Book Bingo Catch-Up

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This year I am having a go at the Book Bingo Challenge run by Theresa, Ashleigh and Amanda. The idea is to read a book in each category over the course of the year and complete the Bingo card. With 30 squares it works out to be about one book every fortnight with a few double ups. You can read more about the challenge here.

Initially, as I finished a book I would check to see which category would fit and tick off that square. This strategy worked quite well for a while and at first it was quite easy to tick off some squares. But then it started getting a bit harder. None of the books I was reading seemed to fit any of the categories that were left to be filled. Obviously, I needed a different strategy. 

So one evening I pulled out my paper copy of the Bingo card, sat in front of my 2019 TBR bookshelf and started pulling out books. My TBR list is a never-ending, constantly growing, work in progress. I actually don’t know how many books I have sitting on my shelves waiting to be read, except that it would be a very big number. And that doesn’t count the ebooks on my iPad – you know, out of sight, out of mind. At the beginning of each year I select a range of books from my shelves that I want to read during that year and place them in a special bookshelf next to my bed. Currently it is called the 2019 TBR shelf. Next year it will be called the 2020 TBR shelf – you get the drift. I try to choose a bit of everything – some historical fiction, some SF, some crime, some fantasy, some non-fiction, some prize winners, some off the 1001 list and so on. A bit of everything.

After perusing the 2019 TBR, the Bingo card was partly covered in pencil scribbles of potential titles for at least some of the remaining squares, but there were still some gaps. I had to widen my search. So I went on a book hunt – up to the shelf by the front door, around the corner to the bookshelf by the kitchen table, past the bookshelf by my desk, to the two remaining bookshelves across the other side of my bed. This scavenger hunt had three main outcomes.

  1. I now have even more books on my 2019 TBR list.
  2. I have almost all of the remaining squares scribbled on.
  3. I have broadened my usual reading zone – which is one of the greatest benefits of completing a reading challenge. 

Of course, I still have to read said books, but at least there is a plan in place.

If the last six weeks are anything to go by, the Bingo card is back on track. Today I am checking off…

Memoir about a Non-Famous Person: One Life by Kate Grenville                                       Kind of a biography-memoir, Grenville’s book tells the story of her mother’s life. She wasn’t famous, but a remarkable woman none-the-less.

Written by an Australian Woman: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland     The book is visually gorgeous, the prose is beautiful, and the story packs a punch.

Written by an Author Under 35: Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta                 Growing up is never easy.

Written by an Author Over 65: A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie                            Christie is always a winner. Nothing is ever as it seems.

Historical: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco                                                                       Now this was a hefty read. Intriguing mystery set in the late medieval world.

Fictionalised Biography about a Woman from History: Mrs M by Luke Slattery                  Mrs M is Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of Major General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821. An enjoyable, if very fictionalised account of their time in Sydney, told from Elizabeth’s point of view.

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I now have one whole row completed!

There’ll be a bit more of a write up about these books, as well as the other books I have been reading, in my next reading update at the end of the month, but until then…

Happy Reading!

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May-June Reading Update

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The last two months have been somewhat dismal on the reading front with only a total of five books, and one of those I began quite a long time ago. Oh well, there’s always July.

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguru28920

Ever since reading Remains of the Day, Ishiguro has become one of my favourite authors. Although he was born in Nagasaki, he moved to the UK when he was quite young and he credits growing up in a Japanese family for giving him a different perspective than his English peers. He has been nominated for the Man Booker prize four times, winning it for Remains of the Day, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. 

A Pale View of Hills, published in 1982, was his debut novel. Set in both Japan and the UK, the story centres on Etsuko as she reflects on her life after the recent death of her daughter. Ishiguro’s novels often don’t end with the kind of neat resolution that we have come to expect and this book is no exception. The ending was a little disturbing as we discover that things are not always what they seem. A thought provoking if unsettling read.   

Boys Will be Boys by Clementine Ford40737717._SY475_

At the beginning of May I attended a live and local screening of Ford’s session at the Sydney Writer’s Festival and then I read her book. Ford has a reputation as a radical feminist but I didn’t get that impression from either the panel discussion about toxic masculinity or her book. Yes, there’s “language”. Yes, she’s often sarcastic. But I believe that she is right about the negative and damaging impact of patriarchy and toxic masculinity not just upon women, but especially on men. I devoured this book in one day and was filled with anger, sadness and frustration.

 In a recent article about domestic violence,  Hayley Gleeson quotes Margaret Atwood,

 “Men are afraid women will laugh at them and women are afraid men will kill them.”

One of the most common responses to the issues of domestic violence, toxic masculinity and misogyny is “not all men”. True. It’s not all men and we know that it is not all men. But that’s not the point and Ford addresses the “not all men” response. There has been too much silence for too long. If we wish to create a society in which all people are respected and valued, then men and women need to stand together to call out bad behaviour, to intervene and to speak up.     

