#Book Snap Sunday – Mrs M

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Sharon at Gum trees and Galaxies has started a new meme called Book Snap Sunday. It is a project aimed to encourage a little bit of creativity while chronicling the books we have read, are reading or want to read. You can read more about Sharon’s Book Snap Sunday here.

The photo above is my first attempt at Book Snap Sunday. Mrs M by Luke Slattery is a fictional account of the life and loves of Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of Major General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821. It was a quite enjoyable read and has whet my appetite to learn a bit more about Macquarie, who seemed to have rather enlightened views about society, convicts and the right to a second chance.

Elizabeth was a keen gardener, hence the backdrop of the lavender peeking over the hedge. She was also somewhat of a musician, playing the viola as well as the piano. The stand on which the book is sitting reminded me of the ornate music stands on the old pianos and the candles evoke a sense of a time gone past.

If you enjoy both reading and snapping, you might like to join in too. It is giving me something to think about as I read. I may not have something every Sunday, but I’ll give it a go.

Happy Reading!

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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!

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:

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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!

 

 

 

2018 Reading Challenge

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2018 was the year for my first ever Reading Challenge. Now you might think that as an avid reader surely I would have completed a reading challenge before, but actually – no. In the past I have been happy just to read whatever I felt like reading, plodding through some books while voraciously devouring others. And I’ve never really kept a record of the books that I have read, until the last few years, and only then somewhat haphazardly. There are always books that stick out in your memory, but there are countless others that have faded into oblivion.

This year I stepped up to participate in my first Goodreads Reading Challenge. I am a fairly recent convert to Goodreads and have discovered the delights of logging my literary journey, creating and stocking bookshelves and deliberating over how many stars a book should receive. Since it was my first challenge and life does have a habit of interfering with my reading, I set a target that I thought would be pretty achievable – 50 books. That’s only one book a week. Easy.

As November closed, and with still one month to go – the target was reached. 50 books – done! It’s always exciting to nail a goal and to feel that sense of achievement. I enjoyed watching the little progress bar gradually work its way to the end, seeing when I was right on target, had slipped behind a little or taken a huge leap ahead.

What did I read? There were a few favourites like Kate Forsyth, Kate Morton, PD James and JRR Tolkien; some classics and a few promising debuts; some that I loved, some that stayed with me for a long time, and some that just weren’t for me. I have whittled the list down to the ten books that I most enjoyed or that made a deep impression, but before we get to that let’s crunch a few numbers. Reading data can be quite fascinating in of itself.

The Numbers

  • 50 books – well it turned out to be actually 51, because I discovered I had forgotten to log a date for one book.
  • 31 books rated at least 4 stars – I can be hard to please sometimes, I have to really love a book to give it 4 stars.
  • 20 female authors – hmm, interesting what the data shows. I admit this is a bit of a surprise as I would have expected this number to be higher. However I did include the books I read for English Lit, which does seem to be more skewed towards male authors. Definitely something to address next year.
  • 12 books by Australian authors – now these were mostly female authors and two of them were debuts.
  • 11 fantasy/mythology – since I rank The Lord of the Rings as my favourite book of all time, this is hardly surprising.
  • 9 historical fiction – it’s amazing all the interesting bits of history you can discover just through reading.
  • 8 Science Fiction  – helps when you study Science Fiction in English Lit!

My Top Ten Reads for 2018

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – definitely one of my favourite reads for this year. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many stories you have read about World War Two, there is always something new you can learn, such as the role of radio or the suffering of women and children on both sides of the conflict.
  • The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan – when the guns are silenced and the treaties are signed, the war is over. But the horror and trauma live on in the lives and memories of those who left the ruins of Europe for a new life on the other side of the world. A confronting but highly recommended read.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – the seminal monster text. But who is really the monster here? A book that I think gets better with every read.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: Midnight by Derek Landy – I just love Skulduggery, he makes me laugh so much. This is the eleventh book of a series I only discovered last year. I actually started with number 10, Resurrection, loved it instantly and tracked down the rest straight away.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – this was the surprise of the year. Initially I thought a book about an old man, the sea and a big fish might be somewhat tedious. It was actually quite engaging and my heart really broke for the old man, after such a long battle…
  • Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu – I had always thought that vampires started with Dracula, but not so. There is nothing quite so threatening as a young woman who defies established conventions.
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians:The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan – OK, I know this is really four books but it’s a series so I’m counting it as one and I’ve just got one more book to go. Bec is a Percy Jackson fan, so I’ve been pretty keen to see what tickles her fancy so much. Is it Children’s or is it YA – you be the judge, but it’s been a rollercoaster of laughs.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – this is the classic vampire text to which modern incarnations pay homage, but there’s more going on here than just blood, fangs and traditional vampire lore. Poor Madam Mina … mother or monster?
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – sometimes it is just so hard to fathom the inhumanity of the human race. There are some things that should never be forgotten – and the misery, violence and horror of the human slave trade is one of those things.
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – I have loved Kate’s books ever since I first picked up The Shifting Fog at the library some years ago. Shifting between the past and the present she weaves a beautiful and haunting story of tragedy and heartbreak, and just when I think I’ve got it worked out, she throws in a twist.

… and my reading goals for 2019?

  • to achieve a better balance between male and female authors
  • to read for wider representation
  • to read more non-fiction

What will you be reading next?