent into history and the errors of the past; a novel with a sweep and range that runs from the siege of Khartoum and the conquest of Africa in the 19th century through the Second World War and up to the present day, where the memories of one summer and an unforgettable love affair unravel.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Ruin : and other stories / Hislop, Emma
“Women and girls walk a perilously thin line between ruin and redemption in these stories as they try-with varying degrees of success-to outmanouver the violence that threatens to define their lives. There’s the physical violence of men against their bodies-and sometimes the violence they exact in revenge. While doubts about a romantic partner, an abandonment by a sister, the fallout of a parent’s porgnography addiction, the betrayal of a friend, even the desire to touch a stranger’s fur-like body are subtler aggressions that pack their own kinds of punches…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Her lost words : a novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley / Thornton, Stephanie
“As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Strangers in the night : a novel of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner / Webb, Heather
“She was the small-town southern beauty transformed into a Hollywood love goddess. He was the legendary crooner whose voice transfixed the world. They were Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. Separately they were irresistible; together they were an explosive combination. Ava’s star is rising just as Frank’s career–and public image as a family man–is taking a hit. Gone are the days of the screaming bobbysoxers and chart-topping hits. Ava, however, finds herself gracing the front page of every tabloid in America. Jealousy and cheating abound, and when the two succumb to their temperaments and their vices, their happiness is threatened at every turn…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fire rush / Crooks, Jacqueline
“Yamaye lives for the weekend, when she goes raving with her friends, the “Tombstone Estate gyals,” at The Crypt, an underground dub reggae club in their industrial town on the outskirts of London. Raised by her distant father after her mother’s disappearance when she was a girl, Yamaye craves the oblivion of sound – a chance to escape into the rhythms of those smoke-filled nights, to discover who she really is in the dance-hall darkness. When Yamaye meets Moose, a soulful carpenter who shares her Jamaican heritage, a path toward a different kind of future seems to open…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The bookbinder of Jericho / Williams, Pip
“It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrowboat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press. Ambitious, intelligent Peggy has been told for most of her life that her job is to bind the books, not read them-but as she folds and gathers pages, her mind wanders to the opposite side of Walton Street, where the female students of Oxford’s Somerville College have a whole library at their fingertips.  But as war and illness reshape her world, her love for a Belgian soldier-and the responsibility that comes with it-threaten to hold her back.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook

The best Japanese short stories : works by 14 modern masters : Kawabata, Akutagawa and more
“An anthology of the greatest stories by modern Japanese masters (including previously overlooked women writers). Fourteen distinct voices are assembled in this one-of-a-kind anthology tracing a nation’s changing social landscapes. Internationally renowned writers like Yasunari Kawabata, Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Junichi Watanabe are joined by three notable women writers whose works have not yet received sufficient attention–Kanoko Okamoto, Fumiko Hayashi and Yumiko Kurahashi.  The Best Japanese Short Stories offers fascinating glimpses of a society embracing change while holding tenaciously onto the past…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Waving Not Drowning: How to Make Sure Social Media Isn’t Dragging You Down

It’s so easy to do isn’t it, spending ages just doomscrolling through Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram… whatever your social media of preference is.  Sometimes it’s just the timesuck of escapism, endless cat videos, meme sharing and satisfying content where corners line up, machines produce rows and rows of perfect replicas and coloured sand can be cut into precise shapes.  Or maybe you find yourself getting caught up in internet drama that really takes more of your precious time and energy than you should let it.

We’ve gathered a list of titles to help you curate your social media so that it keeps you connected, entertained and informed, and give you control over your social media experience.

Smarter than you think : how technology is changing our minds for the better / Thompson, K. C.
“A brilliant examination into how the internet is profoundly changing the way we think. In this groundbreaking book, Wired writer Clive Thompson argues that the internet is boosting our brainpower, encouraging new ways of thinking, and making us more not less intelligent as is so often claimed. Lucidly written and argued, ‘Smarter Than You Think’ is a breathtaking original look at our Brave New World.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mental immunity : infectious ideas, mind-parasites, and the search for a better way to think / Norman, Andy
“Philosopher Andy Norman dives into the world of mind-parasites, ideas that cause destructive thinking and extremism, and describes how to inoculate your mind to keep it safe from bad ideas”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)


