Saturday, 31 August 2013

Stalking the catalogue: Cadillac dreams

"It started with Graceland."
- Phil Gifford

Every great adventure should start with a quote a little something like the one above.  Our catalogue synopsis doesn't even begin to do this book justice - in fact, it does more of a disservice than anything else.

This is going to suck as a 'stalking the catalogue' post because it's going to ramble. (Yeah, like every other post I write).

I loved it. Yeah, I know, I almost always say that about books but this one really struck a chord. Possibly because Phil and wife and friends visited the parts of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee that I'd wanted to see but didn't have the time when I was there. What also comes through is their genuine love of music and people. Four friends decide to take a trip to the US and check out the places that were home to music styles and musicians that meant so much to them growing up. It could have been hokey. In fact some part of me was quite scared it would be. What else am I supposed to expect of someone who WANTED to visit Dollywood ON PURPOSE, for crying out loud? But it wasn't - it was fun, lighthearted, serious, a social commentary, engaging, very informative and, at all times, highly entertaining.

In my mind, the mark of a great book is something that moves you - to laughter, to tears, to anger, to disgust - to anything. I want to take Gifford's trip, now. I want to visit the Alamo, I want to see more bars on Beale St (instead of just poking my head into B. B. King's bar), I want to redo the Rock and Soul Museum, I want to hear bluegrass music played in Mississippi or Tennessee (although preferably Kentucky). Even more, I want to have the same varied range of conversations that they had. Maybe that, too is the mark of a good book. An added bonus was that I learnt so much about Gifford the man. For years I'd always just thought of him as Loosehead Len - thanks to dad I grew up listening to his sports broadcasts/reading his newspaper articles. My dad really respected his opinion. But I never knew that he had been the kinda journalist who interviewed musicians. And not tinpot musos (although maybe those too) but freakin' artists like B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and so many more my head spins just thinking about it. I was mightily impressed. Not just because he spoke to them but because he KNEW their music, FELT their music, UNDERSTOOD their music. It wasn't just words. He got it, and because he writes so well, I got it, too.

A smidgeon of it, but I got it.

Title: Cadillac dreams : Baby booming across the Southern States
Author: Phil Gifford
Published: Wilson Scott Pub., c2006

Friday, 30 August 2013

This Month I'm Loving...

The warmer weather and the smell of spring flowers in the air.

Spring is one of my favourite times of the year and what better way to enjoy it than by discovering a wealth of new and wonderful things for me to indulge in.  As usual in my normal obsessive way, I've become addicted to a new TV show and some new music. All of which I have added to my already massive list of things I'm addicted to.


I *adore* this show. It has become my new obsession over the past few weeks and I have been marathoning it like madly.  It's a bit like White Collar meets Boston Legal with a slightly more cut throat edge to it.

It also has Harvey Specter.  A man with a gravelling voice. He also has moles (and my TW cohorts know what this means) and wears designer suits and has the whole bad boy vibe going for him.  You just knew that I was going to be fan just for him alone. The fact that it's a great show with some great 50's and 60's jazz, blues and soul music just makes it all the better

Oh Land 

A Danish singer/songwriter who lives in the US, Oh Land is a recent and accidental discovery for me, courtesy once again of the YouTube sidebar - which is my bestest friend as far as finding music and a whole lot of other interesting things.

Best describe as a boppy and catchy Bjork, my current two favourites of hers are Sun of a Gun and White Nights

Night visions / Imagine Dragons

Just as YouTube's sidebar is my bestest friend, Amazon's lists of music and artists to watch out for is probably my second best friend in terms of finding great music to listen to.

Just listening to this album it is easy to see why they won Rock Song of the Year at this year's Teen Choice awards. My personal favourite is Working Man which I've been playing constantly.

Secondhand rapture / MS MR

I've been waiting for this album ever since I heard the song Bones on the season 3 trailer for Game of Thrones at the end of last year.

A versatile duo, each song of this album is different and shows just how talented they are.

Along with Bones, an epic, lyrical song that was just so suited for the Game of Thrones trailer, my other favourite is Salty Sweet, a modern jazz/pop song.

The maze runner / James Dashner

 Like many I can hardly wait for the release of this film but until then this and the other books in the series will have to do.

I actually read this, the first book, when it first came out.  Now though I have finally gotten around to getting the other books in the series and am reading it again.

Futuristic dystopia, this is exactly my kind of book.

It's exciting stuff and if f you haven't read it and the rest in the series I highly recommend that you do - at least before the demand for it sky rockets.

And for those of us who are waiting for the film's release in Feb here is a picture of the main star Dylan O'Brien, better known as Stiles in Teen Wolf (and yes that's another show that I'm highly addicted to and that you just have to watch).

