TBYL Book Club

Operation Pre-emptive Strike

I’ve got another little hospital trip scheduled for tomorrow morning, and perhaps not surprisingly, the only things that I’ve packed so far are my books. I’ve chosen two to take with me; If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead and Turquoise both of which should entertain me nicely for the couple of days that I’ll be expected to bunker down at the hospital.

When I get home though, my full reading pile will be moved from my office to the lounge room and set up next to the couch where I’ll have built a little nest, and where I’ll stay cozy, resting and reading for a couple of weeks.

Thank goodness for books…

Some of you might know my breast cancer backstory, and this latest  health interruption is another ‘pre-emptive strike’, a precaution only. It’s recently come to light that ovarian cancer is a bit of issue in the family, and as such, well lets just say I’m taking measures. Better to be safe than sorry.

Anyway, I don’t want to over-share, but I did want to give you all the heads up that you’ll either be hearing a little less from me for a couple of weeks, or lots more. Which way it goes will depend on how spritely I’m feeling. Rest assured, at the very least I’ll be loitering around the edges of the internet until I’m back up and running, and of course I’ll catch you all next Monday, over at the TBYL Book Club. Our conversations about The Help kick off next week, and I can’t wait to hear from a whole bunch of new bookish friends.

Here’s to being back on deck as quick as a shot!

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The Help: Readable, with chills

I have a bad habit.

I have a habit of avoiding reading a book if it’s ‘too popular’, if it’s being read by everyone else. It does me no favours, I’ve missed out on many interesting novels as a result, but I am gradually learning my lesson.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was one such book. I put off picking up this novel, despite being told it was a really fascinating, moving story. Likewise, I’ve not seen the film, although it’s on my to-do-list now. I can’t help thinking it’d have been a real shame if I’d missed this incredibly readable novel.

This month’s TBYL Book Club book, I am so looking forward to hearing what you think about this thought-provoking story:

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

The first thing to say about this novel is that it is entertaining. I was completely immersed in the time and place. The recreation of 1960s America was fascinating, complete with authentic referencing of events, personalities, fashion and music. And of course its prejudices. I was intrigued, and horrified by the picture painted of Jackson, Mississippi, and most particularly of the women who inhabited its houses – their habits, their polite society, and of course their matter-of-fact, day-to-day racism. Their attitudes and bizarre logics were disturbing, but from those who made the hard choice to buck the trend, inspiration could be drawn.

Hilly has few redeeming features, and it’s through her and her influence that we experience the most overt prejudice.

Skeeter is the quiet, brave voice of reason, who firstly with a whisper and then with a shout, calls out these women on their horrible behaviour. Still, although Skeeter is the voice, it’s Aibileen who provides the words. It’s only through her quiet defiance and refreshing honesty that a small step-change is made possible in the cloistered, old-fashioned town.

I was impressed with how Stockett was able to make it quite clear that Jackson, Mississippi was not indicative of the whole of the US in this time, but she nonetheless highlighted beautifully the path that America has travelled, and is still traveling in its move away from a culture of slavery, prejudice and contridictions.

It’s a clever novel, and as I’ve said, incredibly readable. It has its dark moments, its humour and its moments of inspiration. It’s well worth a read, and will no doubt prompt many moments of quite reflection. It’s a great book to share with fellow readers.

I hope you’ll join us while we read this book during May for the TBYL Book Club. You can join the club here!

Buy your own copy of The Help at the TBYL Store!

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Taking stock of my reading pile

Of late, I have been very, very lucky, to have been given the chance to read a whole bunch of new novels, some of them even a bit earlier than the general public (I love a pre-release). It’s a bit of dream come true for me, I’ll admit, and I often find myself looking wistfully at my varied and growing reading pile.

I thought you might be interested in a little sneak peak at what I’m reading at the moment…

***

Firstly, there’s Makeda, by Prue Sobers. This is technically on my ‘have read’ pile now as I’ve actually just finished this luscious novel and its story of the beautiful and spirited Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. I was also lucky enough to have a chance to chat to Prue herself, to find out a little more about this meticulously constructed adventure. I’m looking forward to posting my review and author-interview this coming week. You can pick up your own copy of Makeda here…

Next, is my re-read of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. I stayed up far too late the other night reading this moving, humorous, and nostalgic novel.

