Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dewey's Readathon

 Dewey's Readathon is here once again, bigger and better than ever.
This time around they're celebrating 10 years of readathon wonderfulness.
Check out the blog to read all sorts of lovely memories about the early years and the inspirational Dewey who began it all.

Please check that your name is on the 1000+ list - I thought I had signed up weeks ago, but when I double-checked last night, I realised that I had somehow forgotten to follow through with my good intentions.
It's not too late to sign up here.

This will be my one and only Readathon post.

All book updates, memes or Q&A's will be added below.
Scroll down to find the bits you're most interested in.

I will check in on Litsy & Twitter for real time updates and chats around the top of each hour that I am awake and/or in reading mode.

My start time is 11pm EST, Sydney.
I will start off with a good hour or two of solid reading, before drifting off to sleep.
Most of my reading time will therefore be on Sunday the 22nd October.
You can check out your start time here.

Starting Meme

Where Are You Reading?

Sydney, Australia

What Do You Hope To Read?

I like to have a selection of books.

Some are half-finished, some are for #AusReadingMonth in November, some are for #Non-fiction November and some are for work (all the kids books).

The Austen's are left over from #AusteninAugistRBR.
The short stories of Guy de Maupassant are left over from #ParisinJuly.
That's the kind of reading (& blogging) year I've had!

I've tried to include short stories and novella's this time around to help me feel like I'm completing something, instead of just tallying pages.

Obviously I won't be reading all of the above.
But I like to have choice depending on my mood and for when I get sleepy.
I'm pretty sure I will be starting with The Ladies of Missalonghi.

Who Am I?

My name is Bronwyn and I'm a bookseller based in Sydney.
(My eldest nephew started calling me Brona when he learnt to talk. The nickname has stuck.)

I've been blogging for 8 years and readathoning for 4.

Australia, Cuba - Jan 2017

My Readathon Plans?

Readathon starts at 11pm EST, Sydney.
Therefore most of my readathon will actually occur on Sunday 22nd October.
I plan to read for a couple of hours in bed, or until my eyes won't stay open any longer!
Serious readathon reading will recommence at breakfast time.

The weather forecast is for a 22℃ day with a chance of a sprinkle of rain.

I plan to check into social media for about 10 mins at the top of every hour.

I will join in memes and updates as I can.


I'm not a really a snacky kind of person, but I did make chocolate crackles for the booklets this weekend (which just happens to be one of my favourites too!)
I've made a salad ready for Sunday lunch and I've filled the fruit bowl with apples.

Mr Books & I are planning on dining out at the Night Noodle Markets (weather permitting) as I figure my eyes would need a little break by then & tomorrow night is our last chance before it finishes up for another year.

Lessons Learnt?

This year I've arranged for most of the family to be out doing other stuff to leave me in peace and quiet in the house.
I'm determined not to spend too much time on social media this year.
Part of what I love about this event, is the community, but I do have to remember to read some actual books as well!

My social media accounts are here - twitter, instagram, goodreads and litsy (@Brona).

Our #TeamANZ members are - Elizabeth, ElanorLouise, Maree, Nikks & Dimitra, with our honorary tweeter from The Netherlands, Nancy.

Starting Pages:

The Commandant - pg 19
The Real Jane Austen - pg 190
Love and Freindship
Jane Austen's Shorter Works - pg 69
Inglorious Empire - pg 36
The Best Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant - pg 62

10 Years in 10 Books

Submit one book recommendation published in each year of the Readathon (2007-2017).
Obviously my list will only be of interest to you, if you love historical fiction and memoir as much as I do!


In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he'd completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and--even more important--on his writing. 
Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo's Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. 
Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. 
By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.
I'm not a runner and never will be.
But there was something so utterly engaging and mesmerising about this book, I recommend it to everyone who loves really thoughtful and thought-provoking memoirs.


A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

An irreverent comic adventure, spanning three continents, about a father and son against each other and against the world. 

For most of his life, Jasper Dean couldn’t decide whether to pity, hate, love, or murder his certifiably paranoid father, Martin, a man who overanalyzed anything and everything and imparted his self-garnered wisdom to his only son. But now that Martin is dead, Jasper can fully reflect on the crackpot who raised him in intellectual captivity, and what he realizes is that, for all its lunacy, theirs was a grand adventure. 

As he recollects the events that led to his father’s demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries—about his infamous outlaw uncle, Terry, his mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin’s constant losing battle to make a lasting mark on the world he so disdains. It’s a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafés of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to strip clubs, asylums, labyrinths, and criminal lairs, and from the highs of first love to the lows of failed ambition. The result is a wild rollercoaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings. 

