Saturday, December 31, 2011

One from the vaults... Letters from Lord Nelson

Compiled by: Geoffrey Rawson

Publication Date: 1949

Category: Adult non-fiction, history, letters.

Who'll want to read it? History lovers, romance and intrigue lovers. Anyone who'd like to learn how to write a letter.

I can't remember what I was looking for in our basement stack when I found this book. But I do feel  rather drawn to Lord Nelson, having stayed in his namesake hotel in Sydney several times. And then I couldn't help feeling deeply intrigued when I opened the book and found a facsimile of the first letter Nelson wrote with his left hand - fifteen days after having his right arm amputated in 1797.

It does feel a bit odd reading private letters that weren't meant for my eyes, but it is interesting. I didn't read the book from cover to cover, just flipped through different periods of Nelson's life between 1777 and 1805. Amidst the voyages, the battles, the promotions and the successes I found something I wasn't expecting - the story of Lord Nelson's love life. I didn't know Nelson had a scandalous affair with Lady Hamilton and cut off all contact with his wife.

In 1795 he had written to his wife "It is with inexpressible pleasure I have received within these two days past your letters,... I rejoice that my conduct gives you pleasure, and I trust I shall never do anything which will bring a blush on your face, or on that of any of my friends..." pg 100. And in 1797 "Rest assured of my most perfect love, affection, and esteem for your person and character, which the more I see of the world, the more I must admire.." pg 150.

Obviously Lady Hamilton challenged Lord Nelson's loyalty and allegiance to his wife at some stage. I felt so sorry for Lady Nelson reading this passage written to Alexander Davison in 1801:

"...You will, at a proper time, and before my arrival in England, signify to Lady N. that I expect, and for which I have made such a very liberal allowance to her, to be left to myself, and without any enquiries from her; for sooner than live the unhappy life I did when last I came to England, I would stay abroad forever." pg 322.

Although the whole saga of Nelson, his lover Emma Hamilton and Lady Nelson is fascinating, I found it was Nelson's letters regarding his voyages and battles and history making moments that had my heart pumping. Imagine being the recipient of this letter written on March 10, 1795: "To Mrs Nelson - We are just in sight of the French Fleet, and a signal is out for the general chase. We have but little wind, and unfortunately the enemy are in-shore of us.." And a report from April 1, 1795 "To Mrs Nelson - I am absolutely, my dearest Fanny, at this moment in the horrors, fearing from our idling here, that the active enemy may send out two or three Sail of the Line, and some Frigates, to intercept our convoy... In short, I wish to be an Admiral, and in command of the English Fleet.." pg 103.

The letters also cover Nelson's eventual promotion to Admiral, the Battle of Trafalgar and the leadup to his death in that battle in 1805.

October 10th, 1805 "My dear Blackwood, Keep your five Frigates, Weazle and Pickle, and let me know every movement. I rely on you, that we can't miss getting hold of them, and I will give them such a shaking as they never yet experienced; at least I will lay down my life in the attempt..." pg 453

October 19th, 1805 "To Lady Hamilton, My dearest beloved Emaa, the dear friend of my bosom... May the God of Battles crown my endeavours with success; at all events, I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much as my own life. And as my last writing before the Battle will be to you, so I hope in God that I shall live to finish my letter after the battle. May Heaven bless you ..." pg 453-4

Although Nelson completed some more diary entries, he was mortally wounded on the 21st October and did not finish the letter to Emma Hamilton. After reading bits of this book I found myself looking at other books and web-sites so that I could dig up more about Lord Nelson, Lady Nelson, Lady Hamilton and Horatia Nelson. That's what I love about books - how one volume can tease and inspire and lead you off in all sorts of directions.

Speaking of detours, below is a photograph I took outside the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel at The Rocks in Sydney a few years ago. It was a lovely day in May, with few clouds in the sky. It certainly wasn't foggy, so is the misty effect some ectoplasmic substance attached to one of the ghosts doing the rounds at The Rocks or is it just a trick of the light?

Publisher: Staples Press

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Love your library!

I know that I'm a little biased about libraries. They are, quite obviously, important to me. However, they are not just my livelihood. Libraries are an integral part of who I am.

My earliest memories of books and libraries are all wrapped up together. We had a library basket, a big cane one, that was always kept in the one place. We trooped to our local library every Saturday morning, as part of a ritual I have continued with my own family. Saturday is library-and-morning-tea-day. Although Newcastle doesn't have anything like the Moons Bakery of my memory (which may now reside in Uralla, and not in Armidale Mall), it certainly doesn't lack for places to buy good food to eat.

Neither does it lack for libraries. My local library is the beautiful Wallsend District Library, and if you haven't yet been, I recommend that you go. It is Newcastle's newest library, and well worth a visit. The exhibition space is always worth checking out, as is the artwork around the library - especially the charcoal drawing in the Young Adult area, and the storyboards for Puttikan hanging in the Children's Section.

