October 31, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

Another busy and full weekend is about to come to an end but I don't feel quite as sad about that as I normally would. Unlike last weekend where we enjoyed a fleeting hint of spring/summer weather this entire weekend has been glorious.
To go with the wonderful weather we have packed our weekend with visiting a new baby nephew born on Friday afternoon (he is massively cute!), visiting our older nephews and other friends and family - as well as some reading thankfully!
I think I am also feeling a little brighter because I have successfully negotiated cutting down my hours at work which means more time for me! I have also just enrolled in my Master of Communication degree to start next year - something I have been wanting to do for a long time now. Maybe spring is bringing more than just brighter weather...
The beautiful flowers in my photos are courtesy of my mother-in-laws garden and they smell and look divine - they have helped bring spring well and truly into our house.

October 27, 2010

Fall Girl - Toni Jordan

I had read Toni Jordan's debut novel, Addition, in early 2009 and loved it - so much so that I have been waiting ever since then for her to release her second book.

Fall Girl was released last week in Australia and I devoted my reading time over the past weekend solely to it.

The fall girl of the title is Della Gilmore, a young woman living with her extended family of con artists in the suburbs of Melbourne. The Gilmore family have always been in the conning trade. Della's father is the patriarch of the bunch and Della has learnt most of her trade secrets from him, her brother, aunt and uncle and cousins. They rely on each other for their work and their income and it has all been going pretty swimmingly by the sound of things.

Della's latest con is to parade herself as an award winning science academic and researcher - Dr Ella Canfield - in order to score a $25,000 research grant to search for the existence of the Tasmanian tiger - a creature that has been listed as extinct for over 70 years. If she is going to win the grant Della has to convince the administrator of the grant, the sexy, confidant, intelligent and wealthy Daniel Metcalf, that she is the real deal.

I'm sure you can see where this is heading.

I was so disappointed with this book. Whereas in Addition Jordan created an original, flawed, interesting main character I found the opposite to be the case in Fall Girl. True, you don't come across a suburban con artist in everyday life (at least I hope I don't!) but that was really the only original aspect to this book and the character of Della/Ella.

There seemed to be too many characters and sub plots and relationship details to enable to reader to focus on the main story - maybe the author was trying to pull a con of her own and confuse the reader with smoke and mirrors??! The ending for me was just the icing on the disappointing cake - I'm not sure where it came from at all as it seemed to introduce a desire of the main character that hadn't been explored at all in the novel up until that point.

Certainly an easy to read book - but there was very little substance for me unfortunately.

October 24, 2010

Friends, Shoes and Books

I'm writing this post on my brand new computer (with thanks to my IT savvy partner for setting it up for me so beautifully!). I feel some sense of loss having to say goodbye to my old computer, it had been my faithful sidekick for 5 years now but unfortunately it had no more capacity for growth so it had to be replaced. So far so good with my new piece of technology - I'm settling into its style - I just need a name for it - any suggestions??
I've had a lovely weekend - although the weather hasn't always been so lovely. A gorgeous spring day on Saturday - the perfect day to catch up for brunch with one of my best friends and go shoe and book shopping!
I headed to one of my favourite shoe shops, Nine West and bought some gorgeous summer sandals (I was supposed to be looking for new work shoes but these were much more fun!).I also treated myself to two new books, Shall We Dance by Maggie Alderson and A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French.

October 23, 2010

Our Kind Of Traitor - John le Carré

I have vague memories of reading, and enjoying, le Carré's classic novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold way back in my high school days but I have never really ventured into the whole spy/espionage genre of fiction apart from that. No reason in particular for my avoidance - I just haven't gone there.

The description of Our Kind Of Traitor spoke to me though when I was looking for a book to keep my attention in the past few weeks when reading time and energy has been in short supply. The book follows the adventures of English academic, Perry Makepiece (I love this name!) and his lawyer girlfriend Gail after they bump into a Russian criminal and millionaire, Dima, while enjoying a tennis holiday in Antigua. Perry and Gail become enmeshed in Dima's world and end up acting a go between for him with the British Intelligence Service as he tries to rustle up a deal that will put him and and his family safely in London away from his criminal cohorts. The book travels from the island of Antigua to London to Paris and to Switzerland - it is fast paced but at the same time it doesn't get lost in the movement - each character is developed and explored without rushing.

I have absolutely no idea if the events in le Carré's book could or would ever plausibly happen - and I don't care! This book had me riveted from start to finish and I am now on the lookout for more of le Carré's books - any suggestions gratefully received!

October 19, 2010

Space and Time...

When did life become so hectic and out of control???!!! I have been looking back over my blog posts for the past couple of months and have noticed them dwindling in number and energy. I find myself having less and less time to really sit down and become absorbed in my blog writing and reading - and I don't like it!

I have still been reading and have some reviews to come (hopefully soon) but I am finding that work and other "must do" tasks are taking up more and more of my time - and importantly, my energy.

I am always talking with my clients about their values and prioritising and helping them to create lives that are full of the things they really want to be in them - and not just things they think "should" play a part - I find it interesting that when it comes to myself I don't always adopt these same guiding principles!

Time for some changes I think...

