Cold Cures – relax and listen to an eAudiobook

Right at the end of the School Holidays I succumbed to ‘The bug’.

Temperature, shivers, face-ache, sneezing, splutterings, sore throat, several hot-water bottles, over the counter meds and copious amounts of tea/coffee/honey, lemon and ginger combos later, I am now dealing with a more head cold-like scenario.  What really upset me is my diligence in having the Flu Jab appears to have been for nowt!!  Swiftly moving on …

Streaming eyes and almost constant nose-blowing meant that the only source of entertainment I could tolerate was talking-books … Plug in and LISTEN.  So I did.

First offering from OverDrive audiobooks was Round the Horne Movie Spoofs.  In my weakened state I managed several wry smiles – OK 1960s British ‘camp’ humour admittedly, but quite clever for all that although one offering was sufficient as smiling wasn’t helping the face & teeth-ache symptoms!

Second offering was The Captive Queen the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine – wife of two kings – King Louis VII of France and King Henry II of England, and mother of such notables as Richard the Lionheart and King John (of ‘Magna Carta’ fame).  I just thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t live in huge, draughty castles and gratefully placed my hot water bottles in my ‘nest of rest’ set-up for the requisite warmth and comfort.

Third offering I had picked up from the library prior to being ‘felled’ – I persevered, but really CDs don’t work in a sick-room environment.  The constant getting up to change the discs is tiring.  It takes forever to rearrange yourself back to that exact comfortable position you had previously discovered.  But then, adding insult to injury, just as you start to feel relaxed and drowsy, the sonorous tones of the narrator announce that ‘this ends Disc xx’.  Do this manoeuvre fifteen times and you are ready to hurl said CD Player through the bedroom window.  Common sense prevailed as this would have left me both freezing cold and wet as rain lashed down the east coast of the South Island.  Sufficed to say I can remember little of the plot or characters.

CoverFinal offering is a BBC Radio dramatization of an Ellis Peters ‘Cadfael’ mystery and will keep me going until I feel ready to open the physical pages of a book.

My listening choices will, in all probability, not be yours, BUT the variety that is available is a fantastic resource to have with just a library card and a Pin/Password.

I must now remember to promote OverDrive and BorrowBox for eAudiobooks as well as Overdrive, Askews, Wheelers and Playaways for eBooks to patrons who are feeling ‘under the weather’.

Anne Boleyn : A King’s Obsession

CoverHistory tells us why she died. This captivating novel shows her as she lived.

Alison Weir has an impressive body of work as a historical writer – both non-fiction and fiction – but I was amazed that she was willing to start a huge new series entitled ‘Six Tudor Queens’.

So far she has published Katharine of Aragon: The True Queen and has followed this up with the queen I am most fascinated by – Anne Boleyn.  True, Alison has written extensively on the Tudor period and possibly having previously written The Six Wives of Henry VIII had all the groundwork and research under her belt for such a massive endeavour …

Cover

My fascination for the 2nd consort of Henry VIII began as a child when I used to visit Hever Castle, the family home of the Boleyn family. Privately owned, but open to the public, there were huge grounds for kids to run themselves into exhaustion, Italian gardens, and an impressive lake. More importantly there was a small-scale castle with drawbridge over the moat that housed giant koi carp. Inside the castle there was abundant family history with an Armoury and severe looking family portraits – an ideal way to absorb an episode of English Tudor history!

There has been much information amassed about Henry’s reign and numerous mentions of Hever, but I knew very little about the formative years of Anne which is where this book – although fictional – is truly amazing.  The early relationship that Anne had with her brothers and sister; the education received at the Courts of Burgundy and France, including an early introduction to feminist writers, were the details required to make Anne a much more sympathetic character than previously portrayed.

Through the narrative we begin to understand Anne’s motivations for her behaviour at the English Court, especially concerning her indifference to the increasingly besotted Henry VIII. Political and religious alliances through marriage was something the Monarch had to consider in case it weakened present and future Tudor rule and Anne’s romantic union with Henry Percy was quickly thwarted. Anne’s outrage at this ‘slight’ made her behaviour especially cool when dealing with the King – he was not used to this in women and it had the effect of increasing his romantic ardour.

Anne was quick to realise the power this infatuation gave her. She walked the precarious path to marriage and a Crown, quickly followed by a rapid descent once Henry VIII grew bored with her. Anne, for all her feminist intellect and political astuteness did not make the connection that she was still only female in a male-dominated society — and therefore her only requirement as Queen was to provide England with a male heir. That, coupled with her misguided belief that she was ‘equal’ to Henry, proved to be her undoing.

The personal panic I felt whilst reading this – a young woman who had seriously miscalculated her ability to keep her husband enthralled, and the lengths that Henry was prepared to go to ensure a son would succeed to the English Throne again illustrates the power of the writing.

