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Hans Christian Andersen - 6th Jul 2017

We all know the tales of Hans Christian Andersen from our childhood. There are so many stories that effortlessly spring to mind: The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina to name but a few. And just think of all the operas, films, plays, books and ballets inspired by his work.

This gorgeous little volume is by Kathleen Fitzgerald and is beautifully and appealingly illustrated by Gilbert James. The text is in French (obviously) so Recueil de Contes d'Andersen would make a lovely present for anyone who likes Andersen's fairy tales, but especially for children learning French.

Brush up your own French by working out which fairy tales these are:
Une Soiree chez Ferme-l'oeil
La Grosse Aiguille
La Princesse sur un Pois
La Paquerette
La Petite Poucette

Where would we be without salt? - 5th Jul 2017

You couldn't cure ham without it; some people wouldn't be able to get married without it; you couldn't make sauerkraut without it; boiled veges might look a little dull without it; red wine might stain white carpets without it; flowers might wilt in their vases a little faster without it; slugs & snails might overrun your garden without it; and I wouldn't eat chips without it. What is it?

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Homer called it a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. (And you can see above for our opinion of it). Salt has shaped civilization and in this book Mark Kurlansky blends political, commerical, scientific, religious and culinary records to produce this magnificent history of an indispensable ingredient.

Strangers & Brothers - 3rd Jul 2017

If you want a really, really good read, you can't do much better than CP Snow's Strangers and Brothers series of eleven novels.

It may be a different country, a bygone era and an unfamiliar social class with distinct social mores but that doesn't really matter. Despite all that, it is really just about human nature (in my humble opinion). Whether you read it as a soap opera, a study of power and influence, or an inside look at the worlds of academia, the legal profession and the civil service, you will very quickly be addicted, and then you have the joy of another ten really beautifully written novels still to go!

I recommend reading them in the narrative order (rather than date published order) so you will start with Time of Hope and move on through George Passant,The Conscience of the Rich, The Light and the Dark, The Masters, The New Men, Homecomings, The Affair, Corridors of Power, The Sleep of Reason and finally Last Things. Really highly recommended.

Romancing the Ordinary - 30th Jun 2017

Romancing the Ordinary Feeling weary? In need of a little comfort? Require some pampering? Looking for sheer escapism? Want a treat?

Sara Ban Breathnach's Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of SImple Splendour is just what you need. It takes you through a year of pampering, 365 days of comfort, twelve months of escapism or four seasons of pleasure.

Learn how to indulge yourself with scented baths or lose yourself in a superb novel, stuff rich lusciously iced chocolate cake down your throat or sink into a welcoming armchair beside a roaring log fire, fall into freshly washed and ironed pure cotton sheets or sob to your heart's content with a romantic tear-jerker of a film.  This book will help you to fall in love with your life. Give it a go. 

The Golden Turkey Awards - 29th Jun 2017

The Golden Turkey Awards The Golden Turkey Awards: The Worst Achievements in Hollywood History
by Harry & Michael Medved

This book presents awards to honour the worst in cinema history. Half the fun is trying to guess which films will be nominated in each category and then attempting to predict the winner (with very little success in my case).

Some of the categories are:
The Worst Rodent Movie of all Time
The Worst Lines of Romantic Dialogue in Movie History
The Worst Title of All Time
The Most Ridiculous Monster in Screen History
The Worst Actress of All Time

And here are some nominees - see if you can guess the category:
Farrah Fawcett in Myra Breckenridge & John Travolta in The Devil's Rain
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes & Attack of the Mushroom People.

If you like this, you might also enjoy The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time, which they also wrote.


Yesterdays in Maoriland - 28th Jun 2017

Yesterdays in Maoriland by Andreas Reischek

Andreas Reischek, an Austrian taxidermist, came to New Zealand in 1877 and stayed for twelve years. He travelled extensively throughout the country from the far North to Fiordland and the sub-Antarctic islands, studying the flora and fauna and particularly the unique birdlife. 

During the course of his expeditions, he collected 14,000 specimens of birds, fish, reptiles and plants. He presented the entire collection to Austria on his return home.

Before he died in 1902, he recorded his discoveries, adventures and impressions of New Zealand and the Maori people in this book Yesterdays in Maoriland. Reischek wrote in a simple and unaffected style and this book will be a joy to anyone interested in natural history or in the early colonial times or in tales of travel with a faithful dog.

A must-have book - 26th Jun 2017

"You can get off alcohol, drugs, women ,food and cars, but once you're hooked on orchids, you're finished. You never get off orchids....never." Joe Kunish, orchid grower.

Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy
by Eric Hansen

Here's the opening paragraph to get you in the mood:
There is something distrinctive about the sight and sound of a human body falling from the rain forest canopy. The breathless scream, the wildly gyrating arms and legs pumping thin air, the rush of leaves, snapping branches, and the sickening thud, followed by uneasy silence. Listening to that silence, I reflected on how plant collecting can be an unpleasant sort of activity.

Poor People Poor Us by John E Broad - 23rd Jun 2017

Poor People Poor Us by John E Broad If you are a National Radio fan, you may have heard a fascinating slot on Katherine Ryan's programme yesterday (22nd June). Harry Broad, a journalist, was talking to her about his recent visit to Italy and why he made the trip.

His father, John Evelyn Broad, wrote a book in 1946 called Poor People-Poor Us (Poveri Gen' Poveri Noi) which tells the story of three escaped Kiwi fugitives in the burning sands of Libya and the snow-clad Apennines of Italy. It is a saga more thrilling than most fiction. It is also a heartwarming story of how the New Zealanders were hidden from the Germans in manure heaps and freezing caves by Italian peasants, who went out of their way at enormous risk to shelter freed prisoners of war.

It is highly recommended that you listen to the RNZ programme and read the book if you can lay your hands on a copy.

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