Thursday, 31 May 2012

"Winter Is Coming..."

Some of you will be thinking I am talking about the fact that tomorrow is the first official day of winter but for others these three words are an ominous and mysterious foretelling that something bad is on its way. Like many (and there are many) I have been pulled into the world that is Game of Thrones and am loving every minute of it.

Now I've never been a big fantasy fan (shock, horror, I know) but I just didn't see the appeal. It was a whole genre that just left me feeling a little confused.

Magic? Fairies? Flying horses?

I wanted something a bit more realistic. A world of possibilities. Any possibility. Good or bad.

I want glimpses into the future, whether its grim and gritty or glorified and great and I want characters who were flawed and real and oh so human. Give me a world of spaceships and aliens and wormholes rather than worlds populated with elves and dragons and dwarves.

I have, of course, tried to get into fantasy. Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Raymond Feist, I've read them all at various stages with little success and when the Lord of the Rings movies came out it seemed like a good idea to try reading the books, after all so many people raved about how good they were. Perhaps if I read them, I too would finally understand the appeal of all things magical.

Sad to say I only managed to get half way through the first one before I tossed it across the room. I just didn't get it.

Then Game of Thrones came along.

This was fantasy?

Betrayal, bloodshed, murder and mayhem. How could I have not known about this. It was like Lord of the Rings meets the Sopranos with hefty dash of The Tudors and Spooks thrown in.

I was hooked.

This is a series that has it all. There's death and political intrigue and family feuds and well... more deaths. It's violent and sexual and raw and not for everyone, but for those who prefer their fantasy with a lot more grit and realism then this is a series for you.

In the world of Game of Thrones the magic takes second stage to the characters and what wonderful characters there are; from the sharp tongued dwarf to the bastard son who is torn between family and duty to the psychotic son of a fallen king, these are characters that you love to hate or just plain love. It is the characters that drive the story and for me that's a major part of it's appeal.

This is a world where good men can die from doing the honourable thing and bad guys can get ahead through lies and manipulation. It's about survival at all costs. As George R. R. Martin so aptly puts it.

"When you play a game of thrones you win or you die."

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Psst - Sneak a peak at what's happening in June

June is another busy month in Auckland Libraries.  Here's a sneak preview of some of the things that will be happening.  If you want any more information, head over to the Library Website events page.

1 Jun: Japanese Storytime & Songs for preschoolers at St Heliers Library

1 Jun - 20 Jul: Auckland: Then & Now at Central City Library

5 Jun: Author talk: Anna Hoffmann at Papatoetoe Library

6 Jun: Money Matters Series - Where to go for local help and information at Te Matariki Clendon Library

7 Jun: An Evening with Te Awhina Arahanga at Devonport Library

7 Jun - 30 Jun: The Apprentice at West Auckland Research Centre, Waitakere Central Library

13 Jun: Photographers & Photographists: Investigating early NZ photographers with Keith Giles at Central City Library

13 Jun: Jenny Pattrick presents Skylark at Remuera Library

16 Jun: World Wide Knit in Public Day at Botany Library

19 Jun: Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems at Central City Library

20 Jun: Orewa Library presents Gary Daverne at Orewa Library

20 Jun: Tails of a Veterinary Nurse at East Coast Bays Library

21 Jun - 21 Jul: Matariki 2012 at Auckland Libraries (multiple locations)

21 Jun: Made with love Rhymetime at Birkenhead Library

21 Jun: Tunnel Vision: Unearthing the secrets of North Head book launch at Devonport Library

22 Jun: National Flash Fiction writing competition prize-giving ceremony at Central City Library

27 Jun: Grey’s New Zealand Māori Manuscripts with Robert Eruera at Central City Library

29 Jun: Pyjama Storytime and Toy Sleepover at East Coast Bays Library

From bovine apocalypse to killer tyres

Readers of my blog on the weirdness that permeates Auckland Libraries will have guessed I have a soft spot for the odd and ridiculous. While my own reading is largely from the crime shelves, I love stumbling across something that adds a bit of spice to our collection. Scanning the journals for new material to buy here at Collections HQ, I've discovered a few winners. Although, quite frankly, nothing can ever beat Cooking With Poo (a Thai chef called Poo, of course).

Hopefully one of these titles will tickle your fancy too!

A mystery set in Thailand (though with no characters called Poo, I understand). The author has quite a tradition of interesting titles, with other novels such as Curse of the Pogo Stick, Disco for the Departed and Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

Apocalypse Cow - Michael Logan

Sounds like a bovine Black Sheep. An escaped bioweapon turns cows into a cud-chewing zombie apocalypse. This won the latest Terry Pratchett prize for best unpublished SF/fantasy novel, so it could be a prime rib-tickler. Mooooooooo.....

