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)

New eAudiobook Non-Fiction in February

The late Carrie Fisher once said that “instant gratification takes too long”, and if you’re feeling a bit like that yourself, why not skip all the waiting round and go straight to Overdrive’s eAudiobook collection. This month’s additions include Fisher’s autobiography The Princess Diarist, as well as her earlier memoir (and stage show) Wishful Drinking. We’ve also got a range of other titles, including Hillbilly Elegy, The Case Against Sugar and Fluent in Three Months. You’ll be gratified before you know it!

Overdrive cover The Glass Universe, by Dava Sobel
“New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with a captivating, little-known true story of the pioneering women of Harvard College Observatory and their revolutionary astronomical discoveries. Described as ‘intricate, complex and fascinating’ by The Observer and a ‘peerless intellectual biography’ by The Economist.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
“Gary Taubes delves into Americans’ history with sugar: its uses as a preservative, as an additive in cigarettes and the contemporary overuse of high-fructose corn syrup. He explains what research has shown about our addiction to sweets. He clarifies the arguments against sugar, corrects misconceptions about the relationship between sugar and weight loss and provides the perspective necessary to make nutritional decisions as a society.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
“When Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—love poems, unbridled musings and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. With excerpts from these notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Fluent in 3 Months, by Benny Lewis
“Meet the man who makes the mission of learning any language possible! Language hacker Benny Lewis shows how anyone anywhere can learn any language without leaving their home, using a simple toolkit and by harnessing the power of the internet. Benny’s key principles include speaking the language from day one, changing your mind-set, staying focussed and harnessing free resources.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover WTF?!, by Olivier Magny
“With Stuff Parisians Like, Olivier Magny shared his hilarious insights into the fervently held opinions of his fellow Parisians. Now he moves beyond the City of Light to skewer the many idiosyncrasies that make modern France so unique.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, by Janna Levin
“In 1916, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. One century later, we are recording the first sounds from these waves, the music to accompany astronomy’s silent movie.
In Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, Janna Levin recounts the story of the obsessions, aspirations and trials of the scientists who embarked on a fifty-year endeavour to capture these elusive waves.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover What Happened, Miss Simone?, by Alan Light
“From Alan Light comes a biography of incandescent soul singer and Black Power icon Nina Simone, one of the most influential, provocative and least understood artists of our time. Drawn from a trove of rare archival footage, audio recordings and interviews (including Simone’s remarkable private diaries), this nuanced examination of Nina Simone’s life highlights her musical inventiveness and unwavering quest for equality.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher
“Finally, after four hit novels, Carrie Fisher comes clean (well, sort of) with the crazy truth that is her life. Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of ‘Hollywood in-breeding,’ come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars and become a cultural icon at the age of nineteen. Intimate, hilarious and sobering, Wishful Drinking is Fisher, looking at her life as she best remembers it (what do you expect after electroshock therapy?).” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover How to Ruin Everything, by George Watsky
“Are you a sensible, universally competent individual? Are you tired of the crushing monotony of leaping gracefully from one lily pad of success to the next? Are you sick of doing everything right? In this brutally honest and humorous debut, musician and artist George Watsky chronicles the small triumphs over humiliation that make life bearable.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Something to look forward to – Biography picks January 2015

One of the great determinants of happiness is having something to look forward to. It cheers us along life’s rocky road and offers a beacon of hope in sometimes barren times.
This month we feature two goodies to come – Antonia Fraser, biographer of so many great historical figures, has now chosen to tell her own fascinating story. Alexandra Fuller, author of several popular biographical works set in Africa (Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight, Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness) is now telling us what happened next in her own life – a true coming-of age memoir with which many readers will identify. Another cause for celebration this month is the re-issue of Betty Macdonald’s timeless comic classic The egg and I – something which will lift the most jaded of spirits!

