Wednesday, 26 December 2012

What I liked about 2012

A friend pointed out to me that as a blogger it was expected that I do a 'Top 5 of 2012' blog post. I like the sound of this and it seems fairly straight forward so I thought I'd give it a try; really it's just an excuse for me to be opinionated. 

So here is my top 5 Albums, TV shows and books and my top 10 songs for 2012. They're in no particular order and some of them aren't even from 2012 but I discovered them this year so I think that counts. 

It was so hard to only pick 5 songs so I cheated and picked 10. It was still tricky deciding but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. There's a lot of country music on this list but I think that just reflects what a great year it's been in country music. Also, I don't like dub-step or most of the stuff they play on the radio. 

Better Dig Two – The Band Perry
Southern Comfort Zone – Brad Paisley 
Kiss Me – Ed Sheeran
Treacherous – Taylor Swift
Who Am I Drinking Tonight – Eden’s Edge
Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
Pontoon – Little Big Town
Hell on Heels – Pistol Annies
Here I am Alive – Yellowcard

Bonfire - Childish Gambino

Albums  I picked this list by choosing the albums that I put in my car stereo and they stayed there for a long time. Seemed a fairly straight forward way to choose. 

+ - Ed Sheeran
Red - Taylor Swift
Hell on Heels - Pistol Annies
Camp - Childish Gambino
Edens Edge - Edens Edge

30 Rock will always be my favourite show so that was a no-brainer. Community and P and R too (I really like NBC comedy). I still don't understand American Football but I've loved watching FNL and as I re-watched all of Buffy this year (and it was awesome) so I couldn't leave that off of the list! 

30 Rock
Parks and Recreation
Friday Night Lights
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

TFIOS is hands down the best books of the year Oprah, Time EntertainmentThe NY Times and I say so.Also,  I never realised how much I like dystopian novels until I compiled this list. 

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Poison Study - Maria V Snyder
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

So there it is the cliché blog post about my favourite things of the year. Hopefully you like some of this too and if you've never heard of some of it that's okay! Make sure you check it out. I promise I have excellent taste.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 Lit Quiz - how much do you know?

Hi everyone,

Apologies for my absence the past few weeks. It has been manic here at West HQ - Santa's workshop has nothing on it. In any case, I've decided to give your brains one last, valedictory workout before the Christmas shutdown. Let's see how much you remember about the literary year that's been.

Send your answers to my helpful elf, She will collate and mark them, and the winner gets...

Well, the winner will get feted as the literary genius of 2012, along with the chance to rave about their favourite books in my next blog post. I would have given away a box of chocolates, except they appear to have gone missing. It's most upsetting. Answers will be announced on January 8, 2013.

Sharp minds? Sharp pencils? OK go.

Oh, and cheating is totally legal.

Summer Reads Just For Us Chicks

There are times when I almost hate my job or, more accurately, regret my job.

Just when I think I've got my reading list under control I start browsing through web pages and book lists hunting for new titles to blog about and suddenly I find myself adding more and more titles to my own reading list.

It's a bit like the finger in the dyke story only the idea of being flooded with books actually sounds quite nice.  Though if they were to come all at once it could, I think, be quite painful.

Death by book avalanche anyone?

There is, I fear, no hope for me and my never ending reading list.

Even if I wasn't a librarian my reading list would still be out of control.  There's just something about their glossy covers and blurbs that tempt me with whispered words that I can't resist.

I'm an addict I know and it's an addiction that I hope never leaves me however much I sometimes regret my endlessly long reading list.

This year there seems to have been particularly busy year in the book world with a plethora of new titles streaming out or perhaps it's just that my reading has reached epic proportions, either way I know that I'm going to be having a very busy summer working my way through an increasingly large pile of books.

From fashion to murder to romance hopefully there is something here for everyone.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Summer Reads For The Man In Your Life

"It's not the men in your life that matters, it's the life in your men."
- Mae West


They say that we're mysterious but really it's them who are the confusing ones.