 Are Women Human by Dorothy L Sayers 320481

Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957)was an English crime writer and poet, friend of C.S Lewis and one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford. Although she finished with first-class honours in 1915, she had to wait a few years to receive her degree, as degrees were not awarded to women at that time. Typical! She is probably better known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels, however she also wrote many essays, of which two, ‘Are Women Human’ and ‘The Human-Not-Quite-Human’, are contained in this little book. 

Sayers discusses the way women are always seen in reference to men, always as the “opposite sex” and she wonders if there is a “neighbouring sex”. After all, as she points out, “women are more like men than anything else in the world. They are human beings.” Sayers was writing in a time when women’s access to education and employment was restricted, so her main arguments focus on firstly, that women are human beings, just like men, and secondly, that every human being needs to have purpose and occupation. The upshot is that women want to be respected as individuals in their own right, with their own unique combination of abilities and interests, and not as a single homogeneous class. Perhaps the same could be said of every human being. 

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 841628

Douglas Adam’s (1952-2001) science fiction cult classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains time travel, aliens, a depressed robot, as well as the end of the world. It is a hilarious and madcap ride around the galaxy and through time and I loved it. Labelled a “trilogy in four parts”, the book also included The Restaurant at the End of the Universe;  Life, the Universe and Everything; and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Apparently there is also a fifth book in the trilogy, Mostly Harmless, which I will obviously have to track down. Originating as a radio program, the “trilogy” has gone on to include plays, comics, computer games as well as television and film adaptations. A definite must read for those with a warped and zany sense of humour.

Paradise Lost by John Milton 13455114

First published in 1667, Paradise Lost has been described as “the greatest epic poem in English literature.” In poetic form, Milton (1608-1674) recounts the Fall of Man, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and their exclusion from the Garden of Eden. Teskey (2005) says “Growing to understand Paradise Lost is a lifelong adventure”, which is good because it has taken me five years to finally finish my first reading and I think I got the gist of it. One of the problems is that it was an ebook, so because it wasn’t sitting right in front of me on my bedside cupboard with a bookmark sticking out, I would tend to forget all about it. It was also a book that required a fair bit of concentration. Anyone who has ever read Shakespeare would understand what I mean. I found that the best way of reading Milton, was to read it out loud (you should probably do this in private to avoid strange looks though.) Reading it out loud helped me to both get the rhythm and a sense of the drama. I definitely would like to read again, perhaps in another five years, but next time I will use an edition that I picked up from a Lifeline sale, which includes footnotes and some critical commentary.

Book Bingo

I have been getting a bit behind on Book Bingo. Recent reads have not really been fitting into any categories but this month I am claiming The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as my comedy read. After all it did me make me laugh – a lot.

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April Reading Update

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April turned out to be quite a busy month, with Easter, ANZAC Day, and an Australian history essay to get done somewhere in between.  So the reading was a little steady, however I did manage to read …

  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan 
  • Eden by Candice Fox
  • Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

… and ticked off two more boxes for Book Bingo.

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  • Novella (less than 150 pages) – Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • Crime – Eden by Candice Fox

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington was both a reread and part of an Australian history assignment. It tells the story of three young Aboriginal girls who are taken from their home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to a settlement far away from their family. Molly, the oldest girl and Doris Pilkington’s mother, decides they’re not staying and so begins their long journey back home, following the rabbit-proof fence.

 It is 1931 and the child removal policy is in full swing. The child removal policy was at best misguided and at worst rooted in prejudiced and racist ideology. Indigenous children were separated from their families in an attempt to destroy the link with their culture and assimilate them into white society. They are the Stolen Generations. Sadly Doris was also separated from her mother Molly for many years. She says that writing the book helped her to reconnect with her family and culture, and heal the pain and trauma of the loss of her family, culture and identity. 

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence belongs to a genre of writing often known as Aboriginal Life Writing and I think it is helpful to understand a bit about Aboriginal Life Writing when reading Pilkington or any other texts from this genre. Aboriginal Life Writing is often different from the usual kind of memoirs or autobiographies that are written in the western tradition. Storytelling is a very important tradition in Indigenous culture and Aboriginal Life Writing continues that tradition. But it also serves as a mechanism for healing the pain and trauma of dispossession, for reconnecting Indigenous people with their history and culture, for teaching non-Indigenous readers about Aboriginal culture and their own history, and for promoting the necessity of reconciliation for all of us.

 In 1992, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, said….