A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores, and the epic debut of the blisteringly funny and talented Steve Toltz.
I couldn't put this book down.
It was funny, quirky and thoroughly absorbing.
For lovers of weird family stories and a fine example of modern Australian literature.


Tinkers by Paul Harding

An old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer’s time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, a Methodist preacher beset by madness.  

At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, illness, faith, and the fierce beauty of nature.
Not always an easy book to recommend.
It's slow pace is tedious to some, but I found it haunting and beautiful.


Hare With the Amber Eye by Edmund de Waal


Pure by Andrew Miller


Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel


The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert


This House of Grief by Helen Garner


The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro


Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Hour One
11pm - midnight

The Ladies of Missalonghi
pages read: 48

TOTAL: 48pgs

Hour Two
midnight - 1am

The Ladies of Missalonghi
pages read: 16

Fell asleep around 12:30am

TOTAL: 64pg

Hours Three - Ten
1am - 9am

Hour Eleven
9am - 10am

The Ladies of Missalonghi
pages read whilst eating breakfast and enjoying my first cup of buddha's tears tea: 38

TOTAL: 102pg

Hour Twelve
10am - 11am

The Ladies of Missalonghi
pages read with another cup of buddha's tears tea as I waved the family off on their outing: 58

TOTAL: 160pg

Hour Thirteen
11am - midday

The Ladies of Missalonghi
pages read: 36

TOTAL: 1 book completed - 196pg

Hour Fourteen
midday - 1pm

On Doubt (revised edition)
pages read after a walk to my local cafe for a coffee break: 20

TOTAL: 1 book & 216pgs

Hour Fifteen
1pm - 2pm

On Doubt (revised edition)
pages read over coffee and second breakfast: 94

TOTAL: 2 books completed & 310pg

Hour Sixteen
2pm - 3pm

On Listening
pages read after a leisurely walk home to clear my head: 47

TOTAL: 3 books finished & 357pgs

Hour Seventeen
3pm - 4pm

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
pages read: 50

TOTAL: 3 books & 407pgs

Hour Eighteen
4pm - 5pm

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
pages read: 86

TOTAL: 4 books completed & 493pgs

Hour Nineteen
5pm - 6pm

Family break to do stuff together

Hour Twenty
6pm - 7pm

The Real Jane Austen
pages read after dinner break: 2

TOTAL: 4 books & 495pgs

Hour Twenty-One
7pm - 8pm

The Real Jane Austen
pages read: 20

TOTAL: 4 books & 515pgs

Hour Twenty-Two
8pm - 9pm

The London Eye Mystery
pages read whilst lazing in a bubble bath: 59

TOTAL: 4 books & 574pgs

Hour Twenty-Three
9pm - 10pm

The London Eye Mystery
pages read: 29

TOTAL: 4 books & 603pgs

Hour Twenty-Four

The London Eye Mystery
pages read: 93

TOTAL: 24hrs - 4 books finished & 696 pages read

Another fabulous readathon dine and dusted.
See you all again in April 2018.

Until then, happy reading!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire was longlisted for this year's Man Booker and I so wish it had got the nod for the shortlist. It was a stronger, more consistently interesting story than 4 3 2 1, but perhaps the judging committee felt they had ticked the refugee/migrant experience by including Exit West?

Either way it's a shame, because Kamila Shamsie's story is engaging, thought-provoking and quite a page turner. It's easy to read nature beguiles you until you find yourself in the middle of a very serious situation with very heavy consequences. Faith, family, moral dilemma's and parliamentary heavy-handedness clash head-on in this story of choice and consequence.

Shamsie based her story on Sophocles play, Antigone which is the story of a young girl who has to chose between the law (in particular her uncle Creon, the King of Thebes, laws) or her own moral compass. Shamsie was also influenced by Seamus Heaney's play about Creon as imagined through the lens of the Bush administration, The Burial at Thebes (2004).

Shamsie's epigraph referenced Heaney's play which I now see actually highlights her particular focus within this story - love versus law - the faith of her characters simply reflects modern concerns and gives Shamsie's story the contemporary touch.

Knowing the basic premise of the play, meant you also knew how the book would end. Incredibly Shamsie managed to create a lot of tension in the build up to this end. The details of the disaster and it's catastrophic results still caught me by surprise. Being an adaptation, you weren't quite sure how she would follow the original story and which bits she might adapt. Having a slightly different arrangement of main characters also created some doubt about who, what, why and how.