Think before you like : social media’s effect on the brain and the tools you need to navigate your newsfeed / Harrison, Guy P
“Social media has pitfalls: misinformation, pseudoscience, fraud, and irrational beliefs, presented in an attractive, easy-to-share form. It reinforces your biases by tracking your preferences: it sends only filtered newsfeeds, so that you rarely see anything that might challenge your set notions. Harrison demonstrates how critical thinking can enhance the benefits of social media, while giving readers the skills to guard against its dangers. He also suggests ways to protect yourself against privacy invasion, trolls, and the confusion over fake news versus credible journalism.” (Catalogue)

The blind giant : how to survive in the digital age / Harkaway, Nick
“The digital age. An age of isolation, warped communication, disintegrating community. Where unfiltered and unregulated information pours relentlessly into our lives, destroying what it means to be human. Or an age of marvels. Where there is a world of wonder at our fingertips.” (Catalogue)


Breaking the social media prism : how to make our platforms less polarizing / Bail, Christopher
“This book examines how social media functions like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. It challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.” (Catalogue)

Digital madness : how social media is driving our mental health crisis—and how to restore our sanity / Kardaras, Nicholas
“In Digital Madness, Dr. Kardaras turns his attention to our teens and young adults. For them, the digital world is a bubble of content you’re meant to “like” or “dislike.” Two choices might be considered easy, but just how detrimental is this binary thinking to mental health?  Digital Madness is a crucial book for parents, educators, therapists, public health professionals, and policymakers who are searching for ways to restore our young people’s mental and physical health.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Future minds : how the digital age is changing our minds, why this matters, and what we can do about it / Watson, Richard
“This is for anyone who’s curious about rethinking their thinking or unleashing the extraordinary potential of the human mind.” (Catalogue)



How to fix the future : staying human in the digital age / Keen, Andrew
“Humanity has in the past undergone periods of creative destruction where improvements of social and economic conditions have come with harmful side effects. Keen identified five key tools: competitive innovation, consumer choice, regulation, social responsibility, and education, and then traveled the world to see how data commissioners, software developers, entrepreneurs and more are using these tools to make positive change. In an increasingly digital world, we must take steps to make the future something we can again look forward to.” (Catalogue)

The power of off : the mindful way to stay sane in a virtual world / Colier, Nancy
“Our reliance on technology is rapidly changing how each of us experiences life. We’re facing new issues and difficulties, we’re encountering new emotional triggers, and we’re relating to each other in new ways. The promise of technology is that it will make our lives easier; yet to realize that promise, we cannot be passive users we must bring awareness and mindfulness to our relationships with our devices.” (Catalogue)

Irresistible : why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching / Alter, Adam
“How many times have you checked your phone today? Why are messaging apps, email and social media so hard to resist? How come we always end up watching another episode? In recent years, media and technology have perfected the lucrative art of gaining and holding our attention. This extraordinary feat has changed the behaviour of billions of people, and especially the young: by current medical standards, we are experiencing an unprecedented, global pandemic of addiction. But what exactly is an addiction, and what, if anything, might we do about it?” (Catalogue)

Authors who travelled between China and New Zealand

The world is a book and the those who do not travel read only one page” – Saint Augustine.

These authors definitely went travelling and did so during some very difficult times, making their experiences and subsequent books truly remarkable. Read our blog about Robin Hyde, Boyong Ma, Lian Yang, and how their China-NZ travel experiences inspired them and their work.

Credit to read Robin Hyde by S P Andrew, Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/2-043599-F. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22770176

Robin Hyde
Robin Hyde (real name Iris Wilkinson, b. 1906) grew up in Wellington. Like her book The Godwits Fly (1938) which was inspired by her childhood, Dragon Rampant covers her extraordinary experience of travelling to China during the Japanese occupation. In 1938 she began a journey to travel to London to meet her publishers. Stopping in Hong Kong where she worked briefly as a freelance journalist, she soon became aware of the situation that had developed over the border in mainland China. She took a boat to Japanese-controlled Shanghai which was still suffering the impact of having been bombed. There she met Rewi Alley, Edgar & Peggy Snow and the Guardian’s Far East correspondent, Harold Timperley. Impressed with the quality of her work, Timperley offered to fund her travel to Canton so that she could report on the situation there. After first returning to Hong Kong where she met the NZ writer James Bertram, she travelled deep into Guangzhou and the neighbouring provinces to the front-line of battles raging between Japanese troops and Chinese nationalists. After the city of Xuzhou was bombed and captured Japanese soldiers injured her eyes, but she managed to escape to limp 80 kilometres along railway tracks to safety. She was escorted to Tsing Tao before managing to get back to Hong Kong where she interviewed the Nationalist leader, Rosamond Soong Ch’ing-ling, before continuing on to London. Her dramatic and graphic account of her experience in China was published in Dragon Rampant; ‘dragon’ in the title alluding to the Imperial Japanese army and their invasion of China.

