Winner's Page: Alyce from At Home With Books


Alyce from At Home with Books was one of the lucky winners of the 26+ Followers Competition that ended a few days ago. As a result of this win, she was received a Winners Page!

Why I love At Home With Books

At Home with Books is a really wonderful blog. Firstly, I have to say that I love the design of the blog, it has such a homey feel about it. Alyce's reviews are well written and informative and there are some lovely giveaways. I admire how many challenges she is participating in and it is great to see what progress is being made. I also love the really long Blog Roll she offers, it's such a good way to find other wonderful blogs that Alyce recommends.

I hope that you check out At Home With Books, it is well worth it!

Question and answers

This is what Alyce has to say about herself and At Home With Books.

1. Tell us something about yourself
I'm 32 years old and stay at home with my two boys. My husband is a librarian, yet he doesn't get to work hands-on with books because his job has more to do with the computer technology side of the library. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Linguistics I went on to work at a magazine publishing company, and then a Christian book publishing company (both jobs were in sales). I loved working around books, and hope that whatever job I have in the future (when my kids are older) has something to do with books or writing.

2. What was your favourite book as a child and young adult, and why?
I had a lot of favorite books growing up, but the one that had the most staying power was the third volume of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Some of my other favorites were The Song of Albion Trilogy by Stephen Lawhead, Starman's Quest by Robert Silverberg, and the Anne of Green Gables series.

3. Why do you love to read?
I love to read because it educates me and takes me to another world all at the same time. When I was growing up we lived in the country, and the nearest neighbor who was my age lived three miles away. My sisters were also much older than me, so I had to find ways of entertaining myself. I spent many hours daydreaming on my tree swing, a lot of time hiking in the hills around my house, and spent the majority of the rest of the time reading. It helped that we only got one channel on our television too, so that wasn't really much of a distraction.

4. How do you choose your books?
I usually read the inside flap to get an idea of what the book is about and can generally tell from the description if I'm going to be interested in the story. I am guilty of judging books by their covers. A lot of that is natural in that I don't usually read certain kinds of books, so if the cover has a Fabio/Harlequin cover or a vampire dripping blood I will just pass it by without a second glance.

5. If you had to narrow it down, who would be our 3 favourite authors and your 3 favourite books?
The answers to both of these are ones that could change depending on my mood, but right now I'd have to say Diana Gabaldon for her Outlander books, Anne McCaffrey for her Pern and sci-fi books, and Sheri S. Tepper. As for my favorite books: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (one of my favorites from my early teen years), and Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (although I love all of her dragon books).

6. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in the summer of 2008. Originally I had another blog that was more of a "mom blog," but I soon realized that book posts were taking over the blog, so I created "At Home With Books" and within a few months stopped posting altogether at the other blog. One of the original reasons that I started blogging in general was to write about how my mom found her birth family. After she was reunited with her birth family in 2008 we found out that she has another sibling that was adopted that no one knows anything about. I thought that posting the information online might help in case the sibling ever decides to search for their birth family. (Here's a link to the post I did if you're interested http://athomewithbooks.blogspot.com/2008/12/reason-i-started-blogging-search-for-my.html)

7. Why do you love book blogging?
I love the sense of community. I love being able to interact with other book lovers. I live in a small town, and my friends here are wonderful people, but they are not bibliophiles. It's been fun to chat with people who have a common interest, and find out about great books in the process. As a result of my book blog I met a blogger from a nearby town (http://www.dreadlockgirl.com/reads/) and joined her book club, so now I have more bookish friends in real life too.

8. What tips do you have for other book bloggers?
I think if you love what you are doing that shows up in your blogging. Whether that is reading books from only one genre or constantly stretching your reading to try new things, if it's what you are passionate about, that's what you should do. Then, find other blogs that you enjoy reading and comment on their posts. When people comment on your site, visit their site and check out their posts too. Getting to know the people behind the blog posts is half the fun of blogging.

Thanks Alyce, I think that it is really inspiring that part of your reason for commencing blogging was as a part of a search for your mother's birth family, that is really special!

I hope that everyone checks out Alyce's blog At Home With Books.

JD Salinger has passed away

I was very sad to read in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald that JD Salinger has passed away at age 91.

You can read the article here.

I haven't read any of his books, but I know by reputation what a wonderful talent he was and I will be sure to read Catcher in the Rye now.

Lights, Camera Blog Action!

