Saturday, December 31, 2011

Notable Reads 2011

Looking at this list now I can see just how remiss I have been in writing reviews.  I've only reviewed a few of them.  The books featuring on this list are not in any particular order and are books that I have found myself thinking about afterwards.  To me this is the mark of good writing.  I'm also happy to see that my reading has been very eclectic.  So hopefully in 2012 my list will be even longer and I'll have more time to write reviews.

The windup girl, Paolo Bacigalupi

The somnambulist: a novel, Jonathan Barnes

Ender's game, Orson Scott Card

The passage, Justin Cronin

The gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Promises to keep: a novel, Jane Green

Justice Hall, Laurie R King

Perdido street station, China Mieville

Boneshaker, Cherie Priest

Hyperion, Dan Simmons

Giants of the frost, Kim Wilkins

The elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing, Achievements and What's Ahead.

I haven't written a post about writing in years.  This is because other than this blog I haven't been writing.  However, for some reason a few weeks ago I returned to a novel that I started in 2005.  Having a chat to one of my son's speech therapists at a christmas do, I happened to mention this.  She pointed out that this was probably due to the fact that after a year of writing academic essays for my course, my brain was suddenly freed up to begin focussing on the creative.  As soon as she said it I realised that 'of course!' feeling that she was correct.

So happily I have returned to some characters from this novel.  Almost like resuming old friendships.  In 2005 I had written almost 30'000 words.  Yep.  That much.  Then I came to a DEAD END.  It was very frustrating, but as I re-read what I had written I suddenly had a thought.  An an end came to me.  Just like that.  Now you must remember that I am still yet to write it.  I'm not going to say anything else about this book, because I'm a big believer in not talking, but rather writing it.  This was after I discovered the fifteen commandments about mystery writing, that I posted many years ago, that really can be said for any kind of writing.  Ever since reading these commandments I've followed them and I find them helpful.

At the moment I am storyboarding my novel.  Tedious but I think it needs to be done.  I need to formulate it into some kind of plan and then I need to write it off the storyboards that will show the ending.  Does anyone else write this way?  I have never done so before, but I think it will work for me. 

The only negative thing about being inspired to write this novel again?  Not being able to blog as frequently as I wish.

So, in light of it being a New Year (almost), I want to reminisce on 2011 and what I hope to do in 2012.

  • Knocked off a year of my Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching.
  • Began the renovation/extension of our home.
  • My amazing son began to truly talk.  I can now have a conversation with him.
  • My daughter is another year older and a delight.
  • In my eyes my husband is still amazing after all these years.
So let me just take a moment to voice my appreciation and give thanks for everything I have.


I hate to say resolutions, but I suppose really that's what this is.
  • We will be focussing on our extension/renovation this year.
  • I will finish my novel.
  • I will try to blog more.
  • My son begins four year old kinder and will continue his therapy.  I hope he will continue to go from strength to strength.
  • As I am taking a break from study this year, I will have my daughter with me full time.  We will be attending many playgroups.  And parks.  And the library.
  • Dare I say it?  Okaaaay then.  I will exercise more this year.......
What about you?  What have you done this year that you would like to share?  What do you hope to be doing next year? 

Happy New Year everyone.

Follow my book blog friday

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

Question of the Week: The New Year is here -- and everyone wants to know your New Years Blogging Resolution! What are you going to try to revise, revamp and redo for 2012 on your blog?

My New Year's Blogging resolution would be try to blog more often. I've been very ad hoc with how often I blog particularly with book reviewing. I would like to become more systematic with it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Literary Blog Hop

Welcome to the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase!

This monthly blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.

Here's our question this week:

What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature?

Our answer comes from Christine-Chioma, who reviewed for The Blue Bookcase in early 2010. Now she's back! Her answer:

Yes, I did make up this question; mainly because whenever I hear people say they don’t like literature I immediately think of about ten different pieces of literature that I’m certain they’d enjoy. There’s obviously a great variety of people and tastes, likewise there is a large variety in works of literature. Depending on the literature-hating person, one of the first book I’d recommend would be The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. However, that would not be a good suggestion for some of my other friends and so in their cases I’d suggest The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. But the creative non-fiction element of that book might annoy some so clearly I would not suggest it to everyone. However, Peace Like A River by Leif Enger is the one book that I universally want to suggest whenever I hear that dreaded “I don’t like to read literature” or worse, “I only read books by Janet Evanovich”.

