My blogging plans for the new year

I started this blog in April 2009, more as a diary for myself than anything else; a place where I can record my thoughts on the book I read. I had found that I was reading book after book without allowing myself a chance to reflect on the content before I moved onto the next one.

So, I started 'Page Turners', and the more I wrote and read other people's blogs, the more i realised that I wanted to share my reading experiences and my enthusiasm for books with other people, regardless of age, sex, location, race, occupation or gender. I have worked so hard lately in my full time job (I'm a solicitor by trade), that I have found it hard to to put in the time to my blog this year that I would like to have done. Having said that, it is nice to be able to dedicate some time to a real interest outside of work, and my goal is to put in a lot more time next year.

I genuinely hope that 2010 (only 3 days away!) brings me the opportunity to share my books and literary thoughts with others all around the world; to share my enthusiasm and make recommendations on good books, in short, to share the book love!

I have several plans for what I hope to do to on 'Page Turners' in 2010:
  • revamp the look of 'Page Turners';
  • begin weekly/fortnightly/monthly features;
  • giveaways;
  • provide more specific details of the books themselves within the book reviews;
  • increase my blogging volume (although I recognise that this will be a challenge given work commitments); and
  • create a blogroll of the blogs I love reading and taking suggestions from people about their blogs.
Most importantly, I want to have fun reading my books and sharing them with everyone. I hope that encourages people to join in, add comments and enjoy themselves on 'Page Turners'.



Its Monday! What are you reading this week?

This is really sad, but I am not reading anything different to what I was reading last week.

Its Christmas I blame - I've still been working full time and then managing everything Christmas related around that - I havn't had time to pick up a book with any seriousness and I am extremely envious of everyone else who has.

I can't wait for the new year and all the festivities calm down - don't get me wrong, Christmas can be fun, but I can't wait till everything is back to normal and I have time to read again!

What books did you get for Christmas?

Christmas -

its always a good opportunity to get some new books from your loved on
es.

This year I had a good year, people bought me some really lovely books:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Adventures of Hucklebury Finn by Mark Twain
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and
Eat Love Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert

Not to mention my wonderful other half took me to Kinokuniya Books opposite the QVB building on Christmas Eve and let me pick out my computer books. I am very pleased with my purchases and I can't wait till I have a moment to sit down at the computer with them and teach myself a few useful tricks.

Overall, I had a wonderful Christmas and I hope that you did too.

What books did you get for Christmas? Add your name and blog to the widget below, then leave a comment or post a response on your blog, whatever you prefer!


2010 Reading Goals


2010 Reading Goals is a discussion I wanted to start because I would love to know what goals other avid readers are setting themselves for the new year? I don't mean what challenges you'll be participating in (although that might be it for you), I mean is there anything you want to achieve with your reading in 2010?

Please join in by posting on your own blog and linking back to here
or leaving a comment, whatever works for you.

My 2010 goal
New Years Eve is supposed to be about making resolutions, and whilst I don't go into that sort of thing (usually I'm just setting myself up to fail), I have decided what my goal for 2010 will be.

Perhaps I should explain. Earlier this year I made a catalogue of all my books, just to keep a record of them. Of the 180 approximately that I owned, only around 30 of them were by Australian authors. Now I am from Australia, born and bred in Sydney, and I thought that it was sad that I seemed to be placing such little emphasis on literature from my own country. So I started reading more. This year, though, I have found that I was reading a lot more of the Australian classics than anything more recently written.


So, my goal for 2010 is to read more modern Australian literature.
I want to stay up to date with new Australian releases, particuarly Australian authors whose debut novels have been published. I think its important that I stay up to date with literature from my own country, and I support the industry in Australia. Im really looking forward to it.

What about you? So what about you, what is your goal for 2010?


It's Monday! What are you reading?

'It's Monday! What are you reading?' is a meme started on the wonderful J Kaye's Book Blog, all about what books you just finished, you are currently reading and what is coming up.

My list definitely feels pretty short at the moment. I have been finding it really hard to find time to read between working full time and getting everything organised for Christmas. I know that it will pick up again in the New Year and I am definitely excited to see what other people are reading at the moment, and plan to read in the future.


Completed
I most recently completed reading:
The Wizard of Oz by L Baum
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Currently reading
I am currently reading:

The Lacuna
by Barbara Kingsolver
So far I am really loving this. I read the Poisonwood Bible some time ago and I really loved it (an Oprah's Book Club recommendation). I find Kingsolver's books very real, I feel attached to the characters and I can't help but need to know whats going to happen to them next. I feel a part of their adventures. I hope that you can tell that so far I am really enjoying this one.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (eBook)
I decided to read this as part of my personal goal to start re-reading some children's and young adult fiction, just to remind myself of what it was like to read as a young person. This book is really sweet, I'm really enjoying Mole's enthusiasm for life, and I can't wait to finish this one.

Up Next
Wow, that's a really hard call to make. I don't really have a system for picking books in advance. I see what I feel like after having read the one before, I like to have a natural flow between books. If I had to say something that I would like to read next it would either be Capricornia by Xavier Herbert (in line with my goal of reading for Australian literature) or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Not sure why exactly, I just go with my feelings.

The Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

To be honest, I didn't set out to read The Wizard of Oz, I stumbled across the ebook on my iphone and decided to give it a go. I really enjoyed reliving my childhood by re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series and although I had never read The Wizard of Oz before (only seen the movie), I knew that reading it would be just as good. I wasn't wrong.

