… and the peasants rejoiced…*

Dancers in redAnyone who has anything to do with professional dancing knows that it requires extraordinary levels of physical fitness, control and dedication to make it as graceful and seemingly effortless as they do.

I’ve loved the ballet ever since my Mum took me to a Southern Ballet production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird as a six year old and pestered her into lessons. It still grabs me in a way that no other live performance does, surely a combination of the setting, music and movement, so I’m thrilled to be going along to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream later this week.

I know the story well enough of course, it being based on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, but I am not at all familiar with the music by Felix Mendelssohn. According to liner notes for one recording found in the libraries’ Classical Music Library eResource (see below) the music was composed to be incidental music for a performance of the play in 1843.

Find out more about this production via their twitter feed.

More Ballet resources

Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear

* blog title is a bad ’90s TV show reference for which I apologise.

Spec’ Fic’ in Chch

Spec Fic… what‘s that? Spec Fic is short for Speculative Fiction and was first used by R.A Heinlein in 1953 in a Library Journal as an umbrella genre for fiction about “things that have not happened”: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all the bits in between. Spec fic is alive and well and happening in Christchurch as last weekend’s Spec Fic meeting to celebrate local Sir Julius Vogel awardees testifies.

Cover of The Heir of Night by Helen LoweAbout fifty people gathered in the Fendalton Library boardroom to congratulate four Vogel award finalists, two of whom won in their category. Beaulah Pragg, herself a published author, introduced the session and multi-award winning Helen Lowe who spoke about the importance of the genres and the place of awards. Fantasy, she told us, is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality, as the myths and folk tales of hundreds of human cultures attest. While writers write for the delight of storytelling and because the stories demand to be told awards can still be tremendously affirming to those who frequently work in some isolation. Moreover, events like this demonstrate the importance of the literary community supporting and celebrating one another.
Read Helen’s keynote on her blog.

The best of Twisty Christmas talesThe first finalist speaker was Shelley Chappell, who was short-listed for both best novella and for best new talent. Shelley has a PhD in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature from Macquarie University in Sydney but writes for all age groups. Many of her YA titles are re-tellings of fairy stories, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilkskin. Re-telling fairy tales, often with a twist, writing new ones, and exploring their development has become a fairly popular genre with several notable proponents such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Catherynne M. Valente and Jack Zipes.

Tim Stead has written a trilogy of book and seems well into the next trilogy. The ‘The Seventh Friend‘ was a finalist for Best Novel and have been warmly reviewed on Amazon. He was also a finalist for Best New Talent.

A.J. Fitzwater was the winner of the Best New Talent award, although she said that she’s been at it for five years so being called “new” was an odd thing to wrap her head around. She read us an excerpt from her latest story about to be published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue 61 – “Long’s Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival, and Cats of Many Persuasions” which seems to have a ‘carni-punk’ setting so look out for that one. A. J. also spoke about her experiences at the prestigious Clarion Writers workshop last year where she underwent an intensive six weeks of tutoring and writing with top writers such as Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, Nora Jemisin, and Catherynne Valente.

Spec Fic displayOur final winner was Rebecca Fisher who won the prize for Best Fan Writing. Fan writing isn’t the same as fan fiction, but rather is awarded for blogging, interviewing, reviewing and other forms of writing about speculative fiction. She has a popular blog They’re All Fictional, guest blogs at various sites and is a top reviewer on Amazon so if you’re into the genres she’s one to follow.

Connecting with New Zealand genre authors and their work isn’t always easy, so events like this are really important. If you want to find out more about these great authors follow the links above and keep an eye on the Sir Julius Vogel Awards and the SFFANZ (for science fiction and fantasy) or other NZ book sites.

Freegal Why?day

Cover of Why by No HitterOne of our first questions is why? Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to bed now? Why can’t I have lollies for dinner?

Here’s a bunch of albums and songs that ask why?



Cover: The Annie Lennox Collection Cover: The Beautiful Guitar Joe Satriani Evergreen Booker T Cover: Intuition Jamie Foxx Cover of Lets Talk About Love by Celine Dion Cover of The Only Clannad Album You'll Ever Need Cover of 20 #1 Hits: Ultimate Alabama Cover of Why Ask Why 2 by Swishahouse Cover of Why Baby Why by Ken Boothe Cover of Why by Frankie Avalon Cover of "Why" by Shakral Cover of Why by She'z

Christchurch music lovers – every week get your Freegal on and download your three free music MP3s.

More music stuff

Freegal fantastic soundtracks

Christchurch music lovers – every week get your Freegal on and download your three free music MP3s. This week we’re checking out a few soundtracks.

