Anyone know of any good literary courses?


I would love to do some study of literature.

I haven't done anything like that since I was in High School. It would be nice just to be able to do a course that gives you an opportunity of doing some study of literature, or writing, or literary appreciation or something like that.

I am in Sydney, Australia but I am not aware of anything that is out there. Does anyone else know of any good courses along these lines in Australia?

Summer at Hogwarts


I haven't had a chance to let everyone know that I will be participating in Loving Book's Summer at Hogwarts - a Harry Potter Read-a-Long.

It started June 1 2010. I knew that I might be having trouble reading because of my eye surgery, so I pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on audio book which I have been listening to, and experiencing it's healing powers.

If anyone else is interested in participating, then head on over the Loving Books and check it out.

Her opening question to everyone was: Who is your favourite character? This is soo hard, because they are all so wonderful. Mine probably varies according to my mood. I definitely rate Hermione very highly. She is so similar to me - so studious and scared of getting into trouble. But she has this amazing strength of character that means she can stand up for what's right, and support her friends through thick and thin. I think that she also changes to most out of her, Harry and Ron throughout the series. You really get to see her grow into adulthood. Having said that, I absolutely love Hagrid too. I love his honestly and his loyalty. I think he is the most loyal out of all the characters in the book. But then, how can you go past Dumbledore?!

Her second question was this: Where would The Sorting Hat place you? Well, if I were to be honest - I suspect it might put me in Ravenclaw. I am not brave or courageous enough to be in Gryffindor, and I think I might be just clever enough to scrape myself out of Hufflepuff (although this would be a close second). The only thing that makes me doubt tat I would be in Ravenclaw are the questions that the Ravenclaw painting asks in the final book of Professor McGonagall and of Luna Lovegood to get into the common room - I am not sure that I could answer those questions :-)

That's a Wrap - May 2010

That's a Wrap - May 2010

I thought that I would send the blog hoppers to my monthly "That's a Wrap" post - just to kill two birds with one stone. If you are interested in joining in the Book Blogger Hop, check out Crazy for Books.

I have been struggling this week because of the surgery on my eyes, so I apologise for the lack of comments on other people's blogs. 

One big change here at Page Turners during May and that is the new design of Page Turners. It is the fourth time that I have made major changes to my design, and this time I think that I have really hit the spot. I love it. I am not responsible for the changes, so if you are interested in learning more about the design changes then click here. 

I of course had my usual memes; Lights Camera Blog Action (each Thursday) and Book Beginnings on Friday. If you haven't participated in this meme before, join in by clicking on this link.

May is one of my favourite months of the year because it is the Sydney Writers Festival! Make sure you click on the link and read all about my wonderful weekend at the Festival.

I reviewed 8 books this month, and a lot of them got very high ratings, it was a good reading month:
Not as many Australian books as I would have liked, but I will try and make up for that in June. One Australian book that I had delayed writing a review of is The Book Thief, but the review is finally complete! I am quite surprised at the number of books that got a 7 / 8 or above, and 2 books got 8 / 8 - that is almost unheard of. 

If you are interested in learning more about me, I had a range of fun posts with the aim of sharing little tid bits about me and my reading habits. Some of them are Q & A's that you can participate in too:
I also had a post about my confusion in relation to all the different types of genre's that are out there, and how exactly we determine what genre a book actually is? This post generated a lot of conversation and suggestions, so if it something that confuses/interests you too, make sure you take the time to see what other people have to say about this.

I ran a couple of polls about sidebars and book purchasing habits which had interesting results.

Lastly, it is coming up to my 1 year blogoversary and I had a quick post about what I am considering doing to celebrate. I am hoping to get 200 followers by then - which means I needs just over 20 followers to join up y 22 June. So if you are not a follower yet, and you like the look of Page Turners, feel free to join in the fun and become a follower! You might win something in my blogoversary giveaways!

And that is Page Turners in May. I know there might be a little bit too much for you to have a look everything, but I would recommend checking out some of my reviews this month, I really read some wonderful books and hope that June is better again!

I would love to see how you went this May. If you have a monthly wrap up post, please leave a link to it in the comments. My eyes are quite painful at the moment, so I can't promise I will read them all immediately, but I will have a look at them as soon as I can!

Book Beginnings on Friday


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

Thank you to Rose City Reader for giving me the idea for this meme. On Rose City Reader you will find 'Opening Sentences of the Day' so please have a look at this wonderful blog for further opportunities to share opening sentences.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

Brilliant stuff. Someone said it in the comments of my previous post and it is very true - Harry Potter can cure all ills! This is funny, sets the scene and the voice of these two characters, it is everything wonderful.

What about you? Place a link to your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the the Mr Linky below.

Update: I am out of hospital - thanks for the lovely comments

Hi everyone, thanks for all the wonderful messages and comments I got from everyone after I let you all know that I was going into hospital for surgery on Monday.