It is definitely a very sweet story and one i will read my children when I have them. We all know the story, Dorothy finds herself in Oz, having killed the Wicked Witch of the East, stranded and searching for a way back to Kansas. She gathers some friends as she makes her way to see the great wizard Oz, Scarecrown, Tinman and the Lion. Oz sends them on a journey to kill the other wicked witch left in the land before he helps them fulfil their wishes.

Its a ovely journey f0r 4 friends to make. The book was quite different to the movie which I hadn't expected. It was a bit darker than the movie and they had a lot more dangerous adventures together than what were depicted in the movie. There were a lot more strange lands, evil creatures and friendly characters. I especially liked the little porcelein land that they walked through on their way south to find Glinda.

The Wizard of Oz has put Wicked by Gregory Maguire in a lot more context. It was a surprise to see the character Boq in The Wizard of Oz. It is easier to see where the darkness and the political context of the story in Wicked come from, particuarly the inspiration for the character Elphaba.

I really liked the way Dorothy's friends Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion were described in The Wizard of Oz. It was clear that they each had what they were searching for. The Scarecrow solved all their problems, despite his lack of brains. The Tinman wanted to protect and save everything, despite his lack of heart. The Lion protects them at all costs, despite his lack of courage. I think its a nice way of saying that we shouldn't underestimate ourselves and our abilities.

Even if you're not into reading children or young adult fiction, I still really recommend this book, it just really lovely!

Star Rating

6 / 8

Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Normally when there's a series of books that's very popular, for example the Harry Potter series, I'm very keen to read them. I figure if everyone likes them so much, there's a good chance that I will like them too.

I'm not sure why, but with the Twilight series I wasn't too keen to read them at all. Maybe it was because I was too sick of hearing about the actors in the all the gossip mags? Anyway, within the space of a couple of days a client of mine raved about the series and I saw the movie (which was amazing!), so I decided that the time had come for me to read this book. I wasn't disappointed!

I image everyone knows the basic story by no. Bella (Isabella Swan) moves from the city of Phoenix to the small and dismal town of Forks with her father, whilst her mother travels elsewhere with her new partner. Bella begins to settle in better than she expects. Hs eis good at her lessons, makes new friends and gets on well with her father. From the first day, she is drawn to the Cullen family, particularly the youngest of the family, Edward. She soon discovers that he is mysterious, moody and unpredictable but she is irresistably drawn to him. Eventually she discovers the family secret - they are all vampires, although good vampires that only feed on animals. Still, Edward is greatly attracted to Bella' smell, and it is a challenge for him to prevent himself from eating her. This obviously adds an element of difficulty to their blooming relationship.

I think I read the book over the space of a few hours, so despite its size it's an easy read. I really loved it, 'couldn't put it down' loved it. The sexual tension between Bella and Edward could be cut with a knife. It was really nice to see Bella making friends so quickly at school and watching her develop a relationship with her father, who was a real sweetheart. The involvement of Jacob and Billy Black added another element of tension to the story. I enjoyed watching Bella flirt with Jacob and worry about whether she is flirting well enough. Despite the difference in motivation, it reminded me of being in high school.

I could easily see how this could be considered to be encouraging celibacy for younger people, or at least, delivering a messgae to younger people that it is ok not to rush into sex. Bella and Edward can barely kiss each other and yet you see the sexual tension between them. I don't know if this is what Stephanie Meyer meant to be saying to her reading audience, but its certainly something that I got from it.

My only complaint was the writing style perhaps wasn't great. It was also very repititive. All Edward and Bella ever seem to talk about is the fact that he is a vampire and might possibly try to eat her one day. It would have been nice to see them talk about something else aswell. Having said that, a good friend of mine assures me that as the series progress the writing and the story improve.

This comes with the highest recommendation from me and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Star Rating

7 / 8

Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald

A few month ago I watched the movie of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I really loved it. I wasn't expecting it to be so good because people had been telling me that it was realy slow and boring. I found it really fun and romantic. I cried my eyes out at the end it was so heartwrenching.

Why am I writing about the movie when I should be reviewing the book? Mainly to explain my motivation for reading the book (although also to recommend the movie!).

I didn't know when I decided to read the book that was by F Scott Fitzgerald, nor that it was a short story. I was pleased to discover these facts though. I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby and I knew there was segment on Radio National's Book Show on short stories that I was interested in listening to, so it was good timing to read this book.

I really enjoyed the story, although it wasn't what I expected. It was very different to the movie in terms of the details of the storyline, although the essence of the story was the same. It's the story of Benjamin Button, born out of the norm, in a hospital. To everyone's surprise and horrow, he is born as an elderly man with the capacity of speech and the ability to look after himself. Despite this, his father insists on him being treated as a baby. As Benjamin ages, he grows younger in appearance and the story details his adventures as he grows younger.

It was a very sweet story, although perhaps not as sweet as the movie adaptation. There wasn't really room for character development in the short story, and it wasn't very clear where Benjamin's mother was. I don't know if Im reading too much into it, but I think it was a nice 'metaphor' for the cycle of life. We need looking after as a young child and as an elderly perhaps. Bejamin lives this cycle, needing care at the beginning and at the end of his life, only in reverse. He still manages to live a fulfilling life despite his additional challenges,

I think that the ideas contained in this story are nice, even if I enjoyed the embellishments in the movie a little more. If you have a spare 20 mins, I would definitely give this a go.

