Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 5 books I think broke my book mojo

List by Tosca

"I knew a gentleman who was so good a manager of his time that he would not even lose that small portion of it which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets in those moments."
- Lord Chesterfield

I don't know anybody who reads in the 'necessary-house' as a means of passing the time. I do know, though, that were I to meet such a one I'd be impressed simply because they can and do read and, very probably, enjoy it. In the 'necessary-house' and elsewhere. I haven't had as much luck. For the last 3 months (slightly more?) my book mojo has been seriously broken. Every few months I go through a phase where I get 'book burnout' which is natural enough considering that in an ordinary month I'd read anywhere from 20-30 books. In the past I've found that the cure for that is to take a break for a week. Never before has it been this long. I've only ever worked in libraries because I heart books so much. So what do I do when I less than 'less than three' them? (a phrase I nicked from Wil Wheaton - thanks, Wil!). Once I began to count back I realised that I could actually pinpoint the top 5 books that I think broke my book mojo. And by that I mean that these were the last titles I remember reading where I had either seriously mixed feelings about them or had enjoyed them so much I haven't been able to find anything to match since. Do I hold the authors accountable for any of that? Not at all. These are *my* expectations and, as such, totally my own fault. I've included a short(ish) explanation for each. Eep.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 5 most unusual and/or most hilarious romance novel titles I've seen all month that make me want to request them

List by Tosca

"Sure, you can't judge a book by its cover but who wants to have sex with a book?"
- Stephen Colbert

I heart romance books! They're a guaranteed happy (albeit sometimes cliché) ending where everybody wins (and maybe the bad guy gets his comeuppance because what's a little romance without a shootout, right?). Everytime I read a new romance novel (bad, good or great) it always feels a little bit like Christmas. The characters are new to me and it's their dynamics - how they get on, the way they talk to each other, the chemistry, etc. (doesn't 'etc.' cover all manner of euphemisms?) - that make the story. But when I'm hunting for a romance novel to read, what catches my eye, or fancy, depends primarily on where or how I'm searching. If I'm physically browsing the shelves then I'm a total cover junkie - team chest, team back, team biceps - headless men everywhere. If I'm cruising the catalogue then I'm heavily relying on the funny (haha and weird) title factor and I'm almost 100% certain you will agree that the books below totally belong on this list.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 5 bestselling Random House ebooks of 2010

I heart books! If you're a regular reader of this blog then you'll also know that I feel no guilt or shame whatsoever about cyber-stalking authors, publishing houses, reviewers etc. in an effort to ferret out any and all up-and-coming titles, snippets of info and gossip. Hey, it's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it, right? This morning while clearing a multitude of RSS feeds I read that Random House's combined ebook sales over 25 Dec 2010/26 Dec 2010 are up 300% over this time last year. That's phenomenal! Being terribly nosey I headed on over to their site to see just what ebooks people are buying. 'Cause I'm voyeuristic like that :) And before you start squawking yes, I'm fully aware that we don't offer ebooks yet, but the titles still make for interesting viewing - after all, I wasn't expecting that Larsson's 'Millennium trilogy' would round out the top 3 spots. I've taken a bit of liberty with Random House's original list and, for the purposes of this blog, have placed all 3 together as #1. As far as the actual list itself goes I only have one teeny, tiny complaint and it's this: Dear Random House, you are solely responsible for ensuring that my TBR (to be read) pile is approaching gargantuan proportions. Take a bow! :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 5 best nonfiction books of 2010 according to the NY Times (OR 'More titles to bribe all y'all into our libraries')

List by Tosca

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
- Dr Seuss

Before I get to the reason for this post I have to point out 1 thing and confess to 2 things: this is the last '12 days of Christmas Top 5s' post (it has been mucho fun, people), I won't be wrapigami-ing anything (because I'm too lazy by now) and no Tosca-made pavlovas (Countdown all the way, baby). I'm getting ribbed about the #fail by the youngest sibling who told me, 'But it was your top 5 goal! You said you'd do it! You *have* to do it!' *blows raspberry*

Weirdly, for the first time in years, I'm not feeling so terribly cynical about Christmas. Last night Markhiem (13 year old nephew) said to me, 'This is nice. All of us together. It's the best Christmas present ever.' I kinda had to agree. My top 5 list is, once again, cheating a little. Earlier this week I posted the 'Top 5 best fiction books of 2010 according to the NY Times (that may just make for good Christmas break reading).' Just to round out the week, and this time of year's leisure reading, tonight's post lists the Top 5 best nonfiction books of 2010 according to the NY Times (OR 'More titles to bribe all y'all into our libraries') :) Hey, don't ever say I'm not honest LOL

