Thursday, 26 December 2013

Review: One Pot Cooking by Richard Till [Jan]


There are over 60 easy recipes for busy people to throw together quickly after a busy day.  They use the minimum of pots and pans to cut down on mess and the dishes are easy to make with minimal effort while being tasty and nutritious.  The recipes are only base starting points to creating dishes; you are urged to add your own ingredients and touches to the dish.

The recipes are divided into sections, soup, beef, seafood, etc....., with most accompanied by stunning photos of the dish.  The layout of the recipes is attractively pleasing, with step by step instructions given.  I was confused by a word or two; I’m not sure if it was a mistake in proof-reading or because I’m a novice cook.  It’s an easy guide to follow though and I have tried quite a few already.

Instructions are given on how to make your own dough and dumplings instead of buying it, which may be handy for those with dietary requirements.  To make the Crayfish Cabbage Rolls though, instructions are given on how to properly kill a crayfish.  I’m sure there are many out there who wouldn’t turn a hair but I’m not one and I felt a little queasy.

It is a handy guide of quick, simple dishes and useful for anyone to have in their kitchen.  I recommend it for students or anyone who has just gone flatting.  It will build up cooking skills as it increases confidence in the kitchen.


Title: One Pot Cooking
Author: Richard Till
Published: HarperCollins, 2013
Reviewer: Jan


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Wishes From Us To You

Wishing You All A Merry Christmas
And A Happy New Year

 


Best of 2013

It's hard to believe that it's been a full year since I last wrote one of these blog posts, it feels like it's only been a few months! Once again this isn't a blog post about my favourite things released in 2013 it's a blog post about my favourite things that I discovered in 2013.

Songs
This was so hard! In a week I will have changed my mind but for now, here are my favourite songs of this year.

I Want Crazy - Hunter Hayes
Aint it fun - Paramore
Dust to Dust - The Civil Wars
Drive Darling - Boy
Glory and Gore - Lorde
I Choose You - Sara Bareilles
Young volcanoes - Fall Out Boy
Grown Woman/ Flawless - Beyoncé
Aria - Giovani Allevi
Highway Don't Care - Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban
Done - The Band Perry

Albums


Beyonce, Kacey and The Civil Wars are hands down the best albums of the year. No question. The other 2 are pretty good too though.

Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park
The Civil Wars -self titled
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Beyoncé - Beyoncé
Haim - Days are Gone

Books

This year I read a lot of autobiographies by comedians which were really interesting and funny. I particularly enjoyed Mindy Kahling's book. It was awesome to read Brad Paisley's book this year too. He's one of my musical heroes so it was really cool to read how he started in the music business.

Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie 
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without me? - Mindy Kahling
Born Standing Up - Steve Martin
Diary of a Player - Brad Paisley

TV Shows

My fellow bloggers finally talked me into watching Supernatural and they were right, it's awesome. I looooooooove Pretty Little Liars which I wasn't expecting and re watching Outrageous Fortune and McLeod's Daughters has been awesome. Not as awesome as Parks and Rec which has replaced 30 Rock as my weekly obsession.

Pretty Little Liars
Supernatural
McLeod's Daughters
Parks and Recreation
Outrageous Fortune

Movies

One chance was one of the sweetest, happiest movies I've ever seen and I absolutely loved it! Plus James Cordon is in at and he is one of my favourite actors. Django was super violent and disturbing but wonderful and don't even get me started on Catfish one of the craziest documentaries I've ever seen!

One Chance
Django Unchained
Never Let me go
Catfish
The Hunger Games - Catching Fire

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review: NZ Rugby Kitchen by New Zealand Rugby Foundation [Jan]

A collection of recipes of the favourite dishes from some of New Zealand’s top rugby talent both present and past, this book is full of yummy goodness.  The players donated their cooking skills with royalties going to the NZ Rugby Foundation. The New Zealand Rugby Foundation is a charity that supports catastrophically injured rugby players, both financially and emotionally; and works with the New Zealand Rugby Union to communicate the message of safety first.

