Jamie and Claire again!

Diana Gabaldon created quite a stir in the 1990s with the publication of the first volumes of the Outlander series, which blended time travel, historical fiction and romance – so much so that what had been originally planned to be a trilogy has grown to a 7-volume series, with at least one more book to come.

The first 3 books (Outlander/Cross Stitch, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager), which were mostly set in Scotland in the period prior to and after the Battle of Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s dreams of capturing the British throne were thwarted, were undeniably the most popular.

Cover of An echo in the bone.
An Echo in the Bone

However, while some readers fell by the wayside with the shift of scene from Scotland to America, many New Zealanders remain faithful to the books’ hero and heroine, Jamie and Claire Fraser, if the number of holds on the latest book in the series, An Echo in the Bone, is anything to go by (I started out at number 147 and am now number 98). In fact the book is currently number 2 in the NZ Bestseller lists, just behind Dan Brown’s latest offering.

If you are one of the people who has already managed to get their hands on the book, I’d love to hear what you think about it – is it worth me waiting for my hold?

If you are still waiting, or have already read all of the books by Diana Gabaldon and want more reading material along similar lines, you might want to try the suggestions on our If you like Diana Gabaldon page or on the Author Read-alikes on Novelist Plus.

And if you are really keen, why not go see Diana Gabaldon herself at her talk here in Christchurch on 4th November?

Villafication – Why you should own a villa

Recently I moved into a classic villa with a symmetrical front like a child’s drawing – door in the middle and windows either side. The windows are original and as expected, the sash cords are non existent – I need to use wood offcuts as props in order to keep them open. The central hall is a delight. I can spread my arms out wide and touch each side with my fingertips – a luxury of space. It lends a formal air to what is essentially a working class cottage, and entices you on to the rest of the house. Each room is probably quite small, but the lofty ceiling height creates a sense of scale. When people visit, the first thing they do is look up – I can understand now why ceiling roses and cornices were used to add another layer of decoration. The kitchen and bathroom are quite tragic, but the wonderful thing about villas are their adaptability – they are quite simple boxes that can accommodate endless makeovers.

Christchurch City Libraries have a new book in their collection called Villa by Patrick Reynolds (photography) and Jeremy Hansen/Jeremy Salmond (text). It is a coffee table book that could almost serve as a table in its own right. Often I’ll skim over the introduction in these type of photo heavy books in order to get to the pretty pictures quicker, but this one is definately worth reading. It explains simply why people have a fascination with and fondness for these old houses. It has home truths (yes, they’re old and cold and don’t usually get a lot of sun), but also exhalts in their simple beauty and the reasons why they continue to be loved (they are usually close to the city centre, are of enduring construction that can be brought back from the brink of death, remind us of simpler times). Most of all, the book reinforced my instinct upon first viewing my property – it looked and felt like a home not a house, and what could be better than that to retreat to at the end of a working day?

Modern masterpiece turns 25

It’s a day to remember one of the most successful writers that Christchurch has ever produced – Keri Hulme. Her novel The Bone People was first published 25 years ago today in 1984, winning the New Zealand Book Award for fiction in that year and The Booker Prize in 1985.

Not bad for a former tobacco picker, who quite literally dreamed her material up. I’d encourage you to revisit this book, or read it if you haven’t. It’s a challenging book in many respects, but also a piece of writing that is quite stunning in its scope. And if reading it is challenging, imagine what it was like to wrestle with in your head while you were writing it.

So happy birthday to The Bone People, and thanks Keri Hulme – hope the whitebait season’s been kind to you.

Big Bargains at Book Sale

It starts today! The famous big book sale takes place at the Pioneer Leisure Centre: easy access, plenty of parking and it’s on the Orbiter Bus route

  • Friday 30th October 2009, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday 31st October 2009, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Book sales can unearth some real gems, my favourite find was Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of feminine evil in fin-de-siecle culture by Bram Djikstra. Score!

What goodies have you found at the library book sale??

Elephants cannot dance

Fendalton LibraryPeople often don’t realise the value of “Into reading’ as a collection in the library. This section offers great books for the beginner reader. The books normally have large, clear text and lots of illustrations. They offer a first reading experience for children and encourage them to play with language.

Titles in this collection are used by beginner readers, younger reluctant readers and parents and children sharing books together.

Two examples of wonderful titles to be found in the Into reading collection are:

Elephants cannot dance by Mo Willems. Elephant is trying to learn to dance. Frustrated by his lack of success he throws a major tantrum. This is then adopted by squirrels as “the elephant dance”. This title is one that appeals to adults as well as children which makes for a good reading experience for both child and parent. It has very simple illustrations and text.

Hooray for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold. Buzz’s football team is short of players and his friend Fly Guy steps in to help. The story of how a fly can play football is humorous and imaginative. This title also appeals to different ages.