Syndetics book coverTibetan peach pie : a true account of an imaginative life / Tom Robbins.
“Legendary novelist, American icon, and author of the international bestseller Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Tom Robbins’s zany romp through his wild life and times. Tom Robbins is an American institution. For over forty years, his warm, wise, and wonderfully weird novels such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Another Roadside Attraction, and Jitterbug Perfume have entranced readers the world over.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOur time of day : my life with Corin Redgrave / Kika Markham.
“Actors Kika Markham and Corin Redgrave were married for 25 happy, passionate and turbulent years. They shared their love of acting, family and left-wing activist politics with ceaseless energy and commitment, recording their thoughts and feelings in personal diaries. Each wrote of the other with sometimes brutal honesty and deep insight into the human heart and psyche. Kika Markham draws this poignant account of their marriage from those intimate diaries.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverTorvill and Dean : our life on ice : the autobiography / [Jayne] Torvill and [Christopher] Dean.
“When Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean collapsed to the ice at the climax of their routine to Bolero in the 1984 Winter Olympics, the judges could find no fault, awarding them 12 maximum scores of 6.0, while 24 million viewers watching at home in Britain simply looked on in amazement. Suddenly, we were all experts in figure skating, and we wanted to know more about the couple at the heart of it all. Despite intense interest in them, Torvill & Dean kept their lives private.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMāori boy : a memoir of childhood / Witi Ihimaera.
“This is the first volume of Witi Ihimaera’s enthralling memoir, packed with stories from the formative years of this much-loved writer. Witi Ihimaera is a consummate storyteller – one critic calling him one of our ‘finest and most memorable’. Some of his best stories, however, are about his own life. This honest, stirring work tells of the family and community into which Ihimaera was born and of his early life in rural New Zealand.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lives of the famous and the infamous : everything you need to know about everyone who mattered / The Week ; compiled and edited by Steve Tribe.
“Read about the man who convinced Einstein there was a God, the newspaper publisher who brought down a president and the code-cracking genius who helped foil the Nazis, and remember the lives of those that created the extraordinary moments in our modern history. Based on the obituaries that appear in every issue of The Week, here is a book that brings together the famous and infamous figures of our generation.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDon’t give up, don’t give in : lessons from an extraordinary man / Louis Zamperini and David Rensin.
“Louis Zamperini has lived one of the most amazing lives imaginable. Zamperini was an American Olympic athlete before serving in the Second World War. During the war his plane was shot down, leaving him stranded on a life raft in the middle of the ocean for 47 days. He survived and was rescued by Japanese forces, only to be imprisoned and tortured in a POW camp. Amazingly, Louis survived this ordeal too and went on to help others.” (Global Books summary)

And two good ones to look forward to:

Syndetics book coverMy history: a memoir of growing up
“Antonia Fraser’s memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of History. The fascination began as a child – and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, ‘for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life’.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLeaving before the rains come
“In 1992 Alexandra Fuller embarked on a new journey, into a long, tempestuous marriage to Charlie Ross, the love of her life. In this frank, personal memoir, a sequel to Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, she charts their 20 years together, from the brutal beauty of the Zambezi to the mountains of Wyoming – the new adventures, the unexplored paths, the insurmountable obstacles and the many signals that they missed along the way.” (Global Books summary)

And an oldie but a goodie, reissued:

Syndetics book coverThe egg and I / Betty MacDonald.
“When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall–through chaos and catastrophe–this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humour.” (Global Books summary)

Attack of the giggles: light read recommendations

Light reads are really hard to recommend — they’re so subjective. “Light read” means different things to different people – heartwarming, gentle, funny, fun and more. Sometimes it’s even just a book you love so much it feels light to you — just the idea of it makes you feel happy! Here are a selection of light reads as recommended by our librarians. They include non-fiction gigglefests as well as light fiction and gentle reads, and cover sci-fi, murder mysteries, wry understated masterful English wit, stunt non-fiction and chicklit.

