The Booker Dozen is Announced!

It is an unusually high proportion, and especially surprising to the judges themselves…

The above quote is from Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, and relates to the number of debut novelists whose work has been included in this year’s Booker longlist. The eight debutantes include Kiley Reid with Such a Fun Age (included in Wellington City Libraries’ #StayAtHome Fest) as well as C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold.

Despite this, the majority of the Booker publicity has focused on two-time winner Hilary Mantel and the third book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. The Guardian called the work a “masterpiece” and a “shoo-in” for the Booker, while Mantel herself has said that if she fails to win “it will be cast in terms of a disaster”. So who will make it through to the next round? The shortlist will be announced on 15 September!

The new wilderness / Cook, Diane
“Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the overdeveloped, overpopulated metropolis they call home is ravaging her lungs. Bea knows she cannot stay in the City, but there is only one alternative: The Wilderness State. Mankind has never been allowed to venture into this vast expanse of untamed land. Until now.” (Publisher)

This mournable body : a novel / Dangarembga, Tsitsi
“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a youth hostel in downtown Harare. She moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Who They Was / Krauze, Gabriel
Who They Was is an electrifying autobiographical British novel: a debut that truly breaks new ground and shines a light on lives that run on parallel, but wildly different tracks.” (Catalogue)

The mirror & the light / Mantel, Hilary
“England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Apeirogon : a novel / McCann, Colum
“Rami is Israeli. Bassam is Palestinian. Rami’s license plate is yellow. Bassam’s license plate is green. It takes Rami fifteen minutes to drive to the West Bank. The same journey for Bassam takes an hour and a half. Both men have lost their daughters. Rami’s thirteen-year-old girl Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber while out shopping with her friends. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter Abir was shot and killed by a member of the border police outside her school. The men become the best of friends.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The shadow king / Mengiste, Maaza
“With Mussolini preparing to invade Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie heads into exile, and orphaned servant Hirut helps disguise a peasant as the emperor to bring people hope. Soon Hirut becomes his guard, as Mengiste shows us the brutal reality of ordinary people fighting a better-armed foe.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Such a fun age / Reid, Kiley
“Alix is a woman who gets what she wants. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler in their local supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. Alix resolves to make things right, but both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about each other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Real life / Taylor, Brandon
“Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends, but a series of confrontations conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Redhead by the side of the road / Tyler, Anne
“Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. But then the order of things starts to tilt. When a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with a surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Shuggie Bain / Stuart, Douglas
“It is 1981. Glasgow is dying. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things. But when she’s abandoned by her philandering husband, she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, her three children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love and other thought experiments / Ward, Sophie
Rachel and Eliza are hoping to have a baby. The couple spend many happy evenings together planning for the future. One night Rachel wakes up screaming and tells Eliza that an ant has crawled into her eye. She knows it sounds mad – but she also knows it’s true. Eliza won’t take Rachel’s fear seriously and they have a bitter fight. Suddenly their entire relationship is called into question. Told in ten interconnecting but self-contained chapters, Love and Other Thought Experiments is a story of love lost and found across the universe.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How Much Of These Hills Is Gold / Zhang, C Pam
“Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mistry Law and More: New Mystery Fiction

This month’s new mystery titles include the latest novel from author Sujata Massey, best known for her Agatha Award-winning Rei Shimura series. Massey’s most recent work is A Murder at Malabar Hill, described by The Spinoff as “a sumptuous crime story starring a rule-breaking badass in a sari”.

We’ve also got great new work from Berlin and London-based writer Jessica Moor. Moor’s debut novel The Keeper centres on a women’s refuge, and is based on Moor’s own experiences. For more on her time writing The Keeper, have a read of this interview at Crimespree Magazine.

