Thursday, 8 October 2015

TBR Thursday

TBR Thursday with She is Too Fond of Books is a meme to highlight all those hidden gems languishing in our out-of-control TBR piles.

They can be "books that I physically own, be it arc, bought, paperback or ebook.  It could have been there for months or just acquired it yesterday."

My little twist is to highlight one new release and one classic each week.

Over the next few weeks I will also focus on the Australian books lurking in my TBR in preparation for AusReadingMonth in November.

My new release is Autumn Laing by Alex Miller.
I read Coal Creek a few years ago and loved it.
I loved it so much that I've gradually been acquiring Miller's backlist. I just haven't made the time to read any of them yet!
Autumn Laing was first published in 2011.
Autumn Laing has long outlived the legendary circle of artists she cultivated in the 1930s. Now 'old and skeleton gaunt', she reflects on her tumultuous relationship with the abundantly talented Pat Donlon and the effect it had on her husband, on Pat's wife and the body of work which launched Pat's career. A brilliantly alive and insistently energetic story of love, loyalty and creativity.

Autumn Laing seduces Pat Donlon with her pearly thighs and her lust for life and art. In doing so she not only compromises the trusting love she has with her husband, Arthur, she also steals the future from Pat's young and beautiful wife, Edith, and their unborn child.
Fifty-three years later, cantankerous, engaging, unrestrainable 85-year-old Autumn is shocked to find within herself a powerful need for redemption. As she begins to tell her story, she writes, 'They are all dead and I am old and skeleton-gaunt. This is where it began...'
Written with compassion and intelligence, this energetic, funny and wise novel peels back the layers of storytelling and asks what truth has to do with it. Autumn Laing is an unflinchingly intimate portrait of a woman and her time - she is unforgettable.

My Aussie classic from 1995 is the memoir Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave. It has had a resurgence of interest of late thanks to a movie starring Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush, Sarah Snook, Anthony LaPaglia and Ryan Corr (which I hope to see soon).
The mid-seventies: at an all-boys Catholic school in Melbourne, Timothy Conigrave falls wildly and sweetly in love with the captain of the football team. So begins a relationship that weathers disapproval, separation and, ultimately death. With honesty and insight Holding the Man explores the highs and lows of any partnership, and the strength of heart both men have to find when they test positive to HIV. This is a book as refreshing and uplifting as it is moving; a funny and sad and celebratory account of growing up gay.
Have you read either of these books or authors?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

It almost feels a bit redundant to write a review about My Brilliant Friend, since nearly everyone I know in blogger land has already read and reviewed it.

But since this blog explores my personal journey with books rather than writing straight book reviews, I figure I'll find something to say that is unique!

Part of the difficulty when finally reading a book that everyone around you has been raving about for months is the high level of expectation.

The Neapolitan Novels are now one of my colleagues favourite books. Dear Libby has been at me all year to read them. She is currently on a month long tour of Italy.
I felt I owed it to her to read at least one of them while she was gone so we could finally talk about it when she gets back.

And while it is fair to say that I loved the book, admired the beautiful language and now want to read the next three books, I haven't felt the need to rave.

This got me thinking.
What books do I rave about? Why not this one?

It all boils down to a sense of discovery.
Books that I have raved and gushed about in recent times, were ones that I felt that I had discovered all by myself. They were unknown quantities, new experiences to me. I often approached these books with no more expectation than a general, "this looks like my kind of book. I'll give it a go."

Does it matter that I don't feel the need to gush and rave about this book?
Isn't it enough to say that My Brilliant Friend is an extraordinary portrait of friendship, eloquently told? Does a book with so much heart, so rich in detail really need my rave review? Isn't this book, this series selling itself on its own merits?

Although the mystery surrounding Ferrante must be part of the success of this word of mouth sensation.
Elena Ferrante is a pen name.
Almost nothing is known about the real identity of the author.
I couldn't help but wonder if the Neapolitan novels were autobiographical in nature. Not just because of the name of the narrator (Elena), but also because the story felt so very, very real.
The observations about friendship and some of the little incidents seemed grounded in real events. The emotions, the dramas, the scenes read just like a memoir.

