Writers


One of my many tragic New Year’s resolutions is to end 2015 with a smaller For Later shelf than I began it with. I’m starting as I mean to go on by shortening For Later to F. L.

Cover of Hockney Volume 1: the BiographyThe futility of this endeavor was immediately evident when I read Volumes One and Two of a new biography of David Hockney. It’s a brilliant and compelling portrait of the artist as a young man and as an older one still as passionate about his work as he ever was. Seemingly two off the shelf, but then a new book came out about Ron Kitaj, a friend and contemporary of Hockney’s, so that had to be added to the F. L. shelf.

The whole Zenny Zennishness of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying was thought-provoking, inspiring and amusing. Perhaps more amusing than inspiring – I laughed out loud in some parts, but I did not start talking to my clothes.

It was also satisfying to have this one off the shelf after a long wait on the Holds list. I did learn that photographs are the hardest things to get rid of. And adult children please note – storing stuff at your parents’ houses is not tidying. It is transferring. Obviously my life was not changed because I had to add the Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide and Organize & Create Discipline to the F. L. shelf. Hope springs eternal.

Cover of 33 Artists in Three Acts33 Artists in 3 Acts was one of my best reads of 2014 and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You don’t read writing like this every day. However Sarah Thornton is so good she got me all excited about art again and I had to add at least two books: Jeff Koons and When Marina Abramović Dies.

Then there are the F. L. books I haven’t even read yet, just sitting there breeding new items. 10.04 by Ben Lerner has had great reviews. One mentioned that Harriet Lerner is his mother so then I had to add The Dance of Deception, having enjoyed The Dance of Anger years ago. One not off, one on.

Must do better.

Check out some of our pioneer women writers. Some wrote very controversial books; many were published overseas and became hugely popular.

The Butcher Shop by Jean Devanny 
Cover of The Butcher ShopSet on a King Country Station, Jean Devanny’s  The Butcher Shop is about adultery and murder. It was described as disgusting, polemic and ahead of its time. It was banned on publication in New Zealand and in many other countries due to the violence, open sexuality and feminism portrayed within its pages.

The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander
Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River is set in Northland and describes the issues faced when a local sawmill boss marries a cultured, piano-playing Englishwoman, who brings with her to the bush her children from a previous marriage. It has been suggested that this novel provided inspiration for elements in Jane Campion’s film The Piano.

Isabel Maude Peacocke 
Cover of The Story of a New Zealand RiverIsabel Maude Peacocke wrote children’s books and light romances set in Auckland. Although not well known in New Zealand, she had a large readership in England, where her work was published.

Nelle (Ellen) M. Scanlan
Nelle Scanlan wrote four family-sagas set in New Zealand. The novels in the ‘Pencarrow’ series (Pencarrow, Tides of Youth, Winds of Heaven, and Kelly Pencarrow) published between 1932 and 1939, portrayed early New Zealand as a prosperous thriving country. They were very popular and considered to have created an interest for New Zealand fiction in that era. Nelle also published many novels in England before writing the ‘Pencarrow’ sagas. She was the most popular New Zealand novelist of her generation.

New Zealand Holiday by Rosemary Rees
Rosemary Rees could be described as the pioneer ‘chick lit’ writer! She wrote racy romance novels, some of which were set on back blocks farms in the North Island. Her 84 novels became so popular that some were serialised in papers in America and Britain.

Breakfast At Six by Mary Scott
Mary Scott made international success with the writing of her rural domestic comedies which began with the publication of her ‘Barbara’ newspaper sketches in 1936. One of her most popular novels was Breakfast at Six about newlyweds and their life on a back-blocks farm and the problems and pleasures faced by a rural community in New Zealand. It was followed by the sequel Dinner Doesn’t Matter.

Ngaio Marsh
If you haven’t already, do try a Ngaio Marsh mystery. Described as one of the Queens of Crime Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, she is probably best known for her wonderful detective novels featuring Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn; four of these (Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme and Photo-Finish) are set in New Zealand. You might also enjoy reading our blog posts about Ngaio Marsh.

Cover of Vintage Murder Cover of Died in the Wool  Cover of Colour Scheme Cover of Photo-finish

Please note that some of these books are only available at our Store. There is no public access to this collection, but you can place holds on most Store titles for borrowing. Reference only items held at Store can be sent to Central Library Manchester for viewing – please ask a librarian to arrange this for you.

Cover of Her Fearful SymmetryI am not a big fan of books that feature twins. Now read that sentence again carefully before you get all huffy. In fact, I love the few twins I have met; it is the use of twins as a plot device of which I am suspicious.

And what a lot of books fall back on twinniness. Have a look at this library list of 212 adult novels which feature twins. Here’s what I don’t like about twinny books:

  • I disdain books where the second twin is sprung on me near the end of the story and is the one who actually committed the murder/ theft/ betrayal – take your pick.
  • I am bored by books where the twins look exactly alike but behave completely differently, one all sweetness and light and the other a nasty piece of work.
  • I hate the deception played out in novels where the twins trick people through posing as one another.

