Guns n’ Roses, bossa nova style

Sweet Child o’ Mine starts with an instantly recognisable guitar solo – what would it sound like with a flute and a bossa nova beat?
You can hear the intriguing answer on Bossa ‘n Roses, a refreshing compilation of Guns’n’Roses songs.

Patience, Paradise City, Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain and other classic G n’R tracks make an appearance on this album. The treatment is perfect to freak out your friends, or to use as a ‘face the music’ challenge, or even as background music for Sunday chill-out. 

The band themselves will play a Christchurch concert on July 3, so now’s the time to reacquaint yourself with their songs. There are variety of G N’ R materials in the library catalogue, including biographies. 

If you’re partial to the idea of new twists on old tunes, try some Hayseed Dixie, a band that offer favourites from Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Aerosmith done in finger-picking bluegrass style. Well worth a listen.

Graphically good

Readers with a sniffy attitude to graphic novels should get over their prejudices and try some of the excellent books coming out this format. The ones that are enjoying more mainstream attention, like American born Chinese, the first graphic novel to win the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in a Young Adult novel and Alison Bechdel’s Fun home, Time magazine’s 2006 Book of the Year, are very good but it’s worth going back and checking out earlier greats like Persepolis and Blankets. Two recent library arrivals are good examples of different approaches to the genre – they’re both graphic novels featuring teenage girls but that’s where the similarities end.  God save the Queen has wonderful art work and a slight story featuring faeries, drugs and cool kids , while Escape from “Special” has minimalist (but still very clever) art work and a strong story featuring a kid who is anything but cool.


The big girls is a new novel from the author of In the cut. This one is about four very different women connected by an unspeakable crime. Told from four alternative points of view, it’s set in a women’s prison where a psychiatrist tries to help a woman who has killed her children while a prison guard alternates between care and punishment and an actress forges a link with the murderer. 


Buddha punk

Before he was a Zen monk Brad Warner played bass in a punk band.  So what could the two occupations possibly have in common? Quite a lot it seems. Hardcore punk, according to Warner, has rules like not drinking, not taking drugs and working hard (why did no-one tell Sid Vicious?) and so does Buddhism. They also share a tradition of asking the hard questions without providing the easy answers. Sit down and shut up is Warner’s follow-up to Hardcore Zen; part memoir, part exploration of religion and spirituality, wholly entertaining.


Faces of History

Among the many photographs in Christchurch City Libraries’ Heritage collection areShoeshine man in Cathedral Square some wonderful photographs of ordinary citizens, sometimes at work, sometimes at play. They remind us of the joy of old photographs – the things they reveal about the way people dressed and lived in the past, the questions raised about the stories suggested by the picture. A random selection have been gathered together as Faces of our Forebears.

Among my favourites – Mr Ashby of Spreydon with his backyard tobacco crop, the traffic officer mounting his bicycle and the collection of battlers making their living in Cathedral Square – the one legged shoe shine man, the newspaper vendor, bowler hatted banjo busker and the sandwich board man.

The full collection of digitised photographs can be viewed at the libraries’ website heritage pages.

First among sequels

Whoopee! A new Jasper Fforde novel is winging its way to our library. It is the next installment in the adventures of literary detective Thursday Next – with the fabulous title of First among sequels. Read all about it.

The Thursday Next series is funny, ingenious, idiosyncratic and impossible to put down. Our heroine Thursday works for Jurisfiction, a policing agency that works within fiction itself to maintain narrative stability. Book one The Eyre Affair sets the scene:

There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is disappointed by the ending of Jane Eyre. But in this world there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic – and a woman called Thursday Next.

alt=””alt=”Cover of Lost in a good book”Cover of Lost in a good bookIt was followed by Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Thursday Next in Something Rotten. The last came out in 2004, and since then Fforde has been concentrating on another series about the Nursery Crimes Division.

It is not only his books that are well worth a visit. He has one of the niftiest author web sites around – Fforde Grand Central.

Jasper himself visited Christchurch a couple of years ago. He spoke at Easts Bookshop and was as smart and funny as you could hope. He gave me a postcard of the Seven Wonders of Swindon.

I can’t imagine many things better than cosying up with a hot drink and a Jasper Fforde.

Hot off the shelf

Cover Its vintage darlingSecond-hand fashion fundamentals are covered in an knowledgeable, down-to-earth but very entertaining way in It’s vintage darling. Op-shop addicts who just can’t say no to anything that’s good whether it suits them or not can pick up tips on getting great fit and on how to step away from the very beautiful but very damaged or very tiny item of clothing that they will never mend or fit into despite all their best intentions. Vintage virgins can get advice on how to streamline the process and how to make realistic judgments about whether something is a good buy or not.  All this good advice is enlivened by essays by some big names in fashion, like Lulu Guinness and Celia Birtwell.

Charlie Connelly goes on “a journey to find the man beneath the jumpsuit” in In search of Elvis, and what a strange journey it is. In Finland he finds a professor who performs Elvis songs in Latin while wearing a kilt, in Canada the Jewish Elvis impersonator Schmelvis. Then there’s Elvis Priestley, the minister of an Elvis-themed Anglican church. Connelly also hits Tupelo and the general store where Elvis (or actually Gladys) bought his first guitar, Memphis and a stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, Las Vegas where Elvis sold out 837 consecutive shows and Hawaii where he popularised the Aloha shirt and the ukelele by wearing one and holding the other on the cover of Blue Hawaii, his biggest-selling studio album. It’s an engaging and very funny look at an enduring cultural phenomenon.