This could explain why the author has chosen to write under a nom de plume. The streets of Naples belong to the Camorra. My Brilliant Friend describes the interactions, the effects, the influences and the behaviours of the Camorra on everyday Neapolitan life.

However, my knowledge of the Camorra was non existent until my reading of My Brilliant Friend. I had to do some research.

My knowledge of the Mafia was purely based on American movies like The Godfather. 
For instance,  I didn't realise that the Mafia was called by different names in different regions - Cosa Nostra in Sicily, Ndrangheta in Calabria, Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia and, of course, the Camorra in Naples.

A Vanity Fair article, The Camorra Never Sleeps, from 2012, says,
The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries—far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people’s minds, an alternative to the Italian government, whatever that term may mean. Neapolitans call it “the system” with resignation and pride. The Camorra offers them work, lends them money, protects them from the government, and even suppresses street crime. The problem is that periodically the Camorra also tries to tear itself apart, and when that happens, ordinary Neapolitans need to duck.
Is it any wonder that the author wishes to remain anonymous?

This book is #2 out of my 15in31 challenge throughout October.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Stories & Shout Outs #3

Due to visitors, a Yr 12 Graduation, Mr Books birthday and a neighbourly farewell party, Bloggiesta was a bust for me this time around.

The last Bloggiesta gave me Feedly.
I love it.
It's a great way to keep track of my favourite blogs...although it does need a tidy up of categories already....!

I had hoped to tackle that job and join in some twitter chats to get more great tips and new ideas. But it was not to be.

At odd times throughout the weekend though I would catch myself thinking about my blog and what I really wanted from it.

I love reading and reviewing.

I love visiting other blogs to discover new books, new authors and I love joining in discussions about the books we've read.

I also love joining in memes.

Over the years I have created my own as well as joined in others on a semi-regular basis. But the same thing happened with each one. I found myself unable to commit to the same time, same place scenario for very long.
(I also have the same problem with exercise regimes!)

All this pondering eventually led to my weekend ah-ha moment.

I would create my very own personal meme where I can talk books, housekeeping and blogging whenever I want to. A meme that is not tied to any day of the week or schedule.

So goodbye Shout Out Sundays.
Hello Stories and Shout Outs....on any day of the week that suits me.


After writing the above last weekend, life and blogging have once again got away from me...which only highlights the perfection of my newly created meme!

To focus on reading this month I have joined in Andi's #15in31 challenge.
My plan is to finish all those half-read books by my bed before AusReadingMonth starts in November. So far I have finished two of the books on my list and reviewed one of them.

I also spotted Blog Ahead hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Herding Cats & Burning Soup. This is a great way to keep ahead of the blogging game by scheduling posts to be used later.

I need this for two reasons - firstly I used up all my old scheduled posts during the craziness of our recent move. And secondly, I have AusReadingMonth coming up and I would like to prepare for it ahead of time this year.

I'm not going to commit myself to any specific number as anything will be better than the big fat nothing that I currently have in reserve!

Kate @Books are my Favourite and Best recently reviewed A Little Life.
I really liked her discussion on "allowable weaknesses" as I felt this accurately summed up my feelings on the book as well.

Allie @A Literary Odyssey reviewed Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot.
I've read Big, Little Lies and The Husband's Secret and had been wondering whether the earlier books would be as good. Turns out they are!

It's a long weekend Monday in NSW today (yay!) It's also HOT, HOT, HOT.
Which means it is time for me to go and finish My Brilliant Friend...poolside!

What have you been up to this lovely long, beginning of daylight savings weekend?

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon & Dean Hale

The Princess in Black is back!

With the same sassy monster fighting moves and the same sparkly princess bling, Princess Magnolia returns ready to tackle a birthday party full of unsuspecting princesses.

I love the monster fighting onomatopoeia like 'tiara trip' and 'twinkle twinkle little smash'. I also admire Princess Magnolia's dedication to the cause despite the temptation to ignore the persistent and badly timed monster alarm.

