Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When God was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman

About the Book
Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it's about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

My Thoughts
I love this book! This is my favourite of 2011 so far, by far. I feel like Elly has become a close friend over the course of the novel and I really didn't want to finish the book because it means that the friendship has moved on. This, I think is one of the main ideas that moves through the book. The idea that you can be close friends with someone for a period of time and then it moves on. You can come back to friendships and pick up
from where you left off... or work through the pain of losing the friend for a while.
I missed her. I would always miss her. I often wondered how it would
have been if we could have experienced the coming years together.
What would have been different? could I have changed what happened to
her? We were the guardians of a secret world; a lonely world without
the other. For years i would flounder without her. (p162)
It also examines the close relationship between Elly and her brother and how they knew each others secrets. That even though friends come and go, family is always there and how noone knows all your secrets like family.
You see, you were the only person who knew everything.
Because you were there. And you were my witness. And you
made sense of the fed-up mess I become every now and then. And I
could at least look at you and think, at least he knows why I am the
way I am. There were reasons... (p308)
The book covers a lot of major events of the 70's, 90s and 2000's. Most of them I don't remember where I was or what I was doing. The main exception being 9/11 when I was somewhere between Heathrow and my cousin's apartment in Dublin when the North Tower came down, and watching in a haze of jet lag as the 2nd tower came down. When I read her description of her morning in London, I remembered that I was in London too, although just passing through. I think this part was the most moving of the whole book. I'm not
going to go into details because I don't want to spoil your reading experience of it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens

This was the June book for the Rockdale Readers book club

About the Book
The Old Curiosity Shop tells the story of Nelly Trent and her grandfather as they wander the English countryside, north of London, trying to evade Daniel Quilp. Nell's grandfather has borrowed money from Quilp to support a gambling habit and has lost everything, including the curiosity shop.

My Thoughts
Is it wrong to blog about an unfinished book? I have read it before, but when rereading realised there is only 1 scene I remember at all! The scene is where Richard Swiveller wakes up the Brass' Lodger who has slept for 26 hours and wants to charge him twice as much as everyone else because he has slept twice as long.

'Have YOU been making that horrible noise?' said the single gentleman.
'I have been helping, sir,' returned Dick, keeping his eye upon him, and waving the ruler gently in his right hand, as an indication of what the single gentleman had to expect if he attempted any violence.
'How dare you then,' said the lodger, 'Eh?'
To this, Dick made no other reply than by inquiring whether the lodger held it to be consistent with the conduct and character of a gentleman to go to sleep for six-and-twenty hours at a stretch, and whether the peace of an amiable and virtuous family was to weigh as nothing in the balance.
'Is my peace nothing?' said the single gentleman.
'Is their peace nothing, sir?' returned Dick. 'I don't wish to hold out any threats, sir--indeed the law does not allow of threats, for to threaten is an indictable offence--but if ever you do that again, take care you're not sat upon by the coroner and buried in a cross road before you wake. We have been distracted with fears that you were dead, Sir,' said Dick, gently sliding to the ground, 'and the short  and the long of it is, that we cannot allow single gentlemen to come into this establishment and sleep like double gentlemen without paying extra for it.'
I don't remember it the first time I read it, but The Old Curiosity Shop is quite a comic novel. The characters are caricatures, and get into silly situations. In this reading my favourite parts were of Kit's first couple of meetings with Mr & Mrs Garland and their headstrong pony Whisker.
The old gentleman, the old lady, the pony, and the chaise, came up the street in perfect  unanimity, until they arrived within some half a dozen doors of the Notary's house, when the pony, deceived by a brass-plate beneath a tailor's knocker, came to a halt, and maintained by a sturdy silence, that that was the house they wanted.
'Now, Sir, will you ha' the goodness to go on; this is not the place,' said the old gentleman. 
The pony looked with great attention into a fire-plug which was near him, and appeared to be quite absorbed in contemplating it.
'Oh dear, such a naughty Whisker" cried the old lady. 'After being so good too, and coming along so well! I am quite ashamed of him. I don't know what we are to do with him, I really don't.'
The pony having thoroughly satisfied himself as to the nature and properties of the fire-plug, looked into the air after his old enemies the flies, and as there happened to be one of them  tickling his ear at that moment he shook his head and whisked his tail, after which he appeared full of thought but quite comfortable and collected. The old gentleman having exhausted his powers of persuasion,  alighted to lead him; whereupon the pony, perhaps because he held this to be a sufficient  concession, perhaps because he happened to catch sight of the other brass-plate, or perhaps because he was in a spiteful humour, darted off with the old lady and stopped at the right house, leaving the old gentleman to come panting on behind.