Cover of SisterlandYet I have read some very good twin themed books:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger involves not one but two sets of twins. Set in London opposite Highgate Cemetery, it becomes unforgettably creepy. Life After Death takes on a whole new slant in this very good read.

Sisterland is a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. It stars two identical looking twins who aren’t at all alike. One of them has psychic powers that enable her to predict an earthquake in their hometown area. It could have been an awful book, but Sittenfeld is a very accomplished novelist – you are safe in her hands.

Christopher Bohjalian gives us The Night Strangers. It features twins, an old house, a plane crash that killed 39 people, an unhinged pilot father and a coven of strange ladies in the nearby village.

And then Cover of The Night Strangersthere is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Karen recently reviewed this excellent book – have a look at her blog post. Suffice it to say that this is one of the few books that I have read twice – in my entire life. It is that good.

If you’ve read this far hoping for help with breastfeeding your newborn twins, getting them to sleep at the same time or dilemmas around developing their little identities – there is loads of stuff for you as well. And if you are a creative mum of twins who lives in a crumbling Victorian mansion (preferably on a moor) and have named your girls Violet and Carmine – give serious consideration to writing a book. You’ve got all the right ingredients!

Does anyone out there feel the same as I do about twinny books, or am I about to be shot down by flaming double-barrelled guns?

2014 ended with a flurry of creativity for the budding story tellers of eBook club at the South Learning Centre. After Skype interviewing our local legend, illustrator and author Gavin Bishop, the crew, armed with some great advice on how to become a successful story teller, began illustrating and creating their own digital story.

Gavin Bishop Skype Interview

Gavin Bishop Skype Interview
Ebook Club 2014

Some took inspiration from author Warren Pohatu and others created their own legend using Keynote and Paint.Net.

Many thanks to Gavin for generously sharing his wisdom and time.

Check out two of the stories from our fine young folk.

Sam
South Learning Centre

Cover of The Thirteenth TaleRecently, I have found that my book choices have been a little disappointing – in fact I could categorically state that they have not captured my imagination at all! A sad state of affairs. But that was before I came across The Thirteenth Tale… During my short Christmas holiday I spent any free time actively seeking out a quiet ‘nook or cranny’ where I could sit down and catch up with the action going on at Angelfield House

the imposing home of the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins

YES, a Gothic mystery that has got me page-turning with great speed. Oh, I love a good Gothic novel – Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black to name but a few.

Cover of Bellman & BlackWritten by Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale has received a 4-star-rating in our catalogue and has elicited around 60+ positive comments by readers. I’ve started to look at ratings and comments in earnest, although I like to think that I am not swayed too much by opinion – I don’t want to miss something that I might enjoy. Setterfield’s latest offering, Bellman & Black, sounds promising and I might be persuaded to give it a whirl.

What ‘haunting’ reads would you recommend? And, tell me, do you read the comments in the catalogue? If so, do you let them guide your selections?

Author Jean Watson, who was recently featured in the  documentary Aunty and the Star People, died in Wellington yesterday 28 December 2014.

Ms Watson wrote several novels. Stand in the Rain, which was published in 1965 and which was partly based on her marriage to writer Barry Crump, was her first and most well-known.

However, in the last 28 years or so, her focus was split between writing and philanthropic work in Tamil Nadu in Southern India, where she set up, funded and helped run a home for disadvantaged children. It was there that she acquired the affectionate name of Jean Aunty.  She wrote about the experience in Karunai Illam: The Story of an Orphanage.

My colleague Lisa was lucky enough to see Jean Watson at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival in August. Lisa’s blog post about the session is fascinating. While the focus of the talk was on Watson’s involvement in Karunai Illam, as depicted in Aunty and the Star People, I particularly enjoyed reading Jean’s comments on a number of New Zealand luminaries, including her description of Dennis Glover as a “very sort of sarcastic, open person”. He apparently called her a “middle-aged Ophelia”.

Jean Watson at WORD

Jean Watson in conversation with Gerard Smyth (director of Aunty and the Star People) at the WORD Festival, 29 August 2014,

 

Cover of Modern classicsKia ora and welcome to our annual popularity contest – these are the titles in our library collection that were most popular in 2014.

New Zealand dominated the non-fiction section, with Modern classics by Simon Gault taking out top spot.

In the fiction forum, Life after life by Kate Atkinson was numero uno (it was in 4th place in 2013). Last year’s winner The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton taking top spot for New Zealand fiction (coming in at a highly respectable number 16) as well as being the most popular eBook in our Wheelers collection.

Cover of Life after lifeInterestingly, while Dirty Politics didn’t gain a spot in our non-fiction list, it was the 2nd most popular Wheelers eBook.

James Patterson was the most popular author for adults, ahead of Nora Roberts.

Many classic authors and titles rated highly in all categories. Nancy Drew and the clue crew by Carolyn Keene was the winner for kids, with Daisy Meadows as author number one. Joy Cowley, Lynley Dodd, and Margaret Mahy rated highly too.

Manga and graphic novels were hugely popular with teens, and series like The Hunger Games also dominated the teen list.

Top of the top titles

The most popular items in our collection

See our most popular stuff in previous years.

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