The only disappointment with this sequel is not enough goat-boy time. I was hoping that goat-boy would become the Princess in Black's trusty sidekick. Instead goat-boy barely gets a mention and we see a new possibility for sidekick in the unfortunately named Princess Sneezewort.

But perhaps the Princess in Black, with her strong girl-power, can-do attitude doesn't need a sidekick other than her faithful steed?

What will book three, The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde hold in store for us?

This is my first book in my 15in31 challenge (yay me!!)

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Call me crazy.


But here I go again with a reading challenge. 

Estella's Revenge is trying to boost her reading enthusiasm by reading 15 books during the month of October & she has requested company.

With extra work shifts coming my way during October, starting and finishing 15 whole books is way beyond my capabilities. 
But with a little tweek here and a little tweek there, I could use this reading challenge to help me finish all the books languishing on my goodreads 'currently reading' list as well as keep ahead of my work TBR list.

Some of the books vying for my attention right now are... Classics Club Spin, a highly recommended and a new release.
A few non-fiction titles that have been lurking for months now!
Three half finished books desperate to be done!
A few early reader new releases at work that look tempting.

Just 3 of the ARC's on my TBR pile that are no longer so 'advanced'!
 Will you be reading like an animal during October? 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

I've been meaning to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall all year, but it kept falling to the bottom of the pile on my bedside chair.

I finally picked it up last week & it has turned out to be a very timely read with regard to Australian politics.

Our new Prime Minister has spent this past week getting tough on domestic violence, stating that it is 'un-Australian' to disrespect women. Words, and their underlying assumptions and prejudices play a major role in why one in six Australian women still experience domestic violence in these 'enlightened' times.

So it was with a growing sense of frustration that I read about the plight of Anne Bronte's, Helen.

My frustration existed on two fronts.

The frustration of watching a young naive woman make a bad choice and then blaming herself for the faults of the man.

And the frustration of realising how very little has changed in three hundred years when it comes to (some) men using their power over women in the domestic sphere.

There was also much to love about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, including my lovely Penguin English Library edition with it's picturesque cover and it's discussion by Winifred the back of the book.

Yes, oh joy, at the back of the book!

Not at the front of the book where the risk is high for spoilers, but at the back where ones love for the book can be continued on by thinking about it more deeply and comparing our thoughts with others.

In this case it was nice to have my views about the diary section of the novel validated by someone else. As Gerin said TTOWH's
"weakness lies in the structure, in the clumsy device of a plot within a plot....By the device of the diary the drama that wrecked Helen's life is seen at one remove, not in the heat of the action."
I really struggled with this section and at one point nearly abandoned the book. It was such a clumsy way to tell us Helen's backstory.

But I'm glad I persisted.

When the story eventually returned to the original timeline, a satisfying romance developed with just the right amount of tension and suspence.

Anne Bronte is a born story-teller with a lot to say about the position of women in society, their education and expectations - from the ingenue to the sophisticated flirt, the pious to the amoral. The secondary characters are interesting and well developed and the Cumbrian landscape not only comes alive with Bronte's many descriptions but also through Helen's paintings.

Bring on Agnes Grey!

Do you have a favourite Bronte?

This review is part of my Reading England challenge and Classics Club list.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

AusReading Month sign up post

November is AusReading Month - a month long celebration of all things Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

Join us as we read, review and blog about all things Australian - classic books, contemporary stories, children's books, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, popular, literary, award-winning - whatever.

The only stipulation is that it has to be written by an Australian based author or predominantly set in Australia.

The rules are simple: read one, two or more Australian books throughout the month of November. Write a review on your blog and link it back here.

Visit and comment on your fellow bloggers posts to build up our growing community of Aussie book lovers.

If you're unsure of what to read, the CBCA, MILES and STELLA tabs above will give you a list of award winning Australian books. 

The Australian Women Writers Challenge is also building up a fabulous database of Australian women writers (& bloggers).

There are oodles of online lists to check out too. 

Below are a few recent lists to tempt you:

50 Great Reads by Australian Women in 2014
50 Australian Books to Read Before You Die
Australia's Top 100 Favourite Homegrown Reads 

This year I plan to read a chunkster of a book for AusReading Month. 

