A.J. Finn – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

CoverThe next thrill-ride is here and it’s editor-turned-bestselling-author A.J. Finn and his new book The Woman in the Window.

The newest thing in psychological crime fiction is A.J. Finn and he has joined some illustrious company, the likes of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins. I was lucky enough to hear the author speak as part of WORD Christchurch Festival  and was impressed by his energy and his insights into the processes of writing a best selling novel.

A.J. Finn reads at the Bad Diaries Salon. WORD Christchurch Festival 2018.Friday 31 August 2018. Flickr 2018-08-31-IMG_0196
A.J. Finn reads at the Bad Diaries Salon. WORD Christchurch Festival 2018.Friday 31 August 2018. Flickr 2018-08-31-IMG_0196

A.J.’s real name is Dan Mallory and he’s a die-hard crime thriller fan. It’s very evident on reading  The Woman in the Window too, all the elements to unnerve the reader are there and the suspense increases as our protagonist starts to question her own mind. It’s part Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ (a movie and director that has had a huge impact on Dan Mallory), and part contemporary suburban gothic. Once you’re hooked in there’s no putting it down and you’re swept up on a rollercoaster ride of suspense, drama, and heavy merlot consumption.

Let’s have a look at Dan Mallory as a person and see what we know about him and how it might provide insight into his becoming the next big thing in crime fiction…

  • A.J. Finn is obviously a pseudonym and it was selected carefully to achieve a certain gender neutrality but also for the author to maintain some healthy distance between his personal life and that of his role as a best-selling author. A fun fact; “A.J.” was his cousin’s name, and “Finn” was his other cousin’s French Bulldog – great choices that really sum up his attitude to life and family!
  • He’s been a keen fan of crime stories from a young age when he was dropped at the cinema by his mother as a form of free child-minding. On the screen that day was the classic film ‘The Vanishing’ and young Dan was hooked. He then studied the genre religiously, including becoming a devotee of Hitchcock, forming a strong love of our own Ngaio Marsh, and completing formal post graduate studies on none other that Patricia Highsmith!
  • He’s an outspoken champion of people living with mental health issues – he himself has had a life long struggle with misdiagnosed depression and bipolar disorder. This book’s main character Anna Fox also has mental health concerns and Mallory has a very sound insight into her voice and attitude. She’s the perfect example of a sufferer who still engages meaningfully with society in the face of her illness.
  • The character name ‘Anna Fox’ was chosen deliberately so as to be easy to pronounce and remembered across all languages and cultures – few people will have issues with the sounds used to produce any of the names of the book’s characters – a brilliant piece of multicultural accessibility right there!
  • Before becoming a worldwide sensation Dan Mallory worked in publishing and states that he did indeed use his knowledge of the industry to help him produce The Woman In The Window. Mostly this was down to effective processes that he used for editing as he went along, but also extended to ensuring a solid architecture of twists and turns – he learned a lot as a publisher and read a lot of books, he even worked on stories by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling’s’ crime fiction pseudonym!)
  • The movie rights to ‘The Woman in the Window’ were sold well before the book was even published and the soon-to-be-released film will star Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, among other big names. Mallory is determined however to not become an author who consciously writes for film and plans to hold out until his next book is out (it’s already started and is due in early 2020) before making the desicion to sell the filming rights.

At his WORD session, Dan Mallory presented as a man with infectious energy. He was quick with a funny story and unashamedly successful and happy. I look forward to his next release and hope that he continues to grow into the brilliant thriller writing that he seems capable of. And if you haven’t got your copy of  The Woman in the Window yet then jump on our catalogue now and add yourself to holds queue – it’s worth the wait!

Happy reading!

NZIFF Survivalist

The Christchurch leg of the New Zealand International Film Festival is in full swing and there’s been some brilliant films on show thus far!

A particular favourite of mine has been ‘Arctic’ – a one-man powerhouse performance by Mads Mikkelsen. He’s a pilot that has crash-landed somewhere in the vast emptiness of the Arctic and from the beginning of the film it’s obvious that he’s already been there for some time. He has developed a routine and a set of behaviours that centres around:

a) keeping himself fed (luckily there’s fish right under his feet ready for the catching), and

b) giving himself the best possible chance of being rescued.

