Tuesday, November 6, 2012

10 Aussie books to read before you die - Vote Now!

The ABC is running 10 Aussie Books to Read Before you Die as part of the National Year of Reading 2012 and you can vote for your favourite 3 Aussie books. For more information and to vote see 10 Aussie books to read before you die - Books - ABC Arts.

I have already voted!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!!

Well NaNoWriMo is almost here!! Today I thought perhaps I should have done some preplanning... hmmm.
I have a couple of ideas hopefully they are 50 000 words worth of ideas!!
One was inspired by some newspaper stories I came across on Trove. Trove is AWESOME!! Not only does it contain a database of items that are held in public libraries across Australia, but they have digitised newspapers, a database of photos and so much more!! I love it for the digitised newspapers and the wealth of family history information!

Anyhoo in a family that offshoots from my family tree by marriage is the Everingham Family. Matthew James Everingham was sentenced for transportation in 1784 and was transported to Australia in 1787 on the First Fleet. He died in 1817 when he accidentally drowned whilst on duty as a policeman. In the early 1920s there were articles appearing in the newspapers about the "missing Everingham millions" and rumours that Matthew had been from a well to do family and had been left a lot of money by his father. Only it was never claimed and subsequently was left to his descendents. The interest on that money meant that by the 1920s it would have been worth millions.

Anyway I found this story fascinating! It sounds like the plot of a novel already doesn't it? It's not my usual thing, but if I can't come up with anything else this is a good place to start.

The other idea is a bit complicated and I'm not sure how it would work out in practice, so I'm not going to share it here ... yet!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To The Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
Vintage, 1927, 2011

About The Book
This book revolves around the Ramsey family and their trip with friends to their holiday home in the Isle of Skye.

My Thoughts
The only other Virginia Woolf book that I've read is Orlando and that was when I was at Uni... and so long ago that all I remember is that I really enjoyed it. Or at least I enjoyed the premise of the book where the main character switched between the sexes. To The Lighthouse is the October book for the Friday night book group and I have to admit I am struggling with it.

I really don't know what this book is about. I think I've gleaned some information from what I've read... but that would be pure luck. My powers of procrastination have beaten this book and I still had 70 odd pages to go when book club started and it is only 198 pages. I felt a bit bad as the newest member of the group felt she had to finish the book, and she was the only one who did. The discussion was good nonetheless! Someone had read either her diaries or a Room of One's Own (I forget which) and was able to provide some biographical details and thoughts on To The Lighthouse, which was very helpful.

I think that talking about it helped me make sense of what was going on in the book. I would like to finish it to see if the rounding out that I think should happen actually does happen. I tried to read some the day after, but I could barely keep my eyes open while reading it and it put me in a sleepy mood for the rest of the day! 

What the book seems to be about is The Ramsey family. At first it all revolves around the beautiful Mrs Ramsey, but part two is about an intervening time between the two visits to the holiday house, during which time some of the characters have died and the first world war has happened. This is where I am up to and time is passing very slowly indeed.

This book is a hard read, which is not the writer's fault. The fault is with me, the reader. As with our modern society I don't want to have to work at my entertainment/escape and so would prefer an easy read. That being said, after the discussion I have a renewed regard for the book... even if when I get back to it I still don't really know what is going on. I'm not satisfied with knowing broadly what is happening... but that is all the book is allowing me. I spoke to a colleague today who said she really enjoyed the book and being transported back to the early 1900s. This just reinforces that the fault is with me... not the book.

I guess what really stands out to me so far is the relationship between Mr and Mrs Ramsey and the fact that there is so much for them to say to each other but there is the reluctance and hesitation in actually doing so. The  most poignant scene for me is one where they are in the bedroom and Mrs Ramsey knows that Mr Ramsey wants her to say she loves him, but for whatever reason she doesn't. This scene I actually understood and made me feel a bit sad for them.

"And what then? For she felt that he was still looking at her, but his look had changed. He wanted something - wanted the thing she always found it so difficult to give him; wanted her to tell him that she loved him. And that, no, she could not do. He found talking so much easier than she did. He could say things - she never could. So naturally it was always he that said the things, and then for some reason he would mind this suddenly, and reproach her. A heartless woman he called her; she never told him that she loved him. But it was no so - it was not so. It was only that she could never say what she felt." p 114

Monday, October 22, 2012

NANOWRIMO - November

November is (Inter)National Novel Writing Month!
A month of sitting down and doing a whole lot of writing and trying to have enough words for a novel! It doesn't have to make sense, or be very good. The idea is to try. 

