Reading

Hello 2014

Yes, I may be a little  late for this post but I’ve always been a little slow so it’s better late than never! I’ve been lurking around the blogs again and see that may have done little wrap up and resolutions for the year ahead and thought I’ll  get in on that too. As you guys will have probably noticed (or not), I don’t regularly update this blog anymore. Instead, I have returned to lurking. I enjoyed blogging, and still do, but I suppose the field got a little too full and I felt a little competitive. It also got quite overwhelming with all these great books being recommended and the TBR grew ever higher with no hope of it ever being read. Along with the TBR, I really enjoy simply picking books at random and reading whatever I fancy. So,  in a few words, everything in the blogging world got too much and I stopped. But I have missed it, particularly the good community feel.

Reading wise, without the constant recommendations, I found I read far and wide last year. I read a lot of non-fiction, got far too interested in the Tudor history (always a late comer) and Anne Boleyn, read a lot of popular ‘hot’ fiction, became less picky and snobby about reads and generally enjoyed reading on the whim. While I did try to read more classics and my own books, I found I borrowed far too much from the library (working there doesn’t help the cause) and I became overloaded with library books. You would too if you saw the book sitting on the shelve looking all beautiful and fascinating and just screaming at you to borrow them.

My reading resolutions for this year:

  • Read more classics. I still want to get through Thomas Hardy’s collection and the rest of Jane Austen.
  • Read largely from my own collection.
  • Continue reading far and wide.
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Recent Reads in a Nutshell

I’ve been reading quite a bit again which I am loving. I’m finding that I am racing through books but I’m still typically reading a book a week. I have noticed that I am reading more popular  fiction these days rather than my usual feast of moody classics or obscure authors. I have been reading titles that are on all the best selling tables in bookstores (although even that is becoming a rarity these days). So here is a round up and a little summary of what I’ve read lately:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013). A story of the last days of Agnes who was the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Interesting and certainly vivid but I’m not sure if it lived up to the hype. It is certainly different to the sort of ‘Australian’ novels but…I wasn’t left amazed.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007). A Young Adult novel about a girl who commits suicide. Before she died, she made thirteen tapes detailing the steps and people who lead her to take her last steps and she mails them to each of the thirteen people on the list. The people on the list must listen to all the tapes and past them on to the next person otherwise the tapes would be made public. A pretty insightful novel on the teenage world and a cautionary tale about bullying.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013). I love Kate Atkinson. I think she is one of the best writers today and I always love her Brody novels. Case Histories is an amazing book and I remember wanting to stay in and read it while I was travelling in Vienna! Atkinson has this unique talent for structuring overarching storylines and have them interlace together beautifully before bringing it to a close. The best way I can think to describe her stories is that her chapters are like a series of little dots in a painting and by the end, if you step back, you’ll have an amazing masterpiece. Life After Life was no exception although I did find that it lagged a little towards the end.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2013). A ‘love’ story about the marriage between Nick and Amy. Both get to tell their side of the story and it’s a clever psychological read (although I did guess the first part). Both characters became increasingly unlikeable though but a very well written. If you’re in a reading slump, read this!

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013). Galbraith is also known as J.K. Rowling. I never read The Casual Vacancy. I did read a chapter or two but found it hard going and then I had to return it to the library because it had around thirty-five reserves on it and then never felt the desire to continue with it. But this, this is a most wonderful crime fiction. Fantastic character development, very atmospheric and by chapter two, you have forgotten that this is J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. By that time, you’re simply engrossed in the story. I did find the story evolved quite similarly to Harry Potter plotlines but that isn’t a criticism. Another fantastic and clever read. And Rowling seems to have a knack for creating plots that makes you double take at the end and wanting to flip through to the beginning again to see if you spot the clues again. I always love that.

Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen (1813). I think after reading so many contemporary crime fiction, I had a strong urge to re-read this old familiar. A quicker read than I remember but not any less enjoyable. I read my high school copy of this book and I wished I didn’t write so many notes in it. It was quite distracting! But re-reading Jane Austen is always such a pleasure. I spent the most enjoyable afternoons reading on the couch with a lovely cup of tea and biscuits. After reading it, I had the urge to re-watch the BBC version of this and it still proves to be a delight! 🙂

Murder in Mississippi: The True Story of How I Met a White Supremacist, Befriended His Black Killer and Wrote this Book (2013). John Safran’s first book. He is more well known for his documentaries that pushes social (and his own) boundaries. While filming his last documentary, Race Relations, he had shot some film with a white supremacist in Mississippi that never went to air due to consent being withdrawn. That man was later murdered and when hearing this, Safran thought this would be his Truman Capote moment. It’s an interesting book and Safran is as funny and witty in his writing as he is in his documentaries. The way the story panned out was not what I had imagined though but that isn’t a bad thing. Very interesting book but perhaps not Safran’s Capote moment yet. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (1962). For some reason, I picked up this book and decided to borrow it from the library. Perhaps I wanted a little breather after Safran’s book. This is a fantastic play. So short but so powerful. There are four main characters who are two couples. Middle- age couple Martha and George end up inviting a young couple who is new to town, Nick and Honey, to their place for a night cap at 2am after a faculty party Martha’s father had thrown. The first two acts show Martha and George as such grotesque people who are so horrible to each other. As Martha and George both play their games and draw Nick and Honey into their arguments, cracks begin to show in their own new marriage. But the third act, the final act, is so brilliant at explaining everything in such a subtle way that you realise why their horrible games were necessary. 