Without giving anything away, events occur that lead him to the decision to make a long trek to a possible permanent habitat due North. It’s a road movie, a survival piece, and a celebration of the resilience of humans in the face of insurmountable odds. Mads needs some serious recognition for this performance!

The survival-against-the-odds theme is not something new to us in storytelling and film making however. I myself am particularly drawn to those stories that pit an individual – often the survivor of some calamitous event, against the wilderness in whatever shape that takes. There are examples set in jungles, deserts, mountains and polar regions, there are even some set in space. Often the entire story is reliant on a single actor to shoulder the whole burden and when there’s nature involved it opens the way for cinematographers, costume designers, and music composers to help set the scene and drive the suspense. A good recent example is ‘All is Lost’ which sees Robert Redford give a riveting performance as a man lost at sea, adrift and endangered.

And here’s nine more, in a list…

The art of survival

List created by DevilStateDan

Films that showcase the stranded loner pitted against nature and against all the odds of surviving at all… From the jungle to the Arctic, from space, the open ocean, and the desert; all these environments are out to kill you! Could you do what it takes to survive…?!?

Into the Wild – The story of a young American man who sells up and hits the road heading all the way north into Alaska. He’s desiring to be closer to nature and to get away from humanity. He has only his wits and some very limited survival skills to negotiate the harsh and unpredictable environment. A great journey and a decent telling in this movie and a great performance from Emile Hirsch.

Cast Away – The classic tale of the “shipwrecked”. The sole survivor of a FedEx plane crash ends up on an isolated island and has to fend for himself. He’s there quite a long time and we get to see his transition from inept city-dweller to experienced survivalist. Great solo performance from Tom Hanks.

Gravity – Survival in space! A single astronaut survives a disaster in orbit around Earth. She’s got to use all her guile, instinct, and training to get back to the surface. Gripping story and amazing cinematography and a stellar performance from Sandra Bullock (and George Clooney for a bit too!).

Jungle – Based on real events, a young Israeli adventurer finds himself lost and alone in the jungle of South America. It’s a hostile environment and we follow his descent into desperation and madness. Another standout performance from Daniel Radcliffe.

127 Hours – Everyone knows the story – a mountain climber gets stuck and spends 127 hours locked in place when his arm becomes caught in a climbing mishap. He’s driven to some dark places in his mind and the most desperate option quickly becomes the only option. James Franco is very good in this!

The Martian – The movie of the super-popular novel of the same name. An astronaut is left behind on Mars after a minor disaster spoils the plans for the mission. The “castaway” is a biologist and he soon gets to work farming potatoes, and making plans for his rescue. Big budget, big names, big topic! Matt Damon delivers a pretty decent representation of the main character but this does get very “Hollywood” at times…. but then it’s set on Mars and it’s a survivalist story so what’s not to like!!

Life of Pi – An oceanic wilderness survival tale with a difference. Young Indian man Pi is adrift in the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat. Along for the ride are various wild animals from his family’s zoo business – one of them is a Bengal Tiger! Can he reach safety before he becomes lunch?? Good story told in retrospect and great work from the special effects department.

The Revenant – Not so much a sole-survivor tale but a good story of desperation, survival, and revenge! A member of a trapping party in the 1800’s is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his party. With a little help along the way he manages to recover enough to navigate his way back to civilisation and onto avenge his betrayal. Dark and bloody and there’s a graphic bear attack. Leonardo DiCaprio does pretty well with what is a difficult role and the support cast are very good. I’d read the book by Michael Punke first though, it goes better than the film.

The Shallows – A tense thriller involving a young surfer and a homicidal shark! The girl is stranded annoyingly close to shore, but she’s in the Great White’s feeding ground and he’s got a taste for blood. The ocean is a scary place!

View Full List

Many of these stories are based on books and some are true life tales of hardship and exposure, but for today we’re talking movies…

Happy viewing,

^DevilStateDan

Dead Men’s WORDs

WORD Christchurch is back for 2018 and once again we have a programme chock full of amazing opportunities to revel in the goodness of the creative use of words.

