Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Emma Watson and Feminism

If you, like me, have been gradually discovering the awesome person that is Emma Watson, you would be excited to discover that she is just as obsessed with books as the bookworm characters she plays. As well as apparently taking a year off acting to ‘read more books’ (oh, the luxury!), she is an actress, an English Literature graduate, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador who launched a campaign to encourage men to advocate for gender equality,  and a woman who sometimes takes time off to hide books on trains. Whew. And yes, I may be fan-girling just a little bit.

At the beginning of last year, inspired by her collaboration with the UN, she decided to start a feminist book club online, on a popular book-sharing platform, to discuss the wealth of information about equality she had been reading. If you’d like to join, all you need is a Goodreads profile, and boom, you’re in. Every second month Ms. Watson selects a book, posts some questions and thoughts to start it off, and the community takes it from there. Currently there are over 190,000 members across the globe.

Curious about the books she chose? You can head over to Goodreads (incidentally; a great website for discovering and discussing books) and join Our Shared Shelf. If you want to get your greedy little mitts on the actual books, though, they are all available through your local library.

Emma Watson and her fellow ‘book fairies’ have got famous for hiding dozens of books on public transport, to the delight of fans. Unfortunately, unless you live in London, Paris, or New York, you’re unlikely to come across Our Shared Shelf’s new pick.

As well as the classics, there are some less well-known choices in there, ripe for exploring. Here is the full list:

  1. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  2. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  3. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  4. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  5. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  6. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  7. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  8. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem

Coincidentally, for someone so identified with the ‘bookish’ characters she plays, nearly all the major film roles Emma Watson has taken on are based on books. She appears in the Harry Potter franchise, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Bling Ring, (all originally based on books), as well as Noah, based on a book of the bible, funnily enough.

Or maybe, knowing Emma’s love for reading, it is truly not a coincidence at all.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Why Don't You Blog About It: the best blog-to-books

With people these days spending half of their lives online, it’s no wonder that ‘normal’ has changed the world over. Even in book publishing, technology has been slowly reaching its’ tentacles in. While the concept has been building in popularity for a few years now, recently there has been an explosion of blog-to-book concepts.

From mega-famous YouTuber’s getting in on the act, including Pewdiepie, Miranda Sings, Shane Dawson, and Zoella’s bestselling effort (which outsold Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey in its' first week), it seems that one of the best ways to get a book deal nowadays is to have a strong online following (*cough, cough* hello?). With a ready community to sell to, it seems an obvious way to re-start the currently struggling publishing industry.

The trend, however, started with the original digital over-sharers, the bloggers. Here are some of the best blog-to-book adaptions I have read.
Slaughterhouse 90210 is a book I stumbled on while checking in items, and I was struck by the unusual title. If you’re the type of person who loves keeping up with philosophy, but you also can’t turn down a good trashy TV show, you. will. love. this. It mixes the high with the low-brow, printing literary quotes alongside pop culture icons, and the results will surprise and intrigue you. It is a philosophy nerd’s dream.
The insanely popular twitter account Sh*t my dad says is one of the original examples of how online popularity has translated into other mediums. This bought the eponymous dad’s son a TV sitcom deal, which starred William Shatner (it was cancelled after one season), and several book deals. The first book on the shelves was ‘Sh*t my Dad says’ (funnily enough). The author, Justin Halpern has also recently published a book about his lack of talent with the opposite sex. The namesake book, however, is true to the original content, full of his Dad’s’ blunt and hilarious sayings, and personal anecdotes from their life. If you’re looking for a light read about a man who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘passive-aggressive’, this will be your cup of tea.
If you have been on Facebook recently, (and let’s face it, who hasn’t) you might have stumbled upon a striking photograph of a person, followed by a caption telling an intriguing story of that person’s life. This is the social media-famous ‘Humans of New York’ blog, which has gone on to spawn many imitations. Renowned for their share-ability, the posts provide a remarkable insight into the similarities and differences in humans across the world. This is obvious in the books they have spawned, the beautiful tomes a permanent record of the influence of the blog. As well as two separate volumes of the posts, there is also a picture book for the smaller humans on our planet, titled ‘Little Humans'.
Lastly, there’s Stuff White People Like. Yes, that’s the name of the book. Based on the blog of the same name, it is captioned ‘A guide to the unique taste of millions’. Taking aim at liberal, left-leaning white North Americans, it satirises their ‘unique’ tastes. The book includes the full list that first appeared on the website, including notable entries such as ‘#87 Outdoor Performance Clothes’, ‘#5 Farmer’s Markets’ and ‘#62 Knowing what’s best for poor people’, with pretty hilarious explanations. As a self-identifying Liberal White Person, it is scary how accurate it is. Read on if you would like to find out how to befriend your local “cute girls with bangs and cool guys with beards”.
Have any more recommendations of great books by bloggers? Comment below!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Churchill - movie review

If the thought of a Winston Churchill film has you reminiscing warily about your stuffy old history tutorials, cast your mind back instead to the amusing & unexpected tidbits you learned about history in class – because this is the essence of Churchill.