The recipes are simple and uncomplicated to make, while tasting great!  Easy to prepare, they are good for busy people who don’t have a lot of free time to prepare meals but enjoy food.  This book may inspire rugby mad kids to do the cooking, giving their parents a break!  The recipes are illustrated with stunning photographs of mouth watering food and there are candid shots of the rugby talent relaxing, preparing the dishes and enjoying them.

Some recipes are distinctly kiwi, like Buck Shelford’s Titi with Watercress and Kumara – Titi are muttonbirds, found in the lower South Island.  Other’s have a more international flavour, such as Adam Thomson’s Beef Fajitas and Smashed Guacamole.  Then there are the traditional staples, such as Victor Vito’s Beef Wellington or amole.  Then there are the traditional staples, such as Victor Vito’s Beef Wellington or Jason Emery’s Shepherd’s Pie.

NZ Rugby Kitchen has been chosen as a finalist in the Charity Fundraising category of the Gourmand World Cookbook awards.  The Gourmand awards are extremely prestigious and 154 countries participated in last year’s awards, entering books in 53 categories. All countries, authors and publishers — big and small — are given equal opportunity to enter.

Featured players include:
CRUSADERS
Mark Ranby, Management, Tom Donnelley, Ross Kennedy, Robert Fruean, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Ellis

HIGHLANDERS
Jamie Joseph, Coach, Doug Tietjens, Nick Crosswell, Jarrad Hoeata, Jamie Mackintosh

BLUES
Charlie Faumauina, Albert Nikoro, Jerome Kaino, Anthony Boric

FORMER BLACK FERNS
Melodie Robinson, Anna Richards, Farah Palmer

FORMER ALL BLACKS
Sir Graham Henry, coach AB’s, 2011 RWC, BG Williams, Tane Norton, Waka Nathan, David Kirk, Marc Ellis, Buck Shelford, Sir Wilson Whineray, Buck Anderson, Jerry Collins, Chris Laidlaw, John Sturgeon, Sir John Graham, Pita Alatini, Rodney So’oialo

FORMER PROVINCIAL PLAYERS
Ben Castle, Ben Hurst, Jason Emery

REFEREE
Chris Pollock

CURRENT ALL BLACKS
Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Zac Guilford, Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Conrad Smith, Victor Vito, Adam Thompson, Andrew Hore, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Keven Mealamu

CHIEFS
Wayne Smith, assistant coach & previous assistant All Blacks coach, Alex Bradley

HURRICANES
Frae Wilson

Title: NZ Rugby Kitchen: Celebrating The Love Of Food, Family And Rugby
Author: New Zealand Rugby Foundation
Publisher: Random House, c2012
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Munch munch munch, crunch crunch crunch, slurp slurp slurp

Food.

At this time of year it's everywhere.  There are work-dos, barbeque's, Christmas parties, Christmas Day lunch.. The list, it seems, is never-ending and of course, as is usual at this time of year, there are a plethora of cookbooks, books on cooks and cooks on books... or something like that.

As a foodie... well someone who loves food anyway, I love looking through cookbooks, especially ones with lots of lovely coloured photos. I mean you just have to see what all the dishes look like, don't you?  I know I do.  I also know that it makes me wish I could have my very own chef.  Someone who'll cook all the lovely recipes as I point them out and say that please.

Sadly I don't yet have the financial means to hire a personal chef but I can still dream...

The pioneer woman cooks : a year of holidays : 140 step-by-step recipes for simple, scrumptious celebrations / Ree Drummond

"The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays is an all-out celebration of the scrumptious, mouthwatering recipes that define our favorite occasions throughout the year."

I'm all for supporting a sassy red head who can cook.  After all, us red heads have to stick together....

Mary Berry's Christmas collection : over 100 of my fabulous recipes and tips for a hassle-free festive season.

"In Mary Berry's Christmas Collection Mary combines all her favourite winter recipes with a selection of new mouthwatering dishes to give us not only the time-honoured traditional roast turkey and classic Victorian Christmas cake, but also a variety of new and exciting food ideas for the festive period."

Nadia Lim's good food cook book : simple, healthy & delicious food for busy people / Nadia Lim.