A spooky and highly original book for tweens, teens and adults alike, complete with (real) photos of peculiar children like the floating girl on the cover. I'm looking forward to the sequel!

Rubber (R16)

I've included a DVD in here, because no collection of oddities would be complete without it. If you thought the likes of Delicatessen were strange, wait till you see this offering by another French film-maker. It's all in English, don't worry, but you may have difficulty following it all the same. You see, it's a road trip tale about a homicidal tyre called Robert who blows people up with his magical powers. It's also a story about the people who are watching things unfold within the movie. And a paean to "no reason". Lunacy with latex and a high splatter quotient.

Triumph: Unnecessarily Violent Tales of Science Adventure for the Simple and Unfortunate - Greg Broadmore

Speaking of Black Sheep, here's a forthcoming graphic novel by one of its creators (and published by Weta Digital). Since the first word was transcribed onto parchment, man has searched for tomes that lift the lid on the inner machinations of the human condition and reveal truths about humanity and its place in this universe - there are books that teach, books that inspire and books that offer a glimpse into our very souls. Triumph, on the other hand, is full of violence, bad language, interplanetary racism and a little sprinkling of smut, but you get what you pay for. Strictly for adults!

VN - Madeline Ashby

This could be a teen/adult crossover, for fans of sci-fi and dystopian novels (with unusual tastes.) Amy Peterson is a self-replicating humanoid robot. For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother's past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive. (As you do.) Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, trying to find the secret of why she alone can override the programming not to kill humans. 

Let me know if you've come across any great titles or stories of your own.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Talofa lava, Malo le soifua,

Welcome to Samoan Language Week at Auckland Libraries.  Samoan is the second most used language in Auckland and libraries around the city are celebrating it this week with events and activities.  Don't be surprised if you are welcomed into the library with "Talofa" and a smile.  There are also some great displays in different libraries around Auckland.

To find out what's on at a library near you visit the Libraries Samoan Language Week events page.  Learn to count in Samoan at one of the storytimes (Tasi, lua, tolu, fa...).  There are scavenger hunts, craft activities and more.  Mangere East are hosting an Island Nite on Thursday. 

A highlight of the week are the Author Talks by Lani Wendt-Young.  Hear this prize-winning author speak about her published books and her life as a Samoan writer.  Lani is based in Auckland.

Auckland Libraries holds many Samoan language resources for Aucklanders. With our extensive range of Pacific books, DVDs, picture books and junior readers, you definitely won’t be feeling left out of the Pacific buzz.

Keep up to date with what’s new on our shelves through the Pasefika NextReads eNewsletter. Read latest editions and subscribe for the monthly e-newsletter online.

Ia manuia le aso (ear-manu-ear leh- a-so)

Have a good day!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Near future possibilities from Robert J. Sawyer

I have just finished another book by Robert J Sawyer, a Canadian science fiction author, who wrote FlashForward, which was turned into a TV series of the same name. He has also won numerous Hugo and Nebula Awards. 

Two of the reasons I enjoy Robert J Sawyer's work is that it is often set in the near future, meaning that it references current events from our time (like Barack Obama being the President of the United States) but from the point of view that they are in the recent past, and it always features technology that *could* happen. The technology always feels plausible, and he genuinely explores the "what if this was actually possible" question.

His WWW trilogy (Wake, Watch, Wonder) explored the possibility of Webmind, a consciousness that emerges from the World Wide Web. It was a fascinating, intriguing and thought-provoking read, and it is one of my highly recommended reads.

Anyhow, having finished the WW trilogy a while ago, I was really looking forward to his latest book, Triggers. I'm going to just tease you with the opening premise of the book (so that you'll have to get hold of a copy and see how it all ends).

The book opens with the attempted assassination of Seth Jerrison, the current President of the United States of America who, is rushed to hospital. While he is in the operating theatre, there is a bomb attack on the White House. It is the latest in a series of terror attacks that have ravaged several large US cities. In the same hospital, Dr Singh is experimenting with ways to erase trauma from people's memories.

The President suffers a cardiac arrest during the detonation of the bomb. He has a "near death" experience, but the memories he sees flash before his eyes aren't his own.The electromagnetic pulse of the bomb has triggered a strange phenomenon of a random group of individuals able to access other people's memories, including the mind of the President of the United States.