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony is an Australian classic written during the 1930's by Ethel Florence Richardson a.k.a. Henry Handel Richardson.

Set in Australia during the gold-mining boom, this remarkable trilogy is one of the classics of Australian literature.
Henry Handel Richardson’s great literary achievement, comprising the novels Australia Felix, The Way Home and Ultima Thule, weaves together many themes.
Richard Mahony, despite finding initial contentment with his wife Mary, becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his ordered life. His restlessness is not understood by Mary, who has to endure the constant shattering of her security as Richard desperately attempts to free himself; his attempts finally plunge them into poverty.
In the figure of Richard Mahony, Richardson captures the soul of the emigrant, ever restless, ever searching for some equilibrium, yet never really able to settle anywhere. Richard’s search, though, is also the more universal one for a meaning that will validate and give purpose to his existence.

My plans are as follows:

Book I - Australia Felix - pg 3 -383   (380pgs)     1st -12th Nov
Book II - The Way Home - pg 387 - 657   (270pgs)     13th - 21st Nov
Book III - Ultima Thule - pg 661 - 941   (280pgs)     22nd- 30th Nov

If you'd like to join me in reading this trilogy let me know in the comments below.

How to join in AusReading Month?

Simply leave your AusReading Month sign up post in the linky below.
Let us know what you plan to read or blog about during November.

You can keep the AusReading Month love alive by following & commenting on Instagram and Twitter.
Add the new AusReading Month badge to your sidebar.
Use the hashtags #AusReadingMonth #richardmahony and #bronasbooks.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Stories & Shout Outs #2

Stories & Shout Outs is a time and place to highlight stories, reviews or posts that caught my eye during the week.

This week was a little crazy, busy at our place - Mr Books birthday, my eldest booklets Yr 12 Graduation, a visit from my F-I-L & hayfever symptoms running amok. All of which added up to very little time to check out other blogs this week.

But I did spot that Stoner by John Williams was recently reviewed by The Cue Card (here). Stoner is in my TBR pile so I was pleased to be reminded of its presence.

I also really liked Cleopatra Loves Books idea to highlight the best books that she had read and reviewed from years gone by on her blog.

Her best of 2014 is here.
And 2013 here.

I love seeing what other book bloggers consider to be the best from their year of reading, esp after a few years have gone by.
It's curious to see which books have lasting power - its not always the ones you initially think.

When I have time, I may even work out my "best of"'s too!

Did you spot any great reviews or fascinating posts this week?

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Pretending to be a Man Booker Judge or the Art of Rereading

When I was writing my post for A Little Life recently, I got to wondering about the handful of books that I have actually read through six times (or more) during my life time.

What made these books stand out for me so much that I had to return to them over and over again?

I've discussed the pleasures and merits of rereading several times on my blog (the main post is here.)

My list of 6+ reads includes many childhood favourites (when I actually had the leisure time to reread books ad nauseam!)

Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Secret Island by Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Mr Galliano's Circus by Enid Blyton
Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

But I'm not sure any of these books are worthy of a Man Booker Prize!

Not so many adult books have reached the heady heights of 6+ rereads though. In fact there are only two.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen

Now, if the Man Booker Prize were to ever decide to award a posthumous prize to anyone, my money would be on Jane Austen. This could be done - there's already a Lost MB Prize, The Best of the Booker and The MB Best of Beryl Prize. What's to stop them from adding a MB Classics Prize?

Jane Austen easily fits into the MB judging criteria which is "the best novel in the opinion of the judges."

The criteria also states 'The aim was to increase the reading of quality fiction and to attract “the intelligent general audience”.'

Again, Jane Austen is all over this! 

Curiously, when I was researching this over at the MB website, I noticed that the MB International Prize has now evolved into a book in translation prize starting in 2016. I was also pleased to note that the prize money for the new International Prize will be shared equally by the author and the translator.

The 3 reread club is a little fuller though:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
Most of the books in the Trixie Belden series
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
The Stand by Stephen King
The first three books in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King
Jo's Boys and Little Men by Louisa may Alcott
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

The twice read book list is too numerous to go into.