There's their unconditional love of sport for one thing.  Even when their team is losing they are there cheering them on and yelling at the TV all sorts of bad words about the ref.

Then there's their love of gadgets.  From cellphones to chainsaws to cars nothing seems to give them more pleasure than playing with whatever new toy that has caught their latest fixation.  It's kind of sweet really how their faces light up as if they have seen the holy grail or something.  Weird but sweet.

And don't get me started on the truly weird phenomenon of how they can never find things without our help even when said "missing item" is staring them right in the face.

Still we wouldn't want to be without them.  From father to son to brother, to lover and BFF, they are there for us providing their unique attitude to life and their unconditional support.

They take care of the scary monsters even if they are only tiny little daddy-long legs.  They tell us we're beautiful even when we are looking our worst and they're the strong shoulders we cry on when we've had a bad day.

One way we are the same is that like us they like to read. 

From sports books to science books to spy thrillers there is a wide selection to choose from so here are some picks for that man in your life.

Happy reading! 

Richie McCaw : the open side / Richie McCaw with Greg McGee.

Even I know who Richie McCaw is, non-sporty person that I am, and here in his own words is the story of his career so far.

Rockin' garages : featuring Billy Joel, Keith Urban, Brian Johnson, Nick Mason, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sammy Hagar, and more/ by Tom Cotter and Ken Gross 

As a wanna-be rock chick this book appeals even to me featuring as it does interviews with some of the biggest names in rock music who talk about their passion for cars all highlighted with wonderful photos throughout.  One for any music fan or petrol head.

The last man / Vince Flynn

Joe Rickman, head of CIA clandestine operations in Afghanistan, has been kidnapped and his four bodyguards executed in cold blood. But Mitch Rapp’s experience makes him wonder if something even more sinister isn’t afoot when he is dispatched him to Afghanistan to find Rickman at all costs.

Newton's fire / Will Adams

A chance discovery in a dusty attic plunges academic Luke Hayward into a race to uncover the truth behind some seemingly random scribblings - a race which pits Luke against a fundamentalist madman with dangerously powerful friends.

50 years of James Bond.

What can we say except James Bond rocks.  The greatest spy ever created.  50 years after the first movie Dr No screened Bond is still going strong.

A little history of science / William Bynum.

A look at what some consider the greatest adventure of all - the quest of science discovery.

The Stig : the untold story / Simon du Beaumarche.

Who is The Stig? Where did he come from? Why does he never speak?  These questions and others are answered in this tell-all-book.

I suck at girls / Justin Halpern.

A humorous collection of stories about the author's relationships with the opposite sex told chronologically, from his first kiss to getting engaged.

Red country / Joe Abercrombie.

Joe Abercrombie is considered one of the fantasy authors to watch out for out.  His books have consistently appeared in top ten fantasy must reads and his latest book is proving to be just as popular.  A stand-alone book this time, it sees the return of one of the fans favourites.

 The devil in silver : a novel / Victor LaValle

Placed in a mental institution, Pepper discovers that the terrifying creature he sees might not be a delusion and with three other inmates plots to fight back against the the monster that is stalking them, but can the Devil ever really be killed?
Petrolheads in sheds : unique kiwi car collections / Steve Holmes.

A look at the the hidden and private world of kiwi car collectors.

The Kiwi man cave / Steve Hale with Matt Elliott.

Man caves?  Mmm I'm not sure what they are but this book is sure to tell me.  Sounds very blokey, which is exactly how our kiwi men are and we love them for it.

The best show in the world: 30 Rock

It's Christmas time and apparently that's the time for giving so I'm going to give you the best gift of them all: 30 Rock.

30 Rock is one of my favourite things in the whole world. I've said on multiple occasions that I like 30 Rock more than I like some of my friends. I'm not joking.

The show revolves around a sketch comedy show called TGS with Tracy Jordan which is filmed in 30 Rockefeller Plaza (hence the name) in the famous GE building in New York City. Tina Fey was the head writer of Saturday Night Live for 7 years so the show is loosely based on her time working there.