As you know, from my review last week, it’s one my absolute favourites, and this read-through has been nothing less the fantastic.

We’re about to start our chat about this book over at the TBYL Book Club, this coming Monday.

The book I’ve been reading this weekend is a saucy little book called Putting Alice Back Together, by Carol Marinelli. It’s just been released this month by Mira and it’s quite compelling. Alice is a challenging character, not always likeable, but always identifiable.  This is a story of coping, of romance, and about what it is to ask the Universe to just cut you a break. I’m really enjoying it, and am looking forward to chatting with Carol next week. If this book sounds like your cup of tea, you might like to enter this great competition being run now by Harlequin.

Next on the list is Jodi Picoult’s newest novel, Lone Wolf (Allen and Unwin). Believe it or not, this will be my first Picoult read, and I’m looking forward to it. This novel sounds intriguing, and pretty dark: “Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: his dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.” From what I know of Picoult, this novel sounds like it will be to her usual form, and I can’t wait to take a look.

A book that I started to read last month, but had to put down to skip to a couple of other titles, is The Forgotten Land, by Keith Mcardle.

I really must get back to this, because I was having a ball. It’s all kinds of action, military, sci-fi and time-travel to boot.

I can’t wait to get back to find out what happens to Sergeant Steve Golburn and his patrol in this other worldly adventure.

One of the most recent books that I’ve received is Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Paynter (Penguin). I don’t know a lot about this book yet, except to say that it’s a retelling of the classic Pride and Prejudice: “Mary Bennet has been long overshadowed by the beauty and charm of her older sisters, Jane and Elizabeth, and by the forwardness and cheek of her younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. From her post in the wings of the Bennet family, Mary now watches as Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy – and Mr Wickham – glide into her sisters’ lives. While she can view these three gentlemen quite dispassionately (and, as it turns out, accurately), can she be equally clear-sighted when she finally falls in love herself?” I’m thinking this might make a good book club book…

Lastly, is a brand new book for the reading pile, one that I picked up from the post office this morning. It’s Kyo Maclear’s A Thousand Tiny Truths (Pan Macmillan) and I’m bracing myself for a troubling but ultimately hopeful tale.

It would seem that this story has a bit of everything, adultery, questions of race and heritage, and an investigation into what it is to be cared for, and to care for others.  Due to be released in April, I’ll be reviewing this shortly.

***

As you can see, it’s a big reading pile, and a stunning one. Is it any wonder that I take a little look at it each time I walk by? Maybe this’ll give you a few reading ideas? And if all else fails, don’t forget next month’s TBYL Book Club book, Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany – I’d love for you to join us. You can pick up a copy here if you want to join in (I hope you do!)

What are you reading at the moment? Any of these tickle your fancy?

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Little shocks: Mateship with Birds

Last year,  I was a bit horrified when I realised how little Australian literature I had read. Of all the many, many books I’d read since I could, only a handful of them had been by Australian authors. As such, part of my mission to ‘read differently’ came to encompass the deliberate selection of Australian work. As a result, I’ve discovered some incredible pieces by Sonya Hartnett, Gillian Mears and Tim Winton, to name just a few.

My most recent discovery has been Carrie Tiffany, and her new novel Mateship with Birds (Pan Macmillan):

“On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.”

Part field notes, part journal and part narrative, this fascinating novel is one of the most interesting reads I’ve had so far this year.

Carrie’s writing style is unique, and incredibly readable. It is clipped, to the point and interestingly, written in the present tense. These characteristics give the story an immediacy and an intimacy. On more than one occasion I was reminded of field observations, of animal husbandry or fittingly, of bird-watching notes such as those put on paper by Harry himself.