October 11, 2010

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro has been a bit of a 'hit and miss' author for me - I absolutely loved The Remains of The Day but his latest book, Nocturnes really did nothing for me.

I know Jackie and Simon have both recently read and reviewed Never Let Me Go and I was interested in their reviews of this one but I am also really keen to see the movie when it comes out and I hate reading a book after I've seen the movie version which is the main reason I picked this book up now.

Never Let Me Go sets its premise but stating that it is about "a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England". One of the students, Kathy H is relating her story and that of the students she grew up with at the age of 31 - coming to a turning point in her life as she prepares to move from the role of a carer, a role that she has held for the past 11 years. Terms such as "carer" take on a slightly different meaning in the world Ishiguro has created in this novel - there are other common place words and terms that become known in different ways throughout the book - this has the slightly unsettling effect of making you feel safe and comfortable with the world you are being led through - up until a point - then you realise that things are a little more concrete in the world in which Kathy H is telling us about.

I had a really hard time connecting with this book and the way in which it was being narrated. I realise this is probably the whole point given the setting, tone and purpose of the book but I couldn't relate to Kathy and the way in which she was telling her story. She was constantly going back to events in the past in a way which made me feel as though she wasn't present in the here and now - it all felt very forced. I did keep engaged enough to read this book quite quickly but I think part of that was me wanting to get to a stage where I felt something was happening now rather than in the past. That did eventually happen and the last section of the book was by far the best for me.

This book is definitely a "thinker" - I liked the fact that it has made me reflect on many social issues that are present and relevant for us in our society and communities today - I just didn't really enjoy or get much reading pleasure from the way the story was told which is a big part of reading for me.

October 09, 2010

Freedom - Jonathan Franzen

Before writing this entry for Franzen's new novel I went back to look at my reflections on his other novel, The Corrections , which I read two years ago as I wanted to try and work out which book I would say I "liked" the best. Unfortunately my thoughts from two years ago didn't really help me all that much when it came to which book I would rate above the other - I think it has only confused me further!

Freedom is a book gaining a lot of press and attention at the moment, Oprah has chosen it as her new Book Club selection and even Australian reviewers are slogging it constantly in their columns. At 562 pages it is certainly an epic novel in terms of size and the themes it covers could also be considered as overarching and wide spread.

The novel starts with an overview of the upper middle class suburban Berglund family - husband and wife, Walter and Patty and their two teenage children, Jessica and Joey - with the narrator stating; "There had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds".

After the initial plot building chapter where we learn that the Berglund families situation has gone off the rails somewhat we are taken back in time to Patty's childhood as she relates her story of growing up in Westchester County, New York - an sport talented outsider in her artistic and intellectual family. Patty tells the story of moving to Minnesota to attend College (a school chosen because it was far away from home and because she knew it would annoy her mother) and meeting serious, studious Walter and his best friend - lead singer in a burgeoning rock band, Richard Katz.

The relationships between these three characters, Patty, Walter and Richard is at the heart of this book and it is what propels the story forward - and makes it stagnate at times. The story is told from the perspectives of all three (with my favoured being Patty) which allows you to see the same event from the viewpoint of all of them - a technique I do tend to like.

I had a real love/hate relationship with this book - there were times (particularly at the beginning) where I was loving it and couldn't put it down but the very long middle section really dragged for me - and then the ending redeemed it again. I thought it was way too long and overly repetitive in places but I also can see how all of this narrative was needed to develop the ideas being put forward by the author so I'm not sure what the solution is there!

The idea of freedom and who has it and how it can be achieved is explored through all of the characters and there are many different ways in which freedom is portrayed throughout the story - personal and political. Ultimately I found that the idea of freedom may not really be something we have any control over - ironically enough!

It was a labour - not necessarily always of love - to get through this book but I feel happy to now be able to think about the story that has been put forward and get involved in a discussion about the latest Franzen.

October 03, 2010

Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson is an author I discovered quite late - so when I finally found her I went about reading almost everything of hers I could get my hands on - then I had to wait for what felt like ages for her new book, Started Early, Took My Dog, to be released.

Started Early, Took My Dog is Atkinson's latest book with ex-police officer, current private detective Jackson Brodie as one of the main characters. Each of these books could really be read exclusively in any order but I think you would miss out on so much of the back story and character development if you did this - reading these books "in order" would be the best way to go.

This latest story finds Brodie on the hunt in the UK for the true story and parentage of a woman now living with her own young family in New Zealand. It's a job he is not particularly keen on but in true Jackson Brodie style he finds himself in the midst of it anyway - along with some other complications and characters.

Brodie's story and work becomes intertwined with middle aged security chief (also an ex-police officer) Tracy Waterhouse who, finding herself with an almost unheard of opportunity in the middle of a shopping centre one day, takes the opportunity and changes the whole course of her life and the story to come. There is also Tilly, an elderly and flailing actress whose own story and memories give life and direction to the outcome of Started Early, Took My Dog.

Atkinson is a brilliant writer but I think her biggest talent is being able to weave and build a particular story (or stories) to breaking point in a way that just makes you want to keep reading and reading. Each character is full and rich but it is the way their stories combine that makes this a special read. My only sadness is that I will now have to wait an age for her next book to be released!