Rochelle becomes domesticated

‘Finding Casey’ by Jo-Ann Mapson was my choice for the domestic fiction genre of my Book Bingo Challenge.  Although this can easily be read as a stand alone book (as I did) it does follow on from her previous novel ‘Solomon’s Oak’.

The book centres around Glory, her husband Joseph and their adopted teenage daughter, Juniper.  Glory finds herself pregnant for the first time at the age of 41, Joseph is dealing with chronic pain from a shoot-out he’d been involved in when he was a police officer and Juniper has fallen for Topher, the bad boy musician.  And to add intrigue, further into the book, we meet Laurel and her desperately ill daughter Aspen.  Spoiler alert!!!  Laurel turns out to be Juniper’s sister who had been kidnapped years earlier and was presumed dead.

I quite enjoyed this book, particularly Laurel’s character and her story.  I think what I find the hardest about reading fiction is that everyone seems to always get their happily ever after or the plot is a little over the top.

Love family sagas and domestic fiction? Check out our titles in our online catalogue!



Various Pets Alive and Dead

A post by Margot.

My third pick on the bingo board was humour genre and I chose Marina Lewycka’s    ‘Various pets alive and dead’.

I have read her first book ‘ A short history of tractors in Ukranian’ and loved it and this one is no less inventive and a good read. The story revolves around a family who lived in a commune in Doncaster for 30 odd years. It’s narrated by most of the family members in turn and follows them as they embark on rather different lifestyles along with various pets.  The son’s foray into the world of venture capitalism, the stock market and city traders is funny and fascinating and would horrify his parents if they knew. His sister is a teacher and lives in a spotless, minimalist new flat. The younger sister, who has Down’s syndrome, wants to leave home and fend for herself.

I like Lewycka’s writing and judging from the acknowledgements at the back of the book,  it was well researched.

Rochelle hits a reading slump

Ok, so I finally got round to finishing my book, ‘The Courtesan and the Samurai’ by Lesley Downer which is what I’d chosen for my historical fiction. It took me a good 5 weeks to get through this book – not that it wasn’t a decent read, it was more that I wasn’t in the mood to read this particular book at this particular time.

It’s set in the late 1860’s when the Northern Japanese go to war with their Southern counterparts after the death of their shogun. The book centres around Hana a young Japanese woman who’s cruel, loveless husband is sent off to fight when war breaks out.

Hana is forced from her home and sets off to Yoshiwara where she hopes she’ll be safe, but with no money it isn’t long before Hana is forced to become a courtesan.

Yozo is a young well-travelled Japanese soldier fighting for the North but when his army is defeated he too finds himself in Yoshiwara where his path crosses with the beautiful courtesan Hana.

I read ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ years ago and thought it was quite similar so if you enjoyed that I’m sure you’ll enjoy ‘The Courtesan and the Samurai’. I found it an extremely well-researched book with a lot of facts interwoven through the story.

Man Booker with Margot

My next foray into the world of genre and book bingo was ‘suspense’ and I chose The Many by Wyl Menmuir.

I didn’t realise it when I picked it but it was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. It’s a well written and unsettling story of an outsider in a fishing village who buys the house of a fisherman who has recently died. His presence and enquiries about the dead man upset the villagers who have not come to terms with their loss. And they know nothing about the outsider who is also coping with his own loss. It was compelling reading with an overriding feeling of unease and supressed grief.

Why I don’t read NZ fiction, even when I think I should

Shannon is the Children’s and Teens’ Librarian at Thames Library.

The reason I started Book Bingo was because I was ready for two things: being challenged into a reading adventure and reading more books aimed at adults. To be fair, as a Children’s and Teens’ Librarian reading kids books is a real asset in my work, but to be honest I continued reading and collecting children and teen books well into my adult life long before I had this job and I don’t see it as a bad thing.

But between my partner signing up for Netflix and spending a large part of my day surrounded by books aimed at a younger audience, the inevitable was occurring; I was reading well below my reading abilities and certainly wasn’t stepping out of my comfort zone.

