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Book reviews

Here are some titles read recently by Hamilton City Libraries' staff.

18 Bookshops

18 bookshops by Anne Scott

If your greatest joy is to while away the hours browsing in book shops – then Anne Scott ‘s “18 Bookshops” is for you. It will take you on a fascinating journey through 18 bookshops – dating from the sixteenth century to present day. Some are tiny – others are huge. Some evolved from churches, others from printing presses or medieval houses.

This book celebrates the old tradition of book shops such as The Parrot, which was to be found in St Paul’s courtyard in London in Shakespeare’s time. Or to Smith’s Bookshop in Edinburgh where Robert Louis Stevenson had his imagination stirred. Scott takes the reader back to a time when books were stitched, not bound, so that the buyer was able to choose their own leather and lettering.

In this modern day of Amazon and e-books, the reader is reminded of the long and varied history of bookshops and the joys to be found in them.

  • By Diana at Chartwell Library

1915 

1915: Wounds of War by Diana Menefy

This young adult novel is set during World War I, and follows the story of two young Kiwi cousins, Harriet and Mel, who join the New Zealand Army Nursing Service. Alongside their brothers, they board a ship bound for Egypt, Anzac Cove and beyond. Menefy explores the realities of entering and working in a war zone, and reveals not only the horrible physical wounds that occurred, but the deeper, more psychological ones that are often overlooked. Menefy offers some light to balance the dark through depictions of blossoming young love and dancing with wounded soldiers, and remains true to the reality of wartime without being overly graphic.

This is an engaging book that allows you a glimpse into what life was like during war time. Mel and Harriet begin their journey as young Kiwis off on a new, exciting adventure but soon change as the realities of war become apparent. I particularly enjoyed the fact that this important period in history is explored through the eyes of young New Zealanders as it resonates more with my personal reality as a Kiwi. This is a compelling and emotional read, and I would recommend it to those looking for a well-informed novel about World War I.

  • By Christina at Central Library

Maps

Great city maps

“Beautiful as well as useful, historic as well as contemporary, City Maps records the moulding of the environment as humans create the key places in which they interact and seek to determine their development.”

This lavishly illustrated history of maps from ancient times to Tokyo 2014 is much more than just a book of maps. It also includes very interesting background stories about the times, cultures and people in the time that these maps were created – including the stories behind them, and the map-makers that created them.

It is astonishing how many different kinds and styles of maps are included – many being closer to works of art than the everyday maps that most of us are used to.

Well worth a look for all history enthusiasts.

  • By Cazna at Glenview Library

Travelers' Rest by Keith Lee Morris

The Addison family of Julia, Tonio, their ten year old son Dewey, along with just released from rehab Uncle Robbie, get stuck in the town of Good Night Idaho as a blizzard descends. Julia is drawn to the formerly luxurious but now decaying and eerie hotel of Travelers Rest and although the rest of the family are not so sure, they agree to spend the night. Once inside the family become separated, with each of them experiencing different realities as they continually search for one another. Julia and Tonio remain within the hotel as Dewey and Robbie venture out into a snowbound and almost deserted town.

This is a very atmospheric novel, haunting, unnerving, and beautifully written. The characters develop slowly and for those with the patience the conclusion is well tied up and satisfying. You won’t feel like you know entirely what happened but you won’t forget the feelings. If you enjoy cerebral novels, unique settings, subtle narrative, and language that puts you firmly inside the story then you will enjoy this book. It is certainly not for everyone but the story and atmosphere will stay with those that venture in.

  • By Lindsay at Hillcrest Library

Grownup

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

This very short story (only 67 pages) is narrated by an unnamed young woman who is a fraudster surviving on her wits and her income as a part time soft – core sex worker. Posing as a psychic she meets Susan, a rich unhappy woman who is convinced her home, an old Victorian manor, is haunted.
The young woman doesn’t believe in the supernatural or exorcism but agrees to visit to find the source of Susan’s terror and grief. However when she visits the house for the first time she begins to feel uneasy and discovers the house is holding a dark secret.

This work of gothic fiction, by the author of the physiological thriller Gone Girl, is a creepy, menacing wee tale with an unlikeable main character.

  • By Therese at Hillcrest Library

Emperor 

The Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn

“The Emperor of the Eight Islands” is a rich historical fantasy novel set in mythical feudal Japan. Young Kazumaru mourns his father’s death, left in the care of his cold hearted and power hungry uncle, who does not intend to give the estate to his nephew as he should. Kazumaru narrowly escapes his own murder, and encounters old sorcerer Shisoku and his strange magic. Shisoku gives Kazumaru his new name, Shikanoko “the deer’s child”, the mysterious magic of the stag mask, and tells an implied but unexplained fate. Shikanoko henceforth does not remain in one place for long, and shifts between many families as the novel builds context for the power struggles and conflicts of the series.

There is quite a large cast of characters, as with other novels that deal with politics and shifting of power, which can be a little confusing at first especially if you are not used to Japanese names. However, it is not as complex and daunting as other historical sagas, and a change in setting from the medieval European style often used is refreshing. It is still an enthralling tale that I greatly enjoyed, and I look forward to the rest of the series.

  • By Amy at Chartwell Library

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