This is a special feature dedicated to spreading the word about the other great blogs that are out there! I have found a lot of great blogs through such features and I want to be able to share some book blog joy too!

Today I am featuring "Lets eat, Grandpa! Lets eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)" by Cori. I love the title of her blog, probably because I am so absolutely terrible at spelling and punctuation and the like. Here are her responses to some bookish questions:

Tell us something about yourself:

A long time ago, my mom gave me Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop. I sounded out the words and it was the first book I ever read myself -- after that I just kept reading. I majored in English and Writing in college, and then got my MA in Editing and Publishing. Now I work as an editor for a marketing and communications firm. You'd think that I'd be tired of reading after spending all day with my nose buried in print, but no -- I go home and get lost in a book. Other than reading, I love to travel, play tennis, be outside, and spend time with my family and friends. I'm also active in my church and passionate about social justice issues, particularly efforts to end human trafficking.


What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?

I've always loved Dr. Seuss. I love the way he plays with words and rhyme, plus the illustrations are so whimsical. I was entertained when my dad would try and read Fox in Sox quickly, since it's full of some of the best tongue twisters. I also loved (still love) Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree was the first book that made me cry. What a story of sacrifice! As a teen, I fell in love with Jane Eyre. I still re-read often it because it's one of the best stories I've ever read.


Why do you love to read?

I read for countless reasons -- to learn, to laugh, to be inspired, to escape, to find out more about myself, to relate to others, to discover, to go on adventures, to fall in love, to cry, to be scared, to cope. I read because I'm not really sure how not to read. I also take great pleasure at having to put down a book for a few seconds while I think, "Woah. That was an incredible sentence."

How do you choose books?

I go off recommendations from friends (both online and "in real life"). I read a lot of book reviews, both in publications and on blogs. I'm a sucker for used bookstores and library sales. I read authors whose other books I've enjoyed. I've received a couple review copies as well. All of these books go on my To Be Read list, which right now hovers somewhere around 500 books. It's daunting, but the good news is that I will never run out of things I want to read!



If you had to narrow it down - who would be your 3 favourite authors and what would be your 3 favourite books?

Ow, it hurts to choose! I had to narrow it down just to fiction. (The nonfiction section of my library is giving me the evil eye right now -- stop looking at me like that, Bill Bryson!)

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
3. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell



When and why did you start your blog?

I started blogging on Xanga (!!) in 2004 when I moved from California to Boston for grad school. It was a way to keep in touch with my family and friends. When I came back in 2006, I started a Vox blog, where I still write occasionally. It's my personal blog, and I love the community I've established there (I've met a handful of Voxers and they are all incredible people). At the beginning of 2009, I created a read-a-thon. I asked my friends and family to give pledges for every book I read in 2009, and at the end of the year I donated the money (over $5000!) to Blood:Water Mission, a charity that builds wells in Africa. I started my "Let's Eat Grandpa" blog as a place to exclusively blog book reviews for that, and now that the challenge is over, I've redesigned it as my general book blog.


What do you love about book blogging?

I love getting together with other people who love to read as much as I do. I don't feel like I'm boring people with all this stuff about books, because my readers love to read and love to read about reading. I like the discussions and hearing what other people think about books I've read. I love knowing I'm not the only one out there practically salivating over the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. There's also the opportunity to connect with authors, which is always awesome. The book blogging community gives me a place to be my book geek self.

What tips do you have for other book bloggers?

I'm going to echo what Amy J said a few weeks ago about being patient. Even though I have a large, tight-knit community over on Vox, I feel like I'm just getting started here in the book blogging world. Sometimes it's a little discouraging, but from reading everyone's blogs, I know how wonderful everyone here is and that over time I'm going to make some great friends in addition to getting some fabulous book recommendations. :)


Thanks Cori. I have very vivid memories of my mother reading Dr Seuss stories to me as a child. I loved the rhyming and I loved the illustrations too.


I also noticed that you mentioned Bill Bryson - I love Bill Bryson! There is not another author in the world that has the ability to make me laugh out loud like he can. Sadly enough, I remember once being in the emergency department after a family member had an accident, it was very tense and because we were waiting so long I pulled out my current read at the time which was Notes From a Big Country. Despite the tension at the time, I was still able to laugh out loud at what he had written and I am grateful for that.


