Friday, September 30, 2011

What I've been reading lately....Soulless by Gail Carriger

I think I have a thing for heroines who wield parasols as weapons. This is why I love Amelia Peabody so much and now Alexia Tarabotti, the newest heroine, without a soul, created by author Gail Carriger.

Carriger's book Soulless came to my attention through the literary section of my newspaper. The article talked about Steampunk, and this was the first time I'd ever heard of the term. After some researching, the steampunk genre seemed fascinating so I ended up devising a steampunk reading list. Fast forward to now, and I thought I'd post about this book, as it was such a fun, lighthearted romp, and I can't wait to read the next two books in the series.

I wasn't one of those people who jumped on the vampire and werewolf bandwagon (a la Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series). For some reason Meyer's books didn't appeal to me, and I'm not sure why, as I'm a massive Buffy fan. Maybe after Buffy, there's just no eclipsing it? Anyway, when I initially read that the novel included vampires and werewolves, I hesitated. Then one day, there it was, a paperback copy sitting on the bookshop's shelf, at a good price. Upon perusing, I read, Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life for Europe and inadvertently acquired an education. She now resides in the Colonies with a harem of Armenian lovers and tea imported from London. I found this author description compelling so I bought the book.

For those who don't know, the Steampunk genre seeks to subvert real history and fictionalise an alternative often set during the Victorian era. The premise of Soulless is that spinster Alexia Tarabotti accidentally kills a vampire and Lord Maccon (a werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. Add to this Victorian social mores, a family that reminded me of the Bennett's and a healthy dose of romance and you have a good backdrop for a story. Alexia is also a strong heroine, and I liked the characters in the book. It's also good if you like corsets and bustles.

Alexia was embarrassed to find that she was reduced to shamefully sneaking out of her own home. It simply would not do to tell her mama she was paying a late-night call on a vampire hive.

Read it if you enjoy Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series and you want something with a light comedic touch or if all you've been reading lately are those heavy numbers and you need something different.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

M M Kaye

I was in year ten at high school (fifteen years old) when we were set an assignment to do book reports. This sort of thing is always my cup of tea and I remember I happily presented on Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. Another girl in my class had read M M Kaye's Death in Berlin, and that was the beginning of the beginning.

If you haven't heard of M M Kaye or read any of her books, she wrote six detective novels reminiscent of Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart's mystery novels, Patricia Wentworth and Dorothy L Sayers.

Further to this is what I feel to be a bit of an affinity with M M Kaye, owing to the fact that she was born in India. Although I have lived my entire life in Australia, my background is Sri Lankan, or namely what is called a Burgher. What this (Dutch) term means, is that we Burgher's have Dutch/Portuguese/English ancestry in our blood, due to the fact that Sri Lanka was colonised by said countries. I've also married an Anglo Indian, and upon meeting his grandparents, on a trip many years ago to India, I felt as though I was sitting on some kind of tea plantation back in Colonial times sipping my afternoon tea with a spread of sandwiches etc in front of me. Yep, that's exactly how it was, you would hardly even think we were even in India. But I'm digressing.

I read Death in Berlin first. This was followed by The far pavilions.
To an impressionable young teenager, Kaye's heroes were certainly worthy of falling in love with. As the years went by I'd devoured everything that she had written only to want more. Unfortunately M M Kaye passed away in 2004, so that is not to be.

Every now and then I like to dip back into her detective novels, even though I know whodunit. Her three historical romance novels are probably more in the vein of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. So if you're after someone who writes with that Golden Age touch, M M Kaye comes highly recommended by this Blogger.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What I've been reading lately... Dark Matter

Ooooh I love a good ghost story. And Michelle Paver's Dark Matter doesn't disappoint. I first read about this book in a review in the literary section of my newspaper. It's 1937, and five men set out to research a remote part of the Arctic called Gruhuken. Written in a diary format by explorer Jack, we read about his enthusiasm to be actually doing something that doesn't involve the looming second world war. Cast as the group's Wireless Operator, Jack describes the freezing cold, having to exit the warmth of their hut for polar temperatures and having each day become darker and darker as the inevitable polar night creeps upon them promising months of winter darkness.

