Looking forward to … Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

I believe I may have mentioned before just how lucky I am to have a job that actually requires me to spend hours reading books.  Well, sometimes it gets even better than that.  Sometimes I get paid to go listen to authors talk about their books as well.  And this means I am justified in saying things like, “No I can’t possibly do the dishes/weed the garden/shampoo the cat.  I simply must finish reading these 25 books before May 12th.”  For example.

However, it’s not all tea and bikkies.  Often there are authors I’ve not heard of, or subjects that at first glance seem less than enticing (to me, anyway, as queen of the zombie book); (sorry, lovely writers, it’s really nothing personal!).  And so it has been with not a little trepidation that I have started my programme of reading for this year’s Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

I have to say, though, that so far it’s going great.  I have very much enjoyed Jill Dawson’s book on Rupert Brooke (which I cheated a little with and listened to on our new mp3 format discs), and absolutely loved Rachael King’s Magpie Hall.  I devoured Charlie Higson’s The Enemy (inside joke – read the book), and am following this up with one of his Young James Bond series.  On my desk await David Levithan, Sarah Thornton, and Lionel Shriver – it’s a little crowded, but they appear to all be very happy together so far …

As for my Reserves list – well, I’ll keep you updated … 

And don’t even think about mentioning the housework!

Bigwigs slog it out for Carnegie Medal

I’ve always thought that I’d like to be a judge for one of the big children’s literature awards.  Spending months reading every single book on the long-list and whittling it down to a shortlist of 4-6 books sounds like my idea of heaven.  However,  I’m glad I’m not one of the judges for this year’s Carnegie Medal, the award given annually by librarians to the writer of an outstanding book for children.  The shortlist this year includes some of the biggest names in children’s and young adult’s literature:

Patrick Ness is definitely at the top of my list, but I’m also a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick’s writing and Revolver was a tense and enthralling read.  Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman are also both great writers but both of their nominated books failed to grab me.  It’s interesting to note that my favourites tend to be male writers and I haven’t read any of the female writers on the list (I must remedy this immediately!). 

Have you read any of the shortlisted titles or do you have a favourite title that you would like to win?

The Illustrated London News Archive Library: 1842-2003 – what a gem

Cover The Illustrated London News Archive Library is a fabulous addition to our collection of historical newspapers.

In the days before electronic media and popular travel, The Illustrated London News offered a view of the world that most of its readers could only otherwise imagine. With its début in 1842, The Illustrated London News  became the world’s first fully illustrated weekly newspaper, marking a revolution in journalism.

The publication presented a vivid picture of world events – including news of war, disaster, the arts and science – with coverage ranging from the Great Fire of Hamburg to Queen Victoria’s fancy dress ball at Buckingham Palace – both which feature in the first issue.

In this electronic resource library users have online access to the entire run of the ILN from its first publication on 14 May 1842 to its last in 2003. Each page has been digitally reproduced in full colour.  Facsimiles of these articles and illustrations can be viewed, printed and saved either individually or in the context of the page they appear in.

Illustrated London NewsThis resource can support scholarly and enthusiast research in social history, fashion, theatre, media, literature, advertising, graphic design and politics, as well as those interested in genealogy.

Have an explore and recommend at will.

You can access the Illustrated London News Archive Library and many other useful electronic resources from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our community libraries.

Two Become One

Will Grayson coverCompletely without meaning to, I have recently found myself reading a whole string of books that have been co-authored.  It’s not something that appeals in principle, partly because I personally have trouble concentrating on what I’m writing, let alone trying to work alongside someone else, and I cannot fathom how people can do it without wanting to take a carving knife to either themselves or the other person.

Up until recently it has been seen as risky to broadcast the fact that a book has two authors, so people like David Eddings have actually covered up the fact that his wife Leigh did as much of the work as he did on his Belgariad (and other) series.  And it has only been in reprints of the fabulous (read them!) Agent Pendergast series that Preston Child has been identified as Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Some authors (Patterson Patterson Patterson) seem now to be ONLY writing in tandem, yet producing dozens of titles, leaving fans (and others) casting aspersions on how much ‘co-‘ is in the co-writing.

