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.

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.

 

 

Twenty years of Harry Potter

Work experience student Tiah is a Potterhead. She has seen all of the Harry Potter movies and continues to work her way through the books. Tiah has definite opinions on her favourite and least favourite characters – read on to see who they are. 

This year marks 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published, so I thought ‘why not blog about it?’ My name is Tiah and I came to Tea Tree Gully Library for my Year 10 work experience for school. 

I am going to tell you about my favourite character Draco Malfoy. Now you may hate me for this, but I am also going to talk about my least favourite character Dolores Umbridge. I think most of us will definitely agree that she is one of the least favourite characters.

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Draco Malfoy: my favourite character Image: Wikia

Yes in the first five movies and books, Draco is really mean to pretty much everyone at Hogwarts, but in the last three movies and two books you start to discover why he is that way. He doesn’t really have a choice on being nice to Harry and his friends, seeing as his parents are Death Eaters who serve Lord Voldemort. They killed his parents and are trying to kill Harry.

Honestly, I have not read all of the books yet, so I don’t know all that much (the books have more details than the movies) but Draco has always been one of my favourite characters. He is a siriusly misunderstood character (pun intended).

After realising he has been a jerk to everyone, Draco decides he does not want to raise his son, Scorpius, the way his parents raised him. He didn’t marry a Death Eater and he didn’t make his son believe everything his parents made him believe about muggle-borns and half-bloods.

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Draco in his first year at Hogwarts – evil from an early age – yet still my favourite character Image: myharrypotterlovestory.wordpress.com

Even J.K. Rowling has a soft spot for Draco. She has said: “I do not discount the appeal of Tom Felton, who plays Draco brilliantly in the films and, ironically, is about the nicest person you could meet.” 

However Dolores Umbridge did have a choice on the way she behaved.
She is not a Death Eater, nor was anyone else in her family, with her father being her only other magic relation. She is just really rude to anyone who is not a pure blood. She didn’t let her students use spells for learning how to defend themselves during her class Defense Against The Dark Arts (aka DADA). Eventually in the end, after The Dark Lord’s final battle, Dolores was arrested, tried and sent to Azkaban for crimes against humanity.

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Dolores was just plain rude. Image: thisgeekymommy.com

Stephen King told J.K Rowling, that he described Dolores Umbridge as  ‘the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.’

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J.K. Rowling describes Dolores as ‘fat, short, ugly and toad-like’ in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Image: storyofcamelcow.wordpress.com

J.K. Rowling will always be one of my favourite authors and people in this world and if you didn’t know already, there is a website she has made about the wizarding world that is easy to use pottermore.com

You can find out everything about the characters, creatures and professors, discover your patronus, find out what house you’re in, what Ilvermorny house you’re in, find out what wand you would have, locations such as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village, and there’s even things on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. You can also shop for J.K. Rowling’s books, ebooks and audiobooks on the website.

PS I think Tom Felton and Imelda Staunton were perfect for the roles of Draco and Dolores.

Surprise book of the month

Beautiful Goats cover.docxBeautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds

Written by Felicity Stockwell  and photographed by Andrew Perris

I have noticed that Library staff love putting Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds on display and it always gets borrowed. So what is so appealing about this unusual title?

I asked myself “Why do we love goats?” They eat almost everything and can butt you in the backside, then appear to laugh about it.  However, goats are also sweet natured and have pretty faces. They have personality. Maybe they are endeared to us from childhood, when we listen to the story of the brave Billy Goats Gruff outwitting the vile troll on the bridge. One of my colleagues also told me that goats have become nearly as popular as cats on the Internet.

In the first few pages of Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds, Felicity Stockwell looks at the history and cultural significance of goats. She writes about the agricultural products derived from goats, goats as pets, wild goats and show competitions. However, the greatest part of this book is devoted to showcasing 40 breeds of goats. Photographs are accompanied by specific information about each breed that is featured.

These goats are simply photogenic and definitely beautiful. Each goat is photographed against a simple grey background, which reflects the colour of the book’s covers.  They do not require any other artifices. Andrew Perris skilfully manages to capture so much expression on each of these animal’s faces.  The goats look proud and happy to be photographed on set. They raise their heads in regal poses as if to say “This is my good side”.