"Simple, healthy and delicious food for busy people from dietitian Nadia Lim. Well-known for her excellent healthy recipes which always work for the home cook, Nadia presents this new collection of carefully thought-out meals you can cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Bluebell's cakery / Karla Goodwin ; photography by Kate Grewal.

"A truly beautiful book of baking recipes - picture-perfect cupcakes, cakes, biscuits, slices and more - with a special section on high teas. Indulge your inner romantic with these traditional home baking recipes, made with good-quality fresh ingredients and given a vintage look." 

The Revive Cafe cookbook. 3

"Following on from the first two Revive cookbooks, this book features even more healthy and delicious recipes. Inside you will find enlarged sweet and soup sections and a new breakfast section."

The next time your in Auckland pay a visit to Revive Cafe.  Trust me their food is awesome and even better it's good for you.  Just my kind of food really.

Eat in : the best food is made at home / Anna Gare

"As a host on Australian Junior MasterChef and host of Great Australian Bake-Off, Anna Gare knows a thing or two about balancing busy days with eating well. In her new book, Eat In, she brings together her favourite collection of recipes. Anna gives plenty of hints and tips for shopping, meal planning and store cupboard standby."

I don't cook.  But if I did I might just work my way through most of these recipes.

Delicious : love to cook : 140 simply delicious recipes to share / Valli Little 

"Sharing good food with family and friends is one of life's great pleasures, but it's easy to become stuck in the daily routine and lose your passion. LOVE TO COOK is designed to help you discover (or rediscover) the joy of spending time in the kitchen and at the table."

Another book from the people at Delicious magazine and one that's bound to become a favourite.

River Cottage fruit every day! / Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

"With 180 delicious recipes, River Cottage Fruit Every Day! will show you how to enjoy a broader eating experience and make fruit easy, fun and irresistible."

I adore fruit.  Especially at this time of year.  There's strawberries, blackberries, plums and apricots and most importantly - cherries.  Which I love and which I have been known to eat a great many of.  Like a bag.  Every day.     

30 years at Ballymaloe : a celebration of the world-renowned cookery school with over 100 new recipes / Darina Allen.

"30 years at Ballymaloe is a fascinating insight into the cookery school, as well as being a history of food over the past thirty years, from a time when Darina couldn't get anything other than pre-packaged, grated Parmesan cheese to one where a local producer makes his own mozzarella."

And finally, something just a little bit different but still food related...
  

The dirty chef : from big city food critic to foodie farmer / Matthew Evans.

"The funny, heart-warming and at times exhausting behind-the-scenes story of Matthew Evans' transformation from high-profile food critic to television's Gourmet Farmer."
 
Under a mackerel sky : a memoir / Rick Stein.

"From the entrepreneurial days of his mobile disco, the Purple Tiger, to his first, unlikely unlikely nightclub where much of the time was spent breaking up drink-fuelled fights, Rick charts his personal journey in a way that is both wry and perceptive; engaging and witty."

Adorable Christmas Picture Books

We get some of the most adorable picture books through the library. I was looking through some of our new ones the other day and I came across these lovely non-traditional Christmas stories.

Dinosaur Christmas

After he gets a postcard from a little girl, Santa Claus reminisces about all the trouble he had when dinosaurs pulled his sleigh


The Christmas Show

It's Christmas and the children have been practicing very hard for their nativity play. The narrators are word-perfect, the Important Angel has brushed her hair and the audience are in their seats. But when the curtain rises, no one's expecting a spare shepherd to steal the show.

Kangaroo for Christmas

The day before Christmas, Kathryn's present from Uncle Dingo arrives in a big box. Naturally, it's a lively kangaroo. Kathryn can't wait to show grandma, so she hops onto Adelaide's back and off they go! But getting to Grandma's proves more difficult than expected. Honking horns and screeching brakes frighten Adelaide into taking off on her own.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The holiday catch-up - DVDs

Forget getting together with extended family or the chance to finally spring-clean your house, now it's actually summer. Christmas is a time to catch up on all the great films and shows you missed out on during the year. All you need is 15 minutes of sun per day to get your recommended dose of vitamin D. The rest of the time, draw your blinds, relax your eyes from the harsh glare, and float away on a wave of unreality.