If anyone else would like to be featured on Lights, Camera, Blog Action!, just send me an email at pageturnersbooks@gmail.cm or leave a comment stating that you would like to be featured and I will send you the questions.


The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide


Book Details

Paperback
Pages: 380

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 2008

Language: English

ISBN: 9780330424257



Book Review

I saw this book in the window of a local bookshop and the title grabbed my attention immediately – The Household Guide to Dying.I don't often buy new books (being a second hand bookaholic) but with this one I couldn't help it.

The story is that of Delia Bennett; wife, mother, author and dying. She is dying of cancer. Delia has made a name for herself as an author of Household Guides, and so when it is confirmed that Delia is not going to survive her cancer, she develops the idea to write her final and ultimate Household guide - the Household's Guide to Dying. The story follows her quest to resolve outstanding issues in her life relating to her son to whom she gave birth when she was 17 years old, as well as researching for her new book. The research takes her some strange places; she observes autopsies, visits funeral parlours, makes blood sausages and chooses her own coffin.

What is really amazing about this book for me, is how real it is. It is exactly what I would imagine knowing that you are going to die would be like. I found her daughters reactions very touching; they are clearly upset that they are going to lose their mum, and yet they aren't quite capable of grasping it in the way an adult does. Their lives just continue as usual - they fight, play their instruments badly and generally bother their mother in the way that young children do. Her husband and mother are admirably restrained yet supportive of Delia through her journey toward death.

Delia is faced with the issues that we would all be worried about. Who is going to teach my children to cook? Who is going to be there fore them on their wedding day? How do I teach them about sex? How will my husband manage to get the ids to school without me? Who will feed the cats each morning? I love how as Delia's end approaches, she is engrossed with those small details of life, it is an eye opening view into what the knowledge of death will do to a person.

This was a very special book. Although you know from the outset what the end will be, it is nonetheless touching. I cried a lot towards the end of the book, and I remember that feeling even as I write this review.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
This isn't a challenging read in the sense of its style of writing, it is fairly easy to read and doesn't take a long time to finish. Some of the thoughts it evokes though are challenging, but that is definitely one of the goo things about this book.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, definitely. I actually think that it's a really good book for everyone to read. No one knows what the future holds, for us or any of our loved ones, and sometimes it's important to think about those hard things, like death, that we would prefer not. This book gives you the opportunity to do this, but with humour as well as seriousness.

Do I recommend that you buy it?

For as much as I recommend reading this one, borrowing it at the library would be sufficient.

Star Rating


7 / 8

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

 

Booking Through Thursday: Twisty

Jackie says, “I love books with complicated plots and unexpected endings. What is your favourite book with a fantastic twist at the end?”

So, today’s question is in two parts.

1. Do YOU like books with complicated plots and unexpected endings?

2. What book with a surprise ending is your favorite? Or your least favorite?

I do like a book with a complicated plot and unexpected ending, so long as I'm not reading it thinking "What is going on? Come on!" That can really be frustrating. A book that really comes to mind in that sense is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. But, and I know how contradictory this is, I really enjoyed the book once I had finished. But while I was reading it, I was feeling immensely frustrated, just thinking to myself, "What has happened, I just want to know".

I think that generally I can be a being impatient person, so if something is withheld from me for too long then I can get a bit annoyed.

On the other hand, you get books like Dan Brown's books which are the opposite I think. Don't get me wrong, I love the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons and all the others, but sometimes I think they are a little too predictable for my liking, despite how hard they try to have a complicated plot and twists and turns. Deception Point by Dan Brown is the best example of this I think, you can see the end coming a mile away.

Actually, a book that I read recently that had a twist at the end which I enjoyed but was also predictable was Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. Loved the book, but a predictable twist. You can read my review of it here.

Sounds like the grass is always greener - when the plot is complicated and twisty I am getting frustrated, and yet when it's very predictable I am getting frustrated! I know that there are happy mediums out there, I just can't think of any under pressure!

Special Features Reminder


Special Features Reminder

Page Turners has many weekly and fortnightly features for bookish fun.

Great Authors: is every second tuesday. I provide some information about one of my favourite authors. Feel free to comment, or if you have a favourite author, why not link back to a post in your blog about someone you consider to be a great author so that we can get great suggestions?!

Wonderfully Short Wednesdays: is a new feature where I review short stories that I have read recently. Feel free to comment, or you have read a short story recently, why not provide us with a link back to a post in your blog about the short story for us all to read?

