Author: Craig Johnston

It’s time to get cosy!

Cosy mysteries are crime stories where the murder occurs ‘off the page’. (ie. the gory bits are not written down.) They are perfect for those who enjoy trying to figure out whodunnit, but in a setting that’s not too gritty.

Often cosies are set in small towns or villages (how many people are left in Brokenwood to kill off, we wonder?) and the protagonist is usually an amateur sleuth.

This is just a general guide, as the precise definition of a cosy mystery can be the matter of some debate.

Examples are: Midsomer Murders, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody, or MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

Cosies have been around for a long time, often seen as beginning with Agatha Christie when her first Poirot book The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920. Christie’s Miss Marple followed in 1930.

These days it is becoming common convention to have a pun in the title, though it’s not mandatory.

In recent years there’s been boom, and now you have cosies set in: libraries; cupcake shops; bookstores; even a guitar shop in New Zealand! (Dead Man’s Axe by Bing Turkby).

That’s right, a cosy doesn’t have to be set in the UK. We now have series like No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith set in Botswana, Inspector Singh Investigates by Shamini Flint set in Singapore, and Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries by Mia P Manansala, a Filipino American culinary series.

There are paranormal cosies like the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries by Alexia Gordon, tea cosies (ha!) like the Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs, and even a series where the investigator is Queen Elizabeth II (Her Majesty The Queen Investigates by S. J. Bennett).

Anthony Horowitz’ Magpie Murders was recently made into a TV series. And his children’s series The Diamond Brothers has some of the best book titles in the genre: The Falcon’s Malteser, The French Confection, and Where Seagulls Dare.

Whether you’re looking for something fairly realistic or absolutely escapist, there’s probably a cosy mystery for you!

Physical media at the library

For many years the library boasted a large and seemingly ever-expanding collection of music CDs, and movie/TV DVDs. These days, due to a decline in the amount of physical media being produced, the supply is slowing to a trickle. We must also be aware of our place in the supply chain: we’re at the end, far away from the biggest producers. Companies that import CDs and DVDs for distribution in Aotearoa now bring in a smaller number of items each month. As sales decline in the shops, the range of choice for the library to purchase grows ever smaller, because we aren’t allowed to buy them from overseas like individuals can.

Library discs which are damaged or lost are basically impossible to replace, so the collection shrinks from year to year.

There is still demand for physical media among the people who use the library. So we hold onto these plastic discs because they still have value in our community. After all, it’s no good saying you can stream all that stuff if people don’t have a computer/internet connection/spare cash to subscribe.

CDs and DVDs are – at time of writing – free to issue from the library, and can be reserved and returned at any library location.

Another way in which we help fill the gap is by providing free internet access on our PCs. You can jump on with a guest pass, or use your library card to access them. If you want to see what Justin Hawkins thinks of a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard music video, you can do that at the library.

From now on you will see music, movies and cultural performances on the big screen in the Sound & Vision area (Central Library, Mezzanine Floor). If you’re part of a group that has video footage to share, please get in touch! As long as you have the rights to the soundtrack (and any music included), and permission from any people appearing in the footage, it can be played on the screen and help you reach a wider audience. Contact us to enquire about this initiative.

Finally, work is beginning on a local music database, to help people discover new music. This database will house short features on local bands, with links to the artists’ own sites, so that anyone interested goes right to the source. If you’d like your band to be featured, please contact craig.johnston@pncc.govt.nz. Initially this content will be found on the library’s blog, but as it grows it may split off into its own entity.

The methods of delivery of music and movies might change over time, but the library will change to adapt, so that you can still see and hear the things you enjoy.

Come on Palmy, Let’s Play! 

Looking for something to do with the whānau? We’ve got you covered!

Collect a postcard from any of our libraries and check out fun things to do in the Manawatū! Tick off each activity as you go. Once you’ve completed all 7 activities come back to the library and claim your prize!

Selector’s Picks #3

From Our Non-Fiction Shelves

In the media this week are two titles that have captured our attention already –

The first, Blue Blood: the inside story of the National Party in crisis by Andrea Vance, is a book for people of all political persuasions. It gives a blow by blow description of the key moments over the two years National Party lost its mojo,  and exposes what really went on behind the scenes. Entertaining, factual and well-written by political journalist with 20 years in the industry (from publishers blurb).  Jack Tame spoke with Andrea Vance about her book.