But don't neglect the others! They all have their charm, and different selections. My parents continue the family routine at Hamilton Library, and New Lambton Library is wonderfully hectic on a Saturday morning, with the Toy Library (run by volunteers) downstairs. City Library houses not only the lending library on the ground floor, but also the Information and Research Centre on the first floor (with extended stack collection in the basement), and the Lovett Gallery and Local Studies Section on the second floor. Mayfield Library has quite a selection of horror books, and the gardens at Lambton Library are truly spectacular. I could go on about the other branches, but I really think you should go visit them yourself.

To get back to the point of this post...

As a lover of libraries, and everything they represent, I was extremely gratified to come across the following two articles. Although they touch on the same issue, they showcase vastly different perspectives. The first, a story about mysterious paper sculptures apearing in Scottish libraries, highlights how deeply libraries can inspire and influence someone on a very personal level. The second, about a successful campaign against the closure of libraries in Britain, shows that libraries are an essential service, and are there for everyone, no matter what age, race, gender, religion, ability, economic status, etc. For those of you who are legally inclined, you can read the full text of the decision mentioned in the second article here.

In a time when the finances seem to be continually stretched, book shops are disappearing, and everything seems to be online, I find it quite scary that libraries around the world are facing closure. Where will we go to use computers, if we can't afford them, or if our personal computers break down? How will our children learn valuable research skills, to expand their horizons, to explore and question? Where will we go to find a BOOK?

Enjoy your local library!

Alison’s Rocky Road Wreath

One of the recipes submitted at Wallsend District Library's Christmas Trivia.


125g marshmallows, coarsely chopped
½ x 250g pack Arnott’s Choc Ripple Biscuits, coarsely chopped
½ cup unsalted chopped macadamia nuts
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup shredded coconut, toasted
50g unsalted butter, chopped
200g dark chocolate, chopped
200g milk chocolate, chopped
200g white chocolate, chopped
Glace cherries and spearmint leaves to decorate

  • Grease a 20cm ring pan. Line base, sides and centre ring with baking paper.
  • Combine marshmallows, biscuits, nuts, raisins and coconut in a large bowl.
  • In a separate medium heatproof bowl, combine butter, dark and milk chocolate. Sit bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted, and smooth. Pour into marshmallow mixture, stir until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared pan, pressing down firmly.
  • Melt white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Pour over rocky road in prepared pan. Decorate with cherries and spearmint leaves. Refrigerate.
  • Remove rocky road from pan. Wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Never Ever Before

Author: Stephen Michael King

Publication Date: 2009

Category: Picture book

Who'll want to read it? Everyone!

Point of no return: The quirky little drawings leading up to the first page of text.

Classic line: "The shivering smalls huddled together... but the smallest smalls couldn't hold on at all and began to blow to who knows, far away."

What's it all about? Smalls float in the breeze, Big stands solid on the ground, providing a good place to lean for the wibbly wobbly Talls. When a wind starts to blow, stronger than never ever before, something wonderful happens.

Stephen Michael King's sense of whimsy is completely evident in this book. His beautifully colourful illustrations give us a sense of freedom and lightness, even in the face of disaster.

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zombie In Love

Author: Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

Publication Date: 2011

Category: Children's picture book

Who'll want to read it? Children, adults who like edgy children's books.

Point of no return: View the first four illustrations and see for yourself.

Classic line: "If you like taking walks in the graveyard
and falling down in the rain.
If you're not into cooking,
if you have half a brain.
If you like waking up at mignight,
horror films, and voodoo,
then I'm the guy who you've looked for
and I'm dying to meet you!"

What's it all about? Zombies have a heart, too. True, it's stopped beating and not in the best shape, but they have a heart. And this zombie - his name's Mortimer - is looking for love. He's having trouble because his nose is missing and his smile is full of rotten teeth, but we're all rooting for him!

DiPucchio's writing is well-accompanied by Campbell's brilliant illustrations. Campbell is the one behind the sublime website Great Showdowns, and his work here is amazing. His illustrations add a sub-text to the story which make this book highly enjoyable. Having watched more than my share of zombie movies, my usual reaction to the undead is to try to dispatch them with a shotgun. But Mortimer's no ordinary zombie and you'll love him as much as I did.

Publisher: Athenuem Books for Young Readers

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Personal Interest Projects digitised!

Selected sections of award winning Personal Interest Projects (PIPs), for the HSC subject Society and Culture, have been digitised.  They show excellence in various areas related to the construction of the PIPs.  The index shows why these  PIPs were winners - i.e they show excellent logs, methodological research, introduction etc.