What makes this story work so well though, is that you can read and enjoy Home Fire all on it's own without any knowledge or thought of Antigone at all. Universal themes are universal for a reason!

If the Man Booker was still a Commonwealth only award, I believe that Home Fire would have been the stand-out winner. But that's another debate.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Just Saying...

I am truly delighted that George Saunders has won an award for his fabulous book, Lincoln in the Bardo. I loved it from start to finish and it deserves to be inundated with accolades and prizes.

But I also loved Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire just as much, but for very different reasons (review still to come). I was terribly disappointed that it didn't make the shortlist as I feel that it deserved a chance to be shown off to a wider audience. The kind of audience that being shortlisted for a major award can give you.

I like to read books from authors all around the world. But there is so much choice, which can make it hard for me to decide which book I should try next.
Longlists and shortlists help me narrow down the choice.

If you'd like to read more award winning books from around the world try these awards and prizes -

Stella Prize (Australian women writers)
Walter Scott Prize (historical fiction from Commonwealth countries)
The International Dublin Literacy Award (world literature including translated works)
Women's Prize for Fiction (women's writing worldwide)
Miles Franklin Literary Award (Australian literature)
Man Booker International (translated works worldwide)
Giller Prize (Canadian literature)
Crossword Book Awards (Indian literature)
Costa Book Awards (UK & Ireland, all ages)
Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (worldwide, children's literature)
The Jerusalem Prize (worldwide, for works about the freedom of man in society)
Nobel Prize for Literature (worldwide for a body of work)

This is just the tip of the award winning iceberg.

If you're lucky enough to be able to read books in other languages, there are oodles and oodles of awards and prizes for you to check out too.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

My Top Ten Foodie Books

The Broke and the Bookish host a weekly meme called Top Ten Tuesday.
Each week they nominate a topic to encourage those of us who love a good list to get all listy.
This week it's all about food.

My Top Ten Foodie Books 

I've been on a healthy food journey for most of my life.

Trying to find the balance between eating well and satisfying my sweet tooth has been a lifelong challenge. Combined with my environmental concerns about production, pesticides and waste, I have spent a lot of time researching, reading and trying to put into practice a sustainable way of living my life.

The two books that got me started on my food journey were gardening books purchased in the same year.
I was 24 years of age and had just moved into my own (permanent, non-uni) townhouse and I couldn't wait to start my own little herb garden.
These two books inspired me to move beyond the usual herbs as well as attempt to have a pesticide free garden (Companion Planting by Richard Bird).
What Herb is That? by John & Rosemary Hemphill also gave me recipe suggestions for how to use all those delicious herbs I was now growing.

A decade later I stumbled upon In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore.
Ten years into my professional career, life was hectic and I was feeling a little out of a control.
The title of this book screamed at me to buy it NOW!
In Praise of Slow helped me to get back in touch with seasonal living and helped me to rediscover the joy of growing and preparing fresh, homegrown foods.

A chance find in a second-hand bookshop, took me down the next path to eating well consistently.
Changing Habits, Changing Lives by Cyndi O'Meara really did change my life - slowly but surely - just as O'Meara said it would.

It wouldn't be a foodie book post without a book by Michael Pollan!
When I 'discovered' him in 2012, I was more than ready to hear what he had to say.
I started with Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.
Everything he said made sense and seemed practical.
It was quick and easy to read as well!

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan was read in preparation for Pollan's visit to Australia in 2012.
Sadly, I don't remember very much about this book (& my post doesn't enlighten me either!)
A reread may be on the cards.

Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood was recommended to me by good friend & fellow blogger, Girl Booker.
Charlotte Wood (as in the author of the dystopian novel The Natural Way of Things) is also a foodie.
This part memoir/part ode to comfort food/part joy in the sharing of meals together was just what I needed as I settled into my new role as wife and step-mum.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan took a while to read as it was my swim-bag book.
Curiously every time I think about this book, I smell chlorine!
The slow read gave me plenty of time to absorb and reflect on all of Pollan's thought-provoking points.

I still feel a little dubious about I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, but it encouraged me (& Mr Books) to cut sugar out of our coffee and it changed my breakfast routine, so for that reason alone it deserves to be mentioned here.
I still make a toasted muesli based loosely on Wilson's granola recipe.
But I refuse to give up fruit or dried fruit completely.

