It's time for... the Page Turners First Birthday Giveaway!!!!


Page Turners is having it's first birthday on the 22nd of June 2010!!

To celebrate, I am hosting my first ever giveaway.

How to enter

Easy, just leave me a comment with the following information:
  1. Your name, 
  2. Your blog's name (and a link), and 
  3. Your email address
and you will autmoatically be in the running.

You don't have to become a follower to enter the giveaway. I'm not a fan of those sort of giveaways. I promise that I just want to celebrate Page Turners first birthday, not blackmail you all to become followers with the chance of a free book :-) Having said that, all new followers welcome, lol.

There will be no extra entries for postings and twitterings and flutterings and all that business. Some of you (like me) may not have all those things and I don't think that you should lose out because of it. So everyone just gets one entry each and it's all fair!

(Please note: the prizes will be coming from The Book Depository, so the only qualification is that you must come from a country that The Book Depository deliver to for free. You can check here if your country is on that list)


How will the winners be chosen and announced?

 I will be using random.org to choose the winners, and the winner will be announced on the 22nd of June 2010.  I will have a Happy Birthday post where I announce the winners and then I will contact you. 

You will have 7 days to respond to my email, and then it goes to someone else. 


Most importantly, what will you win?

To celebrate my love of Australian literature, you will be able to choose one of three Australian books, which will be sent to you from The Book Depository. I have chosen three books that I have read and really loved so they come with my full recommendation. You can choose between a classic, a contemporary novel set in modern times, and a contemporary but historical novel.

These are your choices, you can click on their titles to see more details:


This is (arguably) the quintessential Australian classic. You would be hard pushed to find an Australian that hasn't heard of this book, and it is something special. I think it really captures the essence of white Australia in the era in which it is set, and the prose really evokes the feeling of the Australian bush. 


Description from The Book Depository: On St Valentine's day in 1900, a party of Australian schoolgirls set off with two schoolmistresses on a picnic to a place called Hanging Rock. Some were never to return. What began as a pleasant and happy day out ended in terror.




This is contemporary Australian novel set is modern times and is a novel that is both full of sadness and hope. 


Description from The Book Depository: Helen has little idea what lies ahead when she offers her spare room to an old friend of fifteen years. Nicola has arrived in the city for treatment for cancer. Sceptical of the medical establishment, placing all her faith in an alternative health centre, Nicola is determined to find her own way to deal with her illness, regardless of the advice that Helen can offer. In the weeks that follow, Nicola's battle against her cancer will turn not only her own life upside down but also those of everyone around her.




This is a contemporary novel about an important Australian historical figure, Ned Kelly. It is written by one of Australia's most famous and celebrated authors Peter Carey and is perhaps my favourite of these three novels. Unfortunately I read it before I started blogging and so cannot offer you my own review if it. I can however say that this is a magnificently woven story, which brings the landscape and culture of Australia alive. It is a fictional account of the doings of Ned Kelly, but it feels very real. 

Description from The Book Depository: In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey gives Ned Kelly a voice so wild, passionate and original that it is impossible not to believe that the famous bushranger himself is speaking from beyond the grave. True History of the Kelly Gang is the song of Australia, and it sings its protest in a voice at once crude and delicate, menacing and heart-wrenching. Carey gives us Ned Kelly as orphan, as Oedipus, as horse thief, farmer, bushranger, reformer, bank-robber, police-killer and, finally, as his country's beloved Robin Hood.


GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE!


The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark (an Australian classic)

I really wanted to love this book. It is an Australian classic and it is my Nanna's favourite book. In fact, she lent it to me to read. She has been re-reading it since she was a girl, so I am very pleased that she lent it to me to read.

What I do love about this book is the author, Eleanor Dark. She is the daughter of Dowell Phillip O'Reilly, a politician who moved the first motion in favour of women's suffrage in NSW. She and her husband were true 'left-wing' people (for middle/upper class white people) in the mid 20th century. They considered themselves very liberal which I love. Their son has turned their family home in the Blue Mountains into a writers centre which is amazing.