They are now available via the State Library of NSW website

The extracts supplement the full copies held in the PIP Collections at the Information & Research Centre in Newcastle Region Library and Wallsend District Library. The full copies cannot be borrowed or photocopied, but are reference tools that depict how to successfully lay out your research.

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Magician's Guild - Book One of The Black Magician Trilogy

Author: Trudi Canavan

Publication Date: 2001

Category: Fantasy

What's it all about? In a city of the rich, the merchant class, and the slum dwellers, is the Magician's Guild, where all who have the ability go to learn how to wield it safely. Except, the only people tested for the ability are the rich, and sometimes magic is not a latent ability, awaiting release by a magician.

Sonea was a slum dweller, and through hard work her family earned enough to live inside the city walls and join the tenuous ranks of the merchants. Their crowded lodging was deemed unsanitary, and all occupants were forcibly removed in the annual Purge, sending them back out to the overcrowded, often dangerous, slums. In a moment of fury, Sonea hurls a stone at the nearest magician, knowing it to be futile, as the magicians maintain a protective shield around themselves. So she is completely stunned when it finds its mark, and knocks the magician unconscious.

With a deep distrust for the magicians, Sonea has no wish to join them. The magicians, however, cannot allow a 'rogue' magician, and her abilities could kill her, and others, if she does not learn to control them.

I haven't read anything from this genre in quite a while, as it can get pretty formulaic, and depends entirely on character development and writing skill. While this series generally follows the formula (a nobody is foretold/found/discovered to have amazing ability in some area, and will somehow save the day/world/universe), it is written with wit and humour, and depth of character. I made time to read this series, enjoying the merry dance Sonea leads those magicians on, and I think my family were grateful when I finished it, and rejoined the real world.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cocaine Blues (the first in the Phryne Fisher series)

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Publication Date: First published in 1989 by McPhee Gribble Publishers. This edition published in 2005

Category: Mystery

Who'll want to read it? This is a great, quick read, full of fast-paced action and drama. It is slightly over the top, but in a good way, and I found myself grinning quite a lot. Phryne Fisher is outrageous, and FUN!

Classic line: Page 107:
Phryne unbuttoned the brocade robe.
'If you try to take me to any station,' she declared in a cold, remote voice, 'you will have to take me like this.' She dropped the robe and stood revealed, quite naked, pearly and beautiful.

What's it all about? The Honourable Phryne Fisher is a completely audacious single young lady in the 1920s, striving to escape the tedium of the upper class. When given an excuse to travel (back) to Melbourne, and engage in a bit of sleuthing, she leaps at the opportunity. Investigating cocaine smuggling, illegal abortions, and poisonings certainly add some spice, as do the interesting cast she encounters, including a (gasp!) female doctor, two revolutionary taxi drivers, a homicidal maid, a pair of exotic Russian dancers, and the very cream of Melbourne society.

Publisher: Allen&Unwin

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

It's a Book

Author: Lane Smith

Publication Date: 2010

Category: Picture book

Who'll want to read it? If you are inundated by multimedia, or know someone who is, you might enjoy this gentle reminder about the simple pleasure that a book is.

Point of no return: The title page, which introduces the three four main characters of the book: "It's a mouse. It's a jackass. It's a monkey. It's a book." Gorgeous illustrations.

Classic line: The jackass reduces a classic literary moment in Treasure Island to text speak:
Too many letters.
I'll fix it.

LJS: rrr! K? lol!
JIM: :( ! :)

What's it all about? A monkey sits, reading a book. A jackass, laptop in hand, interrupts his reading. Jackass tries to understand the concept of "book" by asking a lot of questions, starting with "What do you have there?", followed by "How do you scroll down?" The jackass is convinced that the book is inferior to his laptop, and is relentless in his quest to understand how this strange technology works.

Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Food glorious food...

Looking for something interesting to eat/cook this long weekend? Check out the Recipe of the Week on the Local Studies website.

You could try this week’s fabulous recipe - Fruit Buttons (1986). The instructions are on our website.

Perhaps you would prefer to try the Vinegar Cake (1927), the Rock Cakes (1946), the Macaroni Pudding (1930s), or the Simplicity Chocolate Cake (1950s).

All recipes are all on the website. They have all been taste-tested by the food connoisseurs in the Local Studies Test Kitchen and get the Local Studies tick of approval.

Want more recipes? Checkout the recipe books that Local Studies staff have digitised.

Happy cooking!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nog and the Land of Noses

Author: Bruce Whatley

Publication Date: 2011

Category: Picture book

Classic line: "Nog tried to make his nose useful, but it was never long enough, short enough, curly enough or straight enough."

What's it all about? Nog thinks he is the only one whose nose DOESN'T do something special in the Land of Noses, but it turns out that when his grandmother said he had "a nose for trouble", she was right.