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Guilty pleasures

Matt Tebbutt's guilty pleasures : your favourite indulgences in 130 easy recipes

I wasn't that interested in this book until I flicked through and saw a recipe for Marmite potatoes. MARMITE POTATOES! Oh my gosh, even typing the words makes me hungry. After that I had to know what other genius ideas this guy had come up with. Each chapter has a different 'guilty pleasure' theme including:

Peanut butter
Cream cheese
Cola and lemonade
White bread

Personally I find the idea of guilty pleasures kind of pathetic. Unless your guilty pleasure is secretly filming women in bathrooms I think you're okay. Particularly if your guilty pleasure is liking the new Katy Perry song or eating bread. You should never feel guilty about bread.

I can't wait to make and devour those Marmite potatoes and try out some of the other delicious recipes too. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

I can't believe this is happening

Or Documentaries that'll open your mind without stretching your brain.

Not quite sure when watching documentaries became socially acceptable, rather than something only bereted and be-scarfed New York tri-hards and your dad did. Maybe it was when Big Brother and Survivor became acceptable forms of entertainment. After all, they're not scripted or directed at all. Right?

Ahahahahaha, I am witty.

Anyway, there are some really great-sounding films or series out there that are - at least supposed to be - completely factual. Here are some highlights.

I couldn't believe this was real when I heard about it. A 13-year-old boy is kidnapped from his home in America, and disappears for three and a half years. Then he pops up again, and his family welcomes him back with open arms. Even though he is pretty obviously not from America, or in fact, their child. What would motivate someone to pretend to be someone else's child, and - to my mind, more importantly - why on Earth would the family go along with it? Mind you, The Simpsons got there first with Principal Skinner.

Project Nim
In the 1970s, they conducted experiments to see if they could teach a chimp to talk and behave like a human. This film is the result. The packet says: "What we learn about his true nature - and indeed our own - is comic, revealing and profoundly unsettling."

First Position
Think Fame or Spellbound for ballet dancers. How far will kids go to win a prestigious dancing award? Once you've watched this, have some fun and watch the mockumentary version, Razzle Dazzle.

We're all doomed. DOOMED! Apparently. Niall Ferguson takes us through the rise - and he says, the fall - of western civilisation, explaining how we in the west came to dominate the world, and why it can't possibly last.

What makes you happy? This documentary interviews people in India, the States and all around the world, finding out whether money really does buy happiness - or is it something else? The film has already won multiple prizes.

Louis Theroux: The Odd, the Bad and the Godly
Louis Theroux is always worth a watch - the Englishman who loves nothing better than to expose the foibles of his counterparts across the Atlantic. Here he investigates the prescription of medicine to hyperactive children, extreme religion and also visits settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank to interview the settlers risking their lives for the expansion of their country.

Explores some of the biggest conspiracy theories in the world (read: the United States of America), from Area 51 and the aliens to whether the CIA and the Nazis ever collaborated. Says it lays out the facts so viewers can make up their own minds. Who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory?

7 Signs of the Apocalypse
And now for a bit more scaremongering...What if the Book of Revelation is right, and we're in for the last days? Could the signs be happening right now, under our noses? Woooooo...This documentary examines the evidence. (P.S. Then go for a walk and an ice cream. You're fine.)

And if you're wanting a little more help selecting just the right documentary for you, here are some tips from Filmofilia.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Stalking the catalogue: Twitterature

Watchmen by Alan Moore - @Rorschizzle
"A comedian died tonight. He was all about the lulz. No one laughed."
- Twitterature: The world's greatest books in twenty tweets or less by Alexander Aciman

Imagine if you could capture books in 140 characters or less. Imagine Wuthering Heights and all of its angst in 140 characters. Some books, let's face it, may improve if done this way (yes, Twilight, I'm looking at YOU). It'd be almost like a crash course, if you will. Twitterature, in short, provides this in a really funny way.

This is not going to be everybody's cup of tea.  I have a habit lately of stating the obvious, but I feel I need to say that right at the outset.  I, however, enjoyed it. I'd like to point out, though, that if you're not familiar with a lot of the stories then some of the humour is going to fall flat on its face.

There were a couple of stories that I didn't know so I'm going to brush up on them because, hey, I hate feeling like I don't know something.  A warning: it does contain swear words. And I'd like to make it known that I disagree with the part of the blurb that reads " great as the classics are, who has the time to read those big, long books anymore?" Umm ME! I do! I heart them! And I can do both - read them in full, and then read them in 140 characters or less. 'Cause I'm awesome like that.

A lighthearted and irreverent look at some well known tales that will cause you to snort with laughter on the bus, and the train (I know this because I did it), and just in general. Really.

Title: Twitterature : the world's greatest books in twenty tweets or less
Author: Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin
Published: Penguin Books, 2009

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A Real Life Geek Girl: Or Why Being Passionate About Something Is The Best Thing Ever

I am a geek girl.

And no, I'm not talking about being a fake geek girl, a wanna-be geek or any other kind of term that is currently doing the rounds.

What I am talking about is being completely and utter passionate about something (or in my case a lot of somethings).

Being a tad obsessive comes pretty naturally to me and I've been a geek girl almost my whole life, though when I was younger the term 'geek girl' wasn't around.  Instead I was a nerd, a dork, an outsider.  None of which ever really bothered me all that much.  Perhaps because my geekdom started quite early.