30 Rock is also what they would call 'critically acclaimed  with 14 Emmys 6 Golden Globes and 9 Screen Actor's Guild awards and Newsweek magazine naming 30 Rock the best comedy of the past decade.

Please check it out! The show is my best friend (along with Taylor Swift and Duckie from Pretty in Pink).

Season 6 has just come into the library with the 7th and final season is on channel Four on Thursday Nights.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Summer Reading For The Kid In Us All

I love books.

Okay no surprise there.

I love them in all shapes and sizes.  Big books and little books. Hardback and paperback.  Kids books and adult books and everything in-between.

Books are amazing. and I love that my mum introduced me to the world of books and reading and imagination at a young age.

Thanks Mum!

Nothing is more wonderful than reading.

And yes I know I'm probably bias since I love books so much and I'm a librarian - but trust me, books are one of life's greatest pleasures and something that everyone should get into.

During the lazy days of summer, when you've had enough of swimming in the sea or building sandcastles on the beach, curly up in a hammock or on a deck lounger under a shady tree with sunlight sprinkling through and the sound of crickets chirping in the background while reading a good book is pure bliss...

Kids books in particular are a particular joy.  There is so much variety and so many to choose from.

There are books about cats and books about bears.  Books about robots and books about dinosaurs.  There are books about being brave and books about being scared.

There are books of adventures to far off places, to the past, present and future and books about your very own backyard.

 It's an amazing world and one that every kid can enjoy, whether their 5 or 105 so in the spirit of Christmas and lazy days of summer here are just a handful of picks of kids books for you to enjoy.

"I’ve travelled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners.
I’ve been where no one’s
been before,
learned secrets from writers
and cooks,
All on one library ticket
To the wonderful work of books."---Janice James

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Apocalypse Now

The end of the world is nigh.

Well at least according to some.

So it makes sense that if we are going to go out with a big bang or some other cataclysmic event to get update to with as much apocalyptic fiction that you can find so that you can be ready to face whatever may come.

It's kind of handy that apocalyptic fiction is so in vogue right now.  The end of the world has never been so popular which probably says something about the human psyche, I'm just not sure what.

Are we all doomsayer's or is it a more hopeful notion that it could never happen to us so reading about it is some kind of life affirming thing.

Maybe it's just all just a  guilty pleasure.

Whatever it might be there's plenty of scenarios to choice from; exploding volcanoes, virus's ravaging the population, asteroids and meteors hurtling towards the earth, there is something for everyone.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

How to spend your summer with John Green

I have to be honest with you dear reader: I am utterly in love with the written word. Whether it be books, plays, poetry, song lyrics or just a really great episode of Community. To me there is a magic to a great piece of writing that is somewhat similar to eating a piece of cake. I love it so much that I kind of want the written word to become a person so I can take it to Las Vegas and marry it.

This being said, you can imagine that when I stuck my nose into a new book by one of my favourite authors, I was pretty excited.

Turns out, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is, quite simply, a work of art. I don’t think I have ever read a book that was this beautifully written whilst perfectly poignant. It’s funny, smart, raw, honest and I loved every word. I know that every reader’s experience with a book is different but for me this book was truly an education in what it means to be human. 

Now, I know that MJ has already written about The Fault in Our Stars and has encouraged you to read not only this book but his other work as well (I whole heartedly concur) so I thought I would point out some of his other books for you to enjoy over the summer.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.  

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Before: Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After: Nothing is ever the same.

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. He's also a washed-up child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Colin's on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl. Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin's hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humour that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

Happy 12/12/12 everyone. DFTBA. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Bah Humbug

Christmas in New Zealand is just a little... disappointing.

It's either raining so hard that the last thing you feel like is getting out of bed and dealing with cooking Christmas dinner and a household of guests; the lure of staying put with a glass of good wine, a plate of Christmas mince pies and a good book having far more appeal.

Or if it's not raining, it's so hot that instead you want to retreat to a deck chair under a shady tree, wearing as little as possible with the mince pies, cold drink and a good book close on hand rather than stand over a hot stove cooking a 10 pound turkey with all the trimmings.

