Hastings District Libraries

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Hushed by Kelley York

"He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed."– Goodreads Blurb

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is a very well written story about people I can’t stand, doing ridiculous things in the name of ‘love’ (more like in the name of obsession). No one in the book is particularly likeable. Even Evan, who starts off as the sweet romantic interest, quickly proves he’s not so sweet - he literally helps his boyfriend get away with murder all while blaming it on someone else.

However it dealt with complex relationships, both within the family (an abusive father, emotionally distant mother) and with friends (unhealthy/obsessive relationship with his best friend Vivian, while Vivian’s mother Marissa was a stand-in Mum), really well.

But at the end of the day I feel like no one really learnt from their mistakes. I kind of spent the whole book wanting to shake Evan and telling him to get the hell away from Archer, wanting to hit Archer and tell him to stop being such an obsessive creeper, and wanting to yell at Vivian and telling her to get some therapy because she obviously went through something very traumatic and desperately needs help.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Hushed

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman

I thoroughly enjoyed Fiona Sussman's debut novel Shifting Colours, about domestic service in South Africa during the apartheid years; so I was eager to read her latest novel The Last Time We Spoke.
Fiona Sussman is a family doctor and writer, formerly from South Africa, who now lives in New Zealand.

The Last Time We Spoke is about the aftermath of a violent home invasion; and is set in New Zealand.
Two babies are born; Jack into a loving comfortably-off farming family; Ben into an unstable gang environment. Years later they meet when Ben and his friend attempt to burgle Jack's family home as part of a gang initiation.

The story then follows the life of Jack's mother Carla, as she struggles to deal with on-going trauma following the incident; as well as Ben's life in prison.
Parts of this novel are reminiscent of Alan Duff's Once were Warriors and One Night out Stealing;
Sussman draws her charactors very well and and shows perhaps a different perspective as an immigrant to New Zealand.  I wasn't sure about the Maori God narrative and historical context at the end of some chapters, and felt this could have been integrated into the novel in a different way.

An interesting read.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  The Last Time We Spoke

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave’s latest novel visits blitz-torn London, the siege of Malta and the ravaged lives of those caught up in the war effort.

When war is declared in September 1939, Mary North bolts home to London from her finishing school, hurrying to the War Office to sign up. Tom Shaw collects blackberries from Parliament Hill to make into jam, only to give the jar to his flatmate Alistair who carries it with him to officer training and beyond.

Mary finds herself teaching a small class of misfits who are rejected when they are evacuated to the country, only to be returned to London. Tom works for the Education Authority so it is Tom who Mary badgers for a class to teach and insists he take her to dinner. Alistair is shaken by his experiences at Dunkirk but on his next leave, makes up a foursome with Tom and Mary, and her witty friend, Hilda. Only it is Mary Alistair is drawn to.

In the background, the war rages on. How can you be a normal young person starting out in life, with dreams of love and making a difference, when all around you the world has gone mad? There is a lot of well researched detail on Malta, as well as the devastation in London's East End, while the jazz keeps playing in West End nightclubs.

There are plenty of ideas on offer too - the old order seems likely to get a shake up - making this a brilliant book club read. Best of all is Cleave’s writing. His dialogue captures the banter of the conversations people have when trying to be brave; his descriptions are evocative and at times chilling. Every sentence is crafted, no word wasted. An A+ from me.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Thursday, 15 September 2016

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks


British Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) had the knack of turning complicated neurological case histories into fascinating books, while still sensitively emphasising his patients as people.

Oliver Sacks reflects on his life and writing in his final book, a memoir.

Sacks was a great storyteller, and shares the fascinating background of some of his best- selling case histories such as The Awakenings, which was later made into an excellent film with Robin Williams playing the part of Sacks. The Awakenings describes a group of post encephalitic, catatonic patients languishing in a ward in New York, whom Sacks trialled with the then new drug levodopa, resulting in their near-miraculous waking up and then heartbreaking complications.

In another book, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Sacks explains neurological conditions by presenting case histories of individuals he cared for with Tourette’s and autistic savant syndromes, memory and perception problems, and epilepsy. Sacks himself suffered from a condition called prosopagnosia or face blindness, to the extent that he could not even recognise his own reflection in the mirror.

Sack’s writing was always humane, compassionate, and able to convey quirks of the human brain in lay terms.

