Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 books about people rebuilding lives and homes after Hurricane Katrina

List by Tosca

"It's a big deal, what's happened here and what lies ahead. Rebuilding this city is history in the making, and my family - as we're fond of singing around here - is going to be in that number: This is not just Anywhere USA we're talking about. This is New Orleans. This is our home. Our future.

It's a hard-luck city right now, and you can look at it as a half-empty, half-full conundrum, although, in New Orleans the truth is that the glass is shattered.

But we're going to pick up the pieces. Starting today."

- Chris Rose in 1 dead in attic

In 2005, from the warmth and safety of my home, I remember watching news footage that showed the devastation that Hurricane Katrina left behind when she had finished with New Orleans. It was heart-breaking. Perhaps 'finished' isn't the right word because, really, the physical damage was just the start of a long and emotional journey for a city and its people to rebuild itself. Something they're still doing at the moment. I was fortunate enough to visit there in 2009, the culmination of a 22-year old dream to do so, and was amazed by the generosity and hospitality of a people in perpetual recovery mode. I met so many people who had such personal stories to share. And share them, freely and without prompting, they would: the cabdriver who lost his business, the woman who relocated and came back once a year to visit family, the student who moved to Mississippi but commuted each week because she wasn't quite ready to move back and start again, the young man who saw the hurricane as a clear message to get his life together and make something of himself. I heard these stories and so many more just like them and all told without any pretensions whatsoever. The most memorable conversation I had was on the Amtrak to Memphis with a young woman seated beside me. The New Orleans she spoke of - broken, dirty, unrecognisable - broke my heart. She had moved herself and her son to Chicago, unable to face starting over in the Lower 9th. Not forever, she made it more than clear that it wouldn't be forever, but certainly for the forseeable future. In the meantime she so desperately missed all that was familiar about home: family, friends, food, music, lifestyle, Mardi Gras, sleeping in your own bed...the list was endless. I was moved by her honesty and by her hope that, eventually, this would all pass over and be something she looked back on as having made her stronger. I'm not sure I could have found peace in that were I in the same situation.

Top 5 much loved fairytale reboots

List by Danielle and friends & family

"Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality -- for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it wisely."
~ Terri Windling

Like a lot of fantasy readers, I grew up devouring fairytales and folklore, and practically haunted the 398s in my local and school libraries. (To this day, it's the one Dewey number that I could find in the dark, the path to it is just engraved on my brain somewhere.) There's a lot of magic to be wrung out of those deceptively simple stories, plenty for writers to explore and readers to latch onto - heroes and heroines taking destiny into their own hands, adventures into unfamiliar realms, happily ever afters.

Me, I loved the sparkliness... girls transported from their own mundane lives to palaces full of gems, through forests of trees with glittering leaves, wearing gowns of gold and silver... SIGH. That said, one of the most moving (though least sparkly) reimaginings of the 'girl meets palace' storyline that I've read recently was in Margo Lanagan's Tender morsels, where a transformed hut with straight walls, clean floors and sturdy furniture - and absent an abusive father - is the most incredible gift for Lanagan's heroine.

Here below, inspired by Annie and Teigs' brilliant lists of late, my mum and my co-worker Julia have helped put together a list of the five retellings that have meant the most to us, over the years.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Top 5 books Mr. 7 hopes will provide awesome school lunch ideas

List by Kalani

"It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it."
- Julia Child

I flunked cooking class in intermediate school when I was 10 years old. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration. What I should have said was that I got a B for sandwich-making. Mrs. Plough said that I 'lacked imagination and creativity.' For sandwich-making. To be fair, she was probably right. What she didn't take into account, however, were two things: 1) being creative on demand is not my forté and 2) playing with food is a kind of cultural taboo for Maori. Sure there's a difference between 'having fun with food' and 'playing with food' but who's really equipped to make that distinction when they're 10 years old? A lack of imagination and creativity - at least as far as sandwiches go - extended to my everyday school lunches. The ones mum made were brilliant. Mine not so much. By the time I was old enough to make my own lunches they were boring. Probably because I saw school lunches as an obligatory meal/chore. Peanut butter sandwiches, jam sandwiches, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, marmite sandwiches, meat paste sandwiches and nutella sandwiches. That was all I ever made and, looking back, I'm realising how pathetic that was. Mum would allow me to choose whatever sandwich fillings I wanted each week and those were the only ones I ever listed. She would pull a face each time but she wanted the choice to be ours no matter how unexceptional. The other week I noticed that my nephew, Kalani, is on the same slippery slope. When I asked what sandwich fillings he would like me to buy his response - "Nutella, please!" - made me wince. It's another 4 years before he has to take cooking classes in intermediate and I'd love it if he wasn't the disaster I was then, which is why I've written this post and encouraged him to choose 5 books that he hopes will provide awesome ideas for school lunches. In a smaller sense this is about sandwiches. In a larger sense this is about not wanting Kalani to be as inhibited as I was about life in general and food in particular. I would like him to expect more from life than nutella sandwiches. Looking at his selection of books, I'm keeping in mind that he's 7 and is all about covers that appeal to kids :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top 5 books to help me get my kicks on Route 66 (or something much like it)

