The best of British eBooks – Askews

At Christchurch City Libraries we are blessed with three eBook platforms vying for our attention. There is OverDrive, the big flashy American one with the largest collection that also includes downloadable eAudiobooks. Then there is Wheelers which consists purely of New Zealand content and culture. Last but by no means least is Askews which primarily provides access to British content that is out of print or can not be found in OverDrive. It is not as well-known as the other platforms which is disappointing. Is it that classic British reserve that is its undoing? Its unwillingness to shout at the top of its lungs – I am here and I am amazing? In case it is I will agree to be its advocate and champion.

Cover of The Queen Cover of Behind the scenes at the museum Cover of Bring up the bodies Cover of Atonement Cover of A demon in my view Cover of Cold Granite Cover of The Collaborators Cover of Charlotte Gray

Askews has all the big names in current Brit lit such as authoresses Kate Atkinson, Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, and Ruth Rendell. Then we have the authors Sebastian Faulks, Bernard Cornwell, Ian McEwan, and Stuart MacBride. All this literary talent and more awaits you as we head into the silly season where your money is hoovered from your pockets. The fantastic thing about Askews is that you can borrow and place holds for free and never have to worry about overdues fees. What can I say, the library provides the cheapest entertainment this summer! So if you haven’t dipped your toes into Askews yet, please do.

Stig @ the Library comes to Christchurch

Kids at Queenspark School were super lucky to get visit from a rock star this week. Stig Wemyss, one of the most popular narrators of audio books for kids, visited the school as part of his ‘Stig at the Library’ NZ tour.

Stig Wemyss is an actor, writer and the voice behind heaps of children’s audio books.  If you have borrowed kid’s audiobooks from the library before you’re almost certain to have heard him read you a story that had you laughing out loud. He has narrated stories by the funniest authors around, including Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths.

Stig Wemyss at Queenspark School
Stig Wemyss at Queenspark School

According to Stig, narrators are the ‘rock stars of kids books,’ and he certainly showed us why. He treated the kids of Queenspark School to an hour of silliness and laughter.  He showed us what it takes to be a narrator and got heaps of the kids up the front with him to try his audition techniques.

He read one of Andy Griffith’s short stories from his book Just Stupid and had everyone engrossed in the story. It is no wonder that Stig is so popular because he is a natural performer who brings Andy Griffiths’ and Paul Jennings’ crazy, silly, hilarious stories to life.

Stig has been touring NZ to promote Borrow Box, a great new eResource that libraries around the country, including Christchurch City Libraries, now have available for customers.

Borrow box logoWith Borrow Box you can borrow and download eAudiobooks to your computer or mobile device whenever you like, wherever you like. There are heaps of eAudiobooks to choose from, including books by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton, Morris Gleitzman and Jackie French.

Check out Borrow Box now and download an eAudiobook read by Stig Wemyss.  I guarantee it will have you laughing out loud.

아이들과 함께 할 10월의 이야기

곧 아이들 학교 방학이 시작되네요. 온 가족이함께 할 수 있는 신나는 정보를 소개 할까 합니다.

Fun PalacesFun Palaces 2015라고 들어 보셨나요? Fun Palaces는 1960년  영국 연극 연출가 Joan Littlewood 와 건축가 Cedric Price에의해  ‘신나는 실험실’ 과 ‘거리의 우주’라는 상상의 이야기가  그 시작이 었답니다. 이러한 시도는 2014년 Stella Duffy를 중심으로한 여러사람들에 의해 현실화 되었답>니다. 그리고 세계 최초로 크라이스트쳐치 에서 시작을 하게 되었습니다. 10월 3일 부터 4일까지 City Centre 여러 곳에서 누구나 참여 하여 즐길 수 있는 여러 행사가 준비 되어 있습니다. 예술, 과학 그리고 다양한 문화 행사를 직접 경험하고 배울 수 있는 유익한 프로그램을 시내 곳 곳에서 만날 수 있답니다.  시내에 위치한 Central Library Peterborough에도 이 행사와 연결된 여러 가지 프로그램들을 준비했답니다. 아이들과 함께 방문해 보세요.

이 달의 책입니다.

Korean books
Korean books, Flickr Korean-Oct-2015-2.jpg

재명훈 작가의 SF소설 가마틀 스타일 – 우리는 어떻게 태어났을까? 세상에 태어나 문득 스스로를 바라보게 된 순간 어떻게 생긴 자아와 어떻게 생긴 몸이 ‘나’의 많은 부분을 구성하고 있었던가. 또한 그 두 가지가 내 기대와 맞지 않았을 때, 세상은 우리에게 어떤 모험을 제시했던가. 맨 처음 그 모험의 길이 펼쳐졌던 우리 인생의 어느 순간에 우리는 과연 그 여정을 감당할 만큼의 용기와 적당한 정도의 위대함, 그리고 인간성을 갖추고 있었던가. 이 책이 던지는 질문은 그런 것들이다.— 「작가의 말」중에서

김탁환 작가의 역사 추리 소설 목격자들을 소개합니다. “방각본 살인 사건”, “열녀문의 비밀”, “열하광인”으로 이어지는 김탁환 작가의 백탑파 시리즈의 또 다른 이야기입니다.

