We read...

To know we are not alone. ~C.S. Lewis~

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Best Thing

The Best Thing by Margo Lanagan
181 pages
Genre: YA
Tone: gritty
Rating: VPI (well not exactly pleasant but interesting enough).

Fav lines: Outside the cicadas cease, like a blanket snatched off us, letting in the silence in.
First Line: I find a condom in my locker, with a jelly baby poked right down the tip.

Synopsis: Mel is a typical 17 year old full of angst, confusion & awkwardness; she’s dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Her parents are having marriage troubles & she’s burdened with a secret that could make them worse; she’s got bullies throwing stones at her and putting condoms in her school locker; she’s had one miscarriage and may be pregnant again; she’s got Pug but does she love him?

What do I think? There’s nothing like a good first person narrative to get you hooked. Poor Mel struggles to work through all her difficulties in a self-imposed isolation that made me want to hug my daughters and tell them that they are never alone. The structure – narrative broken by technical details of pugilism and obstetrics – I found a bit poncy. If I thought about it for a few minutes I could probably come up with a nice form = theme analysis but I just wanted the story in this book (so I skipped a lot of the ‘interruptions’). It is at 181p a very quick read and everyone who knows me knows I’m a Lanagan-fan, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to like this book.

It’s not like any others that I’ve read of hers. It’s set very much in the real world – places in Sydney that I can picture in my head. I think it would appeal to the YA audience – seems to me Lanagan has captured an authentic voice in Mel. One thing I noticed was how much I rely on my car. Mel doesn’t have access to a car so, being furiously independent she walks everywhere, even when she’s in labour!

I really like the explanation of the title (something I always like to nail down) which is articulated on p 135 and foregrounds the climax of the story beautifully. Read this for a reminder that life goes on with all its ups and downs. No matter how unsurmountable difficulties seem just keep going and you’ll find one ‘thing’ worth living for – the best thing.

stand back I’m on a mission!

BTT is a long running bookish meme. To join in pop over and read the 100's of interesting comments. This week’s question…

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

Well there you go another reason to blog find the gaps in your reading.

It’s amazing to realise I can’t think of a single book that I’ve read recently that made me really laugh. My stand-out memory of a great laugh was years ago reading Spike Milligan’s war books  - laughed till I cried even on the train (smidge embarrassing).

So it is now my mission to read everyone else’s BTT post to make a list of books that made others laugh and they are going to the top of Mt TBR!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Guru, you may regret asking this question…

Musing Mondays (BIG) Musing Monday is hosted by Becca of Just One More Page. Pop over and read lots of interesting comments & post your own. This week book-blogger Becca asks ...

Do you have an account with an online book database site (LibraryThing, Shelfari, GoodReads etc)? If so, do you have a preference? Do you use it for - your own record keeping? finding new books to read? social networking?

When I started blogging it was all about getting a handle on what I have read, am reading, want to read. As you know I found a whole world of fun and new friends, and my blogging became more about  the subject of reading. All this is a long way of saying that yes I have Shelfari & GoodReads accounts because I found myself distracted from my original purpose on my blog.

I loved Shelfari when I started and made it my TBR shelf on my sidebar but, because I’m not really fantastic oat the blogging thing, I found the functionality annoying so I tried Goodreads. Again, was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I don’t know. I’d love to try LibraryThing, i see it on so many of your blogs and it looks REALLY interesting, but with two failures under my belt am a bit gun-shy (not to mention time-poor). 

And…. to come full circle my recent post listing what I've read this year on WeRead satisfied my desire for all the things for which I originally started this blog. My plan is to do reviews for all my 2009 reads to add to this post and to do another listing all the books I’ve read. This is fairly ambitious (for me) so maybe when I’ve got that done I’ll book the guru up for another intensive lesson and venture out beyond my blogging comfort-zone.

Friday, July 24, 2009

pop quiz

BTT is a long running bookish meme. To join in pop over and read the 100's of interesting comments.