Either way it just doesn't feel like Christmas.

Where's the carollers wandering the streets, the mulled wine, the roaring fire, the reindeer and more importantly, the snow.

This is the Christmas of my dreams.  The Christmas that every holiday season movie and TV Christmas special has fueled,

One day I'm going to have my Christmas fantasy but until them I'm going to enjoy the time off work, visit friends and family, read a ton of books and watch my fill of Christmasy movies.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas music that doesn't suck.

I really, really love Christmas and I really, really love music but I almost never listen to Christmas music. I find a lot of it to be really repetitive and unimaginative. However there are some good Christmas albums so I thought I'd share a couple with you.

A Christmas Carole Carole King
One of the greatest song writers in the world had released a Christmas album....where she didn't write any of the songs. It's still quite an original album with some of the songs written by her daughter Louise Goffin. Carole has more than proved herself as a song writer so it's nice to just chill out and listen to her sing.

A Very She and Him Christmas Zooey Deschanel (from the TV show The New Girl) and musician M. Ward make up She and Him. If you like your Christmas music to be a bit more folksy and indie-cool give this album a listen. No original music but they have made each song their own.

Christmas Duets Elvis Presley
Elvis singing Christmas songs with biggest stars in country music today. Featuring the likes of Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Olivia Newton John. It's the King, you can't really go wrong.

On This Winter's Night Lady Antebellum
One of my favorite bands in the world (they're AMAZING live). Lady A have put together an album that pretty much has the exact same set list as most other Christmas albums but they have changed the arrangement on a lot of the songs and the harmonies are incredible. They wrote the title track of the album so make sure you check that one out.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Christmas fiction for non-Grinches

Yes, yes, a post with a Christmas theme. What else would I be doing in December? (Aside from vacuuming tinsel off the carpet at regular intervals.) Thank goodness my family has gone to a ballot system for Christmas presents - one name, one present. So much easier.

Anyway, suppose I should talk about books, given that's what my masters let me out for. Christmas-themed anythings tend to bring me out in hives - especially holiday films and Mariah Carey albums - but I realise not everyone is as Grinchy as I am. Some of you even listen to Cliff Richard year-round. There is no hope for you.

To put fellow Grinches in the festive mood, here is a holiday assortment of Christmassy titles - some romance, some family dramas, some with a gripping mystery. To cater for those who love Christmas lists, I have attached the same.

We are an all-inclusive organisation.

By the way, you may notice extended loan periods kicking off around now, meaning you get to relax and take your time reading your holiday books. Our present to you.

With Love at Christmas
Juliet Joyce adores Christmas. She loves the presents, the tree, the turkey, the tinsel, everything. But this Christmas things are starting to get out of hand. Her son Tom is out of work and bringing home a slew of unsuitable partners; pregnant daughter Chloe and her little boy have moved back in; Juliet's father, Frank, is getting over a heartbreak of his own and Rita, her eccentric mother, is behaving more erratically each day. And has the chaos got too much for Juliet's husband Rick? With the big day fast approaching, Juliet hopes that she can stop everything spiralling out of control.

A Christmas Garland
The year is 1857, soon after the tragic Siege of Cawnpore. In the British garrison, a guard is killed and an Indian prisoner escapes, which leads to yet more British deaths. Cries for revenge are overwhelming. Despite no witnesses and no evidence, British medical orderly named John Tallis is arrested as an accomplice simply because he was the only soldier unaccounted for when these baffling crimes were committed. Chosen to defend Tallis, young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is not encouraged to try very hard. But with the help of a simple Christmas garland Narraway is determined to persevere.

Twelve Clues of Christmas
While serving as an assistant to the hostess of a large Christmas house party in Tiddleton-under-Lovey, Lady Georgiana Rannoch calls in her retired copper grandfather after dead bodies begin showing up in this fun 1930s crime caper.

Married by Christmas
All she wants is the perfect Christmas Eve wedding. It's been on Anna's wish-list since she was a little girl, dreaming of a far happier family life than she'd ever experienced. But now - only two weeks before her big day - her husband-to-be drops a bombshell...Only nothing's going to stop Anna's plans - not even the pesky inconvenience of discovering her groom already has a wife.