Image of the week

Women rowing on the Avon River, Christchurch. 191?

Women rowing on the Avon River, Christchurch

Like what you see? Complete this form to order an image. If you have any further information on any of the images, or if you would like to donate images to our collection please contact us. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.

You too can have hips narrower than your head!

Recently, a Ralph Lauren advertisement campaign gained online infamy because the model’s figure had been so warped in post production editing, she had become horribly unhuman. The model has since been sacked from the fashion label for not being able to fit the clothing, and the blogger who first criticised the photo has had the full force of Ralph Lauren’s legal team down on him for copyright infringement. Ouch!

Adobe Photoshop is the professional program used for this sort of editing, but there are other programs which are great for editing photos. In this case, the editor went a little (maybe a lot) too far.

We have some great books on Photoshop in the library which should teach you how to avoid this kind of blunder. On the other hand, you could turn yourself into Barbie, if you so wish. We also have Paint.net, a free imaging program, installed on all our library computers.

Have you seen any good (or bad!) edited photos lately? Let us know in the comments …

A worm in your ear …

I was quite excited to discover that the library now includes Earworms in its collection. No, I’m not referring to those annoying snatches of songs that get stuck in your head – Christchurch City Libraries’ are not your common garden-variety earworms, but rather a series of “specially composed melodies with rhythmic repetitions” of phrases in foreign languages and English that “take the hard work out of learning.”

Earworms Rapid Arabic
Earworms Rapid Arabic

I have always been a bit of a sucker for “revolutionary accelerated learning techniques” – at one stage, a few years ago, I even tried playing tapes (yes, that’s how long ago it was) while I slept, in the hope that osmosis would do its thing. (It didn’t, though the fact that I couldn’t fall asleep because I was too busy listening probably had something to do with it…) So, as soon as I saw the title in the RSS feed of just ordered titles, I placed a hold on a brand-new copy of Earworms Rapid Arabic Volume 1.

My personal “musical brain trainer” came with a booklet listing the 200+ words and phrases that are on the CD, together with their phonetic transcription, as well as a very persuasive explanation of the science behind Earworms. Does it work? Well, my definitive answer is maybe! Remembering the words hasn’t been particularly hard, but I have to admit that I did cheat, because I chose a language that I was already familiar with. On the other hand, while the sing-song conversations were not too painful to listen to, I wasn’t drawn to go back to them again and again, as the booklet suggested would be the case. Still, I think I’ll give it another shot, perhaps with a language I don’t know at all. Chinese, here I come!

Have you tried any of the Earworm series? Did they work for you? Do you agree with Wikipedia that having a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder makes you more susceptible to earworms? And, most importantly, if earworms have been driving you crazy, is it true, as I seem to remember being told at some stage, that the solution is to listen to Faith by George Michael?

Scare me senseless with your freaky outfit – Halloween cometh

We’ve blogged about spooky stuff before Something Wicked and Halloween – What’s the scariest book ever?

It’s  Halloween this Saturday 31 October, and now’s the time to think about your costume. We can help…

Apparently the single glove and the glittery jacket of Michael Jackson will be decorating many a trick-or-treater in the United States this year.  And Star Wars is evergreen – your dog can be Yoda and you can turn your child into a  Baby Wookie.

What would your dream Halloween costume be? I was thinking a Marie Antoinette vampire and sure enough it’s been done!

A church + great NZ musicians = one amazing night

MusicnotesFour very talented New Zealand musicians performing acoustic sets in St Michael’s Church – what more could you ask for?  I’m still buzzing from the Classic Hits Acoustic Church Tour that was held in the St Michael’s Church last night.  It’s not often that you get to see four great artists in the same performance, but this tour was a chance to see Lydia Cole, Nathan King, Greg Johnson and Boh Runga perform an acoustic set and, in the case of Greg and Boh, to perform together.  Lydia Cole, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter that I hope to hear more of, started the evening with her songs of longing.  Next Nathan King upped the tempo with some great acoustic versions of songs from his latest solo album The Crowd.  After a short break Greg Johnson and Boh Runga teamed up to give us some of their best songs.    The St Michael’s Church is a fantastic venue for these acoustic performances because the acoustics are amazing and you can hear every word that they sing.  Liam Finn played here a couple of years ago and that had to be the best concert I’ve ever been to.  I’m sure there will be more of these types of performance in this venue and I would totally recommend you go to the next one.

If you like these musicians or have yet to discover them we have plenty of their music in the library:

– Lydia Cole has yet to release an album but you can get a feel for her music on the Birds of Paradise CD.  This CD includes many female NZ artists and song great songs.

– Nathan King’s first solo album The Crowd and albums from his former band, Zed.

– Boh Runga’s first solo album Right Here and albums from her former band, Stellar

– Greg Johnson’s latest Greatest Hits has just been released and we also have his previous albums.