Tuesday, December 31, 2013

5 bits of Etsy related BBC Sherlock goodness

I am, most unabashedly, a BBC Sherlock fan. It causes a bit of "discussion" in our household. My siblings are ardent Robert Downey Jr fans and heart his Sherlock times infinity. I don't dislike the movie version. I've seen them in cinemas, and if they make more sequels no doubt I'll see those, too. I've watched them on DVD with family and friends. I'm just...not a fan. And that's okay. Sometimes you are, and sometimes you're not. That's how fandoms work. My siblings don't really get the Cumberbatch Sherlock thing and, at the end of the day, that's okay, too. I don't judge them. (Okay, maybe I do just a smidgeon because HULLO). There's room for all of us. I seriously believe that.

I'm not going to tell you why you should or shouldn't watch Cumberbatch/Freeman as Sherlock and Watson. You'll either get to it on your own or you won't. But you won't feel any pressure from me. This is a simple fangirl post. Remember how I've told you in the past that I often like to play in Etsy for fandom things? This would be one of those fandoms (this, Supernatural, Doctor Who, and MTV's Teen Wolf). I love to see what people come up with, and get an idea of just how crazily creative some people can be. It is AWESOME. From me to you: 5 bits of Etsy related BBC Sherlock goodness

Monday, December 30, 2013

5 books of letters

I miss writing letters. Actual sit-myself-down-with-a-pen-and-paper type letters. If I had to write about what I missed about letter writing, I think it would be the deliberateness of the act - it was one that required much organisation of thoughts, and words, and ideas. When I moved away from home at 18, I would write home to my parents often. Not about anything earth shattering. I wasn't that kind of a writer. My letters home were full of my thoughts about life outside of Auckland, finding my place and purpose without family around, political opinions (I was suddenly old enough to vote and suddenly so much more politically aware), etc. Like I said, nothing particularly earth shattering. But mum kept them. In fact, when I was going through mum's papers a few years back, she'd kept all kinds of letters. Ones my siblings and I had written her over the years, postcards from my gran and sister who travelled a lot, notes we'd left for mum about trivial life things. (It really is a shame that we couldn't have kept the notes we'd leave for each other pinned to the toilet flush button - things like "Dad! Wake me up when you leave, please!" or "Mum! I need lunch money!" or "Jaq: I know you took my tape SO GIVE IT BACK!" I also remember toothpaste scribbled notes on the mirror for mum and dad). It was a funny (weird/strange) thing to sit and read through all our old letters and have this awkward life shot of who you were at that point in time. (Let's face it: Youth is wasted on the young, and not many of us truly appreciate it at the time). I did a terrible thing - I threw them away. And the photos of myself of when I was younger. And also all of my old school reports and certificates and awards. Sometimes, looking back is just painfully cheesy and serves only to remind me of how dorkily awkward I was. Now, some ten years or so later and feeling a tad bit more settled in my own skin, I wish I'd left them amongst mum's papers. I think they wouldn't seem so cringe worthy today. Maybe. I think that's why I'm still fascinated by letters that people write, to themselves, to parents, to strangers, for whatever reason that seemed right at the time, be it anger, forgiveness, grief or love. Maybe it's a more effusive form of tagging and graffiti - it so boldly and painstakingly says I WAS HERE, I LIVED, I LOVED, I WAS. That was uppermost in my mind when I came across all of these books listed below. I'm not sure if that's what you'll get out of them, but I sincerely hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. Et voila: 5 books of letters.

1. Dear me : a letter to my sixteen-year-old self / edited by Joseph Galliano
We could have all used words of wisdom at the difficult age of 16 -- we think we are grown up but are really still children. What would you have needed to hear at that age, that with the wisdom of experience you could now impart? Celebrities, writers, musicians, actors, captains of industry and inspirational figures are invited to write a personal letter to their 16-year-old self offering words of comfort, warning, cajoling, succour and advice. The letters can be faxed, emailed, written on hotel stationery, the back of a cereal box, loo roll, in pen, ink, pencil or blood, in any form. Each letter will offer a unique and personal insight into those personalities featured.

2. Kiwi kids' letters to Mum / compiled by Phil Kerslake & Gillian Kerslake ; illustrated by Ahmad Shawkash
The letters in this book reflect the thoughts, feelings, questions and complaints that a selection of New Zealand children aged 6 - 11 wanted to express to and about their Mums. Their letters offer an unswerving perspective on how children see their Mums. Like children themselves the letters are poignant, often hilarious; always priceless.

Dear Mum, I think you play my playstation games a bit crazily. I think that you need to practice a bit.
Nicholas, 8.

3. Letters of note : correspondence deserving of a wider audience / compiled by Shaun Usher
A beautifully produced, illustrated book based on the inspirational, hugely popular and utterly addictive website www.lettersofnote.com, with additional new content. From Virginia Woolf's heartbreaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II's recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression 'OMG' in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi's appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop's beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci's remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives. Including letters from: Queen Elizabeth II, Elvis Presley, Charles Schulz, Leonardo da Vinci, Iggy Pop, Fidel Castro, Anais Nin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Amelia Earhart, Charles Darwin, Roald Dahl, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Parker, John F. Kennedy, Groucho Marx, Charles Dickens, Katharine Hepburn, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Clementine Churchill, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and many more.