Star Rating

6 / 8

Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

As a child, I remember watching The Jungle Book as a movie. Not the disney cartoon version (although I remember watching that), but the film version. I remember watching it over and over again and really loving it. So when I saw The Jungle Book, the book, I was really excited to be able to buy it and read it.
What I didn't realise is that it isn't just the story of Mowgli the man cub, but is actually a collection of other stories in which all the main characters are animals (and Toomai, the elephant boy). This was actually a nice surprise. The majority of The Jungle Book deals with Mowgli's story and the rest of the book deals with shorter stories involving other characters.

The story of Mowgli was really good in writing. It was a different story to the one in the movie, there is no girl that Mowgli likes, and no treasure that Buldeo and his cronies go looking for. The 'true' story of Mowgli focuses on his being accepted in to the wolf pack, then expelled from it. He then enters the man pack and is eventually expelled and welcomed back into the Jungle after having killed his enemy, Shir Kan, the tiger. It's a lovely fable and Im glad I revisted the original stroy as an adult.

The other stories varied; there was one about a white seal who finds someone safe for his fellow seals to live away from the threat of man, one about Toomai the elephant boy who sees what no man has seen before, one about a pet mongoose who saves him human family from the evil cobras and another about animals being used during the war. I especially liked The White Seal, I thought it was really sweet that he spent so long focussed solely on protecting his fellow seals, and for little thanks.
I definitely recommend this as a great and fun read.


Star Rating

5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

I know that a lot of people will disagree with me, but I find that a book is included in Oprah's Book Club it is usually worth reading. So, it was Oprah's recommendation that lead me to this book. I wasn't disappointed.

Drowning Ruth is the story of Amanda and Mathilda, teo very different sisters. Whilst Mathilda, the youngest, marries young and begins a family (her child being Ruth), Amanda becomes a nurse and works in a hospital during the war. Amanda's heart is broken by the man she is seeing and she eventually is asked to leave the hospital as she slowly falls apart. So, she returns to the farm to Mathilda and Ruth, where eventually her secret becomes known and events begin to unfold out of Amanda's control.

I don't want to describe the plot of this book too much. I believe that the author intends us to never be quite sure what is coming next, so I will leave it to you to figure it out. I have to admit, I found the plot very predictable. I don't think that there was a single twist in the story that I didn't see coming. That's not to say I didn't enjoy reading the book, I did. I couldn't put it down. It was a wonderful read. You came to know the characters, especially Amanda and Ruth, even if you didn't really like them.

It had some interesting thoughts in it about family and the lengths people will go for family and love. At the time, it doesn't deny the inherent selfishness in human nature, and I think it was interesting how this human selfishness played out in the context of wanting to do the best for those that you love.

An Oprah's Book Club recommendation has never let me down, and this isn't an exception.

Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I find that books that are part of Oprah's Book Club are often really good reads, and I have to admit that it was Oprah's recommendation that made me read this book, and I wasn't disappointed.

This book follows Kathryn, the wife of a busy pilot. She has an ordinary family life; a good job as a teacher, a teenage daughter Mattie who causes her all the difficulties you can expect from a teenage daughter, and then a husband whom she loves but has been growing slowly more distant from. Then, her and her daughter's lives are turned upside down when Kathryn receives a knock at her door stating her husband has been killed in a plane accident. The story first focuses on how Kathryn and Mattie deal with their grief following this loss and the media frenzy that surrounds it. There's then a change; Kathryn finds herself needing to know all the details associated with the plane accident. She begins to winder about some things that don't seem quite right in her husband's property, and eventually she finds herself following the trail of his deceptions across the world to England.

I thin kthe biggest point of this book is - how can you ever know that you really know someone? How well do we really know the people you love? How do you really know that you trust someone? People believe they know the people they love, they trust that person, that's part of the love. And I suppose its something that everyone asks themselves when they discover that those that they love have been deceiving them. Deception and trust are big themes in this book in that sense.

I enjoyed the book a lot. It was quick, it wasn't challenging and it was intriguing. At worst it was a little predictable, and I do think that the grief that Kathryn and Mattie display aren't very true to true human nature, even taking into account how different everyone would react to such news. This is particularly true for Kathryn's reaction I think. I still recommend that you have a read of this book, definitely worth while!


Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin


You might remember that a couple of months ago I read and reviewed My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. My Career Goes Bung is not surprisingly the sequal to My Brilliant Career, and is just as good.

In this book, the true Sybylla Melvin is revealed. More specifically, it is revealed that the story contained in My Brilliant Career is actually a novel that Sybylla wrote as a young girl and My Career Goes Bung is the story of Sybylla as she writes the book, has it published and then rises to fame. After her book is published, the public tide her her town is against her. However, it gives the opportunity to launch herself if Sydney society, a chance that she relishes at first, but comes to find not nearly as satisfying as she expected. She has adventure, and tests out love and lust (in an old fashioned way of course!), but eventually finds herself returned to Possum Gully and back to her old life.

The Sybylla Melvin in My Career Goes Bung is very similar to the character in My Brilliant Career. I commented that I didn't entirely understand the Sybylla Melvin from My Brilliant Career, and now I think that perhaps that is because she was a work of fiction in a work of fiction itself (if that makes sense). The 'true' Sybylla Melvin in this sequel can at times be just as frustrating, but she is a lot easier to understand nonetheless. I still found her relationship with men rather frustrating, but perhaps I am not being open enough to the reality of how feminism must have played out in during the time within which this book is set.

I liked the image of old Sydney as it was portrayed in this book. You could picture Sydney as it is today, but less built up and more leafy.