There’s such a wide array of interesting stuff to highlight too…

Perhaps the biggest for me is the conversation with Irvine Welsh on Friday 31 August at the Isaac Theatre Royal (6pm-7pm). Welsh debuted in 1993 with the now-modern-classic Trainspotting, the story of a group of heroin users negotiating life in Leith, Scotland in the early 1990s.

He’s revisited these characters often with his 2016 book The Blade Artist focusing on Francis Begbie and his new life as a contemporary artist in California – a great read! And his new book, Dead Men’s Trousers, brings the whole crew back together in a more substantial way. There’s betrayal and payback, drug use and abuse, and of course a high level of coarse language and violence.

And with mixed feelings I realise that there’s some events in Dead Men’s Trousers too that, without giving any spoilers, makes me think that this might be the last we’ll see of these characters. There’s some loose ends tied off and some revelations about the future for some of them, and if it is to be the last then it’s a great way to send them off – here’s hoping that they will come back as ageing and maladjusted senior citizens at some point though, that’d be a hoot!

Scottish author Irvine Welsh (image supplied).

It will be great to hear Irvine Welsh’s take on the happenings of Britain recently; he has strong opinions and regularly shares them through his twitter account @IrvineWelsh

His 2018 WORD Christchurch talk does have a cost of $34/32 and it is only for an hour but I’m dead keen!

^DevilStateDan

Find out more

Of humans and gods elemental

I’m a committed reader and I do read fairly widely and there’s one particular thing that I love when it comes to fiction; I love stories that blend and blur the lines between reality and mythology. The kind of thing where the lives of men and meddling gods coexist and the environment holds some physical form.

There’s loads of examples of this throughout literature – the Greeks and Romans loved to tell these types of stories, and those stories continue to be told in our own time – think of John Banville’s ‘The Infinities’ and ‘Fifteen Dogs’ by Andre Alexis . In both books the Classical Gods get involved in the modern life of humanity (and canines). And more recently there’s been ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Good Omens’ a joint effort between Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett. Both of which will be getting the screen treatment very soon!

Cover of The infinites Cover of Fifteen dogsCover of American GodsCover of Good omens

But what about the more elemental gods, the older gods, gods of the earth, environment, and the supernatural world…?

Cover of FlamesI’ve just finished reading ‘Flames’ by Robbie Arnott – a young Tasmanian author with some serious talent! He’s been writing for some years now and has a string of awards following in his wake, and he’s a very welcome addition to the burgeoning Tasmanian writers scene, a scene which includes the rural romances of Rachael Treasure, the gritty historic fiction of Rohan Wilson, and the Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan. I’m a Tasmanian myself so I do enjoy keeping up with what’s coming out of the beautiful isle, but I wasn’t really prepared for how good ‘Flames’ was going to be! It feels as you read it as if the land of lutruwita (the indigenous name for Tasmania) is itself telling the story and we are the privileged few who get to gain some insider knowledge.

It centres on two young people just after the death of their mother, which itself acts as a catalyst for all that follows. The brother is steadfast and pragmatic and wants to protect his sister so decides to build her a coffin, to which her response is to flee into the wilderness of the South West where she discovers a supernatural aspect to the world around her, and to herself and also to her family. Meanwhile the brother mounts a search to find his sister. On the journey we meet characters that are both at one with the natural world and still finding and settling into their place in it. We meet their father, we learn more about the family’s background, and other characters each of who are portrayed perfectly to outline their purpose in the narrative.

Robbie Arnott’s use of language is poetic and evocative of times past, of the smell of earth, the feel of wind, and the heat of fire. The narrative moves organically from one character to the next, shifting perspectives and fleshing out the magic of the story as it progresses. His descriptions of Tasmania (and you can rely on this ex-pat to confirm) are stunningly accurate and establish a very strong sense of place – you can smell eucalyptus burning, hear the rush of the waves onto the rocks, and you can feel the semi-decayed earth under your feet as you negotiate the wombat burrows.

So; beautiful language, strong sense of place, great characters with depth and purpose, and an engrossing story line – it’s ticked all the boxes for me!