Not many award winning books have made it into my multiple reread lists. Does this say something about my reading habits? Or about the books that win awards? Or maybe it's a simple as the difference between adult reading and childhood reading.

As an adult I have had access to far more books than I ever did as a child. I also don't have the leisure time I did when I was a kid or more correctly, I chose to use my adult leisure time in more varied ways.

I still love to reread when I get the chance, but there are just so many new, shiny books out there that I haven't read yet, that rereading feels like a real indulgence now.

What's your rereading philosophy?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

TBR Thursday

TBR Thursday with She is Too Fond of Books is a meme to help us highlight some of the hidden or forgotten gems languishing in our out of control TBR piles.

Arcadia by Iain Pears hasn't been on my TBR for very long. But it's a chunkster (608 pgs) with an accompanying app (which I've downloaded in preparation).

The novel contains ten separate story strands. Pears explains (in his Guardian interview) that "each narrative is complete but is enhanced when mingled with all the others; to offer readers the chance to structure the book as best suits them."

I'm not quite ready to tackle such a big multi-modal reading experience so soon after A Little Life, even though the story line brings to mind both David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro (two favourites of mine).
Henry Lytten - a spy turned academic and writer - sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds.

He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world - a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey.

Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying to master the science of time travel.

Meanwhile - in the real world - one of Lytten's former intelligence colleagues tracks him down for one last assignment.

As he and his characters struggle with questions of free will, love, duty and the power of the imagination, Lytten discovers he is not sure how he wants his stories to end, nor even who is imaginary.

Part of the appeal for this week's classic is the Introduction by Hilary Mantel; another part is the beautiful Virago Modern Classics designer cover.

Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
A love story with a difference, this exquisite novel subtly demonstrates that in affairs of the heart, the race is not necessarily to the swift—or the fair. It comes with a beautiful cover by Florence Broadhurst.

The magnetic Evelyn Gresham, 52, is a barrister of considerable distinction. He has everything life could offer—a gracious riverside house in Berkshire, a beautiful young wife, Imogen, who is devoted to him, and their 11-year-old son, a replica of his father.
Their nearest neighbor is Blanche Silcox, a plain, tweed-wearing woman of 50 who rides, shoots, fishes, and drives a Rolls Royce—in every way the opposite of the domestic, loving Imogen.
Their world is conventional country life at its most idyllic: how can its gentle surfaces be disturbed?

Have you read either of these books?
Have you ever used an app to enhance your reading experience?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life will be my only Man Booker long-listed book to be completed before/around/during the announcement of the shortlist on Tuesday.

However, I have been avidly following the (wo)man booker shadow reading group here. It was thanks to their reviews that I made A Little Life my priority read out of the list.

There is a lot of love for this book out there in blogger land...and I can now see why.

But I'm not so sure it's worthy of winning the Booker.

A while back I read Amanda Foreman (one of the judges from 2012) comments about the judging process which made me realise that the judges read all the books in the longlist five times each to get to this point:
There are monthly meetings usually lasting somewhere between four and five hours, until the list of 146 titles is whittled down to sixty, then forty, then twenty, and finally twelve. After each stage of winnowing, the surviving books are re-read and re-evaluated.

From this I can only assume that the shortlisted books are read a total of six times by each judge before the winner is announced. That's quite a reading accomplishment!

There aren't many books in my life that I have read through six times, but I now try to keep this in mind when I read a Booker long or short listed book. How would this book hold up to several repeat readings?

And that's where A Little Life falls down for me.

The story is compelling, gut-wrenching and an emotional tour de force. Like a train wreck it is hard to look away. But do I want to reread it?

Will I gain any extra insight or any different perspectives from another reading? Does this story contain layers that will only be revealed with more or deeper readings?

I'm not sure about that.

In her interview for the Man Booker website, Yanagihara said:
I wanted everything -- the horror, the love, the distress, the compassion, the fortune, the misfortune -- to feel heightened, to be pushed beyond what's expected or even what's wise; I wanted it to live at the far ends of the spectrums of human behaviour and emotions. It should feel like a binge, somewhat, an experience that demands your attention and surrender: the small and large moments that punctuate any human life distilled into a concentrate.