List by Tosca

'66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert's slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads, 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.'
- from The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck, 1939

In 1983 two momentous things happened to me: 1) I discovered a love of Louis Armstrong's music that later turned into a lifelong affair with New Orleans-style jazz, and 2) I fell in love with Route 66, a feeling that would forevermore embody my idea of freedom, wanderlust and adventure, and kickstart a lifelong yearning to travel the road myself to experience that.

I'd always wanted to travel, right from when I was about 8 years old. For some reason, I never really did, though, other than little trips around New Zealand by myself. I would squirrel money away and save for a perpetual 'rainy day.' That never came. Finally, I got to 31 years of age (5 years ago) and realised that I'd never travelled because I'd been waiting. For what I'm not sure. Then, at 32, I decided it was do or die, and booked myself a return trip to New Orleans as a 33rd birthday present, a place I'd wanted to visit since the first time I could remember hearing Louis Armstrong. My trip, in 2009, was everything and more I could want it to be, so much so, in fact, that I'm booked to go back in Feb 2012. This time with a sibling. 1983 was also the first time I heard - and felt an affinity for - Nat King Cole's version of 'Route 66' and, much like Louis Armstrong, I decided then and there that one day I would drive it. Something I plan to do for my 2013 international trip. It seemed as good an excuse as any to go a little crazy with research - the good, the bad and the ugly of Route 66. I requested everything even remotely Route 66-related that we have in our libraries (including a book that features a pair of road-inspired socks, I kid you not) and spent the last week going through each book to get an idea of the history of the road, why it was so important, whether or not it still is, and the state of things now. You can bet that I have read everything big, small, fantastic and tacky. And oh! What fun I had! Yeah sure, my trip is two years away, but I doubt my excitement will abate a whit before then. Roll on 2013!

Opened in 1926 and trekking its way across eight US states, Route 66 is, undoubtedly, one of America's most famous highways. For many people the road was a means to an end and allowed them to get away for family holidays. For others it was a pathway to relocating and making new beginnings, new homes and new memories. Over time newer, bigger and improved highways - soulless pavements, as one author put it - saw to the eventual decline of the old route. A move that local businesses and towns felt especially deeply. But the spirit of the road, the heart of it, the legend of it, refuses to die. All of these books (yes, even the grimly cynical account) go a long way toward preserving and recapturing that same feeling and hope. As Bobby Troup wrote (and Nat King Cole recorded) I can't wait to get my kicks on Route 66.

Query: Have you travelled Route 66? Have you ever wanted to?

Top 5 fractured fairytales

List by Annie, Central Library

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
~ Albert Einstein

Annie is one of the stars behind Auckland Libraries' Teen blog, and she recently posted an introduction to fairytales, fractured and otherwise, as well as linking to an earlier selection of fairytale retellings reviewed by fellow librarian Teigs. Here are some of her favourite older titles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top 5 'lifestyles of the rich and philandering'

List by Rachel

"You know sometimes the public and press gets it wrong."
~ Jesse James, People magazine

Rachel Randall, customer service advisor at Botany Library and fab reviewer of Katy Perry, cookbooks, style guides and more, sent in this list of biographies about (and monologues by) her top 5 bad hubbies and scandalous baby daddies that just couldn't keep it zipped. You might not approve of their lifestyle choices, but apparently they make for pretty entertaining reading and listening!