Cover of The buried giantAnd ‘Flames’ is not the only book to achieve this balance between the real, the myth, the supernatural. ‘The Buried Giant’ by Kazuo Ishaguro is the tale of an ageing couple on a medieval pilgrimage with their purpose obscured by a think fog affecting memories, or there’s the outstanding series ‘The Tale of Shikanoko’ by Lian Hearn where we follow a journey of growth within a fantastical Edo-era Japan that has such imagination and rooted in strong mythology and where the everyday is touched with magic both light and dark. As is fellow Tasmanian Richard Flanagan’s great piece of surrealist historical fiction ‘Gould’s Book of Fish – a novel in twelve fish’ which I’m sure was both inspiration and license for Robbie Arnott to create this work, ‘Flames’.

And if you like this particular sub-genre then there’s plenty of films and tele series’ that are similar. You could have a look at ‘The Kettering Incident’, Tasmania’s own supernatural, David-Lynch-esque, tele series. It’s brilliant, dark, a bit creepy, and it’ll show you some places and environments very like those Robbie Arnott has depicted in ‘Flames’.

Enjoy your reading,

^DevilStateDan

The world of WORD: Dan’s picks of the 2018 festival

WORD Christchurch is back for 2018 and the programme is full of quality experiences of the written word!

Once again there’s everything from poetry sessions, confessional sessions, author and book-related panels, and even a whale-watching tour to beautiful Kaikoura!

But for me, the biggest excitement surrounds the sheer diversity of options available to us, the reader/audience…

  • As stated above, you can take a Whale Watching (Tues 28 Aug) trip to Kaikōura. Hosted by authors Philip Hoare and David Neiwert, and travelling from Christchurch to rendezvous with Whale Watch Kaikōura for an early afternoon cruise out into the mighty ocean, you can encounter the ocean giants first hand, all the while having the author/hosts regale you with knowledge and stories.
  • Then there’s A Cabinet of Curiosities: Tiny Lectures on the Weird and Wonderful. (Fri 31 Aug – Sun 2 Sept) A series of quickfire 20min lectures on some of the more unusual aspects of our world; UFO’s, sexbots, mermaids…. you get the idea! These will be a great way to fill in some downtime between bigger events, such as…
  • Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting to Dead Men’s Trousers. (Fri 31 Aug) What an exciting opportunity to hear from the mind of the man who burst onto the scene in 1993 with what is now a modern classic! Welsh has written quite a few books centred on the characters featured in Trainspotting, but is this to be the last one…?!? He’s also a highly opinionated and politically-minded individual so there’s sure to be some Brexit talk during his talk.
  • Diary of a Bookseller (Sat 1 Sept) gives us an insight into the highs and lows in the life of a Scottish second-hand bookshop. It’s hosted by Shaun Bythell who will also be running Book Collectors Old and New (Fri 31 Aug) – a 3 hour interactive workshop on all things book collecting. Shaun co-hosts with Brian Phillips as they will impart all the knowledge you could want on the world of book collecting.
  • And how about a panel discussion with authors presenting readings of new writing on the music that has shaped them as artists and people. Soundtrack or, Dancing About Architecture (Sun 2 Sept) will see authors Philip Hoare, Pip Adam, Chris Tse, and Nic Low do just that. Musical styles and experiences will be as wide and varied as the work of the authors presenting.
  • And finally, the story of the editor-turned-bestselling author. A.J. Finn: The Woman in the Window (Sun 2 Sept) introduces us to the next big thing in thriller writing. Dan Mallory, writing under a pseudonym, is getting huge accolades from some big names in the genre and The Woman in the Window is already getting the silver-screen treatment. This will fascinating to hear him speak about how his years of editing set him up for the best possible crack at his own bestseller!

So there are my pics for this year’s festival – wide, rich, and varied. See you there for literary-themed goodness!

200 years of the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she began writing the English language’s most successful gothic horror tale, Frankenstein, which was first published  200 years ago. So after all these years what do we know about her, the story, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frank Jnr.?

