June 26, 2020

How to ... Trove!

What is Trove, I hear you ask?

Trove is an online resource that was created by the National Library of Australia. It collects information on Australian resources and allows people to have access to read and view these items, or shows you which libraries have them for you to view in person.

These collections come from all across Australia to represent communities, cultures and research. For example; you can look for items about and created by First Australians or you can look for newspapers from the 1800s. There are even digital versions of maps, images, journals and sheet music that can be viewed and explored by you!

If you were feeling incredibly interested in these newspapers also, for example, you could also spend time trying to transcribe what was written down for future generations to read.

Not only does it sound fun; Trove has also relaunched itself today!

So ... tips?

  • For starters, if you want to get the most out of your site visit, you could use their "How to use Trove" video.

  • No matter whether you choose to "Explore", "Categories", Community", "Research" or "First Australians" when looking for information, you can narrow your search by clicking on "all categories" beside the search bar to choose book and libraries; newspapers and gazettes; or websites, to name a few.

  • If you are on the homepage and scroll to the bottom, there is a pink highlighted bar that shows more you can do on Trove. This includes investigating your family history through state and territory and overseas links to archives and resources. If you had spare time and wanted to take up a new hobby you could edit and read news articles from the past. You could spend time discovering more about Australian culture. Or last, but certainly not least, by clicking on the final option, find new, interesting or quirky information that Trove has uncovered to share.

There is a lot to discover on Trove that relates to Australian and First Australian history and culture. Take your time exploring this site and stay in the know about events and news they have coming up in the future. 

Whatever the reason for looking at Trove ... you won't be disappointed with the opportunities and information available to you. So go ahead, visit today!

June 24, 2020

How to ... Hobbies! Wait, hobbies?

Interested in starting a new hobby? Want to increase your skills of a current one? Just want to grab that pattern or find out just "how to" ... do whatever it is you want to do?

Introducing Hobbies and Craft Reference Centre. This is an online resource that offers information, how-tos, patterns, videos and articles on a range of topics that people know a lot about, know nothing about or would like to know more about for educating and entertaining themselves.

Sounds like a lot of fun!

To access this resource, it can be found down near the bottom of our eResearch page on our website.

Clicking on the link to Hobbies Centre will open up a log in page. Add your library card number on the back of your card (don't forget the C and D) and you are in.

This front page then separates hobbies and crafts into different subjects to help you break down your search: Arts and crafts; Collecting; Home and garden; Indoor recreation; Kids' craft; Model building; Needlecraft and textiles; Outdoor recreation; Performing arts; Science and technology; and Scrapbooking and papercrafts.

By clicking the topic of your choice, it will take you to a page where it is broken down into smaller subjects. 

So give it a try. And, of course, if you need help in any way, don't forget to contact a library staff member who will be happy to help you.

What hobby can you start today that could impact you or others tomorrow?

June 17, 2020

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's "Good omens"

This book can be found here.

If you haven’t seen the show on Amazon Prime by now, you might have already read this one. It’s a classic (so the people say). Even the introduction from the authors mentions the dog-eared copies that fell in the bath so often from all the re-readings people do. So, this review could be irreverent, given the hype and popularity of this book. Though there might be a single individual out there not yet experienced either with the writings of Pratchett and/or Gaiman … maybe.

This book has multiple characters and their perspectives: so, there is no one main character, though you could argue both Aziraphale and Crowley could be those (and given the focus of them on the title for the television series … Michael Sheen and David Tennant … of course!). These two characters (one a demon, one an angel) have been on Earth so long that they enjoy it too much to give up being there, even for the Apocalypse. And these two characters are a lot of fun. Particularly Aziraphale (to a librarian anyway):

“Aziraphale collected books. If he were totally honest with himself, he would have to have admitted that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them. He was not unusual in this. In order to maintain his cover as a typical second-hand book seller, he used every means short of actual physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours - he was incredibly good at it.”

I really don’t want to delve too much into the quirkiness of every character, because it is so much fun to read that I want you to discover it all for yourself (for the first time or again). Though the two characters I have mentioned predominantly are the most three-dimensional of the lot, so these may be the ones you will connect with the most.

The setting is urban London, but not as modern as say yesterday is, so younger audiences may not understand or get every reference. But there is enough notable pop culture to either smile or laugh out loud at. Do be aware that the book’s beginning is fast-paced, but really slows down near the end. Whilst it is important for this to happen for the progress of the story, this may bother some readers as it feels less like a proper and complete ending.

I should mention the writing style also. This is two authors coming together in their early days of writing to create something fun with each other, and not expecting it to become as large as it did. They both have slightly different styles that they have tried to entwine into one book. I could tell parts that were more Gaiman and Pratchett, having read other works of theirs; but if you haven’t read some of these, I don’t expect you to notice. Some may suggest that you cannot notice the difference, in fact the authors in an interview at the back of the novel suggested that they even thought some lines were written by the other it became such a complete tale on its own. I can see parts where this occurs, which continues the fluidity of the writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I can see why fans reread it so many times. There are a lot of jewels as you read, and obviously you reread to find them all over again or new ones you missed the last time. Whilst you may not consider it as good as later individual works by the same authors, if you like comedic discussion on social and religious aspects: “It has been said that civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism”  (think 'HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy' if you would like a similar book), then this book should be on your list.