Because I’m off to interview and hear David Levithan in a few weeks, at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, I have been musing on this style of writing.  Levithan seems to really enjoy the double-up style, and has co-written several books in this manner.  Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was written with Rachael Cohn, and his new book Will Grayson Will Grayson, due out next week, was co-authored with John Green.  In interviews he talks about how great it is to work with someone else, and also discusses the many different ways you can write a book together with someone else.  There’s the sit down together approach, the write half a book and swap over approach, and the send a chapter back and forth approach (and probably more!).

I’m almost beginning to see the attraction, and I do have to admit that it produces a great style of book, with truly great character development, and that real sense that the story is going places that are sometimes just as much of a surprise to the writers as the characters, which is kind of fun.  And after all, that’s what real life is like most of the time, isn’t it!

Make mine extra fluffy

Cover image for "Book Smart"You would probably have to tie me to a tree at the edge of a steep cliff and tickle my feet with a feather to get me to admit that I read literary “fluff”. Why is this so hard for me to disclose? I think I am afraid of being judged – “proper” librarians only read high brow literature, right?

Well, that’s a myth, and today I bravely stand up in this circle of book addicts to say:

Hello, my name is Oneder and I may, on occasion, indulge in trashy reads.

I need to make it clear, however, that I am not an addict. Most of my book choices would  meet the approval of the Literary Snob Society. But every now and again, I find myself craving a predictable plot with simple characters, your usual kind of humour and a dash of mushy romance. In other words, when things get a bit too dark and heavy in the world of contemporary fiction, I need my fix of light and fluffy.

At the moment I am reading Katie MacAlister. Her writing is very formulaic, full of clichés, and some of the love scenes  are so cheesy they are almost vomit-inducing; I know the book is silly but I love it anyway. It’s fun and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

This doesn’t mean I want to be seen with it in public, though. I might get teased. So I go to great lengths to hide my guilty pleasure. I bury my trashy reads under a stack of prize-winning literature on my bedside table. I use the self-check machine so my library colleagues won’t know what I’m reading, looking around me to make sure nobody is watching before hastily stuffing it into my handbag. And if I can’t fit it into my handbag, I carry it in a way so people can’t see the cover or easily read the blurb on the back (why is it that these books always have covers that scream trash, so they can’t be mistaken for anything else?!)

Maybe I shouldn’t be so embarrassed about some of my reading choices. Maybe people won’t point and laugh at me like I fear they might if I opened one of my trashy reads on the bus or in the staff room; they may not even notice, or care. I’m not ready to take that risk yet, though…


Confession time:  Are there books you don’t want people to know you read? What are they?

Coffee with Lee Child

Lee's first book The Killing FloorThis is a guest post from a fortunate fan who met with writer Lee Child. Thanks for sharing your impressions.

I had the good fortune to be offered the opportunity to meet Lee Child during his recent flying visit to Christchurch. As a huge fan of his works there was no way I was going to miss that! Fortunately I was already on leave that day so I fronted up at our agreed meeting place (prior to Lee starting his hectic book signing engagements) and over coffee I had the opportunity to quiz him on anything I liked.

Aware that most people probably quiz him endlessly about Jack Reacher, I left the likeable rogue to hover around the edges of our discussions. Being interested in writing, I quizzed Lee on how he structures his books (he doesn’t, except for a start and a finish), we discussed plans for a future book (mine), and talked about almost everything but his books. When quizzed on what authors Lee likes he said he enjoys reading books to inform himself, I never did get an actual author name out of him, but we did discuss Stieg Larsson (so he’d obviously read the Millenium trilogy).

Lee feels that readers can’t really expect 50 (or however many) books about the same character, so when Jack Reacher did eventually become the topic of discussion (his agent wanted to know if I’d thought of any questions that no-one else has ever asked), amongst other things we discussed potential endings for Jack Reacher; I’ll be extremely happy if one of my suggestions is how he concludes the series.

Lee struck me as a down-to-earth kind of guy who showed a genuine interest in people. Knowing that he had an exceptionally busy schedule in Christchurch I really appreciated him making the time to have a drink and chat with me. Thanks to Random House, Borders, and of course Lee Child for giving me this opportunity!

“And in the Morning …” – film featuring an interview with war veteran Lachie Griffin

The Central Library in Christchurch is pleased to be showing “And in the Morning…” by Chalice Productions, produced and directed by Jennifer Barrer.