4. Yours ever : people and their letters / Thomas Mallon
An exuberant reintroduction to a vast and entertaining literature, the art of letter writing. Yours Ever explores the offhand masterpieces dispatched through the ages by messenger, postal service, and BlackBerry. Thomas Mallon weaves a remarkable assortment of epistolary riches into his own insightful commentary on the circumstances and characters of the world's most intriguing letter writers. Here are Madame de Sévigné's devastatingly sharp reports from the court of Louis XIV, F. Scott Fitzgerald's tormented advice to his young daughter, the besotted midlife billets-doux of a suddenly rejuvenated Woodrow Wilson, the casually brilliant spiritual musings of Flannery O'Connor, the lustful boastings of Lord Byron, the cries from prison of Sacco and Vanzetti. Along with the confessions and complaints and revelations sent from battlefields, frontier cabins, and luxury liners, a reader will find Mallon considering travel bulletins, suicide notes, fan letters, and hate mail--forms as varied as the human experiences behind them.

5. Love in time of war : letter writing in the Second World War / Deborah Montgomerie
Using letters between soldiers and their loved ones, parents, sweethearts, wives, and children, this compilation traces the emotional and psychological ways New Zealanders made sense of the upheaval they experienced during World War II. Contrary to stereotypes, these writings show movingly and graphically that New Zealand soldiers were able to maintain a sense of their prewar selves and their connections to home through feats of the imagination and messages of love, hope, and longing that they sent back home.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

5 must-read biographies about chefs/cooks

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
- W.C. Fields

Above image depicting appropriate use of a food group? Possibly not. But too funny not to use for this post.

'Food good' is my lifelong philosophy. Well, that and 'Chocolate good.' And probably 'Books good.' (I'm beginning to believe that there's a lot I find good, and that maybe I should amend my philosophy to 'Life? It is good' fullstop). My cooking is not that crash hot, to be honest. I bake better than I cook, but I'm amazingly lazy. I'd much rather buy a bag of chips (potato crisps) and eat those on bread than cook myself a proper sit down meal. It's less fuss. For a few years I happily lived on my own and would start out cooking actual dinners, and then somewhere along the line it got to be too much effort for one person, and so I stopped. And when mum and dad would make their monthly visits out to see me they'd poke their nose in my freezer, fridge and cupboards to make sure I was taking care of myself. And because I was living on tuna sandwiches or chip sandwiches (sometimes with marmite because OBVIOUSLY) everything was always full. Meaning that I looked like an actual adult who was capable of making adult-ish lifestyle decisions. It was around that time that I discovered how much I enjoyed cooking shows and books. More often than not it was because I loved the food and the locales (especially if the chefs were on location - combine food and travel and I'll happily watch it and be a fan for life) more than wanting to try to recreate any of the dishes myself. After that, it wasn't such a big leap to go from following food shows to reading biographies of those same people. And today's list is, really, nothing more than that - foodies, their lives, and the place of food in it. This list is quite selfish on my part, really: I heart food, and I heart people who make food. Now come live in my house and cook for me so I don't have to. (And on the days when you don't want to cook, I can still make a mean tuna sandwich, and I've perfected the best ratio of marmite to chip).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

5 (mostly) NZ reggae albums to make summer better

Thanks to the parental unit, my siblings and I associate long, hot summer days with roadtrips around the North Island visiting family and friends. Each roadtrip was accompanied by a mix of music, everything from Buffalo Springfield to The Doors, from Yvonne Elliman to Bob Marley and the Wailers and back again. I went through a phase in 1979/1980 where I loved (times a thousand) the Muppets, and would listen to their tape over and over and over. My parents would obligingly play the tape when we were in the car. Actually, they didn't just play it, they would sing along with it, too. I suspect they played it as much for themselves as they did for me. Looking back, that was no small thing, I mean back then, dad had an afro and a handlebar moustache (complete with beard, for crying out loud), and drove a bright orange Chrysler Regal Valiant. We very probably didn't look - or sound - like your average Maori family because here was this scary looking man and his hippie partner and kids singing along to Rainbow Connection while driving around the countryside. Good times. (That's not sarcasm). My parents were quite politically conscious, so something as simple as listening to music oftentimes involved discussions about the artist's political beliefs. Not surprisingly, that meant I heard a lot of folk and reggae growing up. Folk never quite stuck, but the reggae did. And summer, for me, still means impromptu roadtrips with the siblings, with carefully chosen playlists - with a lot of reggae thrown in - that capture the romance of long ago family trips, earlier times that were all about freedom, spontaneity, and adventure. I heart NZ reggae, and every summer means a new opportunity to discover never-before-heard bands, or check out new albums from bands I've been following for a while. Today's list is a quick round-up of what I'm listening to at the moment that are really worth a listen. And yes, before you ask, my siblings and I are planning a roadtrip north sometime in the next couple of weeks or so. Happy summer, everyone!

1. Harmony [compact disc] / House of Shem
Reggae music written and performed by the House of Shem with acc. musicians. HARMONY was recorded in a variety of studios across New Zealand throughout 2013 and mixed at Bob Marley's own Tuff Gong studio in Jamaica with the legendary Errol Brown (Bob Marley & The Wailers, Damian Marley, Julian Marley and Lauryn Hill) at the production and engineering helm.