How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (2013). Set in an undisclosed Scandinavian town, Marta and Hector have been married for a very long time. Their only son, Kylan, have flown the coop and now lives in the city. Marta has been trained to be the perfect housewife with the much older controlling husband and overbearing mother in law. As Marta goes through her days, she recites rules from the Good Wife handbook. But Marta finds herself having flashbacks and a life she can’t remember. She has stopped taking her pills that Hector makes her take everyday, physically putting them into her mouth that Marta mocks swallows. She has taken them for as long as she can remember, with both Kylan and Hector reminding her about the last time she decided to stop taking them and the disaster that unfolded. Marta soon decides that something is terribly wrong with her memory and that Hector is hiding something.

A very thrilling, easy and quick read. Marta is an unstable narrator and as things unfold, you aren’t sure what to believe (although I did tend to side with Marta). There is no definite answer at the end but it does provide a thrilling crescendo that will make you want to stay up and finish the book.

 

I’m Still Here…

So, it has been a long time between drinks, or in this case, posts. I have disappeared off the blogosphere but I have now resurfaced. Hurrah! Life have taken a crazy hold this past month and it’s only probably going to get worse with the lead up to Christmas and New Year (three weeks!) but things have settled down slightly. This means that my reading has waned but never fear, I think my interest is returning. So a quick update in five bullet points or less:

1. Abandoned Reads

I was very in between books this past month. I started but couldn’t finish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got halfway through Cold Comfort Farm but it simply didn’t hold my interest. I expected a funny and light read but, similar to my experience with Emma, I simply couldn’t get into it. I do want to return to it in the near future though. On the other hand, John Ajvide Lindqvist has never disappointed me but I didn’t have enough time to read Little Star since it was from the library and there was a queue. I will most definitely try again.

2. Reading

I’m also halfway through Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor L. Frankl which is enlightening and heartbreaking.

I’m a quarter into The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides. Any story with a character that majors in English Literature immediately grabs my interest.

3. Finished

I only finished one book this past month and it was the quite intense Wetlands by Charlotte Roche. Some parts made me squirm and were too painful to imagine but overall, I loved it and thought it was hilarious. The main character had such a voice, filled with sarcasm and dark humour that reminded me of Holden Caulfield.

4. Other News

I made a little side trip to Sydney over the weekend to see the play Gross und Klein (big and small) starring Cate Blanchett. It was an amazing production and performance. The set design also blew me away. It was quite experimental and very minimalistic but it worked so well. It’s always such a thrill seeing Cate Blanchett live on stage and I’m lucky enough to see her for the third time. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

Gross und Klein

5. New buys

I think I have finally curbed by book buying urge. I have only bought 3 books these past few months:

  • High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood

And I must, must, must, stop borrowing so many books from the library. I keep borrowing and borrowing meaning to read them but I never get around to it so they end up just sitting on my shelves looking sadly back at me. At least I get their stats up!

I’ll be back and lurking around on your respective blogs in no time. 🙂

 

In a Nutshell

So – I haven’t been around much and I’ve been extremely lax about posting. I’ve reverted back to my lurking ways and have been lurking about on various blogs. 🙂 However, I have been reading much more than usual so that’s always a good thing. I’ve been reading mainly contemporary books which is not quite my style at all since I always usually lean towards the classics but all my library reservations decided to come in at the same time.

These are the books I’ve recently finished:

  Brilliant book and incredibly intense. I’m glad that she managed to control her depression and write this amazing memoir. I initially thought the book would largely be a criticism of pill popping and society’s, or America’s, reliance on anti-depressants or a ‘pill that will fix everything wrong in my life’ but it was largely focused on Wurtzel’s debilitating mental illness.

 

 

 

Another amazing read. It’s regained popularity around various blogs due to the book becoming a TV series. I’m not it’s something I want to watch but I loved everything about this book particularly the way Summerscale (what a great name!) draws in contemporary works during the time and place everything in context. The historical aspect about the advent of detectives and policing is also fascinating.

 

 

This was another fabulous read (I’m repeating myself, aren’t I?) I stayed up last night finishing it because I had to find out how everything ended. It’s about a woman who has an unusual case of amnesia. For the last 25 years, Christine would only remember things for 24 hours. When she goes to bed for the night, her memory is wiped clean and every morning her husband would have to remind her about everything. This would be alright except for the persistent unease and fear Christine feels.