The Timeless Land is a piece of historical fiction that is totally before its time. It was written in 1941 and is about the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the subsequent 'settlement' of Australia and the exploration of the lands surrounding their landing site. The story alternates from the perspective of the Aboriginals and the English, and we get the perspective of many different individuals within each group. This works really well because it means that the reader is given quite an in depth look into the different experiences of those that were there during this difficult time.

What really made this book before its time, is that it considers the settlement of Australia from the Aboriginals perspective, and it isn't good. We see the Aboriginals land, culture and basic health systematically stripped away from them as the English slowly encroach upon their lands. Everything they believed in, everything they drew their strength from is slowly destroyed at the hands of the English and the damage is irretrievable.

The emphasis of the book is really about the cultural experiences and differences between each group, which are so wide that it increasingly becomes clear that they cannot be overcome. The differences are so fundamental that it goes deeper than either group not being able to communicate with the other. It goes right to the heart of their respective cultures and belief systems.

It was heart wrenching to see the English kidnap Bennilong (the main Aboriginal character) and 'civilise' him. He is taught to eat English food, dress like an Englishman and speak English. What Dark does so well with her depiction of this kidnap is to really explore the complexities of the relationship between the Aboriginals and the English. The outcome of Bennilong's 'civilisation' is just sad (I won't spoil the end), but Bennilong himself is thankful for his civilisation. He justifies the bad things in his mind with reference to what the white men do - "if they drink it, it must be good". Dark is really able to get her finger on the deeper issues.

I was also moved by the way in which Dark portrayed the women in her story. Violence was a part of the every day existence of both the Aboriginal and the white women, and Dark really explores this reality, again showing an understanding of the complexities that would have existed. Violence was almost a cultural experience for the Aboriginal women, it seemed as though it was considered part of their role as women of the tribe to be assaulted by the men, they met it stoically and never questioned it. Violence was just as common for the white women, except in a more sexual way that the Aboriginal women. They experienced formal violence as punishment for their misdeeds, and suffered at the hands of male officers and convicts. Having said, as much as the white women commonly experienced violence, it was not something they accepted as part of their culture in the way the Aboriginal women did. They had no support.

The prose was lyrical and evocative, particularly in the way in which the landscape was described, and the Aboriginals relationship with the land. Descriptions like these took my breath away:
"Silence ruled this land. Out of silence mystery comes, and magic, and the delicate awareness of unreasoning things. The black men learned from it, having no other teacher, neither hunger nor danger, and what they learned was different from the learning of mankind in other lands where famine threatened, and wild animals, fierce and powerful, thrust upon it a feverish development of its only weapon - thought."
and
"Here was unfailing nourishment. The quiet land was illimitable, unknown, a mystery beyond the tribal borders. The black men's awareness of it was like the awareness of a seed for the changing season, of a cicada for the breaking heat of day, of the shellfish, sensitive to the wash of sea-water over its rock pool. Magic was all about them, entering their lives, their bodies, bringing birth or death".

Now you may have noticed that I said that I wanted to love this story. The truth is that I didn't love it. The best parts were toward the beginning, where the story from the perspective of the Aboriginal inhabitants of our land before the white people arrived. But once the white people arrived, I just got a bit bored to be honest. My emotions weren't stirred as much as I would have liked them to be. In the end, it was that boredom and lack of interest that outweighed everything else.

I should add that this book is the first in a trilogy, but I don't think that I will be reading the rest of them.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A big read, one you need to put time into. Dense.


Do I recommend this book?
I really want to because it is my Nanna's favourite, but I can't really. I suppose I recommend it if you have a real interest in Australian history.


Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No. 

Star Rating

4.5 / 8

Alright, but there's no need to prioritise it. 