1. Take You There 2. Fighting For Freedom 3. She's Mine 4. Hard Road feat Big Mountain 5. Harmony 6. For You and For Me 7. Jah Know 8. Crazy 9. Be Prepared 10. Let It Be 11. Stay Blessed 12. Calling

Photo credit: JBHiFi

2. Universal love [compact disc] / Sons of Zion
Good love -- Try again -- Superman -- Weekend -- Tell her -- Universal love -- Ignite -- Life -- Be my lady -- Feel -- Off my mind -- Home.

Photo credit: JBHiFi

3. Pacific reggae [compact disc] / Various artists
Featuring a collection of the hottest Pacific Reggae tracks released in the last two years - including hits from artists such as J Boog, Swiss, SpawnBreezie, Fiji, Three Houses Down and Brownhill - the new compilation hopes to further expose the groundbreaking Pacific Reggae Movement worldwide. To help bring this dream to reality, VP Records have included the biggest hits from the Jamaican Dancehall, Soca and Reggae scenes, including Busy Signals 'Come On Over', Tarrus Riley 'SuperMan', Gyptian 'Hold You' and Jamaican songstress Etana's hit 'Reggae'.

CD1: Pretty lady / Brownhill -- Let's do it again / J Boog -- Down by the river / Morgan Heritage -- Slow wind / Swiss -- Come over / Busy Signal -- Kanikapila / Three Houses Down -- Hold you / Gyptian -- Blue bayou / Swiss -- Superman / Rarrus Riley -- Love / Nesian N.I.N.E feat. Fiji -- Reggae / Etana -- Don't let go / Spawnbrezzie -- First love / Brownhill feat. Fiji -- Blessing / Etana feat. Alborosie -- Sweet & Irie / Sweet & Irie -- Sweet to the belly / Vybz Kartel -- Take it away / Tomorrow People -- Groovy little thing / Tarrus Riley -- All I need / Siaosi -- Feels like magic / Horsemen Family feat. Sweet & Irie.

CD2: Salute the crown / Lion Fiyah -- She's mine / Swiss -- The girl is mine / Morgan Heritage -- She's all / Brownhill -- Wrong address / Etana -- At the altar / Finn the Groovah -- Wine slow / Gyptian -- Sweet love / House of Shem -- She's royal / Tarrus Riley -- Good love / Sons of Zion -- Tempted to touch / Busy Signal -- Ganja farmer / J Boog -- She's my woman / Three Houses Down feat. Spawnbreezie -- Pure as the Nile / I Wayne -- Slow it down / Deach feat. Jae O -- Da style deh / Busy Signal -- Better place / Tomorrow People -- This is love / Monsta feat. J Boog -- I feel good / Beres Hammond -- Smoking bomb bud / J Boog & Fiji.

Photo credit: JBHiFi

4. One [compact disc] / Tomorrow People
One more time -- Feel alright (feat. Kolohe Kai) -- Let me be (the on you want) -- Take it away -- Sundown girl -- You give me something -- Irie music -- Jammin -- Souljah feeling (feat. Chad Chambers) -- Tonight -- Tell me -- Little story -- Better place.

Photo credit: JBHiFi

5. Irie inspiration [compact disc] / Sweet & Irie
Psalms of Bob Marley -- The love that comes from you -- Sunshine reggae -- Take me back to the islands -- Down by the river -- I'm sorry -- A new tomorrow -- Aotearoa -- On the road again -- Feels like magic (Raro remix feat. Brother Love).

Photo credit: JBHiFi

Also try:

Friday, December 27, 2013

5 books of awesome pictorial wtfery

This post gets no introduction. Why? Because the books are too cool for school. They need no words. So enough from me. Request them. You'll understand why.

1. Why Unicorn drinks / by C. W. Moss
Unicorns are just like us. They have problems, stresses, and like to blow off some steam. Author and illustrator C. W. Moss explores the inner psyche of the single-horned in Why Unicorn Drinks. A follow-up to Unicorn Being a Jerk, this volume of 67 four-color illustrations and captions gives readers a glimpse into the sad reality of life as a mythical creature, and reveals what drives Unicorn to the bottle. As fans of Moss online comic undoubtedly know, Why Unicorn Drinks pours a double-shot of laughter and irreverence. Youll never look at a unicorn the same way again.

2. 100 ghosts : a gallery of harmless haunts / by Doogie Horner
Cut two eyeholes into a bedsheet and BOO! Youand've got yourself a classic Halloween icon. But what happens if you tie the bedsheet in knots? What happens when you set it on fire, hang it from a clothesline, or put a llama underneath it? 100 Ghosts is a brilliantly simple artistic exploration of an icon as familiar as a grinning jack-o-lantern or an arched black cat. Itand's a delightful gift for adults, kids, and anyone who enjoys spooky design.