Links for you:

Pratchett in the Library:

Anything from the Discworld series

Gaiman in the Library:

As a note, Gaiman started in graphic novels, which is why I have put this last one up.

Gaiman in cloudLibrary:

Title read-a-likes in the Library:

Thomas Pynchon

Whilst this is darker, the themes resonate between the two works.

June 10, 2020

Layla AlAmmar’s “The pact we made”

This book can be found here.

This debut novel follows the character Dahlia as a woman living in Kuwait that straddles both modernity and traditional cultural values in her life. This is a very strong theme within the novel as Dahlia is almost thirty; which is the cut-off point for being a worthwhile wife and bride for a man to choose.

This can be seen within the title, which refers to the fact that when young, Dahlia and her two friends all made a pact to be married by twenty-seven. This itself; though Dahlia wanted out of the pact, shows the pressures of women and their roles even in modern Kuwait that Dahlia is expected to live up to.

So, this novel is all about self-discovery, self-identity and #metoo; but also the trials of just existing within society. A lot of the characters tend to struggle with life and its choices (most humans could); whether from Kuwait or not. The added layer of this novel? AlAmmar’s Kuwaiti traditional roles and ways of thinking adds dimension and struggle that I as a Westerner may not have ever encountered if in similar situations. This made parts of the novel much more difficult for me to read as I struggled with such traditional views; which Dahlia seemed to have to manoeuvre through as well.

Saying that; the plot is slow-going. This is about Dahlia’s progression through this almost “final” year of her life (or the beginning of her new one if it works out … not telling you though). It means that even for the secondary characters there is a sense of claustrophobia to their lives that can’t be escaped (possibly) and this can also slow the book down. 

Character is the driving force of the novel. It is mostly all about Dahlia and her processes and this, again, becomes rather claustrophobic. This is because it is first-person and so her voice and thoughts become sometimes a little overpowering outside of the story. Whilst this lends itself to strengthen a character trying to cope with trauma, some of it may push readers to the side.

In truth, this could be another layer to the novel: everyone is selfish and focussed ultimately on their own thoughts, goals and issues and trying to get out of, or through, them (generally). This would play well for a young adult audience, even with Dahlia almost pushing thirty (given the traditional values of the family in this novel, she is treated like a child and so definitely still fits). However, it might be a tough read, not in terms of language (though Arabic is used at times – well too, I might add), but because of Dahlia’s consuming thoughts. However, overall, the insight into the culture and an individual trying to balance and find their place in it was very well done.

Links for you:

Okay, so I am starting with an interview by AlAmmar with this blog “Reading women”. Probably a little controversial connecting between blogs, but this gives insight into AlAmmar’s writing processes.

Read-a-likes in the Library:

Jing-Jing Lee

Read-a-likes in cloudLibrary:

Mohsin Hamid

June 09, 2020

Staff pick: Hilary Mantel's "Mirror and the light"

This book can be found here.

This is the final instalment of her celebrated trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, who rose to be Lord Privy Seal to King Henry VIII of England, basically running the government of the realm. He helped solve the King’s Great Problem of how to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn in the first two books. Now there is a third Queen hoping to deliver the much-anticipated son and heir to carry on the Tudor dynasty. History tells us that three more Queens will await their fate after this Queen. Remember the rhyme:

Divorced, beheaded, died
Divorced, beheaded, survived.

Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Katherine Parr.

The earlier books in the trilogy, "Wolf Hall" and "Bring up the bodies", each won the Mann Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012, respectively. They were worthy winners. We won’t know until later in the year if this third book will be nominated, I will be surprised if it isn’t. Her style in these books is to create a vast, much peopled canvas, to follow the diverse nobles and the few commoners who shaped events, to have an overarching commentary from Thomas and to range back and forth in time. This enables her to bring forward incidents that developed his character, talents, networks and alliances as they are relevant to the current action. I found the back and forth in time a little bit jarring in Wolf Hall; it seemed much smoother in the next two, or perhaps the scene had been set and I had adjusted to her style.

Thomas Cromwell was the son of a brewer, from a poor part of London, near to the bottom of the social hierarchy. As a child, he worked in the kitchens of great houses. He went to the Netherlands and Italy, working with merchants and understanding finance. Double entry bookkeeping had been invented to keep the accounts of the great Italian merchant companies and printing was underway and books were becoming available to the rising merchant class as well as nobles and Church dignitaries. Whilst in Italy, he acquires a second-hand book.  This is one example of Mantel’s research. She knows the printer/publishers and their printer’s marks or devices, giving this book the mark of the dolphin and anchor of a famous Venetian printer: https://nyamcenterforhistory.org/2018/05/07/makers-mark-a-look-at-early-modern-printers-devices/. This is one small detail and it is matched by her careful attention to all aspects of Cromwell’s life and of English life during Tudor times.