I am sure that for more literary people would have more to say. I found the book interesting and original and I'm really glad I read the sequel, so many more things were explained and it was satisfying to read a sequel with such an original twist. I definitely recommend that you read the pair.


Star Rating

6 / 8



Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I had always thought that I would like to read this book and I vaguely remember enjoying the movie. So when I saw this book at the Sydney Book Fair I jumped at the chance to purchase it and I wasn't disappointed.

To be honest, when I first started reading it I wasn't sure how I felt about the style of writing. I'm sure you've heard me mention it before, but sometimes I can find the style of writing to be a barrier between me and the story, and I thought that this might be the case with this book. As it turns out, I'm glad that I persevered because I got used to its unusual style.

The story begins with some new arrivals in a small french town; Vianne, her daughter Anouk and her daughter's imaginary rabbit Pantouffle. Vianne opens a chocolate shop and slowly uses her chocolate and her own brand of magic to open the minds and hearts of the villagers. She cannot, however, open the mind or the heart of the village priest, who sees Vianne as an enemy; not just an enemy to himself and the townspeople, but to Christianity itself. He attempts to force her to leave town and in doing so comes face to face with his own weaknesses.

What i really liked about this story is told, is that it is narrated in first person from both Vianne's and the priest's perspectives. The two characters are set up as enemies, one represents good (Vianne) and the other evil (the priest). What I thought was clever that it was not always immediately apparent from the style of writing who's perspective the chapter was from. Sometimes I found that it was the content of the chapter that gave it away. I could be making this all up, but I think it may have been deliberately done. I think it's a clever way of perhaps saying to the reader that although there is this dynamic of good and evil set up between the two, sometimes good and evil are not that far removed from each other, but that it is a matter of perspective. I would be interested to know if anyone else who has read this book thinks something similar.
This is a good book if you are looking for an easy but magical read.


Star Rating

5 / 8


Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Anne's House of Dreams by LM Montgomery

Another one of the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne has finally married Gilbert and they are living in their first home together, their 'house of dreams'.

Anne is an adult now, a true housewife, loving life, her home and her new friends. Gilbert is now a doctor. He looks after the people of their town, and loves Anne dearly. In this book, they have their first fight, make new friends and have two children, although there isn't a happy ending for both children.

I felt a little like in this book you started to lose the story of Anne and see more of the stories of others that Anne has befriended. I sort of started to really miss the tension of wondering whether Anne and Gilbert would end up together. I feel a bit bad to say that now they are together, I am beginning to lose some interest in the series, but it is sweet and I will read the rest of the series.


Star Rating

5 / 8


Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

Now this I can definitely say is one of the best reads I have had for a long time!

I bought this book at the Sydney Book Fair after having a read a review of its sequal in the Sydney Morning Herald. I thought that it sounded different to most books; dark and medieval, and that is how it was.

It follows the story of Sobran Jordeau, a vintner in early 19th Century France. One night in 1808, Sobran meets an angel, and there begins a relationship that spans for years, until the end of Sobran's life. Each year they meet each other on the anniversary of their first meeting, until that one yealy meeting is no longer enough for either of them. In the meantime, Sobran's life continues, we see him marry, survive the Napoleonic wars, have a family, take lovers and improve his vintages. His feelings for the angel invade every aspect of his life.

The story is dark and violent at time. There is a sexual undercurrent throughout the book, unerlying Sobran's relationship with his wife, lover and also the angel himself. It is also there in the story of the countryside girls who are brutally raped and murdered at the hands of someone in their community. The story has a complex and rich storyline, full of secrets and desires.

At the beginning of the book I wasn't sure that I really liked Sobran Jordeau. He was so young and selfish and reckless. There were times in fact where I wondered if he wasnt a bit dangerous. As he aged and matured, however, I came to understand him better; I believe that I had a better understanding of his motivations and desires. Xas, the angel, was a lot harder to come to know, but I think that given he is an angel the reader perhaps isn't supposed to fully understand him. He is a creature of God (the devil?) and therefore to some extent above understanding.

I won't spoil the story too much with this review, in fact, reading over I dont think I've really given anything significant away at all. I really want people to read this, especially if you're looking for something different to read. I would be really interested to know what someone religious thought of the concept in this book, particularly relating to Xas and his decscriptions of heaven and hell.

In looking for the picture to use for this post, I discovered that this book has been made into a movie that is being released in November 2009, and I am so excited about seeing it!


Please, if there is one book I have reviewed on this blog that I recommend you read, please make it The Vintner's Luck!

Star Rating

8 / 8



One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.
 

The Breaker by Kit Denton

I had heard of Breaker Morant as a historical figure before I read this book; I knew that he had something to do with the Boer War and that there was a movie about him. I also knew that The Breaker was an Aussie classic and so I thought that I would read it, although I admit that buy the time I read this book I was feeling a little over Australin literature having read so many classic Australian novels recently.

It was a very interesting book though; easy to read and very enjoyable. It follows the story of 'Breaker' Morant. The book starts at the beginning of his new life as a worker in outback in Australia, where he makes friends with Paddy whom he works with for a few years to come. Eventually, with the outbreak of war, he decides to join the army and go to South Africa to fight the Boer on behalf of England. He feels compelled to do so because of his family history with the armed forces and the time he previously spent in the military in England before he was disgraced and came to Australia to escape his humiliation. The book then follows Morant throughout his war participation and eventually the trial that sees him and some of his fellows executed at the end of the book.