A murder at Malabar Hill / Massey, Sujata
“1920s Bombay: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Temple House vanishing / Donohue, Rachel
“In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school, the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere, two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, who encourages their flirtation. Then, he and Louisa vanish. Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The guest list / Foley, Lucy
“On a remote island, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped. All have a secret. All have a motive. One guest won’t leave this wedding alive…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The keeper / Moor, Jessica
“When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police are ready to write it off as a standard-issue suicide. But the residents of the domestic violence shelter where Katie worked disagree. These women have spent weeks or even years waiting for the men they’re running from to catch up with them. They know immediately: this was murder. Still, Detective Dan Whitworth expects an open-and-shut case–until they discover evidence that suggests Katie wasn’t who she appeared.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The recovery of Rose Gold / Wrobel, Stephanie
“For the first 18 years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold. Turns out her mom, Patty, was just a really good liar. After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We begin at the end / Whitaker, Chris
“30 years ago, Vincent King became a killer. Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed. Duchess Radley, Star’s 13-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The lizard / Bruce-Lockhart, Dugald
“Obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Alistair Haston heads off to Greece, where she is on holiday, to try and rekindle their relationship. On the ferry from Athens he is offered a lucrative job, recruiting tourists to pose for and, he later discovers, to sleep with, Heinrich a wealthy and charismatic, German artist. Swept away on a tide of wild parties, wild sex, fine food and drugs Haston sheds his reserve and throws himself headlong into the pursuit of pleasure. Until, a body is found and the finger of blame points to Haston.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Little disasters / Vaughan, Sarah
When Jess arrives at hospital with a story that doesn’t add up, Liz is the doctor on call. Jess has devoted her life to family and home. But she is holding so many secrets. As the truth begins to emerge, Liz is forced to question everything she thought she knew: about Jess, and about herself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The clutter corpse / Brett, Simon
“Ellen Curtis runs her own business as a declutterer, helping people who are running out of space. When Ellen stumbles across the body of a woman in an over-cluttered flat, suspicion immediately falls on the deceased homeowner’s son, who has recently absconded from prison. No doubt Nate Ogden is guilty of many things – but is he really the killer?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

CoNZealand is Here!

Almost two years after it was first announced, and despite the significant impact of COVID-19, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention is about to arrive on the (digital) shores of Wellington! The virtual convention will include special guests Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, Greg Broadmore and toastmaster George R.R. Martin, and will be hosting a range of fantastic sci-fi related events — including the Hugo Awards! To get you in the CoNZealand spirit, we’ve selected titles covering everything from fandom and cosplay to cooking and short stories. Enjoy!

The fangirl’s guide to the galaxy : a handbook for geek girls / Maggs, Sam
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With a love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fandom : fic writers, vidders, gamers, artists, and cosplayers / DiPiazza, Francesca
“Have you ever finished a book or TV series and wished for more? Created stories, art, or videos based on a game? If so, you’ve entered fandom. Fan writers expand and mix up stories, sending the Star Trek crew to Hogwarts. They also enrich invented worlds with greater diversity, creating female and multiracial avatars for games peopled only with white male characters.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Kindred : a graphic novel adaptation / Duffy, Damian
More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Stolen sharpie revolution / Wrekk, Alex
“Since 2002, Stolen Sharpie Revolution: a DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture has been the go-to guide for all things zine-related. This little red book is stuffed with information about zines. Things you may know, stuff you don’t know and even stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know! Stolen Sharpie Revolution contains a cornucopia of information about zines and zine culture for everyone from the zine newbie to the experienced zinester to the academic researcher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How long ’til black future month? / Jemisin, N. K
“Hugo-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first short story collection.” (Catalogue)

Cosplay crash course : a complete guide to designing cosplay wigs, makeup and accessories / Petrović, Mina
“True to the cosplay spirit of collaboration, Cosplay Crash Course shares favorite techniques from some of the community’s most imaginative artists. Step by step, you’ll learn how to turn ordinary fabrics, toys, thermoplastics, wigs and other humble materials into original costumes. Whether you’re making fabulous feathers, metallic armor, wicked horns, lifelike claws or form-fitting boots, this book puts it all within your reach.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The feast of fiction kitchen : recipes inspired by TV, movies, games & books / Wong, Jimmy
Recipes from Feast of Fiction, the innovative YouTube show featuring fantastical and fictional recipes inspired by books, movies, comics, video games, and more. With 55 unique and awesome dishes, this long-awaited cookbook will help inspire a pop culture dinner party, a fun night at home with family and friends, or an evening on the couch thinking about what you could be cooking.” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger (ebook)
“Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and reading lists will introduce you to more than 100 authors and over 200 of their mysterious and spooky works!” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