While most girls played with dolls and had tea parties, I had my head buried in a book reading about dinosaurs, and space, and anything else that got my interest.  And of course I was madly in love with science fiction television, and still am today.

As I got older, I began to realise that some of my interests were just a little unusual, especially for a girl.  Most girls didn't read 20 to 30 books a week, or watched the kind of shows I did.   Music and movies quickly followed, adding to these passions, as did a love of  travel, writing, fanfic and chocolate (trust me it's the answer to EVERYTHING).

I've been lucky with my friends, they are tolerant of my obsessions even if they didn't understand them, though I must admit I learnt fairly early on not to talk about them much because not many people understood my love of Doctor Who and the like.

Once I started high school I hid my obsessions even more and was, pretty much, a closet geek girl.  Being in the closet stayed with me for all of my teenage years and most of my 20s and 30s.  In some ways, being a geek, the older I got was harder as most people would (and still do) give me odd looks when they discover that I *adore* Buffy, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, fanfic, etc.  The sort of things that most consider something that teens are into.

Nowadays, I'm an open book about my geek girl interests and have even found some like minded friends to share them which is even better, though maybe a tad worrisome for others, as we now feed each others addictions by sharing links, fanfic recommendations, and hold online discussions on the merits of such things as Wet Stiles (it's a thing), why a certain character should die a slow and bloody death, and will the new Doctor Who live up to the name.  And yes, Twitter and online writing forums are just another one of my addictions.

So if you're like me and love something passionately, then celebrate it with me, because being passionate about something is absolutely the best thing ever.

Trailer for the movie of The Book Thief (gulp!).

I am so terrified of them making this movie! The Book Thief is easily the best book I have ever read and I just dread the idea of them turning it into a movie. If you have read the book then I'm sure that, like me, you don't know how they're going to pull it off. If you haven't read the book then you should request it now for 2 reasons:

1. This book is incredible and will quickly become one of your favourites.
2. The minute the movie comes out the holds list will quadruple (at the very least).

I could not recommend this book highly enough.

As for the movie: High hopes, low expectations. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Comedians and their books (Part 3)

The 3rd and final part of this blog but honestly I could go on for at least 5 more posts. If you're interested in reading more autobiographies by comedians check out this list on Goodreads. I went a bit crazy and requested so many books from it and I'm really enjoying making my way through the piles. I finished Steve Martin's book this morning and really liked it. Tina's will always be my favourite but Chelsea Handler's books come a close second. 

The Bedwetter: stories of courage, redemption, and pee by Sarah Silverman

From the outrageously filthy and oddly innocent comedienne Sarah Silverman comes a memoir—her first book—that is at once shockingly personal, surprisingly poignant, and still pee-in-your-pants funny. If you like Sarah’s television show The Sarah Silverman Program, or memoirs such as Chelsea Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea and Artie Lange’s Too Fat to Fish, you’ll love The Bedwetter.

I hate everyone - starting with me by Joan Rivers 

Joan Rivers is a groundbreaking, award-winning, internationally renowned entertainment goddess. She’s also opinionated—especially when it comes to people she hates. Like people who think giving birth is a unique achievement. Or well-adjusted, a.k.a. boring, ex-child stars who don’t even have a decent addiction.

With all of her diverse experiences, it stands to reason that Joan has seen, done, said, and heard a lot of hateful things. Thank god, she took notes. Here—uncensored and totally uninhibited—she give the best of her worst to First Ladies, closet cases, hypocrites, Hollywood, feminists, and overrated historical figures. And even when letting herself have it, Joan doesn't hold back in this honest, unabashedly hilarious love letter to the hater in all of us.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

In the midseventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away."
Emmy and Grammy Award winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written.
At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory. The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes.
Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.
Throughout the text, Martin has placed photographs, many never seen before. Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time.
Is it just me? or is it nuts out there? by Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg has always been her own woman. From her days in standup, through her acclaimed work as an actor, and now into her duties as the moderator and co-host of The View, Whoopi has been outspoken and honest, respectfully taking no prisoners even while drawing people in and making them laugh--or cry. Total honesty, administered civilly and with a healthy dose of audacity, is her hallmark and her way of life.

In her new book, Whoopi shares stories from her own life when she's been forced to deal with tough situations in family, marriage, friendship, and business. She relates how she navigated through them with healthy honesty, which has all but vanished in the era of the volatile pundit. Naturally, she tells these stories with the humor, irreverence, and joy for which she's known, and she also speaks up about the challenges dealing with one another here and now, especially with the growing disrespect and rudeness in this country. Cheeky, a bit naughty, occasionally in-your-face, this humorous book will bring readers into her world

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Stalking the catalogue: A world in one cubic foot
"When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet's surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence."

