Sunday, June 22, 2014

Halfway Check In

Caspar looking for books at a good bookstore in Melbourne last year

At the beginning of the year I signed up for some reading challenges - four to be precise (oh and the Good Reads Challenge of 50 books for the year - again):

  1. Australian Women Writer's Challenge
  2. Great War Theme Read
  3. Eclectic Reader Challenge
  4. Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

I am on track with my 50 books for the year (I'm 3 books ahead of schedule on that one - phew!)

But how am I faring with the other challenges?  Huh? Huh?

Well for the first challenge - Australian Women Writers - the goal was to read 10 books by Australian women and review six of them.  One could say that I've just about blitzed this one. Looking at my books, I have read ten books by Australian women this year already.  They are as follows:

  1. My Brother but One by T.M. Clark
  2. Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey
  3. Madeleine: a life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca
  4. The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St John
  5. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John
  6. Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
  7. Innocence Lost: The Last Man Hanged in Queensland by Jacqueline Craigie
  8. Fatal Impact by Kathryn Fox
  9. You're Still Hot to Me by Jean Kittson
  10. Wild Things by Brigid Delaney
Have I reviewed six of them though?  Well possibly not to the standards set down here.

My reviews tend to be perhaps too short and not analytical enough so I need to do some work here.

My great-grandfather and his brother in France during WW1

The second challenge - Great War Theme Read - has fallen by the wayside.  I wanted to read 5 books and have only read the first one.  Testament of Youth is still sitting beside the bed.  I watched the TV series though. Does that count?  No  - I don't think so.  I need to lift my game here and get on with it.

The third challenge - Eclectic Reader Challenge - isn't doing so badly.  There were 12 goals to fill here and I've highlighted the six I've completed, so I'm on track.

  1. Award Winning - The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize 
  2. True Crime (Non Fiction) - Innocence Lost by Jacqueline Craigie
  3. Romantic Comedy 
  4. Alternate History Fiction - I'm going to claim Life after Life by Kate Atkinson for this one
  5. Graphic Novel
  6. Cosy Mystery Fiction
  7. Gothic Fiction
  8. War/Military Fiction - William an Englishman by Cecily Hamilton
  9. Anthology
  10. Medical Thriller Fiction - Fatal Impact by Kathryn Fox 
  11. Travel (Non Fiction)
  12. Published in 2014 - Wild Things by Brigid Delaney

The fourth challenge - Non-Fiction Reading - I was aiming to be a Dilettante reading 1 - 5 books and I think I am pretty much blitzing this one too.
  1. Moving among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey
  2. Madeleine: a Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca
  3. Innocence Lost: The Last Man Hanged in Queensland by Jacqueline Craigie
  4. You're Still Hot to Me by Jean Kittson

And, because I am completely hopeless, I said I would also participate in the Mary Hocking Reading Month because I'd never heard of her and she died this year and my friends in the Virago Group thought a lot of her.  I'm struggling a bit with this one.  I've borrowed three of her books from the library.  I couldn't get into A Particular Place, so I'm going to give The Meeting Place a good go as it's got the most stars on Librarything, although I'm finding it a bit tough too.

So, to re- frame goals for the balance of the year ....
  1. Write those reviews!!
  2. Read four Great War books 
  3. Read one from each of the following genres/groups: Romantic Comedy, Graphic Novel, Cosy Mystery, Gothic Fiction, an Anthology and a Travel book.
  4. Try and finish a Mary Hocking book
How are you going with your goals?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Australian Women Writer's Challenge

Australian Women Writer's Challenge 2014
Ooh - I've found another challenge to enter!  The Australian Women Writer's Challenge.  I've decided to go for the Franklin Level.  My goal will be to read 10 books by Australian women and review 6 of them.

Of the nine books I have already read this year, four have been by Australian women.  Woo hoo!  I think I'm doing okay so far.  Now I just have to write the reviews, yes?

I have read:

The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St John

The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St John

Madeleine by Helen Trinca

That was prompted by reading Madeleine by Helen Trinca.

I have also read

Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey

Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey 


My Brother-But-One by T.M. Clark

My Brother But One by T.M. Clark

I aim to try and read as many of the books longlisted for The Stella prize as possible.  And I'd like to read the rest of Madeleine St John.

Luckily I have already read:

Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent


Boy, Lost

Boy Lost by Kristina Olsson

Have you read any Australian women authors lately?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Reading Challenges for 2014

Secret Santa gift from the lovely Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from a stinking hot Brisbane.

How was your Silly Season?

Was it full of books and lots of lovely reading?

I reached my goal of reading 50 books last year for the first time - hoorah!