3. Why grizzly bears should wear underpants / written and drawn by Matthew Inman; The Oatmeal
Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants is the second variety comic collection and fourth book from the comedic mastermind behind TheOatmeal.com, Matthew Inman. Classics from the website, including "Dear Sriracha Rooster Sauce," "What It Means When You Say Literally," and "What We Should Have Been Taught in Our Senior Year of High School," are featured alongside never-before-seen works of epic hilarity that will delight veteran and newbie Oatmeal fans alike. Matthew Inman's first collection of The Oatmeal.com spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 200,000 copies. This pivotal and influential comic collection titled 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth introduced Samurai sword-wielding kittens and informed us on how to tell if a velociraptor is having pre-marital sex. Matthew's cat-themed collection How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is a #1 New York Times bestseller with more than half a million copies in print. Now with Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants , Inman offers a delicious, tantalizing follow-up featuring all new material that has been posted on the site since the publication of the first book plus never-before-seen comics that have not appeared anywhere.nbsp; As with every Oatmeal collection, there is a pull-out poster at the back of the book. In this second collection of over 50 comics, you'll be treated to the hilarity of "The Crap We Put Up with Getting On and Off an Airplane," "Why Captain Higgins Is My Favorite Parasitic Flatworm," "This Is How I Feel about Buying Apps," "6 Things You Really Don't Need to Take a Photo of,"nbsp;and much more. Along with lambasting the latest culture crazes, Inman serves up recurrent themes such as foodstuffs, holidays, e-mail, as well as technological, news-of-the-day, and his snarky yet informative comics on grammar and usage.nbsp;Online and in print, The Oatmeal delivers brilliant, irreverent comic hilarity.

4. Point your face at this : drawings / by Demetri Martin
The New York Times bestselling writer and comedian Demetri Martin is back with a brand new collection of drawings that urge you to: Point your face at this In his first book, This Is a Book , Demetri Martin introduced fans and readers to his unique brand of long-form humor writing. That book spent twelve weeks on the New York Times bestseller list Now Demetri returns with an eclectic volume devoted entirely to his trademark drawings and word play. Point your face at this contains hundreds of hilarious drawings and visual jokes, showcasing Martin's particular penchant for brevity. With a sensibility all its own, this is a great gift book and an absolute must-have for fans of the brainy, ambidextrous, comedian, palindromist (and author), Demetri Martin.

5. Best editorial cartoons of the year / edited by Steve Kelley
In this forty-first annual edition of an acclaimed series, more than four hundred clever and provocative editorial cartoons spotlight and satirise the major events of 2012. With viewpoints from liberal to conservative, no subject is off limits. The wit of the nation’s best cartoonists targets everything from politics, government, and the economy to pop culture and sports. In 2012, a far-reaching healthcare bill became law, same-sex marriage became legal, and the hard-fought election between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney came to a close. Arizona passed a controversial immigration law and Occupy Wall Street occupied the news. Also included in this edition are jests on our nation’s debt of $16 trillion and the Penn State scandal as well as ever-evolving social media.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 5 hip hop/rap albums (as selected by iTunes editors)

Photo Credit: Bourguiboeuf via Compfight cc

I'm always on the lookout for music recommendations, and as someone who came up through libraries knowing how to recommend books LIKE A BOSS, I'm really crap at the music side of it. It had always been something I wanted to work on, you know? I wanted to be so good at it that when someone came up to the counter to ask for someone else whose music was like *insert artist name here* , I'd kick butt at it. Never happened. (Probably never will now because I no longer work in a place where I can push myself to work at developing a skill like that). I like what I like and I'm mostly unapologetic about that, and it rarely occurs to me to want to do the "who else sings like...?" or "who else writes lyrics like...?" thing and go from there. Because I am such a lazy cowface, these days I rely heavily on iTunes to tell me who I should try, and this month I thought I'd try something a little different and check out the iTunes editors top 5 picks for best hip-hop/rap albums. This should be interesting. Hip-hop/rap isn't my thing and never has been, really. My siblings are all heavily into it, but for some reason it skipped me by. I'd be the first to admit that angry music is more my thing #notevenkidding. (Yes, I did just put a hashtag in a blog post). So, here's to trying new things. And hopefully, some of it might be stuff you want to check out yourself.

1. Nothing was the same [compact disc] / Drake
Tiscan leather -- Furthest thing -- Started from the bottom -- Wu-Tang forever -- Own it -- Worst behavior -- From time -- Hold on, we're going home -- Connect -- Language -- 305 to my city -- Too much -- Pound cake/Paris Morton music 2 -- Come thru -- All me -- Motion.

Photo credit: JBHifi

2. Yeezus [compact disc] / Kanye West
On sight -- Black skinhead -- I am a God -- New slaves -- Hold my liquor -- I'm in it -- Blood on the leaves -- Guilt trip -- Send it up -- Bound.

Photo credit: JBHifi

Comment: This is me making absolutely no comment about Kanye naming his baby North West.

3. Long.Live.A$AP [compact disc] / A$AP Rocky
Long live A$ap -- Goldie -- PMW (all I really needed) feat. Schoolboy Q) -- LVL -- Hell (feat. Santigold) -- Pain (feat. Overdoz) -- F**kin' problems (feat. 2 Chainz, & Kendrick Lamar) -- Wild for the night (feat. Skrillex) -- 1 train (feat. Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T.) -- Fashion Killa -- Phoenix -- Suddenly -- Jodye -- Ghetto symphony (feat. Gunplay & A$ap Ferg) -- Angels -- I come apart feat. Florence Welch.

Photo credit: JBHiFi

4. Girl Songs [compact disc] / @Peace
 Bar stool balancing act -- Days like this -- Cats like fish -- Midnight (featuring Wes) -- Cake -- Anaesthetised -- 2 die 4 -- Flowers -- Wandering -- My Dad.

Photo credit: JBHiFi

5.  Falling into place [compact disc] / David Dallas
Wire -- Transmitting Live -- Runnin' -- Gotta Know -- How Long -- My Mentality -- Local Celeb -- Southside -- Follow -- Right There -- One More -- Gate.