One of complaints I hear most about literature is that it requires “too much thinking”. Although smart and well-written, Peace Like a River is a book that does not take too much mental energy to read. The plot is captivating enough that despite serious topics and moral dilemmas, it is not overwhelming or heavy. In fact, the book is even funny at times due to its dynamic and multi-faceted characters who are easy to fall in love with (especially Swede!) Peace Like a River is a great introduction to literature because it’s the right balance of plot and character development. It’s a beautifully crafted novel that flows natural through themes that almost all can identify with: family,morals, love, individuality, tragedy, and fear.

What about you? What book would you unequivocally recommend to literature-shy friends? Why?

It all depends on who the person is.  In the past I've given gifts to some friends who I think will enjoy more literary type books.  One suggestion is The Eyre affair by Jasper Fforde.  I think this is a fun way to read literature and if they haven't read some of the classics featured in this, then they can follow up by doing so.

I think Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery is a good choice.
For something Australian Peter Carey's A true history of the Kelly gang is a good read.

Or The Slap by Christos Tsoilkas that looks to be shaping up as a contemporary classic.

My final choice - and there are so many more - would be Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  The beauty of this is if your recipient enjoys it, there are so many more Du Maurier titles to succumb to.

what I've been reading lately...The city and the city by China Mieville

I have terrible eyesight and I often feel as though my peripheral vision plays tricks on me. I think perhaps that this is why I was really able to visualise Mieville's book, The city and the city.

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
Taken from book descriptions.

Basically two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma overlap each other and it is illegal, or you are in breach if you see the other city. So even though you do see you must immediately unsee. Not only must you unsee, but you must also unhear too. So if you hear a tramcar going by in the other city, you are in breach of doing so. How would they police that? I hear you ask. Well Breach - who are the entity that do the policing - are a force unto themselves, mystical and magical.

An elderly woman was walking slowly away from me in a shambling sway. She turned her head and looked at me. I was struck by her motion, and I met her eyes. I wondered if she wanted to tell me something. In my glance I took in her clothes, her way of walking, of holding herself, and looking. With a hard start, I realised that she was not on Gunter Strasz at all, and that I should not have seen her. Immediately and flustered I looked away, and she did the same, with the same speed.

I would describe this book as a police procedural whodunnit crossed with urban fantasy. China Mieville indeed pulls it off. He is extremely talented and I love reading his work. He's said before that he wants to transcend genres and write in as many of them as possible.  This book is written in the first person through the eyes of Inspector Borlu investigating the case that leads him to an archeological site where he finds a major conspiracy between the two cities.  Uncovering the conspiracy also means uncovering the murderer.  The grittiness of the murder mystery is juxtaposed with the more fantastical or mystical elements.  If you are a mystery reader, it's quite wonderful to read something so familiar that is yet unfamiliar.

Other books that I have read of his and enjoyed have been Perdido Street station and King rat. At the moment I'm lucky enough to be on the shorter end of my Mieville TBR list, and I'm sort of hugging this knowledge to myself and eking out each novel. He's just one of those writers that needs to be savoured.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Feature and Follow Friday

If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

Question of the Week: When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it..?)

If it is a library book then obviously I return it, ditto borrowed books from friends and family. As I'm a Librarian I've spent most of my life doing this. However, over the last few years, circumstances have changed and I've been at home and we're also embarking on a major house renovation. I've told our architect about my (dream) wall of books, and he's happily obliged. So, even though it's still yet to be built - hopefully sometime next year - I've been slowly building up my own library of books. So all my recent purchases have been for me to keep.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is the novel dead?

Now that I have your attention via my post title, I'm asking this question more with a view on what is taught in English classrooms in high schools. Is there anyone here who believes that schools should only teach novels and plays? I'm going to assume that as many of you reading this may be book bloggers, that I'm talking to the converted. That is, you may have had great enjoyment in your English classes and this is good, because I want to ask what did you study in school? Was it only print text novels? Did you study plays - I have a feeling the majority of people would say yes with a particular emphasis on Shakespeare. How about movies? Television? Did anyone study computer games, or websites?

