June 28, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

It is rare that I ever cry while reading a book - movies yes but it takes a lot for a book to make me cry for some reason but The Time Traveler's Wife did it. The Time Traveler's Wife is my 4th book completed for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge and I am so glad I decided to add it to my list.

I had actually tried to read the book a couple of years ago when we were travelling in Japan but I just couldn't get in to it then for some reason. When we got home I handed the book over to my best friend who finished it quickly and has raved about it ever since. I trust her judgement and we do usually like the same types of book so I gave it another go - thankfully!

The Time Traveler's Wife is the story of Henry, the time traveler, and Claire, the wife of the title. I think I was orginally put off reading the book because of the whole time traveling thing - I'm not much of a science fiction/fantasy reader and I really thought I would have to suspend some belief to get into the story - I didn't. The writing, the characters and the story all rang true and it is at it's core (I think) as one of the quotes on the back of the book states; "an old-fashioned love story" - and a beautiful one at that.

Writing and Reading

I have been away at a writing retreat this week. Not quite as fun as it might sound at first. It was actually a writing retreat for work so the type of writing we were concentrating on was academic writing. Still, it did make me think about writing in general and how I would like to start really picking it up again.

I've also been starting a few different books - not actually finishing any but hope to rectify that before the weekend is over!

I have started The Year of Magical Thinking By Joan Didion. I haven't read any of Didion's work before but have been drawn to this one because of it's focus on grief - the author wrote the book following the sudden death of her husband and daughter.

This book has been turned into a one woman play currently playing in Australia - I would love to go and see it but haven't been able to arrange it as yet - and I did want to finish the book before seeing the play.

The other book I have started is called Stanley and Sophie by Kate Jennings. I am not really a dog person but I was driven to buy this book after hearing the author speak on the ABC Radio National Book Show about writing this book following the death of her husband and 9/11 in New York.

June 22, 2008

1% Well Read Challenge

I have been looking at this challenge for a while and have decided I'm going to jump in!

The idea of The 1% Well Read Challenge is to read 1% (or 10) of the books from the book "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die". I have actually had this book on my shelf for a while and have dipped into it now and then for reading choices.

To complete the challenge you need to read 10 books listed in the 1001 book from May 1st 2008 until February 28th 2009. So, I've started a little late but hopefully I will catch up soon.

My books for the challenge are:

My Reading Life - Bob Carr

My Reading Life By Bob Carr is written by a past Premier of New South Wales and tells the story of, as the title points out, his life of reading. The books that have moved him, the books he goes back to again and again, the books that have taught him and the books he wants others to know about.

This book is the third book I have completed for the Non Fiction Five Challenge.

I read this book over the course of a few weeks - just dipping in here and there, one of the things I enjoyed about it. It would not need to be read cover to cover and it is definitely a book I will go back to for hints on future reading choices.

I must admit that some of the books (particularly the historical and political epics) are books that I would view as being "way over my head" but I rejoiced when I read that the author had read (and enjoyed) some books as much as me, e.g. "Suite Francaise" By Irene Nemirovsky which I fell in love with when I read it last year.

I have also picked up a few books to add to my "to read" list such as "If This Is A Man" By Primo Levi and some of Shakespeare's dramas.
The author has pointed out his obvious biases in producing this book (he is a white, middle class man) but I think given the title he has a right to record and reflect on the books that mean something to him. I think it should be an inspiration to us to record our own reading lives.

June 20, 2008

The Household Guide to Dying - Debra Adelaide

You may have been noticing that a lot of my reading material (fiction and non-fiction) tends to focus on the areas of death and dying. It is a subject area that I am greatly interested in - both professionally and personally. The Household Guide to Dying By Debra Adelaide was a book I had heard about heading into the Sydney Writer's Festival in May this year and I was fortunate enough to hear the author speak at this event (and get my book signed - a new passion of mine!).

The Household Guide To Dying is the story of Delia Bennet, a 40-something year old woman who is dying, quite quickly, of cancer. Delia is a writer of "household guides"and tips columns and her idea is to write the ultimate guide to the dying process as her last offering to the publishing world. Through the story we hear of Delia's relationships with her two young daughters, Estelle and Daisy, her husband Archie, mother Jean and an intruding neighbour, Mr Lambert. There is also a significant sub-plot to this novel which involves Delia making a trip back to a town she lived in in her younger days to locate something precious to her.

This book was divine - beautifully narrated by Delia who I just adore. A wonderful mixture of sharp, quickwitted, intelligent, reflection - everything I would love to be! The scenes involving quips between Delia and Archie and their girls ring so true. The parts where Delia prepares boxes full of keepsakes and memories for her girls to find after her death - heartbreaking and warming all at the same time.

June 19, 2008

The Pure Land - Alan Spence

The Pure Land by Alan Spence was a book I had been longing to read after hearing the author speak so eloquently about it on The Book Show on ABC Radio National last year.

As The Book Show blurb about the book states:

This novel is a retelling of the story of Tom Glover, a Scottish trader who helped open up Japan to the western world in the mid-nineteenth century, and whose story was one of the sources for the sad tale of Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly.

I was deeply involved in the beginning and endings of this book but I must admit - it flagged a little in the middle for me.

The story follows the young Tom as he ventures from his birthplace, Scotland, in 1858 to Nagasaki in Japan to work in the newly booming trading market and business. The story follows Tom as he becomes involved in Japanese tradition and politics (mostly for his own financial gain it would seem) and also the relationhships with Japanese women he forms during his life in Japan. There is also some time switching in the book where we see Tom's son as an old man reflecting on his life and the life of his father following the bombing of Nagasaki in World War 2.