There is the most intense sense of watching, of both being watched and of observing others. At all times, I felt that I was privy to the inner lives of these fascinating characters. It took no time at all until I had started to move with the very distinct rhythm of this narrative, and to smile, wonder and cringe along with it’s protagonists:

“Shopping after work, Betty falls in the rain. Her heels slide out from under her on the wet timbers of the verandah in front of Oestler’s Fruit and Veg. She goes down heavy, face first; puts her tooth through her lip, bleeds a lot of orange sticky blood over her uniform…”

The story is primarily about Betty, her children Michael and Little Hazel, and their quiet neighbour Harry. These are the characters you want to know, they are endearing and each have compelling stories to tell. Then there are the secondary characters, such as Harry’s ex-wife and the despicable Mue. We’re given little information about these associate figures, but they undoubtably have a dark and severe effect on the protagonists of the story. It is through Mue that most of the deepest shocks of this story are delivered.

It is beautifully Australian, rural and reminiscent. The importance of the everyday, and of our immersion in and connection with nature are key themes.

Although there is a definite quietness about this story, it is at the same time quite shocking. This novel is filled with lust, little shocks of sex that jump out at you and then pass as quickly as they arrived. Often, they’re recollections of experiences of sexual function, curiosity, deviation, rather than the act itself. The sex-scenes that are included (there are a couple) are gritty, and real, and breath-taking.

I was extremely lucky to be able to have a chat with Carrie Tiffany just after I’d read her book, and from our chat, I gained a sense for how she approached the writing of this novel…

***

Can you tell me a little about the book, in your own words?
That’s actually a pretty tricky question…I don’t really want to do a summary of the plot, because I don’t think the plot is really that important for me as a writer. To me, it’s more that the book is really about the nature of families, about the bonds that link people together and in this case, that family extends to a kind of odd group of people in the little township of Cohuna on the Murray River. It also extends to include families of birds, families of cows, or evan the relationship that a farmer might have with his dog – all of these kinds of relationships are interesting to me.

I noticed a real link between humans and nature, Harry observes his birds the same way as Betty observes her children. Is this deliberate? 
Yes. I work an agricultural, environmental science kind of area, and I do a lot of work in land care, but working on bureaucratic reports where I come up against this language that we use to describe our environment, it’s very scientific, and it really worries me because I think it fails the environment in some ways. I think there’s something ultimately very subjective about human beings in the landscape and our response to the landscape, and I don’t think there is any other way to come at it apart from from your feeling. To try and deny them and stand behind scientific method, really concerns me because I think that the emotional, instinctual response is really important – I don’t want to see that go. I think increasingly it does seem to be that we don’t use the terms that we used to and that’s one of the reasons that I set the book in the Fiftys. I’d been reading a lot of these nature writers, like Alex Chisholm who wrote the first Mateship with Birds and was really interested in the type of language they used in that time. They’d unashamedly talk about a bird as having gender; “She’s a pretty little Honey-eater” and they’d talk about it in a very subjective way, a very romantic way. It seemed to me that that was something that added to the relationship between people and nature, rather than diminished it.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about the book was the bird-watching theme. You mention ‘What Bird is That’ by Neville Cayley as part of the story – a book which I used to read for hours with my Pop. Is bird-watching something that you’ve always been interested in, or is it something that you researched particularly for this book?
Well I do have a family of Kookaburras that live out the back of my house and I do listen to them, and observe them with binoculars and I take down notes about what was happening in the family, but I also did a lot of research. I read these old editions of this wonderful publication that Birds Australia put out. It was called ‘The Emu’ and in fact Alex Chisholm was one of its the editors. People used to just write in with some of their observations and stories, so a lot of the observations and stories of what’s happening to the Kookaburras in Mateship with Birds are taken from these old editions of the ‘The Emu’. They’re not magical or fantastical, they’re grounded in reality, and I this is really important to me, I like that it’s got a factual basis.

I don’t have a lot of knowledge, I’m a bit of a bird-watcher but more in a “Wow, isn’t that magnificent” sort of way rather than a really technical kind of way.

You have an interesting history, you’re pretty locationally and vocationally diverse… how has this informed the story, if at all?
Well, I wasn’t actually born in Australia, I was born in the UK and I moved to Perth with my parents when I was about six. I do think that there is something very important about coming to a new country and gosh, you couldn’t come to somewhere more different than from the UK to Perth. As a child, you’re quite young and impressionable and I think was always trying to pair what I was seeing with somewhere else, and to try and make sense of it, to try and describe it. When I was younger, I remember when we first got here, being astounded by how much space there was compared to in England. We lived on this little housing estate and we had this little sand block and there was a nature strip out the front. I was really astounded by this straggly nature strip, that this new country had so much space in it that everyone had a nature strip.

