Library news

Please visit our Library News page for links to recent news, library events  and  media releases.  Our customer alerts page has information on any short-notice or planned maintenance events that may affect the services that we offer to our customers.

Trash or treasure? Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t expect to find a cookery book in the Trash or treasure list, but this one is something special. Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook celebrating Country Calendar’s 45th anniversary.  Tui Flower sure did “knock the chef out” of her and the food writer in. I went to the book launch in Oxford, North Canterbury. What made the afternoon and the cookbook such a delight— is this book’s subtitle “Our people, their food”.

Country Calendar CookbookDivided into seasons, each set of recipes is grouped by the families that cook them. The families, their land and their stories are each introduced, and then each recipe is enhanced with more family stories and Allyson’s tips. Instead of primped and posed food shots, there are pictures of people, plants, land and animals, as well as beautifully photographed simply presented food, mostly cooked by the families themselves.

This book is as far removed from the normal fare of cookery book as a single-serve prepackaged chicken breast in the supermarket is from a home kill pig, spit roasted and shared with friends in the shade afforded by the canopy of an apple orchard. It is a treasure. A sample of our people — fishermen, farmers, market gardeners. their lives, and their food. A slice of New Zealand, all to savour.

A limitless supply of hope – Sarah-Kate Lynch and Dolci di love

CoverWhen a friend asked me out for the evening to a fundraiser at the Oxford Working Men’s Club, I said yes without really listening.  By happy accident, it turned out to be an evening with international bestselling author Sarah-Kate Lynch on the first stop of a tour to launch her new book Dolci di Love.  Tickets sales along with proceeds and royalties from the evening were donated to the Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake appeal.

For me, an incurable romantic is a person blessed with a limitless supply of hope. They are not brought down to earth by the ordinariness of everyday life. Their joie de vivre is not snuffed by sadness.  They are not put off by adversity, but instead see challenge. They use escapism to recuperate. Look for beauty in pain. Seek light where there is dark. They read romance when things are tough.

Sarah-Kate  is such a woman. She talks of happy accidents, including her accidental career as a writer, and the “happy” accident that occurred when her husband “the Ginger” lost his job when the film he was working on got cancelled. They used the opportunity to tour around Italy, finding themselves in Tuscany. She thought of Tuscany as overhyped, and was  delighted to find it was a “fairytale waiting to happen”, with “hillptop medieval towns like jewels atop a crown”.

Inspired, she decided to return there to write her latest novel. With  romantic notions swirling, she arrived in a Fiat Bambino, baby blue to match her cinched-in-at-the-waist suit.  She had enrolled in an Italian language school and was ready to eat every meal with her new Italian family.

To her horror, the sun was not shining. No,  it was raining, and not just light rain, but a “biblical downpour”. Her suit was soaked and she was freezing. She drove on to the house where her lovely Italian family lived. It was in a run down part of town, with graffiti on the walls, and there was no “family” –  just one 80-year-old-lady who didn’t speak any English. Sarah-Kate is a vegetarian, and had to explain this to her host in Italian. The closest she could get was  “I don’t eat dog”.

It was cold, there was only a single blanket on the bed, no heating and … well, you get the picture.  So, being the incurable romantic, she booked herself into a nice room down the road, and started writing anyway.

So, if you’re an incurable romantic, visit one of the libraries that we have already re-opened and have a chat with one of our friendly staff for some inspring reading, or simply browse our collection of Sarah-Kate Lynch novels.

We hope to have an interview with Sarah-Kate in the next few days – in the meantime read more on her facebook page.

What it means to be a Superhero

Like most boys I dreamt at one time of being faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than an ox and of course being invisible. However, the real consequences and disadvantages of being a freak never entered my mind-a bit like being a celebrity I imagine; unable to have anything like a normal life.

Sadly, this lack of foresight plagues most of the graphic novels I come across. Invariably stories get submerged into a messy stew of bulging muscles, revealing costumes with implausible and confusing plots. There’s no sense of three-dimension.  I usually dismiss them as American Trash.

A few writers mercifully progress beyond this adolescent form of writing. Colleagues have already praised the superlative Watchmen a novel that can withstand re-reading after re-reading. Alan Moore has also continued his wider analysis of the trials and tribulations of being gifted in Top 10, a police precinct staffed by superheroes than spans several universes. (Think Hill Street Blues with latex.)