Book Details: Paperback, 620 pages, Imprint Classics, published by Collins/Angus & Robertson Publishers Australia, published in 1990

Weekly Wrap Up

PAGE TURNERS

My biggest news is that Page Turners now has it's own domain:

www.pageturnersbooks.org

 I really wanted to do this in the lead up to my blogoversary. There was some initial panic when all my comments disappeared, and some things still are not working properly yet, but I am assured they will start working soon. 

Other than that, I managed to do 4 book reviews this week, which I think might be a record for one week, I Hope you have time to have a look at some of them:
I also started participating in the Summer at Hogwarts read-along hosted at Loving Books, and here is my opening post.

If you are looking for a great laugh, that is book/librarian related, check out this post - it has a link to an absolutely hilarious video you all have to see!

I am proud to announce that I have become a regular contributor to a wonderful blog called Book Lovers Inc. I enjoy reading this blog, and so pleased to be able to contribute myself. I am only an intern at the moment, but even if the trial doesn't work out, I will be proud to have been able to contribute to Book Lovers Inc. Check out the blog, and have a look at my profile - The Lit Lover!

Lastly - have a look at my usual features: Lights Camera Blog Action (this week I featured a married couple from Our Year in Books) and Book Beginnings on Friday. If you haven't participated before, why not join in.

ABOUT THE HOP

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Crazy for Books. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all book bloggers and readers a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!


So, I created this weekly BOOK PARTY where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start PARTYING!!

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know! Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added! And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN.

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.

A Big Thank You: to Katy from A Few More Pages who has designed this wonderful button for the Book Beginnings Meme! As a thanks, make sure you check out her blog, I think she's done a great job! Make sure you update your image.

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.

                                                             *                   *                   *

I have been having a lot of trouble getting into a reading routine lately. I keep starting a book and putting it down again. This one I only started last night, and I hope that I will be able to keep reading this one.

The Boat by Nam Le

"My father arrived on a rainy morning."

By way of explanation, this is a collection of short stories, written by a man who's father came to Australia as a refugee from Vietnam. This first short story is about his father's experience of coming to Australia as a refugee. There are a whole range of stories and then the last story goes back for Le's experiences.

It is a book that is growing in popularity in Australia and I am hoping that I can find my reading groove and stick with it.

What about you? Share your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the Mr Linky below.

THEY'RE BACK!

Oh... my... god. They are back. My heart can start beating again.

There still seems to be problems with redirecting from pageturnersbooks.blogpost.com to pageturnersbooks.org but I hope that sorts itself out as well.

If you are a regular follower, you might want to go directly to the new site and then re-add it to your dashboard? Or you could just ignore me, I do tend to be a worrier :-) I'm sure it will fix itself!

EMERGENCY - CAN ANYONE HELP ME - I HAVE LOST ALL OF MY COMMENTS!

Hello - can anyone help me please?

I just changed to a custom domain. I am www.pageturnersbooks.org (rather than http://pageturnersbooks.blogspot.com), but I have lost all of my comments!!! Has this ever happened to anyone? Can I get them back?!

There seem to be other problems - you are supposed to have been directed to www.pageturnersbooks.org, but it doesn't seem to do that automatically, and my Followers App isn't working.

It's times like this i wish I knew something about computers.

Has anyone had this experience with blogger?!

Hopefully I wake up in the morning and it's all fixed itself.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling


Well, what can you say? We all know how wonderful Harry Potter is by now. It's not for everyone I accept, and I imagine that if you haven't read them by now then it probably isn't your thing. In any event, I don't think that I will give a recap of the plot here.

But I have to admit that I fell in love the first time I read this book, because I have read it over and over since.

I wish that I could recapture that special moment when I realised that I had found one of those books that will play an important role in my life, for the rest of my life.

This book (and the others in the series) are the books that I turn to when I need to read something familiar, something exciting, something adventurous and when I need cheering up.

I am almost always reading at least one of these books at any one time. I think what The Philosopher's Stone has over the later books is that it is the most succinct and concise. I love the rest of the books, but the editors were at their best with this first one. I imagine in my head that when they were editing this first book they didn't realise just how popular the series would become and so they were strict on cutting it down. As they realised just how popular the series was becoming they gave JK Rowling more rope and she wrote to her heart's content. I could completely wrong of course, that's just how it goes in my imagination.

