Valentine’s day

Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day with some romantic stuff from our collection:

From one of the New Zealanders - Postcard - backDickson/Butler wedding party
Auntie Annie and Uncle Ted’s weddingCover
Romantic readsCover

Our page on Valentine’s Day

The billionaire’s secret mistress at the family planning clinic

A UK psychologist has declared that a “huge number” of problems dealt with in family planning clinics have their roots in romance novels.  She goes on to say that:

our lessons are  falling on deaf ears when compared to the values of the Regency heroine gazing adoringly across the Assembly Rooms to catch a glimpse of her man.

So the problems of unwanted pregnancy and failed relationships are all down to Mills and Boon and the like?  Who would have thought?  Perhaps this psychologist hasn’t read A night with consequences or  Stranded, seduced – pregnant.  Both sound like they could sit in any family planning clinic bookshelf as a dire warning for irresponsible coupling.  I am also rather taken by the title: The librarian’s secret scandal, but purely for professional reasons of course!

For those of you interested in book covers, The art of romance : Mills & Boon and Harlequin cover designs by Joanna Bowring gives a wonderful  visual record of romance and love over the years.  Published since 1908, Mills and Boon and its heroes and heroines have certainly seen a lot of change.

  • What’s your favourite romance book or film?

Remembering the future

CoverMy way of escaping from our shaky city is to dive into a book and live someone else’s life.  Even if you’ve got no power you can curl up on the couch in a blanket and read about how other people cope with difficult situations, watch them fall in love, go on an adventure or solve a mystery.  One particular book I’ve read recently is about something that I’m sure we’d all love to do at the moment – forgetting the past.

Forgotten is an amazing new book by Cat Patrick, about a girl who can remember her future, but not her past.  Every morning at 4:33am, London Lane’s mind resets and her memories of the previous day are wiped.  London explains her condition:

I see the future in flashes, like memories.  I remember what I’ll wear tomorrow, and a car crash that won’t happen til this afternoon.  But yesterday has evaporated from my mind – just like the boy I love.

I’m sure it’s blowing your mind right now, trying to figure out how that would work.  I was slightly confused for the first couple of chapters, but then got drawn into the story and wanted to find out how she dealt with knowing the future.  Every night before she goes to sleep she has to write down what happened during the day so that she can remember it for tomorrow e.g. what clothes she wore, what homework she has to bring to school, and why her best friend isn’t talking to her.  There’s also the problem of remembering her boyfriend, because she can’t remember him from the previous day, but she doesn’t have any memories of him in her future either.

Forgotten is one of those books that keeps you thinking and wondering from start to finish.  Just like London, you’re trying to piece together bits of the past and the future to try and figure out how it’s going to end.  You may think that it sounds like science fiction but it’s not (I’d love to know how Cat came up with the idea though).  Cat Patrick’s writing is really unique and she’s created characters that teens will relate to.  I’m just glad that my mind doesn’t wipe clean every day so that I can remember this amazing book.

The Chameleon Reader

I become the books I read.

Chameleon like, I take on the speech patterns and idiosyncracies of the characters on the page. This is not too detrimental to everyday life and personal relationships when I am reading something sunny and upbeat, but when I am in the throes of a dark, dysfunctional read – woe betide.

David Vann is one of the authors at the . I took his book Caribou Island on a recent trip to Sydney. From the get go, the book and real life became intertwined. As the plane ascended, the passenger in front of me took ill and the fruits of her labour flowed back into my handbag narrowly missing Caribou Island. A clear case of real life mirroring the many physical discomforts of this book.

Fortunately there wasn’t much time for reading in Sydney or, given my chameleon tendencies, I’d have morphed into an unfulfilled wife sniping at her husband’s bumbling failures. Add in a whole bunch of “searching for self” young people in bitterly cold, isolated Alaska and the scene is set. Sounds bleak I know, but the message that comes across (live your  dream, not someone else’s) is so well wrought, I guarantee you will relish your reading of this book.

The sick passenger on the plane was tended to by a very young doctor, the apple of his mother’s eye to be sure, who had (after eight years of study and vast sums of money) chosen this day to wear his  “Musician Searching for Groupies” t-shirt!

So Vann-like.

And the chameleon in me does not believe it would have happened like this had I been reading a  Danielle Steel!