While it might sound so far like a bit of a political thriller, with a bit of sci-fi thrown in, the book in fact explores the technological possibility of memory sharing and the social implications might be if this did indeed happen.

What would it mean if someone could access your memories - *all* of them, the good, the bad, the ugly, not just the ones you wanted to share - and you could also read someone else's mind. How would it make you feel to know that you couldn't stop reading their mind, no matter how much you wanted to. And what would it mean if someone else was delving into your mind in the meantime.

If we had the opportunity to truly walk a mile in someone else's shoes, to experience what they have experienced, for a white person to see the world through a black person's eyes, for a young person to see the world through an old person's eyes, for a woman to see the world through a man's eyes. What would that mean for our understanding of other human beings?

Robert J Swayer has again captured the near future possibility of technology changing the way we live our lives. My only disappointment is that now I have finished the book, I will have to wait for the next one.

Friday, 25 May 2012

5 books about geeks/nerds

"I would love to change the world, but they won’t give me the source code."
- Anonymous

Or how about THIS for a quote:


- Anonymous

Or how about THIS one:

"There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t."
- Anonymous

I don't know if I'm a geek, a nerd, a dork, or a fangirl. Possibly, to people who know the difference (I never have, I never will, and don't make me take the test because tests bore me rigid) it matters. I'm not so convinced. And really, at 37 (I had a birthday last week, I'm still getting over the fact I'm a grown-up ugh) I'm over allowing others to label me. As a kid, being rather somewhat of a girly swot got me a lot of schtick at school. Me being the person I am, decided that if I couldn't join 'em I'd most definitely beat 'em, and set out to be top - or as close to the top - in whatever subjects I could for as long as I was interested. Which, as it turns out, was only up until 5th form. Then my get up and go actually got up and went somewhere. (To this day I'm still not sure where). Nowadays, I deliberately choose to revel in my geekiness/nerdiness/dorkiness/fangirlness, and give my interests - whatever they are (yes, even my strange love of Supernatural) - free rein. This post is little more than an encouragement for you to do the same as well. Et voila! 5 books about geeks/nerds :) Sure, we have oodles more in our collections and, as I find them, I'll be posting them, too because the geeks shall inherit the earth.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Long time reader, first time blogger

"A blog is what you say when there is nobody standing over your shoulder telling you what to do."

Writing a blog post for the first time is a bit like going on that nerve-wracking first date. You want to create a good impression. Will they like you? Will they think you're funny? Or interesting? Or intelligent? Or will they instead be staring over your shoulder wishing they were going home with the friendly, taller-than-you blonde sitting at the table opposite? Or even worse, that they were at home watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead or Sons of Anarchy with their feet up on the couch, a cold one in their hands and a thick, juicy, dripping with ketchup, burger waiting to be eaten than be listening and watching you.

There's a lot of pressure to get it right. The right tone. The right feel. The right amount of intellect with just enough wit and humour sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately, reading through the blog posts done by my fellow bloggers I have come to realise that I am sadly lacking in all these areas. I am not that funny, or interesting, or intellectual.

A million people could be reading this or at the very least just one (Hi Mum). So I am going to do the one thing that they tell you never to do on a first date. I am going to be completely honest right from the beginning.

I am no Shakespeare. Nor am I Will Wheaton or Zooey Deschanel. What I am is me. A partner, a step-mom, a daughter, a friend, a librarian, and if I'm going to be painfully honest, a geek to the core.

I love books and chocolate and sci-fi television and rock music and movies and travelling to far off places and writing and fanfiction and sunrises and sunsets and cherries. I laugh at Big Bang Theory and cry whenever I hear the song Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton and get angry at rude people (and yes I'm talking about you, the man who pushed past me to get to the front of the queue while I patiently waited).

This blog won't change you life or have a profound impact or make you rush out to tell all your friends (though if you do, that would be nice and something I'm sure my fellow bloggers would also love...).

What I do hope, and hope is pretty much all I have, is that you’ll come away thinking that book/DVD/CD sounds intriguing, or I didn’t know libraries held that kind of material, or I never knew libraries did that kind of thing (and trust me you’d be surprised at some of the things we Librarians get up to...)

If I, and we (and I feel fairly confident in including my fellow bloggers in this), just have that teeny tiniest impact on at least one person who reads this blog then I feel that I have done something right. After all, passing on a love of books and reading and libraries is one of the greatest gifts you can pass on to someone.

So in sticking to the theme of this being like a first date and getting to know one another, I would like to share with you just a few of the many things I love.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

I can't believe how far through New Zealand Music Month we are already.  There is still plenty of time to catch concerts, music and find out how to access free downloads through Auckland Libraries Freegal service before the end of the month.

