Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

I love it when I discover a new-to-me author.

Margaret Rumer Godden (1907 - 1998) was an English author who wrote over 60 books of fiction and non-fiction.

She had a fascinating childhood.

Her father was a shipping company executive in Narayananj, India (now in Bangladesh). She and her three sisters spent their childhood divided between time in Colonial India and boarding school back in England. Godden trained as a dance teacher and returned to India to run a dance school with one of her sister's for twenty years.

She wrote her first novel during this time, in 1939, The Black Narcissus.

The Greengage Summer was written in 1958.

My 2013 Pan Macmillan edition has a preface from Godden herself explaining that this story is 'partly true'.

When she was 15 (in 1922), her mother, in a fit of despair declared 'we are going to the Battlefields of France.'

What followed was an exquisite coming of age tale about discovery, deceit and international thieves! Godden evoked the long, hot, lazy summer of rural France to perfection. All those awkward young adult urges and desires are remembered in painful detail. She also used foreshadowing and hindsight to great effect via her narrator, Cecil.

I enjoyed reading the story not knowing which bits were real and which bits were made up. The story was deliciously melodramatic at times and I would think, 'that can't possibly be true.' Reading the preface at the end was a wonderful realisation that sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction.

I loved this so much, that I have now ordered a couple of Godden's Indian based stories - The Peacock Spring and Coromandel Sea Change.

My early thoughts on The Greengage Summer are here.

Highly recommended as an easy, engaging read when you're in the mood for a simple but pleasurable break from your heavier reads.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - My Spring TBR List

This week, Top Ten Tuesday is asking us for our Fall Spring TBR list.


Making a list of 10 books from my rather extensive TBR pile is actually pretty easy.
I have books piled up everywhere, at work and at home.

So, to make this challenge a little more interesting for me, this week's TTT will be books on my TBR pile with a Spring theme or reference.

10.

 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The gorgeous Penguin Threads cover on my edition of The Secret Garden.
Garden. Spring. Get it?
How on earth I got through my classics fuelled childhood without reading this, I do not know.

9.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Rigg

- proem -

Sleep is not, death is not;
Who seem to die live.
House you were born in,
Friends of your Spring-time,
Old man and young maid,
Day's toil and its guerdon,
They are all vanishing,
Fleeing to fables,
Cannot be moored.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson -


The previous book cover on this book has always intrigued me, but the more colourful movie tie-in cover works for me too. I'm curious to see what Tim Burton has done with this movie, so I had better read the book sooner rather than later.

8.

Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano

- chapter one -

I met Francis Jansen when I was nineteen, in the spring of 1964, and today I want to relate the little I know about him.


I've been wanting to read one of the 2014 Nobel prize winning author's adult books for well, two years now! 

7. 

Springtime by Michelle de Kretser


This is a nice slim ghost story by an Australian author. Perhaps I could make it work for R.I.P too?

6.

The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lakes District by James Rebanks

- contents -

Hefted
Summer
Autumn
Winter
Spring


This will probably make me want to travel again soon.
I've visited small sections of the Lakes District twice now & hope to return one day....

5.

The Museum of Innocence: A Novel by Orhan Pamuk

- back cover blurb - 

It is a perfect spring day in Istanbul. 


Another Nobel prize winning author that I've been meaning to read for ages.
Spring in Istanbul sounds like a lovely thing to contemplate.

4.

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

A bit of a stretch for this one, but it is true and correct that tulips flower in the springtime!


3.

Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates


2.

A Dance to the Music of Time: Volume One - Spring by Anthony Powell


1.

The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton

Winton's powerful new memoir will be published by Hamish Hamilton in Australia this spring.
And I have an ARC!
Lucky me.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Brona's Salon

I miss my old book club. A lot.

I miss discussing books with a group of like-minded, or at least fellow-minded bookish folk.

Each month we used to discuss our shared book, but we always left time at the end to chat about the other books we were reading too.

I do now get to discuss books at work (actually we discuss books at work all the time!) but it's usually on the fly. Quick comparisons or updates to let each other know what we like or don't like or who this particular book might work for (customer wise).

But it's not as satisfying as a bookclub style good old book natter (with a glass of fine wine in hand). These bookish  chats could go anywhere.
They could end up as book-movie comparisons, history discussions, author news (okay gossip!), character assassinations, what made a book a classic, or not.