This post is about the idea of playing games in an English classroom and using it as a tool for teaching. Or viewing it as another text. My preference of game would be something that is in the Adventure genre. So this doesn't mean shoot em up games or role playing games, but rather interactive fiction. The idea is that you have a protagonist in the game and the user navigates the interface and propels the character through the game by means of dialogue with other characters and this then makes the narrative of the game move along. Sometimes these games are described as point-and-click. There are many examples of this genre that can be found at, if anyone is interested in checking out some titles.

In a post I did a few months ago I talked about a teacher, Tim Rylands who has done just this, using games in a primary school setting. The game he chose was Myst. There's a link to his website and also some footage of his classes in action. What I love best about Tim Rylands teaching is how engaged his students are and the work they are producing.

The above site Adventure gamers has a forum and I proposed this question of what fellow gamers thought of playing them in classrooms. I was surprised at some of the negativity that some of these gamers showed. They didn't think that it was 'serious' enough to be studied and what exactly would students learn from them. What do you think? Of course there were many replies from gamers who had had the privilege of studying a game in class and said it had been a good experience. One comment said that sometimes teachers bring their own agenda into classrooms and force students to learn what the teacher is into. He cited rock music as an example of what he had to learn. I think that's a fair comment, and perhaps that is what I'm doing?

Anyway, this post is getting far too long and I've got heaps more I want to say on the subject. However, for now, if you have an opinion I would love to hear about it.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Follow my book blog friday

Q: Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?

A: I think everyone should read J K Rowling's Harry Potter series. Starting with the first book of course!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Follow my book blog friday

Well I'm going to start checking out more book blogs and I thought this would be a great way of doing it.

Oh and in answering the 'guestion', my biggest pet peeve is when the author's 'voice' doesn't do it for me. This could be because it just sound whining or a bit wishy washy to my mental ears. :)

Book Beginnings

Mapp and Lucia by E F Benson

Though it was nearly a year since her husband's death, Emmeline Lucas (universally known to her friends as Lucia) still wore the deepest and most uncompromising mourning.

I'd never heard of E F Benson but liked the back blurb of this book. The beginning seems unsurprising to me in light of it being a classic. And the fact that Lucia is wearing mourning straightaway situates you back in history.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Theme Thursdays - place description

Mapp and Lucia by E F Benson
They arrived at Tilling in the middle of the afternoon, entering it from the long level road that ran across the reclaimed marsh-land to the west. Blue was the sky overhead, complete with larks and small white clouds; the town lay basking in the hot June sunshine and its narrow streets abounded in red brick houses with tiled roofs, that shouted Queen Anne and George I in Lucia's enraptured ears, and made Georgie's fingers itch for his sketching tools.

"Dear Georgie, perfectly enchanting!" exclaimed Lucia. "I declare I feel at home already. Look, there's another lovely house. We must just drive to the end of this street, and then we'll inquire where Mallards is. The people, too, I like their looks. Faces full of interest. It's as if they expected us".

The car had stopped to allow a dray to turn into the High street from a steep cobbled way leading to the top of the hill. On the pavement at the corner was standing quite a group of Tillingites.

Theme Thursday

Well here's another meme that I plan on following. It's called Theme Thursday and it's hosted by Reading between the pages.

Theme Thursdays is a fun weekly event that will be open from one thursday to the next. Anyone can participate in it. The rules are simple:

A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday’s)
Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)
Ex: If the theme is KISS; your sentence can have “They kissed so gently” or “Their lips touched each other” or “The smooch was so passionate”
This will give us a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand different writing styles and descriptive approaches adopted by authors.

Book beginnings

Well 2012 is fast approaching and I'm thinking on embarking on a couple of reading challenges for next year. One challenge or meme that I've found is Book Beginnings hosted by A few more pages.
So on (hopefully most) Fridays I will post the first couple of lines of my current read and then follow up with first impressions and whether or not the book lived up to them. So happy blogging.
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