Photo credit: JBHifi

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

5 links with patterns to make kickass covers for electronic gadgets

Did you wake up this morning with a new gadget of some sort? Maybe an eReader, a phone, a tablet, a netbook, a laptop. If you're at all like me, the first thing you did was download every app ever made - even the ones you know you'll never use. No! ESPECIALLY the ones you know you'll never use. And then you probably spent time looking at THINGS and STUFF of all kinds (Reddit, Goodreads, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, io9.com, and every other site you can think of) until the words blurred together. And then, very possibly, or maybe this is just me, you contemplated how you could pimp your gadget. (I often look at Redbubble.com for ideas for cases and things I'd like printed on them because I am a terrible fangirl who ships all of the Sterek she can (and then some)). But maybe you're not into wearing your fandom on your sleeve, so to speak. Maybe you're more the type who would prefer to knit or sew or crochet the most kickass cover that ever did kickass. And if that's the case I am, as ever, your enabler because in today's post I offer up 5 links that provide some great cover/sleeve ideas for electronic gadgets. I'm helpful like that. Now I have to find some sucker to make ME one of these.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

1. Laptop, iPad, mp3 player, eReader bag patterns - Pinterest board
2. 37 gadget cases and Kindle cover sewing patterns - website
3. 50+ iPad and Kindle covers, cases to make - website
4. Free knitting patterns: Phone, tablet and laptop covers - website
5. Kindle covers - Pinterest board

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

5 books about toys and games for cats

Photo Credit: vvvita via Compfight cc

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”
― Garrison Keillor

Cat houses. Cat games. Cat hair. Cat hats. Cat playtime. I most definitely am thinking ALL OF THE THINGS. I'm not an animal person. I don't hate them. I mean, they're cute and fluffy and all kinds of adorable balls of HAPPINESS, so who could hate them? I just don't like like them, either. To me...they're like children. A kind of curiosity. These strange, complete little beings in and of themselves that, often, afford me much amusement. And, let's face it, sometimes much exasperation, too. (Yes, Mr3, I'm looking at YOU).  This is a quick post for the cat people out there - you know who you are - who feel there is nothing wrong in wanting to build your cat their very own house, or in wanting to make hats for your feline friends to wear, or who enjoy finding useful and artsy things to make out of cat hair. I judge ye not. How could I? The one and only cat I ever had as a child thought she was a dog, so it seems we all have our quirks to bear. If you're looking for ways to treat or spoil your cat, look no further than right here.

5. The cats' house / text and photographs by Bob Walker
Walker redesigned his home with ramps, columns, tunnels, and stairs. The nine Walker cats now have over 100 feet of elevated living space. A charming, heavily illustrated book for feline lovers.

4. 50 games to play with your cat / Jackie Strachan ; foreword by Franny Syufy

3. Crafting with cat hair : cute handicrafts to make with your cat / by Kaori Tsutaya
Got fur balls? Are your favorite sweaters covered with cat hair? Do you love to make quirky and one-of-a-kind crafting projects? If so, then it’s time to throw away your lint roller and curl up with your kitty! Crafting with Cat Hair shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames, and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly, and require no special equipment or training. You can make most of these projects in under an hour—with a little help, of course, from your feline friends!

2. Cat hats : sixteen paper hats to put on your unsuspecting kitty / Kitty Barnett
A stylish, humorous book full of fun, cutout paper hats for your cat. Cat Hats will revolutionize your and your cat’s playtime as you both get sucked into playing dress-up! This frolicsome book will appeal to anyone with a cute kitten and a sense of humor. Everyone who owns a cat knows how adorable and hilarious they look in a little hat. Cat Hats features sixteen easy-to-construct paper hats in fun designs: dress your kitty up as a queen, frog, devil, sailor, and more! Dull photos of your cat will become a thing of the past as you get creative with these easy-to-assemble hats. Light enough to pop on your cat’s head for an impromptu photo shoot when she’s snoozing, these hats will provide hours of entertainment.

1. Playtime for cats : activities and games for felines / by Stefanie Sigl & Helena Dbaly
Playtime for cats is very important. Cats need to play in order to safeguard their well-being and physical and mental fitness, and to prevent the development of behavioural abnormalities. This title offers a whole host of creative ideas, offering lots of excitement and fun for humans and cats of any age.

Monday, December 23, 2013

5 reasons to give eBooks/eAudiobooks a go

Not everyone's a fan of eBooks or eAudiobooks, and that's okay. I'm not here to tell you to give up the printed word altogether. (That'd make a great, big, fat liar out of me because I will forever have an emotional attachment to the printed word, and the comfort that a physical book gives me). When we expanded our eBook collection earlier this year (we now offer more than 43,000 titles across four different platforms for you to borrow), it wasn't about trying to replace the printed word. That's not - and never has been - our intent. What we hope to do - and I think we've done that quite well - is allow people to have more choice when it comes to reading however, whenever, and wherever they choose to. I've never been much of a one for living in denial, so I absolutely believe we can have our cake and eat it, too. After all, what else is the point of cake if not to be eaten? So if you're not yet convinced about eBooks or eAudiobooks, here are 5 very quick reasons to give them a try AS WELL AS physical books. (See? I'm not about to push you into something you're not ready for).

