Tips on how to choose a book to read – by Jamie

Have you ever wasted time reading a book that leads you nowhere? Hoping it ‘gets better’ somewhere along the way – except – it doesn’t?
Work experience student Jamie has a formula for selecting books and genres to make reading a pleasurable experience every time.

Reading is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages, but sometimes the novels that look interesting at a glance are only filled with disappointment. In this post, I am going to attempt to help you decipher whether a book is worth reading after only a chapter or two. This is only going to refer to fictional novels because there is an entirely different way of determining the quality of non-fiction, and of course children’s picture books can’t be held to the same standards. Please take what I say with a grain of salt as I am only 16 and obviously have not experienced as many books as some other people.

Before you can even begin to examine whether a book is worth reading, you need to understand what kinds of books suit you the best. If you read a lot then you won’t need any advice finding a genre, because you probably know already. If not, I’ll try to help you choose a genre or two.

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An easy way to start discovering what kinds of books best suit you is to look at the other media you consume (movies, TV shows etc.) and find out what genres they are. Most of the time the kinds of books that you enjoy are the same as the other things you enjoy. Another way to find what is best suited to your tastes is to ask friends and family to recommend books they think you’ll like. People close to you will be good at finding things you like because they spend so much time in your company. If this isn’t helpful, you could try reading short stories online to see what attracts your attention. I found myself suddenly interested in Steven King after reading a short story, called Suffer the Little Children, which he wrote.

Suffer the Little Children by Stephen King

Suffer the Little Children by Stephen King Image credit: http://www.mymbuzz.co

 

Now you have (hopefully) found a genre, you need to decide what you want in a book. Different people are attracted to different books for different reasons. This means that while an author may fall short in one way or another, it might not be an area that interested you anyway. An individual can enjoy a book purely because of the characters. Personally, I like books to be well-rounded and to focus on characters and plot development, so I find myself abandoning many books. If you can determine what aspects of reading you enjoy, it will be easier to decide if it will let you down in the end.

From the first chapters in a book it is usually clear what problems are going to persist. You might be used to continuing a book in the hope it might get good later, but I can confidently say it won’t. There isn’t enough time to read all of the good books in the world, so don’t waste time on the bad ones. I have never read a book that I found extremely boring in the beginning get better later. I’ve also discovered many books start out promising but go downhill. Books that seem promising in the beginning but later get worse are sometimes difficult or nearly impossible to identify. I will attempt to give you some tools to spot books that will disappoint you later.

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You may believe the most important part of a novel is the premise – but you are indisputably wrong. I enjoy it when a book has an exciting and engaging premise but it isn’t the most important thing. I have read books where the premise was interesting and showed amazing potential but was a letdown because of boring characters or lazy writing. I have also found books that had a seemingly boring premise to be written in a way that made the story engaging and interesting. It’s best not to judge a book solely on the potential it has, although it’s a good start. The skill of the author is what makes a novel memorable, not the basic idea behind the novel. Even if the author has the most amazing idea for a story, they can still fall flat if they don’t possess the skill that is needed. Reading reviews of your chosen novel will tell you how other people felt after reading it and can stop you wasting your time.

The dialogue between the characters in a book is a very important part of any novel. If a lot of the conversations between characters in the beginning of a book exists purely for exposition or has statements which no real person would ever say, then this is a sign of lazy writing. You can also tell if the characters are boring after only a few chapters. If a character has one trait or hobby that completely defines them and they don’t have multiple aspects to their personality, then they aren’t thought through very well. Boring characters are not good! The characters are part of what connects the reader to the action, so if they have no personality, then you, the reader, won’t relate to them or understand them. Having an abundance of scenes where the characters are sitting down and talking is also incredibly boring. It is fine occasionally but too many scenes where nothing happens is a bad sign. The author isn’t creative enough if the only time and place where characters interact is seated around a table.

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Boring! How you feel after reading pointless conversations in a book

Plot is another important part of any story. The plot can be simple or complicated as long as it is easy enough to understand and doesn’t leave large unanswered questions. If there is no hint of a plot within the first few chapters, then the novel probably isn’t worth reading. If there is no hint of plot, the entire first part of the book will be pointless. The plot also has to be interesting. I have read books with basic plotlines which take no originality to create and have no unique aspects to them. A good book should be unique so that it isn’t interchangeable with other books of the same genre. Having a predictable or overused plot is a sign of a book poorly made. There is no point in reading something that has nothing unique about it. If you even suspect the novel you are reading is going to be exactly like any number of other things you have read, then it probably won’t be worth your time.