This kind of bookclub chat may or may not work on a blog, but I thought it was worth a shot to recapture the old bookclub love.

I'll include a linky below. If you'd like to join in with what you're reading right now, then I'd love to chat about it with you...in Brona's Salon.
What are your currently reading?
On and off, all that hot French August, we made ourselves ill from eating the greengages.... 

The faded elegance of Les Oeillets, with its bullet-scarred staircase and serene garden bounded by high walls; Eliot, the charming Englishman who became the children's guardian while their mother lay ill in hospital; sophisticated Mademoiselle Zizi, hotel patronne, and Eliot's devoted lover; 16 year old Joss, the oldest Grey girl, suddenly, achingly beautiful. And the Marne river flowing silent and slow beyond them all.... 

They would merge together in a gold-green summer of discovery, until the fruit rotted on the trees and cold seeped into their bones.... 

The Greengage Summer is Rumer Godden's tense, evocative portrait of love and deceit in the Champagne country of the Marne-which became a memorable film starring Kenneth More and Susannah York. 
How did you find out about this book?
A few months ago at work I was researching the best coming of age books for YA readers.
This was high up on the list. 
I had never heard of it before & the blurb made me curious.
Why are you reading it now? 
I'm in the middle of the Booker shortlisted book, Do Not Say We Have Nothing
I'm loving it, but we've just had a hugely busy week with Mr Book's 50th birthday. 
I've been too tired every night to concentrate on DNSWHN properly & I really want to do it properly. I needed something lighter and less challenging to get me through this Festival of 50 week.
The Greengage Summer has been the perfect choice so far.
First impressions? 
Delicious descriptions of the landscapes and the main characters.
I feel like I'm in the middle of summer in France!

I was a little confused at the start about the gender of all the children.

The amount of French phrases and dialogue is making it hard for this non-French speaker to know what's going on. Godden mostly gives clues in the responses, but I hate not knowing what's being said - exactly.
Which character do you relate to so far?
Our narrator, Cecil(ia).

She's not quite child; not quite adult at 13 years of age.
She struggles to find her sense of belonging.
She has lots of big ideas about how one should be when one travels.
She is a lovely mix of insecurity, strong opinions and insightful comments.
Are you happy to continue?
Definitely! 
Where do you think the story will go? 
I hope no-one is taken against their will (sexually speaking).
I suspect, though, that it will mostly be a messy flirtation with complicated consequences.
I'm halfway through and I can't wait to find out what Eliot's secret is.

I believe there was a movie made too.

Have you read or watched The Greengage Summer?
What are your memories of it?
Should I try to find the movie?

Apparently The Greengage Summer was loosely based on a real summer holiday that Godden had with her family as a teenager.


According to Wikipedia, a salon is
a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.
I'm willing to be your 'inspiring' host, if you're willing to be amusing and refined!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

Published posthumously in 2015, Our Souls At Night is a beautiful, gentle love story between two elderly neighbours, who bravely decide to seek comfort in the arms of each other every night rather than being sleepless and alone.

I first came across this book thanks to the rave reviews on our ABC's Bookclub program last month. Everyone loved it - a lot - and the next day at work we were swamped by requests for the book.

After waiting for the publishers to reprint the book, we finally got our stock and Our Souls At Night has been sitting on our bestsellers shelf ever since!

It's a slim book, with a simple story, that I read in about four hours. Not a lot happens, but the humanity and tenderness that oozes from every word makes for an enriching, unforgettable experience.

The only discordant note comes from the son who struggles to accept this new arrangement. His meanness of spirit is in such stark contrast to his mother's loving kindness that it almost felt a little contrived.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are starring in a Netflix production based on this book, which is fitting, as there were times when the emotions evoked in this story were reminiscent of those I experienced when watching On Golden Pond all those years ago.

Holt, Colorado is a fictional town that Haruf used for all his stories.

He was awarded the Wallace Stegner Award in 2012 for "faithfully and evocatively depicting the spirit of the American West."

Our Souls At Night continues this tradition as it is also firmly rooted in place. Although, Holt is fictional, his descriptions of the local area are very real and very evocative.