I find your lack of faith disturbing : Star Wars and the triumph of geek culture / Jameson, A. D.
“A. D. Jameson takes geeks and non-geeks alike on a surprising and insightful journey through the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero franchises that now dominate pop culture. A lifelong geek, Jameson shines a new light on beloved classics, explaining the enormous love (and hate) they are capable of inspiring in fan and non-fan alike, while exploding misconceptions as to how and why they were made.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The City We Became: New Sci-Fi and Fantasy

What do you do when your past three books have all won the Hugo Award for Best Novel? In N.K. Jemisin’s case, you write The City We Became–a speculative fiction love letter to New York. Jemisin’s ninth novel has been described as “a celebration and an expression of hope and belief that a city and its people can and will stand up to darkness, will stand up to fear, and will, when called to, stand up for each other.” Perfect reading right now! (For more, check out this review in Vox.)

The city we became / Jemisin, N. K
“Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ghost species / Bradley, James
“When scientist Kate Larkin joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species she becomes enmeshed in another, even more clandestine program to recreate our long-lost relatives, the Neanderthals. But when the first of the children, a girl called Eve, is born, Kate cannot bear the thought her growing up in a laboratory, and so elects to abduct her, and raise her alone.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

To be taught if fortunate / Chambers, Becky
“Adriane is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds, and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind, and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Across the void / Vaughn, S. K.
“It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within–the last person left alive. There is only one person who can help her–her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist. As May fights for life, Stephen finds his own life is under threat, putting both of them at risk. In this gasp-inducing thriller, their relationship is the difference between life and death.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ice house / Clare, Tim
“War doesn’t end. It sleeps. Delphine Venner is an old woman now. She is old, but she remembers everything. She remembers what it is to be a child of war, she remembers fighting for her life and she remembers what the terrifying creatures from another world took from her all those years ago. She remembers the gateway, and those she lost. And in that other world, beast-filled and brutal, someone waits for her.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Sisters Grimm / Praag, Menna van
“This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again. In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Firewalkers / Tchaikovsky, Adrian
“The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And thanks to their investment, the sun can provide power. But someone has to repair the solar panels when they fail, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupe, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.” (Catalogue)

Seaward Stories: New Fiction

The ocean looms large in this month’s new general fiction selection. Lemuel Gulliver seemingly lost at sea in Gulliver’s Wife; Captain Cook’s Endevour wrecked on a coral reef in On a Barbarous Coast; wisdom from octopuses in The Octopus and I; a deadly sea crossing in We are Made of Earth.

Also this month: the French literary sensation All About Sarah by Pauline Delabroy-Allard and Love by Roddy Doyle. Love has been compared to James Joyce’s Dubliners, and has received great reviews from the New York Times, Boston Globe and more. Enjoy!

Gulliver’s Wife / Chater, Lauren
“London, 1702. When her husband is lost at sea, Mary Burton Gulliver is forced to rebuild her life without him. But three years later when Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles, her ordered world is turned upside down. In a climate of suspicion, Mary is caught in a crossfire of superstition and fear driven by her husband’s outlandish claims of the wonders he has seen, and it is up to her to navigate a passage to safety for herself, her daughter and the vulnerable women in her care.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