A few of the regular bookclubbers found it hard to get through The Old Curiosity Shop. So the discussion went sideways a bit, in that it wasn't about the book so much, but about the times and Charles Dicken's early life. We did talk about some of the memorable characters before getting
waylaid again by how far Nell & her Grandfather walked in a day. It sounded like they went a long way. This lead the conversation into talking about the perception of distances, how Australian's think nothing of driving 2 hours to get somewhere, where as in other countries this is a big deal. The group did say that Richard Swiveller seemed to be the most fully drawn of the characters and he seemed to grow over the course of the novel. The consensus of the night was that  Charles Dickens was no Jane Austen, which some of the group members preferred. 

I think I enjoyed the supporting cast members stories more than Nell and her Grandfather's. I enjoyed reading about Kit and his mother. I didn't really get very far into the novel though. I think I am up to just after Kit starts working for the Garlands and Nell and her Grandfather have just
met up with the lady in the caravan.

Despite not getting very far, I do recommend this book. It's not one of Charles Dicken's best novels, but it is one that you don't assume that you have already read because you know the story so well. What Dickens does best is to present the life of the lower class and this is done well in The Old Curiosity Shop.

A Post of Unfinished Books

The trouble with borrowing library books is that they have to be returned. Most of the time it's ok, because I can renew them, and I get to finish the book. For popular books it's a bit more difficult though because people go and reserve them! So, one of the books I was reading in May had to be returned unfinished... and a couple of other books had to be returned as well. I just don't know what's wrong with my reading this year. It seems to take forever to get through a book and I'm just not that patient anymore.

I've been abandoning book club books as soon as the meeting is over so Shadow of the Wind, The Secret Scripture, Possession and The Old Curiosity Shop are all going unfinished. Luckily the first and the last are rereads, so it's not like I don't know what happens... and I found a rather good summary of Possession which covered all the major events in a tenth of the time it would take me to read the book. I was on holidays when Secret Scripture was discussed and really couldn't get into it at all.

Other books become victim to my Book Club reading because I have to drop what I'm reading to read the set books. Victims of this include: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua, which is also had to be returned because there are reserves on it, and... well actually I don't remember any others. Books that I own also suffer the same fate, but are much more easily picked up again - The Complete Polysyballic Spree by Nick Hornby is one of these. However, it is suited to being picked up, read and put down.

I do have a policy that if I can't get into a book by between 50 - 100 pages then I'm ok with abandoning it... I can always try it again later when my frame of mind has changed. Some books I have to be in the right mood for and won't enjoy it if I force myself to read it. I think that's what happens with some of the book club books.

We've had discussions in book club about where people stand on finishing books. Many of the group members are strict book finishers. They feel like they owe the author the courtesy of finishing... I wonder why... I wonder if it is a generation thing? What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A catch up post

How can it be 5 months since I last posted? Where did the year go? Where did my reviews go? Oh wait I found one hiding as a draft... but still...

My reading this year has been a little bit slack especially compared to last year. Hopefully I will have a bumper second half of the year.

I have read some good Australian books so far this year, which I would like to blog about... I will have to get on to that soon. Otherwise I will forget my reading experience... as I have in the case of Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Currently I am reading
The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
The Complete Polysyballic Spree - Nick Hornby
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua

Recently I finished
Tirra Lirra by the River - Jessica Anderson

Monday, May 23, 2011

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

About the Book
Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father when her mother remarries and goes on the road with her new husband. She's not too keen on Forks as it rains most of the year. On her first day at school she becomes intrigued by the Cullen family, particularly Edward Cullen. After a bad beginning.

My Thoughts
We read this book for book club. This was the second time I've read this book. I seemed to gloss over the things that annoyed me the first time I read the book, such as Bella constantly saying how ordinary she is, and how perfect Edward is. It still had the "this book is bad but strangely addictive" hook that it had the first time I read it. A couple of the book club ladies felt the same about it. It was nice to know it's not just me. This book isn't the best written book I've read. But there is something about it that makes me want to keep reading, even though the characters are annoying and this could be an abusive relationship. The first time I read
it, I was quite annoyed even angered by Edward's possessiveness which gets worse with each book. I couldn't believe that Bella was so willing to put up with it. We had a discussion in book club whether Bella going to meet the Vamp in the Ballet School was in character. The book clubbers didn't think so, but one of my colleagues did think it was.