I'd easily rate this book as the most unusual one I've read so far for 2013. I mean, sure, on the face of it, it doesn't seem like such an exciting premise: Liittschwager, a photographer, takes a cubic frame, puts it in various places that are hugely rich in plants and animals, and photographs the life found within. See? Not so unusual. And yet...

And yet, flipping through the pages quickly shows you how wrong you are. The most amazing photos of creatures and plants I've ever seen. All in one cubic metre. Okay, so that sounded incredibly nerdy, and I'm kinda unrepentant about that.

I dunno. I can't really describe it. Just get it out. Oh! Oversized book warning - this is a heavy sucker.

Title: A world in one cubic foot : portraits of biodiversity
Author: David Liittschwager
Published: The University of Chicago Press, c2012

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Comedians and their books (Part 2) The UK edition

Round 2 the UK edition! A lot of the books below also come in audiobook form. I personally prefer to listen to comedy memoirs than to read them because usually they're read by the author and it's kind of like listening to stand-up that way. Enjoy the hilarity!

Is it just me? by Miranda Hart

Well hello to you dear browser. Now I have your attention it would be rude if I didn't tell you a little about my literary feast. So, here is the thing: is it just me or does anyone else find that adulthood offers no refuge from the unexpected horrors, peculiar lack of physical coordination and sometimes unexplained nudity, that accompanied childhood and adolescence? 

I am proud to say I have a wealth of awkward experiences - from school days to life as an office temp - and here I offer my 18-year-old self (and I hope you too dear reader) some much needed caution and guidance on how to navigate life's rocky path. 

Because frankly where is the manual? The much needed manual to life. Well, fret not, for this is my attempt at one and let's call it, because it's fun, a Miran-ual. I thank you

Camp David by David Walliams 

David Walliams has been the camp aide to the Prime Minister, the rubbish transvestite and the long-suffering wheelchair pusher for an able-bodied man. He was launched to fame with the record-breaking "Little Britain", and for a while you couldn't enter a playground without hearing "eh eh eh eh" or "computer says no". But David Walliams is more than a comedian. He's a fascinating and complex person with a sharp intellect, a sensitive disposition and a refreshing honesty. Often described as 'a bundle of contradictions', he has disarmed people by being camp and a ladykiller, a hedonist and a sportsman, aloof and warm. Like many of our comedic geniuses - Frankie Howerd, John Cleese, Kenneth Williams - he has grappled with depression and remains an enigma. His autobiography "Camp David" is a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It will surprise and entertain, and allow fans and newcomers the privilege of entering David Walliams' uniquely brilliant mind.

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

In 2006 Russell Brand exploded onto the international comedy scene. He has been named Time Out’s Comedian of the Year, Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards, and Most Stylish Man by GQ’s Men. His UK stand-up tour was sold out and his BBC Radio 6 show became a cult phenomenon, the second most popular podcast of the year. Before the fame, however, Russell’s life was anything but glamorous. His father left when he was three months old, he was bulimic at age 12, and began drinking heavily and taking drugs by age 16. He regularly visited prostitutes in Soho, began cutting himself, took drugs on stage during his stand-up shows, and even set himself on fire while on crack cocaine. In 2003 Russell was told that he would be in prison, a mental hospital, or dead within six months unless he went into rehab. He has now been clean for three years, and hasn't looked back since. This is Russell’s amazing story

 Nerd do Well by Simon Pegg

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having blasted onto the small screens with his now legendary sitcom Spaced, his rise to the UK's favourite son status has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronnic, but mostly just plain great. From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with Star Wars, his often passionate friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his 12-year-old classmates, this is a joyous tale of a homegrown superstar and a loyal boy made good.

Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry

 Fry has already given readers a taste of his tumultuous adolescence in his autobiographical first novel, The Liar, and now he reveals the equally tumultuous life that inspired it. Sent to boarding school at the age of seven, he survived beatings, misery, love affairs, carnal violation, expulsion, attempted suicide, criminal conviction and imprisonment to emerge, at the age of eighteen, ready to start over in a world in which he had always felt a stranger. One of very few Cambridge University graduates to have been imprisoned prior to his freshman year, Fry is a brilliantly idiosyncratic character who continues to attract controversy, empathy and real devotion

I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan by Alan Partridge

Journalist, presenter, broadcaster, husband, father, vigorous all-rounder -- Alan Partridge -- a man with a fascinating past and an amazing future. Gregarious and popular, yet Alan's never happier than when relaxing in his own five-bedroom, south-built house with three acres of land and access to a private stream. But who is this mysterious enigma?...A literary tour de force, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan charts the incredible journey of one of our [Britain's] greatest broadcasters"--Publisher's description.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Meet my demon, Frank

Today I'm going to be Frank. Libraries are not always places of peace and retreat. And librarians don't have all the answers. God, I wish we did.

Some children have imaginary friends, but many adults have imaginary enemies. I've suffered from chronic depression since my teens. I got through the years of being bullied OK, knowing that at least things were going to get better after I left school. Then, when my external tormentors left me, the inner demons showed up. I was worthless, I wasn't living up to my potential, I had no idea where I was going, I wasn't normal. I woke up one morning with a feeling of impending doom, and it stayed for 18 months. Unfortunately this was around the time when everyone asks "So what are you going to do once you graduate from university?" What I did was burst into tears.