Tony Hickman is another who prefers motivation and introspection to random, violent action. In Common Grounds heroes and villains meet in the neutral setting of a chain of cafes, to chew the fat and muse about life’s ironies. Perry Moore’s novel Hero depicts a gay teenager anxious to prove himself both to the world and to his own disgraced father and Kurt Busiek’s Astrocity has these paranormal figures restricted to a what amounts to an American ghetto. Busiek actually spends time contemplating what it must be like for ordinary citizens having to endure the clashes of immortal beings, whilst trying to go about their everyday lives. All the above also have a sense of humour, often missing from the average Marvel or D.C. publication

My most recent foray into this sub-genre is Soon I will be Invincible. Austin Grossman has produced a novel that is sad, hilarious and gripping. He uses a system of getting two characters to relate the plot via alternate chapters. One is a female cyborg keen to fit in with the Champions, whose ignorance of her human origins causes her pain and resentment. The other is the anti-hero Doctor Impossible who, despite wanting to yet again take over the world and reduce Mankind to servitude, comes over as the most attractive and sympathetic male character.

All the cliches are here: the implausibly large secret hideaway, the relentless cycle of capture and escape, the secret powers (plus the ludicrous explanations of how each acquired their strengths), the quips and punch-ups. However, Grossman produces something wonderful- a superhero novel that is funny, witty, melancholic and an absorbing read.

Author Michael Crichton dies in L.A

Michael Crichton, author of  numerous hit sci-fi novels including  Jurassic Park, died yesterday of cancer.  Crichton’s popularity was largely due to his skill in blending science with good old-fashioned story-telling, and his ability to tap into the hot issues of the day.

His first best-seller  The Andromeda Strain, written while Crichton was a medical student, explored the outfall of an alien micro-organism infecting the human race.  The book was made into an excellent movie in 1971, and a further twelve of his books were turned into films.  He also created the long-running medical soap, E.R, and so we must always be grateful to him for helping to introduce the world to George Clooney.

For more information on the life and works of Michael Crichton read the obituary from The Guardian.

Avast there ye swabs!

hornGrowing up in an age where there were precious few teenage novels, what could an avaricious male reader devour in those tender years? Well, I and many others, loved the Hornblower novels of C.S Forester. Our love was increased by the stirring film with Gregory Peck and James Robertson Justice.

Now following the T.V. series all the novels have been re-issued in a handsome package and after nearly thirty years I’m loving them once more. Much of the technical stuff still goes over my head and maybe they could benefit from one of those maps that tell us where a mizzen mast or for’castle is situated (but your fingers would only get sore from flipping backwards and forwards!).

The main character is a far more complex character than I remember and the French far more perfidious, but the books are as gripping as ever.  All have a helpful  number to indicate what order in which to read them and they’re far more readable than the works of such pale imitators as Patrick O’ Brian or Bernard Cornwell; the latter providing a useful introduction to each of the novels. 

Farmers’ Markets

Book coverFarmers’ Markets seem to be popping up everywhere. Farmers’ Market New Zealand Inc defines a farmers’ market as one “where local growers, farmers and artisan food producers sell their wares directly to consumers. Vendors may only sell what they grow, farm, pickle, preserve, bake, smoke or catch themselves from within a defined local area”.

If you like the sound of that and want to find a market near you, take a look at  Guide to farmers’ markets : Australia and New Zealand. Another new book on the topic is Market Day : a taste of life at New Zealand farmers’ market. This beautiful looking book has lots of recipes, a guide to regional specialties, and a directory of lodgings and restaurants committed to using and serving good regional produce. Sounds yummy.


HandboekYesterday I visited Handboek : Ans Westra Photographs at the Christchurch Art Gallery.  A survey of Westra’s documentary photos since her arrival in New Zealand in 1957, this thought provoking exhibition is an interesting comment on New Zealand’s social history.  This is a very comprehensive exhibition, and amongst the many photographs are images of the 1981 Springbok tour, Ratana church and James K Baxter’s funeral.

Westra is an interesting figure in New Zealand art, seeming to become very involved with her subjects, while retaining an outsider status.  She talks about this, and about the controversy surrounding the publication of Washday at the Pa in an interview with Damian Skinner that appeared in  Art New Zealand in 2001.