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.

Why?

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!

Budgie Manor – Community Read of Magpie Hall

Part One of our Community Read of Magpie Hall by Rachael King was tea and tales (and cake) on Friday morning.

Part Two on Friday evening was a night of improv and laughs. South Library was the venue, and there was a good-sized crowd.

Community Read audience

We had a nice introduction from Rachael, Councillor Phil Clearwater, and Libraries Manager Carolyn Robertson.

Then it was onto the comedy. The two improvvers were very clever, making good use of some props, wordplay, and guest appearances from the audience. Magpie Hall became Budgie Manor in a variety of fast and furious skits, and roars from the audience peppered the show.

Improv - Community Read

The night ended with some book prizes being given out, and book signings.
Rachael King signs copies

Plus a little more cake.
Cake

See our photos of the Community Read events and Magpie Hall displays.

Morbid, grotesque, exhilarating: Magpie Hall by Rachael King

This morning a good-sized crowd was treated to book chat, tea and tales with award-winning author Rachael King – 11am to 12pm at South Library, Friday 7 August. Oh, and a Magpie Hall cake.

Rachael and cake - Community Read of Magpie Hall by Rachael KingAudience - Community Read of Magpie Hall by Rachael King

It was a cracker of a session. Rachael talked us through the journey to Magpie Hall and illustrated the tale with pictures and photos. She described researching a novel as a bit like “Alice falling down the rabbit hole” – and this session was our glimpse into the rabbit hole and the “accumulation of images, ideas, and themes” that made Magpie Hall:

  • Sailor tattoos
  • Circus freaks
  • Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads …

Taxidermy

Female taxidermists piqued Rachael’s curiosity – these two in particular:

Claire Third – Lyttelton taxidermist – see her in this CTV doco

Julia DeVille – taxidermist jeweller

The Dead Zoo

These places inspired Rachael – animal dioramas, slimy things pickled in jars: “Morbid, grotesque, and somehow exhilarating”.

Tattooing

Someone with a lot of tattoos was called a collector.

In the late 1900s, the aristocracy took to tattooing. Even royals got inked.

Victorian literature

The influence of books like Northanger Abbey and Wuthering Heights is part of the soul of Magpie Hall. In its intertextuality, it is “a novel about the Gothic novel itself”.

If you are familiar with Victorian Gothic, you might pick up the references. Rachael talked of:

laying Easter eggs in the book for readers.

On writing

Rachael wanted to write a booky mystery. It was a very organic process. After doing a lot of research, in 2008 she didn’t write for two months – then suddenly the whole thing came together in my head”.

Community Read of Magpie Hall by Rachael King

Rachael read two excerpts – one rather terrifying encounter with a ghost at a window, and one about the skinning of a tiger.

What next?

Look for Cafe Continental in Rachael’s upcoming work.

The Cafe Continental [between 1906 and 1909]  Opened on 1 Sept. 1906, this was a 43-bedroom private hotel opposite Cave Rock on the Esplanade with tearooms on the ground floor. On 13 June 1909 it was extensively damaged by fire and never replaced  View more information  File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img01266

The Cafe Continental [between 1906 and 1909] CCL Photo Collection 22, Img01266

The audience asked some good questions, and we all went away sated.


Photos from the event and display at South Library.

If you missed this morning’s event – or if you want some more Magpie Hall – come along to tonight’s event at South Library from 7.30pm to 9pm (Friday 7 August). Join an improvised comedy team as they improvise themes from Magpie Hall. See you there!

2015’s Community Read with local author Rachael King

Community Read 2015 Magpie Hall

2015: One book, one community

Magpie Hall by Rachael King

This August, Christchurch City Libraries invites you to read, share and discuss Magpie Hall by Rachael King.

Unlimited copies of the Magpie Hall eBook will be available to borrow for the whole of August from our Wheelers eBook platform! Thanks Wheelers and publishers Penguin Random House.
Reserve now.

Take a walk with us on the dark side, as we explore family secrets, taxidermy, Victorian tattooing, and Gothic novels.

I absolutely loved this book. It had a wonderfully familiar setting in the Canterbury foothills somewhere, mixing family history mysteries with the pressures of modern life. I was spellbound.

Magpie Hall by Rachael KingFind out more

Community Read 2015 author talk

Book Chat, Tea and Tales with award-winning author Rachael King
Friday 7 August At South Library
11am to 12pm

Community Read 2015 Performance

Join the Court Jesters as they improvise themes from Magpie Hall
Friday 7 August at South Library
7.30pm to 9pm

For more information phone (03) 941 5140

Magpie Hall – New Zealand e-book month

There were two rumours surrounding my great-great-grandfather Henry Summers: one, that his cabinet of curiosities drove him mad; and, two, that he murdered his first wife.

Rosemary Summers is an amateur taxidermist and a passionate collector of tattoos. To her, both activities honour the deceased and keep their memory alive. After the death of her beloved grandfather, and while struggling to finish her thesis on gothic Victorian novels, she returns alone to Magpie Hall to claim her inheritance: Grandpa’s own taxidermy collection, started more than 100 years ago by their ancestor Henry Summers.

As she sorts through Henry’s legacy, the ghosts of her family’s past begin to make their presence known.

You can read Magpie Hall as an e-book from our Overdrive collection.

Magpie Hall  is also available as a paper book.