(If you really will miss removing sand from your orifices and clothing and sheets for days on end, I recommend eating mince pies or chips in bed while you watch. Ready-salted chips provide the greatest seaside authenticity. Or you could just explode a beanbag and sit on the filling after turning on your fan heater.)

Scriven's picks for best holiday watching:

Lulu and the Bankrobber
This TV show is a bit like a Danish Outrageous Fortune - if you're not afraid of subtitles, you really should take a look. Lulu is the fond but long-suffering fiancee of Leon, who has a long criminal past and some very dodgy friends and family. When he's arrested just after saying "I do" at their wedding, it's up to Lulu to find out exactly why and save their house from foreclosure. Leon swears he's been framed, but can she really trust him? Cue various encounters with lawyers, Serbian prostitutes, Turkish mobsters, motorcycle gangs, suspicious cops, hormonal teenagers and lots more. By turns scary, funny and touching, you'll want to watch right to the end. If you like this, also try The Bridge.

The Angels' Share
A Ken Loach movie that's a bit more uplifting than usual. A group of Scottish petty crims on a community work programme come up with a plan to get them out of their dead-end lives for good. I won't spoil the plot, but it involves some very rare whisky, some very clever tactics and that fantastic, dark Scottish humour, with Loach's fantastic eye for the realities of British life. A wee gem.

Despicable Me 2
One for the whole family. If you haven't seen it yet, buy it or rent one of our bestseller copies. You've no hope of getting it before April otherwise. Those little minions are back, every bit as yellow, cute and punchy as ever, in a plot that involves former archvillain Gru going undercover to find a mystery nemesis who's stolen a potentially dangerous substance that turns cute little things into violent purple monsters. I think you can guess where this leads...

Argo
Now's your chance to see this, if you haven't. Nailbiting and funny, and beautifully shot, it's the Oscar-winner by Ben Affleck about the 1980 siege of the US embassy in Iran, and how they managed to smuggle some American embassy staff out of the country under cover as Canadian film-makers. Deserves the hype.

Much Ado About Nothing
Haven't seen this yet, but it's by Joss Whedon, he of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so forth, and I personally can't wait to see what he's done with the play. It was shot over just a few days at Whedon's house, starring a whole bunch of unknown actors, and it's been updated and given the Whedon treatment. It's got great reviews.

Wreck-It Ralph
Another family movie that's actually a lot better than it sounds. I was a bit dubious about watching a movie with video game characters from the 80s (or pretend ones, anyway) and a villain who wants to be a hero. I mean, it just sounded so cheesy. But it had a lot of heart, some sarcastic humour and some really great chase scenes and I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself. Kids will love it - and maybe you will too.

The Bletchley Circle
Those of you who like Call the Midwife may not have come across this short TV series set during the 1950s. A group of women were codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War II, and are rather adrift now that the war is over. Until one of them decides to hunt down a serial killer by charting patterns in his behaviour, even when the cops think they're mad. More sisters doing it for themselves.

And if you haven't seen The Hobbit yet, it's probably about time you did. Not Jackson's best, admittedly, but the scenery's fantastic, and Martin Freeman makes it all worth watching. Plus number two is supposed to be pretty awesome, and you won't know who all those people being toasted and eaten are if you haven't seen this. You know you want to see the dragon. So get to it.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Not Your Average Christmas Music...

Christmas isn't really Christmas without listening to at least one Christmas song.

Though of course at this time of year we can't help but be bombarded with Christmas music everywhere we go.  It's in the shops, the malls, the halls... pretty much everywhere really.

And though I enjoy listening to Christmas carols, after hearing Silent Night and the like for about the 100th time I start to feel the need for something a little less carolly and yet still with a Christmas feel.  So here's my picks for Christmas music that is not your usual fare.

Last Christmas by Wham

This is my go to Christmas song. Romantic, sentimental and utterly 80's.


Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

I have a thing for crooners and croonette's and this Eartha Kitt version of a Christmas classic is one of my favourite's.


Merry Christmas Baby by Bruce Springsteen 

Nothing says Christmas like The Boss.  And I just love the words to this. It's a sexy Christmas song. If you can have such a thing. 