I went to my doctor, convinced I was suffering minor heart attacks. He told me to give church a go and "get out more". I never went back. Eventually I worked out on my own that I was sitting in a protective hunch, which made my chest muscles contract and go into painful spasms. That first bout finally lifted, and I thought I was cured. I wasn't. Three years later, the depression came back, even worse. This time I would be at work, going about my daily routine, and suddenly I'd break out in uncontrollable sobbing. As I worked in a shop, this wasn't exactly a private matter. I'd have to dash for the stockroom and finish wailing in my own time. It was scary and horrible and I decided it was time for a second opinion.

I was prescribed antidepressants, which thankfully worked. Psychologists cost money, and I was grateful for something that took away my pain without being hit in the pocket as well. I was finally cured - wasn't I?

This year, my old friend came back. He's still with me, and now I realise he always will be. There's no cure for chronic depression, only means to cope for a while. There's no real cause, either. There's a lot of restructuring and change going on around here, which makes things stressful. I had a former colleague ask me recently: "So you've given up on your writing, then? You haven't had anything published in ages". Which made me furious and even more depressed. I'm single and can't afford a house in Auckland. There are a lot of issues, but none of them is enough to make me break down at my desk like I do. So I can't attack anything and fix it. It's like going after world politics.

If you're one of the people, like me, who know it's all in your head but it doesn't mean a damn thing, because it's still real...Here are a few suggestions:

Managing Your Depression: What You Can Do to Feel Better
Written by a doctor who is a sufferer herself, this book takes an overall health approach, looking at diet and nutrition, sleep patterns, exercise, routine and ways to avoid total isolation.

Scriven says: At times I just want to be left alone, or I don't have the energy to go out. And that's fine. But you need to try new things, or go to a funny movie, or have dinner out sometimes, because cutting yourself off entirely is the worst thing of all. Try to find a balance. Hopefully this book will help!

When Someone You Love Has Depression: A Handbook for Family and Friends
A coping guide for the ones on the other side of the wall.

Scriven says: One of the worst things about depression is the guilt that comes with it. The feeling that I'm boring my friends and bringing them down, or that I'm a burden on my loved ones. True, your friends will worry. But you can't take on the guilt for something that's not your fault. Try this book on them so they can understand better what you're going through, and you can deal with it together.

Managing Depression with CBT for Dummies
If you prefer to look at thought patterns and habits rather than take the pharmaceutical approach, this book is for you. Spot the destructive thoughts as soon as they pop up, and divert your mind into more positive channels.

Scriven says: When I was at my lowest, I didn't have the strength to think. I felt like I'd been navel-gazing for years, and I just wanted an instant fix, which medication very nearly provided. However, chronic depression is rarely just a chemical or mindset thing, it's both. If you're the sort of person who likes to go to the source of things, and you're ready to do a bit of work, cognitive behavioural therapy could be worth a try.

Sane New World
Comedian Ruby Wax's autobiography was a crack-up, but here she devotes her time to more serious matters. A long-time sufferer of depression, Ruby decided to study her problem in search of a cure. She shares her findings and techniques in this book - which is still funny in parts, according to the blurb.

Scriven says: I'm on the list. With an endorsement from Stephen Fry and Wax at the keyboard, I can't wait. Laughter is definitely the best medicine.

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World
If you're like me and hadn't even heard of mindfulness till this year, let alone what it meant, here's the answer. Mindfulness is a way of being more aware of the realities of things rather than how they seem, living in the moment rather than worrying about what might be. Based on ancient Buddhist teachings, for those who value a spiritual approach, this could do the trick.

Scriven says: Not just for new-agers, the concept of mindfulness has been embraced by lettered psychologists the world over. It's huge. This book includes a CD of meditations to help you relax, but just search for "mindfulness" in our catalogue and you'll find a whole host of options.

The Fog Lifter
Whoever said men don't cry is from another planet. This is the autobiography of an Australian man whose depression led him to attempt suicide, and his struggle back to the surface. He also gives tips on how to keep yourself afloat when the world tries to drag you under.

Scriven says: A story of dark places from the man who's been there. If you don't need it yourself, give it to someone who does.

Coming Through Depression 
An ebook for those days you really can't face getting out of bed. Part One explains what happens when someone gets depressed and what kinds of experience cause depression. Part Two focuses on a step by step recovery plan to overcoming depression and Part Three considers what has been learned in the past ten years about staying well and preventing relapse. 

Scriven says: What's good about this book is it contains advice both for sufferers and their loved ones. Now you can go through it together.

Quiet the Mind
Author of the Black Dog series Matthew Johnstone has written a guide to meditation. Breathing in and zoning out from daily stresses and anxieties for a while is a widely-recognised way to recharge empty batteries.