Given my desire to practice a more mindful and slow approach to food, The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spence may not seem like a logical choice.
But we were a perfect match from page one.
The 5:2 diet is one that suits my lifestyle and the science seemed reasonable too.

To finish up my top ten, I'm heading back into the realm of food fiction.
The best foodie novel I've ever read goes to Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.
Recipes that promote love and good will and end with amazing sex...what's not to like?

What's your favourite foodie read?

Previous post - #AusReadingMonth Q&A
How much do you know about Australia?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

#AusReadingMonth - Q&A

It's time to let everyone know that #AusReadingMonth is fast approaching.

Many of you may have Aussie authors and Aussie books on your TBR piles, but some of you may need to visit the library, bookshop or plan your Netgalley reading to include a book from Australia in your November reading plans.

To give you plenty of time to get ready (& get excited) I thought it might be fun to have a bit of a question and answer post to find out what your plans are for #AusReadingMonth and what you know about Australia?

If you're thinking of joining in, or even just hoping to join, post your Q&A responses between now and November.
Pop back here to add your post to the linky.
Then spread the Aussie spirit by tweeting, commenting and sharing as much as you can.

1. Tell us about the Australian books you've loved and read so far.

2. When you think of Australia, what are the first five things that pop into your mind?

3. Have you ever visited Australia? Or thought about it? 
What are the pro's and con's about travelling to/in Australia for you?
What are/were your impressions? 

4. If you have been or plan to visit, where will you be heading first?
If you already live in this big, beautiful land, tell us a little about where you are, what you love (or not) about it and where you like to holiday (or would like to visit) in Australia.

5. Do you have a favourite Australian author/s or book/s?
Tell us about him/her/it.

6. Which Aussie books are on your TBR pile/wishlist?

7. Which book/s do you hope to read for #AusReadingMonth?

8. It came to my attention recently (when I posted a snake photo on Instagram) that our overseas friends view Australia as a land full of big, bad, deadly animals.
Can you name five of them?
What about five of our cuter more unique creatures?
(For the locals, which five animals from each category have you had an up close and personal with)?

9. Can you name our current Prime Minister (plus four more from memory)? 
No googling allowed!

10. Did you know that Australians have a weird thing for BIG statues of bizarre animals and things?
Can you name five of them?

Flyby Night
If time is of the essence, one book from the BINGO card may be the prefect option for you.
A quick getaway is better than none!

With their compact swags, backpackers need to travel light.
If this is you, simply select one line (horizontal, vertical of even diagonal) on the BINGO card and read three books about our country.

Grey Nomads 
If you have more time up your sleeve join the grey nomads in their self-contained campervans as you travel around this big, brown land of ours. 
With every crossroad on the map, there's a choice to be made; you cannot do it all, so select two lines on the BINGO card to be eligible for Grey Nomad status.

The Whole Hog
If you're feeling a little touched by the sun, then the Whole Hog may be for you.
Read NINE books this November from all of the 8 states and territories plus one freebie.
The FREEBIE can be any book by an Australian author or a book written by an overseas author but set entirely in Australia.

Photo source

Some of you might like to take advantage of next weekend's Dewey's 24hr Readathon to get a head start on your #AusReadingMonth books (I know I will be!)
The readathon is celebrating 10 fantabulous years this October while #AusReadingMonth is celebrating 5 amazing years of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

Also hitting the 5 year mark is my other favourite thing to do in November - Non-Fiction November.

Why not combine all 3 and read a fabulous non-fiction Australian title for the 24hr Readathon!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill

Most of you know my love for the Rowland Sinclair series. I've had to wait nearly 12 months for the latest instalment, A Dangerous Language...and it was so worth the wait!

I had the pleasure of hearing Sulari Gentill talk about her books recently and was thrilled to hear that she has long term plans for Rowland and his friends that will take us all the way through to the end of WWII. Initially she planned to write a book set in each year from 1932 - 1945. However we have now just finished book 8...and we're still in 1935!

One of the things I love about this series is the mix of fictional and real life characters. Gentill talked about how she always sticks to the known facts but that her stories exist in the gaps in between.
A quick wiki search on the journalist Egon Kisch shows that he did in fact jump from his ship in Melbourne in 1934 and break his leg. Gentill has simply added Rowly and his friends to the picture with a plausible reason about why Kisch may have 'jumped'.

Having an historian as a husband has kept Gentill honest in all matters relating to these times. It's this authenticity that makes Rowland feel so real...and the fact that he is such a lovely, lovely man. It must be wonderful to carry him around in your head all the time, as Gentill does.