On a Barbarous Coast / Cormick, Craig and Ludwick, Harold
“On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A disparate band of survivors huddle on the shore. Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed–or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to find out what exactly they are. On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All About Sarah / Delabroy-Allard, Pauline
“A thirty-something teacher drifts through her life in Paris, lonely in spite of a new boyfriend. And then one night at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, Sarah enters the scene like a tornado–a talented young violinist, she is loud, vivacious, appealingly unkempt. Thus begins an intense relationship, tender and violent, that will upend both women’s lives. Delabroy-Allard perfectly captures the pull of a desire so strong that it blinds us to everything else.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love / Doyle, Roddy
“One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant. Old friends, now married and with grown-up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he has to tell Davy, and Davy, a grief he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be. Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rest and be thankful / Glass, Emma
“Laura is a nurse in a pediatric unit. On long, quiet shifts, she and her colleagues care for sick babies, handling their exquisitely fragile bodies, calibrating the machines that keep them alive. Laura may be burnt out. Her hands have been raw from washing as long as she can remember. When she sleeps, she dreams of water; when she wakes, she finds herself lying next to a man who doesn’t love her any more. And there is a strange figure dancing in the corner of her vision, always just beyond her reach.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Eighth Life (for Brilka) / Haratischwili, Nino
“On the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the center of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia’s is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Octopus and I / Hortle, Erin
“Lucy and Jem live on the Tasman Peninsula, where Lucy is recovering from surgery. As she tries to navigate her new body, she develops a deep fascination with the local octopuses, and in doing so finds herself drawn towards the friendship of an old woman and her son. As the story unfolds, the octopuses come to shape Lucy’s body and her sense of self in ways even she can’t quite understand. The Octopus and I is a stunning debut novel that explores the wild, beating heart at the intersection of human and animal.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Little Gods: a Novel / Jin, Meng
“Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother Su Lan’s ashes to China. In a territory inhabited by the ghosts of the living and the dead, Liya’s memories are joined by those of two others: Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Liya’s mother before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. In this way a portrait of Su Lan emerges: an ambitious scientist, an ambivalent mother, and a woman whose relationship to her own past shapes and unmakes Liya’s own sense of displacement.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We are Made of Earth / Karnezis, Panos
“When an overcrowded dinghy capsizes at sea, a doctor is among those refugees thrown overboard. The doctor and a boy he has saved eventually reach a tiny Greek island where they are offered shelter by the owner of a travelling circus. Debt-ridden, the circus owner knows that his most valuable asset is an Asian elephant, lovingly tended by the owner’s wife even as she mourns their 10-year old daughter. The doctor is drawn to his host’s wife, all the while keeping his young companion at arm’s length.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Road Trip of the Weird & Wonderful!

There’s nothing like a road trip to bring out the strangeness in a country: the oversized fruit; the abandoned houses; the mysterious side-roads that go who-knows-where. But if you choose carefully–or have help from your local librarian–then the same feeling can be created with books: the sense of being in between, or out of time, or unhooked from the everyday world.

That’s where this blog comes in! Join us as we travel across America, stopping at seven weird, wonderful, scary and strange sites, from New England to California and a few places in between. Along the way we’ll recommend a selection of titles that create a similarly peculiar feeling. Read on to begin!


Bread and Puppet Theater, VT

What: Politically radical puppets and sourdough bread
Where: Just outside Grover

Born in the midst of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the puppets of the Bread and Puppet Theater have loomed over crowds since the 1960s. Their giant faces and stilted legs have become one of the key symbols of American counterculture–but where do they go when they retire? To this barn, of course!

Related Readings:

The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff — What kind of life would you lead if you’d been trained to be a living mannequin?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion — Suffering from writers block, Joan Didion sets off to the heart of America’s counterculture.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene — Written in 1955, The Quiet American predicted America’s role in Vietnam throughout the ’60s and ’70s.


Centralia Coal Fire, PA

What: A small town perched upon an everlasting fire
Where: North-west of Philadelphia

There are several theories about how a fire began in the tunnels beneath the coal mining town of Centralia, but when a 12-year-old boy almost fell into a fiery sinkhole in his backyard, one thing became certain: the town would have to be abandoned. Today Centralia has fewer than 5 residents, and is the inspiration behind the Silent Hill series.

Related Readings:

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer — Area X has been sealed up for over three decades, and has a strange influence on anyone who enters.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson — The book that broke the romantic notion of life in small town America (and the traditional structure of the novel).

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick — 2000 feet above sea level lies Denniston, a tough, West Coast coal mining town for those with something to escape.


Fury 325, NC

What: The world’s best steel roller coaster four years running
Where: Carowinds Amusement Park

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a roller coaster? In the case of the Fury 325, the designers took inspiration from the hornet–not just the insect, but also Charlotte’s reputation as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion” during the American Revolution. (For the record, the Fury 325 is the fifth tallest roller coaster in the world, with a top speed of 153 km/h!)