 

Proper reviews might follow if I can be inspired and motivated enough! I’m currently trying to read Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brookes but it’s a little difficult to get into. I think I just want to escape into some old classics for a bit.

In other news, Borders in Australia is now closing all its stores which I find extremely sad and disappointing. I’m anticipating the sales though but it’s really quite sad about the collapse of Borders. although I’m very annoyed this happened after the chain destroyed all other independent bookstores. Such is life in the world of retail, I suppose.

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four … and Five…

This fun meme is floating around blogosphere lately having originated from Stuck in a Book so I thought I’d give it a go too.

1 – The book I’m currently reading:

I’m halfway through One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. I’m in love with this series and it’s one of few, if any, fantasy books I read. The little literary in-jokes, the word play, satire and sheer imagination of Jasper Fforde never fails to amuse me. Here’s one passage that illustrates why I snorted out loud on the train:

[Lady Shalott] wasn’t the only one to be physically morphed by Reader Expectation. Miss Havisham was now elderly whether she liked it or not, and Sherlock Holmes wore a deerstalker and smoked a ridiculously large pipe. The problem wasn’t just confined to the classics. Harry Potter was seriously pissed off that he’d have to spend the rest of his life looking like Daniel Radcliffe. – p. 75

And one of my favourite passages so far:

Unlike Acheron, who differed wildly from his in-book persona, Bertha really was bonkers. She had come to us after a gruelling forty-six-year stint as Anne Catherick in The Woman in White, and was now quite beyond any form of rehabilitation. In a cruel and ironic twist, Grace Poole kept our version of Bertha Rochester locked up securely in the attic. It was safer for everyone that way. – p. 110

2 – The last book I finished:

Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. This is the book that the movie was based on. I’d had it on my shelves for quite a few years but I couldn’t work myself up to read it. My recent visit to Auschwitz I and II made me really want to read this. It is a fascinating read about a spectacular man in one of our worst moments in history.

3 – The next book I want to read:

I have plenty I want to read next! At the moment, I’m tossing up between Prozac Nation, a Hardy or following the WWII theme, Stasiland by Anna Funder which has also been sitting patiently on my shelves.

4 – The last book I bought:

This will be detailed in an upcoming post. 🙂 Borders is closing down and I’ve just gone a little cuckoo over their sales. I’m also heading off to Book Town again this year – this Saturday in fact. Hurrah!

5 – The last book I was given:

Sadly, like many other book lovers, I’m rarely given books. The last book I received from Another Cookie Crumbles who gifted me a lovely Persephone, Farewell Leicester Square, when I met her in London. 🙂

Shelving Update

An update on re-arranging my new shelves. The weather has cooled considerably (to the point of flash floods, thanks Mother Nature) so it was a good time to get books sorted.

Shelves much more organised now.

While the books look organised, I had the problem of what I call the ‘upstairs-downstairs books’. My other main shelf is downstairs and that holds the majority of my books whereas the new shelves in my room is a new addition and largely held new or TBR books. The problem now is, being the geek that I am, I like to be near my books as much as possible so I’ve found myself playing favourites (books are like children. Feel free to disagree!) although I try not to. The visual effect also came into play for the first time and I spent a grand five minutes agonising over whether or not to group my books alphabetically for all the classics or by publishers. As you can see, I chose the latter and no regrets so far. I also decided to put the Oxfords on the top shelf purely because ‘o’ comes before ‘p’. Aren’t I a diplomat? 🙂

Of course, it would be fantastic if all my books were finally shelved together like one big happy family but that’s not going to happen until I get my own place. The good thing is now I have a wee bit more room to store more books. I really thought I had more books than this. The library books live on the floor now though. Shhh…

On another note, I’m three quarters of the way through The Mandarins and it’s incredibly perplexing. I’ve found myself making marks and notes but I’ve also discovered that using pieces of tissue just doesn’t have the same reliability as post-its. The scraps tend to float away and lose their spot which defeats the purpose.

Tissues ain't no substitute for post-its

 

What I’ve Been Reading

I have taken a blogging and, mostly, internet sabbatical. Surprise, surprise, when one is not glued to the monitor, there suddenly seems to be much more time to read. Last week, I made my way through several books I had wanted to read for awhile:

  • Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. It lagged in the middle but I sat down and finished it in one evening. An interesting read but quite different from Lady Audley’s Secret.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue. Short listed for the Booker prize, this story is told entirely through the voice of five year old Jack who has spent his entire life captive in a garden shed. An amazing read and I finished it in two sittings.
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. A deliciously, spine tingling Victorian ghost story.
  • The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. Another Gothic, ghost novella with fun chilling twists and turns.
  • The Legend of the Infant of Prague. A story book with short fairy tales about Prague over the centuries. They’re very interesting although very religious. A friend gave this to me when she returned from her jaunt.

Finally, ABC seems to have turned Wednesday nights into geek nights which I absolutely adore. Not only is The Librarians back but I have just discovered how awesome The I.T. Crowd is. I do love all the geekiness. And Moss.

The I.T. Crowd