Schools and other groups have been performing all month in many of our libraries and more are scheduled.  Te Matariki Clendon has an Open Mic Night on Thursday night (24 May).  The Grey Lynn Ukeladies still have several gigs to play around the city.  There are Freegal music workshops happening in various spots (or just ask a librarian how it works).

Check out our Music Month events page to find out what you still have time to catch.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Happy Birthday Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859, and was very well-read and well educated, but I doubt that he could ever had imagined that his books featuring Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson would still be popular over 100 years after they first appeared.

There's been a raft of modern takes on Sherlock Holmes stories over the past few years - from Hollywood blockbusters, to a BBC tv series, to a graphic novel featuring the Muppets, to a new Sherlock Holmes mystery by Anthony Horowitz, and even a "life lessons" book!

I'm a fan of short stories, and one of my most enjoyable reads so far this year has been A study in Sherlock : stories inspired by the Holmes canon edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger. With some of big-name authors (Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman and Lee Child) as well as some first-time authors, offering up quirky tales, this was a great collection of short tales to delve into.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Taking a gap year can change your life

More and more young people are taking gap years between the end of their secondary school years and heading off to tertiary study. It can be a defining moment in many young people's lives.

A while ago, a friend forwarded me the link to the One Village website. It piqued my interest and I wanted to know more about the background to this project.

So I've managed to get my hands on a copy of We are one village by Nikki Lovell about how taking a gap year in Uganda completely transformed her life, and started her on the journey towards setting up the One Village charity.

Nikki was eighteen years old when she left Adelaide in South Australia to become part of the Namwendwa community in Eastern Uganda in her gap year.

I'm enjoying the book so far, it gives me a keen insight into her feelings and her experiences in Uganda, what it is like to be so far from home, to be constantly outside her comfort zone, and show she learns to follow her heart in spite of what others around her are saying.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who has read & enjoyed titles such as The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do or Zen under Fire by Marianne Elliott.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

And the winners are

It was a tough year for the judges of the NZ Post Children's Book Awards in 2012.  So much so, that there were several honour awards made to runners up in the different categories at the ceremony in Wellington last night.  Auckland Libraries have been celebrating the Festival with events and storytimes around the city and we have plenty of copies of all the books if you want to check them out.  Some people may also recognise the authors who were part of the Author tour around Auckland last week.  Special mention of Chris Szekely who was previously City Librarian at Manukau Libraries.

The winners are:
New Zealand Post Children’s Book of the Year

Nice Day for a War by Matt Elliott and illustrated by Chris Slane
(HarperCollins Publishers)

Children’s Choice Award
The Cat’s Pyjamas by Catherine Foreman
(Scholastic New Zealand)

Best First Book Award
Super Finn by Leonie Agnew
(Scholastic New Zealand)

Picture Book category winner
Rāhui (Maori version) by Chris Szekely translated by Brian Morris and illustrated by Malcolm Ross
(Huia Publishers)
Rāhui (English version) by Chris Szekely and illustrated by Malcolm Ross
(Huia Publishers)
Honour Award - Picture Book category
Shaolin Burning by Ant Sang
(HarperCollins Publishers)

Non-Fiction category winner
Nice Day for a War  by Matt Elliott and illustrated by Chris Slane
(HarperCollins Publishers)
Honour Award - Non-Fiction category
Digging Up The Past: Archaeology For The Young & Curious by David Veart
(Auckland University Press)

Junior Fiction category winner
Super Finn by Leonie Agnew
(Scholastic New Zealand)
Honour Award - Junior Fiction category
The Travelling Restaurant  by Barbara Else
(Gecko Press)

Young Adult Fiction category
Calling the Gods by Jack Lasenby
(HarperCollins Publishers)
Honour Award - Young Adult Fiction
The Bridge by Jane Higgins
(Text Publishing Company)

Check out more information about the awards at the NZ Booksellers website.

The greatest books I've never read

For my birthday some years ago I was given the book 1001 books you must read before you die. It was wonderful. I think there's something about librarians that makes us love lists, and there in my hands, brand new with a shiny cover, was a list of books. I promptly marked off the ones I had read, feeling smug about having read a decent number of worthy books. This is rubbish of course, all books are worthy (though maybe some more than others) and I usually balk at book snobbery even if I do find myself accidentally guilty of it myself from time to time. Anyway, I put a post-it note on the page of each book I'd read and thought "I am going to read them ALL." Fast forward a few years, and I don't think I could mark even one more page. And so I've decided it's about time I did something about that. I'm not going to read all of them in a year, or even two, but I can make a start. So I've chosen 5 books I haven't read before, and I'm challenging myself to read them before the year is out. And then I'll tell you what I thought of them. This is risky, telling you all about my plan, because then if I fail to carry it out there will be witnesses [insert dramatic music], but if there are witnesses I'm more likely to go through with it. So, here is my selection. If you've read any of them I'd appreciate your comments (no spoilers, please).