This is the 3rd year that I've given it ago, and I haven't made it passed 10 000 words. Maybe this year is the year. I just need to spend more time writing than checking the word count!! 

Wish me luck!

If you're interested in what NaNoWriMo is all about you should check out the NaNoWriMo website

Monday, October 15, 2012

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey
Anne Bronte
Penguin 1988

About the Book
Agnes Grey is a Pastor's daughter. When the family falls on hard times she decides she had to go out to work to earn money to support the family. She becomes a governess first for the Bloomfield family then for the Murray family.

My Thoughts
This was the book club book for the 1st Wednesday group for September. 

I haven't read anything else by Anne Bronte, but I did watch some of the TV series of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my favourite books and so sets a high standard for books by the other Bronte sisters.

I quite liked Agnes Grey. Although, I was a bit annoyed at her naivety at the start of the book. Did she really think she could just start governing children like that? There was something else that annoyed me about her,  but it's been a while since I started the book that I don't remember what it was. 

Agnes Grey draws on Anne's experience as a governess and the plans of the sisters to set up a school of their own.

I think what I really enjoyed about this book is the subtle romance of the novel. We don't really get to know any of the other characters, which could be because we only see them from Agnes' point of view. I'm not sure that we get to know Agnes' true feelings about things either. However, we do get to know her feelings for Mr Weston and the awkwardness she feels when ever she sees him. I think what I like is that unlike modern romances told in the first person, such as Twilight, she doesn't over analyse Mr Weston's actions. In fact, she seems oblivious to his regard for her! 

The bulk of the story though is about her experiences as a governess. I'm not sure that she really had the disposition to be a teacher. She couldn't control her students, and in fact ended up doing some of the work she had assigned her students herself!! The parents in the families she worked for took advantage of her, and set her impossible limits when dealing with the children. Such as not discipling them. 

I am glad to have finished it, even if that was a month after we discussed it. The other members of the group really enjoyed it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Superstars & Supergroups

Last night I went to a show at South's Juniors League Club with a friend. She had free tickets from her parents who weren't able to attend. Neither of us knew anything about the show, and I was a little worried that it might be a bit cheesy.

It turned out the show was The Williams Brothers doing songs they sang growing up. And ok, there was a little bit of cheese when one of the brothers sang Tom Jones and Elvis songs and he did some weird moves (I think they were supposed to be sexy moves) hehe. 

But overall it was a fun night!! It's funny how many of the songs they sang have been covered by different artists for the soundtrack of some of my favourite movies! The ones I can remember are:

I'm A Beliver  from Shrek
Twist & Shout from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Unchained Melody from Ghost (This actually isn't one of my favourite movies)
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart from Notting Hill (This is my favourite soundtrack!)

I think there was another one, but I forget it now. Just after I told my friend that I'm not a Bee Gees fan, they sang How Do You Mend A Broken Heart as part of their Bee Gees set. *Sigh* who knew!!

Oh I remember another one
Mrs Robinson from The Graduate (I haven't actually seen this movie)

Between The Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

Between The Assassination
Aravind Adiga
Free Press, 2008

1st Wednesday book for October 2012

About the book
This is a collection of short stories tied together by the location Kittur a fictional city in India. The book is set out like a travel guide for Kittur with information about the city's highlights followed by a story set near it.

My Thoughts
I started this book before I went on holidays and was making good progress when I thought I should stop reading it because I didn't want to finish it too quickly. I didn't read it while I was away and so with 2 days until book club I had 250 pages to go. EEK!

Luckily, the book was quite easy to read and even with my excellent skills at procrastination I only had 10 pages to go at book club!! I think the fact that none of us knew much about the book had an effect on how the bookclubbers responded to the book.

I liked it... well I liked the concept of it. To have each story set around the "touristy" landmarks of a fictional city in India. It was like we were on a guided tour of the city, and then got up close with the locals... and isn't that what the best thing about travelling is? It was like the book was about the city rather than the characters.

I liked some of the stories, but over all I felt like everyone was in a hopeless situation. It may well be like that but surely there is always some hope that a situation can be improved. In some of the stories, such as the mosquito sprayer, he lost his hope through his own actions, but... surely not everyone is discontent? Although I guess the book does show how easily the good things gained can be lost, such as the story of the man who wanted to be a conductor on the buses. He achieved his goal, but is injured and can no longer work. I think that's what I really didn't like about the book, was that there was no happiness... or even a glimmer of a happy ending. Is life really like that for people?