Christmas Wish by She & Him

I *adore* Zooey Deschanel.  She's quirky and weird and amazingly talented, not only as an actress but as one half of the duo She & Him.  This from their Christmas album is typically folksy and just wonderful.


Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

This Christmas song by late 70's/early 80's indie New Wave band The Waitresses is just different enough to be awesome.


Something for You by Best Coast

Described as a being a mix of Beach Boys met Fleetwood Mac this song by Best Coast is a feel good boppy Christmas song.  


 All I Want For Christmas by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Another Indie song, another something different and it's just perfect because of that.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Inferno by Dan Brown [Jan]


Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital bed in Italy, shot and no memory of how or why it happened.  All he can remember is a beautiful woman sitting in a painting depicting Dante’s Gates of Hell, urging him to seek and find something.  A spiky haired woman tries to assassinate him and he flees for his life with the assistance of an attractive young doctor.

Sienna Brooks is a doctor, used to saving lives and being in control.  She saved a patient’s life and is now being pursued through the streets of Rome by the police, military, mercenaries, and an assassin.  The former child actor has a genius IQ and uncertain immigration status that means she does not want to be noticed.

Fast-paced and with plenty of action, the plot is tightly written with intriguing clues dropped throughout that reveal a clever but horrific plan.  As pieces began slotting together small pieces of the puzzle began to emerge but certain events remained a mystery and I couldn’t understand them, like the head of the WHO and the man she met.  Was she working with him or thwarting him?   There were a few shocks as people’s secrets were revealed and all the pieces came together right at the very end to display.  I did not guess what was coming before it unfolded and I wondered how I missed it.

Set in the exotic streets of Florence, medieval Italian literature and artworks are explored, as Dante’s Inferno is key to the plan.  History and art buffs will either enjoy this story or pick holes in the authenticity of the story.  Fans of a cleverly written thriller will be delighted with this book.  I thought the plan was grotesque and so wrong, but worryingly I can see the sensible side of it.

Read this latest masterpiece from Dan Brown.  It’s a gripping read.

Title: Inferno
Author: Dan Brown
Published: Bantam Press, 2013
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas...

As some of you may know I have a love hate relationship with Christmas.

I love the idea but hate the reality.  The heat, the shopping, the crowds.  The whole general un-Christmasy feel of it all.

I want snow damn it.

Thick, white, glorious snow that you can make snowmen out of or lay down on, making Christmas angels.  And I want a roaring fire that I can curl up in front of with a pile of books and a cozy blanket.  And I want Christmas markets where I can buy egg-nog and mulled wine and Christmas cookies and gingerbread men and beautiful hand made Christmas ornaments. 

Basically I want the Christmas of my dreams.  Until then I just have to settle for the huge range of Christmas books that we have got at Auckland Libraries to fulfil my Christmas wishes.

Calling Mrs Christmas / Carole Matthews

"Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born."

 Wish upon a star / Trisha Ashley.

"Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. But life gets very tough when Stella gets sick. Balancing her job as a recipe writer and looking after Stella is all consuming, so when Cally meets handsome baker Jago the last thing she wants to do is fall in love...

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' sweetshop / Jenny Colgan

"Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie's plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what's best for the sweetshop also what's best for Rosie?"

 
Take me home for Christmas / Brenda Novak

"Christmas is a time for remembering….  Too bad all memories aren't pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.   But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions and is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted."

Just for Christmas / by Scarlett Bailey

"When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone.  Moving to a Cornish cottage Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.  Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiance, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again."

 
The cowboy's Christmas courtship / Brenda Minton

"With her mortgaged farm and two jobs, Layla Silver is struggling to keep afloat for the holidays. But does she need Gage Cooper riding to her rescue? Back in high school, Gage was nobody's hero. Now he's an injured bull rider home for Christmas to make amends for his checkered past. And something about the stubborn, beautiful Layla has him wanting more than forgiveness. Can a wandering cowboy turn a Christmas courtship into an everlasting love?"

Thursday, 5 December 2013

I listened to One Direction.... and I liked it?