As I said, I was drawn into this book at the beginning by Tom's sense of excitement and the "newness"of his experiences in Japan but I lost a little interest in the middle as it seemed to get bogged down in the details of his day to day business and political transactions. I did enjoy reading about some of his travels in Japan as I related to significant places I had visited on my own trip to Japan over 100 years after Tom's time there.

The book for me was another journey into a country I find beautiful and fascinating (even if it was told from the perspective of another Westerner).

June 15, 2008

Human Smoke - Nicholson Baker

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War 2, The End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker is my second completed book for the Non Fiction Five Challenge. Staying in a very similar topic area to my first book for this challenge, Destined To Live, i.e. the second world war (a similarity I only just noticed).

Human Smoke was an addictive book for me. Written in short snippets and paragraphs the author depicts many different events and viewpoints leading up to, and including the first couple of years, of the second world war. Each short entry is referenced at the back of the book leading to the books credibility for me. I am very interested in this period of our history and I first picked up the book hoping to learn more about what had occured over this period. After finishing the book I think I can say I know a little more - but I also have many more questions and wonderings which I think will lead me to read further in this area.

June 10, 2008

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen - Syrie James

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James was just what I needed in my reading life at the moment!

I relish reading and re-reading my Jane Austen novels and I constantly mourn the fact that there are no others ever to be so although The Lost Memoirs is not up to the standards of an authentic Jane Austen novel - it still took me to all the right places.

The fictional premise of the book is, as the title suggests, that the long lost memoirs of Jane Austen have been discovered and published and that they primarily tell the story of a romance between Jane and a Mr Ashford - a character who is written as a composite of several of Jane Austen's literary heros. The fictional memoir also follows the story of Jane's life following the death of her father and her pursuit of publication and a writing career.

The description of the book from the author's website:

What if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart. Jane Austen has given up writing when, on a fateful trip to Lyme, she meets the well-read and charming Mr. Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. Inspired by the people and places around her, and encouraged by his faith in her, Jane begins revising Sense and Sensibility, a book she began years earlier, hoping to be published at last. Deft and witty, written in a style that echoes Austen's own, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen offers a delightfully possible scenario for the inspiration behind this beloved author's romantic tales. It's a remarkable book, irresistible to anyone who loves Jane Austen—and to anyone who loves a great story. From the moment you open the pages of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, you won't be able to put it down.

For once I agree with the hype - I was unable to put it down and only wish there was more! Apparently the author is now writing a similar novel based on the life of Charlotte Bronte.

June 06, 2008

Thanks for the Memories - Cecelia Ahern

I have read a Cecelia Ahern book in the past - can't quite remember which one but I remember enjoying it a lot - I'm afraid I can't say the same for Thanks for the Memories - a book I will soon be forgetting.

I had chosen this latest Cecelia Ahern book to take on a work trip - I was travelling around the state for a week and thought it would be nice to have a light, entertaining and enjoyable read with me while I was on the road - I got one out of three.

Thanks for the Memories focuses on two main characters, Joyce and Justin - two people from different countries with no knowledge of each other until Justin make a blood donation which Joyce apparently receives after a serious fall leaves her unborn child dead. After coming out of hospital Joyce starts recalling details of specific art and architecture movements, as well as languages she has never learnt. We are led to believe that Joyce is now adopting some of Justin's memories and character traits as a result of the blood donation.

This book was totally predictable (this coming from a person who is usually completely dense about predicting plots in novels or movies - no matter how basic or obvious!) and the characters were boring and unsympathetic. Very disappointed!

June 03, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Challenge Meme

1.) What country do you always go back to in your travels (not just while reading for OT)?

India - I'm not really sure why but I am drawn to this country and it's literature. I have a close friend who has travelled and worked quite extensively in India and I love hearing her talk about her real life travels in this country.
Also Japan - a country I am intrigued by and also the UK - because I think that's where I'm meant to be living!

2.) If you could visit 4 of the countries you have read about in your life (that you haven't been to yet), which would they be and why? (you can include the book that makes you want to visit if you remember)

1. India (because of the above)
2. Italy - any travel memoir makes me want to jump on a plane to Italy for the food the art and the history
3. Canada - because of all of Margaret Atwood's novels
4. Ireland - because of all of Marian Keyes books!

3.) Have you ever dreamed about a country you have read about, that you have never actually traveled to- except in your dreams?

I dream about flying and travel constantly so I'm sure I have but I can't pinpoint any countries specifically.

4.) In what ways has reading about different countries opened up your perspective about global issues?

A lot of my international reading is actually triggered by my desire to find out more about particular social or political situations and events in other countries so I think my reading definitely helps to expland my knowledge about global issues.

5.) What countries have you felt your judgment was off about-after reading about that nation?

Probably a lot of them! Again, can't think about a specific country except possibly India.

6.) Which is your favourite book that you would recommend for this challenge (you don't have to have read it during the challenge)?

"Careless" By Deborah Robertson is one I have read through this challenge that I would definitely recommend. It's my favourite book of the challenge so far. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak is probably my favourite book of the moment though. I'm on a mission to promote more Australian authors to the world!

7.) I am thinking about hosting again, for a full year next time starting in January, do you have any constructive criticism, is one book a month about right...more? less? Give me some thoughts.

This is my first ever blogging/reading challenge and I must admit I am enjoying the shorter time frame and like the book a month pace. I would definitely be on board for a full year though.

8.) Anything else that you have been wanting to tell us all about? let us have it!

I've really been enjoying the challenge and "meeting" other OT readers along the way.