Max Liu @Picador wrote this lovely post, with photographs of the area, a couple of years ago when he met Haruf (pronounced to rhyme with sheriff) at home in Salida, Colorado.

I also enjoyed the fun Haruf had in chapter 34 when his characters were talking about going to the theatre.
Did you see they're going to do that last book about Holt County? The one with the old man dying and the preacher.
They did those other two so I guess they might as well do this one too, Louis said.
Did you see those earlier ones?
I saw them. But I cant imagine two old ranchers taking in a pregnant girl.
It might happen, she said. People can do the unexpected....

He could write a book about us. How would you like that?
I don't want to be in any book, Louis said.
But we're no more improbable than the story of the two old cattle ranchers.

The books referenced are Benediction (2013) which really was turned into a play performed at the Denver Centre Theatre in 2015, Plainsong (1999) and Eventide (2004).

Highly recommended for anyone with a heart!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Six Degrees of Separation

I haven't joined in Six Degrees of Separation for ages and it feels like forever since I had a really good solid blogging session. You know the blogging session I mean, the kind where you catch up on all your reviews, plan a few forward posts and start writing a few foundation pieces to make life easier for yourself later on.

I've been flying by the seat of my blogging pants all year. No posts in waiting, no ideas book.

It has been a very organic, spontaneous, free-form kind of blogging life instead. Fun and easy in lots of ways, but a bit stressful at times too. And I've also missed lots of stuff that I enjoy doing because I haven't had the time to keep up.

Things like Non-Fiction Friday.

I'm reading stacks of non-fiction this year, but I don't seem to be finishing any of them. I currently have seven non-fiction titles half-finished by my bed. I plan to read them; I want to read them; other stuff just gets in the way. Sigh.

Today is the day to change that.

Starting off with 6 Degrees of Separation.

This is the old image, Books Are My Favourite & Best now hosts 6 Degrees (link above) but this is a good refresh of the rules.

This month the starter book is....drum roll please...Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews!

Yes, you read that correctly.

That pot-boiler of a book from your misspent teen years is back to haunt you with its incestuous themes and the most narcissistic, selfish mother in all of history!

Where does one possibly go from there?

It took me ages to find a suitable link. And in the end I went for 'tetralogy'.

Flowers in the Attic was the first book in a series of four. Four books filled with twins, mother-daughter angst, ballet dreams, foetuses in glass bottles and rat poison. Four books that took the 1980's (teenage) world by storm.

Jump forward 30 years and once again the world has been swept up in tetralogy book mania with a quartet of books about dolls, mother-daughter angst, feminist dreams, dead children and the mafia. Narcissistic, selfish mothers also feature in this series - I guess they make for good story!

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is also about friendship, female friendship.

Flip the coin to find a book about male friendship, the very best of male friendship, and I jump back 200 years to the delightful, adventurous, yet tender friendship shared between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series.

The entire series was set at sea (except for the few times they were on shore between ships and adventures). Old ships makes me think of Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.

This was a book I struggled to read, until I saw the marvellous movie starring Peter O'Toole. His interpretation finally gave me a way into this challenging book. And now I love it.

Most of the time I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, but every now and again, it's the movie that helps me to appreciate the book. Or, in some cases, I saw the movie quite young, before I was old enough to tackle the book.

Dr Zhivago is another book that I now love thanks to the movie. It is impossible for me to read Pasternak's classic political love story without seeing Julie Christie and Omar Sharif and all those stunning scenic shots of snow.

One of the best snow stories I've ever read is Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow (this was one of those cases where the movie did NOT live up to the book).

A gutsy but disturbed female protagonist, wrestling with the truth about her heritage leads me to another gutsy but disturbed Nordic female protagonist wrestling with the truth about her heritage...Lizbeth Salander, she of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fame.


Somehow it seems fitting that I started off with a young girl locked away in the attic by her mother and ended with a young woman locked up in a psych ward by the government.

Two very different types of women, yet both had to battle their childhood demons (& the adults who were meant to look after them), suffer all kinds of abuse and psychological trauma, only to escape, seek revenge and ultimately survive on their own terms.

I read most of these books prior to blogging, but one day I'd love to reread Lord Jim, Dr Z, Miss Smilla and the entire 20 book Master & Commander series! Once was more than enough for Flowers in the Attic!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Stories & Shout Outs & Shortlists

A whole swath of shortlists have been buzzing around the bookish world lately.