The fact that Alison Weir takes us ‘along for the ride’ is positive testament to her ability as a writer.  The reader cannot know with certainty what went on, but there is enough fact in this fictional tale to make it totally believable.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession
by Alison Weir
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781472227621

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Seeing Red

CoverLife dealt me the recessive gene MC1R (only achievable through both sides of the family) and I arrived with a ‘reddish’ hue to my hair – together with the obligatory pale skin and, a few years later, a mass of freckles.  I managed to avoid the ‘Tudor’ blue eyes so I actually have discernible eyebrows.  Phew…

When I found this book on the shelf recently it screamed ‘Read Me, Read Me’.  So I did.

What a revelation!  Little did I know about my heritage and what different cultures felt about my red/auburn/ginger ancestors and modern-day counterparts.

Stereotypes of redheaded women range from the fun-loving scatterbrain to the fiery-tempered vixen or the penitent prostitute. Red-haired men are often associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown.

I’ve never been a great fan of ‘stereotyping’ and especially not of this negative variety.  My only negativity was related to the pitfalls endured on summer holidays where I always ended up swimming in more clothes than I normally wore, in addition to ‘slip, slap & slopping’ in a frenzy and still missing bits that needed TLC in the evening by use of cotton wool balls and calamine lotion. All this angst whilst my so-called friends gambolled and frolicked in the surf like slippery little seals and acquired golden overtones by the minute!

CoverAnne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables was one of my childhood heroines (for obvious reasons) and when she finally walloped Gilbert Blythe for pulling her pigtail and teasing her mercilessly – OK so she might have been fiery but he certainly had it coming!!

Maureen O’Hara was famous for her fiery nature and red hair in the films but she always had to endure John Wayne – so who wouldn’t want to vent their spleen!  Can you see where I am going with this – provocation.  Tease a blonde, brunette and any other hair colour under the sun and you would get the same result.

CoverDwelling in the past isn’t good for you so I quickly read on and sure enough, there were also positives such as redheads being considered the darlings of the Renaissance period.  Acclaimed artists such as Degas, Titian and Rossetti couldn’t do without their favourite ‘red-haired’ muses – the first one of note and possibly the first supermodel of her time being Elizabeth Siddal.

I was unaware that many differing cultures to mine (Northern Hemisphere Celt) such as Russian, Italian, Chinese and even some Pacific Islanders also have the recessive gene that sits on Chromosone 16.

But true amazement came in the form of googling – apparently there is Calendar of Redhead Events, Ginger Pride Rallies all over the world and Melbourne has been voted as Host City for the 2017 Ginger Pride Rally which is being held on 29 April – the event raising funds and awareness for, both children’s anti-bullying and skin cancer non-for-profits.

That’s more like it – Go The Reds!!

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

It’s 1940 and the Chilbury village men, young and old alike, are called upon to fight to defend their heritage and their immediate future.

The Chilbury Ladies choir

The Vicar leaves a note on the church noticeboard stating that ‘As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close’.  This high-handed attitude rattles on the remaining but suddenly defunct females of the choir.  Action has to be taken and it is …

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the result and a few prominent members of both choir and village are prompted to divulge their thoughts, actions, and emotions through correspondence – letters are written; journals are jotted in and generally, the fictional village of Chilbury and its occupants, are brought to life in what is a very uncertain and frightening time.

I debated whether I wanted to read about an all-female choir but it was essentially the ‘glue’ that held all the characters together and propelled the sub-plots along within the main storyline.

Blackmail, black marketeering, village hierarchy and social status combined with a healthy dollop of romance all play a part in the unfolding drama but it is the diverse female characters – young and old – who symbolise what mental and physical reserves of strength were required to survive yet another German invasion when still experiencing the effects of the previous one some twenty years ago.

I especially warmed to the precocious but somewhat naïve 13-year-old Kitty Winthrop who starts a diary as a result of an announcement on the wireless that ‘keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for the stamina’.  Her entries are funny, optimistic, deluded and very in keeping with an adolescent who feels she has a very old head on youthful shoulders when, in fact, her inability to understand the subtleties of life, make it both sad and funny at the same time.

The epistolary style of writing is reminiscent of other amazing reads such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and The Colour Purple  by Alice Walker.

This novel will prove a very popular addition to any book club list – and at some future point in time possibly as a TV series.

This is Jennifer Ryan’s first novel and I look forward to reading whatever else she has in the pipeline.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by  Jennifer Ryan
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008163716

‘Voulez-vous partir with me ….

…and come and restez la with me in France’ – so the Bill Wyman song goes.

Cover of Flirting with FrenchI love a good mixture of Franglish (or Spanglish for that matter).  Eventually, with examples of the above, combined with expressive mime, facial expressions and dexterous hand gestures you can get yourself understood.