Churchill cuts an intimidating figure, and Brian Cox has it down pat. Much like the real Churchill, Cox appears in the film as a solid, rotund man draped in a thick trench coat, gnawing like a baby with a pacifier on thick cigars in both occasions of great satisfaction and moments of abject despondence.

This film stands in time on the precipice of D-Day, and Churchill is wavering as wildly as if he too is on a precipice. He was, unbeknownst to millions of people, deeply uncertain about Operation Overlord, and did attempt to have it cancelled right up to the day prior to D-Day.

Live Q&A with Brian Cox

Brian Cox, it turns out, is very unlike his Churchill! A man with a much less clipped tone, who only issues his startlingly hoarse bellows when in character – Mr. Cox is actually a charming guest and a generous question answer.

The Q&A runs overtime with his encouragement, and we learn about his hometown connection to Churchill (Churchill was MP of Dundee from 1908 - 1922); his opinion on the arts (vital); and his secret inspiration for Churchill’s characterisation (Stewie Griffin – from Family Guy. IT MAKES SENSE!).

Churchill is a human portrayal of a man otherwise sketched as a two dimensional legend, and isn’t it always more powerful to see a human struggle to succeed? History buffs and biopic fans alike will enjoy Churchill.

Churchill is in New Zealand cinemas from Thursday 15 June.

Watch the trailer here:

Our reviewer was generously provided with complimentary tickets to an advanced screening.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Viceroy's House - movie review

Today we have a rare treat: two perspectives on a new film soon to be in cinemas! Two of our library staff were lucky enough to attend a special pre-screening of Viceroy's House, starring Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson, as well as attend a Q & A with the director, Gurinder Chadha.

Viceroy's House is in cinemas from 11 May.

Gurinder Chadha – of Bend It Like Beckham fame - has done a tremendous job of portraying a very complex historical event. The division of British India and the formation of the independent dominions of India and Pakistan resulted in devastating violence and the displacement of approximately 10-12 million individuals - including Chadha’s grandmother. Viceroy’s House focuses on the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, as he oversees India’s bittersweet transition to independence. It’s not a light topic, nor is it simple – in fact it’s staggering, as is practically anything apropos of the kaleidoscopic realm of Indian religion and history.

But Chadha manages to make this film light in many fine ways. It’s a classic upstairs downstairs take (catch Hugh Bonneville aka Mr. Downton Abbey starring as Mountbatten) and there are plenty of chaste British laughs to be had – obliviously racist elders, long suffering wives (Gillian Anderson aka Dana Scully is expert here, naturally), Jane Austen references, posh people and their little dogs (and horses). There’s a romantic subplot that’s definitely okay to unashamedly indulge yourself in because of its serious and revolutionary context (and because Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi are both beautiful and brilliant.)

However, none of these things are at the expense of being truly chilling, horrific and revealing. The murky dealings of the men in power are punctuated brilliantly by touching domestic scenes of bustling villages comprised of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh families – and by shocking archival footage of the massacres that eradicated many of these communities. Without spoiling anything for those not quite au fait with their British-Indian history, Viceroy’s House is a revelation of invisible networks of power, political scapegoats, and of the cost of independence - and who ultimately pays it.

I laughed, I cried, and I found Michael Gambon as General Hastings Ismay more odious than as Albert Spica in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Lover. Overall I give Viceroy’s House a 7/10 and highly recommend seeing it.

This review by Amber of Parnell Library.


The timeliness of the release of this movie coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India in 1947. The end of the British Raj after 300 years of domination over India, to the birth of two nations, India and Pakistan. This in itself would be an epic task for any director to undertake. Director Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) hasn’t disappointed. 

