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.)

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)