What’s for pudding, Mum?

Luscious Lemon DessertsI love dessert! Sweet, delicious dessert! Chocolate raspberry torte… New York cheesecake… spiced pumpkin crème brûlée… even good old rice pudding — I love them all!

Dessert is my favourite thing about going out for dinner, but somehow the fates (usually in the form of fractious children) always seem to conspire against me. On the rare occasions that we do go out, more often than not, we end up having to go home without dessert.

The absolute worst meal out was the time Mr K and I were invited out by The Boss. It was the first time we’d been out sans kids since Miss Missy arrived in our lives (would it sadden you to know that she was 2?). Herculean efforts had gone into arranging a babysitter and negotiating sober transportation. You’d think since we had no kids I’d have a good chance of getting dessert, wouldn’t you? Well, think again!

I’m vegetarian, so my menu options tend to be a little limited. On this occasion, I was pleased to see that I could order a pizza…that is, until I realised that at this restaurant “pizza” actually meant “oversized-cracker-with-a-smear-of-sauce-and-a-meagre-sprinkling-of-cheese.” It wasn’t exactly unpalatable, but it certainly wasn’t satisfying! Towards the end of our meal Mrs Boss suggested we order coffee, which sounded fine until she said with finality “Since we’re having coffee, we won’t want dessert.”

Book cover of Modern Art DessertsSay what!? Since when does “let’s order coffee” mean the same thing as “let’s not order dessert” ?? Like I said: Worst. Meal. Ever. (Except the time I had a caterpillar in my dinner, and then got charged for it…but that’s another story!)

I was thinking the other day that fancy dinners without dessert are rather like books with bad endings. Even if the dinner was delicious (or the book was great) if there’s no dessert at the end of it, you just don’t feel satisfied.

I have just finished reading three books in a row with endings that I found completely unsatisfying. One was too ambiguous, one made a horrid character even worse, and one was just so sad. This got me thinking about conclusions and how important it is for authors to get them right.

Slow Waltz in Cedar BendFor me, the literary equivalent of “cracker-pizza-and-no-dessert” is Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend by Robert James Waller. It’s been years since I read it, but I can still remember how thoroughly disappointed in the ending I was! We’re talking intense-desire-to-hurl-the-book-across-the-room disappointment. I can’t really remember much about the story, except that the main character was chasing after the beautiful and exotic Jellie (I couldn’t help thinking of a packet of Gregg’s Jelly crystals) who had mysteriously disappeared. Except that she hadn’t mysteriously disappeared! When he finally finds her, it turns out she’d just gone to India to visit family, just like she did every year! What the heck?! If you’re going to write a mystery, you’d think you’d include an actual mystery in it, right? All that suspense, all that build up, and then… no dessert!

The Stag and Hen WeekendI had high expectations of Mike Gayle‘s The Stag and Hen Weekend. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his books before, so I was pretty excited when I found it on the shelf. I really liked the way he told two sides of the same story. Helen’s friends were rather like a string of paper dolls which I could barely tell apart, but I didn’t let that bother me because Helen and Phil were such great characters. Sometimes it’s good to read a book about decent, ordinary people, with regular, everyday sorts of problems. Seriously, I could not put it down. I had to know how everything was going to work out in the end. And then… he didn’t finish the darn story! I felt sooo ripped off!! This book was a great meal, where the waiter brought me a dessert menu — and then whipped it right out of my hands. If you like a good love story where everything works out at the end, and the couple who should be together end up together, then don’t read this book. It’s not that the wrong people end up together, it’s that you don’t know who ends up together! Mike Gayle himself says he hates ambiguous endings

What’s the point of reading all the way through a novel just to be told the ending “might be this or it might be that?”

I couldn’t agree more!!

So tell me, what’s on the top of your “books with bad endings” list? Do you agree that the ending makes or breaks a book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Trailblazers – New Zealand Women and the Vote

Copy of NZ Women Suffragettes Petition to Parliament
Copy of NZ Women Suffragettes Petition to Parliament

New Zealand suffrage campaigners led by Kate Sheppard have been described as “Trailblazers”  in their fight for New Zealand women to achieve the right to vote.

After a 7-year-long campaign this right was finally achieved when, on the 19th September 1893, a new Electoral Act was enacted allowing New Zealand women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This was no mean feat as in most other democratic countries women did not gain this right until after the end of the First World War.

Let us celebrate this extraordinary achievement by exercising our right to vote in the forthcoming election. There is no better way of honouring the sacrifices and struggles of our sisters all those years ago than by ensuring that we are all enrolled to vote and exercise that right in this year’s election This, my sisters, is my challenge to you.

Check out the display at Shirley Library which celebrates the way in which women’s suffrage was achieved, as well as capturing some of the hostility and opposition that the movement encountered.

Cover of Leading the Way Cover of Women's Suffrage in New Zealand  Cover of The Suffragists  Cover of The Ascent of Woman  Cover of Unsung Heroines

Poetry competition winners

Poetry-DayThe judges have conferred, and we have the winners for our National Poetry Day competition 2014. Thanks to you all for a bumper crop of fantastic entries. Poetry is clearly in rude health in Christchurch!

First place goes to Stephen Davies for Tongue tied. Congratulations to Stephe, his prize is book vouchers to the value of $100.

The runner up is Gem and Mineral Society Hall, Waltham Road by Catherine Fitchett. Catherine’s prize is a $50 book voucher.