This book out of all of them is also special for the way in which all the magic is introduced. It is truly a magical experience. I felt as if I was there with Harry, meeting Hagrid for the first time, watching that wall open onto Diagon Alley, seeing Hogwarts for the first time. It is such a special experience and one I can't help but love re-living over and over again.

It is also astounding to look back to the first novel, having read all of the others, and see those little details that later become crucial to the outcome of the story.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Quick and easy. It is a children's book.

Do I recommend this book?
With all my heart.


Do I recommend that you buy this book?
There are not many books out there that I could recommend that you buy more. This is a keeper.

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.

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 a husband and wife blogging team, Leah and Curator D from Our Year in Books. I discovered this blog recently when they had a meme that gave you the opportunity to take a picture of your personal library and share it with everyone. They have an amazing looking library. There reviews are interesting, and we seem to ave very similar taste in books. I hope you all take the time to check out Our Year in Books.

Tell us something about yourself.

We are a husband and wife team of book bloggers.  We have been married for almost 6 years and have known each other for 10 years.  He is a self-professed computer-nerd turned home builder.  She is a self-professed nerd (in general) turned homemaker.  We grew up across a lake from each other in Texas and found each other at the age of 20 in Southern California. 

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

L - I am not quite sure.  Early on I read The Babysitters Club and the Boxcar Children Series.  Then I have fond memories of Shadowlands.  Later on, in high school Hamlet and Mrs. Dalloway caught my attention.
D - That's a tough one. I enjoyed Pilgrim's Progress as a kid. After that I picked up a lot of Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Legend of Huma, Dragonlance series) and quite a bit of R.A. Salvatore (Drizz't)

Why do you love to read?

L - I love the look of books, the smell of books, the way they looked all lined up and ready to be explored.  So they bring me in and create mental movies in my head. 
D - I have an avid imagination and the fantasy books allow me to use it. The history and non-fiction books are just for the heck of knowing something. That's why I love Mental Floss! It's just a great big bunch of knowledge that will probably never come in handy.

How do you choose your books?

L - I read a lot of classics.  I also, being a bargain shopper, cannot pass a buy 2 get one free table without lingering and wanting at least 4 books.
D - Mostly if it just looks like it would be good. My wife found the last couple authors that I ended up really enjoying - Abercrombie and Cook.

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

L - Jeffrey Archer, John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy (I say that having only read one book of each of the latter authors, and everything by the former).  Favorite books: Mrs. Dalloway, Pillars of the Earth, Team of Rivals.
D - Previously: Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, and Tad Williams. Now: Robert Jordan, Glen Cook, and Joe Abercrombie w/ honorable mentions to Tad Williams (Otherland series is to die for), Modesitt Jr, and Stephen King. Sorry, I don't like limits.

When and why did you start your blog?

L - We also have other blogs, but we are doing this one together because we challenged ourselves to read a book a week this year.  We do not read the same books, not even close.  Every once in a while our paths cross in the world of books.  When they do, we do a conversation on the blog about it.
D - What Leah said, but I think it's just 52 books in a year. If I manage to read 30 in one week to get to 52 then we're still finishing the year with 52 books. =P
 
How did you choose your blog's name?

L - It is kind of obvious, but I will let D tell you.
D - I guess it's self explanatory. However, when Leah mentioned the 52 books in a year thing I thought that sounded like it worked.
 
What do you love about book blogging?

L - The community of book bloggers is nice.  I like being able to think about the book I just read and record the thoughts while they are still fresh.
D - It sorta feels a little self-absorbed to be blogging about the book reviews. I got done with one book thinking the guy talked about himself too much, but in the review of his book I must have used 500 I's to tell folks my opinion. Otherwise, I do enjoy writing regardless of interest.

What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?