As a child, I would stand on this nature strip and look up and down the street, and I developed this fanciful notion that these strips probably led somewhere. That if you followed them, they’d take you to the bush. I always had this interest in going to the bush and in fact in my early twenties I worked as a park ranger. I still maintain that interest in the bush through what I do now.

The story itself if very interestingly constructed. It’s pacing, rhythm is strong and seemingly deliberate. It uses short, clipped sentences and the use of present tense (and occassionally future tense) is very effective. Was this deliberate, or did the novel just kind of evolve this way?
That’s a really difficult question – some of those kinds of decisions are quite subconscious, although I’m sure there are some stylistic similarities between the sentences in this book and the sentences in my first book, and perhaps also in some short stories and things that I’ve had published.  I really like a ‘clean’ sentence and in some ways I’m not a big fan of adjectives and adverbs, I like strong, plan language. I suppose I’m influenced very much by the sorts of things that I read as well, so I’m aiming for a kind of purity, in a sentence that feels kind of true yet is simple. I am a very slow writer, and I do spend an enormous amount of time on a sentence. They might read like I wrote them very fast, like I kind of threw them off, I don’t know…but that’s really not the case. A lot of time, work and efforts goes into making them so simple.

One of the aims of my writing is really to kind of parsimony with language, so that you tell the story as simply as possible whilst leaving a lot of room in there for the reader. That’s what I like to read – I like reading when there’s a lot of space for me to make up my own mind about what is happening. I like the work to hint at something, but not tell me everything – so I think that’s what I am trying to do. I like there to be a lot of space for people to interpret the book in many different sorts of ways because I think that that is one of the amazing things about reading. It’s such a creative thing to do.

I was fascinated by the little ‘shocks’ of lust, passing comments on urges and sex, but then it’s gone almost as soon as it’s there. Many writers might be tempted to give more detail around the narrative to this, rather than this disciplined, punchy approach. Was this deliberate?
I’m not really sure, it’s not really something I’ve thought about, although I do think that there is something very strange about us, about people’s sexuality in that it’s this thing that we do with our bodies and our minds that’s quite confronting and confounding really, particularly when you think about the rest of our lives which are really quite rational. But this sexual desire, it seems almost in some ways to be a bit aside from language, and it’s very difficult to talk about. I didn’t want overly romanticised sex, whether it’s happening in the animal world or the human world. I wanted to show the similarities between sex in those two worlds and show the animal that’s in human sexuality. I also think the sexualisation in the world is kind of startling at the moment and to me that’s not really about sex, it’s about being sold something. It’s about being sold perfect bodies and people feeling like they should have a lot of sex, a kind of sexual aggression. That sort of stuff is really confounding to me, so I wanted to show something that to me felt truer – something of the sexual lives that these people in this very small community were leading in the 1950s.

How do you find people react to this kind of more explicit imagery?
I remember with the first book The Everyman’s Rules to Scientific Living, there was this terrible newspaper headline in The Australian ‘Lust in the Malley Dust’ I was very surprised, I really didn’t think there was that much sex in that book, and it wasn’t at all gratuitous. Although I don’t think about it as I’m writing, desire is clearly is a big narrative driver in this new book and to me that just seems right. I think in real life, desire is a big narrative drive for all of us, so it’s natural that it’s something that’d I’d write about.

I don’t want people to be offended or upset, but I’m also not going to be coy for the sake of being coy. I actually hate reading those books, when they’re fantastic books and then you get to the point where two characters kiss and then the curtains close and the next chapter starts the next day. I feel really ripped off reading that kind of story,  so I’m not going to do those things myself.

Lastly, you had a lot of success with your last novel “The Everyman’s Rules to Scientific Living”, what do you hope for with this new novel?
Really, the thing for me is the writing, the reason I do it is at the level where I’m actually sitting down and working on my sentences. That’s why I do it. The novel comes out into the world, and people read it and it can be quite lovely to engage on a one-on-one basis with readers and to hear what they think about the book. Quite often they have quite different interpretations or ideas, ideas that I hadn’t even thought of before… and that’s pretty fabulous, when you hear that it has this imaginary life of its own. All the other stuff is really a bit of a circus, it’s a bit of a lottery.