The Cereal Entrepreneur: a story of grit, courage and crunchy goodness by Kaz Staples is a story of survival. In 1997 with bills to pay the author decided to make Christmas cakes out of her home kitchen to sell at the local markets. Twenty-two years later, she sold the highly successful and sought-after cereal and snack brand, Puredelish.  Not so much a “how to” book this is a  story of ups & downs, the highs and lows, and in Kaz’s own words “… life is a miracle – there’s dark and light – you CAN survive it all and thrive through it all BUT you can’t have it all”. Listen to the full RNZ Nine to Noon interview.

What I’m reading

On a different note here are a few books I’ve enjoyed recently and a couple of new ones too that I’m looking forward to reading (they’re due out next month).

I’ve enjoyed reading Ruth Shaw’s book The Bookseller at the end of the world – it’s about a long life well  lived, about the value of leaving and then returning home, about finding the strength to survive the toughest times, and then the resilience to help others through theirs. And the importance through it all of books and reading – and Ruth’s desire to share that joy with community. I think if you read this book, you’ll be inspired and like me maybe you’ll soon be planning a trip to Lake Manapouri to visit Ruth’s wee bookshops. At times a tough read, but ultimately magical. (note: bookshops are open from late September until mid April,  so plan your trip accordingly!).

I’ve always loved Juliet Batten’s writing specifically her connection to spirit through nature. Her new book The Pomegranate Journal doesn’t disappoint. Now in her mid 70’s and facing physical decline she’s written this journal to “chart the way into her new life”.  Written in the form of journal entries some of the gems include – “pain is a symptom of transformation”; a moment of “gladness” in nature (the first dusky crimson blossoms of the pūriri tree) has the power to lift us out of a day of struggle; & the thought that coming back into the world of the young (when you’re old) is really to come full circle & it’s achievable if you stay upbeat, and engaged and make the effort to use language that breaches the age divide. This one warrants a second reading – and just maybe I’ve bought my own copy!!

Lastly, Nici Wickes’ A Quiet Kitchen is a real comfort read. Part journal/diary part recipe book the author shares her love of cooking and her experience of living solo – a consequence of lockdown (she loved it!) but also of her own life choices (Nici is happily single). She lives in Port Waikato and her book is infused with a wonderful sense of kiwiana, of the spirit of community and oh yes includes easy delicious recipes. I loved reading about Nici’s own midlife health challenges and how the love of home, cooking good food, a daily ocean swim (year round!), and being surrounded by a supportive community has nurtured her and is now allowing her to live her best most authentic life.

AND Coming Up!

There are two new titles from local authors being launched at the Central Library next month. A collection of poems and a family history. I’m excited to read them both.

Award winning local poet Tim Upperton is publishing his 3rd collection of poetry called  A Riderless Horse . It’ll be launched on Friday 12 August at 6:30pm in the Central Library. Sam Neill is a fan (say no more!) … very Palmy! 

In her first memoir My Italian destiny  Lynn Kirkland introduced the reader to the link with the Italian family who saved her father during the war. Our Italian Legacy tells of the unbroken connection of two families on opposite sides of the world and which now spans five generations. It’ll be launched at the City Library on Wednesday 17 August.

Central Library book group is back!

Do you enjoy reading and exploring new genres and different authors? Would you like to meet interesting people, talk about books, and discover some of your library’s hidden treasures? The Library Book Group offers all that and more!

The Central Library Book Group meets on the first Thursday of each month at 6pm in the Non Fiction area. We also have book groups at some of the other library locations.

There’s a different theme each month, rather than a set text. Group members can choose their own reading material, share old favourites with the group, or introduce us to new discoveries. Some examples of themes include:

  • books set in a small village or town
  • Lucky Dip – anything that jumps out at you as you’re browsing your shelves or the library’s collections.

All welcome! Come and indulge your love of books in a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.

If you have any questions, contact Nora: nora.kilpin@pncc.govt.nz

Selector’s picks #2

This time we’re hearing from Kay:

Great children’s books, be they novels, picture books or graphic novels, are some of the most complex works to write and I am in awe of anyone who attempts such a mighty task. As a Content Development Librarian selecting books for our tamariki is both a huge responsibility and a great honour and one I love. So it is with much excitement that I share with you some of the new and not so new books that have crossed my desk lately. 