I'm glad I read this interview before I started the book as it allowed me to accept the extreme elements in the story for what they were - for what the author intended them to be. I also read somewhere (I can't remember where) that she also thought of her story as being more of a fairy tale.

With that in mind, the sordid, brutal, relentless abuse that Jude experienced as a child is made a little more bearable and the redemptive powers of love and friendship made a little more acceptable.

Fairy tales often explore the idea of opposites and Yanagihara also uses that device in A Little Life.
Fragility and strength; determination and despair; vulnerability and vigilance; hopefulness and helplessness; love and hate; trust and wariness.

The real power in this story though - the binge factor - lies in Jude's inner voice.

We all have times when we doubt ourselves, when that little voice in head tells us we're not good enough, not pretty enough, not worthy or not lovable. But most of us eventually learn that this voice does not serve us well. That this voice is based on our fears and insecurities and other people's opinions.

Eventually we learn to let it go as best we can.

And that's what we wish so strongly for Jude.
We empathise, we sympathise, we know why his inner voice is saying what it does. We can also see his faulty thinking and his impaired logic.
We wish his inner voice quiet.

Yanagihara has written a powerful, moving, relentless tale about the best and worst of life.

Will that be enough to get it onto the Man Booker shortlist later on today?

For those who love the book and want more information from the source, check out Hanya's Instagram page for the book @alittlelifebook.
She provides insights into the story making process, cover choices, her inspiration for Jude's character etc. It's fascinating.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Stories & Shout Outs #1

One of the things I love about this blogging life is visiting other blogs.

I love finding new books and authors, I love the friendly discussions about books and I love the connections.

Some weeks are busier than others though.

Some weeks I stop by lots of blogs, leave comments, join in memes and write several reviews.

Other weeks I'm lucky to write one review, let alone visit any of my favourite blogs.

I also regularly spot reviews of books I'm about to read, but I don't want to read the review until after I've finished the book. The problem is when I finally finish the book and want to go back to read the review, I can't remember who, what or where it was!

I thought I might try to keep a record of them here...on Stories & Shout Outs - a time and place for me to highlight and keep track of reviews or posts of interest.

My Shout Outs may or may not be of interest to others.
You may or may not want to write your own Stories & Shout Out post.

If there is any interest I will add a linky, but for now you can let us know about your Stories & Shout Outs by leaving a link in the comments.

A while back I spotted that the busy folk at Bloggiesta were planning another week of blog maintenance.
I had planned on joining in, but we now have visitors coming to stay this week, so I doubt that I will get much work done on my blog. But I would like to join in some of the twitter chats if I can - so this is the link to the Bloggiesta Twitter Chat Schedule starting on Thursday (note to self - check time zone differences for each one).

I'm about half way through A Little Life and would like to go back to read reviews by Savidge Reads, Dolce Bellezza, Roof Beam Reader and Sam Still Reading.
If you also have a review of A Little Life I'm happy for you to leave your link for it in the comments below for me to get to next week. I suspect I will want to talk to lots of people about it at the end!

I have Paris Nocturne by Nobel Prize winner, Patrick Modiano on my bedside table.
Lisa Hill's was the first review I had seen for it anywhere. It made me keener to get stuck into it....after A Little Life perhaps.

I would also like to check in with the bloggers participating in the (wo)man booker shadow panel to see what their personal shortlists are before the big announcement on Tuesday from Booker HQ.

But for now, that is all.
It's time to dive back into ALL to see what Jude is berating himself for this time.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover

Flesh Wounds hit the shelves of our Indy bookshop two weeks ago and almost immediately began rushing out the door in the hands of happy customers.

Richard Glover is a radio presenter on ABC radio, the station of choice for many of our local residents. He writes a column in the SMH, the paper of choice for many more local residents. Glover is also an Inner West resident.

His story was always going to appeal to our readers.

If someone wrote a fiction story based on Glover's childhood though, you'd have trouble believing it.

But this is real life...and as we all know, it can be stranger than fiction.