Scriven says: It even comes with illustrations! How good is that? You can also read Matthew's other works about his struggles with depression.

All Blacks Don't Cry
John Kirwan has become the poster-boy of depression in New Zealand, and here he tells his story. You don't have to be an All Black to beat it, but it helps to know you don't have to be a loser to get it, either.

Scriven says: I used to think all rugby players were mindless thugs. So wrong.

Hot Fuzz
Finally, find a DVD that makes you laugh. This one never fails for me!

Scriven says: Books and movies are my release. Maybe exercise or going for a drive in the car are yours. Or listening to uplifting music or gardening. Find something non-alcoholic, non-deep fried and non-pharmaceutical that helps distract you from your thoughts. And don't forget to give yourself a goal, or something to look forward to. From planning an overseas trip, to walking round the block, to just eating your Nutri-Grain for breakfast! A small amount of hope every day is so important.

Whatever happens, know you're not alone.
For more help, visit or call freephone 0800 111 757.
Help is always there.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Stalking the catalogue: Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don't Float

"Suffice it to say I was compelled to create this group in order to find everyone who is, let's say, borrowing liberally from my INESTIMABLE FOLIO OF CANONICAL MASTERPIECES (sorry, I just do that sometimes), and get you all together. It's the least I could do."
 - William Shakespeare's Admirable, Righteous, Singular, And Incomparable Booke Club Group

As a fangirl, I sometimes wonder what my fave tv show characters would be like in social media. Dean (Supernatural because OF COURSE, RIGHT?) would be all BAMF!Dean because he is the epitome of badassedness. Sam would be all puppy eyes and tortured posts. Castiel would be this curious mix of IRL Misha's hilarity and the naive Cas I adore. But classic lit characters/authors - how would they come across in social media? A little something like this, apparently:
  • Rochester suggested a friend for Jane: his secret wife, Bertha. He thinks she may know Bertha too
  • Miss Havisham sent Estella a secret request: BREAK HIS HEART
  • Alice took the quick What Drink Are You? with the result "Shirley Temple"
  • Hemingway became a fan of Using a Neutral, Disinterested Tone to Heighten the Realism of War
  • Dr. Frankenstein became a fan of Weird Science
  Yeah. I can get behind that :)

Title: Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don't Float : classic lit signs on to Facebook
Author: Sarah Schmelling
Published: Plume, c2009

Friday, 9 August 2013

Comedians and their books (Part 1)

The perfect combination of hilarity and books. I really enjoy reading autobiographies of any kind but it get's even better when they're written by comedy writers. People do tend to think you're crazy as you sit there hysterically laughing to yourself but it's so worth it.

Are you there vodka? It's me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler 

When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power - vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea's world - a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.

In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she's convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn's daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her... only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.

 Bossypants by Tina Fey 

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately half hearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

How to beat up anybody by Judah Friedlander

The most important book in karate history from the greatest martial artist: The World Champion Judah Friedlander.

Finally a Karate book that prepares you for real-life dangerous situations! This book includes chapters on how to beat up Bigfoot, how to beat up someone with one arm, how to beat up someone with three arms, and how to beat up someone on a unicycle. Plus how to beat up street gangs, attackers with weapons, ninjas, dinosaurs, and gangs of street ninjas with weapons riding on dinosaurs!

This book contains more than 500 photos! And lots of words! All guaranteeing that you'll learn how to beat up anybody!

The World Champion is the greatest athlete in the world, has sex with lots of women, and is a role model to children. For the first time you can now witness his training techniques. Buy this book before he beats you up!

Girl walks into a bar by Rachel Dratch 

Anyone who saw an episode of Saturday Night Live between 1999 and 2006 knows Rachel Dratch. She was hilarious! So what happened to her? After a misbegotten part as Jenna on the pilot of 30 Rock, Dratch was only getting offered roles as "Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians."

Her career at a low point, Dratch suddenly had time for yoga, dog- sitting, learning Spanish-and dating. After all, what did a forty- something single woman living in New York have to lose? Resigned to childlessness but still hoping for romance, Dratch was out for drinks with a friend when she met John.

Handsome and funny, after only six months of dating long-distance, he became the inadvertent father of her wholly unplanned, undreamed-of child, and moved to New York to be a dad. With riotous humor, Dratch recounts breaking the news to her bewildered parents, the awe of her single friends, and the awkwardness of a baby-care class where the instructor kept tossing out the f-word.

Filled with great behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Dratch's time on SNL, Girl Walks into a Bar... is a refreshing version of the "happily ever after" story that proves female comics-like best sellers Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler-are truly having their moment.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Freedom of Choice: How The Banning of Books Is Never A Good Thing

I struggled to write this post. I started. I stopped. More times than you can imagine and very nearly deleted the whole damn thing and gave up.  But in the end I didn't.

Being a writer is hard.  Really, really hard.

It's especially hard when you've written something only for others to come out and tear not only what you have written apart but who you are as a person.

