Monday, 12 December 2016

And I Brought Some Corn For Popping...

Christmas cake, mince pies, candy canes, chocolate... food is endless at this time of year, what with work functions and family gatherings and drinks and nibbles with friends.  

I'm kind of glad that I don't cook and that I'm very fortunate to have such lovely people around me who do all the hard work.  

Thanks Mum.
If you're struggling for inspiration for yet another Christmas get-together then why not check out some - if not all - of the books above and below.  There's pretty much something for everyone, be you a vegan, a paleo or raw lover.

And if you more of a traditionalist then we've got you covered too.
There's books on cakes and desserts, both large and decadent; and vegetables from artichokes to zucchinis.

And last but not least books on how to make every kind of cocktail imaginable.

G & T anyone?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Deck The Halls...

Some years Christmas just seems a little blah.  It's either too hot or too wet and there's a serious lacking of snow and blazing fires and mulled wine.

Decorating your home and making your gifts to hand out is definitely one way to get into the Christmas spirit. 

Whether you want to make your own cards or get out the wool and make your very own Rudolph there is something for everyone among our huge range of Christmas books.  Even better you can make some Christmas cookies before you get stuck into the decorating and crafting and have a munch... or two as you go.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Counting down to Christmas

Can you believe there is only a little over three weeks left to Christmas! Usually I have been a little more organised with my Christmas shopping, but I have to admit this year has gotten away from me a little, arrgh!

So let me help you feel a bit more organised as we head into the festive season, with some geekalicious book suggestions for making gifts, decorating, Christmas Day meal planning (lets face it, the food is a pretty important component of the day) and entertainment.

First up has to be getting those gifts ready. Harry Potter fans are sure to love anything you make them from The unofficial guide to crafting the world of Harry Potter : 30 magical crafts for witches and wizards by Jamie Harrington. From Butterbeer Lip Balm to your very own golden snitch necklace, this book is a treasure trove of gift ideas.

Another excellent book to check out is Bonnie Burton's Star Wars craft book, with ideas such as an AT-AT herb garden, an Ewok flower vase, and my personal favourite, the Chewbacca sock puppet - every household needs one!

And now to the decorating, what could be cooler than Lego themed decorations! The LEGO Christmas ornaments book: 15 designs to spread holiday cheer by Chris McVeigh has a stunning array of Lego plans for you to build the most gorgeous tree decorations, you'll be looking truly festive in no time at all, and have fun doing it.

Now, if you are a bit of a The Great British Bake Off fangirl like I am, you will totally love The great British bake off: Christmas by Lizzie Kamensetzky. What better way to plan your Christmas menu! This gem will make you look like a true Christmas goddess with recipes from a variety of contestants and judges Mary and Paul. If someone feels like whipping me up some of Mary's ultimate Christmas Pud, I will forever be in your favour :)

Now that we have made some gifts, got the place looking festive, and cooked up some amazing Christmas noms, you'll be about ready for something nice and relaxing to do.
Personally, I love a good wee Christmas story and every year the lovely Debbie Macomber kindly provides one that really warms the heart. Some of my past favourites have included Dashing through the snow, Starry night and Call me Mrs. Miracle. I'm eagerly awaiting her latest for this year 12 days of Christmas.

Another one of my favourite things to look forward to at Christmas time is the Dr Who Christmas specials. I may still be getting over last year's Doctor Who: The husbands of River Song, which made me laugh and cry in fairly equal portions. The previous years installment Dr Who: Last Christmas kind of terrified me (along with making me want to laugh and cry), guess that is just the magic of Doctor Who!

Righty, I think we're looking pretty organised now - back to finishing that shopping :)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A wretched hive of scum and villainy

Following on from my previous blog post 'I need a (Super) hero!', I'm feeling the need to add some balance to the force by sharing some of my all time favourite villains with you. I'm sure you'll agree there is nothing like a good villain, and several of the ones on this list are super good indeed. Or is that bad? So bad they are good anyway! So in no particular order I bring you:

Kingpin. I might not have put Kingpin on this list, if it wasn't for the fact that I am currently working my way through Daredevil on Netflix. Kingpin is the ultimate scheming crimelord, and apparently first appeared in the pages of Spider-man. But he really made his mark as Daredevil's archenemy. Vincent D'Onofrio is a revelation, playing Kingpin (also known as Wilson Fisk) in a superb manner. Fisk is a brute of a character in the comics, and while he still is in the series, there is so much more depth to his character. Even as you (really really) want to see his downfall, you still can't help being sucked into his burgeoning relationship with Vanessa, and feel a little sorry for him after THAT backstory. For a bit more post Netflix Kingpin, check out Daredevil: The man without fear or Daredevil: Born again.

Next up is Spike from Buffy the Vampire slayer. The bleach blond vamp was most definitely a highlight of the series for me. Watching him transform from the earlier days where he was one of Buffy's greatest foes, to becoming a sometimes unofficial member of the Scooby Gang, to finally becoming Angel's competition for Buffy's affections, he always entertained and was never boring! I was always Team Spike I have to say, sorry Team Angel fans. I think it may have been the accent, I'm always a sucker for an accent ;). For anyone wanting some more Spike in their life, you can either start watching the series from the very beginning here, or check out his very own comic Spike: The complete series.