I am now out of hospital and recovering at home. Unfortunately the surgery didn't go very well at all. There were lots of complications and eventually the surgeon decided not the complete the planned operation because it became too risky. I ended up staying in hospital for longer than expected because of the horrible pain.

The good news is that I am now at home recuperating. They are planning on getting one of the top surgeons in the state involved to give some advice on whether there is anything else that can be done for me, so I am hopeful that something might come of that.

The bad news is that the surgery was on my eyes, which means that reading and using the computer is very difficult for me. I won't be able to stay on long after this post I don't think. Although I can't read very well, I have been listening to audio books. I listened the Pride and Prejudice and I am half way through Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, read by Stephen Fry, who is absolutely hilarious as you might expect.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all an update and say thanks for all the wonderful comments that everyone left me. I will be totally recovered in 3 weeks, but in the meantime I will try and keep up tp date with everything and everyone.

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!

If anyone would like to participate email me at pageturnersbooks@gmail.com.

Today I am featuring Amanda from Dead White Guys Lit. It a blog that I have discovered recently and am really coming to love. It's about classics, which I love reading, and Amanda has a very dry sense of humour that I can't get enough of. I hope you all take the time to check out this blog.


1. Tell us something about yourself: 
 
Oky dokey. I'm a 25 year old freelance writer living in Richmond, Virginia. I sort of tricked myself into being a writer- I called my boss a variety of names until she fired me and then was all "whoops, guess I'll have to write now sob horray!". I am married to a great guy who is as obsessed with music as I am books, so he understands me. Most of the time.

2. What was your favorite book as a child or young adult, and why? 
 
As I child, I read every Babysitter's Club book I could get my grubby little hands on. I wanted to be Claudia. The neon scrunchies! The suspenders! JOY! As a young adult, my favorite book was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I had never read anything so philosophical and emotional. Granted, I think she's nuts and can't really write in retrospect, but I have a soft spot for her. 

3. Why do you love to read? 
 
Because it teaches us to think. Whether you agree with the theme of a book or not, it is (hopefully) a new idea, or a new method of thinking that you didn't have. Every book is an education, if it's any good. I believe it is our responsibility to be well read because a person with no concept of the ideas out there is susceptible to any idea anyone wants to shove down their throats. I don't believe in books as escapism- I believe in books as a method of discovering truths.

4. How do you choose your books?  
 
By BOOK SPINE! My brain is programmed to recognize the fonts and icons certain publishers use on their spines. When I'm skimming racks at a bookstore or thrift shop, I instantly recognize a Penguin Classic, Bantam Classic or a Modern Library edition. Then I read from my gi-normous pile of unread books.

5. If you had to narrow it down  - who would be your 3 favourite authors and what would be your 3 favourite books? 
 
Three favorite authors: Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy. My top three books would be: Bleak House, War and Peace, and The Great Gatsby. I love Bronte's work as a whole better than Fitzgerald's, but Gatsby is just perfection.

6. When and why did you start your blog? 
 
I started blogging around February-ish because I found a niche and wanted to fill it. There aren't a lot of classic lit blogs out there, and none of them are funny. They're all very SERIOUS because the classics are SERIOUS and we have to take them SERIOUSLY. Pshaw, I say.

7. How did you choose your blog's name? 
 
I picked Dead White Guys because that was my generic answer when people asked me what kind of books I like to read. I also wanted a title that would reflect the silliness to come.

8. What do you love about book blogging?  
 
I love being able to say what everyone is already thinking about these books. I love being able to say, yeah, people are smart, they get Dickens. But gah why can't he shorten his sentences? I love the community. I can talk to people about what I'm reading without blank stares- or blank stares I can see, anyway.

9. What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers? 
 
Be original. Don't start just another YA/paranormal/chick lit blog. Think about what you're reading. Read with intention. Blog with intention. Be thoughtful- which doesn't mean you have to be boring. Don't be afraid to say the opposite of what everyone else is saying.
 
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I totally wanted to be Claudia from the Babysitters Club as well. She was sooo cool! I don't think that I'm with you on the books not being a form of escapism though. I do agree that reading teaches you to think, and that it is a way of discovering truths. But that doesn't prevent reading from being escapism as well. I think it's possible to be having a thinking lesson, and enjoying a break from the 'real world' at the same time. I will take your tip though an try to be too boring :-) Although I doubt I will ever be as funny as you!

Thanks for participating. I hope everyone takes the time to check out Dead White Guys, it's hilarious.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif


A Case of Exploding Mangoes is Mohammed Hanif's debut novel, set in Pakistan. It is a political comedy; exploring the mystery surrounding the assassination of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan. THis book came to my attention at the Sydney Writers Festival 2009, when I watched Mohammed Hanid do a reading from the book. It appealed to me very much. Hanif had a wonderful reading voice, and I didn't want him to stop. I finally managed to read the book 1 week before the Sydney Writers Festival 2010.