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 5 2010 digital photography books that caught my eye (and may ensure you don't end up with Christmas holiday photos like ours)

List by Tosca

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
- Norman Vincent Peale

Except terrible family holiday photos! I'm dead certain Christmas can't fix those :) There is a way, however to make sure that you don't take ones as bad as ours were. My sisters and I have spent the last few nights going over old photos laughing and remembering terrible haircuts and even worse clothes but, we've all agreed, fantastic Christmas holidays. In this post I've chosen 5 digital photography books (published 2010) whose great tips and ideas I intend to use over the next few days (that allow me to take photos that hopefully won't look as dated as the ones accompanying this post but in reality probably will). As a bonus I also think these titles have great covers, too (click on the links to view them in the catalogue). I never trust a skinny chef so I'm not about to trust a photography book with an ugly cover. For each selection I've also attached old photos from our past Christmas holidays - the good, the bad and the oh-dear-heavens-never-again. Don't feel guilty for laughing - that's what the images are here for. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 5 non-Christmas songs that the nephews and I will be singing on Christmas day

List by Tosca

Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day;
Twine mistletoe and holly.
For a friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let's all be jolly!
- Author Unknown

A quickie post because 1) it's almost midnight and 2) I just got in and 3) the parental unit are here and wanting to catch up :) I heart music! In all its gloriousness and badness and you can always guarantee that one of us will pull out a guitar on Christmas day and, before you know it, everyone's joining in for an impromptu singalong. Both of my parents encouraged a love of music and it's something that my siblings have in turn encouraged in their own children. This year mum asked me if I could get the nephews (Markhiem (13), Jaxin (12) and Kalani (7)) to sing a few songs. In my own (slightly delusional) mind I had picked out some Christmas carols (traditional and contemporary) for the boys to sing and arranged for our very first practice. Complete with me on guitar, I might add. The boys turned up...and totally booted my idea of Christmas music on its head - they wanted artists like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga and even Britney Spears. SAY WHAT? I had chucked in a little Bic Runga and some Fur Patrol (go NZ music!). For a few minutes it was touch and go as to whether or not we could get through it without calling in a referee. In the interests of peace and goodwill (i.e. I threatened to storm off if they didn't agree on something/anything) we agreed to mix things up a little - my choices and their choices. All I can say is that I will be heartily sick and tired of Bruno Mars by the end of the day *grumpy face* Interestingly, there were no Christmas songs. Oops. Maybe next year, mum...? Our top 5 selections (after much heated debate and temper tantrums) are below!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 5 best fiction books of 2010 according to the NY Times (that may just make for good Christmas break reading)

List by Tosca

"Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit."
- Kin Hubbard

Sometimes, though, a stolen moment of peace and quiet in your newly cleared backyard (yes, in *my* newly cleared backyard) to indulge in a spot of escapism in the form of a book, can go a long way towards helping you retain your Christmas bonhomie. I'm totally pooped! I've spent the last two and a half hours working on a major part of last night's top 5 list (Top 5 chores I have to take care of before the impending parental Christmas day visit). And so I sit here, covered once again in grass gunk, snail trails and leaves but feeling pretty gosh darn good. My brain, though, is absolutely fried. So fried that I'm going to cheat, just a little (is that like being a little bit pregnant?) and admit that I browsed the NY Times books section for ideas. What I came out of there with, other than a long list of 'DO WANTS' and 'MUST HAVES,' was the thought that if I'm interested in their best fiction books for this year then others might be, too. If you're looking for some peace and quiet over the Christmas break, then these titles just may help you escape. Even if it's only for 10 minutes :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Top 5 chores I have to take care of before the impending parental Christmas day visit

List by Tosca

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
- Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

My parents had the same place in South Auckland for 25 years. Then, last year sometime, they both decided to uproot and move, permanently, to Taipa. In the far north. For some reason. Can you sense my disbelief? Not being a fan of small towns (I've heard the internet is dodgy in small towns and I have nothing concrete to base this on but I'm quite happy here in the Big Smoke all the same please and thank you) I was left homeless. I'm kidding! Sort of. It did leave me looking for a new place. After living with another sibling (lucky I had 8 to choose from, eh?) for about 3 months while looking for somewhere, I finally found a house. That's the good news. The bad news is that while I wasn't looking or listening someone decided it was a good idea to hold our 2010 Christmas celebrations here. Not being a Christmas person this is...a challenge. And I'm finding that 5 days out from the big day, there are a few chores left for me to take care of in order to prepare for the impending parental visit. It's not that my parents are fussy - I'm (almost) certain they'd enjoy their time down here because they can see all of us in one place at one time. I think it's more that, at 35, I still care what they think. And I would like for them not to worry about us. Even though they effectively left me homeless LOL I'm kidding, mum! Yes, she does read this blog :) So, this post is for those of you still with oustanding Christmas chores lists to achieve by Saturday!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Top 5 kids' Christmas craft books