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You know you’ve found a book you like when thinking about the story makes you happy

 

I believe I have given you a sufficient amount of tools to help you decipher the quality of what you’re reading. Now that you know how to pick a genre that suits your personality and keep you engaged it should make choosing a book much simpler. You also know a few indications of a poorly written or poorly thought-out book. You can use this information to improve your enjoyment of the things you read but in the end, it’s your choice to take my advice so feel free to do whatever you like with the information I have provided.

Way back when, Wednesdays

What every child wants for Christmas

What would your children like for Christmas? Parents start putting toys on layby from the time of the mid-year sales. Or they race around the shops in December looking for the popular and sometimes expensive toys.

Search online and you will discover that a range of toys such as the Slime Factory, the Furreal Roarin Tyler and the Robo Alive lizard are in demand this Christmas. Santa is also stocking up on the cute L.O.L Surprise Dolls, the My Little Pony: My Magical Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Hatchimals. Lego and Star Wars related merchandise are listed as perennial favourites.

Would you like to encourage your children to play outdoors? Perhaps Santa could bring each of them a pair of stilts and they could have races! The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper printed this advertisement for Gimpy brand stilts on page 17 of the edition dated 7 December 1966.

Stilts

In a simpler time, kids probably had a lot of fun playing with their stilts over the summer holidays. Library staff who were children in the 1960s reflected on some of the Christmas presents that they received. Most parents never bought anything on credit. Only store-cards (which could be used exclusively in the issuing store) were available in Australia up until 1974 https://www.finder.com.au/credit-card-history and people usually could not afford to buy expensive gifts. Some toys were homemade. Intrepid woodworkers made and sold playsets such as a wooden hand-painted service station for toy cars. One member of our staff remembers that her uncle made her some furniture for her doll, a small wardrobe and a bassinet. Or you might gladly receive homemade clothes for your dolls. And you would have been very fortunate to receive several presents in your Santa Sack.

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Recollections of commercially made Christmas gifts include skipping ropes, Tonka toys, little cars, minature toy household appliances including a sewing machine and washing machine. There was also a treasured spinning top!

 

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A metal spinning top

 

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Mini washing machine that really worked!

Childlike dolls, Mattel’s Barbie and Skipper and Sindy manufactured by English company Pedigree were on many girls’ wish lists. Board games such as snakes and ladders and quoits were popular gifts as they encouraged family interaction.

Snakes and Ladders

Skipper

Or you could have lots of fun with dress up outfits like cowgirl and cowboy costumes or a nurse’s uniform (perhaps you were lucky enough to also own a toy medical kit with a stethoscope).

Most toys manufactured in this era relied on children using their imaginations or being physically active to have fun, rather than the use of technological components.

You can still buy stilts for kids online. The design is still basically the same. Modern stilts are made from metal or plastic and the height can be adjusted to fit the child. Some can also be strapped on. Parents might be concerned about accidents and broken bones. Unlike in 1966, it is now recommended that children wear safety gear when using stilts, such as elbow and knee pads and a helmet.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Married at the Mall

Organising a wedding is usually expensive. It can be difficult to find a venue and you will probably need to book months ahead. Have you considered getting married at Tea Tree Plaza? One Adelaide couple did! During July 1975 the North East Leader Messenger reported on the ‘Wedding of the Year’ that took place at Tea Tree Plaza.

On page 25 of the edition dated 9 July, 1975 the North East Leader featured the wedding celebration of Marcella Denengelse and Robert Scott. The ceremony took place on Friday 4 July in the mall on the upper level of Tea Tree Plaza. The couple had won the Wedding of the Year competition and all of their expenses were paid for by the shopping centre. Adelaide socialite and television personality Jaye Walton was invited to attend Marcella as her matron of honour and Adelaide journalist Paul Makin acted as Robert’s best man.

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The Wedding of the Year competition was essentially a sales promotion, designed to advertise the wares of businesses at Tea Tree Plaza and bring people into the shopping centre. In the week before the wedding on 2 July, Tea Tree Plaza and the North East Leader focused on the local traders who would be donating products and services for Marcella and Robert’s wedding.

Wedding prducts from local traders

A large number of businesses, many of which were situated at Tea Tree Plaza, sponsored the competition.

Adelaide icon Balfours used to have bakeries and tea rooms around Adelaide. Balfours at Tea Tree Plaza supplied the two tier wedding cake, which the public were invited to share after the wedding ceremony.