Thoughtful Thursdays: is posted weekly on a thursday and in it I simply discuss an issue either book or blogging related that I have been thinking about. I would love to hear your opinions about them.

The most recent Thoughtful Thursday was Do good books ever really end? and previous to this I posted about Ebooks: friends or foes?

Lights Camera Blog Action!: is posted each Friday and is a post specifically to highlight other wonderful peoples book blogs.

Blast from the Past: is posted each Sunday and is a feature where I review a book that I have read in the past that has had some impact upon me, whether it be for good or bad. Feel free to leave a comment, or leave a link back to a post on your own blog about your own Blast from The Past!

For more information about any of these features, just click on their titles!

Thoughtful Thursday: Does a good book ever really end?

Thoughtful Thursdays is a feature where I discuss all things book and blog related. It might be an issue that has been mentioned in the media a fair bit or it might be theoretical ideas about reading, books or blogs. I would love it if people could comment with their views on the issues raised, and hopefully get some debate or discussion going. I love reading and books and it would be great to have a space to talk about these sorts of things with other people who have the same interests as well.

Does a good book ever really end?

I read a quote on the internet. It said:

A good book has no ending. ~R.D. Cumming

Now this really got me thinking. Does a good book ever really end? I had never thought about a book like this before. Obviously a book has an ending, in fact it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

I think, though, that what R.D. Cumming was trying to say is that when a book is truly a good book it has no end for the reader. The book lives on for the reader. I think this is very true in two different ways.

Firstly, I think about in the context of famous classics like The Great Gatsby or 1984. Books like these last forever in the collective mind or however you want to put it. Their significance in literature ensures that they won't end when the story itself comes to an end, their significance will continue and therefore they will never end.

I think that the same thing can be said for books that individual readers read that have some special significance for them. This is a small example, but I absolutely love The Clan of the Cave Bear series written by Jean M Auel. I re-read it when I get a chance and I recommend it to everyone. This isn't such a good example because he series still hasn't been completed (and just as an aside, I am beginning to believe that it never will be Jean...), but the same could be said for many books that I love, such as The Time Travellers Wife or Fraction of a Whole by Steve Toltz. They have never ended for me even though I have finished them, because I love them and I re-read them and I recommend them and I talk about them. That is what keeps a good book alive in my mind.

What do you think? Does a good book ever really end? What keeps books alive for you?

Wonderfully Short Wednesdays: The Haunted House by Charles Dickens

The purpose of Wonderfully Short Wednesdays is to review short stories, it is as simple as that. Short stories are a very special medium of story telling that I feel I don't read enough of and I hope that this encourages me and others to read more of them.

The Haunted House by Charles Dickens

I seriously missed something with this one. I have to admit from the outset that I am not a big Dickens fan or reader (insert collective intake of breath here), but even without that barrier, this story was just too weird for me.

It started off with such potential. The narrator comes to the country side with his sister and household staff and moved into a house which is rumoured to be haunted; bells ring on their own, there are strange sounds that can be heard and a mysterious hooded woman with an owl is rumoured to be seen. Despite scaring off two individuals he suspects of creating some of the disturbances themselves, the 'hauntings' continue. His sister comes up with an unusual idea - they fire the household staff and bring in a group of friends to live in the house with them. They are all to observe any strange 'hauntings' that occur during the 12 days, but they are not to share their experiences with anyone until the 12 days are up.

The narrator receives a visit from a ghost and things just get weird from thereon in. The story completely lost me at that point. The book description states "The Haunted House examines quintessentially Victorian theories - sex and longing, nostalgia and loss - in ways that continue to resonate today".

Really? What did I miss? Why don't I get it? It was all just weirdness to me! Can anyone help me with this?

For my very first Short Story Saturday, I know that this is perhaps a weird way to start, but I am genuinely puzzled by my seeming inability to understand this short story. Don't worry, next week I will reviewing Rumpelstiltskin and leaving this behind me.

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Book Details

Ebook (Project Gutenberg)


Book Review

I decided to read
The Railway Children after coming across it as I flicked through Project Gutenberg's library. As a child I watched the movie and it was well and truly one of my favourites. Unfortunately, the copy that we had had been taped from the tele, and so the end of the movie hadn't been recorded so I never knew how the movie ended. Having read the book now I can say that I am very happy with the ending.