  • She did indeed write the story when she was 18, although it was not published until she was 21.
  • It was written as the result of a challenge laid down by Lord Byron (romantic poet extraodinaire), who along with young Mary, her husband Percy, and Byron’s “personal physician” John Polidori was staying in a spooky country house. On a stormy night telling ghost stories to each other, Byron thought it would be a good challenge for the group to see who could write the best ghost/horror story!
  • That session also led to Polidori writing the story ‘Vampyre’ which was influential on Bram Stoker for his work, ‘Dracula’.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously on a short run of 500 using extremely budget materials by publisher Lackington’s, who are still operating today
  • In 1910 Thomas Edison created a 15min film based on the story – I love the music accompaniment on it!
  • The monster has no name but is referred to in the book by the names in my first sentence. For many years I believed the monster’s name was Adam, but I must’ve dreamed that!
  • The story was initially published anonymously with many readers assuming the author to be Mary’s husband Percy. Even after its reprinting in 1831 with Mary’s name on it many still thought Percy’s hand was involved. In truth it is now believed that Percy contributed a measly 6% of the text (4,000 of 72,000 words) with many readers considering that his contributions only detracted from the story, were over complicated and over described, making the whole thing harder to digest.
  • During her life Mary also wrote, seven novels, three books for kids, over a dozen short stories, and numerous biographies, articles, and poems.

The story of Frankenstein is now so embedded into our popular culture that there have been countless depictions and references all through the history of film and television; think Hermann Munster, the film Young Frankenstein, British tele series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and even with the fantastic kids film Tim Burton, Frankenweenie ,we see that this story of horror has even entered into the realms of children’s literature and culture.

But have we stayed true to Mary’s idea?? Does the monster still serve the same purpose as she intended; a lesson in mortality, human desire for control and intolerance for the different, perhaps even describing the perils of parental abandonment…? This series of charts from the Guardian suggests there have been some major deviations.

So how will you celebrate the outstanding achievement of Mary Shelley? Perhaps by reading some classic gothic/horror/monster literature, there’s plenty out there and I’ve created a short list of titles for you, all available through the Christchurch City Libraries catalogue and across many formats; books, audiobooks, ebooks, and graphic novels…

Classic Gothic/Horror/Monster stories

List created by DevilStateDan

Some spooky, dark, and unnerving tales, classic titles from famous names…

View Full List

Happy and spooky reading to you….

Film and television – a mid-year review

Seen anything good on the tele lately…?!?!

Me neither. That’s why I borrow films and tele series’ from the library! It’s a much better way of being in control of what you’re actually watching during screen time, and you can tailor your viewing to perfectly suit your taste and your timetable, WIN-WIN and, no more infomercials!!

And it’s really just about good old-fashioned storytelling isn’t it!? For me, film and television is a coming-together of multiple artforms that, when it’s done well, has the ability to move you at a level many other artforms might not individually.

So here’s a list of the best films and series’ that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year, so far – many more to come!

2018 – The Best of Film and Television

List created by DevilStateDan

These are the best films and television series’ that I have explored throughout the year so far, all available to you through Christchurch City Libraries membership.

The fencer – Post WWII Estonia. The Germans are gone and the Russians are taking control. They’re especially interested in those Estonians that fought for the Germans and are systematically hunting them out. This story is about one such man, a world-class fencer who is concealing himself as a sports teacher for a country college. This is a stunning and heartfelt film about humanity, strength, and love.

Get Out – A gripping story of a young black man heading away for a weekend with his as-yet un-met in-laws… what comes after is a web of dark intrigue and something is definitely not right!

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch – Ever wanted to know more about the mysterious Hieronymus Bosch?!? Then get a load of this – it’s a part of the ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series that takes viewers on a tour of the works and life of some of history’s great artists. This one is all about Hieronymus Bosch and is surprising in its revelations about who he was and where his inspirations were drawn, plus you get up close with some of his most amazing works!

Chasing Trane – The latest telling of the life, love, and music of the great jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. Rare footage and loads of interviews with music legends that were close to him. He was truly a musical visionary and died at such a young age from liver cancer, it begs the questions of how much more impact could he have had on contemporary music!? A must-watch for all music fans!

