The Boat Runner

When you read Devin Murphy’s immersive coming of age novel The Boat Runner, you are carried away into a world where doing the morally right thing no longer seems so straight forward.

The boat runner

Devin Murphy spent eight years working on this debut novel, inspired by his own and his wife’s family history. He draws on the stories of the war he heard as a child, and his own personal experiences as a young man exploring the oceans. He also incorporates his struggles to find his own purpose.

Devin’s love of storytelling means he describes those little details that make you feel you are actually there.

Exploring the moral perspectives of the Dutch and German boys thrust into the campaign, we see events through the eyes of 14 year old Jacob Koopman. Jacob’s story in the novel exposes how people came to accept the German invasion and the propaganda of the times,  and how morally complex those dark days were.

CoverThe book shows a young naive man striving to determine his own path when war threatens and family values are being reexamined. In his search to do what is right, he has to reexamine how he sees his family and what it means to be human.  The novel traverses the pre-war days of the Hitler Youth Camps and the build up towards war.

As war erupts, Jacob is quickly thrust into events beyond his comprehension, and we learn the story of the young Dutch boys thrust into the German war machine. It is a fast-moving tale of boyhood, honour, and bravery – tempered by painful realization of the horrors of war  and the story builds toward the decision which changes the path of his life forever.

Wanting to know more? Visit Devinmurphyauthor.com

The Boat Runner
by Devin Murphy
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780062658029

The Beauty of Lists

Cover of The Librarian's Book of Lists Memory – as you get older – seems to fail you at the most inopportune moments…  And if, heaven forbid, you are a little ‘distracted’ or ‘stressed’, then it completely goes out of the window.

Once upon a time I could remember the titles of books and authors’ names without having to play mental ‘charades’  with myself (or rope in increasingly bewildered colleagues) to acquire them! Ah, those were the days…

Thank heavens for our catalogue’s nifty little function entitled Lists. I was asked a question the other day: ‘what books could I recommend’. Well, this time I was prepared. I had a List, you see. Quick as a flash I went into My Account on BiblioCommons, clicked on My Lists and there they were – my top books (in no particular order) that I have access to via the library collection.

Cover of PersonalYou don’t have to make lists public if you are of a reticent nature; whilst I make my own private  lists, I also peruse the public list titles on the catalogue page and find that some of them are really rather quirky and/or list very unusual topics. I’ve actually found quite a few books to place reserves on via this method.

Who could fail to be impressed with titles such as If you like… fiction for hipsters or If you like… Chick Lit – Beyond Bridget Jones and Marion Keyes? And, if you are desperate to find Lee Child-like books by different authors, THEN miraculously there is a list called If you like… Lee Child which puts forward 21 different authors to try. Yeah!!

Have you ever created or made use of a list? Check out the Staff Picks lists created by our librarians (you can choose from Adults, Kids and Teens) – I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the range they cover.

2014-10-05 14.20.13

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

You probably know the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Twelve sisters disappear at night and come back with worn out shoes — where have they gone? The father offers a reward for anyone who can solve the mystery.Cover of The Girls at the Kingfisher CLub

The mystery of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club has already been solved. A father, determined for a male heir, perseveres until he has twelve daughters living on the top floor of his New York apartments. Twelve sisters, aching for freedom, slip out each night to whatever Manhattan speakeasies seem safest. The story mostly follows Jo, the General, but also manages to capture the disparate personalities and hopes of her eleven younger siblings.

While I loved the historical element of this book (1920s New York!), the characters really steal the show. One of my favourite moments was when the father, stern faced and suspicious, confronts all twelve daughters for the first time. Suddenly he’s vulnerable in the face of his own offspring, especially Jo, trained by necessity to guard and look over her sisters and constantly worrying: am I my father? She certainly shares his iron will, his strength and his stubbornness, but while her father uses his power to cage others, Jo uses hers to set her sisters free. The sisters aren’t perfect by any means; they squabble and hate and love each other equally, living together with an invisible line marking each sister’s territory. There’s loneliness on that crowded floor, but there’s also a connection between prisoners that never really fades.

She was still trying to discover how people related to each other, and how you met the world when you weren’t trying to hide something from someone. It was a lesson slow in coming.

If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like a light read, you’re right, but it’s worth it for the elegance of Genevieve Valentine’s writing, and watching twelve princesses free themselves while carrying their shoes in their hands.