Children's books
Children’s books, Flickr Korean-Oct-2015-1.jpg

유다의 별 – 2014 한국 추리 문학대상을 수상한 도진기 작가의 작품으로 1920~1930년대에 실존하며 340여명을 죽음으로 이끌었던 사이비 종교 집단 백백교와 현대에서 벌어지는 연쇄 살인사건을 접목시켜 흥미진진하게 이야기로 풀어낸 추리 소설입니다.

이번에 소개할 읽는 어린이 그림책은 천미진선생님의 산골짜기 연이네 비빔밥입니다.

Fendalton Library Children’s Book Sale도 잊지마세요

Like a virgin

I am not at all a technophobe. I need wifi to live. I live a reasonable proportion of my life online. I feel naked without my phone being within arm’s reach.

And yet, until recently I had never read an ebook or listened to an downloadable audiobook.

Yes, I was a library digital download virgin.


Cover of Magpie HallI guess I just really like the heft and feel of a book in my hands. But, realising that it was actually a ridiculous thing for a web librarian to not have even tried digital library titles, and spurred on by our Community Read, I decided to give it a go and read New Zealand novel Magpie Hall on my phone.

And it wasn’t bad, actually. I thought I’d perhaps find the text too small, but I was pleasantly surprised. I chose to read in browser rather than download it. The  interface was uncluttered and the text smooth and screen-friendly. And though it was odd not to be able to see my progress via the turning of accumulated pages, Wheelers had thoughtfully included a percentage figure at the top right of my screen so I could tell when I was nearly halfway or approaching the end of the book. Nice.

Cover of The Fangirl's Guide to the GalaxyNext up, I downloaded an OverDrive audiobook (and detangled my long neglected earbuds). This format was also pretty easy to use if you get yourself the free app. Having never tried an audiobook before I found myself enjoying how the reader interpreted the prose. Because I was reading, sorry, listening to something that was quite humorous and lighthearted in tone (namely, The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy – expect to see a review on this blog in the near future) it was nice to have that echoed in the delivery. It wasn’t all that different to the voice I hear in my head when I’m reading something myself, albeit with an American accent.

Cover of As You WishI’ve since discovered that some audiobooks are actually read by the author, like As You Wish, about the making of the movie The Princess Bride, a book that I read on paper when I COULD HAVE BEEN LETTING WESTLEY READ IT TO ME WITH HIS LOVELY POSH VOWELS, OMG! There are also audio cameos in As You Wish, including Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal. I’d be willing to wager that Billy Crystal does a better version of his voice than the version of it I did in my head.

Similarly, I would happily listen to Carrie Fisher read one of her books because, someone once described her voice as “sonorous” and I’d have to agree that it’s very listenable. I love hearing writers read their own work. You never have to worry that they’re misinterpreting it.

From talking to other people who have more experience with audiobooks, it seems that a lot of the enjoyment of a book in this format can come down to whether or not the voice of the person reading it to you is a good fit. Timbre, accent, speed and intonation, if they’re wrong or jarring to your ear, can have a distracting effect. So it’s pretty handy that our downloadable audiobooks have a short excerpt available, right there in the catalogue. Just click and listen to see if the voice of the reader suits you or not. Easy.

So on the whole, I’d have to say my first fumbling forays into downloadable library content have gone pretty well. I still do like the feeling of a physical book, but I’ll certainly not look down my nose at an eBook every now and again (especially when travelling).

Feel like being brave and giving digital downloads a go? Then you may be interested in the following info –

Updated:I totally forgot to mention that when I accidentally wiped all the data off my phone (don’t ask) and had to set it up from new, when I reloaded the OverDrive app it knew exactly where I’d got up to and asked if I’d like to start listening again from that point. Bloody clever!

Tell me a story : audiobook bliss

Cover of The adventures of Augie MarchScrolling through shelves of audiobooks on Overdrive recently I came across The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, I’ve always skirted round this heavy weight literary man (multiple award winner including the Nobel prize for Literature in 1976). This time on impulse I decided to “give him a go” and I’m chuffed that I did! I was immediately hooked by the opening paragraph and the narrator’s gravelly, fast paced “Bronxy” voice.