Related Readings:

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal — There are just 50 years before Earth becomes uninhabitable, but for pilot Elma York, the first challenge will be convincing people that women should be allowed to fly.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe — Did you know that when NASA was preparing the first manned space flight, they wanted to use trapeze artists? (But settled on test pilots instead.)

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather — A convent of nuns (and a living space ship) tackle the theological and physical dangers of a post-war solar system.


Creation Museum, KY

What: A museum where dinosaurs and humans co-exist
Where: Petersburg, Kentucky

It’s not often that a museum opens to protests, but that’s exactly what happened at the Creation Museum in 2007. With a focus on young Earth creationism, the Creation Museum has displays showing the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, and drew 800,000 people in 2017. (By comparison, in 2015/16 Te Papa had 1.7 million visitors.)

Related Readings:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — A dying reverend writes a letter to his six-year-old son about the strange wonders of the world and his place in it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman — The book (and TV series) that asks the question, “What happens to gods when people stop believing in them?”

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin — Baldwin weaves together race, religion, sexuality and family in this seminal–and semi-autobiographical–work.


Iowa State Fair, IA

What: One of America’s largest state fairs (and home of the Butter Cow)
Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

With its carnival rides, butter sculpting and delicious deep fried foods (cookie dough in a waffle on a stick, anyone?), the Iowa State Fair is a Midwest institution. And every four years it’s also the place you get to see presidential hopefuls vie for votes while trying to eat deep fried oreos–never easy.

Related Readings:

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter — The life and times of Sophie Fevvers, a winged woman who tours with a circus to the far reaches of Siberia.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury — Did you know that Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for writing was a magician named Mr. Electrico who told him to “Live forever!”?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — When magicians fight, giant dreamlike circuses are the result. ‘Twas ever thus.


Neon Museum, NV

What: Where Las Vegas’ neon signs go to die (and be resurrected)
Where: Las Vegas Boulevard

When you think about visiting Las Vegas, stopping at a museum isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the Neon Museum–or Neon Boneyard, as it’s often called–isn’t an ordinary museum! Scattered across the campus are signs from some of Vegas’ most well-known historic casinos and motels, including the Sahara, the La Concha and more.

Related Readings:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson — No matter what you do in Vegas, chances are it won’t rival what Hunter S. Thompson got up to (which is probably a good thing).

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky — Did you know that Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler to pay off his own gambling debts?!

The Power by Naomi Alderman — When women gain the power to emit electrical currents through their fingers, the world is changed forever.


Winchester Mystery House, CA

What: Secret passages, mystery doors, staircases to nowhere…
Where: San Jose, California

If you were designing a house for ghosts, and you had an unlimited budget, you’d probably end up constructing something like the Winchester Mystery House. Built between 1884 and 1922, the house was designed to appease (or escape) the ghosts of all those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Pop in and have a look around…

Related Readings:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson — Did you know that The Haunting of Hill House is one of several novels influenced by Winchester House?

The Amityville Horror by Jay AnsonThe Amityville Horror is supposedly based on true events, but has caused a lot of controversy!

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes — A body is found in a Detroit tunnel. The top half is human, but the legs are those of a deer.


Black Lives Matter: Fiction & Film Resources

Omaha, Nebraska, 1915. A young postal worker named George Johnson quits his job to found the Lincoln Motion Picture Company with his brother Noble. Just over a year later the brothers have moved to L.A., where they go on to make six films before winding down in 1923. Today, the Lincoln Motion Picture Company is recognised as not only America’s first all-black movie production unit, but the first to “showcase African-American talent in the full sphere of cinema.

Two years after the closure of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, another series of stories exploring the black experience in America is being assembled, this time in print. They emerge not from the Midwest but New York, in the pages of The New Negro: An Interpretation, under the editorship of Howard University professor Alain Locke. The New Negro will go on to become the key text of the Harlem Renaissance.