Try this quick quiz…

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Serious
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Paperbacks
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Fiction
  • Poetry? Or Prose? Prose
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies? neither
  • History? Or Historical Fiction? both
  • Series? Or Stand-alones? both (series for fantasy especially)
  • Classics? Or best-sellers? classics
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? none of these, but I do like quirky or lyrical prose
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? plot please
  • Long books? Or Short? both
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? usually non
  • Borrowed? Or Owned? owned
  • New? Or Used? both
  • Monday, July 20, 2009

    Cover detracttion

    Musing Mondays (BIG) Musing Monday is hosted by Becca of Just One More Page. Pop over and read lots of interesting comments & post your own. This week betoken Becca asks about book covers…again.

    As a follow up to last week’s question, Melody asked about when book covers do not match the story. Do you feel disappointed when the cover’s don’t match the story? Have you ever been completely misled by a book cover?

    I suppose I do look to the cover to betoken the story and yes I do feel betrayed if the story doesn’t live up to the jacket. As I rarely buy solely based on the cover it’s not a huge problem.twilight

    I thought this Twilight cover was interesting or even arresting, was disappointed by the story but I didn't buy it for the cover I bought it for bookclub so it doesn’t count .



    This cover of To Kill a Mockingbird does nothing for me but I know the book so have it in my collection for the story not the cover, it might be a pity if others are not drawn to it because of the cover… probably a new snazzier one out now anyway.

    I’ve picked up some historical fiction by the cover but the blurb usually gives the game away, it it’s a bit Mills & Boonish (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I’ll put it back. Likewise some SF have covers that sometime don’t match the blurb. So while I’m sometimes attracted to books I then reject I don’t think I’ve ever been completely misled by a cover, I’m to precious with my money to buy anything unless I’m fairly certain.TimeTravellersWife

    One book I would not have read by the cover alone is The Time Traveller’s Wife. This, to me, very ordinary cover put me off but I was nagged into ignoring the cover AND the  promise of ‘romance’ in the blurb by Becca and since have recommended it to others, because she was right (again), it is fantastic.

    In short I read books based on much more than the cover.

    Friday, July 17, 2009


    ReAD January

    • When Christ and His Saints Slept Sharon Penman
    • Time and Chance Sharon Penman
    • Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides


    • The Devil’s Brood Sharon Penman (unfinished)
    • Friday Night Knitting Club Kate Jacobs
    • Night Fall Isaac Asimov


    • Little Women Louisa May Alscott
    • March Geraldine Brooks
    • Tales of the Unexpected Roald Dahl (unfinished)





    • The Best Thing Margo Lanagan
    • Good Omens Neil Gamon/Terry Pratchett
    • Northern Lights Phillip Pullman
    • The Time Traveller's Wife Audrey Niffenegger


    • Earth Abides George Stewart
    • Girl with a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier


    • Romulous my Father Raimond Gaita
    • Fahrenheir 451 Ray Bradbury


    • Cold Skin Stephen Herrick
    • the Slap Christos Tsiolkas


    • The Boy in the Strippied Pyjamas John Boyne


    • A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

    Time Traveller’s Wife

    • The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger  TimeTravellersWife
    • pp 546
    • Genre: Romance, SF, Speculative
    • Tone: quirky, self deprecating love story
    • Rating: DDG
    • Fav Line: Clare” "It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays."
    • Synopsis: Henry De Tamble suffers from a genetic disorder that causes unpredictable, involuntary time displacements – forward and backward of his own time-line. He just ends up in a different time; disoriented, hungry and naked. He starts this adventurous lifestyle at five years old, it sounds great to have this potential but the logistics of arriving some other time with none of the basics – food, clothing, shelter mean that this is a life only viable for someone young and fit. Henry’s great fear is that something will happen to his feet that will prevent him from running – a thing you have to be very good at to survive his kind of life.

      He meets Clare when he’s 28. He’s never seen her before but she’s known him since she was a little girl finding him, a grown man, naked, hiding in the bushes near her home. Confused? You’ll have to read it, it is well worth picking up, you’ll read the first chapter and be totally hooked!