Syndetics book coverDress your family in corduroy and denim / David Sedaris.
This is a collection of matter of fact but very funny essays which will have you laughing out loud, don’t make the mistake I made and read on an airplane you will cause a scene. David Sedaris is a great observer of life and really knows who to tell a great story. (Andree)

Syndetics book coverThe Wilder life : my adventures in the lost world of Little house on the prairie / Wendy McClure.
Have you ever been so obsessed with the world inside a book you went out and bought a butter churn (substitute appropriate item for your book obsession), just to feel closer to its protagonist? Wendy McClure has (and I sort of wish I had too…) Funny and reflective, and if you’ve ever loved the world of a book so much you wanted to wish yourself inside it (especially as a kid), you’ll enjoy this book. McClure has also written as a columnist for Bust magazine (a lot like Frankie magazine, but in the States), so you may have already read and enjoyed her writing. Plus, so much Little House on the Prairie backstory! And tourist kitsch! (Celeste)

Syndetics book coverSyndetics book coverAny of the Adrian Mole books, by Sue Townsend. (Sue)
(These are more of those “laugh-out-loud” books Andree mentioned — reading these on public transport will make you snort and giggle in public — which can only be a good thing…)

Syndetics book coverSyndetics book coverMore from Sue Townsend, with The Queen and I, and Queen Camilla. These are light-hearted and amusing reads. (Sue)
(The Queen and I is a funny read about the Royal Family being deposed by a Republican government in the UK, and adapting to life in a housing estate in the Midlands. Some royals adjust better than others, notably the Queen. Queen Camilla is a follow-up, but written quite a few years later.)

Syndetics book coverVery good, Jeeves / P.G. Wodehouse.
Really any of the Jeeves or Blandings books by P.G. Wodehouse. P.G. Wodehouse has a wonderful writing style and a language all of his own. These stories are clever, sunny and life-enhancing. (Sue)

Syndetics book coverForever Rumpole : the best of the Rumpole stories / John Mortimer.
Any of the Rumpole books by John Mortimer. The loveable legal ‘taxi-cab’ fights for the rights of petty criminals, against the strictures of petty bureaucracy and his formidable wife Hilda… These stories will bring a smile to your face. (Sue)

Syndetics book coverThe body in the library / Agatha Christie.
Of all her books, of course we had to choose this one! I love Agatha Christie books as light reads, especially Miss Marple. I know they’re murder mysteries – and, no, they don’t make me giggle – but I love how they just amble along, the descriptions of village life, and Jane Marple’s quick assessments of new characters as fitting the ‘type’ of an old maidservant or the village fishmonger etc. She quickly sizes up new characters and fits them into her schema of human nature. She’s a lot nicer in the later books – less gossipy. But, if I’m honest, part of the reason I love these books are that they’re just *nice*. I like everything about them – the descriptions of people’s gardens, village busybodies and more. If you’ve never read one, audition one as a lazy, lie around in the sun book. You won’t be disappointed – they’re easy reads in the sense that they don’t make you work hard to enjoy them, they’re just enjoyable. (Celeste)

Syndetics book coverTeacher man : a memoir / Frank McCourt.Teacher Man: A Memoir
If you’ve been a teacher (or even if you haven’t), the student antics in this one will have you giggling! (Mag)
And here’s a review from our catalogue:
“Available at last in paperback is Frank McCourt’s critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller about how his 30-year teaching career in the public schools of New York City shaped his second act as a writer.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe year of learning dangerously : adventures in homeschooling / Quinn Cummings.
This was a favourite of last year – I picked it up because I liked the look of the cover, and read it because the book jacket description was so funny and the author seemed very funny in a self-deprecating kind of way. She sort of acknowledged her earnestness in this experiment, and played a lot on the humour of it. You might enjoy it too — it’s a ‘stunt non-fiction’ experiment in homeschooling and what works for one family. I knew nothing about homeschooling, and I’m pretty sure this experiment isn’t applicable to my cat, but even though it didn’t directly apply to me, I still was very much amused and enjoyed reading it. To get a flavour for what the book is like, have a read of the author’s blog. (Celeste)

Syndetics book coverThe uncommon reader / Alan Bennett.
This story of the Queen’s accidental encounter with a mobile librarian and subsequent venture into the world of reading is gentle and ironic. (Sue)