Assassination fiction is not a genre that I am overly familiarly with, but I can say without reservation this is the funniest and cleverest book that I have opened in a very long time.

We know that General Zia is killed wen his C130-Hercules plane, Pak One, explodes and crashes in August 1988, after General Zia has been watching a military display. A Case of Exploding Mangoes takes a unique look at what, or who, may have been responsible. But it is that not a typical exploration of this question. The publisher's description of the book reads:
"There is an ancient saying that when lovers fall out, a plane goes down. This is the story of one such plane. Why did a Hercules C130, the world's sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul-Haq, go down on 17 August 1988? Was it because of:
  1. Mechanical failure
  2. Human error
  3. The CIA's impatience
  4. A blind woman's curse
  5. Generals not happy with their pension plans 
  6. The mango season
Or could it be the narrator Ali Shigri?"
The plot is ingenious and complex, and the main character Ali Shigri has a very clear, unique and sardonic voice. The story is told through a series of vignette's; mostly comprised of the events from Shigri's perspective, but also third-person accounts of events from the perspective of various other characters, like General Zia himself.


I can't really go into the plot too much for fear of spoiling the fun if you decide to read this book, which I recommend that you do. I will say that the characterisation is extremely rich, every person comes alive before the readers eyes. There is a whole range of fun characters including Lieutenant Bannon, an American who is part of the Pakistan Army, Obaid or Baby O, Shirgri's best and closest friend and Uncle Starchy, the Army Academy's laundryman (who comes to play a significant role).

The story largely plays out in a Pakistani Airforce Academy, and begins when Shigri is being blamed for Obaid's disappearance in an Airforce plane. It is evtually revealed that Shigri has developed an assassination plot, because he believes that General Zia is responsible for the death of his father. At the very beginning we are suspicious of Shigri's true involvement in General Zia's downfall, particularly after he proudly states: "The only witness to that televised walk, the only one to have walked that walk, would be completely ignored. Because if you missed that clip, you probably missed me. Like history itself, I was the one who got away." This quote gives you a good insight into the tone of the book, and Shigri's feelings toward the role he played in the death of Zia.

Ultimately, it is not important who killed General Zia. This book is a political satire, it satirises the military using caricature and very clever one-liners, like "You can blame our men in uniform for anything, but you can never blame them or being imaginative" and "By the time it comes down to the questions about whether I would rescue my best friend's kitten drowning in a river or tell myself that cats can swim, I have begun to enjoy the test, and my pencil ticks the squares with the flourish of someone celebrating their own sanity."

Amoungst all the fun though, Hanif makes some important statements about the role of military in controling the State, the role of religion in government and the way in which governments can manipulate the population for their own benefit.

If you are looking for something fun, unique and thoughtful, the A Case of Exploding Mangoes is for you.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is not a challenging book in terms of its length and the writing, but it is an absolutely unique and hilarious book. It is a political satire and it is historical fiction, but with some important modern messages.

Do I recommend this book?
Absolutely. There are not many books that I could recommend more highly.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, this is one that I am proud to have on my shelf, and one that I know will stand up to lots of re-reading.

Star Rating

7 / 8

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



Book Details: Paperback, 295 pages, published by Vintage Books, published in 2008, English

Teaser Tuesday: Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott


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!

Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott

I am still reading The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark, so this week I thought that I would give you a teaser from the ebook that I am currently reading. It is a science fiction novella from the late 19th Century, and it is one of the strangest books I have ever read.
"The greatest length or breadth of a full grown inhabitant of Flatland may be estimated at about eleven of your inches. Twelve inches may be regarded as a maximum. Our Women are Straight Lines. Our Soldiers and Lowest Class of Workmen are Triangles with two equal sides, each about eleven inches long, and a base or third side so short (often not exceeding half an inch) that they form at their vertices a very sharp and formidable angle".
Yes, you did read that right. This book is about a flat land, where the inhabitants are all various different shapes depending on their gender and social status and they see each other as flat lines, despite the fact that from above they appear as easily (mostly) defined shapes. Worth reading if you want something completely different.  

I'm off to hospital


I'm off to hospital now for my long awaited surgery. I am very much looking forward to it, and starting to get a bit nervous that I will get there and they will say, "Sorry, we can't operate today". I'm sure that won't happen though and everything will go to plan.

I'm not sure what condition I will be in after the surgery. I have three weeks off work, and I am sure I will be fine by the end of that time.

Just in case I have scheduled my Teaser Tuesday, a book review on Wednesday (A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif), and Light's Camera Blog Action for Thursday. I hope to be back on board by Friday for Book Beginnings on Friday and the Blogger Hop, but we will see. I hope people still find their way to Page Turners even if I am not around commenting as much as I normally might be.