    What do I think?

    Described in the blurb as an ‘unconventional love story’ it was the ‘unconventional’ that attracted me. I find it very curious that this book was Niffenegger’s response to her own lacklustre love life, a metaphor for her failed romances.

    Genre-wise it’s been placed in both romance, science fiction but I read it as speculative fiction because that’s what interests me. The premise: a man with a genetic disorder that makes time travelling an unpredictable part of his life falls in love, marries and is accepted as ‘normal’ within his circle of friends and acquaintances intrigued me.

    I love the structure, alternating first person perspectives following Henry and Clare as they make sense of their lives. Each new section is dated giving the ages of Henry (which can vary according to ‘when’ he is) and Clare. I can’t imagine how Niffenegger plotted this story or kept all the time-lines in her mind. You may feel tempted to keep track of what’s happening and when (I did) so for example when Henry is ‘chrono-displacing’ (the name of his disorder) you know something about what’s happening in Clare’s timeline.

    Henry runs into himself when he travels too...I love it...the idea of his older self being the one who explains to his five year old self what’s happening when he time travels and how to cope with it is fantastic. This is refreshingly original from a speculative point of view, this is a world where you can meet yourself without dissolving as in so many other time travelling narratives (think Back to the Future).

    Henry is a runner, he needs it to help him manage his stress levels (stress is a trigger for time travelling). If he wants to stay in Clare’s present for something special like their wedding- day from example he needs to run every day. Henry’s demise is foregounded when he explains to Clare how important his running is to him, it makes his return from one ‘trip’ with frostbitten feet amazingly poignant.

    I know it’s Friday but…

    BTT is a long running bookish meme. To join in pop over and read the 100's of interesting comments.

    Following up from last week’s question ...Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

    So I’m late…again…but to be fair I thought it was Thursday! As you can see from last weeks BBT post my bedroom is also my TBR waiting-room. New books arrive and usually go to the top of the pile on my bedside bookshelf, often pushing one/some off the bottom and onto a shelf further away, but still insight of my bed.

    This is called, in my own twisted way, moving to the back of the bus. Sometimes I feel sorry for those moved to the back of the bus and sometimes I’ll retrieve one for reading purely on the basis that it was once a treasure.

    Since I’ve been slack in the looking for work department my book buying has slowed down (a bit, really it has, honest) so I haven’t moved any to the back of the bus for a while. Also, since I finished uni, I’ve been reading off the ‘one-day-books’ pile, so it’s easy to keep all my unreads in my bedroom the problem is the shelves that they move to once read are chockers and MGM has vetoed new shelves!

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    cover attraction + blurb attraction = purchase

    Musing Mondays (BIG) Musing Monday is hosted by Becca of Just One More Page. Pop over and read lots of interesting comments & post your own. This week bijou Becca asks about book covers…

    We all know the old adage about not judging a book by it’s cover, but just how much sway does a book cover have when it comes to your choice of book – whether buying or borrowing? Are there any books you’ve bought based on the cover alone?

    Let’s face it publishers have taken a leaf out of Mother Nature’s book, designing their covers with the express aim of attracting unsuspecting prey. One of my favourite memes is Marcia’s cover attraction over at The Printed Page. Each Wednesday the most amazing artwork is posted by Marcia and those participating in the meme but Marcia’s gorgeous blog is covered in covers - I like visiting her blog just to look at them.

    While I’ll pick up one book and not another, based solely on the cover, I rarely buy that way. If the blurb matches the cover in the way of attraction I’ll go for it but I’m often disappointed when the blurb doesn’t match the potential in the cover.

    A quick scan of my bookshelves revealed something interesting, most of my books were chosen for their renown; award winners, classics from the cannon, authors of repute… the only books I can acknowledge as true cover attractions are fantasy books.

    Amongst others these standout because I knew nothing about them before I bought them and was completely engrossed from page one, for all of them.