Merry Little Christmas
With four children, a Christmas cookbook to write, and her mum suffering from dementia, Cat Tinsall has plenty to juggle. When her eldest daughter, Mel, starts going off the rails, Cat has even more on her plate. Pippa Holliday adores her family, although often finds her hands full. When Dan is involved in a terrible accident, Pippa's world is suddenly turned upside down. Balancing her job as a school teacher with twins and her step-son Steven, isn't easy for Marianne North. With her husband's ex causing trouble, life is getting even trickier. As Cat, Pippa and Marianne help each other through a difficult year, they're all hoping for a much brighter Christmas.

Winter Flame
Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiance was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme. However, her aunt's will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will? But Eve isn't going to back down from a challenge. And maybe Jacques and his crazy ideas to make Winterworld more Christmassy than Lapland can melt Eve's frozen heart?

Deadly Patterns
Bliss, Texas, is gearing up for its annual Winter Wonderland festival, but when a mysterious Scrooge ends the merriment with murder, it'll take more than a ghost from Christmas past to set things right.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross
It's Christmas Eve and Detective Alex Cross is called away from his family to resolve a horrific hostage situation that is spiralling out of control.

What Happens at Christmas
Camille, Lady Lydingham, wants an official engagement to a handsome, dashing prince for Christmas, but her plans go awry when she organizes a party for him to meet her unconventional relatives--and a former love interest also shows up.

Twas the Night After Christmas
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother's new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay unless she meets his "terms".

Some Kind of Fairy Tale
It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected call from his parents. They have a visitor. His sister Tara. Twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back. The family have assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world. But her stories don't quite hang together. The intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She looks no different from the young woman who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And Peter begins to suspect that the woods are not finished with Tara and his family.

As the Baron cried out: "Merry Christmas, my friend!"

Thursday, 29 November 2012

I can read, I can READ, I CAN READ!

Well you would bloody hope so since I am a librarian but what I'm really getting at is that I have finished NaNoWriMo for another year.  52,371 words submitted and validated.

And 2 days early I might add.

Yes, Yes, Yes.

I can finally get into the ever increasing pile of books that has been giving me accusing looks for the past 30 days.  So much so that I swear they have been talking to me.  Tempting me with their words of adventure and excitement and far off places.  It has been a real test of wills.  Me writing and doing NaNo or picking up one of the many alluring books that has been staring at me with bedroom eyes, saying read me, read me, read me.  Now, Now Now.

Thank god NaNo is over and I can get stuck in and read something other than my own writing.

Now the only hard decision is deciding which one to start with first…

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Everyday Heroes: A book that will restore your faith in humanity

Scott Harrison from Charity: Water is bottom left
Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans changing the world one non profit at a time 

Photographs by Paul Mobley ; text by Katrina Fried 

I'm a huge fan of Charity: Water so I picked up this book just to have a quick look at how Scott Harrison started a non-profit that has provided clean drinking water for over 2.7 million people in developing countries. His story is completely fascinating to me so I decided to get this book out and read the whole thing.

The people in this book are completely amazing. The subtitle pretty much tells you what this book is about but it's incredible to read about how everyday people can make a difference. A big difference.

Everyday Heroes features stories of people selflessly working to improve the lives of others their stories are a necessary reminder that everyone can and should contribute to bettering the world.

We can't do everything, but we can do something.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Fun summer reads

The holidays are coming soon (yay, one month to go!), and if you've been waiting a while since your last one, your brain probably resembles something like...hmm, I'm thinking pan drippings left out overnight. Burnt crunchy bits included, if you're feeling particularly fried.

At this time of year, it's nice not to have to think too much about what you're reading. Your mind should just drift peacefully on a soothing, gentle sea of words as it washes you along. There are two kinds of book that do this:

1) Action novels.
You know the ones I mean. The ones where everything follows a certain pattern: bad guys, good guys, no doubting who's who, and the good guy always - always wins. There's a girl somewhere too, so the hero can prove how hot he is in every way. Stand up, Clive Cussler and Lee Child.