Handsome agreeable people: a conversation with Sarah-Kate Lynch

Sarah-Kate Lynch and Bronwyn10am – it’s the first session for me today, and it almost feels more like I am just hanging out in a friend’s lounge.  Maggie and Sarah-Kate are old friends, and this is really clear from the way they are chatting and sharing memories together.  The atmosphere is warm, although the room apparently is not – Sarah-Kate feels the cold, and has packed pashminas ‘just in case’ – a red one for her and a lime green one for Maggie.

I need to point out at this stage that Sarah-Kate has hands-down won the award for best-dressed festival speaker: an impeccable LBD, perfectly accessorised bracelet, handbag, shoes and necklace, and yes, even the emergency pashmina matched.  “Colour-coordinating to a fault”, as Maggie points out.

In her introduction, Maggie comments that Sarah-Kate has ” … the knack of writing books that we wish we could be in …”, and the room thoroughly agrees.  Her latest book Dolci di love is about families and friendships, babies and biscotti. Set in Tuscany, it’s a warm read, with gorgeously drawn characters:  “All my books are full of handsome agreeable people”, she notes; and like all of her novels, it makes you laugh and cry and laugh again.  There are some tough issues to deal with in this book, but somehow, as always, hope wins out.  As Sarah-Kate herself points out, “I want to believe that there’s hope and that there’s a happy ending for everybody.”

As well as talk about Dolci di love, there’s also some discussion of her next novel – set in Manhattan and Charleston, South Carolina, it’s about bees, she says.  And a character called Honey, or Sugar, or something else sweet (I forget which!  I am a note-taking failure!). 

There’s talk about blogging – after years of disparaging blogs, Sarah-Kate has fallen under their spell, and now has her very own blog.  She recommends a book (Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton), recalls her earlier days in journalism, mentions her editor’s jobs, her new role at Next magazine and her columns in Women’s Day magazine, and generally makes me feel like I am the laziest, most unachieving-est person in the world.

At the end of the session I go and introduce myself – we did an email interview a month or so ago, and it’s great to be able to go and say hi face-to-face – and I skip off to my next session a very happy festival-girl indeed.

Be your own librarian: a help-yourself guide

CoverLibrarians have a term for helping people find something good to read – “reader’s advisory”. We also have a bunch of fantastic resources we use to find things. Now we’re going to share these not-so-secret tools of the trade with you. So if you’re the kind of person who likes to be left to your own devices when you use the library, then check out this treasure trove of great places to go for book suggestions:

Stocking up on sugar and good fortune

Cover image of "Recipe for life"In the days following February’s earthquake, I found myself hankering after chocolate, sugar-coated biscuits, syrupy tea. Now I find myself craving something different: sweet reads.

Taking refuge in Dunedin as my house in Christchurch awaits demolition, I recently headed to Dunedin Public Library to take advantage of their reciprocal borrowing arrangement for earthquake evacuees. As I browsed the A – Z fiction shelves for an attractive-looking spine, I came across Recipe for Life. I turned the book over to read the blurb and shook my head, amused. Serendipitously, I had a picked up a novel about someone struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life after surviving a horrific event.

I devoured this book in two days. Nicky Pellegrino transported me to Italy; full of delicious flavours, comforting smells, vibrant colours and life – both bitter and sweet. It was exactly what I needed; a book that made me smile in delight and nod in empathy.

This has got me wondering – do we always choose our books or do books sometimes choose us? Are we drawn to particular titles because they whisper to our subconscious on some level or do we only find meaning in the pages because we want to?

What books have you read that mirrored your own life in some unexpected way?

Want an appetising read? Tell us what kind of books you enjoy, and we’ll give you some suggestions.

What were you reading when …

cover Merely stretching out a hand towards certain books on my shelves can pull me back to a particular time and  place. There’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, the first book I read in New Zealand. And Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore takes me back to a miserable trip round the South Island with my daughter and her newly-ex boyfriend. Now I have an earthquake book: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Freedom saved my life.  Not in a bullet proof vest way, but as an escape from all things earthquake. I read it by torchlight the first night and to the thrum of the generator  for days after that. I knew it was a great read from the very first pages when I wanted to write down quote after quotable quote. Like this one, which describes Patti as she tries to adapt to a new neighbourhood:

She was already the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

Franzen makes much of the link to freedom and choice in this book, but to my mind this is a book about falling for the bad boy, marrying the good boy and then failing to grasp that lurking in every good boy is a demon lover who will become someone else’s bad boy if you are not very careful.