L - Don't give spoilers.  I can't stand them!  I don't need a recap of the entire story line, just tell me what you think.
D- I'm with the spoilers thing as well, but it's hard to give your reasons of enjoyment without giving up some plot. And that you don't have to enjoy the book to write a review. I know I tend to be pretty friendly with my reviews, but I also have read a ton from these authors already. Maybe I'll find a bad book someday.

                                                                 *            *            *

I think that it is really nice that you both share such a big interest. My partner of 5 years doesn't read at all, but he does listen to me talk about books and blogging a lot, so I guess that makes up for it. I laughed when I read that blogging about book reviews feels a bit self-absorbed. I hadn't thought about this before, but it is true that blogging is a very self indulgent activity, but in a good way. On the spoiler issue, I read a really interesting discussion called The Brief Guide to Responsible Spoiling at a blog called The Reading Ape. If you have a very staunch position on spoiling I recommend you read this. It's pretty funny and very on point.

Thanks for participating. I hope that everyone takes the time to check out Our Year in Books.

If you want a very funny bookish laugh you must look at this!

I was surfing the blogosphere the other day and came across something so funny that I was laughing like a crazy person.

I even showed my wonderful, but very anti-books, boyfriend and even thought it was funny and clever.

You will especially enjoy it if you are a librarian or you know a librarian, but everyone who is a book lover can appreciate it.

What is it, I hear you asking?

It is a very funny clip of some librarians having some musical fun. I won't spoil it too much for you, make sure you check it out. Head over to Kittling Books right now!

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

I was inspired to read this book after reading Allie's review of it over at A Literary Odyssey and I was not disappointed.

What I loved about this book was that it the story is written from the perspective of an anonymous third person narrator, but that person tells the story from the perspective of a dog, Buck

The Call of the Wild is about Buck, a Saint Bernard, who is living a very comfortable life in the home of a Judge; enjoying being the big fish in a little pond. He is then abducted by a disgruntled and out-of-pocket staff member, who sells him to become a working dog during the Klondike Gold Rush (a part of Canadian history I know nothing about I have to admit).

We are with him as he journey's through the freezing landscape, experiences love and cruelty, and grows into a stronger dog, emotionally and physically. As the story unfolds we witness Buck slowly giving heed to his true nature, as a dog of the wild.

Although there are many characters in this story, both human and animal, Buck is the only character where we see any true character development. It is through this character development that London really humanises Buck. As a domesticated dog from a first class family, Buck is a highly moral creature. As a dog on the Klondike, we see him learn the law of club and fang; he re-learns everything he previously new and learns to live on instinct, valuing power and strength.

On a rather superficial level, what I really enjoyed about London's storytelling was that the description of the dogs behaviour was just so accurate. As I read about Buck and the other dogs that feature in this story, I was reminded forcibly of the things that my own dog, Tessa, does. You know when they give you a weird look, and then get up and move somewhere else, and you can't help but wonder what they were just thinking? The joy of reading this book was that you saw how Buck's thoughts and feelings motivated his actions in a way that I am sure is universal to all dogs, fictional or not.

There are many messages and themes to this story, but what really struck me the most was the concept of survival of the fittest. This theme was absolutely integral to the story, not just from the dogs perspective, but from the human characters perspective as well. Life and death struggles are used as a literary device throughout the story, underlying this theme. Buck learns this lesson early on, when he is the victim of his first vicious attack with the club and when he sees his friend Curly brutally killed. He takes this lesson to heart, eventually becoming the leader of the pack through his own fight to the death:
"He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson and his all his life after he never forgot it".
This is equally true for the human characters. We see the brutal reality of the search for gold on the Klondike. Survival is based on hard work and common sense. London particularly emphasis this by contrasting Bucks earlier and particularly his later owner (Thornhill), with Hal and Mercedes and their disastrous trip to the gold fields.