When Cromwell comes back to England, he works for Cardinal Wolsey, then high in Henry’s favour. It is a great learning ground for a man who does appear to have been exceptionally able, much to the chagrin of the various nobles who envy his rise to power and who believe that lesser people in the social strata just are less able. But if the head that wears the crown is uneasy, it is more dangerous to be close enough to the King to know his secrets and weaknesses, and fatal not to be able to give him what he wants. Cromwell rises further on Wolsey’s fall and in turn will fall himself.

I normally like to race through a book to find out how the story develops but this is a familiar story to me as the Tudor period is one in which I have a great interest. I found I took this book at a more leisurely pace and there is much detail to digest. Knowing his story, I tended to linger, to enjoy the Tudor milieu, to delay the inevitable void. No more will there be a volume to look forward to. I might have to start again at the beginning and re-read the three of them.

It is long at 875 pages, but it is a pleasure to read, full of very readable detail about clothes, food, court etiquette etc. Mantel’s prose soars on the page, transporting you to Cromwell’s urban childhood in Putney; to the spring gardens of the great houses; to the bloody work of the butchers that provide the vast quantities of game, beef, lamb and pork to the great house tables; to the political machinations of the great families, and to the dreams and fancies of Princess/Lady Mary who was raised and lowered by their father with every passing marriage. Elizabeth, her half-sister was so much younger that she does not figure as much in the story, although equally affected by the succession uncertainties. If Cromwell was an intelligent, hardworking man able to conceptualise and keep track of all the economic, religious and political activity in the kingdom, he is surely matched by his creator in fiction. She illuminates her subject in every chapter.

Henry gives Cromwell a vacant position in the Order of the Garter, the highest award for the nobility to aspire to, some of whom are not impressed that they must share the honour with a commoner. But it is not politic to grumble at the King’s decisions. New people are appointed as vacancies arise. There are two vacant places but one is being held for the Royal child currently kicking in Queen Jane’s womb. On the night before he is invested with the Order, Cromwell goes to bed early…

He needs a space in which he can watch the future shaping itself, as dusk steals over the river and the park, smudges the forms of ancient trees: there are nightingales in the copses, but we will not hear them again this year. Tomorrow, all eyes will turn, not to the Garter stall he fills, but to the vacancy, where a prince as yet unborn reaches for the statute book, and bows his blind head in its caul. Why does the future feel so much like the past, the uncanny clammy touch of it, the rustle of bridal sheet or shroud, the crackle of fire in a shuttered room? Like breath misting glass, like the nightingale’s trace on the air, like a wreath of incense, like vapour, like water, like scampering feet and laughter in the dark….furiously he wills himself to sleep. But he is tired of trying to wake up different. In stories there are folk who, observed at dawn or dusk in some open, watery space, are seen to flit and twist in the air like spirits, or fledge leather wings through their flesh. Yet he is no such wizard. He is not a snake who can slip his skin. He is what the mirror makes, when it assembles him each day: Jolly Tom from Putney. Unless you have a better idea?      -- pp 504-5

If you want an impartial consideration of this book you will have to seek that elsewhere. I love the period, I love English history (it is my heritage) and I love this book. It’s not for everyone, but it is definitely for me. I hope it is for you, too!

For further reading, other worthy historical novelists dealing with the period include Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir.

-- Wendy

June 03, 2020

Stop! Grammar time.

This resource can be found here. It is part of our online nonfiction collection of items that you have free access to with a library card. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of this page, and log in.

This first 'Grammar time' is going to look at something that can confuse anybody. Homonyms and homophones ... big words that mean big, fun things.

Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and sound the same, but have different meanings. As you can see from the cover of this book, the word 'bear' is both spelled exactly the same and sounds the same when you say it, but it has two different meanings. 

So, in the title of this book:

Bear means the animal and
Bear means how much one person can handle

So that is what a homonym is! 

Homophones are words that sound the same, but are both spelled differently and mean different things. Again, the example on the cover uses the words 'bare' and 'bear' to show this. These words are spelled differently and mean different things, but sound the same. 


Bare is b, a, r, e and means to wear no clothes (like in the cover image) and
Bear is b, e, a, r and means the animal 

You might not be interested in understading the names of these kinds of words; but knowing the difference is important when you are writing documents or even learning to read and write. 

The good thing about our eResource collection, is that this book by Cleary and Gable is written in a fun way that gives readers a lot of examples of both homonyms and homophones. The illustrations are fun too! It is also written for younger audiences, so it won't take long. 

Have a look at the book; or try and find other homonyms and homophones to play around with! 

Words are fun! Get it right when you write, and one by one, you'll have won at 'Grammar time'!