1. All eBooks and eAudiobooks are FREE to borrow
You simply need a library card to get started.

2. There are no late fees
Titles are automatically returned when they expire. Some of our platforms even let you return the item yourself before the due date.

3. You don't need to visit the library to borrow or return books
This means you have 24/7 access.

4. You can download eBooks and eAudiobooks from anywhere in the world
You simply need an internet connection. When I was on holiday in New Orleans last year for Mardi Gras, I found it a little hard to adjust to the change in time zones, and raided our eBook collection for something to keep me entertained until my bodyclock was in sync with Louisiana.

5. Text size, style, line spacing and page margins can be adjusted to suit your needs OR eAudiobook speeds can be adjusted to suit your needs

Sunday, December 22, 2013

5 Christmas books to make you see the funnier side of the season

I hate the commercial side of Christmas. I find it distinctly...un-Christmassy. (If that's a non-term I can use). And, some days, I'm not so crash hot on believing that my Christmas bonhomie can survive visiting relatives. But I am, first and foremost, a cynic, so there's that to take into account. One thing I do love about this time of year, though, is the amount of weirdly wonderful Christmas books we have in our collections, and today's gems are proof positive there is such a thing. I mean, I don't know about YOU but the idea that I can survive what has been, traditionally, a rather trying time of year for me (few social skills, low tolerance for happiness, and just general awkward-ery) by reading stories that poke fun at Christmas, I'M IN. Although book 5? Nothing beats book 5. Seriously. It was the 'inspiration' (and I use that word loosely) behind this post. The idea that you can knit Christmas decorations like Arne and Carlos do, does my head in a little. My disastrous knitting experiences are legendary, but this almost makes me want to try again. With, no doubt, a second disastrous result BUT STILL, right? If you're an awkward duck like me, this might be your kind of thing - 5 Christmas books to make you see the funnier side of the season.

1. Bad Santas : and other creepy Christmas characters / Paul Hawkins
Nonfiction. A gleefully dark and well-researched exploration of the history and customs of European Yuletide folklore. How did St Nicholas save children from cannibalism? Who were the Yule Lads and why would they steal your sausages? Why was the Alpine Father Christmas accompanied by a demonic figure called the Krampus who bundled children into sacks and dragged them off to Hell? And why do Spanish nativity scenes often feature a defecating peasant? Over the course of the 20th Century, a universal image developed around the world of Santa Claus as a kindly Christmas visitor but, prior to that, each country, town and community would have Christmas visitors of their own - sometimes human, sometimes animal, sometimes something else entirely - with their own curious set of mythology and customs. The Finns were visited by a pagan goat named Joulupukki that was said to eat anyone who misbehaved. In Iceland, it was said that any child who did not receive an item of new clothing for Christmas would be caught and consumed by the monstrous Christmas Cat! Bad Santas celebrates some of the most imaginative, terrifying and outright curious Christmas figures from across Europe - looking closely at its legacy of disquieting fairy stories. With beautiful black and white line drawings in each chapter, this unusual, entertaining and gleefully dark exploration of seasonal folklore will make an ideal Christmas gift and the perfect book for reading around the fireside.

2. Snark! The herald angels sing : sarcasm, bitterness, and the holiday season / Lawrence Dorfman
Bah Humbug It s that time of year again.Time to spend too much, drink too much, eat too much, smile falsely, dig down deep to try and find good cheer, battle crowds, try to find parking in over-crowded lots, ignore surly clerks, bartenders, waiters, valets, and parking lot attendants, all in the pursuit of that moment of happiness known throughout the world asdun, dun, dun: the Holidays. Has there ever been a time more suited to tapping into snark? With commentary, jokes, and quotes regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year s; on bad presents, worse in-laws, horrible children, and much more glorious excess. Enjoy such rotten sugar plums as: Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year. Victor Borge If someone screws up on their gift, there are seven more days to correct it...No awkward explanations of virgin birth...No Irving Berlin songs. Among the Top Ten Reasons to Love Hanukkah What I don t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. Phyllis Diller Snark, the Herald Angels Sing is destined to be a holiday classic.

3. Santa responds [OverDrive eBooks] : he's had enough -- and he's writing back! / by Santa Claus
Ever wonder what Santa does with all those letters? (And all those cookies?) After a particularly long, cold night staring at nine smelly reindeer butts, the old man lets loose with the real answers to those stupid, whiny, hard-to-read letters from kids. Turns out, we really do get what we deserve.

Dear Billy,
I know you honestly believe that the good deeds you rattled off represent your behavior for the entire past year rather than the activities that occurred during the two hours leading up to the writing of this letter. Two hours of good behavior hardly justifies a new Playstation, let alone a trip to Disney World!!
Your pal,

4. Ugly Christmas sweater party book : the definitive guide to getting your ugly on / Brian Miller, Adam Paulson, and Kevin Wool, a.k.a. Team Ugly of UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com
Definitive in every way, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book includes the history of the event, how to throw the perfect party, what to wear, and how to judge the all-important ugly Christmas sweater contest. But most important, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book is packed with more than 100 hilarious, full-color photos of outrageously ugly Christmas sweaters, including Scarf Face, Wreath Witherspoon, and Ryan Treecrest. It’s a must-have for the millions who plan to throw or attend an ugly Christmas sweater party, and a sidesplitting look at the funniest, craziest, most unbelievable holiday sweaters you can imagine—authorized by Team Ugly, the recognized experts on ugly Christmas sweater parties.