     The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson






    The Belgariad by David Eddings

    many coloured land



    The Saga of the Exiles by Juliann May

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Now monthly on the First Friday (of course)

    Friday Firsts* Copy/paste the question and button.
    * leave a comment and link to your post.
    * Join in with the intermittent puzzle, (look for the answer the following FF). First correct answer = 1 pt.    A prize will go out on FF 1st anniversary ! (track your progress on my sidebar)…

    When was the first time you thought ‘I can do that’ and put pen to paper for your first work of fiction? Care to share yours I’d love to read some new stories.

    When I first read Tolkien I was so taken by the other-worldliness of Middle Earth I thought I’d like to create my own world. I had great ideas for the most wonderful leading man (based way too closely  on Strider) and a grand quest theme. It did not take long to work out that Tolkien possessed a genius that few people have and that the great novel just was not in me (I was about 13/14).

    It took another 35 years for me to actually have the skills to write and the knowledge that I am not a writer. I’ve heard enough authors talk to know that their inner life needs expression, they have a compulsion to write. I understand it because I get antsy when I’ve been deprived of creative time. I think I need to make jewellery and beads and cards in the same way as a writer needs to write.

    That’s not to say I didn’t absolutely love my creative writing classes and the process of writing, I did. But I know that anyone who can say ‘one day’ about putting those stories I’ve got floating around in my head down on paper is not an author. What about you have you managed to take the step from reader to writer?

    Puzzel: On a cold day in April what time were the clocks striking

    No! not another book…I’m not listening

    BTT is a long running bookish meme. To join in pop over and read the 100's of interesting comments. This week's proposition ...

    Is from The Toddled Dredge (via K for Kat). Here’s what she said:

    “So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

    I’m coming late to BTT this week as someone had my camera just when I wanted to use it, isn’t it always the way? Your stuff sits round idle for months and then when you loan it out you find you need it too.

    DSC_0021Anyway here is by bedside TBR. It once sat in a neat pile on my bedside table but it became to ungainly and kept toppling off the edge. I wanted to keep them close and the only shelves that would fit was a CD stacker bit it works.

    Bedside table is now reserved for my current reads (see side bar).

     On the Shelf

    • The Girl with the Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier DSC_0025
    • Exploring English Ronald Horan
    • Long Way Round Ewan McGreggor
    • Blooming English Kate Burridge
    • When he leaves Kari Quinn
    • The Other Boleyn Girl Philippa Gregory
    • The Boleyn Inheritance Philippa Gregory
    • Harlequin Bernard Cornwell
    • The Dragon at Noonday Edith Pargeter
    • Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert


    • recommended by others (RBO)
    • * Good Omens Terry Pratchett and Neil
    • Gaimaon
    • * The Eyre Affair Jasper FForde
    • Started but not finished
    • * Mrs Dalloway Virginia Wolfe
    • * Tales of the Unexpected Roald Dahl
    • * Kiss Kiss Roald Dahl
    • * Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil John Berenot

    Balancing precariously on top: the quartosDSC_0023

    • Reunion Andrea Goldsmith
    • The Historian Elizabeth Kostova
    • The Return of Merlin Deepak Chopra
    • The Devil's Brood Sharon Penman
    • Character (bible study work book)
    • Seven Ancient Wonders (quarto RBO)


    • * The Politics Aristotle
    • * Persuading Aristotle Peter Thompson
    • * One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    • * The Unbearable Likeness of Being Milan Kundera
    • * The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet

    As if 27 books beside the bed is not enough at the foot of the bed DSC_0027 this shelf beckons…

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    hosted by MizB @ Should be Reading.
    * Grab your current read & let it fall open.
    * Share 2 “teaser” sentences, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
    * Share the title of the book… remember...
    **************************avoid spoilers please****************************

    Mel is a strong 16 year old fleeing from schoolyard tormentors…

    Cars stop for me at the Salisbury Road crossing, and I almost cry with gratitude. It feels as if the drivers are being incredibly kind to me, as if they know my leg and head are stinging from the stones and my knees are wobbling, and they’re stopping to help me escape, and maybe block the way if Brenner comes after me again.

    p12 The Best Thing,  as always Margo Lanagan is outstanding.