I kind of hope some of my colleagues don't read this blog post. Not because I am in anyway embarrassed in what I'm listening to but just because they're going to give me so much crap for listening to One D and sometimes it's just easier to skip that conversation. But none the less, I listened to One Direction.... and I liked it.

I 'decided' to listen to One Direction because a good friend of mine never shuts up about them and the nagging wore me down (she's not 12 years old by the way) so I went out and I bought (yes, bought) their new album Midnight Memories.

The album opens with their smash hit Best Song Ever. Which is by no means the best song ever but oh my God it's so fricken catchy. This song has been stuck in my head for weeks and is one of the stand out songs from the album. Best Song Ever is not only a pretty solid pop song but it's also the kind of song we all expect to hear from One D. Next up is the band's current single Story of My Life which is arguably one of the better songs on the album. SOML is a good example of what the rest of the album has to offer. The boys have decided to go the poppy, folky-Mumford and Sons route instead of the Dance/pop David Guetta route which personally I applaud. Story of My Life is also one of the best vocal performances on the record.

Best Song Ever

The rest of the album follows the same line as the first two songs. You either have infections boy-band pop (Diana, Little White Lies) or folky guitar based Mumford tributes (Don't Forget Where You Belong, Through The Dark). Of you like either of the first two singles. Then there is a good chance you will like the rest of the album too.

Being new to the One Direction experience I couldn't tell you how this album stacks up against their last 2 releases. Do I think that it's amazing? No. The boys haven't quite nailed putting emotion into their voices as they sing and the album was a little expected content-wise. but I can say that I enjoyed this album. It's fun to listen to and if you want something easy and light then it's pretty good.

Story of My Life

Review: The Day She Cradled Me by Sacha De Bazin [Jan]


Minnie Dean was the only woman hanged in New Zealand, in the mid1890s.  A baby farmer who bought babies given up by their families before placing them with adoptive parents for a fee, she was accused of murdering children in her care and disposing of their bodies.

This book is based on facts gathered from trial transcripts, records, newspaper reports, etc, but tells the from Minnie’s point of view. In her version the babies and children accidently died and she panicked and buried the bodies in the garden.  This is plausible as the infant mortality rate was high in the 1890s and she was viewed with enough suspicion by the authorities that she would be in serious trouble.  Society in 1890 was male focused and anyone different was frowned upon.  By today’s standards there was reasonable doubt but things were different then.

This book is thought-provoking and very well written, showing another side to the story.  I knew of the crime growing up and always thought Minnie Dean was an evil monster who went around smothering babies and got what she deserved.  Now I think this is another David Bain case and you’ll never be sure of her guilt.  This is a good read though the historical facts are a bit dry and slow going.  I’m not sure how interesting the case will be to international readers but it does show how life was back then for pioneers.

Title: The Day She Cradled Me
Author: Sacha De Bazin
Published: Black Swan, 2012
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Digital Eats

I have been browsing through our digital library recently. There is SO MUCH in there. It's a bit like Alice's rabbit hole. My most recent discovery has been on the digital media site Overdrive Media.

On a whim, I began searching for some of the books that I have on hold and have been waiting for for some time.

AND THEY WERE THERE! In e-Book format, which normally I wouldn't use because I don't have an e-Reader (yet..Christmas is coming up...*hint hint*). But! The most wonderful thing is that I can read them on my computer (in my browser or in an e-Reader programme), or even on my phone!

This really works out wonderfully for me because the books I was looking at are vegan, gluten-free, and other allergen friendly recipe books! So I can set up my computer or phone in the kitchen with these books on them and start cooking and baking up a storm!

I am a huge fan of cooking and baking, especially experimenting with vegan and gluten-free recipes. I am so excited to have these readily available for me, rather than having to wait for months! Some of them I did have to put a hold on, but with the digital copy I was 1 out of 1 holds instead of 18 out of 25 or something! It's a pretty great deal.









Sunday, 1 December 2013

The List: TV Shows I Need To Watch... Like Now

Today's the 1st of Dec which means 2 things. 1) it's 25 days to Christmas and 2) NaNoWriMo is finally over and I have my life back.  Which means that I can madly catch-up on all the things I have been missing out on, like books and movies and TV shows and music and... well you get the picture.