[Reconciliation] begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. (Attwood 2001, p. 201)

It is shocking to think that here we are almost 30 years later, and still little seems to have changed. Racism, inequity, poor health and shorter life expectancy plus numerous other social issues continue, but the capacity for Indigenous writers such as Pilkington to extend forgiveness and compassion is deeply humbling. In an interview with Anne Brewster, Doris explained how her involvement in the reconciliation process revealed her own need to forgive, saying

“…how can I expect them to say sorry to me, when I don’t have any forgiveness and compassion for them? ” (Brewster 2005, p. 145)

 Forgiveness. Compassion. Repentance. Respect. Dignity. Consideration. Equality. 

These are the building blocks of a kind, just and ethical society.

I live in hope. 

Happy Reading

 

Attwood, Bain 2001, ‘”Learning about the truth” The stolen generations narrative’ in B Attwood and F Magowan (eds) Telling Stories: Indigenous history and memory in Australia and New Zealand, Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 183-212

Brewster, Anne 2005, ‘The Stolen Generations: Rites of Passage: Doris Pilkington interviewed by Anne Brewster’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol 41, No. 1, pp143-159

February Reading Update

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February turned out to be a stellar month for reading although I don’t expect that pace to continue. I tend to have a few books on the go at any one time. It can take a bit of juggling, but I like to read certain types of books at different times of the day. Books of a more serious nature I like to read during the day, when my mind is fresher and I can take notes for future reference.  Books that I read for pure escapism and fun, I tend to at night, in bed. The idea of reading something fun but not too demanding at night, is to help me sleep. It doesn’t always work out, though. Especially when you get to those exciting parts and you can’t bear to put the book down. Or when you’ve got only a few chapters to go, so you might as well finish it.

February’s list below is a bit longer than January – 10 books! But with my nose back to the books (study, that is), I expect the reading pace to drop off. I’ll still be reading of course, it will just be Ethics and Australian History. So, the list… 

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

A well-loved Australian classic. This is a reread and probably my most favourite Winton. After personal tragedy, the Pickles family and the Lamb family relocate to Perth where they end up sharing a house on Cloud Street. I really like the way Winton captures the everyday life of ordinary people, their ups and their downs, showing how two very different families can eventually come together to be one.

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser

An interesting book, this one. It took me a little while to get into but it explores themes of migration, travel and the role of the internet in changing the way we relate to each other. The internet gives us the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world from the comfort of our computer desk and the nature of modern life often means we are constantly on the move, flitting through life, meeting and leaving people. But where do we call home?

The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd

Loosely based on the real historical characters of Mary and Charles Lamb, Ackroyd explores literary forgery, the obsession with Shakespeare and the sad story of Mary Lamb. Scarred by small pox, restricted by social conventions and incarcerated in mental asylums following the murder of her mother, Mary didn’t have an easy life. It was an enjoyable read, quite funny in parts, as well as being a bit saucy too.

Shroud by John Banville

I didn’t realise that Shroud is book 2 of the Cleave Trilogy, although I had no trouble reading it as a stand alone. The title initially suggested a death shroud to me, but  foreign translations on Goodreads had  “imposter” in the title. Anyway, the main character, Axel Vander, does travel to Turin… the Shroud of Turin…so possible forgery… It explores themes of identity, who we are, who we try to be and how we are always wanting to be somebody else. It’s not an easy read, as the narrative wanders a bit and is interspersed with sojourns into the soul and mind, but it was thought provoking.

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

A memoir by Australian writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, this book portrays the racism she experienced growing up in Australia and continues to experience even now. Of African heritage, Maxine experienced racial abuse that was nothing short of abhorrent. The racial abuse was bad enough, but the fact that adults stood by, in silence, is even worse. I would call this my best read of the year so far.  A highly recommended read.

and I also read …

  • The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
  • The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  • The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  • The Serpents Shadow by Rick Riordan
  • The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Yes, there’s quite a bit of Rick Riordan. That’s what I’ve been reading at night. If you’ve ever read Rick Riordan, you’ll know that probably wasn’t a good idea. Why am I reading so much Rick Riordan? Well, Bec is a great fan of Rick Riordan and has read just about all the books. When Bec first started branching into YA, I would read the books as well. Partly so that I could keep tabs on the content, but also because it meant we could talk about the books together. And it’s something we continue to do and enjoy to this day.

Right from the start, I have enjoyed reading YA. I know that sometimes there is a bit of a thing going around about adults reading YA, which I really don’t understand at all.         As C. S. Lewis says:

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally and often far more worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

As far as I am concerned, a good book is a good book is a good book. If children’s books and YA are not considered good enough for adults to read, then why do we consider them good enough for children and young people to read. Surely in those critical years of growth and development, we should be giving them the best books possible. Sheree from Keeping Up with the Penguins has a great post about this topic which you can read here.