Breaker Morant is an interesting character as depicted in this fictionalisation of him. He is so stubborn and internal. Sometimes I had trouble understanding him, although I think that this difficulty came down to difference in time and sex. Im sure if I were a male from that time I would understand him completely, but to me sometimes he just felt like a bit whimp, someone who ran away from his troubles and then made life more difficult for himself than it needed to be through pride.

It as also a valuable history lesson. I have no trouble believing that Breaker Morant did nothing differently to how other soldiers behaved during the war. He and his fellows simply became the scapegoats for an English government that realised the war was not going well and needed something to distract the public from their failures. Breaker Morant and the others were this distraction, and they paid for it with their lives.

It was definitely a good read, particularly if you liek historical fiction and you want to make more of an effort to read Australian literary works. Still, it wasn't the mostgripping read, but I would recommend it nonetheless.

Star Rating

5 / 8



Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

I have always enjoyed those books that have won the Miles Franklin Award, and yet I realised that I had never read anything by Miles Franklin (Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin). Since my recent literary mission has been to read more Australian novels, I thought it was important to read Franklin's first novel.

The novel was written in 1901 and it based on the life of Sybylla Melvin, a young girl born into outback Australia, living a typical life for someone of her social position. Things go downhill for her family when her father decides to move their family from their home to a sleepy little town called Possum Gully, where they descend into poverty, and her father turns to the bottle. Sybylla Melvin is not a typical young woman, she dreams and wants and needs things that are not within her reach. She is a source of ever increasing frustration to her mother, who eventually sends her to live with her grandmother and Aunt in Caddagat. The story gives us a glimpse of a young feminist, refusing to settle for a life that is designated to women of her time.

I enjoyed the book, I'm sure it was a very accurate refelction of life in the Australian outbook at the turn of the century. I'm not, however, sure that I entirely understood Sybylla. I understand that she is a feminist (even if that concept didn't exist back there), and I understand that she is struggling to find her own way in a world that doesn't really make sense to her, but sometimes her behaviour puzzled me to a point that I just didn't understand her. Her attitude at times didn't make sense to me. Essentially, her character remains a mystery to me.

If anyone has read this book and has their own opinion of what makes Sybylla Melvin tick, please leave a comment so that I can try and figure out what it is about her that I couldn't quite work out. Despite my personal puzzlement over the main character, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good old fashioned Australian classic to read.


Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

The Sydney Book Fair

Well, I took Friday off work as a flex day and went to the Sydney Book Fair at Randwick Racecourse. The book fair was amazing. There were so many good books, I could barely control myself. Even Pablo bought a couple of books for himself.

I got some amazing titles:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov, Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve, My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz, Remembering Babylon by David Malouf, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, American Rhapsody by Joe Eszterhas, The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, Contemporary Classics by Don Anderson (ed), The City of Beasts by Isabel Allende, Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood, The Secret River by Kate Grenville, Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy, The Virgin BLue by Tracy Chevalier, The Vinterner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox, Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings, Surfacing by Margaret Atwood and The Cockatoos by Patrick White.

I am reading The Breaker at the moment, but should finish it in the next few days. If there is a book here that anyone has been thinking of reading, or would like to read, or isn't sure if they want to read it or not, leave a comment and I'll see if I can read it next and review it when I'm finished.

Thank goodness for book fairs!

Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery


I continued reading the Anne of Green Gables series after re-reading Anne of Green Gables and enjoying it so much.
Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island are the next two books in the story and I enjoyed them immensely. LM Montgomery has created a wonderful little world full of bright and interesting characters that you can't help but love.

Some lovely new characters are introduced in each novel, Miss Lavender and Paul Irving in Anne of Avonlea and Phillipa in Anne of the Island are my favourites. The books see Anne teaching at the local school in Avonlea and later leaving home to attend college for 4 years, where her romantic ideals are put the test with a series of wedding proposals that are not what she expects.

I think if I were to be honest with myself, I still enjoy Anne of Green Gables the most of the series. That first book is where you really have the opportunity to get to know Anne as a child, which I think is when she is at her most interesting. It also felt like it had a longer story line running through the entire novel, whereas these two novels felt more like a collection of events that occur in Anne's life, without any particular consistent storyline. That's just me. I can easily see though that some people might find the same thing about the first book of the series as well.

In any event, I loved these books and I felt so genuinely happy when Anne finally realises that Gilbert is her one true love and they are finally engaged, so romantic! It almost makes me happy that Anne's fairytale expectations of romance and love are turned on their head when she realises that it is her (almost) life long friend whom she loves. Its good for Anne to realise that life isn't always the fairytale she thinks it should be.
Im going to continue reading the series. Unfortunately the next book of the series, Anne of Windy Poplars, isn't available on e-book, and so I will probably skip it and go straight onto Anne's House of Dreams.

I am getting a lot of enjoyment from re-reading books I read a child. Why are books you read as a child still so magical upon re-reading?
 
Star Rating
 
5 / 8
 
 
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

My reading habits

Before I complete the next review, I just wanted to explain something about my reading habits. I usually have 3 separate books on the go at one time, but they are all for different purposes.


I am always reading a new book that I haven't read before as my main book, and this is the one that is most commonly reviewed on my blog, and makes an appearance on my "Reading List". I also, however, like to read just before I go to sleep, it helps me take my mind off the day and get ready to sleep. The problem is, if I read my usual book right before I go to bed I have a lot of trouble putting it down and then I end up staying up to late. So the second book I have on the go is the one that i read right before i go to bed. It will always be a book that I have read a million times before, like a Harry Potter novel, or a Lord of the Rings book. As I have read it a million times before it is easy to put down, turn the lights off and go to sleep.