Monday, 14 May 2012

Not your average cookbooks

Now that it's winter, food is on my mind more than ever. Not that I ever need an excuse, but those cold temperatures ensure my stomach is always growling and discontent. Hunting down some new recipes was probably not the smartest idea, as now confused people are taking shelter in doorways, wondering where the thunderous rumbling is coming from. I decided to check out what new and recent cookbooks we've bought at Auckland Libraries, and found some delicious and unusual offerings (and that doesn't include The Game of Thrones cookbook or The Hunger Games cookbook...Groosling? They're not serious.)
Whatever you do, don't read this list at work. 
Here's something a little different. I imagine it will polarise opinion somewhat - some of you will love the combination of Southwest flavours and French cuisine, and others will regard it as the worst massacre since Coldplay covered the Beastie Boys. Bon appetit, y'all. Here's the blurb: 
Moving to Paris was the best bad decision that Texan Ellise Pierce ever made. Wooed to the city by a Frenchman, she soon found herself with just 100 euros in her bank account. So she launched a last-ditch effort to stay in the City of Light: she started her own catering business and began teaching other American expats how to re-create flavours from home. Using French ingredients and techniques from both sides of the Atlantic, she did more than found a culinary company; she created a unique style of cooking that's part Texas, part French, and all Cowgirl.
Recipes include:

Cornbread Madeleines
Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Tartines
Cauliflower Galettes with Chipotle Creme Fraiche
Green Chile-Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Souffles

The Medieval Cookbook

The popular cookbook from 1986 is now being reprinted, with lovely colour illustrations of life in medieval times. This book will be a great history lesson for kids, or a chance to throw a fun themed party for adults. There are 50 recipes here, drawn from all tiers of society. You can eat like a peasant, or go all out and scoff like a lord.

There's also a section on herbs and medicines for those with an interest. If you've ever wondered what on earth frumenty is, and how to cook a great Christmas pie, this is the book for you. Also check out Cooking and Dining in Medieval England and The Shakespeare Cookbook.

What Chefs Feed Their Kids: Recipes and Techniques for Cultivating a Love of Good Food

If you want to wean the kids off macaroni cheese and fish fingers, this could be a good start. The author has asked 20 top chefs who are also parents what they do to get their kids eating right. The book includes strategies such as taking your children to fresh food markets, and helping with the cooking. There are 75 recipes from all across the world, from nori chips to curried chickpeas and risotto with pumpkin, ginger and sage, with a focus on healthy meals.

Interestingly, the recipes are divided into sections for different ages. Portion sizes and different textures are explained so parents can diagnose why their child might not be eating properly. Reviews on Amazon are positive, with many saying the book is definitely not just for kids! 

Never Cook Sober Cookbook: From Soused Scrambled Eggs to Kahlua Fudge Brownies -100 (Fool)proof Recipes

If you cook these recipes for your children, you will have several government departments calling on you. All these meals require is a bit of skill and a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Just a friendly warning - please don't sample the recipes too often while cooking. Some of the creations are:

Bottoms-Up Mudslide Smoothie
Tipsy Tequila Lime Chicken Tacos
Sassy Salmon in Champagne Sauce
Play-It-Again Gin Scallops
Half-Seas over Lime Rum Shrimp Kebabs
Mixology Cupcakes
Zonked Kahlua Fudge Brownies

Herbivoracious: a Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes

Based on the popular blog of the same name by Michael Natkin, the advertising says it's meant to be vegetarian food with a bit of flavour - could be good. Mains include Caribbean Lentil-Stuffed Flatbread, Sicilian Spaghetti with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower and Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans and Tofu. Soups, salads, sauces and condiments, sides, appetizers and small plates, desserts, and breakfasts round out the recipes. Gluten-free and vegan recipes are clearly indicated.

Natkin also makes room for a section on how to add flavour to vegetarian sauces and seasonings, and get the right balance of protein and other nutritional necessities.