This book would not be nearly so entertaining without the pictures. Bruce Whatley's interpretations of noses, and what they can do, are wonderful. In particular, see blocked noses, picked noses, running noses, and what "a nose for a bargain" looks like.

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Technology Explained!

Libraries represent an important gateway to learning about computers, the internet and digital literacy. With limited access to equipment and internet connections at home, the library provides a safe and welcoming environment where you can keep up with these rapid changes in technology and the digital world.

Technology Explained: The ABC have created a website where technology is explained by providing non-commercial and factual information on social media, mobile phone broadband, streaming & downloading, growing trends in the digital world. It introduces new concepts about how to watch, listen, socialise and engage online and it is well suited for beginners through to more tech-savvy people.

If you feel that you’re not ready to delve into these topics yet, perhaps you might like to create an account with Dynamic Learning Online by using your Newcastle Region Library card number. It’s free to do, and the best thing is, you decide how fast or slow you complete the training! Topics covered include how to use a computer, introduction to the internet, email and word processing.

Contact your local library for more information!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Author: Simon Toyne

Publication Date: 2011

Category: Fiction

Who'll want to read it? If you like action, conspiracy theories, don't mind if the established Church is the bad guy, then this a book you'll enjoy. Apparently it's the first of three, an ambitious undertaking for a first novel, but Simon Toyne is now on my list of authors to keep an eye on.

Point of no return: The first chapter is very short, and full of teasers. There is a "he", imprisoned for learning, and not accepting, an unknown order's secret. He is cold, hurt, bleeding, and sentenced to death. He decides not to hang around and wait. The last line of the first chapter (page 5): "Then, his heart heavy from the weight of the ancient secret he now carried, he breathed out as far as his lungs would allow, squeezed through the narrow gap, and launched himself into the night."

What's it all about? Our mysterious "he" throws himself from the top of the Citadel, the oldest inhabited place on Earth, ensuring his act is captured on film, and broadcast around the world. A charity worker and her family see this as the fulfilment of part of a prophecy, known only to a select few.

The order of monks, who do not set foot outside the Citadel, but have contacts and dealings everywhere, attempt to recover the body, without making it obvious that it is important to them. They don't want any more attention than they already have, but they can't risk any chance of their secret escaping.

An American crime reporter's phone number is found with the body, and she immediately travels across the globe, to find out just how, and why, this Citadel is connected to her.

I think if I said anything more, I would start to spoil it.

I seem to be reading a fair few first novels that are excellent, and this certainly fits that bill. It was only after I'd finished the book that I read the front blurb about how this book came about. It makes for a pretty good story in itself.

I have also read a few novels in this genre (the accepted-organised-religion-is-evil kind), and this is definitely one of the better written ones. It has some very good twists and turns, some highly unexpected revelations, and moves along at a reasonably exciting pace. I made time to read this book, rather than dipping in during short breaks, which is becoming an increasingly rare thing for me to do.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Press Here

Author: Hervé Tullet

Publication Date: 2010

Category: Picture book

Who'll want to read it? Everyone I have mentioned it to so far.

Point of no return: The title, and the very inviting yellow dot. How can you possibly NOT "Press Here"?

What's it all about? It's an interactive book. When you DO press that one yellow dot and turn the page, it turns into TWO yellow dots. Then three. When you rub the yellow dot on the left (and turn the page), it turns red. Find out what happens when you tap on it five times, or tip the book to the left, or shake the book, or press hard on those dots. And when you CLAP!!

It's such a simple concept, so brilliantly executed, and it is so very satisfying, as a parent, to see a child be more absorbed in this book than they could be with the television or a computer. And so very amusing to show it to other adults, and watch them perform all the suggested actions.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Monday, August 22, 2011

TumbleBooks - e-books for e-kids!

TumbleBooks teach children the joy of reading in a format they'll love. TumbleBookLibrary is an online collection of animated talking children's books, puzzles and games. Each book adds animation, sound, music and narration to existing picture books in order to produce an electronic picture book which you can read, or have read to you.

Newcastle Region Library members can access TumbleBooks at no charge on our web-site. All of the books can be read in English, French or Spanish.

If you have been using the "I Can Read" and "Quick Reads" titles from our branch collections, you will find similar material in the TumbleBooks collection, including Franklin the tortoise and Biscuit the puppy. One of my favourites is Stretch written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Scott Menchin. Stretch is about an energtic dog who teaches readers how much fun they can have getting ready to jump, bounce, wiggle or run!

Isn't he cute? I need a dog like this to get me organised.

If you need help getting started call the friendly staff at the Information & Research Centre on 02 4974 5340. Or, send us a comment or question via our ASK a Librarian service.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ducks don't wear socks!

Author:  John Nedwideck

Illustrator: Lee White

Publication Date: 2008

Category: Picture book

Who'll want to read it? Emilys, parents who have serious kids, duck lovers.