Syndetics book coverThe internet is a playground : irreverent correspondences of an evil online genius / David Thorne.
“From the notorious Internet troublemaker who brought the world the explosively popular “Overdue Account,” in which he attempted to pay his chiropractor with a picture he drew of a spider; “Please Design a Logo for Me. With Pie Charts. For Free,” which has been described as one of the most passed-on viral e-mails of all time; and the staggeringly popular “Missing Missy,” which has appeared everywhere, from The Guardian to Jezebel to Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, comes this profoundly funny collection of irreverent Internet mischief and comedy.Featuring every one of Thorne’s viral successes from 27bslash6, The Internet Is a Playground will keep you laughing-and, indeed, crying-until Thorne’s next stroke-of-genius prank. Or hilarious hoax. Or almost-stint in jail. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary) (Ben’s pick)

Continue reading “Attack of the giggles: light read recommendations”

Two great new novels which might have slipped past your satellite dish

Two of the thinking woman’s most popular novelists have produced new books this year and we have recently welcomed them in to the library. In different ways, they explore the difficulty of meeting the many demands of modern life.

The new Anne Tyler is charming, one of her best yet. The characters are so finely realised that it is difficult to realise that they are not living people.

Many women who are tired of trying to be everything everyone expects them to be will empathise with the heroine of Sue Townsend’s ‘The woman who went to bed for a year”. This is British black humour at its best and will will attract an appreciative audience.

Both books are already proudly wearing “Librarians Choice” badges – your guarantee of a good read!!

Syndetics book coverThe beginner’s goodbye : a novel / by Anne Tyler
“Tyler’s bright charm resides in her signature blend of the serious with the larky. Adept at dissecting family life, she is also intrigued by lonely guys, the focus in The Accidental Tourist (1985), A Patchwork Planet (1998), and Noah’s Compass (2009). Her newest variation on this theme is an exceptionally lithe, sparkling, and covertly philosophical tale, set, as all her novels are, in Baltimore. Hampered with a crippled leg and arm, Aaron has always refused to be coddled, fending off his guilt-ridden mother and strong-willed sister. He married Dorothy, a doctor, because he loved her brusqueness and pragmatism. He is devastated when she dies in a freak accident that destroys their house until Dorothy begins returning from beyond. These precious, if mysterious, encounters are all that matter to Aaron. He moves in with his sister, turns his wrecked house over to Gil, a sympathetic contractor, and barricades himself in his office at his family’s vanity press to avoid frilly, cookie-baking, overly helpful Peggy. The press stays afloat by selling its Beginner’s series, little how-to books that Tyler astutely uses to illuminate how ill-prepared we are for life’s relentless demands. As Gil restores Aaron’s home, Aaron slowly rebuilds his life in this funny, sweet, and wise tale of lost and found love.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe woman who went to bed for a year / Sue Townsend.
“The day her children leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. She’s had enough – of her kids’ carelessness, her husband’s thoughtlessness and of the world’s general indifference. Brian can’t believe his wife is doing this. Who is going to make dinner? Taking it badly, he rings Eva’s mother – but she’s busy having her hair done. So he rings his mother – she isn’t surprised. Eva, she says, is probably drunk. Let her sleep it off. But Eva won’t budge. She makes new friends – Mark the window cleaner and Alexander, a very sexy handyman. She discovers Brian’s been having an affair. And Eva realizes to her horror that everyone has been taking her for granted – including herself. Though Eva’s refusal to behave like a dutiful wife and mother soon upsets everyone from medical authorities to her neighbours she insists on staying in bed. And from this odd but comforting place she begins to see both the world and herself very, very differently. . .The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year is a funny and touching novel about what happens when someone refuses to be the person everyone expects them to be. Sue Townsend, Britain’s funniest writer for over three decades, has written a brilliant novel that hilariously deconstructs modern family life.” (Global Books)

An interesting mixed fork full – literature picks for May

When I was a student nurse many moons ago and being instructed on the feeding of patients incapable of carrying out this task for themselves, the dietician recommended “interesting mixed fork fulls”. The idea was that you did not work your way through the potato, veggies, meat and gravy individually but mixed them up so the patient received a variety of tastes and textures with each mouthful of food. This phrase has stuck with me and seems apposite for many other experiences in life — travel, reading, friendship. theatre and movie-going among them.

