Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lost Mother - Anne Summers

My second book in the Art History Challenge is The Lost Mother: a story of art & love by Anne Summers.

About the book
In 1933 Anne Summer's mother Eileen "Tuni" Hogan had her portrait painted by up and coming artist Constance Parkin.  Over a few months Eileen had her portrait painted twice by Constance. It was forgotten about until an Aunt saw an article in the paper about Constance Parkin's art show. They were unable to purchase the portrait then, as it had been sold to a Mrs Lydia Mortill. The author's grandmother did purchase it at a later time though. After the death of her mother, the portrait was left to Anne and she began to dig into the history of the painting, the artist Constance Stokes and of Lydia Mortill. It is not just the story of the painting though, but the story of loss.

My Thoughts
I thought this was quite an amazing book. Toward the end I thought it was more about the mother daughter relationship, than the history of Alice , the name given to the portrait of Eileen Hogan. It was touching how the author revealed the difficulties in her relationship with her mother, and by reading her diaries, she was better able to understand her.

Mostly the book was about now little known artist Constance Stokes nee Parkin. As someone who had never studied art I had never heard of Constance Stokes until I came across this book. It is sad that, while she was contemporary to and painted with artists like Sidney Nolan and Russell Drysdale, those are the names that are remembered while Stokes slipped almost into obscurity.

Perhaps the most interesting thread in this book is the story of Lydia Mortill nee Kliaguina. She came to Adelaide from England where she had found out her husband of six months had been killed fighting in France. She was originally from Russia. In Adelaide she met and married William Mortill. Her family had escaped to Latvia just before or during the Russian Revolution and were trapped there at the start of the Second World War.

I really enjoyed reading this book. This true story is more fascinating than most mystery novels because it deals with real people.

July Roundup

After a bumper June, I've been suffering from "reader's burnout" and only managed 3 books in July. Three is not a bad number, but in trying to read 100 this year it's making it harder to achieve. I was slowed down considerably by The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch, which I was reading for the Friday book club. It was very dense writing and required longer than the week I gave myself to read it. The book club discussion of it made the book sound much better than I thought it was. I may have to add it to my TBR list.

I really enjoyed My name is Memory by Ann Brashares. I was suprised to quite like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Books Read
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing - Elmore Leonard
My Name is Memory - Ann Brashares

Books not Completed
The Sea, The Sea Iris Murdoch
The Low Road - Christopher Womersley

This brings my totals to 
100+ Reading Challenge - 54
Aussie Author Challenge stays the same at 5
Bibiliophilic challenge - 7
Buck-a-book challenge - $54

The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark

About the book
The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark is the story of apprentice chef Luciano. He was taken of the streets by Chef Ferrero and put to work in the kitchen of the palace of the Doge in Venice. Venice is alive with the search for a book, which contains either, the secret to immortality, forbidden gospels that can be used to over throw the current pope, Borgia, or it contains love potions, or secrets of alchemy. Luciano gets caught up in the search for the book.

My Thoughts
This is the August book for the Wednesday book club. I quite enjoyed reading it, though I was never quite sure when it was set... sometime between 1492, as the New World has been discovered and 1606, which was when the Dutch first came to Australia - as there was mention of a large rodent which goes about on it's hind legs and has a pocket for it's young. Though they did mention that the book was set about 300 years after Roger Bacon was around. All this is very distracting. I'm sure that the mention of "love apples" still being thought poisonous, and newness of coffee and cacao beans, would place it better in time, but I'm not up with food history, and I don't want to have to do research about a book I'm reading. That's the author's job!... Ok, I can't help myself... I've been looking into when tomatos and cacao beans made it to Europe and they became popular in the late 1500s.

Apart from that it is easy to get caught up in the story. Venice is like a character in the novel, with it's alleys and markets. The description of food is wonderful, and made me feel hungry reading  it.

I like the Maestro Chef, though we only see him through Luciano's eyes. I'm not sure how reliable a narrator his is though. He spies on everyone and reports back to the chef, which is quite funny. He spies on the Chef but manages to keep that to himself. I like how the relationship develops between Luciano and the Chef.

Some reviews that I've read compare The book of unholy mischief to The Da Vinci Code. I think that is an unfair comparison. I've enjoyed Book of Unholy Mischief so much more than the Da Vinci Code. It has much more depth. That being said I really did not like The Da Vinci code. It took me months to get passed the first 70 pages.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kobo and ebooks

I've had my Kobo for about 3 weeks now and I hadn't really used it much. I've bought some ebooks and synced them to the Kobo, but that was it. For some reason last night I decided to give it ago. I started to read Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas. I had read about 80 pages in what seemed like a short amount of time and I suddenly wondered if I had missed
anything. It was an odd feeling and made me want to find a hard copy to check. Or perhaps it's just a very easy book to read.

I actually don't mind reading on the Kobo. The screen is clear and I've set the text at an easy to read size. The pages do take a bit longer to turn than a hard copy book... and it's very light. I still like the experience of reading the hard copy. But the experience of reading on a Kobo is just as pleasurable.

The only thing that annoys me about the whole thing is... well there's 2 things I think. The first is the price of new release books. Most of the new release ebooks I've seen are pretty close in price to the hard copy. It's crazy... when there are no printing costs they have to factor in, not
housing costs because it's all electronic. I would prefer to buy a hard copy version of a book when both formats are a similar price. I am refusing to pay more than $10... well unless it's a book that I really really want and then I won't pay more than $15. That may sound harsh and there have been cries of what about the author's cut? Well, as with print copies the authors only get a tiny percentage of the total price of the book. With less overhead costs they shouldn't lose out.

The second thing that it's really hard to find ebooks that I want. The search facility on the  bookseller's websites are dodgy at best, but worse for ebooks. This is because they don't work like a library catalogue, which makes sense, when you put in an author's name, or a title
that's what you get. I think bookseller's try to be like google... but even in Google when I search for a book title I will ususally get a webpage about the book... not so in a bookseller's website. When I search for a title a lot of the time I get totally random responses. But with ebooks, when I search for a title, I don't always get the ebook entry. The browse categories is ok, but everything is either all fiction or general ebooks. You can't browse very well by genre, and you can't sort by date of release. So I'm having to trawl through all this stuff... mostly erotic fiction, before I can find anything I'm interested in.