Point of no return: Besides the title, and the cover illustration? It's about one of my favourite people! First line: "Emily was a serious girl."

Classic line: "'A hat?' asked Emily. 'I have never seen a duck wear a hat.'
'Late for the roundup!' yelled Duck. And off he galloped, into the sunset."

What's it all about? Serious Emily meets her complete opposite in Duck, who she first sees riding a unicycle, wearing socks. Duck's outfits get increasingly crazy, but always with a valid excuse: cold feet makes him wear socks; a business meeting sees him wearing a tie. Emily struggles to remain serious in the face of this ludicrous duck, and finally gives in to the absurdity, much to Duck's amusement.

Publisher: Viking

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Author: Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo Publication Date: 1965 Category: Crime, Police Procedural Who'll want to read it?: Crime fans, especially of the police procedural bent. People interested in Scandinavian fiction. Point of no return: "When he put the papers back in the folder and turned off the light, he thought: 'Whoever she was, and wherever she came from, I'm going to find out.'" Classic line: "Finally, Kollberg said: 'That was a flop, wasn't it? Examining that tough guy you went down and mangled?' 'He didn't do it.' 'Are you absolutely sure?' 'No.' 'Do you feel sure?' 'Yes.' 'That's good enough for me.' What's it all about? Roseanna is a police procedural crime novel. These types of crime novels are less concerned with dramatic flourishes and labyrinthine plots, and more interested in gritty portrayals of crime as though they were real. For a good introduction to the sub-genre, hop in to your local library and pick any of Ed McBain's "82nd Precinct" series at random. Or start with this one. It takes place in Sweden, but being written by Swedish authors who didn't seem to have any mind for an international audience, it doesn't come across as a travelogue. Our hero is Martin Beck, and that's what he's called throughout the whole book. You'll see a lot of phrases like, "Kollberg and Martin Beck." I have no idea why the authors chose to refer to him in that manner, but it's grown on me. Martin Beck is investigating a murder, a beautiful woman. But no-one has reported her missing, no-one has seen what happened to her, and no-one knows how she ended up at the bottom of a canal. The clues are filled in, some sooner than others, and all thanks to Martin Beck and a little luck. Luck usually has no place in crime novels - it's a bit of a cheat if Phillip Marlowe was interrogating a tough suspect only to have the murder weapon drop in his lap out of pure chance. But it works well in procedurals because difficult real-life crime cases are often solved with a bit of luck. I was quite absorbed in this book, which is great because I've started and stopped reading a few books this week and was beginning to think I wouldn't have anything for the Book Crowd. If your idea of crime is Ian Rankin or Agatha Christie, do yourself a favour and enjoy a change of pace. You might find yourself in a whole new world of crime fiction. Publisher: Orion Books Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Grifters

Author: Jim Thompson

Publication Date: 1963

Category: Crime

Who'll want to read it? See below

Point of no return: "Death might be forestalled if he took care of himself. Otherwise, he had no more than three days to live."

Classic line: "The lady or the loot. So what's it going to be?"

What's it all about? I'm a fan of crime novels, but I like good crime novels. Unfortunately the field is packed with books written by people with no talent or who can't be bothered. It was a great pleasure, then, to stumble across Jim Thompson, whose book The Grifters was made into a film in 1990.

The Grifters mixes up the crime genre. It's still seedy with nihilistic characters, but tells a familiar story without resorting to cliche or tired tropes. It's the story of a conman, Roy Dillon, who has talent at parting fools from their money. He's not as good at manipulating the women in his life. He tries to juggle his relationships with his mother, his mistress, and a nurse caring for an injury after a failed con, but the balls just bounce off his head.

Grifters avoids con cliches like the wise mentor who's the father-he-never-had, or the just-one-last-big-heist. It does what crime stories do best - examine relationships as they disintegrate and question what it means to be human. Watch this space for further reviews of Thompson's works.

Publisher: Vintage Crime

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Case Histories

Author: Kate Atkinson

Publication Date: 2004

Category: Crime, Mystery, Family Drama

Who'll want to read it? Mystery lovers seeking a dash or two of literary style.

What's it all about? This is the first book in the "Jackson Brodie mysteries" series. Jackson Brodie is the divorced, (slightly bitter, but dashingly handsome and enigmatic),doting father of an eight year old girl. He is an ex-policeman, now private detective with lots of dull missions - until this book thrusts him into three intriguing investigations. The story revolves around three "case histories" - the disappearance of a three year old girl thirty years ago, the senseless murder of an eighteen year girl (the apple of her father's eye) ten years ago, and an aunt trying to track down her twenty-five year old niece. As Kate Atkinson weaves her tale, subtle links in the cases emerge. All throughout we find hints of the "case history" haunting Jackson's own life and the similar emotional burdens he shares with his clients.