My next villainous bad boy is Loki, as in the Marvel version of. Loki is the adopted Asgardian brother of Thor, Son of Odin. He wants the throne his brother will inherit for his own, and is constantly scheming up ways to take it. Tom Hiddleston brought Loki to life rather deliciously in the Marvel cinematic universe, and made the villain everyone's favourite (sorry Thor!). You can see just how deliciously for yourself in the movies Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The dark world. I just love it when he pops up for cameos in other comics, such as the third volume of Ms Marvel: Crushed, and even better, he has his own series you can check out called Loki: agent of Asgard. I almost think he wrote the blurb for it himself, "The God of Mischief is stronger, smarter, sexier and just plain sneakier than ever before".

On my list next is Moriarty. While I'd like to pretend I was being all literary here, and a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, in reality this is all about Sherlock, the TV series. Sherlock is AMAZING, and so his nemesis Moriarty as played by Andrew Scott. I'm not sure if it is that fabulous accent (I think I mentioned my weakness for accents earlier), or the slightly unhinged yet hilarious way that Moriarty plays games with Holmes that makes the series for me, but it definitely would not be the same without him!

Last up is Darth Vader, who is quite literally the Daddy of all villain hood *giggle* (On discussion with some of my fellow librarians, they felt that joke was a little misleading, as he's really the Daddy of a hero, but I'm going with poetic licence here). When I researched all time great villains, Darth Vader came in at the top of many lists, and I 100% have to agree. Lets not talk about his less than stellar days as Anakin (I try to pretend the prequel trilogy doesn't exist), but his height of glory in the original trilogy which you can check out here. This is the villain that launched thousands of cool toys (just look at that photo above) and has been cosplayed in so many awesome ways (that pink Vader princess is a huge favourite of mine!). Don't just take my word on it, I hear Kylo Ren agrees big time ;) If you want more of a Vader fix, check out his newest comic series Star Wars: Darth Vader.

We love you too Spike

Monday, 26 September 2016

A musical education

Music has always been a big part of my life. Well, actually, that’s a lie. Music became a big part of my life when I hit my teenage years, when like any young person, I looked to music to help forge my identity. Up until then, I basically listened to what my parents listened to; the local ‘classic hits’ station, and their records of Elton John, Abba, The Bee Gees and Celine Dion. (A bit daggy, but it influenced my taste: I still love that classic-with-an-edge sound) I have vivid memories of a young me climbing on top of furniture and ripping off my t-shirt to spin above my head to the sounds of Tina Turner, which might have been a sign of my taste to come.

In my early teens, wanting to know what all the fuss was about, I got into music magazines. I eventually discovered a love for folk, blues, indie and rock n’ roll music, which persists, and hosted a rockabilly-themed 21st. Along the way of my musical education though, I ended up listening to almost every type of radio known to Auckland; classic hits, pop, more poppy, student radio, all rock, all kiwi, and even all Christian.

I am more settled in my tastes now, but this brings me to two of my favourite loves: music and books. Ohh, there are some good musical autobiographies out there, and no shortage of people wanting to spill the beans about their fifteen minutes. However, what separates pure, delicious, gossip fodder from a great autobiography, to me, is the level of self-awareness an author brings to their story, to an art form which has attracted and repulsed, mythologised and angered, or just been plain tolerated for as long as humans have consumed art. Here are some great examples of musical biographies I have discovered over the years.

All cards on the table, Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield, is one of my all-time favourite books. It tells the story of the rock journalist Rob, and two of his greatest loves in the world; music, and first wife Renee Krist, who passed away suddenly after five years of marriage. What could easily be a depressing read instead becomes a vehicle for a celebration of life.  Music was a huge part of their life, and a backdrop to the momentous and mundane moments of their lives; developing their writing careers, adjusting to married life and doing small-time America. You will marvel at the way a connection between two people grows, mostly based on a shared appreciation for some groups who happen to make noise with their mouths. There is also, for extra music geek credit, a mixtape relating to certain periods of the author’s life featured at the start of each chapter, which makes for some fun googling.

The more I’ve read, the more I’ve seen that partners of (the mostly male) famous musicians tend to be relegated to the background, even when they were perfectly influential people themselves. You might have heard of the name of Pattie Boyd. Famous for marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton, she was a well-known model in the 1960’s, who withstood years of intense public scrutiny, witnessed Beatlemania up-close, interested The Beatles in spiritual matters, survived two neglectful marriages, and later in life, became a respected photographer. Her autobiography ‘Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and me’, tells all of this with gusto, and gives an un-blemished view of the behind-the-scenes life of living with worldwide fame. Especially inspiring for the casual reader is her late-in-life resurgence to re-claim her sense of identity, after years of being in the shadow of her partners. Although it is not a literary masterpiece, it is an interesting cultural snapshot of the 1960’s.

For anyone who enjoyed the movie ‘Walk the Line’, like me, which lead to my obsession with Johnny Cash, ‘I Walked the Line’, will be an interesting read. I’m currently reading an excellent biography of the man himself, but I became curious to read Johnny’s first wife’s memoir, which was released in 2008, after it was revealed that it would publish of scores of letters from Johnny, and tell Vivian’s side of the story of the most famous love triangle in country music history.

Modest and wary of fame her whole life, Vivian wanted to redefine what she called the ‘Nashville view’, of her presence just being a roadblock to Johnny Cash’s and June Carter’s storybook romance. More than half of it is taken up by Johnny’s letters to Vivian in the early days of their courtship, when he was posted in Germany during WWII. While a bit long and tedious, they provide some interesting tidbits into the psyche of Johnny Cash, and his early dalliances with alcohol and women. The second half mainly focuses on Vivian’s story of being on the receiving end of June Carter’s determination to get Johnny Cash. Not as much a technical history, it is more of an emotional history, and shows how the truth tends to get twisted into rock n’ roll mythology over the years.

Please let me know of any great music autobiographies you love!