I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles

For me an audiobook is completely at the mercy of the narrator; if the voice, inflection, pace etc doesn’t grab me, that’s it, no matter how enjoyable the writing. In this case both work so well together. From the word go I became absorbed in the life story of Augie, a poor Jewish boy born to a simple minded mother and a long ago absented father in the Chicago of the early decades of the 20th century (Al Capone, Prohibition era.)

I was impacted by Bellow’s sentences let alone the epic tale full of vivid, larger than life characters trying to get ahead and live the American dream. It did require very focused listening so as not to miss out on the richness of the language or get mixed up with the many characters. Also it’s a long book and there’s a limit to the amount of sitting around listening an able bodied person can do. So I’ve been doing a kind of relay – listen, read the book, listen and knit, read the book.

So many knockout sentences but I’ll leave those discoveries to you if you so choose! Except for another little taste, a description of Grandma Lausch, Russian pogrom refugee, not really Augie’s grandmother, but ruler of his childhood household nevertheless.

She was as wrinkled as an old paper bag, an autocrat, hard-shelled and jesuitical, a pouncy old hawk of a Bolshevik, her small ribboned feet immobile on the shoekit and stool Simon had made in the manual-training class, dingy old wool Winnie(her dog), whose bad smell filled the flat, on the cushion beside her.

Augie takes us on a series of often bizarre adventures, as he tries  on different lives inspired by people he comes across, on into post WW2 America; ultimately most are a wrong fit. He never does settle but in the end he celebrates the ride. Martin Amis, among many others, called this “The Great American Novel”. Worth checking out.

Cover of The LacunaBarbara Kingsolver is another great American writer and, apart from her wondrous ways with words, she has the gift of being able to narrate her own work with a warm, clear and expressively easy to listen to voice. She takes on different characters and different accents with aplomb. Hearing her read The Lacuna, probably the finest of her novels, is a real treat. I love this book and find her narration adds to its magic.

I listened to it as a pre-loaded digital audio book from CCL’s Playaway Collection that let me listen while moving about and “getting on with things”.

This story, coincidentally, covers the same time span as Saul Bellow’s novel. Very briefly, for readers who haven’t caught up with The Lacuna, the story’s protagonist is Harrison W Shepherd born, like Augie March, in the 1920s in the USA to a less than ideal family situation.

It takes us for a time to Mexico and into the lives of Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera and of Lev and Natalia Trotsky who are hiding from Stalin and his Secret Police. Harrison in his early 20s becomes part of these two remarkable households as cook, secretarial assistant and friend. He is “uncurious about politics”. He cares about people and writing. He becomes inextricably involved. Consequently he is devastated by the eventual murder of Trotsky at the hand of a guest he himself invites into the guarded house, and by the confiscation of his own writings along with Trotsky’s.

Oh… I just had to delete a big paragraph outlining more of the plot! Hard to keep quiet when you fall in love with a character(s) and feel honoured by knowing them, their aspirations, trials, hopes and sorrows, the burden of events beyond their control. There’s a lot of good stuff in here about friendship, art, history, the Cold War –  its propaganda and witch hunts, the damage of Press inaccuracies and lies and the fragility of a man’s heart and of his reputation. It looks to be a tragedy and in many ways it certainly is but the ending is a not. It’s a very rich listen!   According to Muriel Rukeyser a US poet of the same era as our two stories said,

The universe is made up of stories not of atoms.

I reckon we’re never too old, too busy or too anything, to bend our ears to a gifted story teller.

At home in your track pants? Go eBook, eMag and eResource

When I get home from work even a crowbar wouldn’t get me back into the cold and the congestion. If you are poor like me, then your entertainment options at night are limited. Luckily the library provides a number of solutions for getting through those dark and cold nights.

Cover of Donna Hay Cover of L'Uomo Vogue

You can:

  • Cook a decadent recipe from Donna Hay’s cooking eMagazines then look at the latest fashion in Vogue and feel bad about yourself with Zinio for Libraries;
  • Learn photoshop with to hide the consequences of comfort eating;
  • Download an eBook romance from Askews and steam up windows already wet with condensation;
  • Learn to speak Scottish Gaelic with Mango just in case that Scottish laird with a broken heart and rough ways does ever find you;
  • Indulge in some aural escapism in the form of Music Online and escape your families pleas for attention;
  • Start figuring out where it all went wrong with downloadable self improvement eAudiobooks with OverDrive then laugh away with recordings of Dad’s Army and Blackadder;
  • Read all the latest eNewspapers online with PressDisplay to remind yourself it could all be a lot worse!

Libraries are open online 24/7 for your research and recreational needs. Check out our eResources. On some levels we never shut. Which is good because just how many variations on cooking shows on TV can one person stomach?