My French teacher endured approximately seven years trying to teach me the basics of French conversation and grammar. His perseverance was rewarded when our whole family got lost in Caen at the beginning of our summer holidays ‘under canvas’ and, since I was the only one who had supposedly learned French, I had to locate our first night’s accommodation.

I had seen Maurice Chevalier, Alain Delon and Sacha Distel all speak fractured English on the TV and naively assumed that the majority of the French population could do likewise!!  Duh!!!

To my complete amazement I learned that every French person I accosted (in the street or even in their homes whilst having their family diner – I was desperate), with my pitiful ‘je suis perdu – où est le… hôtel??’, was met with a mixture of indifference or a rush of ‘gauche et droites’ which left me more confused than ever.

The same French teacher had also advised me that ‘gesticulating’ as a last resort might be the way to go. SO bearing this in mind, I bravely flagged down a passing police car and watched, horrified, when a Charles de Gaulle look-a-like stepped out of the Citroen with his hand resting gently on his holster and asked me (in French) what the problem was?  Well, for starters the gun was… Anyway, I managed to impart the necessary information and he quickly rose to the challenge. We were in our hotel 15 minutes later having witnessed said gendarme ‘tearing a strip off’ the hotel owner for turning the neon sign off that would have alerted us to the hotel at least 3 hours ago!

Cover of complete language pack italianAll library customers can avoid painful scenarios such as the above incident by utilizing, with the aid of their Library Card Number and password/pin, the eResource, Mango Languages.  There are 72 languages available (including American Sign Language). Clicking on the option ‘Building the Basics’ after choosing the language you wish to learn is a great way to start your linguistic adventures.

Of course, you can also:

et voilà…

Bonne chance! Buena suerte! In bocca al lupo! Lycka till!

Father’s Day

CoverBring it on – I am prepared!!

On Sunday 4 September I will be armed with both a card and a small gift to celebrate the fact that I have a long-suffering but wonderful father.

When considerably younger I possibly needed a ‘mental jog’ about the impending event from my ‘constantly on my case’ mum, but in more recent times (a few exceptions aside when I was in different hemispheres and the dates were different), I have managed a card at the very least.

CoverMy last-ditch attempts during my self-obsessed teenage years must have been very taxing, but it sharpened up Dad’s ‘acting skills’ as he managed to look delighted when yet another ‘Brut soap on a rope’ appeared.  I hit the jackpot one year when I recycled a mother’s day present (who I found out was not a fan of ‘crooners’), and Dad became the proud owner of Francis Albert Sinatra’s ‘Greatest Hits’. That was indeed ‘a very good year’.

Fascinated since childhood by all things nautical – past, present and future – he has, since retirement, done a lot of reading courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries, ploughing through C S Forester’s ‘Hornblower‘ novels; Patrick O’Brien’s Captain Jack Aubrey works and recently Dewey Lambdin’s main character Alan Lewrie.

If transported through the medium of print or film back to the Golden Age of  Sailing albeit in the form of Egyptian wooden sailing Feluccas, Spanish Armadas, Tea Clippers, early Ocean Liners and Thor Heyerdahl‘s balsa wood ‘Kon-Tiki’ expedition you witness a totally captivated audience of one!

Many a Sunday night we sat down to watch The Onedin Line ; the Pater to appreciate wooden vessels whilst I watched a ‘period drama’ unfold and desperately hoped the seas wouldn’t be too choppy, NEVER having been a good sailor!!

The Christchurch City Libraries holds a wealth of information that keep fathers occupied and out of trouble – what can all its resources offer your Dad? Investigate all the possibilities – books, ebooks, audiobooks, films and report back (especially if I’ve missed a little ‘gem’ in the nautical line).

Oh, and the gift definitely isn’t soap-on-a-rope this time Dad!!

Can I recommend …

CoverI’ve just found a new way to add to the ever-increasing list of book titles that I have great difficulty getting around to reading but have kept on my ‘For Later’ shelf in BiblioCommons. The cliché ‘better late than never’ springs to mind.

My shelf currently stands at a very respectable 17 (I’m sure there are people out there in ‘Library land’ openly gobsmacked at this paltry total BUT I have just had a cull. I was completely ruthless and it took only 2 minutes to cut it back from 27 to 17.

Oh the internal debating and agonising I didn’t put myself through! Most of these tomes have been on my ‘For Later’ shelf for an eternity and have either been recommended to me via colleagues and customers or I have read a favourable review in a magazine or newspaper and placed it onto the shelf before I forget the title.  Then I forget to look at the shelf and pick my next read from it – well nobody’s perfect!

Now I have another method by which I can add to this list – on the front page of the Christchurch City Libraries website right at the bottom of the page is a link called Books. This takes you to New in Books, Staff Picks, On Order and then Recent Comments.