This month’s literature picks would qualify for this description. The books selected are very different but together make for a most interesting mélange!

Syndetics book coverFaulks on fiction : great British characters and the secret life of the novel / Sebastian Faulks.
“Ever since Robinson Crusoe in 1719, the novel has introduced British readers to truly unforgettable characters – people in whom we can find deeper understanding of our own lives. In this engaging and personal book, Sebastian Faulks examines and celebrates the most famous and best-loved of these dazzling fictional creations and their wider impact on British culture as a whole. From Sherlock Holmes and Mr Darcy to Emma Woodhouse and James Bond – this is the story of the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains in all of us.” (Summary from

Syndetics book coverHolidays in heck / P.J. O’Rourke.
“Two decades after Holidays in Hell (1988), the travelogue of a former war correspondent in search of fun in some of the world’s most desperate areas, O’Rourke follows up with the travel adventures of a writer, husband, and father, which are thrilling and humbling in their own way. To venues ranging from China to Kyrgyzstan to Disneyland, O’Rourke offers the fresh perspective of a neophyte civilian and family traveler along with his own acerbic wit about politics, recreation, economics, and family life. There’s skiing in relatively flat Ohio, which exposes the id of winter sports, and there’s reading the European Union Constitution on a beach in Guadeloupe in 2005 while pondering French and Caribbean politics and economics. Political humorist O’Rourke discusses animal-cruelty issues and the class tensions underlying stag hunting in Exmoor in England and the love of birds and bird hunting in the Galapagos Islands with a bunch of Republicans, and in Brays Island Plantation, South Carolina, with his newly rifle-educated wife. The essays are as humorous and charmingly meandering as his travels.” (Summary adapted from Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe 50 funniest American writers : an anthology of humor from Mark Twain to the Onion / according to Andy Borowitz.
“Ever wondered who makes a very funny person laugh? Wonder no more. Brought together in this Library of America collection are America’s fifty funniest writers — according to acclaimed writer and comedian Andy Borowitz. Reaching back to Mark Twain and forward to contemporary masters such as David Sedaris, Roy Blount Jr., Ian Frazier, Bernie Mac, Wanda Sykes, and George Saunders, The 50 Funniest American Writers* is an exclusive Who’s Who of the very best American comic writing. Here are Thurber and Perelman, Lenny Bruce and Bruce Jay Friedman, Garrison Keillor and Dave Barry and Veronica Geng, plus hilarious lesser known pieces from The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic, National Lampoon, Salon, and The Onion. Who does one of the funniest people in America (CBS Sunday Morning) read when he needs a laugh? Here’s Andy Borowitz to tell you.”–Publisher’s description.

Syndetics book coverMorning, noon & night : finding the meaning of life’s stages through books / Arnold Weinstein.Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books
“From Homer and Shakespeare to Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safran Foer, major works of literature have a great deal to teach us about two of life’s most significant stages — growing up and growing old. Distinguised scholar Arnold Weinstein’s provocative and engaging new book, “Morning, Noon, and Night”, explores classic writing insights into coming-of-age and surrendering to time, and considers the impact of these revelations upon our lives. With wisdom, humor, and moving personal observations, Weinstein leads us to look deep inside ourselves and these great books, to see how we can use art as both mirror and guide. He offers incisive readings of seminal novels about childhood — Huck Finn’s empathy for the runaway slave Jim illuminates a child’s moral education; Catherine and Heathcliff’s struggle with obsessive passion in Wuthering Heights is hauntingly familiar to many young lovers; Dickens’ Pip, in Great Expectations, must grapple with a world that wishes him harm; and in Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical Persepolis,little Marjane faces a different kind of struggle — growing into adolescence as her country moves through the pain of the Iranian Revolution. In turn, great writers also ponder the lessons learned in life’s twilight years: both King Lear and Willy Loman suffer as their patriarchal authority collapses and death creeps up.” (Summary from