Film and fiction have been two particularly powerful mediums for exploring the black experience in America since the work of the Johnson brothers over one hundred years ago. Below you’ll find a selection of contemporary films and novels that continue this exploration, including the award-winning works of Spike Lee, the genre-expanding novels of N.K. Jemisin and the experimental movie-making of Cheryl Dunye. For equally powerful non-fiction examples, visit our Black Lives Matter: Non-Fiction Resources blog.


FICTION

Sing, unburied, sing : a novel / Ward, Jesmyn
“Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Nickel boys : a novel / Whitehead, Colson
“Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. But one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But fellow inmate Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Such a fun age / Reid, Kiley
“Alix is a woman who gets what she wants. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler in their local supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. Alix resolves to make things right, but both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about each other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fifth season / Jemisin, N. K
“This is the way the world ends…for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Red at the bone / Woodson, Jacqueline
Red at the Bone opens with Melody celebrating her 16th birthday at her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Melody’s mother never did get her own 16th birthday party, and therein lies a tale of two families separated by class, ambition, gentrification, sexual desire, and unexpected parenthood.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


FILMS

The Watermelon Woman
Year: 1996
Director: Cheryl Dunye

Watch the full film here.

“Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself in this witty, nimble landmark of New Queer Cinema. A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the “Watermelon Woman” was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian.” (Kanopy)

Fig
Year: 2010
Director: Ryan Coogler

Watch the full film here.

“Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther), Fig is a this sympathetic look at the life of a working class mother, a prostitute named Candice wants nothing more than to provide a good life for her daughter Kyla. One night that she is unable to find a babysitter for Kyla, Candice takes her to the corner where she picks up johns and leaves her in the car. When Candice is with a john, Kyla is found alone by the police and is taken into emergency foster care. When she finds out, Candice does everything in her power to convince the social worker in charge of Kyla’s case that she really does love her daughter very much.” (Kanopy)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Year: 2014
Director: Spike Lee

Watch the full film here.

“Spike Lee’s stylized thriller Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is a new kind of love story. Dr. Hess Green becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient African artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound thirst for blood. He, however, is not a vampire. Soon after his transformation he enters into a dangerous romance with Ganja Hightower that questions the very nature of love, addiction, sex, and status in our seemingly sophisticated society.” (Kanopy)

NZ Music Month: In Conversation with Ruby Solly!

On her Facebook page, Ruby Solly describes herself as someone who writes things, sings things and plays things. While true, it doesn’t take much work to discover that this description doesn’t quite capture the scale–or success!–of Solly’s recent projects, publications and accomplishments.

For starters, Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a music therapist, having recently graduated with a Master in Music Therapy from Victoria University (read her thesis here!). She’s also a taonga puoro practitioner, composer and role model at the Conversation Collective.

Solly’s poems have been published in The Spinoff, Landfall, Sport, Orongohau/Best New Zealand Poems 2019 and more, and her recent article in e-Tangata, Being Māori in Classical Music is Exhausting has brought increased insight into the attitudes and privilege within New Zealand’s classical music community.

This blog is also being written during New Zealand Music Month, so it wouldn’t be right to forget her musical achievements, including playing with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots and The New Zealand String Quartet. She describes her current project as music that reflects “my connection to the land I live on and the ancestors that passed through here”.

Anyway, all that is just the tip of the iceberg. For more–including what she’s been up to during lockdown–check out our conversation with her below. Solly also performs two fantastic poems: “Arrival” and “Six Feet for a Single, Eight Feet for a Double.” Enjoy!

2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards: Fiction & Poetry Winners!

The results are in: the winner of this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards is debut author Becky Manawatu with Auē!

Manawatu (Ngāi Tahu) was up against big names, including Elizabeth Knox, Owen Marshall and Carl Shuker, but managed to emerge victorious with a story about the death of an orphaned boy that has been described as an “immense, deep and powerful work” and has been compared to both Once Were Warriors and The Bone People. Check out an exert from the novel here or reserve a copy here!

Also victorious last night was Helen Rickerby with How to Live. Rickerby won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, beating out Anne Kennedy, Steven Toussaint and Ashleigh Young. How to Live is Rickerby’s third collection, and has been described as “lucid, uplifting, provocative, revealing, acidic, groundbreaking“.  Have a listen to ‘How to Live Through This’ from How to Live here, or reserve a copy of the collection via our catalogue!