So I’ve been churning through the Rick Riordan books. I actually started last year but only picked it up again in February. My goal is to read them all over the coming months. I’m just loving them. They’re fun. I love his sense of humour – seriously, laugh out loud. And I get to learn about Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology at the same time.   

It’s been another good month for Book Bingo – another 3 boxes ticked off. But again, I don’t expect this rate to continue. At some point all the easy boxes will be ticked off and I will be challenged to step outside my usual fare to tick off the last boxes, which of course, is the whole point of a reading challenge. This is how the card is looking so far….

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  • Prize Winning Book – Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
  • Themes of Fantasy – The last Olympian by Rick Riordan
  • Written by Australian Man – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Well, that wraps up the reading for February. And yes, it is still called an update for want of a better title. Perhaps I will come up with something more interesting by next time.

Happy Reading!

January Reading Update

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One of the pleasures of entering the blogging world is the discovery of so many other bookworms from all corners of the world. No longer do we need to wait for a physical book club meeting to find our next read or hear other readers thoughts about a text. At any time of the day or night we can just jump online and join the conversation.

I am always amazed by the number of books that some readers manage to read each month or each year, but then I remind myself that everybody’s life is different. At the end of the day, or the year for that matter, it’s not about how many books you have read but how much you enjoyed reading, discovering new writers and expanding your own horizons. Sometimes I devour books and sometimes I like to take it slow. And sometimes life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of reading as much as I would like.

After completing last years Goodreads challenge, I set myself some reading goals for this year, including reading for diversity, reading more non-fiction, achieving gender parity, and upping my book target just a fraction. And for something new, I have added a new reading challenge. Teresa Smith, Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse run a book bingo challenge.  The beauty of this kind of challenge is that it doesn’t require adding any more books to my reading list. When I have finished a book, I look at the bingo card and see if it fits one of the squares. It will be interesting to see how many squares I get marked off by the end of the year. This is how my card looks so far:

book-bingo-2019

Novel with 500+ pages: Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra

Science Fiction Themes: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Author I’ve Never Read: India – A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul

Introducing … end of the month reading updates

Between caring for Dan, studying and other family and life commitments, I don’t really have time to write detailed book reviews of every book that I read. Sometimes it’s just enough to keep up with logging the books on Goodreads and give a rating. But I thought it might be interesting to give a brief monthly update on my reading journey as it progresses through the year. Some months might turn out to be a bit leaner than others but here is what I read during January.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

I have read a few books by Isabel Allende, but I didn’t realise that Daughter of Fortune formed part of a loose trilogy, together with Portrait in Sepia and The House of the Spirits, both of which I have read before. Daughter of Fortune follows the story of Eliza Sommers and Tao Chi’en, from their early life in Chile and China, to the Californian Gold Rush in the late 1840’s. There is a running theme of the expectations and limitations placed upon the lives of women but the cheapness and degradation of young Chinese girls sold into prostitution as Sing-Song Girls was particularly disgraceful.

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

Portrait in Sepia, the next book in the trilogy, picks up the story of Aurora, Eliza’s grand-daughter. Despite the prevailing expectation for young women to become “obedient wives” and “sacrificing mothers”, Aurora is determined to learn the art of photography.   I really enjoy Allende’s stories for the way she brings the history and people of that part of the world to life. Unfortunately I have to now wait for The House of the Spirits to be returned to the library so I can finish off the series.

Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra

Belinda Alexandra has been one of my favourite Australian writers for a while. This was another reread, although it is surprising how much of a story one can forget. Set in France, Wild Lavender follows the story of Simone, a young woman who grew up on a Lavender Farm but nurtures a dream of a life on the stage. Love, loss and the occupation of France during World War Two all play a part in Simone’s life as we see her mature from a young country girl to a woman of courage and strength.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Having The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my TBR, I knew Douglas Adams wrote science fiction but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. Described as “a thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic”, I laughed out loud all the way through. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read THGttG. 

India: A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul

And now for something completely different, my first non-fiction book for the year. I had not read V. S. Naipaul before but I picked up a couple of his books, including this one, at the Toowoomba Lifeline Bookfest last year. Naipaul was born in Trinidad, however his grandparents were indentured labourers from India. India: A Million Mutinies Now is a kind of travelogue, based on Naipaul’s trip to India in the late 1980’s. It wasn’t necessarily an easy read but I did find it very interesting. I really liked the way Naipaul allows the people he meets to speak for themselves about their histories, their lives and what matters most to them. The role of religion in people’s lives was a strong theme and the chapter about the Sikhs was particularly interesting. I am looking forward to reading some of his fiction.

Well, that wraps it up for my January reading update. I am not totally thrilled with the “reading update” title – it sounds a tad boring to me, so I am open to some suggestions. Let me know if you come up with something better plus whatever you’ve been reading lately. Found any new favourites?

Happy Reading!