5. 55 Christmas balls to knit : colorful festive ornaments, tree decorations, centerpieces, wreaths, window dressings / Arne & Carlos
This book features step-by-step instructions for 55 small-scale knitted Christmas decorations with classic holiday graphics such as snowflakes, berries, bows, angels and animals as well as more ornate patterns often found in Scandanavian sweaters, hats and mittens.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 big books I'm reading this summer

Once upon a time, I used to read for the hell of it. Anything. Everything. Deliberately selected. Randomly chosen. Recommendations from friends, family, colleagues and library customers. Books of all sizes. The closer we'd get to summer, the more I would find myself keeping an eye out for big books. Fat books. Weighty books. Meaty books. Long, hot days meant I could take the time to get seriously lost in new possibilities, new characters, new places. Yeah. I was *that* guy. Then something happened, and I stopped reading as much. I'm talking about an absolutely standstill. Suddenly, something that was fun felt more like a chore, or a task to tick off. It's somewhat melodramtic, but I felt like I had lost my voice. Or maybe just my ability to enjoy others' voices. I've since resigned from Auckland Libraries and, weirdly enough, find myself excited about reading again. And, summer being a thing right now, I've been on the hunt for big books. And here are a few I have on my TBR (to be read) list.

Note: 'Big' is, I realise, a subjective term. In this context, I'm meaning anything that is 500+ pages.

How about you - do you like big books? If so, what was the last big book you read? And what big book do you have lined up next?

1. The luminaries / Eleanor Catton
832 pages. Historical fiction. The astonishing and epic second novel from the prize-winning author of The Rehearsal - a sure contender for every major literary prize. It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction, which more than fulfils the promise of The Rehearsal. Like that novel, it is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her mid-twenties, and will confirm for critics and readers that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament. Booker Prize for Fiction 2013.

2. The goldfinch / Donna Tartt
771 pages. Fiction. Composed with the skills of a master, "The Goldfinch" is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. "The Goldfinch" is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

2. The sleepwalkers : how Europe went to war in 1914 / Christopher Clark
696 pages. Nonfiction. The moments that it took Gavrilo Princip to step forward to the stalled car and shoot dead Franz Ferdinand and his wife were perhaps the most fateful of the modern era. An act of terrorism of staggering efficiency, it fulfilled its every aim: it would liberate Bosnia from Habsburg [Hapsburg] rule and it created a poweful new Serbia, but it also brought down four great empires, killed millions of men and destroyed a civilization. ... Drawing on many fresh sources, this account reveals a Europe very different from the familiar picture, putting Serbia and the Balkans at the centre of the story. Starting with the ... assassination of Alexander I of Serbia in 1903, Clark shows how, far from being the place of enviable stability it appears to us, Europe was racked by chronic problems: a multipolar, fractured, multicultural world of clashing ideals, terrorism, miliotancy and instability, which was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. He shows how the rulers of Europe, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, behaved like sleepwalkers, stumbling through crisis after crisis and finally convincing themselves that war was the only answer.

3. A naked singularity / Sergio de la Pava
678 pages. Fiction. This book tells the story of Casi, a child of Colombian immigrants who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as a public defender--one who, tellingly has never lost a trial. Never. In the book, we watch what happens when his sense of justice and even his sense of self begin to crack--and how his world then slowly devolves. It's a huge, ambitious novel clearly in the vein of DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, and even Melville, and it's told in a distinct, frequently hilarious voice, with a striking human empathy at its center. Its panoramic reach takes readers through crime and courts, immigrant families and urban blight, media savagery and media satire, scatology and boxing, and even a breathless heist worthy of any crime novel. If Infinite Jest stuck a pin in the map of mid-90s culture and drew our trajectory from there, A Naked singularity does the same for the feeling of surfeit, brokenness, and exhaustion that permeates our civic and cultural life today.

4. We are water : a novel / Wally Lamb
564 pages. Fiction. In middle age, Annie Oh--wife, mother, and outsider artist--has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success. Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's box of toxic secrets--dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives. We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs--nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art. With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb--a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.


Friday, December 20, 2013

5 shifter romance pairings that make me go "WTF?"

I read romance novels of all kinds: Historical, erotic, contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, chick lit, sci fi, medical, thriller/suspense/mystery, medical, LGBT, cowboy (because WHY NOT, RIGHT?).  Short ones. Long ones. Medium ones. I like romance novels. I wouldn't say I'm a particularly romantic person, but I love happy-ever-after moments. It's a feelgood thing, I suppose. And I have a particular fondness for paranormal romances. Shifter romances, specifically. And by 'shifter' I mean shapeshifters. Mostly werewolves, or werecats (don't ask, just go with me, here). They usually involve werewolf/human, werewolf/werewolf, werecat/human or werecat/werecat (and sometimes different species of werecat ending up together - don't look at me, it's a legitimate thing in paranormal romance). Just lately, though, I've come across shifter pairings that make up their own wtfery category. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying they're horrible. I still read them! But I had that moment, however brief, where I went "QUE?!" with all of the titles listed below. BECAUSE THE PAIRINGS OMG. Don't take my word for it, read the rest of the post and you'll see what I mean.

Have you come across any strange shifter pairings you'd like to tell us about? (Or recommend).