Twilight. Behind the bird cliffs, the red glow of dawn, but to the west it was night: the cold glimmer of stars. The black bones of the mountains jutted through the snow. On the shore, the whale ribs glinted with frost, and the rocks sloping down to the sea were white and smooth. The water was dark purple, vivid and strange. Because of the cliffs, we couldn't see much. We saw the sky turn bloody and inflamed as the sun struggled to rise. We saw a sliver of fire. An abortive dawn. The sun sank back, defeated. Gone.

I mostly read this book at night just before bed. Deliciously fine if you're going to turn off your lamp and snuggle down to sleep, knowing that you're safe and sound, not so much if you need to visit the bathroom in an all-sleeping household.

Jack's journal tells us about a menacing presence that appears on the Arctic beach, malevolent, sorrowful and dangerous. My only gripe with this book was the language didn't evoke 1937 to me. The vernacular seemed much more contemporary. But this didn't steal anything away from the book itself.

Sadly (or maybe luckily depending how you look at it) I picked this book up for five bucks at the bookshop that replaced the one that shut down at my local shopping centre. Apparently all books sold there are now going to cost five dollars. So I'm not really going to complain too much if I'm able to pick up great stories for that price. If you like ghost stories definitely one to read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The morning marathon

I don't know about you, but I am absolutely exhausted by the time I have my kids dressed in the morning. Once their shoes are finally on I feel as though I've been through some marathon type race, and then I have to contemplate actually going out. Where to find the energy?

It all begins over the demands of what breakfast cereal they want. Followed by brushing teeth. I make them take turns as the thought of trying to brush both their teeth together in the bathroom (something my husband does regularly) is just too much for me to bear. Then it's the choosing of clothes and actually getting them to put it on. My daughter has hair brushing next, luckily my son wears his hair very short.
Then it's time to leave for the(insert chosen preference here) park, library, playgroup, zoo etc. I've taken to having morning tea at home. I repeatedly say to myself, wait until you've had your coffee and then you'll be ready. So, it's only then, once the caffeine has hit do I venture anywhere.

Once at a playgroup we attended, one mother confided to me that very morning she'd had a huge face-off showdown with her school aged daughter who wanted to wear a particular pair of shoes to school. Mum had won, so by the time she got to playgroup with her younger son, she was a frazzled wreck. It's not worth it, she said. I should have just given in.

But let me now just commend my two little angels in how they have managed to be ready for me to attend my 8am classes this semester. Luckily for me the daycare does breakfast, so that's taken a huge load off our morning. I awaken at 6am, get myself and my bag ready then proceed to wake them, plonking them both on the couch in front of ABC2. I let them slowly wake up and get their clothes ready. By the time I return to have them brush their teeth, they're both fully awake and excited to begin their day. Dressing seems to be fairly seamless and then it's out the door. I was so worried about how they were going to handle these early mornings, but they've both been fantastic.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I did it! I managed to read my weekend newspaper, nearly all parts, in one sitting. Granted the children were away visiting their grandfather for the afternoon, thus giving me the chance to burrow myself in all this crackling black and white glory. I love receiving my weekend newspaper, having it sit waiting for me somewhere in my front garden, depending on the aim of its thrower.

Today however, my paper did not arrive. There's nothing worse than going outside, morning coffee already cooling, looking under hedges and over the neighbour's fences just in case the rogue paper has made its way there. No paper. I had to go to the newsagency and actually purchase today's copy. Something I've not done for a long time.

Hands up if you're guilty of leaving your newspaper sitting around, building up with the intent of reading, having them sit forlornly with paper edges curling away? I have. Much to the chagrin of my husband. He always threatens to throw them in the bin and I overreact screaming like a banshee at him. I haven't read my favourite columnists yet! Sometimes the pile builds up so high that I guiltily throw them away myself.