I like the movie much better than the book because it's not so directly from Bella's point of view, and Edward's possessiveness is toned down a bit. I can see why teenagers would get into the series though. It is a pretty romantic story and everyone wants to "be taken care of".

Friday, January 14, 2011

100 + Reading Challenge - Completion Post

2010 was the first time I'd participated in the 100+ Reading Challenge. While I didn't make it to 100 books, I reached my 3rd highest book total. I finished 68 books in 2010.

The books I read are:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Rebecca Miller
Good Luck Girl - Kerry Reichs
Invisible - Paul Auster
The Innocent - Harlan Coben
The Best Day of Someone Else's Life - Kerry Reichs
The Portrait - Willem Jan Otten
The Wild Things - Dave Eggers
50 Ways to Find a Lover - Lucy-Anne Holmes
The Wonders of a Godless World - Andrew McGahan
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
Astrid & Veronica - Linda Olsson
Saturday - Ian McEwan
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Ice - Louis Nowra
Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Suspect - Michael Robotham
Death of a Gossip - M.C. Beaton
Death of a Cad - M. C. Beaton
Death of a Snob - M. C. Beaton
Death of a Glutton - M. C. Beaton
Death of a Prankster -M. C. Beaton
Death of a Perfect Wife -M. C. Beaton
Death of a Hussy - M. C. Beaton
Death of an Outsider - M. C. Beaton
Tell No One - Harlan Coben
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
A Fair Maiden - Joyce Carol Oates
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
Death of a Traveling Man - M. C. Beaton
Death of a Charming Man - M. C. Beaton
Death of a Nag -M. C. Beaton
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Who Moved my Blackberry - Lucy Kellaway
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Marked - P.C & Kristin Cast
Brooklyn - Colm Toibin
Betrayed - P. C & Kristin Cast
Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller
The Short Life of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer
Horror High: Toxic Beauty - Caroline B Cooney
Green Angel - Alice Hoffman
Foretelling - Alice Hoffman
Tamburlaine Must Die - Louise Welsh
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams
Sam Silverthorne: Quest - Gary Crew
In The Miso Soup - Ryu Murakami
The Burning Wire - Jeffrey Deaver
The Murder Farm - Andrea Maria Schenkel
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Elmore Leonards 10 Rules of Writing - Elmore Leonard
My Name is Memory - Ann Brashares
The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark
Life, The Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams
The Lost Mother; a story of art and love - Anne Summers
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed - Alan Alda
Spare Room - Helen Garner
Snow Country - Yasanari Kawabata
The Mercy of Thin Air - Ronlyn Domingue
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
Player One - Douglas Coupland
White Cat - Holly Black
How to Live Safely in a SciFi World - Charles Yu
Generation A - Douglas Coupland
Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K.Rowling
Preincarnate - Shaun Micallef

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Alpine for You - Maddy Hunter

Alpine for You is the first of the Passport To Peril Mystery series by Maddy Hunter.

About the Book
Emily Andrew is on a Seniors tour of Switzerland with her grandmother. Things aren't going right on tour from the start with her being assigned to room with Andrew Simon, the tour escort. Things don't get much better as the tour goes on... bad rooms, wet watches and lost luggage... and people on the tour start dying. The only good thing that happens is meeting Etienne Miceli.

My Thoughts
I quite liked this book because it was set in Lucerne and reminded me of the Swiss part of the European Tour I did in 2010. In fact I think I stayed in a hotel similar to the one in the book. The rooms were disappointing, and the food not so good! However the scenery was lovely! There were a couple of annoying things in the book - what was with Emily getting her watches waterlogged? It happened 3 times and never went anywhere. It's also odd to read about film cameras now. My favourite character was Marion Shippel, Emily's grandmother.

Diary of a Mad Bride - Laura Wolf

I finished the first book for 2011!

About the Book
Amy Thomas was not sure that she wanted to get married. Her friend Mandy was driving her mad with endless phone calls about her wedding, making Amy vow to not be the same type of bride. Then Amy's boyfriend proposes and Amy accepts. This is the beginning of Amy's transformation. Told in diary form it documents the lead up to the wedding.