This particular story is mostly set in Victoria and Canberra as Rowly and his friends help the members the Movement Against War & Fascism get Kisch into the country to speak his 'dangerous language'. Naturally, Rowland's brother, Wilfred, is not happy about this turn of events, but there are many others even unhappier. This unhappiness quickly turns into violence and places our much loved characters in many dangerous situations.

Poor Rowly has been shot, stabbed, tortured, kidnapped and hit over the head so many times, it's amazing that he's still standing. It's getting a little harder to classify these books as 'cosy crime' or 'gentle crime', perhaps historical fiction that just happens to have crime and political intrigue is a more apt description.

Gentill is getting better and better with each of the Rowly stories. I love how she brings to light little known historical events for her characters to engage with. Fact and fiction are woven together seamlessly and gracefully and her main characters are being allowed to evolve into nuanced, complex individuals. Does anyone else feel that little break/ache of their heart every time Mrs Sinclair calls Rowland, Aubrey?

Sense of place is a another thing that I love about these books. Gentill's good eye for detail brings 1930's Sydney to life (or in this case 1930's Melbourne and Canberra). I have a real sense of walking beside Rowly and his friends, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel.

As for Rowly and Edna? It's so obvious that the adore each other, but will they ever be able to work things out? They are the Mulder & Scully or the David & Maddie of 1930's Sydney!

Any of these stories would be great choices for this year's #AusReadingMonth BINGO card. Most of the books are set in Sydney, NSW, except for Book 4 that took us to Munich, Germany and this latest one.

#1 A Few Right Thinking Men
#2 A Decline in Prophets
#3 Miles Off Course
#4 Paving the New Road
#5 Gentlemen Formerly Dressed
#6 A Murder Unmentioned
#7 Give the Devil His Due
Prequel - The Prodigal Son (e-book only - download your copy here.)
#8 - A Dangerous Language
#9 - due for publication Sept 2018

Thursday, 12 October 2017

#AusReadingMonth - which book?

To help you find the right book for your #AusReadingMonth challenge, I've listed a selection of Aussie books by genre with their State or Territory. 

Which BINGO challenge will you be trying?

Flyby Night
If time is of the essence, one book from the BINGO card may be the prefect option for you.
A quick getaway is better than none!

With their compact swags, backpackers need to travel light.
If this is you, simply select one line (horizontal, vertical of even diagonal) on the BINGO card and read three books about our country.

Grey Nomads 
If you have more time up your sleeve join the grey nomads in their self-contained campervans as you travel around this big, brown land of ours. 
With every crossroad on the map, there's a choice to be made; you cannot do it all, so select two lines on the BINGO card to be eligible for Grey Nomad status.

The Whole Hog
If you're feeling a little touched by the sun, then the Whole Hog may be for you.
Read NINE books this November from all of the 8 states and territories plus one freebie.

The FREEBIE can be any book by an Australian author or a book written by an overseas author but set entirely in Australia.

For the crime lovers amongst you:

Comeback by Peter Corris - NSW
The Rowland Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill (historical crime) - NSW (mostly)
Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab (true crime) - NSW
Crucifixion Creek by Barry Maitland - NSW

Wimmera by Mark Brandi - VIC
The Phyrne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood (historical crime) - VIC (mostly)
Jack Irish novels by Peter Temple - VIC
The Dry by Jane Harper - VIC
To Know My Crime by Fiona Capp - VIC

The Sunken Road by Garry Disher - SA
Bitter Wash Road by Garry Disher - SA

Olmec Obituary by L. J. M. Owen - ACT

Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon (true crime) - QLD
Can You Keep a Secret - Caroline Overington - QLD
Last Drinks by Andrew McGahan - QLD

Before it Breaks by Dave Warner - WA
Taking a Chance by Deborah Burrows (historical crime) - WA

The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne - NT
Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland - NT

Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee - TAS
Fatal Impact by Kathryn Fox - TAS

General fiction options:

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough - QLD
Elianne by Judy Nunn - QLD
Rain Music by Di Morrissey - QLD
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Moreton - QLD

Tiddas by Anita Heiss - NSW

Maralinga by Judy Nunn - SA
Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney - SA

Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall - ACT

The Silent Country by Di Morrissey - NT
Territory by Judy Nunn - NT

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (historical fiction) - WA
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (historical fiction) - WA
The Woman Next Door by Liz Byrski - WA

The Alphabet of Light and Dark by Danielle Wood - TAS
Family Secrets by Liz Byrski - TAS
Tiger Men by Judy Nunn - TAS