Most importantly of course is Buck's personal journey as he heeds the call of the wild. As the wild takes a greater hold of him, he recovers his ancestral memories and instincts. These memories were buried, and rise to the surface when Buck answers the call of the wild.
"And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down."
London uses the language of the narrative itself to really emphasise this metamorphosis. Although the book is written in the third person, as a more domesticated dog, we read a lot about Buck's experiences from his point of view. We know what he thinks of his owners from his perspective. We see his thoughts as he tries to figure out how to stay warm at night, and how to survive in the savage new company that he finds himself in, human and animal. But as he gets used to the life of a working dog, and is given the chance to spend time in the wild and give in to his true nature, the story is narrated from a greater distance and rather than getting true glimpses into Bucks thoughts and feelings, they are described to us by the narrator.

It is curious to wonder whether these natural instincts are in all dogs, waiting until the dog, like Buck, hears the call of the wild.
"Each day, mankind and the claim of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call from sounding, and as often as he heard the call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back on the fire and to plunge into the forest..."
Summary


What kind of read it is this?
It is a very easy read; sweet and adventuresome.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes I do.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Read it first, and if you think you'll re-read it, then buy it. It might be a good thing to have on the shelf if you have kids you would like to read it to.

Star Rating

5.5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity


Book Details: Read as an ebook using iphone application 'Classics to Go'.

Teaser Tuesday: By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

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!

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

The language in this book is just as incredible as I was lead to believe. The only problem with this book as a 'teaser provider' is that it is written as the ramblings of a dying man, which means that one sentence often goes on for more than page at a time. What I will do is share two excerpts with you rather than two sentences:

"That night I dined with Farewell. I could no longer bare the weight, or to be perhaps more precise, the alternatively pendular and circular oscillations of my conscience, and the phosphorescent mist, glowing dimly like a marsh at the vesperal hour, through which mu lucidity had to make its way, dragging the rest of me along."
 and for something a bit longer, but no less beautiful
..."Ta Guele (a falcon) appeared again like a lightening bolt, or the abstract idea of a lightening bolt, and stooped on the huge flocks of starlings coming out of the west like swarms of flies, and after a few minutes to flutterings of the starlings was bloodied , scattered and bloodied, and afternoon on the outskirts of Avignon took on a deep red hue, like the colour of sunsets seen from an aeroplane, or the colour of dawns, when the passenger is woken gently by the engines whistling in his ears and lifts up the little blind and sees the horizon marked with a red line, like the planet's femoral artery, or the planet's aorta, gradually swelling, and I saw that swelling blood vessel in the sky over Avignon, the blood-stained flight of the starlings, Ta Guele splashing colour like an abstract expressionist painter, ah, the peace, the harmony of nature...."

Incredible stuff isn't it. Excerpts like those above make me stop to re-read them, just to enjoy the evocative description. I hope that everyone will forgive me for saying this but but... this book is a work of art.

Its 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.

Just finished

The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard (Australian) (5 / 8)
Well, technically I didn't just finish it, but I did just finish the review so have a look if you are looking to read something a little bit different. I had a love/hate relationship with the book and the review includes a rant against underestimating young reader that came out of my experience of the discussion of this book at my book club.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (8 / 8)
This is the first full audiobook that I have ever listened to, and very soon I plan on having a post about my audiobook experience. It might be a little along that well worn lines of "Does listening to an audiobook count as reading?" I know that's a bit boring, but I might not be able to help myself. In the meantime, check out my 'non-book review' of it. It also has a link to a book related website that I think everyone will love. But you might not be able to turn the computer off once you get on it (that's my experience anyway), so be careful.

The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark (Australian)
I finally finished this monster of a book, which will be the last book for my Chunkster Challenge. It was very different to most things that I have ever read. I was enamored with the prose, and I can't wait for everyone to read my review of it.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
This is the second audiobook that I have ever listened to, and it was absolutely wonderful to listen to Stephen Fry narrate this magical story. The Harry Potter series will undoubtedly go down in history for some of the most amazing books ever written.