Syndetics book coverPlays 2 : London calling / Ken Duncum.
“Music hits the shores of New Zealand and reverberates through three different eras in these plays by award-winning playwright Ken Duncum. BLUE SKY BOYS: Wellington, 1964, The Beatles rock the Town Hall while the down-on-their-luck Everly Brothers, Don and Phil, thrash out their artistic and personal differences, using a trio of New Zealand teens as cannon fodder. JOHN, I’M ONLY DANCING: Glam gatecrashes an early seventies boys’ high as a subversive music teacher turns macho school culture on its head via a staging of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. WATERLOO SUNSET: 1980, a Wellington southerly batters a converted waterfront boatshed where safety-pinned Punks clash with older ex-pat English Mods, each fighting to find a future as their youth runs out.” (Summary from

Syndetics book cover“House of exile : war, love and literature, from Berlin to Los Angeles / Evelyn Juers.
“Evelyn Juers’ extraordinary book is a unique imagining of the unconventional love affair between the writer and political activist Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger – a tall, blonde ex-barmaid twenty-seven years his junior – recounting their flight from Nazi Germany in 1933, to France and then to Los Angeles.”(Summary from

Syndetics book coverHaiku for the single girl / Beth Griffenhagen ; illustrations by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers.
“A celebration of the single girl’s life told in uproarious and uplifting haiku and illustrations guaranteed to make any woman of any age, single or otherwise, laugh out loud and forget her troubles. Unsolicited relationship advice from relatives, disastrous dates, men who wear thumb rings, and the moments of deep satisfaction when you realise that you can do whatever you want with your time – it’s all here in a collection of incisive haiku and deliciously cheeky drawings that superbly and charmingly capture the life and times of being a single woman.” (Summary from

Syndetics book coverThank you notes / Jimmy Fallon, with the writers of Late night.
“Fallon addresses some 200 subjects in need of his undying “gratitude.” Each page will feature one note and a photograph of its recipient. From Hilary Clinton to a light bulb he is too lazy to replace, these are the moments and memories that make his life a little bit fuller.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWrite more good : an absolutely phony guide / The Bureau Chiefs.
“In the grand tradition of “The Onion” and “The Daily Show,” the media satirists behind the popular Twitter feed @FakeAPStyleBook have produced the definitive guide on how (not) to write, tuned to the precise frequency of the Internet age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEminent outlaws : the gay writers who changed America / Christopher Bram.
“This book is a history, literary critique, and collective biography in one. Novelist Bram (Gods and Monsters), himself an essential gay writer, discusses gay men (no women here, with no explanation) from Gore Vidal in the early postwar years up through the 1990s and close to the present. His main thesis, that “good art can lay the groundwork for social change,” is demonstrated and contextualized in dozens of examples of how literature can be not just a reflection of the times but also a catalyst for change; for example, Mart Crowley’s 1968 play (made into a 1970 movie), The Boys in the Band, is shown to have produced conflicting reactions that spurred the debate of what gay culture should look like.” (Library Journal)

Zombified Liverpudlians and the British Zombie Invasion? New humour/satire/black comedy novels

Every month, as well as our regular lists of new science fiction, general novels, and mysteries, we pick another genre to profile and list out our favourite new titles. The selection for Other Genre novels this month is humour/satire/black comedy. As the present trend in fiction is towards the paranormal, undead, and vampire novels, some humorous versions of this fiction are included in this selection, with a few normal situation comedies for the less adventurous reader!