Eight years in the making, before Downtown Abbey, a parallel is notable to Viceroy House (the building is now known as Rastrapati Bhavan).  Viceroy House is a period drama with divisions, upstairs home to the last Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville, Downtown Abbey) his Vicereine Edwina (Gillian Anderson, The X-Files), below-stairs the 500 domestic servants, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. It sets the stage with the Mountbatten’s arrival to give independence to India through to the aftermath of partition. 

Inside Viceroy House multiple viewpoints are explored between the key players. It is entertaining viewing. The theme traces the mechanism, political relationships against a background of civil unrest, pro-independence challenges and a romance. A romance between two of Mountbatten’s staff, a Hindu boy, Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia, a Muslim girl (Huma Quereshi). A sign…hope for the future?

Mohandas Gandhi (Neera Kabi), Jawarhal Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Denzil Smith) the actors playing these roles have a physical resemblance to the people they personified. Hugh Bonneville unfortunately does not, and at times this gets in the way of a convincing portrayal of Mountbatten. Gillian Anderson showcases Edwina Mountbatten’s style and comes across as astute, showing and understanding complexities with a genuine concern for the people. A very slight hint of the Edwina - Nehru relationship.

Controversial too, is the partition map drawn up two years earlier by Winston Churchill himself; is Mountbatten thus a pawn in an pre-prepared secret war cabinet plan? With Britain’s “divide and rule” policy drawn out on religious boundaries this would bring atrocities, death, destruction, and a mass migration of 14 million people in opposite directions, Muslims to West and East Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs to India. Death toll: one million.

A deeply personal connection for Gurinder Chadha as her own family (grandparents) were caught up in these tragic events. This movie is based on research from the British Library and guided from the book The Shadow of the Great Game, by Narendra Singh Sarile (2006). The music is composed by A.R. Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire fame. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is splendidly shot….while the use of black and white newsreels heightened the storytelling. Would I go and see it again: yes!

This review by Manjula of Avondale Library

Our reviewers were generously provided with complimentary tickets to an advanced screening.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Comics to movies: the 2017 edition

Since the rise of the comic book movie phenomenon, we've had a plethora of movies to feast our eyes on (and heavily critique) and 2017 is indeed the feast of all feasts!

First up we had Logan, and honestly, who doesn't love a bit of Wolverine! This is set in the near future of 2024, where an aging Wolverine and Professor X are protecting someone special, someone with some slightly familiar claws of her own. Ok, I have to confess, I DID cry when I saw this (and more than once), but it really is a comic book movie like no other. If you are wanting a Wolverine refresher before you see it, then you could check out earlier movies X-Men Origins: Wolverine or The Wolverine.

Or if you've seen it already and want EVEN MORE WOLVERINE GOODNESS, you could check out the incredible comic series Wolverine:Old Man Logan which features a much older time traveling Wolverine in an elseworld type adventure. Perhaps you want to know more about Laura (aka X-23), if so you may want to check out X-23:The complete collection.

Next up we had the Lego Batman movie, which all fans of the Lego movie are not going to want to miss. I am still a little heartbroken as I was sick when if first came out, and my mini-geeks went with their dad to see it without me *cries*. If anyone is looking for a date to go see it, PICK ME. They did come back and tell me it was the BEST MOVIE EVER that they had ever seen. But I have to confess they are fickle, and have since seen Moana and declared that the best movie they have seen, kids eh ;)

Right about now we have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 hitting the ground. I've heard of people who have seen it three times already, and I admire these people greatly! In this new addition, the team continue their adventures and unravel the mystery around Peter Quill's parentage. If you want a heads up on that particular mystery you could check out the graphic novel series that starts with Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 1). Or if you want a rewatch of the first film to refresh you (or tide you over until the new one hits DVD/digital release) you will find it here. I am seriously hanging out for my baby Groot fix.

Still to come this year, we have so much more awesomeness coming our way.  DC will be attempting to give Marvel a run for their money with Wonder Woman in June, and The Justice League in November. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one drooling over all those released scenes of Jason Momoa's Aquaman *drool*. I'm also pretty sure I really need to catch up on the previous releases Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of justice in order to really appreciate these new upcoming movies, better get on that!

Last up on my SQUEEEEEE list for 2017 is Thor: Ragnarok which is coming out this October. The third installment of Thor is directed by New Zealand's very own Taika Waititi, and if you haven't seen the trailer already then check it out below. There are a couple of cool little treats in there for fans of his previous movies Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What we do in the shadows . With gladiator Hulk and a super cool looking Cate Blanchett as the big bad Hela, this looks unmissable!