And I'm not speaking about a critical review (which is probably hard enough to take if you get a bad one) but about the furore that Into the River has created by winning the NZ Post Children's book of the year award.

The kind of furore where people are asking for the the book and the author to be stripped of the award, to be banned from shops and schools and basically where people seem to want the author's head on a platter.

Ted Dawe is a brave, brave man.

I've never met him or talked to him.  He does, though, have my utmost respect for writing something that was important to him and putting it out there for others to read.

And that's a good thing.

We might wish that the world was one of fluffy bunnies and kittens but the reality is quite different. And we need to know this.

Because only by knowing this can we have respect, acceptance and understanding for ourselves and for others.

Should children and young adults be encouraged to look at the positive aspects of life?  Most definitely yes.

Should they be blocked, banned and prevented from knowing about the hard aspects of life? Most definitely not.

Because without the bad, how do we hope to create a better place, a better world for everyone and everything that lives in it?

Surely that is the greatest thing we can pass onto the next generation.

And Tango makes three / by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

A true story of 2 penguins who were given an egg to nurture and care for and who raised the chick that hatch to form a family.  Sounds kinda cute so far. Which it should be for a children's picture book.

But what if I said that the 2 penguins were both males.

If like me, this probably didn't even register and you just went awww how wonderful.  Others out there didn't have quite the same reaction.

Since 2006 it has made the ALA top ten list of banned books 6 times. Because apparently 2 male penguins raising a chick promotes same sex lifestyle and that is wrong.

And no I'm not even kidding.

The perks of being a wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

Struggling to find our place in the world is something that we all go through.  Whether as a teenager or as an adult.  We all have issues and we all deal with those issues in a way that is unique to us.

Perks is a realistic look at teenage life to today.  It's honest.  It's painful.  It doesn't hold back.  And all of that makes it something worthwhile for all teens and adults to read.

It's also appeared on the ALA banned book list 5 times in the last decade.  Because it seems being honest about what teens are really going through is something that we should ignore.

Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sometimes life is hard.  And sometimes it goes beyond the realms of hard and in to the truly horrific.

Speak is one such book.

It is also almost overwhelming sad and beautiful, all at the same time.  It's about finding your voice even in the face of something terrible like rape.

Sadly some people see this as a bad thing and called for the book to banned because it "exposed children to immorality"

Th1rteen r3asons why / by Jay Asher

Some people can handle the knocks that life gives you and others struggle against them until it all gets too much.

Suicide always leaves a wake of unanswered questions for those left behind.  But what if the person left a series of recorded messages, detailing their thoughts and feelings ?

In Th1irteen r3asons Hannah does just this. Revealing how one little lie can snowball out of control and the ramifications of that one lie, not just on the victim but on everyone involved.

Once again though there are some who think that talking about suicide is just encouraging others to follow suit.  Oh yes teenagers are just lemmings without the ability to think for themselves.

The fault in our stars / John Green

Cancer is no laughing matter. I know from personal experience having seen someone I love die from it.

But living with death also gives you an appreciation for life and in The Fault In Our Stars Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who believe that life is for living even when death is knocking at the door.

They want to experience all that life has to offer and try to do just that.

But talking about life and life experiences including wanting to know what sex feels like is something that others see as something to hide and ban, especially when it concerns young adults, who shouldn't have sexual desire, who shouldn't want to share something intimate with the one they love.

The diary of a young girl / Anne Frank

This is my book.  If I was asked to pick the book that meant the most to me, that was my favourite of all time then this would be it.

Words can not begin to describe how wonderful this book is.  It's about being alive, about what it means to be human, about what it is to live a life where all you know is hate and persecution.

That it has made several banned and/or challenged books lists just wants to make me cry.  Because apparently it's "too depressing".

And no I really am not kidding. Not even in the slightest.

It also has some sexual content. Like about 2 paragraphs. And that is also reason even to ban it. THAT'S what some people got from this book? It's promotes sex and sexual feelings?  Really???

I despair.  I really do.

This book and all of the above books are something that everyone should read, teens and adults alike.  Hopefully like me you'll come away with feeling that life is beautiful and precious and something to celebrate

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Stalking the interwebs: Romeo and Juliet trailer

"For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo..."

One of my many siblings highlighted this trailer for an upcoming Romeo and Juliet film. This one starring Hailie Steinfeld (of True Grit) as Juliet, Douglas Booth (of LOL with Miley Cyrus, and Pillars of the Earth) as Romeo, Ed Westwick (plays Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, and yes, I am an ardent fangirl) as Tybalt, Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence, and Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet.

This version's screenplay is by Julian Fellowes - YES, *that* Julian Fellowes (as in Downton Abbey), and is directed by Carlo Carlei.

Excuse me while I SQUEE. Over here. In the corner. Not so quietly.

If you feel like trusting my idea of "books worth wasting your time on" I'd recommend you follow this trailer up with the graphic novel Romeo and Juliet: The War by Stan Lee and Terry Dougas, in which the Montagues are cyborgs and the Capulets are genetically enhanced humans. Does the story end differently? Don't be daft. It's Romeo and Juliet. But the artwork *sigh* the artwork is beyond gorgeous. And if you don't believe me, check out this cover...