Sacks also recounts how he was pressured to become a doctor from an early age, having physicians for parents as well as two of his older siblings. As a young medical student he was so fearful of telling his mother he was bottom in his anatomy class he decided to sit a prestigious Oxford scholarship, to which he arrived late and drunk, left early, and yet won the prize for his writing skills.

His great enthusiasm for trying new experiences is evident in stories of various chemical experiments gone wrong, severe injuries whilst power lifting, hiking and motorcycling, as well as a crippling drug addiction.

If this book whets your appetite for more, Sacks has written a dozen books on subjects such as migraines, music, Tourette’s syndrome and hallucinations.


Oliver Sacks was brilliant yet flawed, extremely shy, socially awkward and caring, and On the Move depicts a fascinating life and man.

Reviewed by Katrina



Saturday, 10 September 2016

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley (Author), Mia Goodwin (Illustrator)

Everyone needs to read this comic. Honestly. This is by far my favourite thing I’ve read all year.

Imagine your stereotypical fairy tale world, where kings lock their daughters up in towers to keep them safe (and more importantly to make sure that any future king is strong and brave enough to defeat the dragon), princesses have to wait around in towers to be rescued, and the only armour that currently exists for women is horribly skimpy (and is obviously poking fun at the types of outfits worn by characters like Wonder Woman and Xena Warrior Princess).

But this is the story of Princess Adrienne, one princess who's tired of waiting to be rescued. She finds a magic sword under her bed and decides to save herself (and all her sisters) instead. With her dragon Sparky and the blacksmith Bedelia, they set off on an adventure to save all the princesses who are stuck in towers waiting for their princes to come.

I loved this comic for SO many reasons, the main being that it is refreshing to have the spotlight on female heroes, and it has a diverse, predominantly African-American cast. It pokes fun at the typical fairy tale tropes, it is funny (one of my favourite panels is when Adrienne gives the prince grief when he calls her ‘fair maiden’), and it has terrific artwork.

While it’s currently shelved in the YA section I believe that it is a graphic novel that can be enjoyed by adults (and children) of all ages. I am definitely recommending it to everyone I know.

Posted by Sas

Catalogue link: Princeless

Friday, 9 September 2016

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

In need of a bit of feel-good fiction?
This gorgeous novel translated from Swedish could be just the thing for you!
Britt-Marie is a bit of a pain to be honest...a compulsive cleaner, overly concerned about her reputation and the shortcomings of everyone she meets; she is forced to re-evaluate her life following her husband's infidelity.
After hounding the local employment officer, Britt-Marie is sent to the dying outpost of Borg, to be the care-taker of a community centre that is about to be closed down.
By default she becomes the coach of the local rag-tag children's football team and begrudgingly becomes part of a community of misfits.
What follows is humour and pathos in equal measure, with a certain quirkiness in the translation that only adds to the story.
I am off to get my cutlery drawer in order because, as Britt-Marie says: "We're not animals, are we?"

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link: Britt-Marie Was Here

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

Now this is a different kind of murder mystery. Written by French writer Michel Bussi, I thought it was the book's Frenchness that made it so different. You know that whimsical way the French have of telling stories, full of passion and frivolity and interesting characters.

Black Water Lilies is set around the town of Giverny, made famous by Claude Monet, who set up house there and for thirty years adapted the gardens and water features so he could paint copious views of his famous water lilies. It sounds a charming little town, built around the tourism Monet’s house and gardens bring, and painters from around the world still visit to try their hand at capturing the dappled light and colour of flowers floating on water, set among trees. Until there’s a murder.

Jerome Morval is a wealthy opthamologist when he is bashed on the head, stabbed and left half-drowned in the river. The police, handsome Inspector Serenac and his earnest young sidekick Sylvio Benavides, attempt to find a link between the birthday card to an eleven year old in the victim’s pocket; the amorous pictures sent anonymously showing Morval with five women; and his obsession for the water-lily paintings of Monet.

The police investigation seems to be going nowhere, possibly because Serenac develops a crush on the pretty school-teacher who features in one of the photographs. And what is the secret that the old witch who lives in the mill-house shares with the victim’s wife, but not the reader? Add a little girl, Fanette, who could be the next great artist to come from Giverny, and a missing pair of boots, and there is plenty to keep the reader guessing.

I thought the police would eventually find the culprit, solve the case and move on, but was unprepared for the massive twist that happens near the end of the book. So taken with the quirky characters, the charm of the setting and the art of the great master, I just didn’t see it coming. Black Water Lilies is as deceptive as it is entertaining, a terrific piece of storytelling from a wonderful new author.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Black Water Lilies