Another bookish event happened to me on the day of the earthquake. I finally decided to  read a graphic novel. George at Linwood went to a lot of trouble to select one for me. No sooner had the book been issued to me than the earthquake struck. I remain a graphic novel virgin. Even I can see a sign when it is writ that large.

So, what were you reading on February 22? And what have you been reading since? Do you have books that remind you of different times and places?

We are all heroes

Over the last week, amidst so much tragedy, I am sure we have all been witness to tiny miracles of incredible importance, small acts of great courage and kindness, and immense love – in all its forms – generously given without hesitation.

Many, like myself, are asking “What can I do to help?”. For those of us who have evacuated the city, and others around New Zealand (and the rest of the world, for that matter) who were not there to feel the ground shake but still grieve with us, we may watch the news and wonder what we could possibly give that could match the heroic efforts of those lifting bricks, shoveling silt, tending to wounds.

Everything we do for each other counts. Nothing is too small or too insignificant. So with that in mind, here are some suggestions of how you can help:

  • Offer your arms, and wrap them tightly around anyone who accepts your embrace.
  • Offer your ears. People need to tell their story, to share how they are feeling, to be heard again and again and again.
  • Offer your voice. Make phone calls on behalf of those overwhelmed or mute with shock. Be their personal assistant, their advocate. Help them to organise the details of their life, so they experience as little stress as possible.
  • Offer your heart. Serve out love like food and water. Stay patient with those of us who behave like bratty, tantrum-throwing toddlers or sulky, monosyllabic teenagers. We just need lots of reassurance, lots of compassion. We need to know we are loved.

And finally, remember to keep giving these things every day for as long as you can give them. Those affected by the Christchurch quake will need you for weeks, months and years to come.

Thank you for being our heroes.

More information:

On being Bridezilla

CoverHere I am, middle aged, married before with adult children. Not the usual candidate for the ‘Bridezilla Syndrome’ so often talked about. But it seemed as soon as I was engaged at Christmas, I became obsessed, and the library has become my source of all things wedding and bridal, but it has also given me pause for thought. Why, I asked myself, are the vast majority of these books aimed at brides, talking directly at the bride, with mention of the groom limited to how he should just answer yes when asked a question and not have his stag night the night before ‘her’ big day.

Few have anything in them about second time around weddings either and dresses are white, offering variations such as cream, ivory or, if you really wish to push the boat out – blush pink!

So with what I have learnt, and all the pages I have turned, in mind, I have a short list of the books I’ve found to be helpful, insightful or practical. But I’ve also thrown in ones that are downright over the top, but with pretty pictures.

To start, look to the past for inspiration. The Wedding by Paul Atterbury and Hilary Kay (both of Antiques Roadshow fame) have collected a fascinating selection of wedding photos from the reign of Queen Victoria on,  some touching and some just plain odd! Wedding Inspirations by Beverley Jollands has romantic prose and vows you can use if that’s your bent.Cover

In the pretty pictures to give you some ideas (but you probably won’t be able to afford them) category, top of the list would have to be anything involving Colin Cowie. He appears to be a famous American party planner and his books are stunning.

Colin Cowie’s Extraordinary Weddings and Wedding Chic: 1001 Ideas for Every Moment of Your Celebration are great to browse, as is Simple and Stylish Weddings. Another good browser is Contemporary Wedding Photos by Julie Oswin and Steve Walton.

The book I have found the most helpful in a purely practical sense is a New Zealand one. The Big Day by Kerril Cooper and Denise Irvine is a sourcebook put together by two celebrants giving legal, practical and step by step information for a New Zealand wedding.Cover

Other books that are helpful are Ex-Etiquette for Weddings : The Blended Families Guide to Tying the Knot.  This is a great one for helping to navigate the minefields of new families, adult children and new step families and not stepping on toes while having a great wedding and future.

But my all time favourite would have to be Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide : The Rules and How to Bend Them. It sets out all the traditions, rules and ‘proper ways’ to do things, then tells you to just do it your way, ignore the protests from families, friends and nay-sayers and put fun, happiness and joy first – excellent!

And just to remember that two people are getting married, not just the bride, read The Complete Guide for the Anxious Groom, or give it to your husband-to-be. It set out his roles, expectations and although it does lean a little on the “It’s her day, just say yes” theory, it’s still worth a browse.