Glover's storytelling is funny, almost absurd at times. His story is also sad and heart-rending.
Glover's book feels like a cathartic exercise in his search for truth and understanding. There are times though when you shake your head in disbelief and wonder how he turned out to be so normal.

However the thing that really amazed me was that during his regular dinner party game of 'Who's Got the Weirdest Parents?' some of his dinner guests were actually able to top his story!

Which just goes to prove that you never really know what goes on behind closed doors and that there will always be someone with a stranger story than yours!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

TBR Thursday

TBR Thursday with She is Too Fond of Books is a meme to help us highlight some of the hidden or forgotten gems languishing in our out of control TBR piles.

My first book hasn't actually been languishing for very long at all. But I'm so excited to be finally reading it, that I had to mention it this week.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest, most ultra-Dickensian places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its publisher.

     In its simplest terms, this is a novel about the long-term friendship of four classmates from a Massachusetts liberal arts college who come to New York to make their way; unlike most such college friendships the four never lose touch over the years and decades.
There is Willem, an actor from the West who becomes a Ryan Gosling-type indie film star and heartthrob; Malcolm, an Upper East Side buppie who becomes a noted architect; JB, a painter of Haitian/Brooklyn middle class descent whose Basquiat-type portraits of his friends earn him art world fame and fortune; and Jude St. Francis, a damaged orphan with a mysterious past whose brilliance in the law cannot shield him from the effects of that past and whose fragility and need for protection bind the group together as much as any one thing. 
     The book begins as a four-hander as we watch the friends progress in their lives and careers and observe the intricacies and shifting alliances of such a group friendship. But gradually Jude takes over the book and we learn his horrifying and beyond-Gothic backstory. The drama of the book is whether Jude can ever escape the grip of his Dickensian past--can he be saved? All of this unfolds over the decades in a mesmerizing fashion, with the tragic and the transcendent being on closer and more intimate terms than any work of fiction you have ever read.

My classic TBR this week has been languishing for a couple of years now. Thanks to its gorgeous cover, though, it has pride of place with my other Virago Modern Classic designer books on the bookcase in our bedroom. These books catch my eyes every morning when I open the blinds. They always give me a little bookish glow of pleasure. A lovely way to start each day.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s.
Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking. Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living.

“I had to tell someone how much I enjoyed The Dud Avocado. It made me laugh, scream, and guffaw (which, incidentally, is a great name for a law firm).” –Groucho Marx

"[The Dud Avocado] is one of the best novels about growing up fast...
" -The Guardian

Have you read either of these books?

Enough blogging - time to jump back into A Little Life!

Happy Reading!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Man by Kim Thuy

Earlier on in the year I attended an author event with Thuy and read Ru. I adored it. It was beautiful, heart-felt and poetic.

Last week I was in need of some beauty and picked up Thuy's latest book, Man in anticipation.

Once again, Thuy explores the immigrants story. The search for self, family and belonging is teased out thoughtfully via our narrator, Man.

Language and its many vagaries are played with, although sadly, I suspect that reading this book in English means that we miss many of the subtleties between Vietnamese and French.

Thuy/Man also talks about this issue of language,

To grasp the nuances between two related words, to distinguish melancholy from grief, for example, I weigh each one. When I hold them in my hands, one seems to hang like grey smoke while the other is compressed into a ball of steel. I guess and I grope and the answer is often the right one as the wrong one. I constantly make mistakes.

I confess that Man's story failed to engage me in the same way as Ru. It was an interesting, enjoyable tale, but it lacked the vibrancy and beauty that I experienced with Ru.

Perhaps the autobiographical nature of Ru added that personal touch that gave its story an extra edge or immediacy. Maybe the love story at the centre of Man felt unbelievable. I also wanted more food stories.

But there is no denying Thuy's ability to create unique word pictures in both books:
I had learned how to fall asleep very quickly, on command, so that my eyelids would serve as curtains over landscapes or scenes from which I preferred to be absent. I was able to move from consciousness to unconsciousness with a snap of the fingers, between two sentences, or before the remark that would offend me was spoken.