Syndetics book coverUndead and undermined / MaryJanice Davidson.
” Continuation of this popular series, now with a re-vamped cover, finds Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor, who thought she couldn’t die in a morgue? It could have something to do with a time-traveling trip she made, and a foe with a wicked agenda that could finally be the real death of Betsy, if she’s not careful.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlorida roadkill : a novel / Tim Dorsey.Florida Roadkill: A Novel
“Two guys on their way to a fishing trip in the Florida Keys have no idea that $5 million is stashed in the back of their Chrysler. But others do, including an unbalanced trivia buff, his brain-dead partner, and a cocaine-loving stripper.”(adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPaul is undead : the British zombie invasion / Alan Goldsher.
“In this hilarious chronicle of the zombified Liverpudlians’ rise to fame, “bloody” is no longer just a four-letter word. It’s a way of life for the undead moptops, whose arrival is heralded by the bloodcurdling screams of sanguine American girls who twitch, and writhe, and scratch their own eyes out in manic ecstasy. Using hidden messages in their songs, the Beatles mind-meld millions of delicious fans. That is, until a notorious zombie hunter named Mick arrives, the fierce wiggle of his lithesome hips and shoulders his only defence against a seemingly impenetrable glut of reanimated corpses.” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverFriends like these / Wendy Harmer.
“Greed, fraud, betrayal and resurrection, this is a search for something to believe in. Jo, recently single, 45-year-old mother of two, is the former deputy headmistress of Sydney’s most exclusive private girls’ school, Darling Point Ladies College. A year ago she was forced to abandon her post in a scandal that had all the social set talking. In fact, they’re still talking. Jo is moving on, but with friends like hers, maybe leaving them behind is her only option.” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverHow to flirt with a naked werewolf / Molly Harper.
“The first in a new paranormal romantic comedy series about a woman who moves to Alaska and finds love with a handsome, rugged werewolf” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe stray sod country / Patrick McCabe.
“Cullymore in 1958 is a backwater on the border between the north and south of Ireland. This complex literary novel focuses on the daily lives of its Catholic residents and their interactions with each other and Protestant fellow citizens. Central to the story is the outrageous Father Hand whose plans to bring Cullymore to national attention include resurrecting an ancient Easter rite while his parishioners act out the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday. The omniscient narrator is a malicious and contrary spirit who, as the story progresses, assumes a more active part by leading some characters to behave in ways they loathe or to believe in and act upon the unreal. “(adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBertie sings the blues / Alexander McCall Smith ; illustrated by Iain McIntosh.
“This seventh satirical instalment of the adventures of the people at 44 Scotland Street. Domestic bliss seems in short supply as over at the Pollocks, dad, Stuart, is harbouring a secret about a secret society and Bertie is feeling kind of blue. Having had enough of his neurotic hot-housing mother, he puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Will he go to the highest bidder or will he have to take matters into his own hands? Will the lovelorn Big Lou find true love on the internet? And will Angus Lordie and Domenica make it up the aisle?” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe second coming / John Niven.
An outrageous, irreverent look at faith, religion, modern culture and what might happen to the Son of God if he ever came back to Earth.“ (adapted from

Syndetics book coverAbout last night / Adele Parks.
“Steph, eternally solid, considerate and dependable, is begging her best friend to lie to the police as she’s desperately trying to conceal two shocking secrets to protect her family. Pip, self-consigned to the role of scatty, frivolous hot-head is overwhelmed; she’s normally the one asking for help in a crisis although never anything as catastrophic as this. Both women have always believed that friendship is built on mutual selflessness, compromise and trust. Are those beliefs now to be tested beyond endurance?” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverAttachments / Rainbow Rowell.
“It’s 1999 and for the staff of one newspaper office, the internet is still a novelty. By day, two young women, Beth and Jennifer, spend their hours emailing each other, discussing in hilarious detail every aspect of their lives, from love troubles to family dramas. And by night, Lincoln, a shy, lonely IT guy spends his hours reading every exchange. At first their emails offer a welcome diversion, but as Lincoln unwittingly becomes drawn into their lives, the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realizes just how head-over-heels he really is, it’s way too late to introduce himself. After a series of close encounters, Lincoln decides it’s time to muster the courage to follow his heart.” (adapted from