This year I will try and do the same but mix it up a bit with a few reading challenges.

My first reading challenge is one I've joined on Librarything through the Virago Group.

For that I hope to read the following:

  1. William an Englishman by Cecily Hamilton
 William : an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton

    2.   One of Ours by Willa Cather

One of Ours (Virago Modern Classics) by…

   3.   Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

   4.   Not so quiet by Helen Zenna Smith

Not So Quiet...: Step-Daughters of War by…

   5.   The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

I have also signed up for the Eclectic Reader Challenge


I am really looking forward to this as I need to broaden my reading particularly for the work I do in a public library.  These are the books/genres I hope to read:

  1. Award Winning - I'll seek my inspiration from this website and given that I have just discovered Penelope Fitzgerald, I reckon I'll read Offshore for this one.
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

2. True Crime (Non Fiction) - well I do have The Gatton Murders by Stephanie Bennett  by my bed or The Baby Farmers by Annie Cossins or Three Crooked Kings by Matt Condon, so I think that's that covered off

Cover - Link opens in a new windowCover - Link opens in a new windowThree crooked kings : Terry Lewis, the rat…

3. Romantic Comedy - I'm a bit non-plussed about this - want to give me a suggestion?  Otherwise I'll be heading for Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Cover - Link opens in a new window

4. Alternate History Fiction - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke appeals to me

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna…

5. Graphic Novel - I suspect this will be like eating dry All Bran for Me - I'm choosing Watchmen 

Watchmen by Alan Moore

6.  Cosy Mystery Fiction - unless you have a better suggestion (and I am all ears, really I am) I will plump for Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by MC Beaton I suppose.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.…

7.  Gothic Fiction - I'm ashamed to say that I have never read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier so that's a definite

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

8.  War/Military Fiction - see my first reading challenge ! ;0

9. Anthology - this is kind of curious.  I looked on Goodreads Listopia and Forever Friends by Shelagh Watkins was top of the list so I guess I'll give it a go!

Forever Friends by Shelagh Watkins

10 Medical Thriller Fiction - hmmm I'd appreciate a bit of advice on this category too otherwise I'll plump for Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

11 Travel (Non Fiction) - I feel guilty that I've never read Bill Bryson so I think I'll choose 
A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America…

12 Published in 2014- ummmm well it's only 4 January but I can tell you now it will be one of the ones nominated for the Booker Prize that was published this year.

And just when you thought I was third reading challenge will be the 

I'm aiming low - Dilettante level 1-5 books.  I've got two covered already in my eclectic reader challenge: travel and true crime.  I guess I'd like to read history, biography and genealogy as well.  But perhaps knitting will get a look in too.  Or social media or library stuff.  Lots of room for thought there.

What about you?  What reading challenges are you hoping to achieve this year?

Monday, September 24, 2012


Grand Design by Prints Charming

One has not blogged for yonks and misses it dreadfully.  

One is swamped with Uni (two subjects this semester) and full-time work.

But one is not whingeing...just observing.

Of course one gets distracted by all sorts of develops a keen interest in embroidery as per the picture above...

Then one decides to try and lose weight...again...and goes for the odd walk and sees odd trees such as in Picture Number Two.  Anyone got any idea what tree it is??

Or this one?

And then there are so many yummy books ... particularly now that the Booker shortlist has been announced....not just one stack but two....

And then there are friends who fly in from interstate and force one to go to art galleries....

It's a tough life I tell you....

I am, in a word, content.

What about you?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Elizabeth Taylor's Angel - Week 4

So-called “Rondanini Medusa”. Marble, Roman copy after a 5th-century BC Greek original by Phidias, which was set on the shield of Athena Parthenos.
And so we come to the end of our reading of Angel by Elizabeth Taylor.

Did you, like me and Mr Fennelly, fall under Taylor's spell?

...loving her, almost as if he had invented her - bad fairy, wicked stepmother, peevish goddess, whatever she was.

I believe Taylor had fun creating her monster but the last chapter is testament to her love for her creation.  One cannot help but feel that, like the recalcitrant chauffeur Marvell, she misses her already as she kills her off.

No-one, to my mind, captures the real grief of aging quite like the words of Theo:

As we grow older, we are already dying; our hold on life lessens; there are fewer to mourn us or keep us in mind.  I am on my way already and taking the last of Hermione with me as I go.

Can we ever really know Taylor and what inspired her? 

Luckily for us, Taylor has many more captivating characters in her pantry and we are now moving on to her next novel in chronological order....please join Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings for discussion of In A Summer Season.

My grateful thanks to all those who have commented on this blog this month.  Your comments have been most thought-provoking and companionable.  