2) Romances.
Don't need to spell this one out. Some can be erotic, some can be screwball (whoops, no pun intended), and some can be "sweet" like a Nicholas Sparks. Whatever you're into, you know pretty much exactly what you're getting. Like a Griffins sampler.

So here is a list of new and forthcoming books that might just put the sauce on your chips this summer.

Fifty Bales of Hay - Rachael Treasure
Just love the title of this one! Saddle up for a collection of "agricultural erotica" from Australia, featuring lots of luscious cowboys, cheeky farmhands and fun with a stock and a whip. Whoa, Nelly.

Friends and Rivals - Tilly Bagshawe
Record label Jester boasts some of the hottest musicians on the planet, but their shining star is super-diva Kendall Bryce - the girl with the voice of an angel and the attitude from hell. To the world it seems like owners and old college friends, Jack and Ivan, are living the dream - until the betrayal. Jack has no choice but to walk away from Jester and start up his own label and with the help of his own new discovery - the talented, beautiful and sweet Ava Klein - he is ready to take on Ivan. As passions rise and the desire to win becomes all-consuming, the two young and brilliant pop beauties and the two bitter ex-friends race for the Christmas number one record.

Dirty Little Secret - Jon Stock
Described as one for fans of Jason Bourne and James Bond. Salim Dhar, the world's most wanted terrorist, has disappeared after an audacious attack on an American target in the UK. The CIA believes Daniel Marchant, renegade MI6 officer, was involved. But Marchant has a bigger secret: Dhar has agreed to work for MI6. In return, Marchant must help him with a final strike against America. Should Britain sign up to this Faustian pact or hunt them both down? Fast and furious with the inevitable romance thrown in.

Threat Vector - Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney
Jack Ryan has only just moved back into the Oval Office when he is faced with a new international threat. An aborted coup in China has left President Wei Zhen Lin with no choice but to agree with the expansionist policies of General Su Ke Qiang. They have declared the South China Sea a protectorate and are planning an invasion of Taiwan. A new breed of powerful Chinese anti-ship missile endangers the US Navy's plans to protect the island. Meanwhile, Chinese cyberwarfare experts have launched a devastating attack on America. Jack Ryan, Jr. and his colleagues at the Campus may be just the wild card that his father needs to stack the deck. There's just one problem: someone knows about the off-the-books intelligence agency and threatens to blow their cover sky high.

It Happened in Venice - Molly Hopkins
For fans of sweet and funny romances. Evie has a handsome fiance and a fantastic job that takes her to fashionable Dublin, in-vogue Marrakech, cool Amsterdam and romantic Paris. But her fiance hates her job and her flatmate hates her fiance. And when an unexpected event strikes the epicentre of her happiness, Evie is driven to gin and tonic. If she doesn't sort herself out, her liver and her bank manager will hate her. So when she's offered a luxury trip to the sensual city of Venice, with its shifting silver canals and rose and vanilla hued architecture, Evie jumps at the chance. Four days in the city of light and love is exactly what she needs. The sumptuous Grand Hotel, the gondolas, the wine, the Italian men...But within hours of Evie's arrival, her life is poised to change for ever...

Newton's Fire - Will Adams
Luke Hayward is adrift. Blacklisted out of academia, he is in no position to refuse when a client asks for his expert help in recovering some lost Isaac Newton papers. But a chance discovery in a dusty attic plunges Luke into a race to uncover the truth behind some seemingly random scribblings - a race which pits Luke against a fundamentalist madman with dangerously powerful friends. Luke discovers connections between Oxford, London and the Old City of Jerusalem in a breathless chase to uncover a secret hidden in the eccentric ramblings of a mathematical genius; a secret that, in the wrong hands, could be used to spark the holy war to end all holy wars.