Orlando wines, from Rowland Flat in the Barossa Valley, provided tastings of the popular sparkling Orlando Starwine. Started by the Gramp family, Orlando Wines is now owned by an international company controlled by Pinot Ricard but it is more commonly known by its brand Jacob’s Creek.

 

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Wytt Morro Sparkling Starwine, colour print on paper: 11.4 x 10.1cm, South Australiana Collections, State Library of South Australia

Joseph’s Gallery of Beauty dressed the hair of the bride and her attendants. Italian hairdresser Joseph was well known in Adelaide at the time. He owned several salons and had his own regular television segment on Channel 10.

 

More wedding

Marcella and Robert, their attendants and the Mother of the Bride were outfitted by Katies Vogue, John Cook Suit Hire, Myer and Witchery. Who knew that Katies used to sell formal wear and wedding apparel? Katies has now closed. Zamels, which is still in business at Tea Tree Plaza, donated the wedding rings.

Drumminor restaurant held the wedding reception. The historic building which used to house the Drumminor Restaurant on Golden Grove Road, Ridgehaven is now part the Harrison’s Funerals complex. Built in 1843, it was originally the home of Scottish immigrants Robert and Alison Milne. The Milne family lived at Drumminor up until 1937.

 

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Drumminor Gardens, Harrison Funerals Ridgehaven

 

The couple spent their wedding night at the Town House at 164 Hindley Street. This hotel and conference centre still operates as the Adelaide Rockford. You may not think that it looks particularly glamourous but remember that in 1975 Adelaide did not yet have prestigious hotels such as the Hilton International and the Stamford Plaza.

 

 

Rockford Adelaide

Adelaide Rockford, present day

 

This competition proved so popular that Tea Tree Plaza planned to hold it again in 1976. Notice how the advertisement states that the organisers are looking for a young couple. The Equal Opportunity Act of 1984 (SA) would now make it unlawful to publish advertisements that indicate an intention to discriminate according to different criteria, including age http://www.eoc.sa.gov.au/eo-you/what-discrimination/places-discrimination/advertising .

 

Wedding of the Year competition

North East Leader, page 15, 2 July, 1975

 

In more recent times, a British couple decided to get married at their local supermarket where they had visited the in-store café on their first date.

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Harry Potter, the illustrated editions

You can now borrow the wonderful illustrated editions of the first three Harry Potter stories through the One Card Library network:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

HP trilogy

These books are illustrated in full-colour and are accompanied by J.K. Rowling’s original text. We have grown used to picturing the novels’ characters as played by the actors in the Harry Potter films. British artist and illustrator Jim Kay presents the reader with a new, unique interpretation of the magical world we love.

 

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The Owl Post

 

Jim’s style appears fresh, spontaneous and sometimes whimsical. However when you examine his captivating pictures, you discover how Jim achieves an amazing amount of detail and texture through brushstroke. Jim’s images could even be used as the foundation for an animated version of the Harry Potter films.

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The Sorting Hat

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Buckbeak the Hippogriff

Peruse and enjoy some excellent features such as the Marauder’s Map, portraiture and detailed schematics of magical creatures, such as the Phoenix and the Grindylow.

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The illustrated editions offer readers a wonderful way to revisit the Harry Potter stories or introduce new young readers to the series. Read them as a family or to yourself, curled up in your favourite armchair, in the company of your magical familiar.

Reserve the Harry Potter illustrated editions through the Library’s online catalogue.

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On the Pottermore website you can  read a fascinating interview with Jim Kay, in which he discusses how he is inspired by real people to depict the characters in the Harry Potter books.

 

 

Way back when, Wednesdays

The ones that couldn’t get away

Nobody would have gone home empty handed after this fishing trip, when the Dernancourt pool was transformed into a giant fish tank. On page 23 of the edition dated 15 June 1983, the Leader Messenger reported on the upcoming ‘Fish-in’ to be held from 18-19 June at the Dernancourt Swimming Centre, formally situated at Mahogany Drive, Dernancourt, alongside the River Torrens.

Fish in Messenger

Fish-in was held as a fundraiser by the Freemasons of the Thorngate Lodge of Prospect under the leadership of Worshipful Brother G.R. Gray, in conjunction with the City of Tea Tree Gully and local service clubs. The Kersbrook Trout Far stocked the pool with 200 live trout, purchased by Council.

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Fish-in was marketed as a family friendly event and attracted both experienced and amateur anglers. Four sessions of fishing were held over two days. Participants paid $4 each which covered the entry fee and the hire of a fishing rod. An officer from the Fisheries Department was on-site to provide tips on how to improve your fishing technique.