Some have got me bibliograpically excited but some have left me scratching my head.

Kim @Reading Matters alerted me to the Canadian literary award - The Giller Prize. It has been around for twenty years and recognizes 'excellence in Canadian fiction'.

For a full rundown on the longlist and the history of Kim's shadow reading of  the Giller longlist, click on her link above.

The shortlist will be announced at the end of this month and the winner will be declared in November. But for now, here's the longlist...


13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin
Pillow by Andrew Battershill
Stranger by David Bergen
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux, translated by Lazer Lederhendler
The Two of Us by Kathy Page
Death Valley by Susan Perly
Willem de Kooning's Paintbrush by Kerry Lee Powell
By Gaslight by Steven Price
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall


The Man Booker shortlist is now out there too! The (wo)man booker shadow panel read through the longlist and prepared their own thoughts about what should have been shortlisted and why. The various posts and links to the panel are here @Dolce Bellezza

The official list, I confess, has me scratching my head. I really thought The North Water was a contender for taking out the big prize this year. I do at least have Do No Say We Have Nothing on my TBR pile, so I can read one of the books on both of these lists so far.



Paul Beatty (US) - The Sellout
Deborah Levy (UK) - Hot Milk
Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) - His Bloody Project
Ottessa Moshfegh (US) – Eileen
David Szalay (Canada-UK) - All That Man Is
Madeleine Thien (Canada) - Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Meanwhile the Royal Society Science Prize has a shortlist that I can get very excited about. Especially as I've read one of the contenders (Cure), I'm a third of the way through another (The Invention of Nature) and have my eyes on a third (The Gene).
The Gene Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Hunt for Vulcan Thomas Levenson
The Invention of Nature Andrea Wulf
The Most Perfect Thing Tim Birkhead
The Planet Remade Oliver Morton

Finally, closer to home, we have the shortlist for this year's Queensland Literary Awards. They have an incredible number of categories to work through, so grab a cuppa and settle back to check out the wonderful diversity that makes up Australian writing in 2016.

Queensland Premier's Award for a work of State Significance

Nadia Buick & Madeleine King Remotely Fashionable: A Story of Subtropical Style 
Matthew Condon All Fall Down 
Elspeth Muir Wasted
P. J. Parker The Long Goodbye
Lesley and Tammy Williams Not Just Black and White

The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award

Tony Birch Ghost River
Georgia Blain Between a Wolf and a Dog
Patrick Holland One
Charlotte Wood The Natural Way of Things

The University of Queensland Non-fiction Book Award

Madeline Gleeson Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru
Stan Grant Talking to My Country
Drusilla Modjeska Second Half First
Tim Winton Island Home
Fiona Wright Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award

Will Kostakis The Sidekicks
David Metzenthen Dreaming the Enemy
Glenda Millard The Stars at Oktober Bend
Claire Zorn One Would Think the Deep

Griffith University Children's Book Award

Bob Graham How the Sun Got to Coco's House  (R)
Libby Hathorn; illustrator: Gaye Chapman Incredibilia
Julie Hunt; illustrator:Dale Newman KidGlovz
Chris McKimmie Me, Teddy

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award

Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley Armenia, Australia and the Great War
Stuart Macintyre Australia's Boldest Experiment: War and reconstruction in the 1940s
Julia Martinez and Adrian Vickers The Pearl Frontier: Indonesian Labor and Indigenous Encounters in Australia's Northern Trading Network
Jeff Maynard The Unseen Anzac
John Newton The Oldest Foods on Earth: A history of Australian native foods with recipes
Garry Wotherspoon Gay Sydney: A History

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection - Steele Rudd Award

Sonja Dechian An Astronaut's Life
Julie Koh Portable Curiosities
Fiona McFarlane The High Places

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Joel Deane Year of the Wasp
Liam Ferney Content
Sarah Holland-Batt The Hazards
David Musgrave Anatomy of Voice
Chloe Wilson Not Fox Nor Axe

Queensland Premier's Young Publishers and Writers Awards

Emily Craven
Sam George-Allen
Anna Jacobson
Michelle Law
Andrew McMillen

Unpublished Indigenous Writer - David Unaipon Award

Paul Collis Dancing Home
B.A. Quakawoot The Song of Jessica Perkins
Yvonne Weldon 67 Days

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award

H.E. Crampton for The Boatman
Laura Elvery for The Elements

Which book, from all of the above, should I read next?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Inkling Explorations - A Picnic

Once a month, Heidi @Sharing the Journey poses a provocation for our consideration.