The Husband List - Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly
A historical romance that evokes the glittering world of the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. New York City, 1894. Caroline Maxwell would like nothing more than to join her brother, Eddie, and his friend, Jack Culhane, on their adventures. While they are off buying up businesses and building wildly successful careers, Caroline's stuck at home frightening off the men her mother hopes will ask for her hand, like the questionable Lord Bremerton. She longs for adventure, passion, love, and most of all, Jack, an Irish-American with new money and no title. But Caroline's dark hair, brilliant eyes and quick wit have Jack understanding just why it is people fall in love.

The Hunters - Chris Kuzneski
A team of renegades - an ex-military leader, a historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert and a thief - financed by a billionaire philanthropist are tasked with finding a vast treasure lost nearly a century ago. Fearing a German victory in World War I, the Romanians signed a deal with the Russians to safeguard their national treasures. In 1916 two trains full of gold and the most precious objects of the Romanian state - paintings, jewellery from the Royal family, ancient Dacien artifacts - were sent to the underground vaults in the Kremlin, only to be lost after the Russian Revolution. With a haul valued at over $3.5 billion, everyone wants to claim the vast treasure, but its location has remained a mystery - until now.

Ultimatum - Simon Kernick
8am: an explosion rocks a London cafe. Minutes later a call is made to a local radio station: 'We've just detonated a bomb. Another will explode shortly to prove what we are capable of.' The government has until midnight to meet all of the terrorist demands before a far greater attack takes place. Sixteen hours is all DC Tina Boyd and Mike Bolt have to find and stop the killers - before it's too late.

Bianca - Bertrice Small
Florentine silk merchant Giovanni Pietro d'Angelo and his wife want nothing more than to marry their daughters to wealthy men of distinction. But when their son's dangerous indiscretion implicates him in a tragic accident, it is their eldest daughter who must pay the price. Blackmailed by the powerful and debauched Sebastiano Rovere, the Pietro d'Angelos must give beautiful Bianca in marriage to Rovere to buy his silence. It is the shocking murder of her husband that allows her to find the possibility of love at last. But Florentine society would never approve of the man she's chosen: Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror. Two passionate lovers...two different cultures...two worlds determined to keep them apart.

Do enjoy, won't you?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Planning your summer feasts #3

Celebrating three awesome Auckland eateries who've launched cookbooks this year. These books also give you a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences of those visionaries who set out to do something a little bit different in the Auckland foodie scene.

A life at Mudbrick : stories and recipes from Waiheke's famous Mudbrick Vineyard and restaurant by Robyn Jones. Over 20 years ago, Robyn & Nick Jones planted a small vineyard on Waiheke Island. This book details their journey and shares award-winning recipes from Mudbrick.

La Cigale : recipes and stories from the family who brought a slice of France to New Zealand by Elizabeth Lind. If you've not yet had the pleasure of perusing the French-style markets in Parnell, then you're missing a real treat. Get yourself along to experience a slice of France here in Auckland.

The Engine Room : No. 115 eatery by Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen. Based in Northcote Point, this restaurant has become a drawcard for foodies across Auckland. My highlights from the cookbook include Ricotta Gnocchi with tomato basil sauce, Balinese Pork Belly with Tumeric Rice & Tamarind Salad and Salted caramel & chocolate tart.

Treat yourselves to a little bit of decadence & difference this Christmas, try out some of the delicious recipes on offer in these books. Be inspired by the people who've taken a different path to create the foodie magic.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Attack of the Munchies i.e. Zombies Take Over the World

I've recently developed a relationship with The Walking Dead.

And surprisingly I mean that quite literally.

Now I've never been much of a horror fan.  All that blood and guts and gore just freaks me out and not in a good way.  And yes I know it's kind of weird considering how much I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS), The Vampire Diaries (VD...mmm unfortunate acronym) and Supernatural.

Then again none of these shows have much to do with horror and instead are all about great characters, great story lines and great music.  The blood letting is in fact quite minimal, which is just the way I like it.  Gore has never been my thing and I've mostly kept away from anything stomach churning.  I know, it's very wussy of me and wuss that I am I've avoided watching The Walking Dead.