Text sourced from https://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/hyde/china.asp

Dragon rampant / Hyde, Robin
“Based on her own experience, Robin Hyde depicted a picture of the 1930s Japanese occupied China, just before the World War Two. Robin Hyde was the only lone female journalist visited China during the war time and hence written the best history book delivered. Similar to other people trapped in a war zone, she suffered from sickness, fear, poverty and turbulence. She also received help along the way and met the important people she intended to interview. It’s one of the only books on this topic and delivered with lyrical prose only Robin Hyde could deliver. ” (Librarian’s review)

Ma Boyong 马伯庸
Ma Boyong (b. 1980) is a well-known author, columnist and blogger in China. Several of his novels have been adapted to popular TV drama series’, including The longest day in Chang’An . In 2010 his achievements in writing were recognised after he was awarded the ‘People’s Literature Prize’, one of China’s most prestigious honours. In 2012, he was awarded ‘Prose Award’; in 2023, he became the screenwriter of the TV series The case of Daming’s silk under the Microscope

His journey to becoming one of China’s best known contemporary writers followed an unusual path. In 2001 he was an international student at Waikato University studying marketing and communications, but his exposure to the literature collection in the university library inspired him to begin writing fiction. It was also while he was at Waikato University that he met his wife, they returned to China together where his literary career soon took off. In 2019 he was invited to make a return visit New Zealand along with several other well-known Chinese figures with significant NZ connections. Ma Boyong’s short story The Great Migration has been translated into English and many of his books can be found on the library catalogue in both Chinese and English.

Text sourced from https://www.waikato.ac.nz/news-opinion/media/2019/famous-chinese-literary-genius-got-his-inspiration-from-waikato

Sinopticon : a celebration of Chinese science fiction
“First time translated into English, this book presents a collection of China’s best science fiction stories from thirteen award winning and best-selling writers. This book won the 2022 British Fantasy Awards of Best Anthology. The editor has curated the science-fiction and fantasy short stories and thread them through so the stories link to one another.  ‘The Great Migration’ by Ma Boyong is a selected short story in this collection. (Librarian’s review) 

Yang Lian, 杨炼
The poet Yang Lian was born in Switzerland in 1955 but was raised in Beijing. He visited Hong Kong in 1986, Australia in 1988 and the following year was invited to NZ as a visiting scholar by John Minford of Auckland University and to participate in the 1989 New Zealand-China Writers and Translators Workshop. He became a teacher in Auckland where he lectured on non-mainstream Chinese literature (‘Meng Long Pai’) for the Department of Asian Language and Literature. He later wrote about his experience of living in Auckland in his book Unreal City and went on to win the ‘Flaiano International Poetry Prize’ (Italy, 1999). He had won numerous prizes such as ‘International Capri Prize’ (Italy, 2014); ‘Li Bai Nomination Poetry Prize’ (China, 2015), The First Long Poem Prize (China, 2015), ‘PEN Award’, (UK, 2017); ‘L’Aquila International Literature Prize’ (Italy, 2018).  He holds both NZ and British citizenship and today divides his time between living in London and Berlin.

Unreal city : a Chinese poet in Auckland / Yang, Lian
“Yang Lian is a Chinese non-mainstream Chinese literature (Meng Long Pai) poet. During the four years he lived in Auckland, he has written the story from a startling, fresh perspective. Published in English for the first time in the scholarly collection, this book Unreal City had later won the ‘Flaiano International Poetry Prize’ (Italy, 1999). (Librarian’s review)




Many faces of Robin Hood. Recent science fiction and fantasy

Olivia De Havilland GIF by Turner Classic Movies
Image via Giphy

Lady Marian Fitzswalter: Why, you speak treason!   Robin Hood : Fluently. – The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

We recently had the great pleasure of doing a launch event with the fabulous H.G. Parry for her new book The Magician’s Daughter. You can view a recording of that event at the end of this piece.

During that conversation, the subject of the Robin Hood legend came up as a continuing inspiration for writers, especially film and television directors. So, we thought what better excuse do we need to look at some of the versions, some of which are available to borrow.

Since the birth of film each age has created its own celluloid version of the Robin Hood myth. The idea of robbing from the rich to give to the poor has had universal appeal for a very long time. The first version we are going to look at is the The Adventures of Robin Hood  from 1938. This swaggering swashbuckling version which some people regard as the best Robin Hood movie of them all starred Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in his most acclaimed role. The supporting cast is pretty stellar too, featuring superstars of the era like Olivia De Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains.