September's link up is: a picnic scene in literature or film.

If you'd like to join in, here's how:
1. Post the Inklings button on your sidebar.
2. Do a post on your own blog relating to the month's selection/subject (a literary excerpt as short or as long as you like AND/OR—if specified that month—a screencap from a film with an explanation of how the scene builds/develops the story). Link back to Sharing the Journey somewhere in your post.
3. Paste your link in the comments box and I'll add it to the post. Then enjoy visiting and reading everyone else's contributions!

That's all there is to it!

For me, there is only one possible picnicking scene in all of known literature.

This book, it's picnic and the bizarre consequences of what happened there, was burnt onto my memory during my teen years when I first read the book in question. The fabulously eerie, mysterious and sensual film of the same name only added to the allure when I eventually watched it as well.

I am, of course referring to Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay.

First published in 1967, this fictitious, and deliberately ambiguous, story about a Valentine's picnic in 1900 by a group of school girls and their teachers, blurred the line between fact and fiction. For years, many people in Australia wondered if this story was based on real events. The 1975 Peter Weir movie only increased the speculation.

Lindsay maintained the myth by refusing to discuss the details of her book. She also began her novel with a 'note from the author' that said,
Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.
My 2013 review of Picnic at Hanging Rock can be found here (with a trailer from the movie) and some pics from our family holiday to the real Hanging Rock in 2007 are here.

But for now, here's the picnic....
Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock - a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive. (pg1)

Still from the 1975 movie in the breakfast room - exchanging Valentine cards.

Manmade improvement on Nature at the Picnic Grounds consisted of several circles of flat stones to serve as fireplaces and a wooden privy in the shape of a Japanese pagoda. The creek at the close of summer ran sluggishly through long, dry grass, now and then disappearing to re-appear as a shallow pool. Lunch had been set out on large white tablecloths close by, shaded from the heat of the sun by two or three spreading gums. In addition to the chicken pie, angel cakes, jellies and the tepid bananas inseperable from an Australian picnic, Cook had provided a handsome iced cake in the shape of a heart, for which Tom had obligingly cut a mould from a piece of tin. Mr Hussey had boiled up two immense billycans of tea on a fire of bark and leaves and was now enjoying a pipe in the shadow of the drag where he could keep a watchful eye on his horses tethered in the shade. (pg19)
Still from the 1975 movie at the base of Hanging Rock. A Toast to St Valentine!
Hunger satisfied and the unwonted delicacies enjoyed to the last morsel, the cups and plates rinsed at the pool, they settled down to amuse themselves for the remainder of the afternoon. Some wandered of in twos and threes, under strict injunctions not to stray out of sight of the drag; others, drugged with rich food and sunshine, dozed and dreamed. (pg21) 

Things obviously go pear-shaped for this group of happy picnickers, from this moment on!

What other books feature an iconic or significant picnic scene?

Monday, 12 September 2016

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

One of my dear friends, Girl Booker, has been gushing about Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child ever since it was first published in 2012.

It sounded wonderful and I have no idea why I haven't made the time to read it, but there it is, I haven't.

And now, here we are, with Ivey's second book to hand and The Snow Child is still sitting guiltily on my TBR pile.

In an attempt to alleviate the guilt I felt towards Girl Booker and Ivey, I made sure that To The Bright Edge of the World made it to the top of my TBR pile as soon as possible.

To The Bright Edge of the World is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction. The first person letter and journal format provided a delightful sense of confusion, or perhaps wonderment, between what was real and what was made-up.

This was a deliberate device on Ivey's behalf.