I like to read whenever I get the opportunity, but sometimes its difficult to have enough time to pull a book out of your back and read it meaningfully. So the third book that I usually have on the go is an e-book, that is, a book I have downloaded onto my iPhone that I will read whenever I find myself with a spare 15mins or so. For example, if I'm waiting at the doctors, if I'm taking a very short train trip, if I'm waiting for someone. It is usually something easy.


I'm not sure that this explanation was really necessary, but I thought sometimes its also interesting not just to hear about the books others read and recommend, but also to hear about their reading habits.

Rice Bowl by Suchen Christine Lim

I bought this book during a holiday to Singapore in September 2009. The book is written by a Singaporean author, who won the first Singaporean literature award for a different novel, and it is the 2009 edition of the book.

This book was Lim's first novel, and I have to be honest and admit that I don't think that this was a well written book. A lot of it felt contrived, the conversations particularly, and I didn't feel like I really got to know the characters at all.



The Rice Bowl is about politics and imperialism and race, and how political theories and ideal intersect with actual lives.The book's main character is a novice nun, who becomes a left wing activist when she commences university. The story is set at the time of the war in Vietnam, and her and her friend's activism culminates in a protest against the war. 

For me, this novel demonstrates a lot of what I didn't like about lefty politics and some of the people actively involved (I don't mean to offend anyone and I'm sure no one I know falls into this category :-) !!!)

This mainly revolves around the main character of Marie, or Sister Marie-Therese. Marie has great intentions and ideals, she encourages her students to think about the world around her before commencing university with them, where she continues to do the same. Unfortunately for her and those around her, her good intentions end up the victim of her own ego and other people suffer as a result.

What really drives Marie is her ego. She likes people to look up to her; she likes having a 'group' of followers. She is so certain that she is right, that she doesn't listen to others in any meaningful way. She aspires to these great ideals that she expects the world and others to live up to, but she doesn't live up to them herself. She can't recognise any way but her own.

A good example of this is where she attempts to convince her convent community to join her and her activist friends in the protest against the war in Vietnam. Her nun colleagues refuse, arguing that they do important work to help the impoverished and the sick in their own way, they educate the young in their schools, and this is the work that they need to prioritise. In the end, the nuns choose to prioritise this work over the idea of protesting against the larger social problems facing the world. They do not reject the idea behind what she is doing, but they reject becoming involved. Marie sees them as rejecting the good of the world, she cannot accept that despite their rejection of 'her way' of resolving to world's ill, they might still be doing good of their own. She says, "As a community they're more interested in social welfarism than in working for the more fundamental changes in the social order". She does not ask herself what is wrong with this? Why shouldn't some people focus more on the individual and others on the bigger picture? Can't these two methods of progress work together? With Marie, its her way or the highway.

Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh. Regardless of her inconsistencies and questionable motives, The Rice Bowl is about people trying to make sense of the world around them, and make it a better place for people to live. They are trying to find meaning, and hope and fight injustice. I think that despite some of the reservations about the methods and motives of those actively taking charge of the collective and protest, the ending of the book demonstrates that the author ultimately believes that their brand of politics has some merit in the world.

There are a lot of issues with politics that this book raises, and despite how poorly I think the novel was written, it did provide some food for thought, especially for those politically minded.

 
Star Rating

5.5 / 8


Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it unless you have a particular interest in left-wing politics and activism.

Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey by Farley Mowat

I bought this for $1.00 at a book stall on Church Street Mall in Parramatta one morning before work. I thought that it might be interesting because I had heard of Dian Fossey and remember watching Gorillas in the Mist as a child (although I can't remember the movie itself).

This book is a biography of Dian Fossey, from her childhood until her gruesome murder at Karisoke Research Centre in the Virunga mountains in Rwanda. The author has had access to all of Dian Fossey's papers, including her personal diary, and much of the story of Dian's life is told through extracts from her personal diary and letters that she has both written and received. This was interesting, because it gave me as the reader an insight into what Dian actually felt about the occurrences that the author of the biography was explaining.

It was a good read, and I feel like I have learnt a lot about the mountain gorilla's of Rwanda, and on a bigger scale, the lengths some people will go to to protect what needs protecting. Dian Fossey was a fierce woman who was not afraid of using violence and other scare tactics to protect her mountain gorillas from poachers and tourism. I am glad that there are people like Dian Fossey out there, people with enough passion and courage to act as the protectors of those that cannot protect themselves.

I'm glad I read the book, although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to be honest. To truly enjoy the book I think you would need to have a genuine interest in Dian Fossey or mountain gorilla's. It definitely wasn't attention grabbing.

Star Rating

4 / 8


Alright, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

I saw Monica Ali speak at the Sydney Writers Festival 2009 in a segment on freedom of speech, meant to commemorate 20 years since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. She was a fascinating speaker and I had heard great things about her first novel, Brick Lane, which was long listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. When I came across the book at Elizabeths in Newtown, I couldn't resist.

It is undoubtedly a well written and topical book. It's main character, Nazneen, is taken from her traditional Bangladeshi village at age 18 and sent to England where she enters into an arranged marriage to an older man. In contrast, her sister Hasina breaks tradition and makes a love marriage, which eventually fails, ad Hasina is forced to return to Bangladesh and make her own way in the world. Nazneen on the other hand finds herself in better conditions, but in a world she doesn't understand and a country who's language she doesn't speak. She is lucky to have a 'good' husband by traditional standards; he does not beat her for which she is grateful. On the other hand, he does not encourage her to leave the house or learn English because there is no need for her to do so. She does her duty to her husband, and later to her children, but she is still unsatisfied at a basic level. As a result, she commences an affair with a young Islamic radical, Karim.