I guess I am talking from an extremely privileged point of view. I have a good job, a roof over my head, food to eat and a wonderful group of friends. Sure I'm not married and I would like to be, but being single means that I am freer to catch up with people more often than married people might be. I admit I do get a bit frustrated when people I know focus on what they don't have instead of being thankful for all the good things they do have. When I compare my life to the lives of the characters in Between the Assassinations, I feel amazingly blessed. It was an accident that I was born in such a lucky country. The characters in this book have don't always have a place to sleep or food to eat. I can see why they would long for something more. 

I think this differs a lot from the other Indian literature I've read - namely Q & A (aka Slumdog Millionaire) by Vikas Swarup and Family Matters and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is that there is hope that the characters will be able to get things that will make their lives easier. In A Fine Balance, there are two characters that suffer horribly but they continue to persevere in the hope that things will get better, while the more well of character can't take it as well. Now that was an amazing book, I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones
by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin, 2009 

About The Book
Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.
Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. 
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

My Thoughts
I read Rhubarb by Craig Silvey a couple of years ago and I loved it. So I was torn about reading Jasper Jones. Could he follow Rhubarb with something just as good? I got a taste of what the book would be like when I saw Craig speak at the Sydney Writer's festival in 2009. He spoke about the Batman question and the hypothetical "would you rathers" that appear in the book. I still resisted reading it. 

What is it about these Western Australian writers that they have such a command of language? Tim Winton, Randolph Stow and Craig Silvey to name but three, all have an amazing way with words.

So what did I think of Jasper Jones?...

I LOVED IT!!! I just don't have the vocabulary to describe how great I think this book is. Actually I'm feeling a bit sorry for everyone around me because for the past couple of days I've been like "You have to read this book!!" I can't wait to talk about it in book club!

So, why do I like it so much? Do you know, I'm not even sure how to describe it. I just finished the book and thought it was awesome.  I think it was just the combination of engaging characters, tension and a good story. 

I really liked Jeffrey Lu who is Charlie's best friend. He is Vietnamese, a cricket tragic and has a quirky sense of humour. I really liked the rapport between him and Charlie. I think what most impressed me was that he was tenacious. He loved cricket and knew that he was good at it, but the town's team wouldn't let him join. They pushed and shoved him when he joined in training. They hit his ball across the oval even if they missed, so he would have to go and get it. He would go and get his ball, and wouldn't complain or shove back when they pushed him. Then they hit his ball out of the oval into a paddock that they can't get to.
Jeffrey remains unperturbed. As though he were simply undone by fair play. And they're still spitting words at him as he hoists his bag, but I don't want to listen anymore. I just want to go. Jeffrey walks towards me. There are grass clippings in his hair.
His head is bowed as he approaches. But when he gets closer to me, his face lifts and splits into a smile.
'Did you see that first ball? Drifted in, spun out. Bang! Top of off! Thanks very much.' He spreads his hands like the ball actually exploded off the pitch.p 64
 What an example is that!! Of course I got frustrated at the blatant racism of it... but he didn't. I'm not sure how many 13 year old boys would behave like he did.

I really liked the way that Corrigan, the town where the book is set, seems like a character in the story. It's the way the tension of the missing girl, and the economic trouble at the mine, and the racial tension that it causes, affects the community. How the street comes together to look after the Lu family when things go to far, or the fear that the Bucktin's felt when Charlie was missing from his room. 

There was also a touch of romance with the blossoming of the relationship between Charlie and Eliza Wishart, sister of the missing girl Laura. It is a sweet story, but tinged by the fact that Charlie knows something that he can't tell Eliza, or Jeffrey for that matter. 

Then there's the enigmatic Jasper Jones. 

I'm not sure that I've said enough about it to convince you to read it... But please do and let me know what you think about it.

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy

About The Movie
With their secret projects under threat, the CIA works to shut down several projects which involved the enhancing of a group of field operatives. One operative escapes and sets out to find the source of his chems. Only he comes to the attention of those who seek to eliminate him.

My Thoughts
I had a weird sense of deja vu through out The Bourne Legacy. It's been a while since I watched the rest of the Bourne movies but I must have remembered enough for some of the scenes to be familiar. This movie takes place at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum and some of the action crosses over into this one. I have to admit that it was kind of odd to have Jason Bourne looming throughout the movie, but not actually being in it.