Ivey has said in an earlier interview with Writers and Books, when she was still calling the book by it's working title of Shadows of the Wolverine that,

Although it is based on real places here in Alaska, I invented the Wolverine River for The Snow Child because I wanted the freedom to play with the geography, and I decided to return there with my newest novel. Shadows, however, is set nearly 40 years earlier, in 1885, and is inspired by a true-life military expedition that traversed Alaska. In my telling, Lt. Col. Forrester ventures up the Wolverine River with a sergeant and private to explore the heart of the territory. As they travel deeper into the country, they encounter the mythology described by the land’s indigenous people. It is also the story of Sophie Forrester, the colonel’s pregnant wife, who waits for his return at Fort Vancouver. She is wrestling with her conscience and trying to find the courage to tell her husband about her past, but she is also on the cusp of making an inspiring discovery.
I’m telling the novel through journals, letters, and other documents. Some of my favorite parts to write in The Snow Child were the letters between Ada and Mabel, so I am having a lot of fun with this new project.
I confess that I was actually a little disappointed to discover that not only was the spunky Sophie Forrester not real, but neither was the Wolverine River, which Ivey had brought to life so vividly throughout her story.

Which also meant, that the wonderful black and white map that adorned the cover of my ARC was not an accurate map but a fictional one.


Colonel Forrester's character is based on the real life Henry Tureman Allen who led an expedition through Alaska in 1885. He explored the Copper, Tanana and Koyukuk Rivers with only two other men, Robertson & Fickett. At an Indian village, Taral, they met up with prospector John Bremner, who joined them on their journey, along with another prospector Peder Johnson. Several places and landmarks in Alaska are named after these men.

There are some wonderful elements woven into this story.

The old Indian with a black hat and lame leg, who liked to sleep in trees and who reappeared at odd times throughout the story. Sophie's struggle with loneliness and grief in an isolated Army barracks. The very private, independent Indian woman, Nat'aaggi, who travelled with Forrester's group for a while. And the gentle, increasingly personal correspondence between modern day Walt and Josh as they discussed the well preserved letters and journals left by the Forrester's.

Ivey also used her characters to discuss some of the bigger environmental and cultural issues at play.

The photographs included at different points were interesting (especially the Alaskan landscapes), but a few also confused me as they jarred against the lovely blur of fact and fiction that Ivey was creating with her words.

To The Bright Edge of the World is a fascinating piece of historical fiction interwoven with a few strands of the mysterious and mythical.

The letter and journal device worked really well, except for the last little bit, where I really wanted to see the reunion between Sophie and Allen. However I was happy enough to leave it to my imagination in the end, which is no doubt what Ivey intended all along.

Jane @Beyond Eden Rock's review that inspired me to read this book next is here.

P.S. In honour of my #HLOTRreadalong2017, I thought you might like to know that Eowyn Ivey was named after the character in Lord of the Rings (as played by the luminous Miranda Otto in the movies).

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Are You Readalong Ready?

I am!

Since returning from my holidays and finishing my #20booksofsummer (winter) challenge and my Home and the World readalong with Cirtnecce, I've been thinking about what I want to read next and with who.

I love the classics and would like to read more. It would also help my TBR pile tremendously.

Working in a small Independent bookshop means I'm never in short of supply of the basic materials. But it also means that I have to read more new releases than I would normally do (pre-bookshop days normal that is).

How will I ever get around to reading all those classics waiting patiently on my TBR shelf and how will I find the time to reread some of my all time favourites?

At the moment, though, classics only seem to make it onto my reading pile when the latest Classics Club does it's spin or via a random readalong that I suddenly spy in blogland.

I've decided it's time to get more proactive about putting the classics back into my regular reading routine.

AusReading Month is coming up in November.

My plan this year is to read Ruth Park's 1977 Miles Franklin Award winning book, Swords and Crowns and Rings.

She was the banker's daughter, a highborn, golden beauty. He was a grocer's son, strong and proud, but fate had masked his strength and pride with a form that set him forever apart from other men. Compelling need drew them together, A bewitching fantasy encircled and sustained them. 
Then the Great Depression swept across Australia to impoverish the rich, humble the proud, and turn the poor into a stunned army of desperate vagrants and homeless vagabonds. Expelled from their enchanted realm, brutally separated, they each clutched a secret, a promise a dream of finding each other in a harsh world where only a perfect love like theirs could survive, overcome and triumph.

That's a start!