In the background to her personal story, are the race struggles going on the country and closer to home in her apartment buildings. There is particular emphasis to this post September 11. Nazneen is upset by the images of atrocities committed against other Islamic people throughout the world, although I think that participating in the movement had a lot to do with giving herself something to do and spending time with Karim. As I said, the book is very topical and is an interesting depiction of how racial differences and religious conflict affect people on an individual level.

I have to admit that although I enjoyed the book, it perhaps wasn't as good as I expected it to be, although perhaps my expectations were too high. I'm not sure that I really enjoyed Ali's writing style and that perhaps prevented me from enjoying the story as well as I might otherwise have done. Don't get me wrong, it was really well written, it just wasn't really my thing.

I particularly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in issues of racial and religious conflict throughout the work, particularly anyone looking for a fictionalised story of how these larger issues affect individuals in their daily lives.

Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke

I was looking through my book catalogue one day and I realised that of the 200 or so books that I won, only about 30 of them were Australian. This struck me as a bit poor and so I decided to try and focus more on reading Australian literature and this was the first one I started with.

This book is a fictionalised account of Australian convict history, based on true historical records from colonial times in Tasmania. Clarke began researching it in 1869, and it was published as a serial in an Australian journal in 1871. At the time it was published, it would have been read by free settlers and ex-convicts alike, and it was also published in England, so that those who were not aware of the truth behind the penal settlements were for the time able to access such information, albeit in a fictionalised manner.

The story follows the lives of many characters, although the main character being that of the 'infamous' Rufus Dawes, and English gentleman who is accused of committing a murder he did not commit and is transported to Tasmania as a convict, sentenced to hard labour. I wont spoil the plot at all, it is suspenseful and surprising at every turn, right up to the end. It exposes true human nature and true human compassion.


There's mutiny, escapes, cruelty, lies and love. The lives of the various characters all intersect in ways that you couldn't guess throughout the book and which cleverly unfold until the very end when the truth behind each persons story is revealed. Although the story is tragic, it is romantic too.

This book comes with the highest recommendation from me. Not only was it a beautiful story that is constantly surprising and raw, it is an interesting way to learn about an important stage of Australia's history.



Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

To be honest, when I read this book I didn't know anything about the book or the author. I simply recognised it as a Penguin classic and that was good enough for me. I can say that I am really glad I chose it.

Gerald Durrell is a well known english conservationist and this book is the story of some of his childhood years which were spent on the island of Corfu in Greece some time in the early 20th century (the 30's or 40's from memory). It details the funny characters that comprise his family, their relationship with one another, and their dealings with the various animals that Gerald brings home and makes part of the family.

Durrell's writing style is so natural, the book is written as if he was speaking directly to you, telling you his story. I suppose its because its autobiographical, and also because he is a conservationist not a writer. In any event, I loved how it was written, it felt so friendly and open. The language Durrel uses to describe the island and his family's adventures is so vivid that you feel like you are in Corfu, or at least that you would really like to be in Corfu. Corfu comes alive as a beautiful and colourful place, full of excitement. I'm sure that's what it felt like to young Gerry and he conveys that magical feeling well.

There's no plot as such as it is an autobiographical story of what occured in his life during the years the book spans. He recounts what happens to him and his family and the various people and animals that cross their paths. I recommend this to everyone looking for a good, light heared and hilarious read.

Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down.

Walter Benjamin on book collecting

"I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing davlight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood - it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation - which these books arouse in a genuine collector...

O bliss of the collector, bliss of the man of leisure! Of no one has less been expected, and no one has had a greater sense of well-being than the man who has been able to carry on his disreputable existence in the mask of Spitzweg,'s "Bookworm." For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector - and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be - ownersliip is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting."

Walter Benjamin: "Unpacking my Library: A Talk about Book Collecting," in Illuminations, Engl. trans. (London: Fontana, 1982), pp. 59-60, 63, and 66-67.

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Dracula by Bram Stoker is a very original and creepy classic that I think everyone should read at some point in their reading lives.

The story begins with one of the main characters Jonathan Harker, a new lawyer, making his way to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania to complete some legal business his form has with Count Dracula. The villagers he meet all warn him against his plan, however he puts this down to traditional superstition at most, and dismisses their warnings. Once at the castle, Jonathan Harker becomes more and more suspicious of Count Dracula's behaviour, until eventually his suspicions are proved to be true and he finds himself a prisoner in the castle.

I can't recreate the thoroughly evil atmosphere that Stokercreates, nor would I want to. I hope that you will experience it for yourself. Suffice to say that what happens on the castle is the scariest part of the book and I almost wondered whether I would be able to finish reading it. Fortunately I did finish reading it and I was rewarded. The story moves between different countries and cities and the entire time I was riveted.

The book is written from many different characters perspectives by way of diary entries, journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. This was apparently a very new and different way of writing a novel in 1897. I was nervous when I first started reading it that this method of story telling would act as a barrier between me and the story but it worked well, ensuring the suspense is intense throughout the entire book. The story does become less and less creepy as it progresses. Don't get me wrong, there are some evil images Bram Stoker creates all the way through, but it is never quite as creepy as it is at first in Count Dracula's castle.