Saint Amour – An old man and his adult son go on a wine-tasting road trip around France in order to reconnect. Sounds normal, but this is French comedy and things get strange! Good story.

The Limehouse Golem – I really liked this film – a Victorian Whodunnit! I loved the Victorian era look of it, the clever direction, the story was weaving and uncertain – as it should be for a classic whodunnit! And the acting was solid and dramatic without being over the top. It’s a small shame that I picked the killer in the first 20mins but I still liked the story and enjoyed it to the end!

The Dinner – A family of privileged white Americans meet for a very posh dinner to discuss an incident that involved their children. The details slowly emerge as the film unfolds and explores the issues of parenting, mental health, social navigations etc. Great performances from the four lead actors.

Detectorists – A short series about the engrossing world of metal detecting in rural Britain. Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (from the Office, and Pirates of the Caribbean), it’s full of pathos and at once hilarious, cringey-embarrassing, and full of heart. It’s about how even small lives are big and important and that everyone deserves to be happy. Highly recommended if you like British comedy.

Rellik – A dark and twisted crime series with an uniusual device; the story is told in reverse. We begin with the outcome of a police investiagtion into a series of acid-burn murders, from there we go back in increments of hours/days as the foundations are explored and new light begins to show on reasons for behaviours evident earlier/later… it’s a little confusing to explain so just watch it, it’s quality crime drama!

Swinging Safari – A gloriously retro look at family life in 1970’s Australia. Try to think of every brand name, in-safe parenting practice, cliché, and add a bit of over-styling and you’ve got it. Loosely wrapped as a coming-of-age story, it centres around 3 Aussie families living, loving, and loafing. Very funny film, especially if you’ve lived through some of these circumstances.

For more view the full list

Library sounds – a mid-year review

I’ve been exploring the CD collection available through Christchurch City Libraries this year and I’ve found some absolute gems!

There’s a mix of styles and eras in this list and quite a representation of New Zealand music – and it just so happens to be New Zealand Music Month.

So sit back and get some sonic stimulation from some quality musicians from around the world of music…

2018 – The Best of Music

List created by DevilStateDan

Music highlights for the year. Some are brand new, some are decades old but new to me, all are great!

Versatile – Van Morrison doing jazz interpretations backed by a very slick big band. It’s really well produced and if you’re new to the American jazz standards then this is a great way in!

Utterance – I love this album! It’s a collaborative effort between three on NZ’s finest musicians; David Long (banjo w/effects), Natalia Mann (harp), and Richard Nunns (taonga puoro). These flavours blend beautifully to create haunting soundscapes that are textural and dynamic – truly beautiful sounds from Aotearoa!

The Jazz Messengers – The first album from the group that went on to be the band that every jazz player wanted to be in. They’ve had some huge names in jazz through their ranks over the years and this is a great way to start their 40+ album recording career!

The Kitchen Table Sessions – Beaut, home-cooked alt-country from NZ’s favourite adopted daughter, Tami Neilson. Great country grooves and a lady with a voice of gold – what’s not to love!?

Preservation – Some more beautiful, lyrical, melodic songwriting from NZ’s Nadia Reid.

Second Nature – This is just how I like the Blues; stripped back, acoustic, you can just imagine it on the porch on a hot summer day… This father and son team recorded this album in single takes with no overdubs whilst they were touring Finland in 1991, and it’s a timeless and solid an blues album as you’ll find.

Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band – Charlie Watts (drummer for the Rolling Stones) gives it his jazz side on this album, featuring the big band of Danish radio. Some great jazz music here particularly the ‘Elvin Suite’ numbers. After that you get the obligatory big band arrangements of some Stones songs, beautifully arranged and executed but nothing terribly exciting musically.

Dog – Stripped back acoustic blues doesn’t get much better than this album of what I like to call “porch music” from Charlie Parr. Solid songwriting and a very real connection with the blues makes this a great addition to the genre.

Don’t Let Them Lock You up – New Zealand music is in good shape these days and I really like the creativity and superb musicianship that is on display on this album. They usually perform as a duo but the recording process has allowed them to expand on their ideas and grooves, implement new harmonies and percussion lines, and get really solid and funky! Great album!

