Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: That Was The Year That Was

Another year has slipped by all too quickly and it's been an up and down year for me but punctuated by some great reads which I want to briefly recap here.

This was the year that I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and absolutely loved it.  I wanted to wear the beautiful kimono that he described so brilliantly.

This was the year I discovered Fyodor Dostoevsky, reading Crime and Punishment and The Idiot.  I thoroughly enjoyed both, they had such wonderful and profound characterisations.

This was the year that I journeyed through South America and travelled to Cuba with Che Guevara.  I thought his biography A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson was simply awesome.  I could not get enough of 'Che', reading his Motorcycle Diaries and his Bolivian Diary and even dipping into Guerilla Warfare. What an amazing man, but whose life could have been so different had he not met Castro.

This was the year I fell in love with the amiable twit Bertie Wooster.  P G Wodehouse's humour just hits the nail on the head with me.  What a laugh I have had with Bertie and Jeeves.

This was the year I read about bicycles in The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien.  A bizarre vision that is very funny in it's absurdity. Definitely one of my favourite reads this year.

This was the year I met the tragic Madam Bovary and Therese Racquin and finished the Harry Potter series.  I went North & South with Elizabeth Gaskell and even travelled to Edwin A Abbott's Flatland.  I went back to the Dark Ages in England with Ivanhoe and then on to Paris in the Middle Ages with Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Then I finished my travels with a little Australian novel called The Celtic Dagger and by crikey I wished I had one to put me out of my misery whilst reading it.  I reviewed it for Good Reads and tried to be as objective as possible but between you and me I have to query whether the author Jill Paterson had ever read a book prior to embarking on her literary career.  It has to be possibly the worst novel I have ever read (as in literary style) possibly on a par with the pretty much unknown Cuckold Conspiracy, of which the author's name at present has escaped me, but which I promised to read and review for his feedback via my bookclub.  But, as I always remind myself when I'm in these critical moods "they're published and I'm not, so there".

Xmas Dinner
My book list is ready for next year, with the first book being Opposing Energies by J W Collier.and I will endeavour to finish Adam Bede and Pride and Prejudice - I was so looking forward to my break to catch up on my reading but I have barely had time to read anything!

Oh, I nearly forgot this is also the year that I bought my first brand new car, a velvet red diesel  Holden CD Cruze   I take delivery on Friday so that does end my year on a high note which makes up for the extremely wet Chrismas Day we experienced (as you can see by the photo our planned picnic took place in the lounge!)

Finally, as this is my last post for 2010 I just want to wish everyone who views this a Happy and Safe New Year, and if you are an author of any book I review please accept that I say it as I see it and I do admit to having a half written novel of which I will never finish as my own literary style is pretty ordinary at best :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Broken Hearts Lie Ahead

I'm making headway into Adam Bede after a little rocky start.  The way the dialogue is written isn't annoying me as much as it did.  Eliot has introduced me to the main characters - Adam and Seth Bede, and their  mother Lisbeth; and has taken  me by the hand and led me over to the Hall Farm, the home of the Poysers, their children and their two nieces Hetty and Dinah. Hetty and Dinah are like chalk and cheese, Hetty is very self absorbed and full of pretensions whilst Dinah lives by, and preaches from, The Bible.

Adam loves Hetty but Hetty has set her heart higher looking towards the dashing young squire Captain Arthur Donnithorne, whilst Seth loves Dinah whose heart unfortunately belongs to her Methodist religion.

So far I have peeked into their lives briefly and taken a look at the neighbouring countryside, but for a third of the way into the novel not much has really happened.  The Bede's lost their father in a tragic accident, and  Captain Donnithorne has inadvertently given Hetty cause to believe her future lies beyond her station.  He is a likeable young man who is deeply attracted to Hetty but he is also very much aware that he has standards to maintain when it comes to a future wife.  His recent actions are going to have severe consequences.

This has been a slow read for me, but for all that I do want to know how the story is going to develop and what broken hearts lie ahead.

I'm also currently listening to Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell on my iPod, another read from the 1001 list.  The narrator is a well to do young woman who has spent time in Cranford and relates her experiences with the women of the village.  There are not many men there (for those who live above a certain rent), but the women  manage their lives admirably.  They are no nonsense respectable types who live within an 'elegant economy'.

Again, nothing much has happened really, except one of the few male characters being tragically killed, and a spate of burglaries that have been blamed on the unseen French, which causes irrational panic amongst the village inhabitants.  I think I have probably read too much horror as I'm expecting something awful to happen around the corner at any moment! Apparently this is Gaskell's best loved novel, but for me I prefer North & South.

I've been concentrating on Adam Bede and so haven't read much more of Big Driver by Stephen King, just when the victim is about to claim her revenge too.  I'll have to aim for an early night tonight so that I can finish it in bed.