Friday, 24 March 2017

20 years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Last week over on Twitter, there was a glorious celebration of all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer in honour of 20 years of Buffy. Yes, you read that right, 20 years of Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang kicking butt and taking names. If you are on Twitter and want to catch up on some of the fun that was had, check out the hashtag #Buffyslays20. It was wonderful to see lots of the cast members including Sarah Michelle Geller coming on board and sharing their memories and favourite moments of the series as well.

I've managed to maintain my love of Buffy over the years by closely following the comic book series which was launched after the end of Season 7. Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy (you may have heard of him, he's done a couple of decent things since *giggles*) already had a plan for Season 8. So when the series was brought to a close by the network, he helped to produce Buffy the vampire slayer: Season 8 as a comic series instead. MORE BUFFY, YAY! I have collected every issue ever since :)

We are currently up to Season 11 in comic land, so if you would like to know just what happened next to Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike or your favourite BtVS character you can still get your fix too. Auckland Libraries has Buffy the vampire slayer Season 8 available to borrow as an e-book graphic novel series, beginning with Volume 1. The long way home. Or we have the print copies of Series 9 and onward starting with Volume 1: Freefall.

Or maybe you would like to head back to the beginning of the series for a rewatch, in which case we totally have your back there too. We have Buffy the vampire slayer. Season 1 available on DVD for your viewing pleasure (and of course Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6 and Season 7, oh so much Buffy goodness to marathon right there!)

We've also got a number of other Buffytastic goodies that you might be keen to explore. Buffy, the vampire slayer edited by Jennifer K. Stuller is a celebration in itself, with a collection of interviews and essays 'addressing how Buffy inspires the creation of, among other enduring artifacts of fandom, fan fiction, crafting, performance, cosplay, and sing-alongs' Or there is this teenage fiction series based in the world of Buffy. Or perhaps you'd be interested in Buffy: the making of a slayer: the official guide by Nancy Holder, a great behind the scenes book which offers a 'commentary on the creation of the show and explores the characters, the mythology, and the evolution of all seven seasons - and beyond'

So, regardless of whether you are Team Angel or Team Spike, there should be something in there to tickle your fancy, and remind you of just why this fantastic series has endured for the last 20 years. I'd love to hear about your favourite #Buffyslays20 moment in our comments below!

Monday, 13 February 2017

Fairy Tales and Peculiar Resolutions

Just about every year I resolve to add a new genre or sub-genre to my reading repertoire. As a library assistant I feel pangs of guilt when I'm unable to recommend the right book to someone - though I swear this rarely happens! Over the past few years I've resolved to get into crime, paranormal romance, historical fiction, etc etc. I haven't yet succeeded in fully diving into any of them.

Teen fiction has been one of my "must get into" genres for a while. Being a fairly advanced reader in childhood, by the time I got the appropriate age for teen fiction I was passing them over for more serious, literary adult fiction tomes that in hindsight I barely understood. So, there's a giant gap in my adolescence where I missed out on the Hunger Games and Twilight's of  my time.

However, each time I've picked up a work of teen fiction, it's failed to grab me. I cringe at the self conscious descriptions of outfits and the hammy dialogue. Ever an optimist, I kept telling myself that eventually I would find a work of teen fiction that I would love, and I finally did!

I decided to jump on the Ransom Riggs bandwagon and have a go at reading Tales of the Peculiar, and I'm so glad! If I'm honest, I'd decided to read it based on the beautiful cover alone (all books should look like this!) but after realizing the connection to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (also a work of Riggs) I was sold. Those more ahead of the times might have seen the film by now, however it's *still* on my to do list!

Much unlike the teen fiction I'd encountered, Tales of the Peculiar is beautifully written in a way that's complex without being inaccessible to a teen audience, and totally devoid of cringe-worthy outfit descriptions and unnatural 'cool' slang. Essentially a collection of fairy tales, this book reminds me of my favourite authors of magical realism: a little bit Angela Carter in prose, and a little bit Italo Calvino in dark humour. While they all hint at some sort of moral lesson (or lessons) they're not as straight forward as many other fairy tales, allowing the reader to bemuse for a good while after closing the book. The brief sojourns into darker territory (capitalism, cannibalism, greed, murder) are chilling without being *too* scary. Perfect for teens but also wonderful for adults, I would recommend it to just about anyone looking for a good old fashioned cautionary tale, and for anyone who might have grown up on things like Struwwelpeter!

I will definitely be seeking out more teen fiction in the same vein - and you can borrow it here if you'd like to read it too :)