1. Hedging his bets by Celia Kyle and Mina Carter
Honey loves running her bar and grill, catering to humans and shifters alike. But there are two things that dim her love of the place: cocky assholes who think they own the world, and cocky assholes who think they can flex their muscles and wreck her bar when throwing a temper tantrum. Unfortunately, the drop-dead gorgeous, hotter than hot, shifter man she secretly loves is both. Blake wants the curvaceous, gorgeous Honey in his bed. Now. He’s lusted (but not loved, let’s get that straight) after the luscious woman for months. True, he looks like a bad-boy biker mixed with a player and, yeah, he’s broken a few things in her bar… But only because the guys were hitting on his girl. With no hope of winning her over in sight, he does what any red-blooded werehedgehog would do in his position. He lies.

NOT held by Auckland Libraries. Available as an eBook from Amazon.com. The hero is a werehedgehog. A FREAKIN' WEREHEDGEHOG! I came across this book by happy accident when looking for something-or-other online (as you do - or maybe just as I do) and was all la-la-la-la-la-la-la *click* Wait, what? *scrolls back* He's a WEREHEDGEHOG? Because that's how I roll. Once I became aware of this title (I bought a copy from Amazon), it made me curious about what other kind of odd pairings (or maybe not 'odd' so much as 'out of the ordinary' - werewolves being the ordinary bahahaha) there might be. Et voila! This post was born.

2. Accidentally on porpoise ; Porpoiseful intent / Tymber Dalton
Two books in one. Accidentally on porpoise: Sean didn't expect to run into Mr. Right in his boat. Although when Emery claims to be a dolphin, Sean wonders how hard he got hit. Emery finds Sean hunkier than the piece of tail he's been chasing. Unfortunately, there are some willing to hurt Sean if Emery won't let him go. Porpoiseful intent: What do you get when you mix a hurricane, a houseful of dolphin shifters a pair of oblivious human parents, a vengeful ex-lover, and an alligator shifter with a warped sense of humor? Sean and Emery are about to find out when vengeance returns...?

NO WAY. Ohemgee. A dolphin - they're DOLPHINS. That's a new one on me.

3. Doe and the wolf / Eve Langlais
What happens when a predator falls for his prey? Bounty hunting is the perfect job for a maverick wolf; flexible hours, decent pay, the thrill of the chase. But Everett never counted on a doe stopping him in his furry tracks. Dawn was a prisoner of Mastermind and ended up experimented on, against her wishes. On the run from Furry United Coalition agents, she ends up in the arms-and bed-of a lupine bounty hunter. Instinct tells her to run when she gets a chance because everyone knows not to trust the big, bad wolf, but her heart begs her to stay. When the result of genetics gone wrong rears its mutated head and threatens both of their lives, will they manage to survive and discover if a wolf deserves a happily ever after? Looking for help in recovering a fugitive? The Lone Wolf Agency can help you. We specialize in huffing and puffing criminals back where they belong, behind bars. Also: Lion and the falcon, and try the eBook anthology that includes Bunny and the bear, Swan and the bear, and Croc and the fox by Langlais.

Okay, so at the risk of sounding dumb...wouldn't he want to eat her as a snack??

4. Beast behaving badly / Shelly Laurenston
Ten years after Blayne Thorpe first encountered Bo Novikov, she still can't get the smoothtalking shifter out of her head. Now he's shadowing her in New York - all seven-plus feet of him - determined to protect her from stalkers who want to use her in shifter dogfights. Even if he has to drag her off to an isolated Maine town where the only neighbours are other bears almost as crazy as he is. Let sleeping dogs lie. Bo knows it's good advice, but he can't leave Blayne be. She may insist Bo's nothing but a pain in her delectable behind, but polar bears have patience in spades. Soon she'll realize how good they can be together. And when she does, animal instinct tells him it'll be worth the wait.

I heart Laurenston's Pride series and, out of all of the male shifters, Bo Novikov is one of my favourite characters, but I'll never get over the fact that he's half polar bear/half lion. Which, not coincidentally, makes me all WTF?? And then I try to avoid the mental imagery in my head because yikes.

5. A tiger's claim : with a special novella: Winter eve / Lia Davis
A tiger's claims: As the Alpha's only daughter Shayna Andrews has always been treated like a rare gem, protected like royalty, and she's suffocating. Her longing to be independent has driven her to sneak out one evening after dinner. After relishing in being able to run free without an escort, she finds herself face-to-face with the enemy, miles from home, and nearly loses her life until a lone wolf comes to her aid. Travis Hunter's main objective is to destroy the Onyx Pack--a group of drug using, murdering rogue shifters. His seek-and-destroy plans are put on hold when he rescues a female from a brutal attack. The beautifully exotic tiger shifter, Shayna, stirs a passion he thought died with his long-lost mate. When Shay's first heat cycle slams into her, Travis has no choice but to submit to her needs--and his own. But there is always a price to sleeping with the Pack princess. Not only will they have to face her Pack, Shay and Travis will have to deal with a mating that is beyond a single night and could have consequences more than either of them had thought. And when Travis finds out Shay wears the enemy's brand, things will go from bad to worse. Warning: One alpha female who doesn't take no for an answer, a wolf with more on the line than just his heart, and a combustible attraction that's sure to cause more than one sweaty night.

A tiger and a wolf. QUE? And yet I know I'll read it, still.