ExampleRecent Comments deals with any comments or reviews of books from newspapers, library borrowers and library staff.  In a steady flow, these brief comments automatically move from one book to the next book that has been recently reviewed. Clicking on the cover will bring up a synopsis of the story line, publisher details followed by the heading OPINION where all the reviews appear.

Sometimes a certain sentence within a review personally resonates and is all that is needed to push you from apathy to action. Before you realise it, you’ve clicked on the book cover and are placing a hold OR adding to your ‘For Later’ Shelf.  If inclined you can even give the book a star rating.

Anyone out there enjoying the freedom of reviewing the books they read or feeling that they would like to give it a whirl?

Lists for the Listless

A popular read for cold, rainy days

It’s been a miserable, dark, rainy afternoon – I admit, it’s the first time in a long time but even so I’ve got used to good weather now …

As Autumn, (crisp and blazing riots of red and orange hued leaves) becomes clumps of wet, slippery mulch on pavements and in gutters, my thoughts turn to hugely enjoyable reads in the warm and dry ‘Inside’ that will blot out the slowly encroaching cold and wet ‘Outside’.

My reading recommendations normally come in the guise of ‘Have you read?’ conversations with friends; looking at the If you like… website page or the close scrutiny of library blog posts such as those recently written by the Library Angels attending the Auckland Writers Festival – I hastily place a hold on the work concerned and cross my fingers that the entire population of Christchurch are a little slower off the mark than me.

Roberta, Masha and Moata: Festival angels
2016 Auckland Library Angels. Flickr 2016-05-05-IMG_4074
a ‘gem’ of a read

Today, I engaged in a spot of ‘playing around’ within the Bibliocommons catalogue and found the following. If you type ‘Rainy’ in the search box and then choose the option ‘List’ from the Keyword drop-down menu you locate page upon page of lists created by people around the world who have the word ‘Rainy’ somewhere in the List headings they have created. Not just recommendations of books you understand, but DVDs, music, crafts for all age groups.

Of course the drawback is that you spend a long time wading through the information and writing down titles to put in your ‘For Later’ shelf but still it’s another way to locate a hidden  gem that needs to be read, listened to or watched.

Anyone else out there utilise this facility?  Anyone make their lists public for all to see and glean information from? Or place anything of interest in their ‘For Later’ Shelf from these Lists?

Bad Hair Days

Cover of the man with messy hairYou know it’s a bad day when you stumble myopically to the bathroom, ‘cos you can’t find your glasses without the aid of glasses; open the bathroom cabinet and spray your luxuriant locks with anti-perspirant and only realise your mistake when you locate aforementioned specs and can see that you are about to apply the hairspray where it will just prove ineffectual!

Cover of 10-minute hairstylesIf you’re an optimist I suppose you would simply remark: “Well, if it gets really hot today I’ve taken appropriate action to avoid head sweat.”  If, on the other hand, you are me then you step wearily into the shower to try and rectify the damage.

Washed and blow-dried to the best of your limited capabilities, your ‘crowning glory’ is no longer glorious…  It’s at this point you decide that a radical restyle is in order; but how to achieve it?…

Cover of haircutting for dummiesThe answer lies with your library card and password / PIN.  Simply search in the catalogue for hairstyles and – voilà –  books and magazines galore devoted to the subject that are the answer to a distressed maiden’s prayer.  The 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s Look, Big Hair, Curly Hair, Long Hair, Short Hair, Fantasy, Dreadlocks, Braids, Buns, Twists, Marcelle Waves, Beading and Bows are there for the taking.  And for those who are stunningly reckless there is always the ‘cut’.

So, to all those ladies (and gents!) out there stressing about their tresses, remember, the research can be done via your local Library.

Resolving My Resolutions

I am firmly resolved not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Cover of The Calorie MythActually, I make the same statement at around this time of year every year without fail and invariably New Year’s Eve finds me trying to think of something that isn’t too ambitious so that I will not let myself down.

If these resolutions involve depriving myself of food or ramping up the ‘I don’t do any’ exercise regime, they are quickly kicked into the ‘totally undo-able’ bin. I have tried to commit to healthier eating and gentle, diligent exercise, but by about Day 5 I’m bored, bored, bored and bored with the whole idea. I need instant results with none of the hard labour!

Cover of The 100To help me feel better I thought I would see whether anyone else had the same failure rate as me. Unfortunately, typing in ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ in the library catalogue came up with Judith O’Reilly’s A Year of Doing Good. The author ’embarked on a mission to Cover of A Year of Doing Gooddo one good deed every day. Some called it a social experiment. At times she called it madness.’ My opinion is firmly anchored in the latter camp. Still, it did give me an idea… I am not making a Resolution, but I will try to read this book at some point during the year.

What ‘tried and tested’ Resolutions have proved successful for you?