My Thoughts
I quite enjoyed this book. It was a light read but fun read. Sometimes in these types of books I get annoyed with the main character, I didn't with Amy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bibliophilic Reading Challenge - Completion Post

I aimed for Litlover, with a view to making Bibliomaniac in the Bibliophilic Reading Challenge. Happily I made it half way between the two! The LitLover level was to read 6 books, and the Bibliomaniac level was 12.

The books I read are

  1. How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe - Charles Yu
  2. People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
  3. Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark
  4. Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller
  5. Elmore Leonards 10 Rules of Writing - Elmore Leonard
  6. Hitch hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  7. Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
  8. Invisible - Paul Auster
  9. Foundation - Isaac Asimov
  10. Good Luck Girl - Kerry Reichs

Aussie Author Challenge 2011

After successfully completing the Aussie Author Challenge in 2010, I'm looking forward to doing it again in 2011.
I'll aim to be True Blue about it and read & review 12 books by at least 9 different Australian Authors. There were quite a few books on my sign up post from last year that I haven't read, that I can consider reading this year.

Here are the details from Booklover Book Review's blog:
Challenge period:  1 January 2011 -  31 December 2011

Objective: Read and review books written by Australian Authors - physical books, ebooks and audiobooks, fiction and non-fiction!

Challenge Levels: TOURIST or TRUE BLUE!

TOURIST - Read and review 3 books by 3 different Aussie Authors
TRUE BLUE - Read and review 12 books by Australian authors (at least 9 different authors)

True Blue is Australian slang meaning 'the real thing'. Listen/watch this music video of the iconic Australian song "True Blue" written and sung by John Williamson.

How to Join
Check out the sign up details on Booklover Reviews: 2011 Aussie Author Challenge

Monday, January 3, 2011

Art History Reading Challenge 2010 - completion post

 I thought I was fascinated about Art History, but apparently I was only Curious. For the Art History Reading Challenge, I only managed to read 3 books about art history.

The books I read are:
  1. The People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
  2. The Lost Mother: a story of art & love - Anne Summers
  3. The Portrait - Willem Jan Otten

Aussie Author Challenge 2010 Completion Post

It's the beginning of a new year and time to wrap up the reading challenges of 2010. I have successfully completed the Aussie Author Challenge. YAY! I aimed to achieve the Fair Dinkum Status - 8 books by 5 different Australian Authors.

The books I read and reviewed are:
  1. Preincarnate - Shaun Micallef
  2. People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
  3. Spare Room - Helen Garner
  4. The Lost Mother:a story of art and love - Anne Summers
  5. Quest: Sam Silverthorne Book 1 - Gary Crew
  6. Suspect - Michael Robotham
  7. Ice - Louis Nowra
  8. Wonders of a Godless World - Andrew McGahan

Preincarnate - Shaun Micallef

About the Book
Alexander Pruitt is a twig. He is murdered and wakes up as Richard Cromwell, son of the famous Oliver. The narrator is trying to solve his murder, and eventually tries to prevent it.

My Thoughts
I don't know what to make of this novel. Shaun Micallef is quite witty on tv, but this book seemed a bit confused. It swapped between narrators... I think... and sometimes the story was interrupted by an aside for a joke... which is ok... if it was relevant... or funny.

I'm a bit annoyed with this book. Again I was suckered in with the time travel theme... although it was by soul transference. It had a really interesting story line where after being murdered one of the character's soul was transferred to Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe - Charles Yu

About the Book
Charles is a time machine repair man who is avoiding work as much as possible. One day he meets himself and his action that follow get him caught in a time loop... or do they?

My Thoughts

I am a sucker for time travel books. I enjoyed this book and the concepts that were discussed, such as purchasing a time loop where you relive a favourite moment again and again. But I wasn't wowed by it. I think it is quite similar to Time Machines Repaired While You Wait by K A Bedford, which I read a couple of years ago. My favourite character was Ed the dog, and also the boss who is a computer program, but spends most of the novel thinking he's human and has a wife.

There was also an interesting side story of writing a book that was never written, when Charles is given a copy of a book he wrote by the future him. However, the book gets written when Charles reads it. I'm going to use this to include in the Bibliophilic Reading Challenge