All copies unavailable? Try these similar titles which I also wept over:

Cover of The Goblin Emperor Cover of Rose Under Fire Cover of The Diviners

Librarians reading from the Young Adult collection

Tēnā koutou kātoa

Best picks, reader advisory, book recommendations, what’s hot, whatever you like to call it, sometimes the best reads come from someone else’s sharing.

Young adults' booksLuckily there are librarians with a passion for the Young Adult (YA) collections in our libraries. We spend our spare time engrossed in books that we love to share with our rangatahi and teenagers to encourage a lifelong love of reading. “Young Adult” in library speak defines collections aimed at around 13-19, BUT, I challenge you NOT to let that dissuade you from venturing forth.

Anyone who loves a great read and is open to alternatives, a change, and a specialised writing style should have a browse and see how often you go WOW!  I say ‘specialised’ because I would suggest that good YA writers have nailed the need to hook our young adults in with powerful writing skills, great story lines and immediate attention grabbing techniques.

Therefore, with all this in mind, at a recent meeting with colleagues who have this passion and carry some responsibility in their libraries around the YA collection, we all shared what we had been reading recently. This is a very diverse list and we hope you find something that will encourage you to give a YA title a go or will provide some help when you are being your teenager’s personal librarian.

The following titles are found in our Young Adults’ collections in your library; some are available as free downloadable e-books and audio-books as well.

As with life, books are difficult to put in specific boxes: these titles are from the ‘adult’ collections, but may well appeal to older teenagers.

Cover of Razorhurst Cover of The Boy's Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew Cover of The Facades Cover of Everybody Sees the Ants Cover of Only Ever Yours Cover of The Child Thief

So, whether you are up for a challenge or are tearing your hair out to get your offspring to read, there is something for everyone in the Young Adult collections in our libraries.

Let us know how many times you went WOW!

Have you planted your garlic yet?

Cover: Garlic, The Mighty BulbI’m hoping that maybe you haven’t planted your garlic yet… We were getting ready to do this, and then luckily saw the weather forecast before we made firm plans. I think if we had gone ahead, our garlic might have been washed out to sea in the deluge and may have decided to swim to Australia to seek some warmer weather!

Everyone seems to have a different idea about when the best time to plant garlic is. The first time we planted it was on the 21st of June several years ago. It is an easy date to remember, being the shortest day, and because we had good results we’ve always aimed for that date (weather permitting).

I love planting garlic, mainly because there’s not really that much that you can do wrong. It just seems to need a sunny spot, a bit of moisture, and away it goes. It is usually ready in about 6-7 months, which is conveniently just in time for the barbecue season, and there’s just something so satisfying about growing your own. It looks great when it is braided too, although I seem to end up with more of a knotty mess myself.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I must check and see what else I should get ready to plant over the next few months. We always seem to plant the same things, so I really need to branch out (pardon the pun!).The Good Life

There’s always the Yates Garden Guide of course, which is great for practical gardening advice, but I decided to check our catalogue for inspiration, and The Good Life caught my eye. Having watched the Good Life TV series when I was growing up, the title evoked some great memories and it just sounded too good to miss!

It is hot off the press, published earlier this year, and a quick flick through it suggests that it’s just the ticket. It is divided up into seasons and I’ve instantly spotted a couple of recipes that I’ll be keen to try, including pickled garlic, and pickled nasturtium seeds (otherwise known as poor man’s capers).  There look to be some good tips in there which I’ll soak up – gardening just seems to be one of those areas where you are continually learning. Maybe that is part of what makes it so much fun!

The only downside to this book is that every time I pick it up and see the title I hear the theme song for the Good Life TV series in my head!  Just in case you want a dose of nostalgia, you’ll be glad to know that we have the Good Life TV series available at our libraries on DVD.

If you have any experiences about planting garlic or about your own good life that you would like to share then we would love to hear your comments.

Life after Death

Life after death: the shocking true story of an innocent man on death row is probably not a book that I would have chosen to read, but a customer told me about it (one of the perks of my job!) and an interest was sparked.  I was also curious about the New Zealand connection with this – Peter Jackson produced a film about it called West of Memphis, which the library has on DVD.