There are only two parts I put straight into the recyling. The sports section and business section. I have no interest in those subjects whatsoever. Depending on what mood I'm in the careers section may also leave our home unopened. I save the actual news part to read over my morning coffee, and I usually intend to read the rest in the afternoon. But who has these afternoons to spare anymore? As I said earlier I only managed it because the children were away and I was severely procrastinating from finishing off an assignment due soon.

So joy of joy, I have finished the papers this weekend. I only attempt the weekend papers. I used to get the whole week delivered, and the pile sitting awaiting me then was indeed formidable. But of course that was pre-children and now I only make time for what matters. The books and arts section of course.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A fairly eclectic bunch

Over the weekend I read about the website, I write like that analyses your writing and compares it to other authors. Of course I couldn't wait to try it out, and the results proved surprising, well at least they did to me.

I analysed several pieces and most of them are on here as blog posts, so if you're interested and can be bothered you're welcome to check them and see if you agree.

Alchemy of the macabre (i) - Dan Brown
Alchemy of the macabre (ii) - Charles Dickens
Alchemy of the macabre (iii) - Charles Dickens
Alchemy of the macabre (iv) - Mary Shelley
Interesting how each chapter, more or less, had different writers! I will say I'm flattered by the comparison and I was going for gothic, but I was trying to emulate Daphne DuMaurier.

The mediamakers - Margaret Mitchell. When I tried to read Gone with the Wind, sadly I couldn't get into it. Mind you, I had by then watched the movie many times over.

Flight from Amsterdam to Heathrow - William Gibson. His work The Difference Engine has been on my To Be Read list for some time now, but I'm yet to read anything by him.

Weekend at Amsterdam - H P Lovecraft, always been meaning to read his work, and now will have to push him further up the list.

The Netherlands - Emmen and the fictitius bicycle tour - Cory Doctorow, never heard of this writer, but looked him up on Librarything and realised that I enjoy his style of writing, so have now added him to my To Be Read folder.

What I've been reading lately - Eucalyptus by Murray Bail - Margaret Mitchell

What I've been reading lately - If on a winter's night by Italo Calvino - David Foster Wallace, I've never heard of this author and also looked him up on Librarything. Sounds enjoyable so will be reading him in the future.

I thought I'd do my most recent entry, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld - and again got David Foster Wallace.

Finally I analysed my blog entry He has autism, as this is an extremely personal topic for me and therefore literally written from the heart. It was compared to Arthur Clarke.

So, I think a fairly electic bunch of writers and of course we must take these things we find on the internet with a grain of salt. I'm also of the opinion that my writing can be stylistically very different depending on what mood I am in. I'd also like to try an experiment of analysing an author's actual work and see if they get the same result! You would think they would as surely the analyser would have their work copied into the program?

If you try out the analyser for yourself, please let me know in the comments box what result you got as I'd be keen to know.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

I'm up to the bit where I want to slap the protagonist. I'm half-way through and this novel has been leading up to it. Lee Fiora is an unsure teenage girl writing from the vantage point of being older and experienced, so as a reader you really hope that she's matured by the time she's reached adulthood. Now I'm making it sound as though I'm not enjoying this book, but really I am. In fact I've been going to bed really tired and I can't put it down, so consequently I'm waking up each morning not having had enough sleep.

The book cover said that the novel was The OC meets Donna Tartt's The Secret History. I've never watched The OC, (but I have watched 90210, both the old - retro - and now in its newest guise, so it's probably similar) however I have read The Secret History and that was another novel I really enjoyed. I agree with that statement. It's also a little bit Chilton, the school that Rory Gilmore attends in The Gilmore Girls.

Lee Fiora almost seems like she has a split personality. She describes her home life with her parents and two brothers as almost hip, fun to be in and her dad's irreverent charm. When she's at her prestigious New England school Ault, she seemingly undergoes some kind of personality transplant leaving her almost devoid of any emotion. And when she does allow some emotion to seep through the facade she revels in her classmates reaction of her. Too weird, but then I suppose that's what teenage angst can be seen as too?

Good novel and worth reading, especially if you do like the above tv shows and Tartt's novel.
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