Here are the two winning entries:

Tongue tied (by Stephen Davies)

There she was again!
Can’t stand it …
Heart palpitating – beating fast.
I’m breaking up Scottie,
Can’t hold it together,
Can’t last.
Palms sweating,
Perspiration on my forehead,
Breathing shallow and irregular.
Quick!!
Re-run the memory video.

Snatches of conversation – heard words.
SHE SPOKE – hung onto every syllable.
The way blossoms cling to trees.
Caught the scent of her perfume,
Loved the way she walked and talked,
And how her hand (mine) stroked her hair.

Couldn’t meet her eyes,
Didn’t know she knew I was there.
She’s two metres away.
Quick!
DO SOMETHING!!

Here it comes.
A damn of words,
Stirred, shaken and squashed down,
Bottled up torture
Waiting to erupt.

Engage your mouth before your brain
Before it’s too late.
Let it explode
With the suddenness and force
Of the ripcord of a parachute,
Struggling,

Thrusting,
Bustling,
Bursting through
Dry, cracked, parched lips and
Sandpaper tongue,
Crying out …

Too late!
She’s gone.

 

Gem and Mineral Society Hall, Waltham Road (by Catherine Fitchett)

Each time I pass it grows less,
two patient workmen unbuilding
brick by brick. Pallets at hand
to accept the neat stacks, two by two
this way then that. Eyes closed,
I rewind each image, build it once again.
The walls rise row by row. The roof replaced,
order restored to rubble.
People walk backwards, out and in,
out and in. Dresses grow long
and sweep the ground, passing cars
give way to horse and cart.
The hall grows new,
the lodge regains possession
There’s greatgrandfather Samuel
zipping backwards
in all his Masonic splendour.

I call to him,
but he doesn’t stop,
the rewinding gains pace,
all the costumed figures
stuttering backwards
up the gangplanks
the sails unlowered,
the ships reversing
through the harbour entrance
the swamp undrained
the great moas flashing past
and the hills shooting up
to three times their present height,
the lava roiling up the slopes into the crater
and finally a great stillness
as the land sinks beneath the sea.

Wind it forward again, then
leave them all in the past,
let the building rise and, shaken, fall
let the workmen have it
to finish their patient unbuilding.

Consider having your next holiday in New Zealand

Cover of Explore New ZealandThere is a saying in New Zealand ‘don’t leave town until you see your country.’ There is a lot of wisdom in this saying; may I suggest some reasons why?

  • no passport or visa requirements
  • no exchange rate issues
  • shorter distances to travel
  • no foreign hospitals
  • you may be closer to family and friends in case of an emergency or ill health
  • no left hand drive vehicles
  • no language barriers
  • you may not require travel insurance

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world from our mountains, national parks, lakes, rivers (fabulous trout and salmon fishing) natural geysers and hot pools, not to mention our award winning wineries. We have world class restaurants and cafes and of course the most hospitable people.

If you are thinking of travelling overseas have a re-think. The grass is not always greener on the other side and it is surely far more expensive over there!!!!

Wild Dunedin         Peninsula        Southern GrandeurSkippers & the Shotover River, Queenstown    Historic Places of New Zealand   Landmarks of the Bay of Islands

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Creating Worlds – Young Adult Readings at WORD Christchurch

Cover of Daughter of Smoke and BoneI kicked off a very full weekend at the WORD festival with some good old oral storytelling. Listening to stories read aloud is one of my earliest memories and my memories sitting in early intermediate school captivated by The Giver and terrified by Goosebumps are much easier to recall than what we learned in class afterwards…

Creating Young Adult Worlds was a great session, with five authors writing for young adults reading aloud from their work. Karen Healey, Laini Taylor, Meg Wolitzer, Elizabeth Knox and Tania Roxborogh gave us all a taste.

Laini Taylor read “the most embarrassing” chapter from the first book in her incredible fantasy trilogy Daughter of Smoke and Bone, in which art student Karou gets a satisfying revenge on her ex-boyfriend. The passage went from hilarious to heartbreaking in the space of a sentence, and included some pretty excellent life advice from a monster:

But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.

Karen Healey read from a short story ‘Careful Magic’ which will appear in an up-and-coming anthology Kaleidoscope. Within minutes she crafted an intriguing magical world and a few really fascinating characters that I can’t wait to read more about. Kaleidoscope is a collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories featuring diverse characters, from disabled superheros, time-traveling Chinese-American figure skaters, to transgendered animal shifters. It’s is not in our library yet, so while you’re waiting why not catch up with Karen Healey’s other novels and short stories?

Elizabeth Knox read a passage from her historical-fantasy novel Mortal Fire, based in Southland, an imaginary country similar to New Zealand, which will be known to readers of her Dreamhunter series. Mortal Fire won the New Zealand Post Book Awards this year for best Young Adult Fiction. The story features some really interesting characters, though my favourite is Canny, daughter of a war heroine, Pacifica maths whiz and stubborn as anything.

“People get over things, cultures don’t.”

Cover of Mortal Fire Cover of Third Degree Cover of Belzhar

Tania Roxborogh read from the 2005 novel The Third Degree. The story is based on the author’s real experience of being badly burned when she was young and strongly features her relationship with her mother. Though the story begins when main character Ruth is starting university, many of the themes will be familiar to anyone who had to spend time in hospital as a child. There were some excellently gruesome medical scenes!

If I had to choose out of the five, I’d say that I am most excited to read Meg Wolitzer‘s new book Belzhar. I couldn’t describe it better than Karen Healey did in her tweet:

Intrigued? We have Belzhar on order so get your name on the waiting list!

Find these authors on our catalogue:

WORD Christchurch