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So what did the anglers use for bait? Bait was provided and it was sweetcorn! You were allowed to take home any fish that you caught, so many local residents would have been eating trout for dinner and possibly stocking up their freezers.

There were prizes awarded in different categories such as for catching the heaviest fish and for the highest number of fish caught by an individual. You also had the chance to win a prize by catching special tagged trout released into the pool. If the kids became bored they could take a break by frequenting the food stalls and sideshows set up especially for Fish-in, around the grounds of the swimming centre.

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More than $2000 was raised from the Fish-in and the funds were used in the restoration of the Grand Lodge Building on North Terrace. Given the success of the initial event another Fish-in was held the following year on the weekend of 5-6 May.

Fish-in

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Extra duties at work

When you look at the issues of the North East Leader Messenger from the first two months of 1972, they are filled with photographs of fresh-faced children of all ages enjoying the summer heat, usually swimming at the local pools, or taking part in fun activities at Tea Tree Plaza. Looking at these images can evoke fond memories of your childhood. You might reflect that kids never change, no matter the era in which they grow up.

Fortunately some things that were not so wholesome have changed. The North East Leader at this time often pictured photographs of staff at Tea Tree Plaza, wearing some of the outfits on sale at different stores. Most of these depict ordinary people modelling dresses or casual wear. They are usually female staff.

On page 20 of the North East Leader dated 16 February 1972, Tea Tree Plaza featured a sales promotion for the big sidewalk sale. In conjunction with Hooper’s Furniture, Sussan advertised ladies nightwear. In the accompanying photograph young sales assistant Wendy Cummings is pictured in an alluring pose, wearing a short nightdress and showing off her legs. Besides her is another set of nightwear. During the 1960s and 1970s Sussan was a major retailer of lingerie and the place to purchase your wedding ‘trousseau’. We cannot know if Wendy volunteered for the photo opportunity or if modelling Sussan’s stock was just part of her job.

Sussan nightdress

Two of my colleagues recall how much sexism they experienced in the workplace during the 1970s. The advertising industry still uses sex appeal to sell products and objectify women. Thankfully today we do not usually see this type of image in the Messenger newspaper, with its focus on family and the community. When you work in the retail industry it is no longer considered acceptable to ask your female staff to promote your shop’s stock by being photographed wearing a little nightie. You also have the right to say no to such a request.

##waybackwhenwednesdays

Hello Kitty!

If you love Hello Kitty come and take a look at our display in the Library, on show until 15 November. Sonya has kindly brought in some items from her comprehensive collection. Sonya has been collecting the sweet Japanese merchandise since 2000. She tells me that “Hello Kitty was created in 1974 and is a white, bobtail cat with no mouth! The Japanese describe her as Kawaii (which means cute!).”

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Sonya is a keen traveller and while jet setting around the globe she has added to her collection and immersed herself in the world of her favourite character. “Hello Kitty has stores (Sanrio) all over the world and I have visited them in Tokyo, San Diego, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Orlando. I have also visited Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo which is a theme park based on Hello Kitty and her friends. ”

So what is her favourite Hello Kitty piece? She has several of course but Sonya loves to wear her cosy Kitty slippers.

Hello Kitty truly is a modern cultural icon. In 2008 Japan named Hello Kitty the ambassador of Japanese tourism in both China and Hong Kong, where she is incredibly popular with children and young women. UNICEF has also awarded Hello Kitty the exclusive title of UNICEF Special Friend of Children.

You can read some strange and macabre stories about her online but they are not true. Hello Kitty was created by the Japanese Sanrio company in 1974 who manufactured stationery for children. When they first put her picture on a coin purse under the word ‘Hello’, sales were phenomenal.

Hello Kitty leads an active life. Several different animated television series, a webcomic, video games and songs, a Scottish tartan and a sculpture exhibition have been created in honour of her. Sanrio has also stated that Hello Kitty is in fact not a cat, but a cartoon character who is a little girl. She lives in London, attends school and has a twin sister.

There is even a Hello Kitty themed hospital in Taiwan and an airliner decorated on the fuselage and inside the cabin with her image. Like our own Anstey the Echidna, Hello Kitty has even ventured into space. A 1.6-inch tall Hello Kitty travelled about on the Hodoyoshi-3 satellite in 2014.

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Born into a world of cuteness at the Hello Kitty hospital in Taiwan

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Hello Kitty and friends decorate the Taiwanese EVA AIR jet