Children’s Picture Books 

Evermore Dragon and Sail Away Dragon written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Randy Cecil. 

These two beautiful picture books simply wrap themselves around you. They are full of warmth, friendship, adventure, playfulness and belonging. The author’s play with language – the rhyming, alliteration, humour and word creation – gives a musicality to the text as it skips and dances along. The illustrations and text work in perfect harmony. Cecil’s images enhance the mood and tone of the story, further illuminating the “evermore” nature of the friendship between a young girl and a dragon. These are exceptional books in the picture book genre. 

Mine! written by Alison Green and illustrated by Sharon Rentta 

Mine! Is a hilarious and slightly wicked story of a wolf who settles a dispute between a pesky little bird and itself in a rather wolfish way. Rentta’s mostly black and white illustrations bring a rich texture to this very spirited story, enhancing both expression and action. The bright orange colouring of the pinecone – the object of the dispute – highlights both the focus and determination of the two characters to claim “Mine!” A wonderfully subversive tale. 

Sometimes I feel…: A menagerie of feelings big and small 

There have been several exceptional picture books published over the past couple of years exploring feelings and this one sits right up there with the best. This stunning picture book joyously celebrates positive feelings but equally acknowledges that we can all feel down, afraid, and sad at times. In just a few words it helps us to see that such feelings can make us “stronger,” are passing and/or remind us of humbleness. Maycock’s ink illustrations extend the text and enrich the reading experience and are so expressive it is as if they have voice. A beautifully rendered picture book to read aloud and share or to read quietly to yourself, either way you will smile with quiet contemplation with each page turn. 

Children’s Fiction – Horror stories 

The children’s horror genre has continued to mature and expand over the past 10 years or so. Humour still features strongly in many such tales to mitigate the scary stuff, giving the young reader a bit of comic relief. However, these two stories I have chosen to write about today give no such respite, they are so good but are not for the faint hearted.  

All the Better to See You written by Gina Blaxill 

Gena Blaxill employs the fairy tale ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ to frame her story with its dark, threatening forest, an old relative that lives apart from the village, a young girl in a red cloak and a wolf. But Blaxill diverts from the traditional pathway here creating a highly compelling, wonderfully scary tale steeped in tension, impending danger and subterfuge. It is one of the best children’s horror stories I have read in a long time. Read it if you dare…Highly recommended – great read-aloud, love the cover! 

The Bone Garden written by Heather Kassner 

Irrėelle lives with the constant threat of being turned to dust by her “creator”, Miss Vesper who seeks eternal life. Irrėelle, and her unlikely ally, Guy, must find a way to rid themselves of the tenacious grip of Miss Vesper if they are ever going to be free and even more critical, if they are ever going to be truly alive. Kassner has penned a highly inventive, creative read that will have young readers riveted to every page. Again, a brilliant book and read-aloud. 

I’m currently reading Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, a new book by A. F. Steadman that is attracting much attention. It’s a captivating tale with rich world building and an unconventional portrayal of unicorns. It promises to be a great read for young fantasy readers. 

Don’t forget to check out the finalists in this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults – you can find all the information about the awards, finalists, and past winners here

Also, congratulations to Katya Balen, the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal Winner for her book October, October. Click here to read Katya’s speech and for more information on the award. 

Ruth Ozeki

I was so excited to see last week that Ruth Ozeki won The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 for her novel The book of form and emptiness. If you are passionate about books and libraries and what really matters, this is for you.

I fell in love with Ruth’s writing when I read A tale for the time being, one of her previous novels and now one of my favourites. Her writing is thoughtful, quirky and compassionate –  highly recommended. And Ruth is a fascinating person, not only a writer but a film maker and Zen Buddhist priest.

Ozeki is the 27th winner of this prize which was established in 1996 to offset the tendency of major literary prizes to ‘overlook accomplished, challenging, important fiction by female authors’.   Check out these previous winners below (clicking on the cover takes you to our catalogue entry for that title).

Jill.

Young Adult LGBT titles

We’re testing out a new app that creates promotional images – here’s a list of LGBT-themed Young Adult books, and if you click on a cover in the image below it will take you straight to that title on our library catalogue!