Every character in this book is given their own unique personality, voice and history. Kate Atkinson has a wonderful ear for authentic conversation, making the book even more engaging. I have read three other books by Kate Atkinson and they are all as good as each other. There are four books so far in the Jackson Brodie mysteries, so if you are looking for something to get your teeth into, start with "Case Histories". I already have the next book lined up on my bedside table.

Classic lines: "...Olivia was spun from light...Olivia was the only one she loved, although God knows she tried her best with the others. Everything was from duty, nothing was from love. Duty killed you in the end.

It was very wrong, it was as if the love she should have had for the others had been siphoned off and given to Olivia instead, so that she loved her youngest child with a ferocity that didn't always seem natural. Sometimes she wanted to eat Olivia, to bite into a tender forearm or a soft calf muscle, even to devour her whole like a snake and take her back inside her where she would be safe. She was a terrible mother, there was no doubt about it, but she didn't even have the strength to feel guilty. Olivia caught sight of her and waved." pg36-37

Publisher: Black Swan

News Flash: Just as I was about to finish this post I discovered that the BBC have made a six-part series of the Jackson Brodie mysteries, starring the dashingly handsome (just as well) Jason Isaac.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: a memoir

Author: Brianna Karp

Publication Date: 2011

Category: Autobiography, Memoir

Who'll want to read it?  Anyone who wants to read about contemporary social issues.

Point of no return: I was hooked from the very first line in the prologue: "The Walmart lot was cold in the night air, even for southern California. I hadn't brought enough blankets and would need to swing by the thrift store and pick up a few more. Everything was well-lit by the streetlamps and eerily quiet. There were maybe a dozen other trailers around when I arrived, but no sign that actual people might live in them at all." pg 1

What's it all about? Brianna Karp, aged 22, was an executive assistant in the Human Resources section of a US firm Kelley Blue Book, earning $50,000 a year. She was renting a cute cottage, had a boyfriend and a dog called Fezzik - "Life was beautiful, fantastic."
The US economy changed all that, leaving Brianna living in a trailer in a Walmart carpark. Brianna documents the events in her history that lead up to this point and then how she handles her situation with humour, bravery and resourcefulness. As Brianna points out, she is not the only one with this problem and is certainly not in the worst case scenario for homelessness. Through her experiences she has become an activist for homelessness, co-founding World Homeless Action Day in 2010. A lot happened in this book which kept me turning pages well into the night, but I don't want to give anything away. When you've finished the book you can find out what Brianna is up to now on her webpage "The Girl's Guide to Homelessness".

Classic line:  "I had never thought about how those homeless people ended up there." pg 2

Publisher: Harlequin

Local readers may like to join our "Woolly Hat Wednesday" in support of Hunter Homeless Connect Day.

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One From the Vaults...

Working in the Information & Research Centre, staff often come across some amazing and beautiful books from the basement. From time to time, we'll share a few of them with you. Last night I found "1000 Household Hints: Attractive, Money-saving Hints and Wrinkles Arranged for Immediate Reference" by Elizabeth Craig (Woman of the Year, 1967). I was rather confused by the title - it didn't make any sense - I was convinced there was a typo on our catalogue.  However, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed, Volume 20, pg 634, a "wrinkle" can be "A clever or adroit expedient or trick; a happy device". Hmm, I would have to say that the dictionary itself is my favourite wrinkle!

What's it all about? Elizabeth Craig was a talented journalist and writer born in Scotland in 1884. She wrote over 60 books including "The importance of eating potatoes" and "New ways of using custard". 1000 Household Hints covers everything home economics: cookery, "the work of the house", social etiquette, home handywoman, the family, needlecraft, gardening, and diet, health and beauty. Elizabeth certainly had a way with words, which is part of the charm of this book. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to dive into the middle and upper class experiences of mid-century Britain.

Classic line: On the dress code for "At Homes": "A smart afternoon dress and no hat is worn by the hostess. If friends are helping they should wear their hats, unless actually staying in the house. Other guests do not usually take off their coats unless it is a very small informal gathering, or they are wearing heavy fur coats." pg 55

On conversation at a dinner-party: "If you are talking about matters of taste - books, plays, films, music - be careful not to take a superior tone nor to parade your knowledge. Remember also that the opposite attitude, the "Oh, of course I don't know anything about these things," or "Oh, well, you clever people" tone also verges upon discourtesy. Try to find some common meeting ground - Micky Mouse, detective stories, dance music perhaps. A mutual dislike, of course, will do as well as a mutual liking." pg 61

On constipation: "This condition is incompatible with health. The symptoms are heavy eyes, skin eruptions and a muddy complexion, and the results are many really serious complaints. Constipation, however, can be cured or at least alleviated, if you are really perservering... A habit should be formed of visiting the lavatory after each meal even if, at first, the visits are often unsatisfactory." pg 211