Waiting for Dinner
Book Club went well on Thursday, we were treated to a wonderful light show as the storms continued to pass over whilst we had dinner.  We exchanged Christmas presents and in the spirit of things we all ordered very unhealthy desserts after our mains :)

Well, the rain continues to pour.  I've watched the whole of series one of The Walking Dead since last night (it was a bit like Days of Our Lives set in Zombieland but rather compulsive viewing), so I might just curl up with my Kindle and a cup of coffee for an hour or so, I'm sure my ironing can wait..... and the dishes...... and the cats don't really need feeding JUST yet.........

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Shelf of Fame

So, this is my ‘shelf of fame' mentioned in the last blog post.  I thought I would write a little about this tonight.  All the books that are signed by their authors reside here. 

I bought Backroads to Hollywood by Ingo Petzke as I was a regular at Ingo’s Gold Coast Cinematique at Bond University.  It was open to the public as well as to the university and I would toddle along and feel like a fraud getting involved in the discussions after the movie was finished, seemingly the only person there not involved in the industry!  Ingo did a Ray Barrett Retrospective over a few weeks which was great, and among the movies we saw were Don’s Party directed by Bruce Beresford and Goodbye Paradise. Ray and his wife came along too and he would say a few words after the movie (Ray has sadly since passed away).

The highlight of my membership was a dinner at Salt in Varsity Lakes, which was attended by Ray Barrett and Bruce Beresford, and I ended up sitting next to Bruce and chatting with him.  He had just finished directing a movie with John Cusack and was quite taken by how tall he was.  I asked him what his own personal favourite movie was and he said The Warrior which is a Korean movie I think and the favourite movie he had directed himself was Black Robe.  Again I felt like such a fraud with all these industry people – I also sat next to someone who had just finished working on The Proposition…. It was a great night.  Anyway, Ingo had mentioned this book so I bought it at the university shop and got it signed at one of my last meetings (Ingo eventually left Australia to take a post within the movie industry overseas). The inscription reads:

To Maxine, who loves the cinema as much as one should! Ingo 12 Oct 2005

Malicious Intent by Kathryn Fox I bought after a library talk which Kathryn gave.  It’s not a great read but it’s always good to support our local authors, but she's published and I'm not so there.  The inscription reads:

To Maxine, good luck with the writing!! Go for it! All the best wishes Kathryn Fox

The two Matt Reilly’s I’m really proud of and I got those signed at another author event.  I was very impressed with Matt’s enthusiasm for his work, he doesn’t take it too seriously - it’s meant to be over the top fun and I was also pleased to see the time he took to talk to the younger audience members.  When I got Ice Station signed he asked me where I had bought the book as the cover is not generally available in Australia.  He suggested I put it on e-bay J  There are no inscriptions in these just Hi Maxine and Matt’s signature.  I also got a photo taken with him and this is on my shelf too.

So, that’s the shelf and there’s a fair bit of room left on it yet! 

I tried to get a copy of Northanger Abbey for download from the library but it's not available and I have to go on a wait list.  Are they for real?  It's digital media why is it not always available, I don't understand it.  Then I remembered that I had downloaded Jane Austen's entire collection for the Kindle so I'll read it after Adam Bede.  Instead I went back to some discs my daughter had thoughtfully done for me and chose Carry On, Jeeves by P G Wodehouse.  I just love Jeeves and Wooster, it's dated but still wonderfully funny.  The stories are all pretty much the same, but it's the way Bertie delivers his lines - the What Ho's and yipping, gargling and inhaling.  It's really uplifting stuff and it's had me smiling on my way to work these past couple of mornings.

Big Driver the second of the Stephen King novellas is really good.  It's very violent at the beginning and I think there really should have been a disclaimer!  I'm really liking it though, and I really want to know what the victim's revenge is going to be.  This one harks back to his earlier days, and has his trademark phrase repetition.  In this case it's You Like It It Likes You, and I'm definitely liking this.

Still haven't read enough of Adam Bede to comment on it yet, but xmas is coming and hopefully I'll find the time then.

I've won a book too from  Good Reads which I'll review for them - The Celtic Dagger, so there's a bit of new reading coming along on the horizon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Playful Dance

I was sad to receive an email from The Book Army last night informing all members that they were closing the site on the 21st December. Too much competition apparently, and I feel like one of the traitors having moved to Good Reads recently. Even worse, after spending a lot of time adding my books into Good Reads, the email included a link to export from the Book Army! ….. if only I had got that email a couple of weeks ago!!