Black Notes From the Deep – A great jazz album from the British multi-instrumentalist jazz legend Courtney Pine. Brilliant small ensemble playing and solid musicianship on display. I really liked the instrumentals – not so much the vocal numbers – but that’s just my preference. It’s good compositions played really nicely without arrogance or naff-ness. Jazz fans should have a listen.

View full list

Recreational non-fiction – a mid year review

I’m a pretty avid reader and mostly I love good fiction, but this year I have made a determined effort to read more non-fiction, but not just any old non-fiction – what I was after was “Recreational Non-Fiction”!

After a great deal of library exploration, and some very, VERY dry encounters with some non-fiction authors and their writing, I soon discovered that I’m particularly drawn towards non-fiction that is;

a) interesting / informative (gotta love what you’re reading about, right?)

b) conversational (this is very important to me!)

c) about an individual’s own explorations on a subject (it’s great to go along for the ride while someone makes discoveries!), and

d) based on the natural sciences (that’s just what floats my boat I guess!)

And I’ve been building a list this year to keep track of the “recreational non-fiction” titles that I have really loved, and here they are along with some notes on each;

2018 – The Best of Recreational Non-Fiction

List created by DevilStateDan

These are my best titles for the year under the banner of “recreational non-fiction”. Most of these titles are new releases, some are from decades ago, all are great! I do have a particular liking for the natural sciences so most of these books will be on this topic…

New Zealand Geographic – I love this magazine for championing and celebrating all the good things in New Zealand’s natural world. Every issue is packed full of interesting scientific projects being undertaken, updates on the status of various endangered species, and how humans are impacting on the environment and what we can do about it as individuals.

Cover of Smith journalSmith Journal – This is a great periodical, full of insight, information, and learning opportunities. Stories about potentially world-changing initiatives mix with current trends in sciences, and the revolution of traditional crafts, all from around the world. Very entertaining read!

The Secret Life of Flies – Do you like chocolate?!?! Then you’re relying on the humble and, misunderstood fly – they are the only pollinator of the cacao tree! Shocking hey!? Flies have so much more to offer the environment than we realise. Have a read of this entertaining and informative book, it may change the way you view these annoying pests for good!

Curious Encounters With the Natural World – This is a masterpiece of recreational non-fiction! Written conversationally (like you sitting with the author at the pub over a couple of pints discussing the natural world!), hugely informative, and hilarious, this book offers a very real access point for those who don’t read non-fiction or find in inaccessible. If you’re interested in the natural world, here’s one for you!

Cover of The truth about animalsThe Unexpected Truth About Animals – Another brilliant book about some of the lesser known creatures of the Earth and their own particular nuances. It’s very easy to read and pretty funny, making the science really attractive and easy to digest. Great dinner party fact fodder!

Blowfish’s Oceanopedia – The story of the seas from the coast to the deep. This book is divided up into quickfire digestible facts on all manner of issues and powers of the most abundant ecosystem on the planet. A great read for lovers of natural science.

Cover of SpinelessSpineless – Juli Berwald really likes jellyfish and this book proves it! Follow her story as she travels the globe learning about the state of jellies in our oceans, how they are coping with climate change, and what’s leading to the huge and unpredictable super-blooms of jellies. There’s so much information in this book about this underrated creature of the seas that it makes you wonder why we know so little about such a successful and abundant animal. A solid, insightful, and entertaining read and I look forward to seeing her future work.

Cover of American WolfAmerican Wolf – Follow the committed souls who observe the wolf packs of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves have only recently been reintroduced to the wild in this region and careful monitoring has led to some quite simply amazing discoveries about the ecological balance of a region. But not everyone is so keen to have the wolves back and as we follow the pack that she-wolf O-Six we learn how hard it is to survive in the wild under diminishing environment and increasing threats. One of my books of the year, this one!

Cover of The soul of an octopusThe Soul of An Octopus – In this book we follow the author as she becomes increasingly enamoured with all things octopus! We get to share the experience of learning SCUBA and see first hand behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium – a facility dedicated to sea life and full of passionate and knowledgeable staff and volunteers. And throughout the narrative we think on the idea of consciousness and emotions in all life – did you know that fish dream?!?