Until recently that is.

It's a love/hate relationship at best. 

I love the tension and excitement and some of the characters and hate all the rest... you know the blood and guts bits... of which there are several... which of course means that I generally watch the show with my eyes half covered and my fingers in my ears because yes the sound effects can be pretty yucky as well, all that squishing and oozing and splashing of blood well it's enough to give you nightmares... which again  means I generally watch this show in the daylight.

As I said it's all very wussy of me. 

As my good friend Xander (from BTVS) would say "I laugh in the face of danger and then I hide until it goes away"

Of course this new found love/hate of The Walking Dead has led to some rather strange conversations with my other half, such as me informing him that if he were to ever become a zombie I wouldn't hesitate to shoot him in the head, which he thought was a) rather sweet and b) just a tad worrisome...

I, of course, would probably be first on the menu.  The life of a wuss never ends well.

"After an epidemic turns people around the world into zombies, a police officer leads a band of survivors as they look for safety and try to find a cure."

Based on the hugely successful comic by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead craze has taken over the world.  Gory it is, but it is also exciting and tension filled, with characters that you either loathe and wish the munchies would just take a bite out of or love and cheer on as they fight for survival.

A zombie movie that is funny too, featuring the always awesome Woody Harrelson as a gun-toting zombie slayer, a guess appearance by Bill Murray and Jesse Eisenberg as a wuss who learns to fight back.

Now this is my kind of zombie movie, violent yes but low on gore and with a sense of humour.

The Return Man / V. M. Zito.

"The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead to deliver peace. Now Homeland Security wants Marco, for a mission unlike any other."

A serious zombie book, if you can have such thing, and one that is really good.

Outpost / Adam Baker.

"They took the job to escape the world, they didn't expect the world to end. A derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean with a crew of 15 who must battle not only the elements but the hell that awaits them on the mainland."

Personally I think if a zombie apocalypse broke out, the last thing I want to do is to stay on the mainland and an oil refinery in the middle of nowhere sounds like a great haven to me, then again wuss here speaking so you'd know I'd be the first one heading for the hills if things went bad...

"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. This is a firsthand account of the experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years."

Considered one of the greatest zombie books ever written this classic (can a book that is only 6 years old be considered a classic?) is now headed to the big screen with a highly anticipated release due out next year.

Rot and Ruin / Jonathan Maberry

"In a post-apocalyptic world where fences and border patrols guard the few people left from the zombies that have overtaken civilization, fifteen-year-old Benny Imura is finally convinced that he must follow in his older brother's footsteps and become a bounty hunter."

The first in a series of three this book aimed at teens but more than suitable for adults follows the tale of Benny a teenage zombie hunter and saviour of the world. 

And we thought our life as a teenager was hard.

"Forget stress balls: next time things get tough, express your feelings by ripping a zombie apart. No need to feel guilty about it afterward, either - fitted up with Velcro strips, its just as easy to put him together again. 8 full zombie characters are laid out here in neat little sets, each part knitted quickly and separately."

Feeling the need to cuddle up with your very own zombie, then look no further.  These zombie toys are the perfect Christmas present for that Goth Girl (or Guy for that matter).

"Easy to follow, step-by-step instructions show you how to fold simple origami paper into some of the most revolting creatures of the night. This origami crew of the undead includes Starvin' Marvin who hungers for a sip of fresh blood; Idle Hands, whose hands are no longer attached to his body and Suzie Gravemaker, everyone's favourite zombie mum!"

And the zombie craze continues with this origami book.  Why you would want to I have no idea but each to their own.

Zombies Hate Stuff / Greg Stones.

"Zombies hate clowns. They also hate hippies, penguins, nudists, weddings, and kittens but strangely don't mind Canadians. Each ghoulishly colorful painting reveals a funny and unexpected scene of zombie disgruntlement, cataloging the stuff that really riles up the walking dead with wit, humour, and, of course, brains."

Just when you thought the zombie craze couldn't get any stranger a book like this comes along. 

Forget about vampires, Zombies are taking over the world.