Norwegian Cakes and Cookies

You've heard of Danishes, now try Norwegians. These recipes by a top Norwegian pastry chef sound both mouth-watering and decadent, perfect for cold days. Whoopie pies? Whoop-de-do. Try Fyrstekake (layers of rich butter pastry with a marzipan filling), Kokosboller (chocolate-coconut truffles), and Tilslørte bondepiker (sweet fruit compote with whipped cream). You don't have to be able to pronounce them to enjoy them. The publishing guff sounds hopeful for those of us with less than expert skill - "Sætre also includes a chapter on essential basics such as pie and tart crusts, vanilla custard, and dark chocolate glaze, with useful tips for beginning and expert bakers alike".

The macaron is so over. 

The Meat Fix: How a Lifetime of Healthy Eating Nearly Killed Me!

Yes, not a cookbook, but I couldn't resist. The author says that after 26 years as a vegetarian, suffering terrible Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a gut that was virtually in self-destruct mode, he decided to give eating meat a go. Within 48 hours, he claims, he was cured. This book turns the healthy-eating movement on its head, and is bound to be controversial with vegetarians. After his health improved, journalist Nicholson went away and investigated exactly why. In plain and often hilarious terms, this is his conclusion. Are processed foods really as bad for you as they say? Is soy really the villain of modern times?

Have a read for yourself!

10 things nobody told you about being creative

I've been reading Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon. So I followed his advice, and stole the title of this blog post from the subtitle of the book.

I loved the way Austin openly states that nothing is original, so he encourages us to embrace influence and then remix + reimagine things in our own way. He intersperses his 10 key pieces of advice with great quotes, stories of his own journey, and plenty of stolen (but acknowledged) ideas from others.

So if you are feeling like you are stuck in a creative rut - no matter what industry or situation you are in - just get hold of a copy of this book. Read it + then put the ideas into practice.

Friday, 11 May 2012

5 80s CDs that have helped me get through this week

"Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
- Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I grew up in the 80s. You should have seen the clothes that were in fashion back then. The photos I could show you of my ghastly outfits and side ponytails...had I not ripped said photos into tiny little pieces and flushed them down the toilet. (Much to my mother's disgust). I vaguely remember that in one of them I had on three different shades of pink (yes, really, a light pink shirt that was a different shade again from the pink skirt with side split that was a different shade again from the horridly bright pink shoes) and a yellow jacket. With shoulder pads. With Shoulder Pads. Let me say that again: WITH SHOULDER PADS. Why didn't somebody stop me? My bad clothes sense aside, as far as music goes it was a magical, magical time. For me, anyway. Pop, electronica, house (oh how I adored UK house music - does anybody remember Adeva?), new wave, big hair bands, Brother Beyond and Bros *sigh* Oh, Bros! (I still have them on vinyl somewhere or other and every now and again I would drag out the albums and marvel at how young they were, and how dumb and stupid I was. Good times!). It felt like that decade had it all. My week has been crazy for meetings so any chance I've had to be at my desk has seen me unwind by listening to all of the CDs that make up today's list and, thankfully, when I've had pop up to my eyeballs I've been able to shove in something with a little more makeup and edge (like Alice Cooper and Poison and Billy Idol) and re-live good times. (Yes, even with shoulder pads they were good times). If you have a hankering for 80s music, or have friends born in the 90s like I do (seriously, how did I end up knowing people born in the 90s?) who don't understand what the fuss is about (one of them always says to me, "I don't get the 80s" which makes me want to cry) then maybe try these on for size.

Do you have a favourite 80s band or singer?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

5 Reasons to love Maurice Sendak

Acclaimed children's author Maurice Sendak passed away this week so we are posting the Top 5 for Friday a day early this week.  Annie from Central Library provided us with this post in his memory. 

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more. ... What I dread is the isolation. ... There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready."

We were all a bit shell shocked and sad on Wednesday with the news that Maurice Sendak had died, aged 83. [New York Times link]

For me, it was a shock, but not unexpected. I’ve listened to a 2011 radio interview – where Sendak was an old man, ready to die, and sharing his regrets, joys, and sadness. The quote above is from that interview.  You can listen to the full interview at: the NPR books website but have your tissues ready.

This was the last of three interviews on the station – you can listen to them all by clicking here.

How many of us grew up with Where the wild things are? If that was the only thing Sendak ever published, his place in literary history – and our hearts – would have been secure. But he didn’t rest on his laurels.