View Full List

I’ll continue to add to this list as the year progresses and I have a feeling that this is only just the start of a beautiful relationship between myself and recreational non-fiction!

Easter Parade 2018

Firstly, some important Easter essentials:

Libraries

  • Library Easter hours: All libraries are closed on Good Friday 30 March and Easter Monday 2 April, but open as normal on Saturday 31 March and Sunday 1 April. The only exception is Linwood Library, which isn’t open on Easter Sunday. Also note there is a scheduled outage on Easter Monday 2 April from 5am to approximately 12pm that will affect your access to the catalogue and eResources.

Daylight Saving

Fall back! Daylight saving ends when clocks go back by 1 hour at 3am on Sunday 1 April.

Rubbish

  • Rubbish collection: If your regular collection day is Good Friday 30 March, your collection day will now be Saturday 31 March. Kerbside collection continues as normal on Easter Monday.

Buses

  • Metroinfo Bus services: On Public Holidays bus and ferry services run to weekend timetables:
    • Thursday 29 March runs to the Friday timetable
    • Good Friday 30 March runs to the Sunday timetable
    • Easter Sunday 1 April runs to the Sunday timetable
    • Easter Monday 2 April runs to the Saturday timetable

Librarian Picks

And here is what our librarians are reading/watching/doing/listening to this Easter – it’s a veritable Easter Parade!

Simone

I have always wanted to slip Gregorian Chants into a blog. Naxos has 2 playlists for Easter:

Some Easter eMagazines on RBDigital Magazines:

Andrew

Theme song for your Easter Parade:

Ray

Philip Reeves – Mortal Engines Series
A few days off is an ideal opportunity to revisit a series – I picked this one because I just discovered the teaser trailer for the film adaptation they’re making! A futuristic dystopia of mechanical cities chasing each other across the wastelands…I loved it when I was 13 and I hope I’ll still love it now.

CoverSnuggle and Play Crochet Carolina Guzman Benitez
Maybe a long weekend will mean I finally get around to finishing the adorable monkey I’ve been crocheting from this book…

Simon

My pick is, Milk of the Tree, An Anthology of Female Vocal Folk and Singer-songwriters 1966-73
Easter seems the perfect time to dig into this mammoth 60 song set. An interesting mix of American and British artists with a whole heap of interesting rarities and a few classics. The detailed notes are also well worth a read.

Theresa

I’m doing the following over Easter:

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Karen G

Ferrymead Park is having a Great Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday 1 April.

The Canterbury Folk Festival is on for those wanting to head out of town – 30 March to 2 April

Moata

CoverCake wrecks 
Short, fun and full of sugar, Cake wrecks is hilarious and easily digestible. Marvel at the wonky spelling and bad frosting choices of so-called baking professionals.

Kate M

I’m looking forward to a rainy few days where I can get through a few new YA books.

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  • Projekt 1065 – With so many great YA books out there dealing with WWII (check out Max for a hard-hitting book about Hitler’s quest to create a master Aryan race), I’m looking forward to reading this one about a 13-year-old British spy in Berlin in 1943.
  • I am not your perfect Mexican daughter – I learnt a lot reading Sherman Alexei’s The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian, I’m interested to find out more about the Mexican culture with this book.
  • Piecing me together – Born from the #blacklivesmatter movement, books like The Hate You Give and Dear Martin deal with the issue of race in current-day United States. To counter ‘white privilege’, schools offer programmes to their ‘at risk’ students, and this book is about what happens when those ‘at risk’ students just want to be one of the crowd. I’m looking forward to it.

Masha

CoverAli Smith: Winter
Long awaited second novel in the Seasonal quartet – about the season that teaches us survival, inspired by Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

Donna

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I have the super popular bestseller The woman in the window by A.J. Finn at home, and want to spend some time losing myself in a psycho thriller (qu’est-ce que c’est).

My Easter eMagazines from RBDigital Magazines:

Kim

We’re off to the Peter Rabbit movie but also the A Wrinkle in Time advance screening is on Palms Sun 1st April.
See also my booklist of recently published children’s books about Easter, eggs and bunnies