The final section of the book ‘Reportage’ takes a fun look inside a goat show, where black and white snapshots are posted billboard style, accompanied by cute captions.

It is worth browsing through this lovely book, whether you have an interest in agriculture, you would like a cheeky pet or even if you just enjoy clever photography. You can reserve Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds. Or enquire next time you visit the Library.

 

 

How many books will you read in 2017?

How many books do you read in a year?

Some Tea Tree Gully Library staff recently compared their 2016 reading lists. It was interesting to see not just what books people read, but also how many books they got through.

Penny read 24. Hayley got through 25. Rose smashed 69 books – an impressive effort.

But no one had anything on Pixie. The magical Pixie, who read 94 books in 2016. An incredible 1.8 books a week.

Pixie created a reading challenge list at the start of last year and especially focused on reading classics, seeing as they’re not her thing. In the end, she got through nine classics – one short of her goal of 10. Amazing.

Here’s the full list of what Pixie read:

Classics
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
2. The women in black by Madeleine St John
3. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. Little men by Louisa Alcott
5. Jo’s boys by Louisa Alcott
6. Good wives by Louisa Alcott
7. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
8. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
9. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence

Non-fiction
10. Quiet by Susan Cain
11. Talking to my country by Stan Grant
12. I, Digital: personal collections in the digital era by Christopher A. Lee (ed)
13. The Life of I: the new culture of narcissism by Anne Manne
14. Shrill: notes from a loud woman by Lindy West
15. The Japanese mind: essentials of Japanese philosophy and culture by Charles Moore (ed)
16. Primates of park avenue by Wednesday Martin
17. Reckoning by Magda Szubanski
18. Love and death in Kathmandu by Amy Willesee & Mark Whittaker
19. Between you and me: Confessions of a comma queen by Mary Norris
20. Yes please by Amy Poehler
21. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Foreign titles
22. The angel’s game Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spain)
23. My mother’s house by Colette (France)
24. The white tiger by Aravind Adiga (India)
25. Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami (Japan)
26. The post-office girl by Stefan Zweig (Austria)
27. China Mao’s last dancer by Li Cunxin (China)
28. Breathless by Anne Sward (Sweden)
29. Ines of my soul by Isabel Allende (Peru/Chile)
30. The hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe)
31. Half of a yellow sun  by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Fiction
32. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Greene & David Levithan
33. The messenger by Markus Zusak
34. The language of flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
35. The god of small things Arundhati Roy
36. Purple Hibiscus by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
37. The curious incident of the dog in the night by Mark Haddon
38. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
39. Lost and found by Brooke Davis
40. Witches abroad by Terry Pratchett
41. Odd hours by Dean Koontz

Sci-Fi
42. Some kind of fairytale by Graham Joyce
43. Stardust by Joseph Kanon
44. The prisoner of heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
45. Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
46. The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
47. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
48. Mountain shadow by Gregory David Roberts

Quirky
49. Everything is illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
50. The love song of Johnny valentine by Teddy Wayne
51. Wild abandon by Joe Dunthorne
52. The truth about diamonds by Nicole Richie
53. The woman in the lobby by Lee Tulloch
54. A most immoral woman by Linda Jaivin

Young Adult Fiction
55. March by Geraldine Brooks
56. The bone dragon by Alexia Casale
57. Finding serendipity by Angelica Banks

Horror/crime
58. Wraith by Lee Tulloch
59. The vampire shrink by Lynda Hilburn
60. Career of evil by Robert Galbraith
61. A prick with a fork by Larissa Dubecki

Memoir
62. Bitter is the new black by Jen Lancaster
63. Blood bones and butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
64. Stephanie’s feasts and stories by Stephanie Alexander
65. The devil’s picnic by Taras Grescoe
66. Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
67. Cyndi Lauper: A memoir by Cyndi Lauper
68. Weird Sister by Kate Pullinger
69. The anti cool girl by Rosie Waterland