Thanks too to the lovely Laura for offering me this opportunity to host this month and encouraging us all to celebrate Elizabeth Taylor's work and keep the flame alive.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Elizabeth Taylor's Angel - Week 3

From the movie Angel directed by Fracois Ozon and starring Romola Garai and Michael Fassbender

In Part 3 of Angel, Angel spends the season in London, finds her way to Esme's studio and has her portrait painted.  Taylor describes her love for Esme as follows:

Love had laid her waste, so that she was open to other emotions, too, from which she once had been immune.

Esme's sister Nora in contrast...

felt the pains of martyrdom more exquisitely.  She brooded over her sufferings with a saintly acceptance of them, added each new one to her hoard and wondered if any woman ever was so wretched.

Angel seduces Esme with food

...excellent and abundant and.suited to masculine tastes : there was a saddle of mutton and wing-ribs of beef, a York ham with Cumberland sauce and a terrine of grouse.

Esme's declaration of love in the conservatory

was the only time in her life that she had forgotten an animal.

Have you seen the adaptation of Angel by Ozon?  It was interesting that he chose to place Theo rather than Esme with Angel when she discovers Paradise House, n'est-ce pas?

Sam Neill as Theo

Have you seduced someone with food?  Was it a saddle of mutton or a terrine?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Elizabeth Taylor's Angel - Week 2

The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a small New World monkey courtesy of Leszek Leszczynski on Flicker
This month I am hosting a read-a-long of Elizabeth Taylor's Angel in celebration of Elizabeth Taylor's centenary this year initiated by the lovely Laura.

Hopefully by now you will have read Part Two of Angel which introduces us to some very important characters in the story of both the furry kind and human kind, as well as the imaginary - I am speaking of the redoutable Mr Delbanco invented by Angel's long suffering publisher, Theo.  

Angel is growing in confidence as her reputation as an author grows. With her newly acquired wealth, she moves to a new more salubrious abode in the burbs  - The Birches at Alderhurst.  She surrounds herself with exotic pets - a parrot, a marmoset and a great dog called Sultan.  Her mother is ailing and eventually succumbs to an internal haemorrhage.  Her departure from this mortal coil paves the way neatly for the entrance of Nora, Angel's companion for the next thirty years as well as Esme, Nora's reprehensible and profligate brother.

When forced to consider the character of Angel and describe what makes her so odious, I think it is her complete lack of a sense of humour.  Thankfully Elizabeth Taylor abounds in humour and that is what makes reading Angel such a delight. Writing humour or comedy is no mean feat and I love to try and dissect Taylor's work to discover it's secrets.  Little sentences or phrases provide much joy e.g. 

"...industry made Norley an impossible place for industrialists to live in...." or 

"Miss Nora Howe-Nevinson," Lord Norley said loudly.  It was not an easy name to say and sometimes he made the most embarrassing mistakes.".

I love the dance of conversations - Taylor makes much of awkward silences and who is the first to fail or fall into the trap of speaking first and letting the other person "win".

William Govett driving a De Dion Bouton on an unsealed road c 1905 from State Library of Queensland
Taylor takes us on a tour of Angel's life in what can now be considered a rather quaint linear fashion from beginning to end.  Rather like travelling in the open tourer of Theo's De Bion Bouton without protective goggles, our senses are assaulted by the weather of her life's little and big storms.  By the by I thought Sam Neil was beautifully cast as Theo in the recent adaptation of Angel - though the rest of the film to my mind was rather stilted and tedious and captured none of Taylor's humour.

Taylor's prowess at humour is intensified by the tremendous pathos of Mrs Deverell's loneliness and decline and Angel's hopelessness at intimacy and happiness.  One of my favourite descriptions of Angel is as follows: 

"Once he saw a large cactus-plant in a flower-shop window.  From one unpromising, barbed shoot had sprung a huge, glowering bloom.  It looked solitary and incongrous, a freakish accident; and he was reminded of Angel." (p. 77 of my Virago edition)

How are you traveling on this journey?  I mentioned in an earlier post that reviewers are the bane of Angel's life.  Angel's publisher knows she writes tripe and has to perform editing cartwheels to save her from herself.  And yet her writing is the source of his good fortune.  

How do you choose what to read next ?  Which reviewers do you find most useful?  Friends, journalists, bloggers?  What do you look for in a review?  Do you read to escape into the exotic? Or do you look for realism?  

Here are some links to reviews of Angel written by fellow Elizabeth Taylor afficionados..

Remember when you share your thoughts on the book please do so via a Mr. Linky on Laura's Elizabeth Taylor Centenary page.