My list is pretty long. Like really long.  Actually in truth it's more like never-ending because I am always putting new and wonderful things on it. 

I blame the Internet. Well that and book/music/film review magazines and friends who recommend things.

Bad friends.

No not really.  I adore my friends and I adore all the recs they pass on to me.  Rec me is my catch phrase.  I'm even thinking of having it put on my tombstone.  That or List Girl.

Because I love making lists.  And trust me I have a lot of lists. And not just for books, music, movies and TV shows.  No I also have a travel list (which is long) and a fanfic list (which is REALLY long).  I almost need to start making a list of my lists. And no I'm not even kidding.

My current list compiling are TV shows I want to watch over the summer.  Especially since all my favourite shows will soon be on there Christmas hiatus. (damn hiatus).  Which means no more Supernatural, Person of Interest, Arrow and so on.  At least until late January.  Until then there are a few shows I'm dying to try out.

Hannibal

I don't want to give too much away but I can tell you is that it's bloody good.  And I do mean bloody.  Because yes it is just a little bit gory.

It also has the wonderful Mads Mikkesen who I adore.  So yes I just have to check it out.

Sleepy Hollow

Headless horseman? Check.  Supernatural going ons? Check. Hot male lead? Check.

So of course I had to give it ago and of course I'm now completely hooked and working my way through its first season.

The Blacklist

I'm keen to watch this just for James Spader a lone.

He was so brilliant in Boston Legal and I'm hoping that he is just as good in this, playing a master criminal.

Almost Human

Karl Urban. Do I really need to say anything more?  Except why didn't I know that this kiwi actor is seriously hot. I mean that gravelly voice and bad boy vibe.  I am so there.

Of course it's also a futuristic sci-fi with lots of high tech elements. Just my kind of show, really.

Banshee

Another kiwi boy in another American show.  This time Anthony Starr in a show described as being extremely violent and sex filled. It's also meant to be pretty damn good

Rectify

This is a serious show dealing with serious subjects. Life, death, guilt, redemption, judgement.

It's also critical acclaimed with reviewers and viewers alike so it's gotten my attention.

And 2 Shows I've Watched And You Should Too

House of Cards

Remake? Yes.  Though you wouldn't know it.  Because this US remake starring the amazing-as-always Kevin Spacey is not only seriously good but also different enough to the original that you can't really even compare them.

This is a show that you just must watch. Trust me it's that good.

Broadchurch 

I have a thing for David Tennant.  Tall, lanky, ever-so-slightly-crazy looking.

I also have a thing for good whodunits which this definitely is.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review: My Brother's Keeper by Donna Malane [Jan]


Missing person’s expert Diane Rowe is hired by Karen, an ex-P addict just released from prison, to find her daughter and ensure she is safe.  The crime Karen was imprisoned for was the attempted murder of her daughter.  Diane finds Karen’s daughter, Sunny, after a quick internet search which Karen could’ve done.  Suspicious of her client’s motives, Diane goes to check on Sunny’s safety.

At home in Wellington Diane’s boyfriend has bonded with her dog and her ex, her relationship has become serious, and her ex wants to sell the marital home.  Diane deals with this as her credit card balance dwindles and she keeps annoying police officers with her inability to keep her nose out of cases.  The adorable Wolf, Diane’s ex-police dog, appears throughout the book, as does the cute cop Robbie.

A strong, capable character, I’m impressed by Diane’s tenacity and her ability to have everything turn out ok in the end.  There where I few twists I didn’t see coming and the ending took be my surprise.  Set in Auckland and Wellington, the places were familiar and there were a few aspects unique to New Zealand.
I HAD to buy the second in the series as this series is so good!  Paperbacks are available from New Zealand websites only, but there is an e-book version.

Title: My Brother’s Keeper
Author: Donna Malane
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: Book 2 in Diane Rowe
Reviewer: Jan

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Haim (rhymes with I am)

Haim are a super cool trio of sister's from The Valley in California who are currently walking the line between being indie-cool and being played on pop radio. If you're into Boy, The Naked and Famous, Lorde or any kind of 70's Fleetwood Mac-y kind of deal, you might be into these guys too.