Roof Beam Reader has been talking on twitter about doing some kind of classics challenge next year, which sounds promising as I do enjoy a good readalong. I'm hoping that a couple of his choices will match my TBR and TBRR piles.

However, there are four books I've been wanting to reread now for over ten years.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.

Since working in the bookshop I have collected four beautifully illustrated (by Alan Lee) hardback editions of these books. I really want to dive into them to revisit the story and pore over the pictures.


But I've been waiting for enough time to lapse between movie LOTR and a reread so that some of Jackson's strong imagery could dissipate.

(Can you believe it has been nearly 15 years since we sat outside the movie theatre on Boxing Day to attend the special midnight viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring in Australia?

2001 was still in the era of different release dates for movies and books around the world. Aussies had to wait a whole week longer to see each of the LOTR movies than UK and US audiences. The only good point about this was that the Australian release date was midnight on Boxing Day for each of the three movies. Three years in a row, my sisters and friends came together to watch these huge movies on the big screen. We were young twenty and thirty-somethings (pre-kids) living and working away from our birth families, but who still came home for Christmas every year. Watching these three movies became a real celebration and ceremony for us. They also marked a turning point in many of our lives as marriages, babies, new jobs and moves took us into our full-on adult lives - and away from midnight movie sessions.)

Thanks to my current job, I have to be realistic about the time frame in which I can read these books.

I really do have to read the new releases to keep up with customer recommendations. This is not a chore, of course, I'm not complaining, really, but it does get in the way of my classics reading and the love I get from rereading my favourites.

Would anyone else be interested in reading (or rereading as the case may be) The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King with me next year?

I was thinking we could read
The Hobbit in February 
The Fellowship of the Ring in March - April
The Two Towers in May - June
The Return of the King in July - August

What do you think?

Monday, 5 September 2016

It's A Wrap - 20 Books of Winter

Where did that time go?

It only seems like just the other day that I was signing up and planning which 20 books to read over the Australian winter/Northern Hemisphere summer with Cathy @746 Books.

I picked 14 books off my TBR pile and left 6 books as freebies to be filled throughout the winter.

And I read 20 books in 3 months.

Just not the 14 that I initially selected.



(replaced All My Januaries on my list)


Sadly All My Januaries bored me to tears, that is the first couple of chapters that I attempted, bored me to tears. Perhaps it improved, but I wasn't in the mood to find out. I replaced it with this fascinating memoir about growing up black in Australia instead.


2. Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa   (reviewed 30/6/16)

Another ARC with a BIG rap from my Hachette rep; another July release; another Australian author.
I also adore Indian literature, so this one has the best of both worlds for me - a Sri Lankan born Australian with his debut novel set in Colombo.
Great cover too!


Loved this book. Such a self-assured debut novel - cant wait to see what Savanadasa does next.

3. Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (reviewed 9/6/16)

I've been hoping to get into this well-reviewed story sooner rather than later (and I can't wait to read JoAnn @Lakeside Musing's review when she writes it as her social media raves this weekend have been very tantalising :-)
This book has been languishing on my TBR for long enough now.


OMG!!! I adored this book to pieces & would have reread it straight away, except it was already 2am!

4. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty  (reviewed 6/8/2016)

I love my reps!
My Pan Mac rep came through a week ago with an ARC of Liane's latest book.
Mr Books snaffled it straight away since I had just started The Story of a Lost Child.
He raced through it with great pleasure and is now eagerly awaiting our discussion when I finally read it.


Sadly, reluctantly, but truly the most disappointing book on my list.

5. Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner  (reviewed 27/7/2016)

Most Aussie readers will know (& most likely adore) Helen Garner.
I have her latest non-fiction personal essays tempting me from my bedside chair.


Wonderful, wonderful stuff. So many gems, she can do no wrong to my mind!


I'm up to the fourth book in this gentle crime series set in Sydney in the 1930's.
I love Rowland Sinclair and his Bohemian friends.
This series has become my comfort read. As the days get colder and darker, I can safely say that a comfort read will be required at some point!


One rainy. cold, miserable weekend, I needed comfort.
This was the perfect tonic.
So perfect that I had to grab book 5 and read it too (see below).