Currently Reading 

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano
I have wanted to read this for as long as I can remember. I no longer even remember how it was recommended to me. It has a dual attraction for me. First, it is supposed to be absolutely amazing writing. There seems to be some consensus out there that there is hardly any better, more talented, writing out there. Secondly, it is written by a Chilean activist, who was arrested during Pinochet's regime and only escaped by the lucky coincidence that his friends from school worked at gaol wardens and they smuggled him out. His books are all about literature and language and poetry, but they all also 'take the piss' (to use an Australian turn of phrase) out of Pinochet's dictatorship. My family in law are from Chile originally, and their family suffered significantly during Pinochet's dictatorship, so it something that is somewhat close to my heart.

So far, I am a third of the way through of this book, which is very small. It is very challenging though, I find myself re-reading the story, sometimes because I have to just to ensure that I am following the narrator's thoughts, and sometimes just for joy of re-reading some of the wonderful language. Mel U from The Reading Life recently reviewed some of his short stories, and I recommend you jump over to her blog and have a read.If you click on the name of her blog it will take you straight to the post.

Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott
Still reading this ebook, but because of the surgery on my eyes, I haven't been reading it lately. The font is too small. It is still an extremely quirky book.

Up Next

Who knows - that's the joy of reading!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (a non-book review)


I want to start this 'review' by saying a couple of things. First of all, this is without a doubt one of my all time favourite books. Second of all, I think that as far as reviewing it goes, there is absolutely nothing of value that I can contribute, so I am not going to write a book review of it.

"Then what am I reading?", I hear you asking. Well, within a couple of days I listened to Pride and Prejudice on audiobook and saw it reviewed on my favourite book club television show, the ABC First Tuesday of the Month Book Club. If you like to listen to people talk about books, then I highly recommend that you click on that click, there are hours of entertainment to be had.

Anyway, what I wanted to do was have a quick chat about how listening to the audiobook was different to reading the book, and to have a quick chat about some of the comments made on the book club show.

Pride and Prejudice on Audiobook

Now, I have read Pride and Prejudice many many times, so I didn't think that anything about that book could come as a surprise to me. Listening to it as an audiobook though did bring something new to me - just how funny this book is.

Now I know, it's funny. But when I read this book, I am usually more focused on Austen's beautiful language or the characterisation than the comedy.

As an audiobook though the story became so much funnier. Almost every line in the book is a one-liner. Hilarious stuff. And it is Austen's language that makes it so funny. These days comedy tends to be a little 'slap-stick' or 'obvious'. Austen's humour is so dry and sarcastic. I laughed the whole way through the audio book.

Austen's language

Lionel Shriver was on the panel of the ABC First Tuesday Book Club, along with Colm Toibin who actually chose the book for the Book Club. I was surprised that what she didn't like about the book was the language. She said that she felt like she was waiting for Austen to get to the point, and that she felt at a distance from the characters. I thought it was interesting to hear her perspective because it is the language and the detail and the lengthy discussion and consideration of everything that attracts me to the story. Similarly, I feel very close to the characters when I am reading the story. I think that part of the point of Austen's stories is the detailed consideration of people's motivations and feelings.

I also wanted to add that I loved listening to Colm Toibin discuss the book. It was so endearing.

Not much of a review I know, but sometimes some books just result in something a little bit different!

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It's a book with beautiful language and beautiful characters, a wonderful read.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, with all my heart.

Do I recommend you buy this book?
This is definitely one for the book shelf.


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 Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard (and a comment on prose vs story)



I had mixed feelings about reviewing this book, and in fact I probably wouldn't have reviewed it at all if it hadn't been for the fact that I read it for a book club and the book club discussion inspired me to review it. The Transit of Venus is by Australian author Shirley Hazzard, and having heard a lot about her book that was nominated for the Lost Booker prize I was looking forward to reading it, even if it didn't live up to my expectations in some respects.

This is a difficult book to review because of my mixed feelings - there was something about it that I loved, and something about it that I hated. I'm torn in half as they say.