Friday, 2 August 2013

Review: The Witness by Nora Roberts [Jan]

Elizabeth Fitch was raised by an emotionally remote mother to be a perfect daughter who never puts a foot wrong.  But one night she decides to rebel.  After forging fake ids, she and a friend, Julie, get into a trendy club to party and met he owners of the club, Ilya and Alexei.  The girls leave the club with Alexei, to go back to his place, with Ilya meeting up with them after he finished some business.  They two men are Russian mafia though and the business is Ilya killing Alexei.  Julie is caught in the crossfire and Elizabeth runs, contacting the police and agreeing to testify against the shooters.  Placed in the witness protection programme, she is betrayed before the trial and two FBI agents are killed defending her.  So she must run again.

Abigail Lowery is a mystery.  Buying a house in a small town in the Ozarks, she keeps to herself and rarely goes to town, causing the residents to be insanely curious about her.  She designs security software and by hacking, keeps tabs on the Russian mafia, FBI, US Marshals, and anyone connected with the Fitch case.  Oh, and she has a fierce guard dog called Bert who is adorable.  Brooks is the police chief of the town?? and interested in knowing more about Abigail.  The subplot involved the son of the town’s wealthiest man vandalising the property of a well liked family  The father was trying to buy the sons way out of trouble and it was interesting to view his frustration and escalation as he didn’t succeed.

The beginning was interesting but the middle dragged, with the last third of the book being interesting again.  I love the ending, though it would have been brilliant to see the reactions of the bad guys as justice found them!  I didn’t like how Brooks wouldn’t take no for an answer, pushing his way into Abigail’s house and life after being told no, because he ‘knew’ what she secretly wanted.  Things worked out ok because it’s a romance book, but no means no.  I also found his mother, Sunny, to be pushy and annoying; pushing her way into the house of a woman her son was interested in.  It worked out ok but you can see she’ll be interfering in the future.

This turned out to be a good read, perfect for a lazy day.

Title: The Witness
Author: Nora Roberts
Published: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2012
Reviewer: Jan

Thursday, 1 August 2013

This month I'm loving...

Online chatting.

Whether it's via twitter or a forum I just have to say it's absolutely *awesome*.

The conversations that people have online are intelligent, interesting and inspirational.  They are also - quite often in fact - really funny.  Where else can you chat about the books with outlandish titles, linear writing vs free-form writing (or chapter hopping as I call it - and which I am entirely notorious for doing in my own writing) and which TV show pairing is awesome or just plain icky and voice your opinion that the she or he of such pairing should be killed, preferably in the most gruesome way possible.

I always come away from these chats with a warm, glowy feel-good feeling that helps to inspire and encourage me throughout the day.  I also often come away with an ever increasing list of music to listen to, things to read and movies/TV shows to watch.  So much so that I've pretty much given up the idea that I will ever get my To-be-read, watched and listen to pile down. 

And that's exactly how I like it.

Pitch Perfect

I found out about this movie entirely from twitter conversations which raved about it. So of course I just had to check it out.

As you do.

It's funny, has awesome female characters and some great singing.  It also has The Cup song.  And if you don't know what this is then you really do need to check it out.  It just might make you want to watch this movie for that scene alone.

Bleak Expectations

I *adore* Anthony Head, better known as Giles from Buffy as well as a realm of British TV shows and the Nescafe coffee ads from the late 80's.

I now adore him even more after listening to this radio comedy in which he plays Mr Gently Benevolent, the sinister villain. 

Bleak Expectations is a silly, hammy and utterly irreverent take on just about every Charles Dickens novel written plus a few others.  My favourite was the War of The Worlds send-up of which I will probably never look at in quite the same way again.

Reviver by Seth Patrick

"Jonah Miller is a Reviver, able to temporarily revive the dead so they can say goodbye to their loved ones--or tell the police who killed them. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, he encounters a terrifying presence. Something is on the other side watching..."

A crime novel.  A horror novel. A science fiction novel. Reviver combines them all in this creepy and absorbing read.

172 Hours On The Moon by Johan Harstad

"More than forty years since the first moon landing,  no-one has been back since then - until now. Three teenagers are about to find out why..."

Blood-curling creepy.  The ending will just blow your mind.

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

"16 year old Angie finds herself in her neighborhood with no recollection of her abduction or the 3 years that have passed since, until alternate personalities start telling her their stories through letters."

Gripping and sad, Pretty Girl-13 is a story of a girl trying to come back after the truly horrific has happened to her.

Backtrack by Jason Dean

"James Bishop is no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law. Finally a free man, with his name cleared, he has the chance to get his life back on track. But as he flees the scene of the hold-up with a terrified hostage, he once again finds himself a wanted man."

This novel starts out one way and then takes a complete 180 and spins everything you thought you know on its head.  Don't you just love stories that do that?