Other reading
70 + 71. Divergent series (2 books) – Insurgent & Allegiant
72-83 Stackhouse series (11 books ) + The Sookie Stackhouse companion
84. Fun home by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel/ memoir)
85. We need new names by Noviolet Bulowayo
86. Pure by Andrew Miller
87. Japanese mythology by Juliet Piggott
88. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
89. How to be happy by David Burton
90. Go set a watchman by Harper Lee
91. Candy girl by Diablo Cody
92. Rosewater and soda bread by Marsha Mehran
93. Be different by John Elder Robinson
94. Orange is the new black by Piper Kerman


Rose’s 10 favourite books read in 2016 (in no particular order)

  • The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
  • The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante:
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • The Story of a New Name
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  • The Story of the Lost Child
  • Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  • The Wrath and The Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
  • Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L Sayers
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
  • The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

Penny’s 10 favourite books read in 2016 (in no particular order)

  • French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
  • The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  • Shelter by Kara Rosenlund
  • Love x Style x Life by Garance Doré
  • Eat Real Food by David Gillespie
  • Use Your Words by Catherine Deveny
  • Mastery by Robert Greene (this book is a treasure!) 
  • Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami

As for Hayley, she loved ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘Use Your Words’ by Catherine Deveny and ‘Princess Jellyfish’ by Akiko Higashimura in 2016.

Here’s a pic of her 2017 reading challenge:

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Many of these books were presents given to Hayley in 2016. All of them are titles she really wants to read but hasn’t gotten around to yet. There are 12 of them – so she is aiming to read one book per month.


Do you set ambitious reading goals each year?

Do you aim to read a book a month, or a book a week? Or one book a year? Let us know.

Season’s Greetings

wrting-cardsEvery year, do you mechanically write out your Christmas cards at the last minute, using the same message for everybody, while getting a sore wrist?

Do you write “Merry Christmas and best wishes for the coming year, love from…” Even if that is what the card’s verse basically says?

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Or do you cringe when you have selected or made a beautiful blank card that needs a message? If you would like to saysomething more poetic and personalised, then Just the Right Christmas Words could be what you need.

just-the-right-christmas-words-cover-largeJudith Wibberley has created a selection of messages that you can use for your festive cards and invitations, to make the people who receive them feel special. She includes a variety of wording for Christmas and New Year greetings in both prose and in verse. There are messages for loved ones and different relatives, including families who have a new child.

Judith also writes for friends who are living overseas or serving in the armed forces. She includes a special section for Christian messages and for writing to Jewish friends celebrating Hanukkah. So as is noted on page 155 of Just the Right Christmas Words,“This Christmas, Spend a little, Laugh a lot, And enjoy.”

You can reserve Just the Right Christmas Words through the online catalogue or enquire when you visit the Library.

The Driver – Australia and New Zealand on the back of a truck.

20160920_160053I first heard about this upcoming title some months ago whilst flicking through the free newspaper ‘Big Rigs’ when I stopped at a roadhouse on a regular drive to Victoria. I was pretty excited when it finally arrived on my desk at the Library last week. As a fan of anything automotive, it was great to see an excellent book that focuses on an industry that is under-represented in library collections. An industry that everyone in Australia relies on, yet generally knows so little about.

20160920_160304The author is professional photographer and entrepreneur Alice Mabin. Alice is no stranger to rural Australia having grown up on the land, and photographing Aussie rural life, much of which appears in her first book, The Drover.

 

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The Driver – Australia and New Zealand on the back of a truck is literally a massive book, and it needs to be to even scratch the surface of an industry of the scale seen in Australia and New Zealand. It features 110 trucking families and businesses, of all sizes, truck makes and cargoes, providing very colourful and varied stories. It’s not just the trucks though, each spread also has the real-life experiences of those who drive the trucks, and superbly captures their passions and drives.

20160920_160232There’s 700 photographs, and Alice’s skill with the camera is clearly evident. Some were planned shots and stories, others occurred by chance as she travelled the country snapping the photo and then chatting with the driver.

20160920_160217Trucking life is certainly a culture unto itself and has suffered and triumphed through many changes and challenges since the pre-war period when trucks became a standard feature on and off of our roads. There is a timeline in the front of the book that highlights many of these important events.

Alice herself was struck by a truck whilst driving on the Sunshine Coast some years back and she accounts this incident as the trigger to understanding trucking life. Both of Alice’s books are available to borrow from SA Libraries and you can learn more about Alice on her website.