I loved the writing. This is true literary fiction. I might even go so far as to say that I have never read such talented writing before in my life. In this sense, I would argue that this isn't a book for book lovers, it is a book for people who truly appreciate the value and power of language. Without meaning to sound like a book snob (which I admit that I can inadvertently be one at times), if you are someone who just reads the paranormal/chick lit/romance thing, then I doubt this will be for you. This book is for people who love literary fiction at its best, and for people that value language over story.I think I am somewhere in between.

I was amazed by the language, constantly. I was thoroughly challenged by it too, which was a great change. I kept having to re-read paragraphs to make sure that I understood what Hazzard was saying. It is the kind of writing where sentences are left half complete, and the reader is left to conclude what we like. Hazzard uses the language to construct the story with such detail, that it is sometimes hard to understand the actual story. I totally missed the ending, and didn't discover what had happened until I went to the book club. In fact, most people at the book club hadn't realised what had happened at the end. The language is so beautifully complex that you really have to read and think to understand the story. It was truly beautiful.

The downfall was that the story was boring. Or at least I thought so. I was just so uninterested in these people's lives. I think the language in a way contributed to this, or at least aggravated it. Don't get me wrong. I loved and appreciated the language for what it was. But it just meant that there was this additional barrier to getting to the story that I wasn't particularly interested in anyway. I was so focused on the words, that the story became lost to me.

I am absolutely not saying that I disliked the language. Objectively I appreciated it for what it is, some of the most beautiful prose I am ever likely to read. But the challenge that the language posed limited my enjoyment of the story and made it harder to engage with the book. I am probably starting to repeat myself, but I want to make it clear what I mean when I say that I loved and hated this book.

The book club discussion was simultaneously interesting and frustrating. What was interesting was that a discussion of the book ultimately became a discussion about literature, language and the appreciation of good prose. We discussed how unusual it is in contemporary literature to read anything like the quality of writing that Hazzard has produced in this book, and how there is limited good literary fiction available in modern times (although I have to say that Atwood is an exception to this in my mind). I agreed with everyone that books these days are more likely to spoon feed you the story, and the reader doesn't need to do any of the work, which is half the point of reading (in my mind anyway).

Warning: Here comes the rant.

What I found frustrating was that the discussion became a rather ageist discussion about the failings of the education system and the failing of younger people to understand and appreciate good literature like Hazzard's. I should day that my book club is mainly made up of white women in their late 50's to 60's. Then there me and my friend, both in our mid-20's. A lot of this discussion arose from my comment that although I loved the language, I found it a barrier to the story. Most of the women seemed to think that this was simply because young people didn't get the the 'proper' education that they did, and therefore can't understand or appreciate quality prose. By 'proper' education, they seemed to mean that we weren't taught Latin or grammar.

This is true, I can't deny it (I wasn't taught Latin or grammar at school), but I very strongly disagree with their assertions. I did understand and appreciate the language, as would many other people of my age. What they didn't take into account was that everyone has different taste, and priorities in their reading. I love language, but I also love story, and I need a good story to keep me interested, and The Transit of Venus didn't give that to me.

That isn't to say that someone who reads as frequently as I do, but is in their 60's and has therefore been reading a lot longer than I have, might find the language easier to understand; they have had more reading practice than me. But I absolutely will not accept that younger generations are poorer readers because of their education. I did not like to see younger readers underestimated. You must allow for different reading tastes and abilities within all generations, as well as between them.

In summary, as much as I loved the language and am convinced that I may have read the best prose that I will ever read in my life, this book didn't rate too highly with me simply because I couldn't engage with the story. I did love though, that a discussion of this book became a discussion of the love of literature. There aren't many books out there that could do that.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Extremely challenging. One of the most challenging reads I have ever had. Although it is thin, expect it to take a long time to get through. Beautiful language though.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, if you truly love language and literary fiction.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No. Borrowing it at the library is absolutely fine. It is not a book I would like to re-read. Having said that, there were some people at the book club who said that as soon as they finished it, they started it again.

Star Rating 

5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there is no need to prioritise it (unless you absolutely love language and a challenge!).