I have to admit I really enjoyed this movie! What's more my friend Jen who I saw it with enjoyed it too! There was a lot of action which kept the movie going. Although I have to admit the bike chase did go on for a little too long. I found the story of Marta and the work she does really interesting. We both had a giggle when Shane Jacobson aka Kenny turned up in it too!

Looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Calling Invisible Women - Jeanne Ray

Calling Invisible Women
By Jeanne Ray
Crown, 2012

About The Book
One day Clover looked in the mirror and she wasn't there. The first time she noticed she was invisible was temporary, but the next time it wasn't. It takes a while for her to come to terms with invisibility and to realise she isn't losing her mind but once she does there is no stopping her. With the help of her neighbour and best friend Gilda, Clover sets about living as an invisible woman. The trouble is her husband and son take a long time to notice and that's when she realises they haven't looked at her for years.

My Thoughts
As the book chatters know I am drawn to anything with a quirky title. Sometimes this pays off, some times is doesn't. In this case it does. I really liked Clover. She took becoming invisible in her stride and saw how she and the other invisible women could be valuable members of the community. She also finds a freedom in being invisible and not only in being free not to wear clothes, but being able to get to know herself and her family. Clover feels undervalued by society and her family. Her role as a reporter had been reduced to articles about gardening and her family take her for granted. After becoming invisible, Clover makes new friends and gets a bigger role as a reporter.

I think this book deals with issues of invisibility for people of any age and gender. I think it is especially felt by women of a certain stage of life, like Clover. But it can happen to anyone. 

I think I sometimes feel like I'm a bit invisible when people assume I will act or respond a certain way. I often tell people that I don't always respond in the most appropriate or expected way. Is it because we are lazy? Is it easier to put a box around someone rather than understanding we don't always stay the same? I guess I am guilty of the same thing. I have a friend who isn't at all into AFL and I know that so I don't ask her to come to the games. If I asked her she could say yes, which would surprise me greatly!! (Although I have to admit she has stated that she isn't interested in going without me having to ask)

I guess it doesn't even have to be as superficial as this. There are many areas in society where people become invisible. But I guess the point of this book is that we can be visible when we least expect it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hope: A tragedy by Shalom Auslander

Hope: A Tragedy
by Shalom Auslander
Picador 2012

About the Book
Solomon Kugel is looking for great last words. He records them in a notebook. After his son contracts pneumonia and cracks appear in his marriage, Kugel moves his family to Stockton, a town with a history for nothing. He is trying to escape history. His Mother comes to join them in Stockton. She is suffering from having been born at the wrong time in the wrong country and from having life too good. One day Kugel finds Anne Frank in his attic.

My Thoughts
When I first read this book I thought it was brilliant. It is darkly comedic about how history has an effect on our lives even if you are removed from it. In particular it talks about how the Holocaust affects Jewish people around the world, but more particularly in America. It is about survivors guilt, even if they had left Europe years before and weren't directly affected by it. I think it has a wide audience than that though. I think it is about how people removed from major events have survivors guilt... or at least a shared experience of it and how it can be abused.

There are some interesting propositions that turns up within the book such as: 

He (Professor Jove) was, in a sense, the distillation of all of Western and Easter thought of the past two thousand years combined, and it was Professor Jove’s opinion, standing as only someone today could, on the twenty first century peak of all history, heir to all mankind's experience, wisdom and knowledge, that the greatest source of misery in the world, the greatest cause of anguish and hatred and sadness and death, was neither disease nor race nor religion. 
It was hope. Hope? Kugel asked. Pessimists, Professor Jove replied, don’t start wars. It was hope, according to Professor Jove, that was keeping Kugel up at night. It was hope that was making him angry. (p32)
Now that it's been a while since I finished the book, I think I have a different view of Kugel. He annoys me a bit now. In that he did ridiculous things to make things easier for his mother, or for Anne Frank, instead of trying to change things and make things easier for himself and his wife. I still think the book is really good and has an interesting message... but I'm just not sure I actually liked any of the characters... His mother did have some funny lines though and as I had to return the book to the library you will have to read it for yourself to find out what they are!