7. Joan of Arc by Lili Wilkinson (reviewed 8/8/2016)

I've had Lili's fictional bio for teens on my bedside chair ever since I read Green Valentine last year & discovered that she had written a much earlier story based on the life of Joan.
Louise @A Strong Belief in Wicker has a review of the book here.
I'm a BIG fan of Wilkinson and always intrigued by Joan.
Win/win!


Fascinating, easy to read bio that has me wanting to revisit George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.


Carol @Journey and Destination first put me onto this beautiful looking book.
You may have already spotted the other theme developing with this list....
slimness.
No chunksters to bog me down this winter!!


I slipped this book into my bag on our recent getaway to Far North Queensland, so I can actually say that this was one of my books that classified as a summer read!

9. The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin   (reviewed 22/8/16)

Spotted at this year's Sydney Writer's Festival - sounds intriguing.


And it was!
I may do a long walk one day, but I doubt that it will be this one. Too many ones closer to home (with more consist scenery) to tempt me.

10. On the Beach by Nevil Shute  (reviewed 13/6/16)

Nancy @Ipsofactdotme reminded me of this Australian classic about the end of the world, when she read it for AusReadingMonth three years ago. 
I've been meaning to read it ever since.


I cannot thank Nancy enough for reminding me about this book and author.
I may have to revisit A Town Like Alice for AusReading Month.

11. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore    (reviewed 3/9/16)

August readalong with Cirtnecce.
(replaced The Bell Jar on my list)


I really do want to read The Bell Jar one day, but this readalong popped up instead! It was too good an opportunity to miss to finally read this Indian classic lurking on my TBR pile.

12. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner   reviewed 22/7/2016

I read and loved, loved, loved Crossing to Safety four years ago.
I've been meaning to read another Stegner ever since.


Fascinating story with some controversies to tease out.

13. I'm Supposed to Protect You From All of This by Nadja Spiegleman  (reviewed 4/9/16)

(replaced Our Man in Havana on my list)


This was a random pick up at work just before going on holidays.
I was hooked from page one & Nadja suddenly found her way into my luggage.

14. The Last Painting by Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith  (reviewed 31/8/16)

(replaced Villette on my list)


Villette just seemed too big and too chunky for me to tackle this winter.
Whereas Smith's book sounded like the perfect holiday read...and it was.

15. Every Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge  (reviewed 18/6/16)

This is how it happens.

Barely one day after compiling my list of 14 and leaving a space for 6 books in August, I have discovered that Annabel's House of Books is hosting a Beryl Bainbridge reading week from 13th-19th June.

The Bainbridge ended up on my TBR when Lisa @Bookshelf Fantasies told me about this other Titanic story after we both shared our love for The Midnight Watch.



16. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton  (reviewed 2/8/2016)

(replaced The Bone Sparrow on my list)


A quick, easy book to read, that gave Mr Books and I plenty of discussion topics!

17. The Catherine Wheel by Elizabeth Harrower is my #CCSpin 13 choice.
(reviewed 31/7/2016)


Fortunately my spin book was a slim Aussie classic, although the topic had it's heavy moments.

18. The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy    (reviewed 20/6/16)


Jane @Beyond Eden Rock's had a Kennedy readalong that I discovered at the last minute. My 6 free spots filled up very quickly!

19. Gentlemen Formally Dressed by Sulari Gentill   (reviewed 27/6/16)


My lingering winter cold saw me dive into another cosy, comfort read.


20.

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R J Palacio   (reviewed 13/7/2016)


After a drama at work, I needed something light and easy to dip into. Something that I knew would be heart-warming and uplifting.
The companion book to Wonder was an obvious choice.

_______________________________________________________________

9 of the 20 books were Australian.
2 were YA titles.
6 were classics.
5 were non-fiction.
4 books were read as part of a group readalong.
And 9 were 2016 new releases.

My favourite?
Mothering Sunday

The one I would recommend to everyone?
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Author/s I plan to hunt down their previous books thanks to the above?
Graham Swift
Sulari Gentill
Helen Garner
Margaret Kennedy
Elizabeth Harrower
Nevil Shute
Arthur Conan Doyle

Next year?
Yes, definitely! But only select 10 books from my TBR pile.
Leave 10 freebies - accept that this is how I read.

What am I reading now?
The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey


and
The Middlepause: On Turning Fifty by Marina Benjamin


What about you?