If romance is more your thing try:

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer (fiction) - WA

Northern Heat by Helene Young - QLD
Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer - QLD

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns (fiction) - NSW
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - NSW
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough (historical fiction) - NSW
Cleanskin Cowgirls by Rachael Treasure (rural fiction) - NSW
The Farmer's Wife by Rachael Treasure (rural fiction) - NSW
The Naturalist's Daughter by Tea Cooper (historical fiction) - NSW
The Cedar Cutter by Tea Cooper (historical fiction) - NSW
Sara Dane by Catherine Gaskin (historical fiction) - NSW

Down the Dirt Roads by Rachael Treasure (memoir) - TAS

Jewel in the North by Tricia Stringer (rural fiction) - SA
Paycheque by Fiona McCallum (fiction) - SA

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute (fiction) - NT
Outback Heart by Joanne van Os (rural fiction) - NT

Finding Hannah by Fiona McCallum (fiction) - VIC
I Know My Love by Catherine Gaskin (historical fiction) - VIC

Talk of the Town by Rachael Johns (rural fiction) - WA

Children's books:

I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall (junior fiction) - VIC

Looking For Alibrandi by Marlena Marchetta (YA) - NSW
Alexander's Outing by Pamela Allen (picture book) - NSW
Alphabetical Sydney by Hilary Bell &         (picture book) - NSW
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (junior fiction) - NSW
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (junior fiction) NSW
My Place by Nadia Wheatley (picture book ) - NSW
Mirror by Jeannie Baker (picture book) - NSW
Pastures of the Blue Crane by R. M. Brimstead (teen) - NSW

The Girl Most Likely by Rebecca Sparrow (YA) - QLD
Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer (teen) - QLD
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker (picture book) - QLD

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra (junior fiction) - TAS

Meet Alice: Our Australian Girl by Davina Bell (junior fiction) - WA
Lochie Leonard by Tim Winton (teen) - WA
Blueback by Tim Winton (junior fiction) - WA
The Deep by Tim Winton (picture book) - WA

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele (junior fiction) - SA
Rockhopping by Trace Balla (picture book) - SA

The Year it All Ended by Kirsty Murray (YA) - SA
Meet Nellie: Our Australian Girl by Penny Matthews (junior fiction) - SA

If you'd like to read some Indigenous literature, try this fabulous new site I just read about today (thanks Sue) called Writing Black @if:book Australia. The writing is contemporary and downloadable. Some of the writing will be set in a specific place, but many of the pieces could fit the FREEBIE box as well.
Magabala Books is an Indigenous publishing house with a great selection of titles.
The University of Queensland Press also has a great list of Black Australian Writing here.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The first time I read The Blue Castle, I read it soooooooo fast that I recall very little of the detail. I had just found out about the controversy surrounding this book and my long-time favourite Colleen McCullough book, The Ladies of Missalonghi. Therefore I read The Blue Castle constantly comparing and looking for similarities and differences; I didn't read it for itself.
(Please click on the two book links above to get the backstory for this controversy.)

This reread, however, was all about enjoying The Blue Castle purely and simply for itself. Thanks to a hectic life schedule atm, I was looking for a quick, easy, comforting read to sink into.

The chance to also reread it with two others (Naomi @Consumed By Ink and Sarah Emsley) who clearly love this story as much as I do, was an added bonus.

My first observation is that The Blue Castle was a much richer, emotionally satisfying story than I remembered. Yes, it's predictable and sentimental, but it's done so well and hits just the right note when one is in the mood for this kind of book.

It was also a love letter to the woods 'up back' of Canada.
Once or twice night overtook them, too far from their Blue Castle to get back. But Barney mad a fragrant bed of bracken and fir boughs and they slept on it dreamlessly, under a ceiling of old spruces with moss hanging from them, while beyond them moonlight and the murmur of pines blended together so that one could hardly tell which was light and which was sound.

Whitt Island, Lake Muskoka, Ontario

There is something so satisfying in owning a whole island. And isn't an uninhabited island a charmng idea? I'd wanted one ever since I read Robinson Crusoe. It seemed to good to be true. And beauty! Most of the scenery belongs to the government, but they don't tax you for looking at it, and the moon belongs to everyone.

Valancy looked - and looked -  and looked again. There was a diaphanous, lilac mist on the lake, shrouding the island. Through it the two enormous pine-trees that clasped hands over Barney's shack loomed out like dark turrets. Behind them was a sky still rose-hued in the afterlight, and a pale young moon.