I am beginning to be more aware that I tend to read and watch things in themes without being completely conscious of it. I am working my way through the DVDs of  Northern Exposure which features a Jewish doctor from New York, who is always reminding us that he is Jewish. Philip Roth is a Jewish writer and his book The Plot Against America is concerned with how easy it would be for a Holocaust to happen in America, or anywhere in the world really. Now this one. I read somewhere recently that reading fiction makes you more empathetic towards people and I think reading this type certainly does.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Plot Against America: A novel - Philip Roth

The Plot Against America: A novel
by Philip Roth
Jonathan Cape 2004

About the book
When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America towards a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the 33rd president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial 'understanding' with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and whose virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty. What then followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new novel by Pulitzer prize winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family - and for a million such families all over the country - during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst. (from Front Flap of the book)

My Thoughts *spoiler alert*
I had really low expectations for this book. It was selected for the Friday book group by the person who had also chosen Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White. That was a tough slog that I am yet to complete! When I started The Plot Against America I feared that this would be another tough slog, and after falling asleep twice while on the first page I was certain that I wouldn't finish it in time for the discussion. I think other people thought it was a tough slog too. We will be a small group tonight with lots of group members having other things on. A few of them told me they found it heavy going and one was annoyed about the amount of detail that is packed into the sentences. It wasn't just the amount of detail that is in the sentences though. I would get lost as to what the sentence was about. Here's an example:

My brother, Sandy, a seventh-grader with a prodigy's talent for drawing, was twelve, and I, a third-grader a term ahead of himself - and an embryonic stamp collector inspired like millions of kids by the country's foremost philatelist, President Roosevelt - was seven. (p1)
Or maybe this one
My mother - who wanted to go to teachers college but couldn't because of the expense, who lived at home working as an office secretary after finishing high school, who'd kept us from feeling poor during the worst of the Depression by budgeting the earnings my father turned over to her each Friday as efficiently as she ran the house-hold - was thirty six. p 1
On Monday night however, I sat down to make some headway with this book. I had a headache and wasn't really focused and was playing a Facebook game at the same time... however once I got up to the bit where the Roth Family went to Washington I was hooked!! I like to think it was because I was feeling ill and my resistance was low that the Roth family wormed its way into my heart and I had to keep reading.

I feared the worst when Mr Taylor approached them in Washington and offered to be their guide. Driving them around in their own car for $9 a day. Surely he was up to no good and would make off with their car at the first opportunity. But no, this was my 21st century thinking! Mr Taylor was a genuine guide after all and even managed to crack a smile at Mr Roth's singing.

Philip Roth is the narrator for most of the book. He has quite a charming and funny voice. I think he captured the fear and the uncertainty of the times, as well as what it would have been like to have been a child. He would have understood even less about what was going on than his parents did but was still able to enjoy his child hood. I particularly liked his adventures with Earl Axman and his stealing of Seldon's clothes for what purpose he was unsure of until he decided to run away. I felt for Herman and Bess Roth, with trying to decide what was best for the family and not knowing whether they should go to Canada or stay until it was too late.

So here it is book group discussion day and I only have 15 pages to go! It's a bit frustrating that I can't just get them over and done with. I think there might be some tense moments in those last 15 pages as well! It seems that my resistance stayed low, or maybe I just got used to the style of writing... or maybe it changed as it went along, but it did become easier to read.

I think the book talked about some interesting issues. Do we really know what politicians stand for when they get elected to parliament?  It is easy to get swept up in the excitement of charismatic leaders who say they will do whatever it is the mass of people want. Who will stand in their way? All it takes is for people to accept one small change, and another and another and you could be transferring people from a particular background to isolated areas away from their community, as happened in this book. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two Little Boys by Duncan Sarkies

Two Little Boys
by Duncan Sarkies
John Murray, 2009

About the Book
When Nige runs over a Norwegian backpacker while attempting to save petrol, his life really turns to . He chucks the body in a nearby roadwork and runs to his best mate of fifteen years, Deano. Trouble is, Deano's not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis. This off-kilter tale of male camaraderie is a bizarre debacle from start to thrilling finish. 

My Thoughts
I have the feeling that this book has a bit of the Twilight phenomenon about it... only with less vampires and werewolves and more stupidity. It isn't a well written book, but I still want to find out what happens. On the back there is a list of things the book has.. I am particularly interested in getting to the penguin and the really cool lighthouse, but at page 82 neither of them seem to have made an appearance... It also promises to be very funny... which is subjective anyway... there have been a couple of times when I've ha'ed but nothing really laugh out loud...

Ok, I've skipped to the end to see if it is worthwhile finishing... and I realised that I've mixed the characters up! They are kinda like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are interchangeable... only in the story Deano and Nige aren't... so I'm a bit confused by the ending. I think I might have to read some more to work out how the end came about...

You will too because I don't want to give it away.