I just very simply hope that people will read it and will find something in it that touches them or makes them think.

***

Mateship with Birds certainly made me think, about new things, about these intriguing characters and about my own family. I’m hoping that some of you will join in and read the book as this month’s TBYL Book Club book, I’d love to hear what you think of it.


Buy your own copy of Mateship with Birds, at the TBYL Store!

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Birds and Bookshelves

There are two really lovely things that I’d like to tell you about today…

Firstly, I’m really excited to announce the novel for April’s TBYL Book Club. It’s a new book from an incredible Australian author, Carrie Tiffany. The book is Mateship with Birds:

“On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.”

This is an incredible book and one of my new favourites. It’s a little shocking at times, it’s incredibly moving and beautifully written. I’ll be posting a full review of the novel on Wednesday, and it’ll include an author-interview – I had a chance to chat with Carrie a couple of weeks ago. Keep an eye out if you’d like to know more.

Remember, it’s free to join the club, and if you’d like to buy a copy of the book, I’ve got them in The Store for just $19.99.

We’re gearing up for this month’s catch-up to discuss Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Discussions kick off on the 26.3.12 and will run for the week – I hope you’ll join us. Read the review || Buy the Book

Secondly, I’ve been meaning to tell you about a challenge that I’ve taken on, with help from my loyal side-kick Oscar. It’s The Little Book Adventure, by My Little Bookcase (in conjunction with the National Year of Reading).

It’s going to be so much fun! Basically, the adventure is a series of challenges designed to get families to working together, enjoying quality time with each other and sharing their love of reading and books.

This month’s challenge, is to get creative with with your book storage. The idea is to arrange Oscar’s books in a way that he can easily access and enjoy them – they’ll be reachable, interesting and enticing – to encourage him to help himself to reading as a fun part of his day.

I’m half-way through the project, and as soon as I’m finished, I’ll post photos here. You’ll also find other project submissions on the My Little Bookcase Facebook Page.

As you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to start the week off with some lovely things…great ideas, nice announcements, and fantastic reads.

I hope you’ll join in!

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My Monday: Gotta love a Top 5!

As I get older, I find myself getting more and more nostalgic, particularly for the delightfully grungy 1990s – the music, the films, the company.

My teen years, although not incredibly extreme, were appropriately melancholy and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, complete with band rehearsals, favourite record stores and many mixed tapes.

Given this, I’m sure it’s no mystery to any one why Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is one of my favourite novels. Shelfishly, I’ve set it as this month’s TBYL Book Club book, firstly because it’ll give me an excuse to re-read it; but mainly because I want to hear what other people think about it.

“…the brilliant story of one man’s journey of self-discovery. When Rob – a thirty-five year old record shop owner and music obsessive – is dumped by Laura he indulges in some casual sex, a little light stalking and some extreme soul-searching in the form of contacting every ex-girlfriend who ever broke his heart.”

The novel starts with a recollective top 5 most memorable split-ups and through this list of five names and subsequent anecdotes we are introduced to Rob, to his current predicament, to his somewhat reluctant soul-searching and his valiant attempt at romantic resilience and disconnectedness.

“These were the ones that really hurt. Can you see your name in that lot, Laura? I reckon you’d sneak into the top ten, but there’s no place for you in the top five; those places are reserved for the kind of humiliations and heartbreaks that you’re just not capable of delivering. That probably sounds crueller than it is meant to, but the fact is that we’re too old to make each other miserable, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, so don’t take your failutre to make the list personally. Those days are gone, and good fucking riddance to them; unhappiness really meant something back them. Now it’s just a drag, like a cold or having no money. If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have got to me earlier.”

Interestingly, to me, it’s this typical Gen-X ambivalence that makes Rob so intriguing, appealing and ultimately very likeable. He may be a bit hopeless, but hey, hopelessness kind of goes with the territory when you’re a guy like Rob, in a time like this.