The 1973 Animated Walt Disney version featured characters recycled from The Jungle Book, the songs are fabulous and the whole venture is great family fun.

The definitive 1980’s version of the myth was the British television series called Robin of Sherwood, starring Michael Praed and later Jason Connery as Robin. Robin Hood was obviously a family affair in the Connery household, as Jason’s  father Sean played several different roles in several adaptations of the myth. The series looks fabulous despite being filmed on a shoestring budget, allegedly the Sherriff of Nottingham’s gold regalia was made from spray painted biscuits! The series was hugely popular at the time and became the template for many of the later adaptations.

In the 90’s, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner and another stellar cast of the time: including Alan Rickman, Mike McShane and Sean Connery. The single from the soundtrack, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You by Bryan Adams, hit the number one slot globally, was the best-selling single of that year, and one of the best-selling singles of all time.

The 2010 Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood, film starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, is a much grittier and more visceral affair.

Other recently acquired Fantasy and Science fiction titles that caught our attention are listed below.
The magician’s daughter / Parry, H. G.
“It is 1912, and for the last seventy years magic has all but disappeared from the world. Yet magic is all Biddy has ever known. Orphaned as a baby, Biddy grew up on Hy-Brasil, a legendary island off the coast of Ireland hidden by magic and glimpsed by rare travelers who return with stories of wild black rabbits and a lone magician in a castle. To Biddy, the island is her home, a place of ancient trees and sea-salt air and mysteries, and the magician, Rowan, is her guardian. She loves both, but as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she is stifled by her solitude and frustrated by Rowan’s refusal to let her leave…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The crane husband / Barnhill, Kelly Regan
” A fifteen-year-old teenager is the backbone of her small Midwestern family, budgeting the household finances and raising her younger brother while her mother, a talented artist, weaves beautiful tapestries. For six years, it’s been just the three of them–her mother has brought home guests at times, but none have ever stayed. Yet when her mother brings home a six-foot tall crane with a menacing air, the girl is powerless to prevent her mom letting the intruder into her heart, and her children’s lives. Utterly enchanted and numb to his sharp edges, her mother abandons the world around her to weave the masterpiece the crane demands…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi : a novel / Chakraborty, S. A.
“Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our share of night : a novel / Enriquez, Mariana
“In 1981, a young father and son set out on a road trip across Argentina, devastated by the mysterious death of the wife and mother they both loved. United in grief, the pair travels to her family home near Iguazú Falls, where they must confront the horrific legacy she has bequeathed. For the woman they are grieving came from a family like no other–a centuries-old secret society called the Order that pursues eternal life through ghastly rituals. For Gaspar, the son, this cult is his destiny. As Gaspar grows up he must learn to harness his developing supernatural powers, while struggling to understand what kind of man his mother wanted him to be…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The foxglove king / Whitten, Hannah
“When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city. Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The scarlet circus / Yolen, Jane
“A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men. From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity–beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.”–Publisher marketing” (Catalogue)

Godkiller / Kaner, Hannah
“You are not welcome here, godkiller. Kissen’s family were killed by zealots of a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing gods, and enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a god of white lies, has somehow bound himself to a young noble, and they are both on the run from unknown assassins. Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, they must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favour. Pursued by demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning — something is rotting at the heart of the kingdom, and only they can be the ones to stop it.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The destroyer of worlds : a return to Lovecraft country / Ruff, Matt
“Summer, 1957. Atticus Turner and his father, Montrose, travel to North Carolina, where they plan to mark the centennial of their ancestor’s escape from slavery by retracing the route he took into the Great Dismal Swamp. But an encounter with an old nemesis turns their historical reenactment into a real life-and-death pursuit.  Yet these troubles are soon eclipsed by the return of Caleb Braithwhite. Stripped of his magic and banished from Chicago at the end of Lovecraft Country, he’s found a way back into power and is ready to pick up where he left off. But first he has a score to settle…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

I’ll Try Anything Once: New Biographies and Memoirs

Another month rolls around and we have a bumper crop of new biographies and memoirs for you.  Entertainment, art, literature, history and more, it’s all there in our latest acquisitions to the collection.