Apparently they have made a movie of it. It stars Hamish Blake (of Hamish and Andy) and Bret Mckenzie (of Flight of the Concords). It's out in September in New Zealand. I'm not sure that I would want to go and see a movie about it... it would definitely be a very blokey movie as it is a very blokey book.

I'm going to have to abandon this book as I've got to read The Plot Against America by Philip Roth for book club... and I've renewed this one 3 times already. I made it to page 108.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
Director: Drew Goddard 

About The Movie
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them. (from IMDB)

My Thoughts
Huh... this was an odd movie. I didn't know much about this movie before I went to see it... except that it was based on a book by the guy who did the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies books, Seth Grahame-Smith. I thought it might be a bit funny, and there were some funny moments but it was mostly a serious movie.

I realised that I don't know much about American history. I know who Abraham Lincoln was... but that was about it. I didn't know that his son died young.... or probably even that he had children... 

Hmm it's a week since I saw the movie and I've been blocking it out apparently. It was odd... we were early to the cinema and when I looked it up online there was a "normal" version on at 9.15pm. Only when we went to get the tickets it was a 3D version on at 9.20pm. *sigh* I am not a fan of 3d. Most movies that are done in 3d don't take advantage of what can be done. There were no knives or axes flying towards us and the flock of bats flew away from us instead of towards. How boring! And what is with that stupid pause mid flight??!! It is sooo annoying and ridiculous!! The Matrix has a lot to answer for.

I like how the vampire bits were blended in with the historical fact bits. I liked Abraham's mentor Henry Sturgess... but really it could have been more fun! I guess this comes from me liking the more light hearted vampire fare such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Twilight and well just those really. However I do like the Underworld and Blade movies too. I guess my expectations of something quirky just got in the way!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Craft Days

Lisa came over on Sunday for one of our regular crafty days! We haven't had one at my place for a while, so I spent Saturday doing house work. It was such a lovely day outside and to have to spend it doing boring stuff like cleaning the toilet was a bit of a drag. The good thing though was that I did two loads of washing and they were dry by the end of the day. It was much warmer outside than in my flat!

3 cards and an owl's head
On our crafty days Lisa makes cards and I ... crochet, or quilt or scrap book or knit or... hmm I think a challenge for me is that I need to focus on one craft!! It's so hard to do though. At the moment I have material laid out for me to cut it up to make a quilt, a half knitted scarf, a crochet owl nearly half done and lots of scrapbooking stuff waiting to be scrapbooked or made into cards... Card making is my latest thing. I managed to put 3 cards together and crochet an owl head!
Here is a photo.

Lisa's birthday card
Lisa made two cards, which were much more intricate than mine. It takes me a while to work out the composition of a card. Two of the cards I made on Sunday were just a pre-made shape stuck on a card and I'd been thinking about how that would look for a couple of weeks. The card I made Lisa for her birthday took weeks of planning in my head before I had enough courage to actually put it together. I've given it to her already, so here's a pic of it too!

It was a bit different to how I pictured it, due to not being able to find the particular shade of brown card that I had in my head. I think the end product was pretty good without it!

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (or the book that never ends)

We Need To Talk About Kevin
By Lionel Shriver
Text Publishing,  2006
pg. 468  

About the Book
Kevin Katchadourian killed seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher shortly before his sixteenth birthday. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband Franklin the story of Kevin's upbringing. A successful career woman, Eva had been reluctant to forgo her independence and the life she shared with Franklin to become a mother. Once Kevin was born, she experienced extreme alienation and dislike of Kevin as he grew up to become a spiteful and cruel child. After Kevin committed murder, Eva fears that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become. But how much is she to blame? And if it isn't her fault, why did he do it?

My Thoughts
What a slog!

I think this was my pick for the 1st Wednesday Book Group to read for our August meeting. (But please don't tell them!) It aligns with the National Year of Reading 2012 monthly theme of question. I think it was the only time the book really closely aligned with the theme!!

One of the group didn't finish it because she found it a bit too distressing. So it's just as well she didn't make it to the twist! The other 2 did but expressed a dislike for the book. Everyone said they definitely wouldn't watch the movie but wondered how it would be done. While I can't say I liked the book - as I couldn't really warm to any of the characters,  I can say that I like the way it made me question what was happening in the book and how it applies to real life. Can babies be born nasty? Or are they shaped by how they are treated by their parents? Did the way Eva feel about her pregnancy shape Kevin's personality before he was born?