I love the story of High Fidelity, the romance, the break-ups, the crazy, cartoonish characters. I love that we get to see Rob work through a process, a transformative period of time where he learns about his heart, his ambitions (once thought dead and gone) and about the people around him. For anyone who’s ever made hard choices, surprising discoveries and difficult changes, you’ll identify with this story.

But, more than just for the story, I love this book for it’s time and place. I find its setting and context completely transportative:

“The shop smells of stale smoke, damp, and plastic dust-covers, and it’s narrow and dingy and dirty and overcrowded, partly because that’s what I wanted…”

The constant references to albums, artists and songs will keep me very busy, as I plan on setting up a playlist as I re-read the book this time.

At the risk of courting controversy, I’m also going to do one other thing while I read. I’m going to re-watch the movie…

*gasp!*

Whilst it’s not exactly true to the novel, and being set in the US instead of the UK was a strange choice, it is a film that I enjoyed in it’s own right. Although it is differnet to the book in many ways, I still think it captures the ‘spirit’ of the story, and is quite true to the time, if not necessarily to place. Plus, I’ll admit that I very much like John Cusack…

I’m so looking forward to finding out what everyone else thinks about this funny, touching and irreverent novel at the Book Club this month. Feel free to join us!

Buy your own copy of High Fidelity, for just $9.95 at the TBYL Store!
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Your Monday: What you’re reading

One of the things that I love the most about TBYL is that I get to chat to lots of people about what they’re reading and whether they’re liking the book or not. It’s amazing how many people love to read, and to share their thoughts on novels.

As such, I thought I’d do something a little different this Monday and share some mini-reviews from readers. Thanks so much to Narelle, My Encore Store, Kathy and Gill for sharing…

Narelle read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and found it compelling. I really loved the Time Travellers Wife, but this was darker again. It is the story of American identical twins who inherit their British aunts house upon the condition they reside there for one year. The house adjoins Highgate cemetery which is a character in itself and lends an air of gloom. Before long, the ghostly presence of the aunt becomes stronger and sets in motion fascinating events. I found it utterly believable, in a most unusual way. VERY thought provoking.

My Encore Store read The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier 
I read The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier…we actually, I read it out loud to the kids (9 and 11) over the past couple of weeks. It is a book I enjoyed as a young teenager and I really wanted them to read it, but suspected they wouldn’t if left to their own devices. They loved it, as I did. It is a wonderful story about 4 kids walking through Europe during WWII, trying to get to Switzerland as they think their parents might be there. It is so far from what my kids’ experiences are, and so different to what they usually read. Given one set of their grandparent walked through Europe during WW2 and lived in refugee camps and woods as young children, and experienced hardship and death and horror, I hoped that it would give them some understanding of how life now is so different to what it was for their own family 70 years ago. It was well worth the read. We are now moving on to I am David which is another WW2 story that I read as a youngster, but this time from the perspective of a jewish boy escaping a concentration camp….

Kathy read The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
I’ve just finished ‘The Christmas Wedding’ by James Patterson. I’ve never read any of his other books, but this was drivel. Boring! But I had nothing else to read. I wasn’t quite at the point of taking cereal packets to bed, but I was close. I’m not quite myself if I don’t have a book on the go…..

I’ve also read ‘The Slap’. There were times I wanted to reach in and strangle characters for their selfishness. There were other times I wanted to hold my hand out to them. I’m not sure if the slap itself was appropriate, but that kid needed to be reigned in, and I found it horrifying that his mother couldn’t let it go. She didn’t see what she was losing nor could she see that this suffocation was effecting her sons reactions to the world around him…..

Gill read A Fortune Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani 
I’m reading A Fortune Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani. This is a travel biography of an Italian journalist who lives and travels throughout Asia. He takes us on his journey, where in the 1970s a fortune teller in Hong Kong told him that he must not travel by air in 1993 or he would be killed in a plane crash. Terzani choses to travel through south east asia in 93 not by air, but by land; seeking out respected fortune tellers, an exercise that is more about cultural wisdom than divination.

This book isn’t simply a jaunt through Asian countries selling the virtues of holiday destinations, Terzani shares his thoughts on historical and cultural developments and how the west and modernisation has impacted on traditional customs. This is an intriguing and fascinating read, especially as I grew up in Hong Kong. Although it is a travelogue it reads like a novel and for me personally struck a chord and reminded me why the bungee cord keeps pulling me back to Asia.