Watch Becky Manawatu read from Auē:

Watch Helen Rickerby read from How to Live:

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Susannah’s Horror Picks

If you are looking for some scares and chills to take your mind off the real world, then consider these five horror features on Beamafilm. From classic early black and white German cinema, to a Chinese epic, and an Australian contemporary film, there’s lots to sink your teeth into!

(Not a library member yet? No worries! Simply sign up here and then check out Beamafilm and Kanopy, our fantastic film streaming services.)


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Year: 1920
Length: 75 minutes
Director: Robert Wiene

Watch the full film here!

As the Beamafilm synopsis describes: “Two men on a park bench discuss the story of Cesare, a sleep-walking circus performer under the control of the murderous Dr. Caligari. But all, of course, is not quite as it seems.” Often cited as the first true horror film, this is the quintessential example of 1920s German Expressionism in its use of symbolism, and symbolic acting. This black and white silent classic uses non-realistic sets, costume and makeup to portray the characters’ emotional states, exploring mental illness and madness.

Discover More:

Combined Search: Did you know that the script for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was based on the wartime experiences of writers Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer? Learn more about this fascinating film via our eLibrary Combined Search!


Nosferatu

Year: 1922
Length: 93 minutes
Director: F.W. Murnau

Watch the full film here!

Nine years before Bela Lugosi’s legendary portrayal of Dracula, Max Schreck starred as the Dracula-inspired Count Orlok in the German Expressionist film Nosferatu. Although the filmmaker’s tried to avoid copyright infringement, it was close enough to the source material for Bram Stoker’s widow to sue and have the original prints destroyed. It is also known for the addition to the vampire mythos that sunlight is lethal to vampires. This 1922 black and white classic of silent cinema is a masterpiece of atmosphere, and its influence can still be seen in popular culture nearly 100 years later.

Discover More:

OverdriveNosferatu may be one of the first works to be influenced by Stoker’s Dracula, but it’s definitely not the only one! Explore Dracula, Dracula’s Guest, Anno Dracula and more via Overdrive and Libby.


M

Year: 1931
Length: 110 mins
Director: Fritz Lang

Watch the full film here!

Director Fritz Lang’s other classic film (the first being Metropolis, which is also available on Beamafilm), and his personal favourite, M deals with the unpleasant subject matter of a child killer in Germany 1931. The title “M” is short for mörder, the German word meaning murderer. Beautifully shot in black and white with sound, and once again part of the German Expressionist movement, this is regarded as one of Lang’s finest films, and one of the best German films ever made. It features one of Peter Lorre’s most famous roles before he fled Germany and went on to achieve international fame in Hollywood in films such as Casablanca.

Discover More:

Mango Languages: Did you know that director Fritz Lang made films in both Weimar Germany and also as part of the Hollywood system? Check out his German language productions (without the need of subtitles!) with a little help from Mango Languages.


Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame

Year: 2010
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Hark Tsui

Watch the full film here!

Not strictly a horror film, although you will find it under that category on Beamafilm, this is also an action/mystery/historical film with horror and supernatural elements. Set in 689 A.D in China, Detective Dee is called back from exile to investigate a series of fiery deaths. Featuring lots of acrobatic fighting, lavish sets, and special effects, it was so popular it has since spawned two prequels. This will appeal to anyone who is a fan of Netflix’s Korean series, Kingdom.

Discover More:

Dragonsource: Did you know that our eLibrary includes Dragonsource, a database with hundreds of Chinese language magazines in both simplified and traditional Chinese?


The Babadook

Year: 2010
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Hark Tsui

Click here for the full film!

This Australian contemporary film is about a solo mother struggling to raise her son on her own. One day she finds a disturbing storybook called “Mister Babadook”, only the story and the monster within seem to want to come out of the page. The title, Babadook is an anagram of ‘A bad book’. Debut director Jennifer Kent has created a powerful film that explores the monster that is depression and loneliness.

Discover More:

RBdigital: Want to know more about the latest horror films? Check out magazines such as Empire, Hollywood Reporter and Total Film via RBdigital!