This is the story of Roberta (Bobbie), Phyllis and Peter, 3 ordinary children living an ordinary middle/upper class life, until one day their father inexplicably disappears and their mother moves with them to Three Chimneys, a small cottage in the countryside by the railway. While their mother spends her time writing stories for money, the children spend their time having adventures. They prevent a big train accident following a landslide, they take a famous Russian home for their mother to take care of and eventually assist to locate his family, they organise birthday presents for their friends from the station and they rescue an injured boy, amongst other things.


They also make friends with an old gentlemen on one of the trains that they regularly wave to. This old gentleman becomes a very important character in the story, assisting them in many special ways, including in relation to the the mysterious (to the children) disappearance of their father.


I loved many things about this story. I loved that although their adventures seemed to stand alone, most of them were interconnected in ways that became clear toward the end of the book. I loved the mother in the story, she was so understanding and supportive, I really liked that she let the children have their own fun and make their own mistakes, but supported them nonetheless. I hope to be a mother like her one day. I loved how the children loved their mother. They were able to go from living a life with servants to doing the house work themselves, and doing anything to shield their mother from being upset. They did everything without complaint (for children) and they did it for their mother. I also loved how the children got on with things despite the giant upheaval in their lives. I think that it is so like chidlren to be so resilient and to move on with their daily lives despite the gaping hole of their father.

My only complaint was that it all perhaps tied together a little too nicely and a little too predictably. But it is a children's story so I don't think that I could expect anything else.


Summary

What kind of read is this?
Quick and easy, a children's story.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, particularly if you are a fan of the movie.

Do I recommend that you buy it?

Not unless you have children you think will really like it. Ebook or the library would be fine.
Star Rating

6 / 8

Really enjoybale and well written. I would recommend it.

26+ Followers Competition Winners Announced!


My followers has already reached 26+ within a few days!

Thank you to everyone who was a follower and who became one recently, I appreciate your support.

I used random.org to select 2 winners - one from within Australia and 1 from outside Australia.

And the winners are....

Alyce from At Home with Books

AND

Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader

I will contact each of you shortly to let you know that you have won the competition. I will feature each you of my blog to say thank you for being a follower and the Australian winner will also receive a book in the mail.

Thank you again to everyone and stay tuned - I will have another follower competition soon!


Teaser Tuesday: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


Tuesday Teaser is great meme hosted by Should Be Reading and is a great way to find out about new books.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
"The big house did prove a Palace Beautiful, though it took some time for all to get in, and Beth found it very hard to get past the liions. Old Mr Laurence was the biggest one, but after he had called, said something funny or kind to each one of the girls, and talked over old times with their mother, nobody gelt very much afraid of him, except Beth."

Great Authors: Richard Flanagan


Great Authors is a fortnightly feature I have started to discuss my favourite authors.

I was introduced to Richard Flanagan in a rather unusual way. A lovely woman at work lent me a book to read; The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. This is a seriously unusual book and one of my favourites of all time. What does this have to do with Richard Flanagan you ask?

Well, in The Raw Shark Texts, the characters make reference to 'Gould's Book of Fish'. I didn't realise until after I had finished The Raw Shark Texts that Gould's Book of Fish is in fact a real book written by Australian author Richard Flanagan. A friend of mine had read the book and recommended it to me. I loved The Raw Shark Texts and knew that Flanagan was an Australian (from Tasmania) and so I decided to give Gould's Book of Fish a read.

(I should perhaps say at this point that the two books are unrelated to each other. Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan is very different to the 'Gould's Book of Fish' referred to in The Raw Shark Texts).

Anyway, I found Gould's Book of Fish am amazing book. It was so well written, so real and so complex. It had a twist at the end like no other twist that I have ever read; one that leaves you questioning the reality of everything that you have just read. Is it real? I raved about this book for a long time and couldn't then help but read many of his others. I have read and own the following books by Flanagan:
He has other well known books, not least of which is Death of a River Guide, which I have not read yet but fully intend to whenever I get the chance.

Flanagan has won so many awards for his literature over the years and in my view (for what it's worth) deservedly. I can't put his books down. They are so vivid and well written, I think Flanagan has a very individual style of writing. The characters and the scenery draw you into the story to the point where you almost can't get yourself out again. The stories are often so bleak, particularly The Sound of One Hand Clapping, and yet there is always hope under the surface. Flanagan doesn't shy away from displaying the darker side of human existence.