The first time I tried to read the book I really didn't get very far. I didn't warm to Eva at all and found she was being a bit whiny or cold or something... and the book was moving so slowly. Actually I don't think I made it to the end of the first letter. Because it was a book club book and I was on a bit of a roll with finishing them, I persevered. I'm glad I did but towards the end I just wanted it over with... the last 100 pages took forever to read and for more than half the book I was reading to find out where the twist comes into it. Then in the last 20 pages, there always seemed to be more no matter how much I read.

The characters were almost caricatures who seemed to be the most extreme of the type they represented. The way that it was written meant that we only saw the other characters through Eva's eyes... and I think I would have liked to have known more about Kevin. I liked how we got glimpses of the boy he could have been - when he was sick and towards the end when he was facing the prospect of adult jail. The way Franklin tried to restrict what Eva could do when she was pregnant with Kevin really annoyed me. No wonder she felt like being a parent was such a drag... it took all the fun out of her life!

I particularly liked this scene where Eva has gone to visit Kevin in prison:
The guard with the mud-splatter of facial moles had called time; for once we had used up the full hour without spending most of it staring at the clock. We were standing on either side of the table, and I was about to mumble some filler line like "I'll see you in two weeks," when I realized Kevin had been staring straight at me, whereas his every other glance had been sidelong. That stopped me, unnerved me, and made me wonder why I had ever wanted him to look me in the eye.
     Once I was no longer fussing with my coat, he said, "You may be fooling the neighbours and the guards and Jesus and your gaga mother with these goody-goody visits of yours, but you're not fooling me. Keep it up if you want a gold star. But don't be dragging your ass back here on my account." Then he added, "Because I hate you."
     I know that children say that all the time, in fits:I hate you, I hate you! eyes squeezed with tears. But Kevin is approaching eighteen, and his delivery was flat.
     I had some idea of what I was supposed to say back: Now, I know you don't mean that, when I knew that he did. Or, I love you anyway, young man, like it or not. But I had an inkling that it was following these pat scripts that had helped me land in a garish overheated room that smelld like a bus toilet on an otherwise lovely, unusually clement December afternoon. So I said instead, in the same informational tone, "I often  hate you too,  Kevin," and turned heel. (p51)
I guess I am still thinking about the book and the issues raised... I want to talk about someone else who had read it to see what they thought... but I'm not sure I would actually recommend it to anyone.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed By Marc Webb

About the Movie
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker, an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May . Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance - leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors, his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero. -- (C) Sony

My Thoughts
I'd never been won over by the whole Spider-man thing. The most recent movies just didn't do anything for me... and I'm not a particular fan of Tobey McGuire. I am a fan however of Martin Sheen, Dennis Leary and Emma Stone apparently and as they are all in this movie how could it go wrong? Besides Andrew Garfield who plays Peter Parker has a funny fake grin, who can resist that?

The friend who I saw it with didn't like it as much as the Tobey Maguire Spider-man. She said that the previous trilogy was lighter and focussed more on romance. Now I don't remember if I've seen it all the way through but there are some things in this Spider-man that I really don't remember seeing in the previous one, which I don't want to give away for anyone who hasn't seen it yet... My friend also missed MJ... and felt Spiderman was cheating on her! Erm that's MJ not my friend... Anyhoo... I didn't mind that it was dark, and disputed that the previous ones weren't. I quite enjoyed the quirky humour and the relationship that developed between Peter and Gwen.

Looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Craft Display at the Library

A couple of months ago we had a craft display at the library. Some of my crochet toys were included! So here is a picture of it. It's not a great picture as the display was in a glass cabinet and I was having trouble with reflections.

The two yellow chickens, the owl, the red egg and the cat were all crochet by me.

The jumper and the scarf were done by another talented staff member.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blog Revamp 2012

I started this blog in 2010 to document the reading I was doing for some reading challenges I'd signed up for... For the first year it worked ok... and the second year started well but then it and my reading just went by the wayside. I've been celebrating the National Year of Reading 2012 by ... not reading *sigh*

Instead I've been crafting... it started with crochet cats and via owls and rabbits I'm back to knitting again. I've been told I should blog about my crafty things. I thought there a lots more challenges that I set myself that perhaps the blog could be revamped to include everything that I do.

So I decided I would revamp the blog to be about well life really and all sorts of challenges I face whether voluntarily or involuntarily... Posting regularly for this blog is definitely a challenge I face. To be precise a lack of motivation is a challenge that I need to overcome.

Welcome to the first post of my revamped blog! Hopefully it will be the first of many. I hope you enjoy.