On Weight, to increase: "Excepting when it has been produced by habitual worry or definite disease, excessive thinness can nearly always be made to disappear with a nourishing diet and a moderately restful life. If you are of the restless worrying type, make every effort to rest and relax for at least an hour every day - in the fresh air if possible - and go to bed in a peaceful frame of mind not later than 10.30 p.m." pg 229

Publisher: Collins, 1947

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Working IX to V

Author: Vicki Leon

Publication Date: 2007

Category: Ancient History, Humour

Who'll want to read it? Anyone looking for a quirky & readable view of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Point of no return: The sub-title: Orgy planners, funeral clowns and other prized professions of the Ancient World.

Classic line: "Early librarians were full of derring-do.When the Romans overran Greece in 168 B.C., the head librarian of neutral Pergamum led a diplomatic embassy to Rome to keep his library from destruction - and sow the seeds of literacy while he was at it.
It worked - with unintended consequences. After 500 years without a library, Rome now encouraged its generals to bring back libraries as booty. (The most despicable book thief? Dictator-general Sulla, who ripped off Aristotle's library after capturing Athens, along with thousands of art pieces and other glitter.)" pg 287

What's it all about? This book provides an overview of dozens of professions from the Ancient World. Some of the professions still exist including farmers, beekeepers, cooks, physicians and labourers - although the job descriptions have changed just a bit. I just love the black humour in some of the job descriptions: "Winemaker. Make mine unleaded", "Mercenary. The fine art of freelancing - with real lances", "Plumber. Into heavy metal", "Dental Specialist. Open wide". Other jobs will also keep you entertained, such as Sycophant, Anointer, Gladiatrix, Seller of Purple, Armpit Plucker and Dream Incubator. All in all the book provided an interesting way to discover things I didn't even know that I wanted to know!

Publisher: Walker & Company, New York

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Information on the Go

Library members can now access selected databases 24/7 at their fingertips by using a new iPhone application. The app searches all of the EBSCO databases in one go. Members can access Australian and international journal and newspaper articles for basic, intermediate and advanced levels of research. It is particularly useful for secondary and tertiary students or for avid readers of specific topics e.g. health, current affairs, literature, science, history and environment. This app is free to download to iPhones and only needs to be set up once using the instructions below. Setup only takes a few minutes and you’ll be searching in no time!

1. Open the App Store, then search “ebsco” and download the application.
2. Open Safari and go to and click on ‘Library’, then ‘e-Resources’ (TIP: Bookmark this page for future use!)
3. Let’s use ANZRC (Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre) found under the topic heading of ‘Newspapers & Journal Articles’. Click the access button.
4. Enter your library barcode number.
5. Scroll to the bottom of the database page and click
6. Enter an email address that you can access on your iPhone, then check your email and click the activation link provided.

Now you can open your EBSCOhost app and get searching!

For assistance call the friendly staff at the Information and Research Centre on 02 4974 5340.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Feathers for Phoebe

Author: Rod Clement

Publication Date: 2010

Category: Picture book

Who'll want to read it? Kids, parents, anyone with a love of colour, style, and poetic justice.

Point of no return: For me, it was the attitude that drew me in, from the first page: "Phoebe was small and grey and she didn't like it. Not one little bit."

Classic line: " 'I like to puff out my chest, fan out my tail, wiggle my rump and sing... Ging gang gooley gooley wash wash...' "

What's it all about? Little, grey Phoebe wants to be noticed, so she turns to Zelda, the beautiful, talented, famous beautician, to help her. Zelda (who I always imagine speaking with a Russian accent, dahlink) fits Phoebe out in a pretty amazing new costume, and the results are not quite what she expects.

Feathers for Phoebe is ALIA's National Simultaneous Storytime book this year. Check to see if your local library is joining in the fun, from 10:30am on Wednesday 25 May 2011.

Publisher: Angus & Robertson - an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

eBooks for Newcastle Region Library Members

Search here:

Newcastle Region Library members can read a variety of eBooks at home or elsewhere 24 hours a day.
You just need internet access and your library card - library membership is free.

Use the widget above to search dinosaurs, aptitude & psychometric tests, climate change, recipes, fashion, body adornment, Ancient Greece and pop art (just to name a few subjects we cover).
You will need to type your library card number in when prompted.

Many titles are suitable for children as well as adults.

For assistance, phone the reference staff at Information & Research Centre on 4974 5340
or send a question via:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Inside WikiLeaks: my time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website

Author: Daniel Domscheit-Berg (translated from German by Jefferson Chase)

Publication Date: 2011

Category: Adult non-fiction

Who'll want to read it? Anyone interested in Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks phenomenon.