This moving film contains an interview with local war veteran Lachie Griffin, Jennifer Barrer’s own personal account of her father Bryan Amherst Barrer, and archival footage of World War II servicemen. The film will be playing throughout the day at the West End of the 2nd floor from Friday April 23 to Monday April 26.

Jennifer will also be speaking at the library about the film on Saturday April 24 at 11 a.m. Please join us to experience a powerful local film on this Anzac holiday.

Jennifer Barrer interviews well known war veteran Lachie Griffin of the Canterbury 19th Battalion Armoured Regiment, then gives her own personal account of her father Bryan Amherst Barrer of the 2nd Expeditionary Forces of the 19th Infantry Battalion. She also reads her poem “War Baby” which has been translated into German. She dedicates the film to the soldiers and their families and peace.
There is archival footage of (1) “Welcome Home” , the return of the soldiers from World War II at Lyttelton and Christchurch, and (2) Soldiers departing from Christchurch.
We then experience an Anzac Day Service at the 19th Infantry Battalion and Armoured Regiment Memorial, Victoria Park, Christchurch and World War II veterans who fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy; with special reference to the Battle of Cassino.”

Dead Dames – Dodie Smith 1896-1990

Dodie Smith is best known for her children’s novels The hundred and one Dalmatians and The starlight barking starring the revolting Cruella de Ville and oodles of  plucky monochromatic pups. An extremely successful dramatist in her day (the 30s and 40s), Dodie also published three volumes of autobiography: Look back with love, Look back with mixed feelings and Look back with astonishment.

But for me Dodie’s magic is all about her novel I capture the castle. Published in 1948, it tells the story of poverty-stricken sisters, Cassandra and Rose Mortmain, living with their eccentric family in an idyllic but crumbling  English castle. Their father is a revered and critically acclaimed novelist who now, unable to put pen to paper, whiles away time reading detective pulp. Their bohemian step-mother Topaz, a former artist’s model, spends her days making ends meet and communing with nature in the nudey.

Luckily, just when things are getting really dire, two attractive and wealthy American brothers Simon and Neil Cotton move into the area. They become  the Mortmain’s new neighbours and, horror, landlords. They also become targets for a scheming Rose who declares she’d marry Satan to escape her life of penury. Predictable but heart-warming romantic shenanigans ensue.

The story is told through seventeen year old Cassandra’s eyes, and her often self-consciously literary but delightful journal. This is the perfect coming-of-age novel and one I desperately wish I’d read at fifteen, instead of at the (advanced in years though not romantic maturity) age of thirty. I urge you all, in a bossy middle-aged librarian kind of way, to read the book and also highly recommend the movie version featuring Bill Nighy, Romola Garai, Rose Byrne and the delicious Henry Cavill.

St Jordi’s Day – 23 April

Friday 23rd April is St George’s Day and the Central Library is embracing the Catalan tradition of celebrating the day with books and roses and a special display in the foyer. Our desks will be decked with the last of the season’s roses and we encourage you (as if you need encouraging!) to visit, borrow and read.

In Catalonia (Spain), the day is known as La Diada de Sant Jordi and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one. This tradition inspired UNESCO to declare this the International Day of the Book, since April 23, 1616 was also the date of death of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).

In Catalan cities like Barcelona books are sold in the streets on long stalls prepared specially for the grand occasion. Many people take advantage of this day, even though they may not normally be regular readers, to buy and enjoy a book. It is one way of encouraging people to read.

Saint George puts himself about a bit as patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Russia.  He is also the patron saint of boy scouts, cavalry, chivalry, farmers and soldiers. Personally I like the books and roses.

So why not buy a book and a rose for someone this Friday (Or bring your favourite librarians a rose!)

Anzac Day for children

Anzac Day is celebrated on 25 April every year in New Zealand and Australia to remember all the members of the armed forces who served in the two World Wars and other major conflicts, such as the Vietnam and Korean Wars.  Children can learn some interesting facts about Anzac Day and some of the wars that our troops fought in by:

There are also a number of dawn parades and memorials around Christchurch and Canterbury that you could go along to to remember those that died fighting for their country.