Haim's debut album 'Days are Gone' came out a couple of months my and it's fricken awesome, my favourite songs are 'The Wire', 'Don't Save Me' and 'My Song 5'  but make sure you check out the whole album.

I wish I was in a girl-band so bad. Especially one as good as these guys...


The Wire


Don't Save Me

P.s. Haim are playing at Laneway Festival this January so try and go along to see them! 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Why New Zealand fiction is doomed

This is a page that should in truth be filled by Kiwi publishers...But despite Eleanor Catton's glorious win at the Booker Prize do, and notable efforts such as Mister Pip and co, the fact is, New Zealand fiction ain't doing so good at the tills. If one Peter Jackson does not a vibrant local film industry make, one Eleanor Catton sadly does not spell glory days ahead for the rest of us.

Here's why.

New Zealand publishers will not support genre fiction.

The top-selling international authors tend to be crime, action or romance ones - the genre guys. We're talking Lee Child, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, John Grisham. But while megabucks will be spent promoting their novels to Kiwi readers, virtually none will be spent marketing - or even publishing - the ones who live here.

There are a few crime authors being published by local companies, notably Penguin with Vanda Symon, HarperCollins with Ben Sanders and Donna Malane, and Random House with Paul Cleave. One of these is also the publisher of my previous crime series. So naturally, when I completed my new book, I sent it in. And I quote:
"Oh. It's just a crime novel. I didn't realise it was crime. Kiwis don't buy local crime, so I'm sorry, we wouldn't be interested."

Is it also true that EVERY work of general fiction goes down the tubes, because some are complete turkeys? It's not sour grapes, entirely, merely an observation. I was rather disgusted, to tell you the truth (especially as I know the publisher personally doesn't read crime novels and doesn't like them). I know that our publishers are in a bad way, minnows struggling to survive being swallowed up by their Australian offices. But the bulk of their money comes from cookbooks and international fiction anyway. Is it too much to ask that they try to support local authors, without writing off a whole swathe of them wholesale, based on genre alone?

I'm still in a better position than New Zealand's sci-fi and fantasy authors, who won't be published by any of our international firms. While they'll publish "chick lit", no one will touch erotica or the standard kind of romance either, except for Mills and Boon. Authors in these genres have to go to Australia and the US. In the long run, it's probably better for their careers.

Sadly, it's no better in television. I was told by one company: "Yep, loved the book, but it's way cheaper to import crime dramas from the UK and the US. No one wants to see a Kiwi crime drama enough to pay for it."

Unless, of course, it stars Oscar Kightley. Just sayin'.

The confusion continues. When I once entered a national teen fiction competition, I was told that my story was judged the best, but because the setting wasn't "Kiwi", the publishing firm wasn't interested. "Our brief is to support New Zealand stories".

A second publisher backed this up. One would think that by supporting local authors, you are supporting New Zealand literature - without the writers, there could be no stories. A good story should be borderless. But this distinction appears to be lost. This attitude also cripples our authors overseas. By making our stories so local and small, there is less chance of us picking up publishing deals in foreign markets. It's death by parochialism.

Meanwhile, our publishing houses are steadily being relocated to Australia, which has even less interest in promoting a Kiwi writing community. Do you see our Government pouring millions into reversing that, like they did after the America's Cup defeat?

Samuel Johnson once said: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money". Sometimes even hope is enough to keep us going. But remove even that, and you'll be left with silence.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Doctor? Doctor Who? : A Well Deserved 50th Birthday

You know you've got it made when you have your very own Google Doodle.  Now that is all kinds of awesomeness.

Then again celebrating 50 years is a pretty big milestone especially in TV land where only a handful of shows have lasted that long and most of those are documentary type shows.  That a science fiction show has managed to reach 50 years fills my heart with joy because without Doctor Who I would never have discovered the amazing world of science fiction in the first place.

Thanks Doctor Who.


For the scares


 the laughs


 the tears


And the sheer excitement that you have brought to so many


Happy Birthday Old Friend