Here is my list of my favourite 5 Maurice Sendak books:

Retold by Tony Kuschner, illustrated by Sendak. Based on the 1938-39 Czech opera by Hans Krasa and Adolf Hoffmeister, and performed by the children of Terezin. This multi-layered story offers many readings – including a look at life at the beginning of the Holocaust. Many of the characters wear yellow Star of Davids, Brundibar looks similar to Hitler. A tale of hope, against a backdrop of tyranny.

Written by Else Holmelund Minarik, it was Sendak’s illustrations that endured this series of beginner readers to generations of children, beginning to stretch their reading muscles.

Mummy? art by Maurice Sendak; scenario by Arthur Yorinks; paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart].
A glorious pop-up book, featuring some very recognizable monsters. There’s a very classic Frankenstein’s bride and a Lon Chaney-style werewolf. Spectacular paper engineering, too.
There’s a great interview to check out here

Hard to believe how controversial this number was. Yes, it featured full-frontal nudity! Oh, and complete rebellion! What’s not to love about this one. Yes, and it features baking.

Where the wild things are?
Let the wild rumpus start! In primers, my class made life-sized wild things, using many textures and techniques, including collage with fake fur. Somehow I ended up with my group’s wild thing, which hung with pride on the wall outside my bedroom door – protecting me from monsters. I’ve had a soft spot for the book and the wild things ever since. (But am still recovering from the trauma of the movie.)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A review of 'Helen: The Helen Meads Tragedy'

Title: Helen: The Helen Meads Tragedy
Author: David White
Publisher: David Ling
Year: 2012
Reviewed by: Anne
Summary: "On the morning of 23 September 2009 Helen Meads was murdered by her husband Greg at the stables on their Matamata farm. It was the final chapter in years of control and abuse. Here, Helens father David White describes the events of that day, and what led to it, and tells of the ordeals that a family is subjected to when one of their own is murdered. It is a poignant and compelling story. There are issues of custody, access and bail, and looming court appearances. And often, as in this case, there is the killers family to deal with. Finally, there is also the bureaucracy and the media that have to be faced and accepted as inevitable intrusions on the private lives of the victims families. Families who would prefer to be left alone to grieve. Now that the trial and sentencing have been completed, much more can be told." (Back cover)

Last year I struggled through Sophie’s Legacy by Lesley Elliott. Struggled, not because I wasn’t involved in the story, but more from the depth of emotion portrayed through the words of a mother grieving for her daughter, going deep inside that grief and examining both it and the whole sad tragedy of Sophie’s murder at the hands of someone many call arrogant and narcissistic.

Helen is at once both similar but different. A father’s story is the byline and while David does not write with the density of words and examination of the grief evident in Sophie’s Legacy, it is as much what he leaves unsaid and his plain statement of facts as we are taken through the lead-up, event and aftermath of Helen’s murder at the hands of her husband, that brings the power to this book.

Carefully considered, and with quiet dignity, these two books stand out as evidence of the failure of the current bail system in New Zealand (and the absurdity of some of the bureaucracy in Government departments). Two lives taken too young, in Helen’s case leaving children to cope with something no one should have to. I admire the courage it must have taken to write this book, but the author would probably simply say, it was what had to be done, as have so many other things since that morning in September 2009 when life changed for his family.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Top 5 most requested nonfiction items for April 2012

"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare."
- Kenko Yoshida

I'm not going to bend your ear (eyeballs?) for too long this morning, except to say that I forgot to celebrate something the other day. After the tweet about The Hunger Games and the rather funny responses we received (in what some might have perceived as being somewhat of a facepalm moment), I forgot to celebrate the fact that people are reading. I have always believed that HOW we're reading isn't important, whether it's through libraries or through bookstores. The fact that we are is what counts. The fact that, for a brief moment, we were all talking about the popularity of a book and how much people want to read it - that's the real story. I temporarily lost sight of that. I won't do so again. Here is today's list: our top 5 most recent nonfiction items for April 2012.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Crime wars! (or, Why Everyone Can Enjoy a Little Mystery)

I'm proud to admit that crime is my favourite genre. While I do enjoy a bit of children's and teen's fiction (particularly fantasy), and sprinkle in some random authors from all over the shop, chances are my request list at any one moment is going to be half mystery. You might think that's awfully restrictive. All that murder and mayhem doesn't sound like a balanced diet. However, that "crime/mystery" genre is not as narrow as you might think. Some are quite literary, taking you deep into the social fabric. Some are wonderful guides to a period of history. Some are cosy bits of fluff that make you laugh. And some are high-octane thrillers. 