So here I am, my Book Bingo challenge for myself is to read one book from every square in no particular order and to try to challenge myself with every book I pick, which to me means picking out books I wouldn’t normally give a go.

First up I found an interesting sounding New Zealand fiction. Now, I’ll be honest, I normally run from NZ fiction, or at least awkwardly ignore it exists. I’m not supposed to tell you that, as a New Zealand librarian supporting our writing culture, but it’s true. More than half the time that’s due to bad cover design, but I’m really not supposed to admit that I judge a book by its cover either (I do). For the rest it’s actually as simple as not enjoying books set in New Zealand. I read to escape, and who wants to escape to just down the road? However unlike my pride in being an adult that reads kids books, I have no pride in being a New Zealand librarian who doesn’t read New Zealand fiction. Will my first Book Bingo challenge change that?

Rochelle at War

My fourth book in the Book Bingo Challenge was a Graphic Novel, and having never been one of those children who got into reading comic books I suspected this was going to be a BIG challenge.  I initially chose the smallest, thinnest book on our library shelves that I could find (it was a Marvel comic) but my colleague Shannon (who is a fan of Graphic Novels) was not impressed with my choice and dragged me along to our Graphic Novel shelf and picked out a couple of books she thought might be more to my taste rather than the Marvel comic I had chosen.

Knowing what sort of books I would normally read my colleague really hit the nail on the head with War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay.  It was a fictitious account of a young Ugandan boy who was stolen by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) from his boarding school along with 3 of his friends, in the hope of turning the boys into child soldiers.  The book depicts the real struggle the boy’s face – do as the LRA soldiers order – or risk at the minimum a beating or worse – death!

Having read true stories of child soldiers this book really rung true, describing the brutality of the superior officers and the dilemma the young boys face in going along with what they’re told to do or stand their moral ground.

The illustrations by Daniel Lafrance were amazing and really added another level to the story for me, capturing the emotions of the children and the harsh conditions they live under, which would otherwise be expressed through the authors words.


Check out Margot’s take on graphic novels as a genre here. If you do happen to be a fan of Marvel graphic novels, you can see our collection here.

Nicole hunts for Wilderpeople

OK! Off to a better start this time, after my first Book Bingo book failed to get off the ground. This week, for the comedy square on my bingo board, I read Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. If the title doesn’t ring a bell, the film version’s title might: this is the book Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on.

I used to read a lot of Barry Crump, but over time the stories and characters have all blurred together. I couldn’t say now if I’ve read Wild Pork and Watercress before or not. I have, however, seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople quite recently. I absolutely loved the film.

Both the movie and the book follow Ricky Baker, a teenage boy with a bad reputation. Social Services send him off to live with his Aunt Bella and Uncle Hec (his foster family in the film; his literal aunt and uncle in the book). After tragedy strikes, Ricky is scared he will be removed from his idyllic new life on the farm and sent back into the clutches of the Child Welfare system. Ricky decides to ‘go bush’ with Uncle Hec, spending months living off the land while evading the police.

Most people prefer to read a book before they see its film adaptation. I’m usually only in this boat for books I’m particularly interested in reading – I don’t mind seeing the movie first and coming back to the book, if it was the movie that piqued my interest first. In my case, I’m a big Taika Waititi fan, so I watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople long before it occurred to me to read Wild Pork and Watercress.

Having read the book, I’m pleased I did it this way around. There were a couple of plot points I felt were handled better in the movie (I’m thinking particularly of Aunt Bella’s plot line, and the use of the Child Welfare lady as an antagonist). I also think when the book’s epilogue turned out differently from the film’s ending, I was genuinely more surprised than I would have been if I’d encountered them the other way around. There were a few parts of the book I wished were in the movie, though; the Bird-Lady, who once mentored Uncle Hec in bush survival skills the same way Hec mentors Ricky, was a great addition to the story. Overall, I enjoyed this little slice of classic Kiwi storytelling.