A question though - how do you pronounce Valancy? Is is Vuh-lan- cy, Val-arn-cy or Val-ancy? I'm leaning towards the latter as it roles of the tongue quite nicely. Is Valancy a traditional Canadian name or is it a significant name in L.M. Montgomery's own backstory?

(I just found this post with very helpful, interesting comments all about the name Valancy. God, I love the world wide web!)

The lesson we learn from Valancy about conquering your fears and being true to yourself, remains a powerful one that transcends time and place. Sure there's an ugly duckling/wish fulfilment element here as well, but dreams do come true, just not easy, as Valancy also found out.

She was no longer unimportant, little old maid Valancy Stirling. She was a woman, full of love and therefore rich & significant - justified to herself. Life was no longer empty & futile, and death could cheat her if nothing. Love had cast out her last fear.

Which kind of makes Valancy a Canadian Jane Eyre.

I loved this quote in particular:
Valancy was in the midst of realities after a lifetime of unrealities.

Valancy had spent her life dreaming about and fantasising about another life; a better life that took place in her Blue Castle. Her life was stifled, suppressed and repressed by her family and by societal standards of the time. Without knowing it, her life was on hold, in limbo. So many of us feel this at some point in our lives; at least I did for most of my childhood years.

And that is where it's success and beauty lies. For anyone who has felt like the ugly duckling or unnoticed or fearful about life, The Blue Castle gives hope and inspiration. We all have the power to do-over, make-over and reinvent ourselves. We can all rise above the mores of the world around us and be true to ourselves. That is the path to happiness.

The Blue Castle is a book that deserves to be in a leisurely manner. I'm glad I waited for the right weekend and the right to mood to fall into this little treasure once again. Along with The Ladies of Missalonghi (to be reread for #AusReadingMonth) I now have two delicious stories to turn to when in the mood for a charming, nostalgic romance.

Visiting Canada or Prince Edward Island is not an easy proposition when you live in Australia, but one of my sisters visited PEI in 2008 for the 200th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. She knew exactly which big sister would love these coasters the most!


Saturday, 7 October 2017

#6degrees October

#6degrees is a monthly meme hosted by Kate @Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Oftentimes I haven't read the starting book for this meme, but I can assure you that I only play the next 6 books with ones I have actually read. 
If I've read the book during this blogging life, then I include my review, otherwise, you just have to take my word for it!

This month the starting book is Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquival.
Are you game?

Old image alert - Kate @Books Are My Favourite & Best now hosts #6Degrees but this is a good refresh of the rules.

Like Water For Chocolate was a huge favourite of mine in 1992. Like many other fans, it was no doubt thanks to the film that came out that year. The book was actually first published in 1989 and became a runaway bestseller in Mexico and the States. The 1992 movie then introduced this delicious story to the rest of the world.

After seeing the movie, I quickly purchased the book and devoured it several times in greedy, compulsive sittings. Mexico and magic realism was suddenly my thing.
I wanted more.

Not long after my binge reading of LWFC, I discovered The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols in my local bookstore.

I was rather taken with the cover and with Robert Redford's name on the cover. 
In my twenties I had a slight obsession with Robert Redford movies and watched most of his backlist as well as those he was now directing and producing himself. My ignorance of the lower states of America at that time, also meant that I thought that New Mexico was actually, you know, in Mexico.

I loved the beginning of this book, it was quirky and fun, but I remember getting tired of it's rambling nature by the halfway mark. 
Back then I always finished books that I started - especially if I had paid good money for it - but it was a struggle. And I never bothered to watch the movie version either.

In a reverse link, Robert Redford's wonderful movie version of Out of Africa was a movie that I wished I hadn't bothered with the book.

The movie pulled together stories and information about Blixen's life from various sources, not just the book. The book was no where near as cohesive or satisfying.

Another book that I found unsatisfying and lacking in cohesion was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Even though I read this during my blogging years, I failed to write a review for it. 
After loving The Buried Giant and The Remains of the Day so much, my disappointment left me speechless! However, that doesn't stop me from being delighted that Ishiguro won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ishiguro's nomination boosted my stats for Reading the Nobels. Until last night, I had only read 19 Nobel Prize winners; now I have read 20!
The earliest Nobel winner that I've read to date is Rabindranath Tagore from the 1913 awards.