If I were to be honest, I would have to say that The Unknown Terrorist would have to be an exception to my love of Flanagan's works (at least the one's that I have read). I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this one. It is very different to his other novels and I felt like it had solely been written to convey a political message.

Having said that, what I love about Flanagan as an author is his passion. I have seen Flanagan give talks on several occasions, I think I may have seen two or three times at the Sydney Writers Festival 2009, and I also saw him give reviews when I was a studio audience member at the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club studio filming. I think it was at the Writers Festival that someone mentioned the criticism he received for The Unknown Terrorist, and he accepted that he received criticism for it, but said that it was something that he had to write for himself. Despite my personal reaction to the book, I admire him for that.

He has also been very actively critical of the issue of territorial copyright, an issue that has been prominent in the Australian media of late. I really admire Flanagan's stance on the issue and I found his closing address, entitled "Losing Our Voice" at the Sydney Writers Festival 2009 very inspiring.

You can read his closing address here if you are interested.

I highly recommend this speech to all book lovers - whether you know much about the issue of territorial copyright or not, his passion for the written work is contagious.

So, that is Richard Flanagan, one of the best Australian authors there is, in my humble opinion, for what its worth. I hope that this introduces more people to Flanagan's books.

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.

Just finished

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
The Haunted House by Charles Dickens
Rumpelstiltskin by the Grim Brothers

Currently reading

Capricornia by Xavier Herbert
Yes, I know, I know - I am still reading this one. It is a larger sized book, and what with work and making time for my blog, I am finding it a struggle to finish this one. Please don't think it's because I'm not enjoying it, I am loving it.

Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott
I've seen various different movie versions, but it occurred to me that I can't recall reading it, so I am reading it now. So far I am really loving it. I want to be all the March sisters all at once.

Up next

Who knows at this stage! I am thinking of Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay or perhaps Remembering Babylon by David Malouf or perhaps The Secret River by Kate Grenville.

26+ Followers Competition


I am excited to see the number of people following my blog creeping up - I hope it doesn't sound too daggy but it makes me happy to see more and more people reading my blog.

To celebrate I have decided to have a competition of sorts - I am 26 years old and so when my followers hits 26, someone will be randomly chosen to be the winner.

  • If the winner is from within Australia I will send them a free second hand book (I only buy second hand books) as a thank you for following Page Turners.
  • If you are from outside Australia then I will have a special post all about you and your blog for others to read as a thank you for following Page Turners.
So everyone start following for the chance to be the winner of the 26+ competition!

THE AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE!


THE AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE!

Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.
~ Hazel Rochman

You may have noticed that in various posts I have talked about my goal of reading more Australian literature, both as a general rule and this year in particular. Then I thought, why should I have all the fun?

And so I am pleased to announce that I have decided to host my first ever challenge - The Aussie Author Challenge.

I hope that people choose to join in, I am very excited about it and I think that it would be great if others joined in with me in supporting Australian authors and literature. Here are the details of the challenge:


The goal:
To read books by Australian authors.

Time frame:
Whenever you chose to join the challenge until 31 December 2010.

The levels:
Ankle biter: 4 books
Grouse: 8 books
Bloody Oath!: 12 books

The rules:
The books must be by an Australian author;
The books must be fiction;
They can be classics or modern fiction;
Have fun!

If you decide to join it, just mention it on your blog with a post back to here so that others can see it and join in if they want to!

At the end of year I will make sure that everyone who participates gets a link back to their challenge outcome so that we can see how we all went and hopefully be introduced into some new books for the next year. I hope everyone enjoys the Aussie Authors Challenge!

Suggested reading

The Australian Book Review has just released its "Top Ten Favourite Australian Novels" list. Just click here to view the books.
Here is the Australian Book Review's website.
Here is the Australian Book Reviews blog.
For a list of some Australian Authors, please click here.

Books read:

An Iron Rose by Peter Temple
Boat, The by Nam Le
Book Thief, The by Markus Zusak
Capricornia by Xavier Herbert
Legacy, The by Kristin Tranter
Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville
Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Secret River, The by Kate Grenville
Spare Room, The by Helen Garner
Timeless Land, The by Eleanor Dark
Transit of Venus, The by Shirley Hazzard
COMPLETED 3 JULY 2010
Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood

Thank you to Alaine who bought to my attention another Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Book Lover Book Reviews.