Jason Akermanis: Open Season - Jason Akermanis with Gary Smart

Jason Akermanis: Open Season
By Jason Akermanis with Gary Smart
Hardie Grant 2010
pg 338
About the bookNo longer restrained by contractual obligations and free to speak at last, Aker reveals a no-holds-barred look at a stellar sporting career, including behind-the-scenes details of Aker's falling out with Leigh Matthews, his move to the Western Bulldogs, run ins with fellow players, and his thoughts on the game. Interwoven throughout is the personal story of finding and reconciling with his biological father - a married man with a family of his own who lived next door. Told with trademark honesty and passion, this
tell-all memoir is a must-have for all footy fans.

My ThoughtsI never liked Jason Akermanis as an AFL player. He was one of those characters of the game who fans love to hate and as a Sydney Swans fan I loved to hate him... well not hate really, but I did think he was a bit of
a tosser. I think he did bring something to the game that wasn't there before. He brought excitement and wasn't afraid to be an individual. His handstands after a win became a trademark move, and apparently fans loved it! But he also brought controversy.

Most of us only got one side of the story when he was release from both the Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs. Me even less so because I didn't pay that much attention to what was being reported in the media. I remember in 2006 when it was rumoured the Swans were interested in him, I was becoming interested in not being a Swans fan if he joined them. Never did I think I would ever read, let alone buy and enjoy a memoir/biography of him.

I think what I liked most about the book was that it was so easy to read. I sat down on Sunday morning and surfaced only for food and natural breaks and had it read by early evening. It was so nice to be able to do that. It was interesting to read about the behind the scenes politics that go on at a football club, and the jealousy between players. Sometimes you can tell when a team member is on the outer - they don't tend to get the ball - but most of the time spectators don't get to see it.

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Rockdale Reader Book Group selection for July 2011

About the Book
The Life of Pi is about Piscine Molitor Patel. An Indian boy who grows up in a zoo in the town of  Pondicherry. When he is 16 his parents decide to give up the zoo and move to Canada. The animals are sold to other zoos around the world and Pi's family travel on the cargo ship with some of them. One night there is an explosion and the ship sinks. Pi gets thrown into a life boat and is followed soon after by a zebra, Richard Parker, a spotted hyena and an orangatan. Soon there is only Pi & Richard Parker.
They spend 227 days at sea before reaching Mexico. While at sea, Pi struggles to maintain dominence to stay alive. Once they reach Mexico, Pi is interrogated by 2 men sent by the Japanese owners of the ship company seeking answers as to why the ship sank.

My ThoughtsIt is very hard to read a book that is so well know. The story everyone knows about The Life of Pi doesn't really start until a third of the way through and so I was reading about the zoo thinking where is the boat?
Where is the tiger? Also, I find it hard to read for a purpose. So although I really enjoy the book when I sit down to read, it is the making time to sit down and read that is the problem! Enough gripes about my laziness onto a review.

I really enjoyed reading The Life of Pi. Pi is an engaging character with a bit of a quirky sense of humour. The story of how Richard Parker gets his name made me giggle and I had to close the book and find a quiet corner so I could calm down. I enjoyed the first section that was about Pi's early life in Pondicherry at the zoo. His interest in becoming a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindi at the same time created an interesting conundrum. I loved the scene where all three of the religious elders came along to say why he couldn't join the others. And I don't think it was properly explained why he couldn't! This started the religious theme that continued through out the book... apparently... according to some reviews... I don't read to actively deconstruct books and pick out these kinds of themes. I read to escape.

My favourite character was Richard Parker. Despite Pi's father's warning he is anthropomorphised... and yet still remains a menace through the book. I enjoyed the scene where the boat has just sunk and Pi sees Richard Parker swimming. He decides to rescue him and calls him to the boat. We don't know
who Richard Parker is (or at least if I did, I had forgotten)
"I threw the lifebuoy mightily. It fell in the water right in front of him.
With his last energies he stretched forward and took hold of it.
'hold on tight, I'll pull you in. Don't let go. Pull with your eyes while I
pull with my hands. In a few seconds you'll be aboard and we'll be
together. Wait a second. Together? We'll be together Have I gone
I woke up to what I was doing. I yanked on the rope.
'Let go of that lifebuoy, Richard Parker! Let go, I said. I don't want you
here, do you understand? Go somewhere else. Leave me alone. Get lost!..." p99
There is a twist in the last section of the book, which I would really like to talk about. However I don't want to give it away to people who haven't read it yet...