I’ll try anything once : my autobiography / Leith, Prue
“The memoir of restaurateur, food writer, business woman and novelist, Prue Leith, whose refreshing charm, humour, energy, and zest for life remind us of what is possible.” (Catalogue)

A mystery of mysteries : the death and life of Edgar Allan Poe / Dawidziak, Mark
“A Mystery of Mysteries is a brilliant biography of Edgar Allan Poe that examines the renowned author’s life through the prism of his mysterious death and its many possible causes.  By debunking the myths of how he lived, we come closer to understanding the real Poe and uncovering the truth behind his mysterious death, as a new theory emerges that could prove the cause of Poe’s death was haunting him all his life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Did I Ever Tell You This / Neill, Sam
“In this unexpected memoir, written in a creative burst of just a few months in 2022, Sam Neill tells the story of how he became one of the world’s most celebrated actors, who has worked with everyone from Meryl Streep to Isabel Adjani, from Jeff Goldblum to Sean Connery, from Steven Spielberg to Jane Campion.” (Catalogue)

The secret listener : an ingenue in Mao’s court / Chen, Yuan-tsung
“The history of China in the twentieth century is comprised of a long series of shocks: the 1911 revolution, the civil war between the communists and the nationalists, the Japanese invasion, the revolution, the various catastrophic campaigns initiated by Chairman Mao between 1949 and 1976, its great opening to the world under Deng, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Yuan-tsung Chen, who is now 90, lived through most of it, and at certain points in close proximity to the seat of communist power. A first-hand account of what life was like in the period before the revolution and in Mao’s China, The Secret Listener gives a unique perspective on the era, and Chen’s vantage point provides us with a new perspective on the Maoist regime.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

I don’t need therapy : (and other lies I’ve told myself) / Lodge, Toni
“When Toni Lodge sat down to write this memoir, she discovered that the lies she was telling herself were hiding some pretty important home truths-about her work, her identity and her mental health. Her dogged pursuit of these truths sent her on a brazen exploration of everything from gastro, fame and Twilight to funerals, the Dalai Lama and Brazilian waxes. In this hilarious warm hug of a book, Toni exposes the lies she has told herself about who she is and what she is capable of, inviting you on a riotous romp that will make you laugh, cringe, cry and utterly rethink the truth behind the stories we tell ourselves.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Toy fights : a boyhood / Paterson, Don
“This is a book about family, money and music but also about schizophrenia, hell, narcissists, debt and the working class, anger, swearing, drugs, books, football, love, origami, and the peculiar insanity of Dundee, sugar, religious mania, the sexual excesses of the Scottish club band scene and, more generally the lengths we to not be bored.” (Catalogue)

Vera Brittain : a life / Berry, Paul
“Writer, pacifist and feminist, she condemned her provincial background but remained acutely conscious of the conventional elements in her own character; she revealed a richly emotional life in her writing but was outwardly sober and reserved; she possessed a fierce desire for fame and recognition but was ready to sacrifice both on matters of principle. This biography – comprehensive, authoritative and immensely readable – confirms Vera Brittain’s stature as one of the most remarkable women of our time.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love, Pamela / Anderson, Pamela
“Pamela Anderson’s blond bombshell image was ubiquitous in the 1990s.  Love, Pamela brings forth her true story, that of a small-town girl getting tangled up in her own dreams. Eventually overcoming her natural shyness, Pamela let her restless imagination propel her into a new life few can dream of, Hollywood and the Playboy Mansion. Now having returned to the island of her childhood, after a memorable run starring as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, Pamela is telling her story, a story of an irrepressible free spirit coming home and discovering herself anew at every turn.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Soft lad : a collection of stories (about me) / Grimshaw, Nick
“Soft Lad is a collection of stories about me: stories on life, loves, death, fears, obsessions, nights out, growing up and making dreams come true. It isn’t chronological like a traditional memoir, starting at birth and ending with death – I’m still (at the point of writing) very much alive – but snapshots of the formative moments of my life up to now, with coming-of-age tales that capture a moment or a feeling. Some, I hope will make you laugh, and some, are emotional AF, so I’m afraid these might make you cry… They’re all honest, unfiltered and I’m proud to be sharing them with you.” (Catalogue)

The god of no good / Walker, Sita
“Sita Walker was raised by five strong matriarchs who taught her to believe in God and to be good. Her grandmother, mother and three aunts believed in unshakeable faith, in the power of prayer, in sacrifice, in magic, in the healing of turmeric and tea, and the wisdom of dreams. But as hard as she tries to be good, Sita always suspects that deep down, she isn’t very good at all. Traversing decades and continents — from Iran to India, Sri Lanka to the Czech Republic, Adelaide to the Torres Strait — The God of No Good is a beautifully lyrical and funny intergenerational memoir about six women and how their lives intertwine.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For more new books, go to: What’s new & Popular / April 2023 (wcl.govt.nz)