Ok, that's enough from me. Talk to you all later.

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday, what are you reading? is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for us to share with other book bloggers what we have just finished reading, what we are currently reading and what we are reading next.

Something very very exciting - I have FINALLY finished by review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It took me a long time to getting around to writing this review, simply because the book was so amazing I wasn't convinced that I was skilled enough to write a review of it. But I am very happy with the review and I hope that you all have a read of it.. and the book!

Just Finished

The Call of the Wild by Jack London
I decided to read this one on ebook after I read a review of it on A Literary Odyssey and I wasn't disappointed. It was a very sweet story that had be trying to read it from beginning to end.

Currently Reading

The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark
I am still reading the same book that I was reading last week. In fact, I have only got through half of it. This is one of those true Chunksters that you really have to put time into reading, but it is totally worth it.

Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott
You have probably seem me talk about this a few times now, but it really is one those very unique stories that I can't stop marvelling at as I read it.

Up Next

I am actually going into hospital this afternoon for some surgery and I am not sure in what condition I will be in afterwards. I have ordered an audio book from the library which I can collect on Wednesday, and it might be that I will have to focus on listening to that for a little while? I will just be playing it by ear.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


This absolutely unique piece of historical fiction moved me more than any book has done for a very long time, perhaps even since I read The Time Travellers Wife. This is a book for book lovers. The Book Thief is written by an Australian author, and it is is debut adult novel, after a career of writing children's fiction.

The protagonist of the novel is Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. It begins with the death of her brother, and her mother then leaving her in the care of the Huberman's, who become her new family. There is Mama, a fierce disciplinarian, and Papa a caring and warm man who dedicates hours to teaching Liesel to read. With the help of her Papa, she begins to read The Gravediggers Handbook, a book she finds following the burial of her brother.

What is particularly unique about this story of Nazi Germany, is that it is narrated by Death. Death doesn't introduce himself in those terms, but it becomes clear who is telling us the story of The Book Thief.

The style is expressive in a lyrical way, and is still very modern. Not only do we see the story unfold from Liesel's perspective, but we also have asides from Death, sometimes written as if they were on a gravestone. In effect, it is Death re-telling the story of Liesel, The Book Thief, and so we are provided many glimpses of the future of the story. This in no way deters the reader from reading on, it is one of those books where it is the journey to the conclusion that is the real joy of the book.  Death himself acknowledges:
"Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machination that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest and astound me".
Zusak skilfully creates Liesel's experience through Death's storytelling with the use of imagery. This is because Death gives a very sensory account of the world, describing events, places and people with phrases such as"the smell of friendship", "scent of Hitler's gaze" and "For me, the sky was the colour of Jews". We are left with strong and clear images burned into our minds as we watch Liesel's story unfold.

As we give in to the sensory reality of Death's narrative, we see Liesel experience the normal angst of childhood; struggling through school, going on adventures with her best friend Rudy Steiner and helping her Mama raise funds by collecting laundry from neighbours. It is in this last role that she is truly able to give in to her love of books, and she eventually begins stealing them from the mayors house, after she makes friends with the mayor's wife. It is this act, and the further acts of book thievery that lead Death to give her the name of  'The Book Thief''.

There is a darker side to her life though. She lives in a town a short distance from Dachau, and witnesses Jews being marched through her city. We witness her and Rudy's involvement in the Hitler Youth Movement, and cringe at the insidious way in which Nazism infects their daily lives. Nazism has a more significant impact upon her life when her family begins to shelter a Jew, Max Vandenberg.

This book is undoubtedly about the experience of human misery in WWII, and Zusak does a brilliant job of describing the realities and intricacies of the lives of German people during Hitler's reign. We see acts of cruelty and acts of kindness and love.

And yet, The Book Thief is also about the power of language. It is books that allow Liesel to recover after her brothers death and her mothers abandonment. Books and language bring her closer to her Papa and become integral to her relationship with Max Vandenberg and to a lesser degree the Mayor's wife. It is though books and storytelling that she brings comfort to those that she shares the bomb shelters with, and it is books that play an important role in those transgressions against the Nazi state that she and others are willing to commit. Significantly, it is because of books that Death is able to tell us Liesel's story at all.

This is a book that had tears rolling down my face on three different occasions. It is a powerful but sad story about human suffering and the importance of language in the modern world. If you are a book lover, and a lover of language, then I not only recommend this book to you, I ask you to read it.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is an easy read, but it is emotionally challenging. It is very different to anything I have read before, largely in terms of the style in which it is written.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, I couldn't recommend another book more strongly. You absolutely must read this.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Again, yes, absolutely, without hesitation. My book collection is all the more stronger for having this book.

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.




Book Details: Paperback, 584 pages, published by Pan MacMillan Australia, published in 2008, English