So, I finished reading Antic Hay and I had to wonder what the hell it was all about! The title Antic Hay is from a quote from Edward II by Christopher Marlowe and refers to a 'playful dance'. I thought it would be the name of a character and was waiting all the time for him to turn up! The writing was very good, but I guess you would really need to have moved in the circles described to fully appreciate what he was getting at. The book was controversial when first published due to its sexual references but by today’s standards it’s pretty tame. It’s mainly about a group of idle rich set in the 1920’s in London. Although I didn't really enjoy it I did like the writing style so I will definitely try another Huxley.

I also finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and definitely enjoyed it more than some of the others in the series. Everything tied in nicely, though it did have a ‘Matrix’ feel to it when Harry finds himself in a deserted Kings Cross Station with Dumbledore and during the fight at Hogwarts Mrs Weasley sounded like Ripley from Aliens 2 (you know, at the end when she is in the loader) when she tells Bellatrix to stay away from her daughter!! I didn’t like the 14 years later chapter, I felt that was a little silly, but on the whole it was pretty good and I think I shall miss the characters now it is all over.

Tonight I’ll start the second novella in Full Dark No Stars, which is called Big Driver and I just need to decide on my next audio book. I’m getting a bit annoyed with the Media Drive downloads from the library as just lately I’ve noticed that a few words are cut off at the end of each chapter. That’s very annoying, and spoils the story somewhat as it could be a crucial clue to the plot so I will have to rethink where I get my audio downloads. However, I’ll probably do Northanger Abbey next by Jane Austen.

I have also bought a book from new author J W Collier called Opposing Energies. It is his first published novel, and I first heard of it via Twitter and then the author’s website (you see dad, here's proof that Twitter is a great medium to promote yourself.......).  I wouldn't normally buy a book on spec, but I was impressed with the website and the author comes across as a really nice guy, plus the book will be signed so I thought what the hell, it will be good to help promote someone new. I’m really looking forward to reading it, and as it was posted a couple of days ago, it will my next physical read after Full Dark. Plus, once finished it will be a new addition to my ‘shelf of fame’ where I keep all my signed books and my photo with Matt Reilly J

So, with another very wet Sunday heading my way it looks like I'll have plenty of time to curl up with a nice cuppa and my Kindle and get some of Adam Bede read so I can talk about that soon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

From the Duality of Man to The Conniving Man

My reading has slipped a little this week, I blame it on work.  But I have the day off today to recover from last night (Muse) and to await my new washing machine (my LG gave up the ghost Friday night) so thought I would post a few words whilst watching Lord of The Rings on my new big screen TV (the product of going to Harvey Norman for a washing machine!!).

1922 is the first novella in Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King.  I was a little worried about going 'back' in my reading by picking this up as I have read some amazing books this year, but you know what - you just can't keep a good story teller down! 1922 is a murder confession.  The murderer blames his actions on The Conniving Man that wells up within him when his wife comes into some land and wants to sell it and move to the city.  The Conniving Man is having non of that, and he conspires with his son to murder her.  The son is only 14 years old, and is easily manipulated and whilst he did not commit the act itself he helped his father dispose of the body and with the subsequent cover up....... I am really enjoying it.

Adam Bede by George Elliot is on my Kindle and I've only had time to read a little bit of it.  It's set in 1799 and Adam has been introduced to us as a strapping young man of about 26 who works as a carpenter in a rural village in the North of England.  I'm finding the dialogue a little difficult as much of it is written in the local dialect and I also have no idea what the story's about - but it's on the 1001 list.  At the moment a female Methodist has come to the village to preach, she's young and attractive and although many of the villagers have a distrust of the 'Methody's' they all turn out to have a look at the young woman.  That's as far as I have got.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows I am enjoying quite a bit despite some of the stupid actions of the characters.  I like the fact that Neville might become a bit of a hero, but I'm still smarting at the death of Dobby.  I bawled my eyes out driving to work when he was killed and then the funeral (this is an audio book by the way!!) - Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf.... boo hoo I couldn't bear it!  But I guess, she had to kill him off as there will be scrapes coming up that Dobby could have got them out of and so he needs to be out of the picture.

Antic Hay, now this one I daren't Google in case I spoil the story.  It's by Aldous Huxley who I have never read before and so far it's been a bit of a giggle.  I love the main character Theodore Dumbril who wants to patent a design for a pair of trousers with a pneumatic seat which can be pumped up when required - to alleviate discomfort when seated as shows etc!

The first chapter was wonderfully descriptive as Theodore is sat listening to a rather long sermon, and I knew I would like this writing style right away.  I'm soooo tempted to find out more about the title but the amount of times I've ruined a good read by stumbling across a plot spoiler I'm not going to do it this time.

So, now I'm off to enjoy an uninterrupted lunch.  My  other half is at work, and Big Red and Pestilence are having their naps........ I should take more time off work, it's awesome!