Monday, August 22, 2011

5 groundbreaking Māori DVDs (as picked by Wairoa Film Festival director Leo Koziol in Mana magazine's 100th issue)

List by Leo Koziol, director of the Wairoa Film Festival

My dad is from Nuhaka in the Hawkes Bay area, although he spent his childhood growing up in the Wairarapa region on family land. My experience of the Wairarapa family home is from summer holidays spent there: miles from anywhere, longdrop toilet, cows wandering the paddock, a creek down the back for bathing (in the mornings), fishing (during the day) and eeling (by night). My memories of a visit to Nuhaka are hazy. I was a child so what I remember is coloured by sentimentality, a longing for 'home' (which is rather ambiguous when you're Māori, after all, home is any one of a myriad of places I whakapapa back to), and a distinctly unsettled and constant feeling I have that I need to go back more often. But like I said, being Māori means that I have that same feeling of 'loss' when thinking of Wairarapa, Wharekahika (Hicks Bay), Kaikoura and Waimanoni (the various places my grandparents all come from). Dad and I had made plans to head back to Nuhaka earlier this year to help plan for a whanau reunion, unfortunately his ill health prevented either of us from doing so. I've decided, though, that I'm going back next year on my own and have made tentative plans to set aside some time to take in the Wairoa Film Festival. The festival, which began in '05, is held on Queen's Birthday Weekend every year in various marae in the Hawkes Bay region, and is a great way to see NZ films by both up-and-coming talent and established directors/writers. I'm really looking forward to it. I haven't told my siblings of my plans, though, for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm worried they might want to come with me and yet 2) I'm also worried that they might not want to come with me. Either way, I hope to visit my grandfather's marae and mountain and river and, hopefully, feel a bit more settled afterward. And yes, I'm absolutely aware of how airy fairy and whimsical that sounds. Although, maybe not so much when I consider that my paternal grandfather was raised with some scary-spooky tohunga-type beliefs/practices that he refused to pass on to his children (that I managed to hear about, anyway, and which, I might add, scared the stuffing out of me).

I do have an explanation for how this list idea came about and, as usual, it's as convoluted as you've probably come to expect from me. Back in June I read Mana magazine's 100th issue (with its very distinctive cover) and even recommended it in a post (specifically Top 5 items I took out that are totally worth sharing). There were a few articles in that particular issue that caught my eye, although it's one in particular that I'm going to concentrate on today. At the time I read the magazine, I made a mental note to add Koziol's five most groundbreaking Māori films of all time as a list to this blog. Unfortunately, my self-notes to 'add a mental note' are like my promises to old friends and family to 'catch up': well-intentioned, heartfelt at the time, and forgotten as soon as the person is gone from my sight. Which was what happened with this list *shamefaced look* So, finally, two months later here it is: 5 groundbreaking Māori DVDs, as picked by Leo Koziol, director of the Wairoa Film Festival. And maybe if you're in the area at the same time, we'll bump into each other.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 5 reasons to stay out of the snow

List by Danielle

The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches.
~ e.e. cummings

Earlier this week, I was driving through central Auckland when it hit: call it snow, call it sleet, call it 'graupel' (as I saw it referred to in the news)... it was beautiful and strange and altogether magical, drifting in swirls through the sky and sticking to my windscreen. I've only been out while it's snowing once or twice in my life, so it was a total treat and not the nightmare I'm sure it is for farmers with lambs and calves, or people driving on icy roads, or the folk in Christchurch who really need a break from all the mayhem.

Speaking of nightmares and snow, horror books & movies know the score. Stay away from the white stuff! It hides all manner of abominations... for the love of all that's holy, COME IN FROM THE SNOW, PEOPLE!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top 5 items I nicked from Manukau Library's new books trolley

List by Tosca

'I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.'
- Woodrow Wilson

When I'm in need of inspiration or timeout (not like the naughty corner/naughty step kind of time out, though) I sneak away downstairs and raid their collections or their new books trolley. I find that I am greatly in need of inspiration this month. Ordinarily, I am full of words that are clamouring to be given voice here in this blog, but August seems to be a solemn month for me. As a result I have posted very little. I spent some of the last couple of weeks fretting about how hard I'm finding it to write posts that are engaging and funny or even relevant. And then last night I decided to let it run its course. After all, it doesn't mean I love books any less :) So today I offer up a simple post that is less about my sense of humour and all about the books: top 5 books I nicked from Manukau Library's new books trolley that are well worth the mention. Many thanks to Shanta for letting me ooh and aah over the trolley and 'borrow' a stack of new books for the day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 5 novels where life is a game

List by Danielle

Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.
~ Charles Lamb

I'm halfway through the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy at the moment. Maybe it's just one of those moments where you find the right book at the right time (often after a string of less-satisfying reads), but it's almost unputdownable. I'm not kidding, my hubby has to bully me to go to bed at night because I keep telling myself, just one more chapter, just one more chapter, what the...?! okay, just one more chapter.