***

So many books, so little time…thanks again guys!

What are you reading at the moment? Please feel free to share!

Don’t forget that our February discussions kick off today at the TBYL Book Club. We’ll be discussing Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, with a new question being posted each day. Join the Club || Read the Review || Buy the Book

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…


Time flies…

It’s just occurred to me that it’s Friday…

Not only that, but on looking back on the week, I realise now that I’ve had no time to post. Oh dear. Gladly though, this has largely been because I’ve been very busy attending Galas, reading into the wee hours and meeting authors (and making plans to meet more). As a result of all of these activities, it’s my intention to bring you a whole stack of interesting articles over the next couple of weeks…

So you better clean your reading glasses, I’m comin’ your way!

In the meantime, I’m really excited to be able to announce the novel for March’s TBYL Book Club. It’s something a little lighter this month, and should be good for both laughs and discussions. It’s Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity:

It’s a brilliant story of one man’s journey of self-discovery. When Rob – a thirty-five-year old record shop owner and music obessive – is dumpted by Laura he indiulges in some casual sex, a little light stalking and some extreme soul-searching in the form of contacting every ex-girlfriend who ever broke his heart. An instant classic, High Fidelity is a hilarious exploration of love, life, music and the modern male.

Remember, it’s free to join the club, and if you’d like to buy a copy of the book, I’ve got them in The Store for just $9.95.

We’re gearing up for this month’s catch-up to discuss Emma Donoghue’s Room. Discussions kick off on the 27.2.12 and will run for the week – I hope you’ll join us. Read the review || Buy the Book

Finally, you might have noticed me carrying on our Facebook page this week about an amazing opportunity that has presented itself. I’m extremely excited at having been invited to meet-and-greet with Alain de Botton this weekend. This special event, arranged by Penguin Australia, will be an incredible chance to hear from the author of titles such as The Consolations of Philosophy and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. I’ll be getting a copy of his new book Religion for Atheists this weekend, and I’ll be sure to review it post-haste.

Plenty of fun to be had in TBYL-world…I hope you’ll join in!

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Big week coming!

I’m having a reading day today, or trying to the best the kids will let me. Although they keep following me around the house, I’ve got my ipad (for reading) and my ipod (for noise cancelling) and I’m attempting to sink into the action of a good novel.

I’ve got lots of interesting posts lined up for this week coming. I’m going to start with a My Monday, and I’ve got my first review-meets-interview pegged for Tuesday. Later in the week I’ll let you know what I thought of the heartbreaker, We Need to Talk About Kevin and take a gander at the line-up for next weekend’s Wheeler Centre Gala 2012: Stories to Believe In.

I wanted to put up a quick post today, to let you know that I’ve been tinkering online, and I’ve set up February’s Eager Readers group over at the TBYL Book Club. It’s a group set up specifically for those eager readers who’ve powered through this month’s book – Room, by Emma Donoghue, and would like to start talking about it (without giving away the ending to those who are still reading). It’s a private group, so you’ll need to ask to join – once you’ve joined, you can chat away to your hearts content.

You’ll find the group here…

From the sounds of it, lots of people enjoyed last month’s book club, and many of you are now enjoying the February group. Put it in your diary, we’ll start the chat about this month’s book on Monday, 27.2.12.

Room is a pretty quick read, it’s very gripping, so if you’d like to get a copy of the book, you can buy one here…

I hope you’ll join in the conversation.

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

An early birthday present, winner

I’m pleased to announce, that Alli is the winner of That Book You Like’s January give-away. Alli, I hope you enjoy your early birthday present! I’m reading Makeda (by Prue Sobers) right now, so I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Just email me your details (postal address) to info@thatbookyoulike.com.au by end Saturday, 04.02.12 and arrangements will be made! If the prize isn’t claimed, I will redraw on 05.02.12

Thanks to everyone for entering, and don’t forget to join up to the TBYL Book Club. If you sign up before midnight tonight, you’ll go into the running to win a copy of February’s read Room by Emma Donoghue.