Classic line: "Never in my life have I known such an extreme person as Julian Assange. So imaginative. So energetic. So brilliant. So paranoid, so power-hungy, so megalomanic." pg 3.

What's it all about? In the Prologue the author relates that Julian Assange wrote an introduction to a recent set of leaks named "Cablegate". The leak "illustrated the contradictions between public appearances and what goes on behind closed doors. People, he asserted, have a right to know what happens behind the scenes."  In response, Daniel Domscheit-Berg states "You can't put it any better than that. And it's high time to look behind the curtains of WikiLeaks itself." You might like to read this before Julian's biography comes out later this year. Newcastle Region Library holds several copies. If you would like to reserve a copy visit or phone one of our branches.

Publisher: Crown Publishers

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling

Author: Maryrose Wood  
Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publication Date: 2010                     
Category: Children's book

Who'll want to read it? Primary school girls & grown up girls who think it might have been fun to attend the well regarded "Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females". Also if you enjoyed Jen Storer's Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children or Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Point of no return: I admired 15 year old Miss Penelope Lumley's pluckiness from the very start and wanted to stay with her on her journey: "... Miss Lumley was far more awake than she wished to be. Had she really said something about bandits? She had seen cats fall clumsily from windowsills and then walk off as if nothing had happened; this, Miss Lumley realized, was her wisest course of action. Best not to mention the bandits, ever again." Pg 3.

Classic Line: ' "If I can provide them with a fraction of the steady care that Swanburne and Miss Mortimer have given me, then all will be well," she thought, before blurting: "Dear me, Cassiopeia, mind your dress! I realize it may be faster to go on all fours, but I think you will find your stockings will last longer at the knee if you walk upright. Here, allow me to demonstrate." ' Pg 65.

What's it all about? The very proper and determined Miss Penelope Lumley arrives at Ashton Place for her first job as a governess. An air of mystery surrounds both Miss Lumley's past as well as the origin of her three charges. Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia appear to have been raised by wolves and delight in nipping, barking, howling and chasing squirrels. It is the job of Miss Lumley (or Lumawoo as the children take to calling her) to convert the children into socially acceptable people. The children are of course adorable and I found myself wanting to reach into the book to give "Cassawoof" a big hug. There is lots of lovely irony concerning the display of "civilised" behaviour within the walls of Ashton Place, especially at the Christmas Day party. I have found myself craving cinnamon scented Plum Cakes since I read this book, so I'm off now to find a suitable recipe.

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (An imprint of HarperCollins)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do you remember the Freedom Ride - Australian style?

Well it is on again - 12th February - 26th February, 2011 Forty-one years ago a group of 29 students form Sydney University set out on a road trip around the countryside in New South Wales, Australia. Their aim was to raise awareness of issues affecting indigenous people, especially discrimination and racism. The trip around the outback and coastal towns drew a growing media coverage, after fiery incidents were reported in town after town wherever the road trip stopped. The freedom ride was led by a young and passionate student leader named Charles Perkins. By the time the trip had finished, he was known around the country as a new style advocate for Aboriginal rights. Tomorrow, a group of 30 young people are setting off again to re-tracing the original 2,300km journey made in 1965. They will be finishing up at Newcastle, NSW on the 26th February, 2011. They will be carrying a message stick and recording their journey along the way. They will interview elders in the communities that they visit to see what things have changed in the intervening years. Why not say hello if you see them? The Information and Research Centre library has a book called 'Freedom Ride' by Ann Curthoys. Ann was one of the original riders.
You can borrow the book from Wallsend District Library. For more information about the Freedom Ride see the website at: Freedom Ride website and: Central Coast Youth Connections website Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And the Pursuit of Happiness

Author & Illustrator: Maira Kalman

Publication Date: 2010

Category: Whimsical, artistic, creative and poetic non-fiction

Who'll want to read it? Anyone who thinks Abraham Lincoln would have made a great boyfriend.

Point of no return: If you are like me, you will be hooked from the very first page. I saw the Maira Kalman interviewed on "The Colbert Report" and had to read it. View the interview and I think you will be charmed into reading it also.

Classic line: "All of this history makes me want to embrace Lincoln and bring him into my world. I imagine us walking around New York. We would go straight to the Museum of Modern Art. Maybe we would look at self-portraits by Frida Kahlo. Would he be fascinated by a female artist with a unibrow and mustache flaunting her sexuality and visions? I think so." pg 83-85

What's it all about? It's an illustrated history lesson and love letter to all that is good in the USA. It doesn't skip over the bad bits, but makes you think about things without being confronted or horribly depressed. You don't even need to read this book to enjoy it, the illustrations and photos are so delicious. If you would like to borrow a copy contact the lovely staff at Newcastle Region Library - 02 4974 5344.

Publisher: The Penguin Press

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.