I read his most well-known book The Home and the World during a fabulous readalong last year.
It reminded me why I love Indian literature so much, but also revealed how much I still don't know about the history and culture of this ancient country.
In an attempt to rectify this situation, I have started Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor.

It coincides with my recent readings about early Australian history from the Aboriginal perspective.
History is usually written by the victors to explain how this came about. 
Assumptions, prejudices and justifications get in the way of the so-called facts.

It's not easy for other voices or other perspectives to be heard.
Naturally, these other voices also have their own assumptions, prejudices and justifications, but it is important that the dominant narrative is challenged by these other stories and versions of history.

Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident? by Bruce Pascoe is one such challenge.

This ended up being quite a well-travelled #6degrees, taking us from Mexico, to New Mexico, Kenya, a dystopian English boarding school, India and finally home again to Australia.

Where did you end up this month?

Friday, 6 October 2017

Just Saying...

...that I, for one, am thrilled and delighted that Kazuo Ishiguro has been named this year's Nobel Prize for Literature recipient.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".

I loved and adored The Buried Giant in 2015 and The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite reads from 15 years ago. 

Never Let Me Know was one that I felt rather more ambivalent about but I have high hopes for Nocturnes, An Artist of the Floating World and The Unconsoled on my TBR pile.

The Guardian's article about Ishiguro's win is here, Japan Times here and NY Times here.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

My #AusReadingMonth Possibilities

As many of you know, my TBR pile is out of control. A bigly number of those books are by Australian authors (I feel safe using bigly now that 1. we know that Trump actually said big league and 2. that bigly is a real work, although archaic and rarely used.)

I thought I'd list some of them, focusing on the state, territory or town that each is predominantly set in, to help our overseas #AusReadingMonth participants.

Since I haven't read any of these books yet, I'm using their blurbs and goodreads reviews to help me work out where they're set. If anyone would like to correct me, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Aunts Up the Cross by Robin Dalton (memoir) - Kings Cross, Sydney, NSW
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough (historical fiction) - The Blue Mountains, NSW
The Dyehouse by Mena Calthorpe (fiction/classic) - Sydney, NSW
Mirror Sydney by Vanessa Berry (non-fiction) - NSW
The Timeless Land by Elenor Dark (fiction/classic) - NSW
Watershed by Fabienne Bayet-Charlton (fiction) - NSW, I think.
True North by Brenda Niall (biography) - NSW (& elsewhere)
Home by Larissa Behrendt (fiction) - NSW
1788 by Watkin Tench (history/memoir) - NSW

Everyman's Rules of Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany (fiction) - VIC
The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley (fiction/classic) - VIC
Sisters by Ada Cambridge (fiction/classic) - VIC
The Danger Game by Kalinda Ashton (fiction) - Melbourne, VIC
The First Book of Samuel by Ursula Dubosarsky (historical fiction)- Melbourne, VIC
Conditions of Faith by Alex Miller (fiction/memoir) - Melbourne, VIC predominantly

A Child's Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper (historical fiction) - TAS

The Commandant by Jessica Anderson (historical fiction/classic) - QLD
It's Raining in Mango by Thea Astley (fiction) - QLD
The Slow Natives by Thea Astley (fiction) - QLD
The White Earth by Andrew McGahan (fiction) - QLD
Omega Park by Amy Barker (fiction) - QLD
Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller (fiction) - QLD

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill (historical fiction/crime)- ACT predominantly

Shallows by Tim Winton (fiction) - WA
Benang by Kim Scott (memoir/fiction) - WA
Coonardoo by Katharine Susannah Prichard (fiction) - WA
My Place by Sally Morgan (memoir) - WA

Island Home by Tim Winton (memoir/essays) - FREE - it covers various areas of Australia, although being Winton it will probably be predominantly WA based.
Maurice Guest by Henry Handle Richardson (fiction/classic) - FREE - an Australian writer with an overseas setting.
My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill (historical fiction/classic) - FREE - a fictional story about Matthew Flinders
Cabin Fever by Elizabeth Jolley (fiction) - FREE - an Australian writer with an overseas setting.
The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (fiction) - FREE - futuristic novel set in Australia
The Rose Grower by Michelle de Kretser (historical fiction) - FREE - an Australian writer with an overseas setting.
Dancing with Strangers by Inga Clendinnen (history) - FREE - all of Australia.
The Bush by Don Watson (non-fiction) - FREE - all of Australia.

As you can see, I actually need a year-long AusReading event to come close to reading all these books! Can you recommend any of these books? Which one should I tackle first?

My Top Ten all-time favourite Australian books.