It's Collins' conflicted characters and her understated approach to the vastly emotional subject matter that I'm really enjoying, but there's something about a story built around a game that just appeals (all you other roleplayers in the house say howdy). There are more than a few great reads out there that play with the idea of life as a game - here are some of my favourites.

Top 5 books for the Vampire completist

List by Danielle

Around humans? Use the Blood Bottle Cozies to disguise your beverage.
~ from 'Vampire knits' by Genevieve Miller

Maybe they're on the way out, I don't know, there seems to be a growing swell of enthusiasm for zombie this'n'that, but there is still a lot of love out there for the not-so-humble vamp. And our collection reflects this, with a dazzling array of vampire novels, anthologies, film tie-ins, soundtracks... and knitwear. YES. Knitwear.

Also, because Tosca mentions it, I can only add that I, too, haz germs, but that instead of going on and on about it, I merely pull my 'Descent into Darkness wrap' a little closer around me and reach for a pair of patented 'Paw Warmers'. True story.

Without further ado, I present some truly fantastic knitting projects (a jersey with bloody fangs! for your pre-schooler!), and three very unlikely vampire slayers.

5 reboots/remakes Rotten Tomatoes says you should watch (and I agree)

List by Rotten Tomatoes

I haz germs *coughs all over your screen* Last month I picked up some viral infection and ended up on antibiotics. It took a little while to kick it and I was so stoked when I did. And then last night, while at quiz night (I have to release my inner geek somehow) I felt it coming back again. It's not totally a terrible thing because I intend to use it as an excuse to grab one of the movies off this list that I haven't seen - 3.10 to Yuma - and take over the lounge (duvet, pyjamas and all) to recuperate and rest up over the weekend. I don't expect you to care, though *sniffs* Not at all *cue pitiful look*

Today's list is all thanks to the fact that I have the attention span of a goldfish. You're welcome *grin* Most of you will know that for fun I often spend my nights playing online looking for 'What do I read/watch next?' recommendations. I tell myself that it's *all* for you. And mostly it is. But I suspect that it's also partly because I live for links like this one from Rotten Tomatoes: Best Reboot/Remake, which made up a part of their Best of the Decade post where they recapped some of the top Tomatometers of the past ten years :)

Query: What's your favourite movie reboot/remake?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Top 5 greatest songs of all time (according to Rolling Stone)

List from Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all time

The other day I made some stupid grandiose claim (wholly unaided by mind altering substances such as chocolate, icecream or dinosaur lollies) that my favouritest rock song ever, ever, ever in the history of rock songs was Carry on, wayward son by Kansas. So much so that it pains me - as in shooting-sharp-pains-in-my-chest pains me - to see that we don't have a copy of it catalogued on any of our umpteen numbers of compact discs. It's quite likely it *is* sitting on one of our discs somewhere but the track list just hasn't been added to a library record *cue tears* I should've known better than to make a statement such as that because someone - namely a sibling (pick one, any one, I have eight) - was going to call me on it. Sure enough, one of my (many) sisters responded with, 'Favouritest rock song? Yes. Ever? No.' And I fired back with, 'This is *my* list. It's *my* favouritest rock song.' There's nothing like siblings to remind me that mentally I'm forever five years old and always a sentence away from a childish I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I type of retort. Her comment did get me thinking, though. Is there a definitive list of all time rock songs? Whose list is it? How credible is it? And, of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar question: did I agree? After a quick and dirty Google-fu session I got distracted, not by an ultimate rock list so much as the all encompassing Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all time list and OH. WOW. It certainly provoked comment at our dinner table, and what a mission to get through it/read it aloud without ending up shouting each other down (because in our family he/she who shouts the loudest wins). And as for my questions? Totally disregard them! I did :)

Query: What one song would you have had on this list? And yes, Carry on, wayward son by Kansas is totally acceptable :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top 5 most requested titles for July 2011

List by Natalie and Tosca

Books are immortal sons deifying their sires."
- Plato

Shortest intro from me ever, ever, ever: Lots of you want to know what Paul Henry was thinking :P