Cover of Supernatural-Seasons-1-5 Gigi-Original-Soundtrack Batman-under-the-red-hood Blue-Bros-2000 Lethal-Weapon Tarantino-movie-classics Friday-Night-Lights Call-the-midwife JC-superstar

Freegal Friday – Medieval Christmas

I’m going to go medieval on you – in a good way. Medieval music has a quite different quality to it than anything else I’m familiar with. I’m no expert by any means but over the years I’ve discovered that I really like everything from the ethereal polyphonics of the Gregorian chant to the earthy dance music and sometimes quite graphic troubadour songs. And, surprise surprise, Freegal has medieval music as well as the more recent stuff. Here are a few albums to get you started.

Album cover: Christmas Music in Medieval Times Album cover: A Medieval Christmas Album cover:  Medieval Women's Songs Albume cover: Medieval Songs and Dances Album cover:  Medieval Music in English Manuscripts Album cover:  English Medieval Songs

N.B. If you prefer to stream your music both Naxos Music Library and Alexander Street Music Online have medieval music too. Both are available to all Christchurch City Libraries members – access with your library card number and password / PIN.

See our post on Christmas music.

The carnival of November fantasy

It’s fantasy newsletter time again and this time as well as the new titles there is a focus on carnivals and circuses.

Cover of Shifting Shadows Cover of The Beautiful Ashes Cover of The Hawley Book of the Dead Cover of Hang Wire Cover of The Shifting Price of Prey Cover of Carnival of Souls

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Freegal Friday – animal noises

In honour of the A&P show this week we decided to give you livestock-themed titles to browse. I honestly thought that I’d be pushing my luck to be able to pull together such a selection but I was pleasantly surprised by some of these and will be downloading The Monas and Killed By The Bull tracks. YMMV of course, but that’s the beauty of having such a huge pool of music to choose from – something for everyone.

Tres Cabrones by the Melvins Chicken Run movie soundtrack Black Sheep by Julian Cope Manic Sheep Killed by the Bull Genuine Bull by Bintangs Animal by The Monas Mechanical Bull by The Kings of Leon Gift Horse by Mark Minelli

Fantasy – Kings and killers

Here are some picks from our Fantasy newsletter for October 2014. You can read it online or subscribe to get it delivered direct to your inbox.

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews Fool's Assasin by Robin Hobb  City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep Sleeping late on judgement day by Tad Williams The Death of King Arthur by Peter Ackroyd

Freegal Friday – Old Guys Make Good

I’ve quite enjoyed rediscovering some old favourites on Freegal since we got it. Freegal gives us access to the “complete catalog of Sony Music Entertainment, in your home country, on the day of release”* as well as music from thousands of other record labels.

Shriekback – my colleague Donna’s fav album was Big Night Music, but the one we were all dancing to when I was young(er) was Oil and Gold (1985) – “Shout, push hammerheads!” They’re both ‘out of print’ and so not available on Freegal, but try Glory Bumps (2007) if you were a fan back in the day.

Cover of Glory Bumps by Shriekback

I just finished downloading Vs. from Pearl Jam (1993) which was stolen from our first house along with the best toaster we’ve ever had. That goat with its face pushed through the wire has always freaked me out a little. Freegal has several newer Pearl Jam albums as well.

Cover of Vs. by Pearl Jam

The first album I downloaded in full was Days Go By by The Offspring. Freegal have back to Ixnay On The Hombre (1997) if you feel so inclined.

Cover of Days Go By by The Offspring

Plus one for the hubbie – Angelic Upstarts, them of the 2,000,000 voices, Solidarity (2010) which turned out to be a concert album but I think proved acceptable. I’m currently grabbing Reason Why? (1992) for him too.

Solidarity - Angelic Upstarts

And last, but by no means least, Mr David Bowie. I hit Bowie in the disco phase, in fact downloading his latest album Reality for free via Freegal prompted me to grab Let’s Dance off the iTunes. Yeah, I’m a bit tragic that way but I find favourite old albums are like comfort food and I’ve had the flu.

Cover of Reality by David Bowie

You’ll find in some cases Freegal has a fair number of older titles if you’re looking to fill a few gaps, plus the more recent releases for an artist or band fondly remembered. I struggle mostly with weeding out the albums from the singles, compilations and other people’s covers – although they can be quite entertaining if you’re in the mood.

Christchurch resident library members can download music for free with their library card and password / PIN. What have you downloaded this week? Do tell!

Science fiction October – how to read what

This month’s Science Fiction newsletter includes new titles from John Scalzi, Harry Turtledove and Ben Bova, among others. The focus topic, though, is on essays, which may sound a little boring, until you check out the authors included. These are some top authors, not just of science fiction, but of fiction in general and I’m dying to read what they think about writing, fiction and other things (Bradbury on Dandelion Tea? Eco on Atlantis? Atwood on rabbits with superpowers?).

Cover of In other worlds Cover of Bradbury Speaks Cover of The wave in the mind Cover of the book of legendary lands over of Reading Like A Writer (eBook) Cover of What makes this book so great

Read the entire newsletter online to see the new titles and subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every other month. If you’re after new science fiction titles you might also like to subscribe to the All New fiction newsletter which lists all the new titles we received over the previous month.