Millers Costujme JewelryMiller’s costume jewelry is a luscious look at how to compare and value those pieces by Hattie Carnegie and Trifari that you might just have hanging about the place. The opening survey of American and European costume jewellery, with its decade by decade design history, is a very nice overview of how this form of adornment has evolved over the years. The compare and contrast format is valuable if you really want to use the book as an aid to collecting, but even if you don’t the photographs are lovely to look at as they display the workmanship and craft of these beautiful pieces.

It’s not all superficiality in the new books this week though, as Vincent Bugliosi attempts to write the definitive book on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Bugliosi is probably best known for Helter skelter, his look at the Manson Family, and he also constructed a compelling circumstantial case against O. J. Simpson in Outrage. In Reclaiming history he attempts to resolve every question about what happened in Dallas on November 22 1963  beyond any reasonable doubt. At 1437 pages it’s a valiant effort at making sense of the vast literature surrounding the assassination, and at clearing away the conspiracy theories, rumours and myths that have sprung up in the last 45  years.

Swan Lake

The sublime Royal New Zealand Ballet season of Swan Lake might create all sorts of desires in the hearts of Christchurch balletomanes. The desire to listen to the beautiful music can be fulfilled by numerous recordings of Swan Lake performed by some of the world’s great orchestras. An overwhelming desire to see the ballet again can be met by seeing the Berlin Ballet or Fonteyn and Nureyev on DVD, or both so you can compare them.

The desire to know what goes on behind the scenes and the effort behind that seemingly weightless artistry (and a bit of gossip if possible) can be satisfied by some of the excellent dancer’s memoirs that have been published.  In Balanchine’s Company is a fascinating look at a dancer’s life in one of the most famous ballet companies in the world, while Mao’s last dancer is an amazing story of art and survival.  Dancer is a novel based on the life of Rudolf Nureyev that proves fiction can tell as many truths as non-fiction.

Finding out more about the man who composed the music can be accomplished by consulting some of the many Tchaikovsky biographies. And for a real treat , try Ballets Russe, a delightful documentary about the Ballets Russe of Monte Carlo, the landmark company that many consider began modern ballet. The interviews with the surviving dancers, in their 80s and 90s at the time of filming but still possessed of passion and youthful spirits, are entrancing.


Carnegie of Carnegies & Greenaway of Greenaways

Carnegie and Greenaway anniversaryIn 2007 the CILIP Carnegie Medal celebrates its 70th Anniversary and the CILIP Kate Greenaway its 50th.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded by children’s librarians for an outstanding book for children and young people and the Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded by children’s librarians for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people.

To celebrate this double anniversary, a Top Ten online poll competition was held to name the Carnegie and Greenaway Award winners of all time.

Philip Pullman carried off the Carnegie of Carnegies for Northern Lights (later published as The Golden Compass, and now made into a movie to be released later this year) – Book 1 in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It took 40% of the votes cast in the U.K. and 36% of the votes worldwide. The only past winner to come close to Pullman was Philippa Pearce for Tom’s Midnight Garden.

Shirley Hughes won the Greenaway of Greenaways for Dogger. It polled 26% of the votes, with Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Each Peach Pear Plum coming close on 25%.

 See also our listing of Children’s Literary prizes.

Mojo Awards

Listening to musicOne of the coolest music magazines around is Mojo and they have just had their awards ceremony in London. The awards are voted for by Mojo readers and the winners include:

  • Ozzy Osbourne who won the icon gong. The Black Sabbath front man and solo artist was acclaimed by Mojo chief editor Phil Alexander
  • Amy Winehouse won song of the year for Rehab (off the wonderful Back to Black album). There have already been cover versions of this instant classic, including versions by Paolo Nutini and Girls Aloud.
  • The lifetime achievement gong was won by The Stooges
  • The Good, The Bad and The Queen was named the best album (The Good, The Bad and The Queen is a sort of supergroup collaboration between Simon Tong, formerly of The Verve, Paul Simonon, the ex-Clash bassist, Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, and former-Blur and Gorillaz front man Damon Albarn)
  • Arcade Fire was voted best live act (this epic Canadian band’s latest release The Neon Bible has garnered them masses of well deserved critical acclaim)
  • Veteran rocker and golf player Alice Cooper received a hero award
  • American rock band The Doors were added to the Mojo Hall Of Fame
  • Joy Division received an award for their outstanding contribution to music. Expect more focus on Joy Division this year as the movie Control, based on the life of lead singer Ian Curtis, is released
  • Björk got the inspiration award. Her latest album Volta features input from acclaimed producer Timbaland and Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons fame).
  • The Mojo Maverick award went to Echo and the Bunnymen (their song The Killing Moon remains one of the great tracks of the 1980s)

Find out more at:

If you want to read Mojo, we have copies of it as well as other popular music magazines like the NME, Q and NZ ones Real Groove and Rip it Up. We also link to music mags online.