Life After Death by Damien EcholsDamien Echols was one of three teenagers arrested and charged with the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was fingered as the ring leader and was sentenced to death. All three men were eventually released in August 2011.

Echols’s early life was one of poverty and despair, living in miserable circumstances in an unhappy family setting. He mentions that he spent hours in the West Memphis Public Library, as he was a keen reader, and wanted to educate himself. He continued reading through his time on death row.

He describes the long build-up to his arrest, where he started to get attention from the police and the events leading up to the arrest. The most harrowing part of the book is obviously his time on death row, where he gives insights into the inmates’ daily lives, the abuse suffered from prison guards, and so on. It takes you through his journey of swinging emotions triggered by hope one minute and despair the next, his search for spirituality, and his interactions with the people he met (including Peter Jackson) who helped him in his fight for freedom. What really shines through is his courage and determination, and his amazing ability to remain sane in insane circumstances.

Have you read Life after death or seen West of Memphis? If so, what did you think of them?

And is there a title that you wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen to read, but which was recommended to you and which you ended up really enjoying? Why not pay it forward in the comments below?

Left Neglected: Recommended by Jodi Picoult … and me

Cover image of "Left Neglected"There is nothing particularly remarkable about the way Lisa Genova writes, but for some reason I couldn’t put her novel Left Neglected down. My life is nothing like the main character’s: I’m not married; I don’t have any children; I’m not especially career driven, nor do I dream about having a big house in the suburbs; and my brain doesn’t ignore information on the left side of the world. Yet I was completely and utterly engrossed in Sarah Nickerson’s journey to recovery from a traumatic brain injury.

I had never heard of the fascinating neurological syndrome Left Neglect until I picked up this book, but apparently it’s quite common. Lisa Genova has a PhD in neuroscience and obviously did extensive research on the syndrome in order to write about it.

I found myself covering my left eye at times to try to understand what it would be like to think that the left side of the page I am reading or the food on the left side of my plate doesn’t exist because my brain can’t register it. I tried to imagine not being able to feel my left arm or leg, as if these limbs were separate from the rest of me, as if they belonged to someone else entirely.

It was Jodi Picoult’s rave review printed on the cover of Left Neglected that made me want to read this book. I’m glad I did. While there are many differences between Sarah and I, there is one key experience I could relate to, and this is what I loved most about her story: I understand what it’s like to have your life changed forever in an instant; everything you have to adjust to and adjust within yourself as a result; and how, no matter what difficulties you must now face, you can always find the hidden blessing if you allow yourself to really look.

What books have you picked up just because another author you like has recommended it? Did you agree with their praise?

“I’m looking for a book for my husband/son/brother…what can you recommend?”

Cover image of book "What could he be thinking?"Are men as hard to find library books for, as they are to buy presents for?

In a female-dominated workplace such as the Library, I often look at our book displays and recommendations, and wonder if we are doing enough to cater to the needs and wants of our male readers. What else can we be doing to make the library more “guy-friendly”?

As we review the best reads of 2010 and prepare displays brimming with good books for you to take away on holiday, we want to know what authors and titles you blokes have enjoyed and would recommend to the other fellas out there. Tell us what kinds of books you want us to have ready for you to grab and go. And if you are not a man but go hunting for library books on behalf of one, tell us what has been a successful find.

Do men have more sophisticated tastes than we give them credit for, or will a pile of action-packed thrillers and mysteries suffice?

So…read any good books lately?

With the (can I say crappy?) weather we have been having lately, if you’re anything like me all you want to do is curl up somewhere warm with a good book.  (I started this blog last week and looking at the comments on A good book, a log fire, jazz and mulled wine –  many of us love to read somwhere warm in the winter.) 

So I thought I would take this opportunity to mention two books I have been recommended by library users, and to see if I can glean any more reads in return to get me through winter.  Firstly, a book I finished recently is The Senator’s wife by Sue Miller.  This is a wonderful character driven novel that made me want to go to bed early so I could read.

I think the same customer also recommended the book I’m reading now.  Another fantastic character driven read, especially if you like using novels as a form of escape. In the heart of the canyon by Elisabeth Hyde is about white water rafting trip down the Grand Canyon with an unlikely grouping of people and a stray dog that turns up their first night on the trip.  You’re suddenly transported to midsummer heat in Arizona – now that would warm you up! 

So any other recommendations to add to my list?