My Aussie Author Challenge is the first ever challenge that I have started, so I am a little attached. So I have decided to complete my aussie author challenge as well as the one at Booklover book reviews. In this challenge I will be aiming for the Fair Dinkum level of 8 Australian books. 

I have finally purchased a Mr Linky account, so for anyone interested, you can leave a link both to your post about the Challenge (if you have one) as well as to any reviews you do for the challenge. Just write your name, and in brackets include the title/author of the book reviewed.

A Blast from the Past: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

A Blast From the Past is a weekly meme where I intend to review book that I read in the past that has had some form of impact upon me, whether it be good or bad.

The book that I have chosen this Sunday is The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I say I chose it loosely, a lovely reader of my blog contacted me and asked for my opinion of this book and as I had read it in the past I decided to post a review of it in this meme.

I read this book some time ago, I can't remember when, and I have to admit that when I read it I wasn't overly impressed. Thinking about it for this review, however, has changed my opinion of it somewhat.

The Great Gatsby is a short story, but a powerful one. The narrator is Nick, a young man who has moved to Long Island to live while he learns the bond business. He lives in West Egg, full of new money, and eventually forms a friendship with his strange neighbour, Jay Gatsby, at one of Gatsby's famously wild parties. He also spends time with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, who live in the even richer area of East Egg. They introduce him to Jordan Baker, a young famous girl with whom he forms a relationship. The summer becomes strange as Nick learns that Tom has a lover that he spends time with away from Daisy and that Gatsby is in fact in love with Daisy herself, having had a relationship of sorts with her in the past. Everything goes very wrong with Tom discovers the affair between his wife and Gatsby and the story ends in tragedy for everyone.

The story is about the materialism and consumerism that consumes the world following WWI. Fitzgerald was making a comment about the lifestyle of the time; he displays it as era lacks depth, morals and values. Materialism is displayed as a corrupting force; for example at one stage of their lives Gatsby and Daisy had genuine feelings for each other, but the love of money and material wealth prevents any real renewal of those feelings for each other, or rather, creates a real barrier to acting upon those feeling.

I found it inconsistent that whilst material possession and wealth were so important to all the characters, there was still this class system operating despite the existence of wealth. It wasn't just about having money, it was about how you got it. Daisy and Tom held a higher rank in this class system that Gatsby because they were born with money, whereas Gatsby had to work for his. Myrtle herself has no money really, and is therefore decidedly middle class, but she uses her affair with Tom to live like those of the upper class for a period of time. Most people are depicted as lacking in morals and simply concerned with their wealth or the appearance of having wealth.

To me Fitzgerald was clearly warning of the impending failure of materialism. I am not saying that he had predicted to the Great Depression or anything along those lines, but it is clear that all the characters in some way or another fail. For example, despite the empire of wealth that Gatsby has built up in the hopes of winning Daisy's love, he is ultimately unable to do so and fails in the most real of ways.

The characters in the book are very shallow, you only ever see what they display to each other and nothing deeper. I am sure that this is quite deliberate on Fitzgerald's part. I believe that it is another form of social comment on the superficiality of the materialism of the times. The result, however, is that I couldn't get a grasp of the characters themselves, couldn't see who they really were, only what they wanted others to see of them. I felt sometimes like I was watching this series of events unfold but was never quite sure who the protagonist was. Nick is obviously the narrator and Gatsby is 'The Great Gatsby' but who were these people really?

I think that this is where the book fell short for me. I don't mean that I think it was a bad book at all, as I said, I think that the characters were deliberately created to be superficial, and their inner selves elusive as a comment on the materialism of the times. But for me, I love reading books where I can really get to know the characters and I couldn't in this book.

Having said that, Fitzgerald is clearly talented and an amazing writer. It is incredible that in such a short book he was able to create such a detailed world; only a truly proficient writer could achieve this. It is sad to know that Fitzgerald was not appreciated in his time in the same way that he is now, but I suppose that is often the case for authors of this calibre. It wasn't until I really sat down to think about this books and its many themes, that I really appreciated just how complex a book it is.

For as much as I couldn't say that I honestly really enjoyed this book, I believe that it such a special story, so complex and rich, that no review of mine could ever do it justice.

I have also reviewed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald, you can read the review
here.

I would be really interested to know what other people think of The Great Gatsby, I am sure that it is a book where there would be many differing opinions about it and reactions to it.

Feel free to leave a comment or a link back to your own post about a blast from the past that you want to share with everyone.