Take the divide between the British and American authors. Some supposed crime aficionados won't touch that "nasty American dross" - others delight in the action and sarcastic humour you often find across the Atlantic. But is one really better than the other? What about the Europeans? Can someone who "doesn't like crime" find anything to enjoy in a crime novel? And do those who think the Americans are inferior realise that Elizabeth George and Deborah Crombie are Americans? And that Lee Child is English? Anyway.

Here are some of my favourite crime authors from around the world. Bet you there's something for everyone.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Strange Tales from Auckland Libraries...

If you've ever worked in a job that involves a lot of customer service, you'll have a few funny stories. One of life's inevitables, if you work in a bookshop (or a library) long enough, is to be asked "Do you have any books?" by customers who have just passed a large display of them. I worked in bookshops for a decade, and over the years, I was asked if we sold grand pianos, cars and ladies' underwear. That's why, when Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops came out recently, it gave me many a wry chuckle. In it, you will find the answer to the question: "Did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?" You will also meet the woman from Canada who rang every bookshop on the Internet - including the ones in the UK - to demand they remove The Gruffalo from their shelves because her daughter thought it was scary. Not to mention the mother who rang to get her teenage daughter a job:
"But I'm not sure she wants a job, so maybe if you came round and convinced her you'd like her to work for you."    

Step into our shoes and you will be gobsmacked. You will be confused. And you will sometimes find it very hard not to laugh.


"At closing time one Saturday a library assistant went to check the toilets to make sure there were no customers still inside. He found a man sitting on the loo, stark naked, with a bottle of beer in his hand. As you do..." (Waitakere Central)

"A customer asked for a book with photographs of REAL dinosaurs. They were very disappointed to discover no one had thought of such a thing." (Ponsonby)
"Once a man came into the library, and asked for a blue book. I asked what the book was supposed to be about, or what he wanted to know, but he simply repeated that he wanted a blue book. I thought if all it takes to make the man happy is to find him a blue book then I should just do it, so half-jokingly I wandered over to the shelf with him and picked out a book that looked blue. He said: "No, that's not blue, that's light purple". So I found a more decidedly blue book, at which he smiled, thanked me, and went away happy." (Auckland Central)
Perhaps he was going through a blue phase, like Picasso? And here's another one:

"You got that red book!!" she asked, or was that a yell? 
"Which one did you mean?" I asked her.
"Y'know, that red one..Don't be so silly, of course you know!"
"No I do not. Do you know the author or title by any chance?"
"NO!! You should know, you're a librarian aren't you?"  (Manurewa)

We librarians do like to think of ourselves as well-informed, but alas, we're not psychic. On that note:

"I had a woman come in and ask me to find James Cameron's contact details. Because she was "the psychic sensitive that gave him the idea for Avatar"." (New Lynn)
I would like to know how she gave him this idea without his contact details! 

Recently a woman with a strong Eastern European accent came in and asked where the honey factory was. I tried to work out if it was a specific factory or brand. "Manuka honey", she replied. Seems to some tourists manuka and Manukau are too similar; they come here expecting a huge factory that produces all the manuka honey in the world." (Manukau)

"My favourite so far is this person who came in upset that his doctor had said the the tiny insects burrowing into his scalp were imaginary. He came to the library to show his scalp to a librarian and ask if we knew what the insects were..." (Onehunga)

"Two young boys (around five or six) were in the library talking about how old their grandparents were. One young lad said his granddad was really old. The other young lad said: "My granddad is even older than that, he's nearly dead". Granddad was highly impressed - he was in his early fifties." (Mangere Town Centre)
"A customer had just walked into the library for the first time, and when she saw the large ADULT FICTION section she seemed aghast. There was a look of great relief on her face when I explained that it was just fiction for adults, not the X-rated section." (Orewa)
But it's not just the customers:
"I recall being asked for a book about teaching deaf cats to communicate. Admittedly, I asked the inane question: "You mean like signing for deaf people?"" (Massey)

"One quiet Saturday morning there was suddenly a tremendous BANG! Clouds of books exploded off the shelves, and a car appeared through the wall! One of our retired librarians had mistaken drive for reverse, and accelerated over a raised flowerbed into the fiction section. We cordoned off the hole so people could keep browsing." (Titirangi) 

"I had just started working at the library, at the tender young age of 17. A customer came in and asked if I could tell her where she could find the women's room. Feeling ever so helpful, I told her that it was outside, and up the path, just to the left of the library building. I still remember the look of total confusion on the lady's face, until she finally figured out what I was referring to. After laughing a wee bit, she told me that she was referring to the book by Marilyn French, entitled The Women's Room. I was mortified!" (Glenfield)

It really is a wonderful job at times!