 I couldn't put Dracula down, despite there being points in time when I really wanted to put it down. This is easily the creepiest book I have ever read. I remember watching parts of Nosferatu when I was a child and being really terrified. Now, having read Dracula by Bram Stoker I would like to watch again as an adult.


All in all, I think that if you are in for a very different read and you're not afraid of a bit of blood, I think you should give this classic a go.

Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

Eucalyptus is based in New South Wales and tells the story of Holland, a man who's wife dies leaving him a young daughter Ellen. Following his wife's death, he purchases a farm to which he and his daughter move. Holland starts planting eucalypts on the farm, and before long he has hundreds of different varieties all over the land. His daughter grows to be a beautiful woman, and being acutely aware of how attracted to her men become, he develops an individual way in which to chose her future husband (I won't spoil anything by telling you how he chooses her husband).

This novel is a patchwork of different stories and narratorial detours. The main love story unfolds through the stories of others and through the descriptions of the eucalypts themselves. As the love story reaches its climax it becomes more erotic and it has a satisfying conclusion.

Bail vividly describes the Australian landscape throughout the novel, and particularly the eucalypts that make up the story. I did find that sometimes I got a lot more carried awy witht he description of the landscapes and the trees than the story itself. Ellen seems so aloof and distant that it was difficult for me to identify with her at times. Despite this, I enjoyed the story a lot, laregly because of its uniqueness.

I was left wondering at the end of the book - the story of Ellen and her suitors begins as if it is a fairytale, and given the manner in which the story is told, I can't help but wonder whether the story of Holland, Ellen, Mr Cave and the final suitor is itself a fairytale?

If you are interested in reading a professional essay about this book please follow the following link:
http://www.trojanpress.com.au/assets/Oz_23_what_tree.pdf


Star Rating

5 / 8


Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot

Some time ago I read a book entitled Payback: Debt and the Shadow of Wealth by Margaret Atwood. It is a discussion about the concept of debt – not just financial, but personal and moral and other such debts. Why am I talking about a book by Margaret Atwood when I’m supposed to be reviewing The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot? In this book Payback, there is chapter entitled “Debt as Plot”, which discusses how debt is often at the centre of the plot of a good fiction story. Atwood discusses different books in this chapter to illustrate her idea, books such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. I found the discussion in Payback fascinating, particularly this particular chapter about the role debt had played in literature, and so I decided to read the Mill on the Floss.

It didn’t disappoint. It was nice to read a classic, something I feel like I hadn’t done for a long time. The old English language was challenging, particularly at first, however I eventually acclimatised to it. The novel follows the fortunes of the Tulliver family. The father, Mr Tulliver, involves himself in legal proceedings with the evil lawyer Wakem which he eventually loses and in turn finds himself almost a bankrupt. His family fortunes take a turn for the worse. His wife is forced to sell all her household goods and their children Tom and Maggie are forced to leave their educations and start to work in their teenage years. The central character is Maggie, a young intellectual girl who struggles in a society that sees women as mere decoration and certainly not anyone with brains. Maggie falls in love, and the novel follows her love stories to a tragic end (don’t worry – I wont ruin the ending).

I really felt for Maggie, it’s always frustrating to see the plight of women in the past. Although it’s a novel, George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) wrote her novel about the times in which she lives, and as such they are an accurate portrayal of those times from Eliot’s perspective. Maggie wants to be free but is constantly thwarted by society, and particularly her older brother Tom, who feels it is her duty to keep her check and prevent her from bringing disgrace upon her self and her family. It’s usually read as a feminist manifesto, but I liked Atwood’s discussion of debt being the idea that moves the plot along. The financial debt Mr Tulliver owes following his unsuccessful lawsuit, the debt owed to him by him sister and brother-in-law which he refuses to accept payment for out of family loyalty, the debt the Tulliver family is seen to owe to Mrs Tulliver’s family who help them (in their own selfish way) through the period of their disgrace. There’s the debt that Mr Tulliver feels Wakem owes him because of Wakem’s ill treatment of him, and which Mr Tulliver seeks repayment of in his vicious attack on the lawyer. It’s a story about morals and values I think – whether they be in relation to the position of women in society or the concept of debt.

It’s an interesting book that is worth reading if ever you are in the mood for a good old fashioned classic.

Star Rating

5.5 / 8

Really enjoyable and well written. Worth reading if you have the opportunity.


The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of Spirits is Isabel Allende's first novel. It is set in an unnamed South America country and follows the Trueba family saga through 3 generations. We see the family revolve around the patriarch as he slowly but surely destroys what he loves through his best but misplaced intentions. Its a story that revolves around love, family, politics and spirituality. 

I love the women in this story - Isabel Allende always makes her women so strong and powerful. I love Clara's spirituality and Blanca's independence and strong will. I think I identified most with Alba though - I loved her involvement with the politics of the time. Initially I think she was involved in the politics because of her love for Miguel. She is politically minded, but not in an active way. I believe it is her active love for Miguel that leads to her active involvement in politics. Regardless of how her love of politics starts, she immerses herself in what she believes to be the right cause, even though it is against her father's strongly held political beliefs and even though it ultimately causes her significant pain.


Having read later books by Isabel Allende, such as Paula and The Sum of Our Days, I appreciated reading Alba's story even more because I think that it reflects a lot of her struggle in Chile during the dictatorship. For a first novel, it is so thoroughly written, the language rolls along just describing events in such a manner as you barely notice time passing and the generations moving on. If you like Isabel Allende (and she is undoubtedly one of my favourite authors), then reading her first novel House of Spirits is something I highly recommend.



Star Rating

7 / 8

Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.