List by Tosca

"There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child."
- Erma Bombeck in her memoir 'I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression'

My mum used to love it when my siblings and I would make the Christmas gifts and decorations ourselves. Whatever we made she loved: badly strung (and hung) popcorn chains, drunken-looking bows, partially-baked biscuits, wreaths with bits and bobs that randomly fell off, oddly shaped gel candles (that were heated too long before being poured or not heated long enough) and potpourri balls that shed dried flowers everywhere (to name a few). She never complained, though, and I think it was because she always felt that it all had so much more meaning when everything you wrapped, or hung on the tree, was something you'd put a little bit of effort and a lot of heart into. Mum was even more touched if your craft was ecofriendly. Over the years we've kinda stopped doing that. These days our creativity tends to find its outlet in other ways. For example, a couple of years ago we decided that for the adults we'd do Secret Santa and nobody was allowed to spend more than $10. The trick of it was to buy the recipient something they'd always desired. My baby brother (can you be a baby at 6"3?) ended up with a 1964 Ford Mustang convertible...as a toy car :) I do miss those days just a little and so this post is for my mum who taught me that 'homemade with love' is sometimes the icing on the cake. Or, you know, the star on the Christmas tree :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top 5 Christmas songs double-gosh-darn-guaranteed to get me feeling Christmassy

List by Tosca

"Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart... filled it, too, with melody that would last forever."
- Bess Streeter Aldrich

Preparing this top 5 post made me realise something that I never saw until just this minute. My dad enjoys Christmas music. I don't mean he generally likes it, I mean he *really* enjoys it. Every Christmas morning he loads up a Christmas playlist and without being aware of it we all sing along with it as we go about the day. I don't know how I skipped learning that about him after 35 years. When I mentioned it to another sibling she said to me, 'It was mum who was never a Christmas music fan.' Weirdly, I never knew that until now, either. My mum grew up musical, she always sang or played cello. These days she's more inclined to sing and play guitar, instead. Dad, however, often tells us he never had music growing up - they never sang or played any kind of an instrument. It wasn't something he learnt how to do until he met mum and then had us. Strange the things we learn or remember about our parents. We haven't had one of his playlists for a couple of years. Maybe, when he and mum come down next week to spend the day with us, we'll bring back the playlist. So, this post is for my dad, who taught me to enjoy Christmas music.

Honourable mention
* Please come home for Christmas as sung by Jon Bon Jovi (originally by The Eagles) - this song would be my penultimate #1 Christmas song choice for alltime however we do not hold anything with this version on it BOO HOO
* Winter wonderland by Harry Connick Jr - ragtime piano instrumental that makes me think of New Orleans. I have to admit that if we had Connick's version of this anywhere in our libraries it would be duking it out for the #1 spot with my above Jon Bon Jovi mention. Eep.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 5 cd compilations that capture my idea of a summer Kiwi Christmas

List by Tosca

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."
- Agnes M. Pahro

As a child I would watch American and UK Christmas movies/tv specials and envy their white Christmas. And then, last year, I spent a week in Memphis, Tennessee and saw snow for the very first time (in the middle of February, if you please). It fell on the guitar-shaped swimming pool of the hotel where I stayed opposite Graceland and looked extremely pretty. Deceptive! It was wet, slushy, dangerous (I almost fell over umpteen times) and, at something like -4 degrees, seriously cold. The romantic idea I'd had of white winters crashed and burned when matched with the reality. Suddenly, all of those baking hot sunny Christmas days spent in Petone at the beach seemed like paradise. I vowed never to take the sun for granted again. If you follow this blog regularly then you'd know how much I heart music, and all of the compilations below contain songs that I hear and immediately associate with my own Kiwi Christmas day activities both as a child and as an adult: sitting in the hot sun, lying on the beach, playing in the backyard, eating barbecue, wearing jandals, staying in togs for the whole day, supporting local swimming pools by stopping by, diving for seafood or gathering shellfish. Good days - roll on Christmas day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 5 book titles that I'm almost positive were written with our Christmas family lunch in mind