    Musing Mondays (BIG)Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about library company…

    Buddy borrowing Becca asks…Who, if anyone usually accompanies you to the library? Is it somewhere you go alone? Or is it a regular outing with family or friends? Which do you prefer?

    Hmmm library company…? I can think of one person with whom I’d share a library trip (having been there several times with my buddy borrower) but actually not that many other people. I talk a lot (ask anyone who knows me) and I get too distracted doing that to concentrate on book blurbs, so my borrowing is not all that successful with a friend. I prefer alone.

    When the tin lids were little I'd have lots of company but the visit was for them so it didn’t matter if I was distracted as I wasn’t really trying to find something for me. When I think about it those were my fav times in the library… with my kids, getting them fired up about books. My son would always take longer so that gave me time to read some books to my girls and exchange them on the spot for new ones. 

    The library and my kids what great memories…

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    So here’s what I’m going to do…

    There has been some very sketchy contributions on WeRead lately, you all know why, nothing I do has helped me get back to reading/commenting on everyone’s interesting blogs (that I love btw) and I’m starting to put too much guilt-pressure on myself to keep up …

    So here’s what I’m going to do:

    1. stop worrying.
    2. go monthly (instead of weekly) for things like Friday Firsts and Top 3.
    3. read more/comment less (so I’ll be lurking a lot).
    4. focus on my fav memes – Musing Monday & BTT (I hope Becca’s okay there’s no Musing up yet and she’s never late).
    5. stop worrying.

    Eventually I’ll do those reviews, make those comments, get back into the blogosphere with gusto and I know you’ll all still be there and I am NOT going to obsess any more (I’m not, I’m not, I’m NOT!).

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    2008 BookFreaks

    Atonement - Ian McEwan

    Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult

    The Book Theif - Marcus Zusak

    P.S. I Love You - Cecilia Ahern

    The Mist - Stephen King
    Black Juice - Margo Lanagan

    Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

    The Devil's Dictionary - Ambrose Bierce
    The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

    Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

    where did Tuesday go?

    I can’t quite seem to get back to normal, it’s frustrating and I miss the blogosphere. I haven’t visited anyone lately except Just One More Page, on Monday. I actually sat down just now to write my MM post a bit late and then I realised it is Wednesday! surely Wednesday’s too late but where did Tuesday go?!?

    So I decided to catch up a bit by showing off my purchases (& my reason for buying them) on my birthday-treat shopping day to the Blue Dragon my new favourite  second-hand bookshop. The shop owner is, I’ve been told, a librarian and she did very well not to shush us as we buzzed around her shop like kids in a lolly-shop.

    The shop doesn’t have that sometimes yucky second-handishness, you know where you look at a book and wonder if someone’s been reading it on the loo, it’s more library-meets-new-bookshop with second-hand prices. All my purchases were in excellent condition some of them look like new. Next time i go I’m going to TRY and part with some of my treasures because of course she buys too and that way the bottom line is even smaller (I’ve never been able to part with a book voluntarily - we’ll just have to see about this plan!)

    here’s what I got…

    • One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez       (the fantastic title)
    • The Historian Elizabeth Kostova                                           (the blurb)                             
    • The Best Thing Margo Lanagan                                               (Margo Lanagan is my fav aussie writer)
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger                      (the nagging – Becca! I’ve read it and she was right to nag)
    • Persuading Aristotle Peter Thompson                                     (I desire to be persuasive)
    • The Return of Merlin Deepak Chopra                                   (the author’s gorgeous name)

    100 years historian best thing TimeTravellersWife unbearable pa return of merlin

    And on the same day, in the post, arrived this book written by a distant rellie & dedicated to closer rellies (MGM’s cousins Roger and Jan)…


    • Reunion Andrea Goldsmith.

    I’d call that a good day!