Even in my former life I was working class

51IM6lHhFLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When I was younger I had the privilege of living in London for a couple of years. Like most people on their OE, I visited all the historic sites I could get my hands on including Warwick Castle. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle that has undergone massive restoration to give the visitor a real feel for a thousand years of English history. Entering into the medieval kitchen I can remember being hit with a very strong sense of déjà vu. This medieval kitchen felt very familiar to me with the strong smells of the herbs, rushes on the floor and seething cauldrons, open fires and hanging livestock. I didn’t have the same sensation when I went upstairs into the Lord and Lady’s living area! It would appear I have been scrambling for a living for longer than what I can even remember which is rather depressing. It may though explain my interest in history.

One of the best books that I have read in a long time has been Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England. It reads like a Lonely Planet Travel Guide except the place you are visiting isn’t on any current map instead it is a time. It will tell you about who you will meet in Medieval England, what they will wear and where you can stay and expect to eat. For a start, green vegetables are considered poisonous and potatoes have yet to be discovered. If you are staying overnight anywhere it is also considered good manners to hand over your sword until you leave. I already have a hold on Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England.

Winners of the Summertime Sounds Competition

Summertime Sounds Teen Music CompetitionOver the Summer we ran our Summertime Sounds competitions which challenged teens to create a theme song or a playlist for their favourite young adult book.  We had some amazing entries for both of the competitions and the judges were blown away by the creativity of all the teens who entered.  It was a tough task choosing the winners because we could tell how much effort went into each entry.  The winners each receive a $50 Westfield voucher.

Drumroll please…The winners are:

  • Original theme song 15-18 years – Matthew P with Divergent inspired by Divergent
  • Original theme song 11-14 years – Izzy C and Sarah H with More Than This inspired by The Giver
  • Playlist 15-18 years – Grace C playlist for Princess Academy
  • Playlist 11-14 years – Sara D playlist for Clockwork Angel

You can listen to all of the song entries on our playlist.

Matthew describes his theme song for Divergent:

My theme music is for Divergent by Veronica Roth. It is scored for symphonic orchestra and has a sinister and mysterious feel to match the dystopian setting of post-apocalyptic Chicago, but has happy, joyous parts to portray the romantic subplot of the relationship between Triss and Four despite the society they live in. The structure loosely matches the plot- The mysterious opening as the protagonist explores her identity and doesn’t know which faction to choose. The driving triplet rhythm in the strings signifies her choosing the Defiant faction. The piece builds up in intensity to match the exciting moments in the plot, with quiet parts when the action and conflict aren’t present. It builds to a thrilling climax like the novel and abruptly fades away, sounding unfinished, portraying the end of the novel as they board the train, setting it up for the next book in the series. The main theme represents the character if Triss and the variations of this theme explored throughout the piece represent her experiences throughout the novel.

Izzy and Sarah describe their theme song for The Giver:

Our song is about the character of Jonas and the development of his views and opinions about the world he lives in. At the beginning of the song Jonas suspects there may be more to his sheltered life, and he feels he is different from others. As the song progresses, Jonas becomes more suspicious, as he gains more knowledge about the community. By the end, he has seen colour, memories of the past, and he has experienced pain, all of which have strongly influenced his view on the way the community functions. Jonas now knows for certain that there is ‘More Than This’

We have tried to give double meanings to some of the lyrics in the song. For instance ‘We’re black and white’ shows how they are literally living in a world without colour, but also shows how the people in the community are always open and honest, without any ‘grey areas’.

For some of the lyrics in the song, we have been inspired by particular quotes in the novel, Such as the lyric, ‘But when you lose something, there’s always something to gain’ was inspired by ‘We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.’. We have slightly flipped the meaning of the lyric, making it more positive. This shows Jonas’s hope for the future, that even though he let go of his life in the community, he gained freedom and true emotion.

Thanks to everyone who entered our Summertime Sounds competitions and congratulations to the winners. Find out more this and our other competitions for teens on The Pulse.

Advice on your eBook device

db-OverDrive-CKEY685249So it is nearly Christmas, which according to retailers actually started in October. In anticipation of rampant present buying I am getting in early with some “advice on your device”!

My advice is to do a bit of research if you want to use our three free eBook services! What? That’s right your library has three amazing eBook platforms which are spellbindingly good. They include:

  • OverDrive (20,000 eBooks and downloadable eAudiobooks),
  • Askews (British eBook content)
  • and Wheelers (NZ eBook content).

Our eBook platforms will pretty much work with any device – except Kindle eReaders which are designed by Amazon to work only with Amazons eBooks i.e. stuff you will have to pay for.

In the United States they are working on getting these two to talk but chances are this will not translate into changes in New Zealand any time soon. There is also the Kindle Fire tablet which does work with OverDrive – but if you want to keep it simple there are a multitude of tablets, eReaders and other portable devices that work just fine – buy those my peeps and avoid disappointment!

To help out we provide a list of approved devices from us and OverDrive.

Happy shopping.

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