List by Tosca

"No matter how carefully you stored the lights last year, they will be snarled again this Christmas."
- Robert Kirby

I like my family, although whether I like them because I'm meant to or because I genuinely do like them I'm not quite sure. I'm kidding! Even with (or maybe because of?) all of their strange quirks, I like them. They are what they are: loud, passionate, overly opinionated, talented, sharptongued, quickwitted, well read, eccentric and fiercely protective of each other. Years ago we used to celebrate Christmas day with extended family (dad's siblings and their children and grandchildren). Over time, we pulled away and began to have just the immediate family over. With partners, husbands, children, grandchildren and dogs it works out to something like twenty people (+1 dog) so you can imagine how big it would've been with all of the extended family, too. My siblings and I realised that we preferred to keep days such as this free to spend with people we actually enjoy being around. As much as we get on, though, Christmas lunch can be a truly hair-raising experience if you're as antisocial as I am. It's sensory overload. There's yelling, singing, bossy people, kids everywhere, babies crying, temper tantrums and so on. With all of us under one roof for an extended period of time it can be heaven or it can be hell. Aww it really does warm the cockles of my heart! When I was cruising the catalogue for Top 5 ideas I came across so many book titles that reminded me of Christmas lunch with the family - the good and the bad - that I was prompted, nay *inspired* to post this list :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 5 Christmas picture books

List by Danielle

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.
~Andy Rooney

I recently went hunting Christmas stories at the library for my local daycare, and found a surprisingly wide range of different takes on the holiday, Father Christmas/Santa Claus, as well as more traditional tales about the 'reason behind the season'. Hopes and fears about presents (and goodness vs badness) were prominent - as you'd expect in kids' books - but there were also messages aplenty about Christmas values, like forgiveness, generosity and celebrating with family and loved ones.

I've just noticed, though, that all of the tales on my list show snowy Christmases... one of the features of growing up in NZ has been a somewhat wonky perspective on the seasons, due to reading so many books set in the northern hemisphere. Halloween always means autumn in my head - and Christmas means piles of white, white snow. OK, pass me an aerosol, I have to go decorate my Christmas tree!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top 5 Christmas movies List #1

List by Danielle (contributions from the Digital Services team)

'If this is their idea of Christmas, I *gotta* be here for New Year's.'
~ From 'Die Hard'

If you're looking for a heartwarming Christmas flick to watch with the littlies... you might have to wait for List #2. These are NOT the films you are looking for. All of these films are guaranteed to showcase all of the best festive elements of Christmas - criminals, shiny weapons, mayhem, havoc, and some very bad Santas indeed!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 5 Christmas miscellanea titles

List by Tosca

"As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is."
- Eric Sevareid

Bah humbug! I'm not a Christmas person. In fact, I have a black Bah Humbug hat and an 'I hate Christmas' badge that I love to wear each year. That whole touchy feeling thing that people do at this time of year? So not me. In fact, the thought of being sentimental at any time of year fills me with horror...so Christmas, in my neurotic mind, is ten times worse. Instead, I'm the sort of person who takes comfort in researching the traditions and customs associated with the silly season in an effort to make sense of it all. At 35 years of age I can't say that it's worked for me LOL It has, however, given me an interesting look at how and why people celebrate Christmas the way that they do. Something I'd like to do this year, though, is make an effort to recapture some of what I used to find magical and hopeful - hence my '12 days of Christmas Top 5s.' From philosophies to trivia, picture books to DVDs, every day for the next 12 days we'll be posting a Top 5 list. Whoa. I'm going to be all Christmas-ed out by the 25th December... Today's post is my pick of Christmas miscellanea titles :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Top 5 favouritest Bon Jovi songs ever in the history of Bon Jovi songs

List by Tosca

'Is there a doctor in the house? Your love is like bad medicine...'
~ Jon Bon Jovi, 5th December 2010, Vector Arena (and I know this, because I was there, and I heard him say it before he started to sing)

Bon Jovi *sigh* Big music and even bigger hair :) Someone just mentions their name and I feel like a giddy kid all over again. This top 5 is a simple list of my 5 favouritest Bon Jovi songs in the history of Bon Jovi songs ever and are all found on the Greatest hits : ultimate collection [CD]. Although, as usual, there is a (rather long winded although I did try to be short but failed abysmally) story to go with said list *winces* All attached images are ones I took last night. There's also a total SQUEE fangirl moment included that is not mine but Merrin's :)