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

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Lifeline Bookfest 2019

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Every year thousands of booklovers across Australia count down the days to their local Lifeline Bookfest. For Toowoomba booklovers this is usually the first weekend in March. Early on the Saturday morning a long of line vehicles can be seen crawling down Glenvale Road towards the entry gates of the Toowoomba Showgrounds. Inside the main pavilion sit rows and rows of boxes filled with books just waiting to find a new home. Like many other booklovers, we’ve been looking forward to this day so much it’s been highlighted on the calendar. 

Lifeline is an Australian charity organisation which provides a range of counselling and support services for children, youth and families as well as emergency relief. It was founded in 1963 by Reverend Dr. Sir Alan Walker. Concerned about the often devastating impact of loneliness, isolation and anxiety, he began a crisis line to provide critical support for people in need. Today Lifeline has around 40 centres across Australia, employing around 1,000 staff and attracting 11,000 volunteers who donate their time. The Lifeline book sales help to raise funds to continue this vital service.

 

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This year was the 39th Lifeline Bookfest held in Toowoomba and according to the local paper, it was going to be even bigger than before. There were seven shipping containers filled with books and volunteers worked throughout the week to have everything ready for 8am Saturday morning. The books are organised into a variety of categories including sci fi & fantasy, crime & thrillers, fiction, non-fiction and children’s. And it’s not just books. Pre-loved magazines and toys are on sale too.

Seasoned book-festers usually come prepared. Some bring shopping carts or wheeled suitcases. Some come with a list of desired titles. Others are just content to take home an armful of new books. We didn’t have a formal list of titles that we were looking for, but we did have a few things in mind. Bec was after some Star Wars novels and I was on the look-out for Australian, literary and award-winner titles, plus anything that might be on The List – the 1001 list, that is.

One of the cool things about the Bookfest is that you can hire a shopping trolley for $2. Do you know how many books you can fit in a shopping trolley? Quite a lot.  We weren’t the only ones with a shopping trolley, but we did get a few strange looks because our shopping trolley was pretty full. It also attracted a few comments, all good fun of course, about how much we read and how long the trolley load of books would last. A few weeks one person asked.  

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We were pretty happy with what we managed to find. Bec found some Star Wars books and some Kathy Reichs. I found some Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood, Richard Flanagan and the first ten books of Sookie Stackhouse – just to name a few. The Bookfest is always a bit of a lottery. You never know what treasures you might find. So yes, we did buy a trolley load of books but we also helped to raise money for a very worthy cause. The Toowoomba sale raised $75,000 for Lifeline, while the Bookfest held in Brisbane in January raised $1.4 million. That’s some serious money raised out of second-hand books.  

The only trouble now is to find some space on the bookshelves and more time to read.

 

March Reading Update

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March has come and gone and I cannot believe that it is April already. Where has the time gone? March turned out to be a very busy month. Since late February I have been back into the study mode and that puts a big dent in my reading progress. This semester I am studying Ethics and Australian History, so there is a fair bit of heavy reading.

Last time I talked about how I like to read different types of books at different times of the day. I study during the day while Dan is at Yellow Bridge. It’s a bit hard to study when he is around – he gets rather vocal and it’s difficult to concentrate. So during the day, when I feel fresher and more alert (supposedly!) I have been reading about Utilitarianism, Deontology, Consequentialism, Human Rights, Indigenous History and the Frontier wars. Yeah, some really big words there! By the time evening comes around I’m feeling rather brain dead. I’m looking for some fun, laughter and escapism. Hence, there’s been a lot of Rick Riordan this month.

I knew this would happen once study rolled around again but that’s the rhythm of life. Reading for fun, like other things, has to fit around the ebb and flow of life. Luckily semester break is just around the corner so April may look a little better. But here’s what I managed to read during March…

  • The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
  • Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  • Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee
  • The Secret War: A true history of Queensland’s Native Police by Jonathan Richards

The Secret War is a non-fiction book I read for an Australian History tutorial presentation. It’s about the Frontier Wars in Queensland and particularly the role that the Queensland Native Police had in the dispossession of Aboriginal people.

“In Queensland, the Native Police played a major role in the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land, the almost complete destruction of Aboriginal law, and the disintegration of Aboriginal families.” (Richards, 2008, p. 5)

I thought it was an excellent read. It is certainly a shocking and shameful part of Australia’s history. It’s uncomfortable facing the dark side of our human nature. Our capacity for cruelty, violence and inhumanity often seem to know no bounds. But we are also capable of so much more – honesty, compassion, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. True reconciliation requires us to acknowledge the past so that we can create a better future – a future that is based on equity, understanding, inclusion and belonging.  

Book Bingo for March

I only ticked off one book for this month – oh well. January and February were pretty good months so I guess it’s okay to have a slow month now and then.

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Book with a Red Cover: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Hopefully it won’t be another whole month before I see you here again. In the mean time…

Happy Reading

 

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:

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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?

Brisbane Writers Festival 2018

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A few weeks ago Bec and I travelled down to Brisbane for the 2018 Writers Festival. It was the first time I had attended the Festival but luckily Bec had had the opportunity to go when she was in grade seven. It’s always been a highlight of her last year at Primary School because she was able to meet Emily Rodda and have her copy of The Golden Door signed. It was the first time she had ever met an author. I had once been to the Adelaide Writers Festival, many moons ago, but this was my first experience of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

The Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) has a long history, starting life in 1962 as the Warana Writers Convention. More than fifty years later, it has grown into a three day event, with over 150 sessions and drawing a crowd of over 20,000 literary lovers. The events are housed mainly at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) and the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), both located very conveniently at South Bank in the CBD. 

The key drawcard of the BWF for us, was Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series. We have both loved the Divergent series, although I am still to read the last book – you know, so many books, so little time – and Bec has really enjoyed the Carve the Mark duology.  As soon as we discovered that Veronica Roth was coming, that was it, we were so there! 

Our BWF schedule began on Thursday evening with Dystopian Futures: An Evening with Veronica Roth and Friends. Veronica was interviewed by Kim Wilkins, who is an Australian writer based in Brisbane. Kim writes fantasy, as well as general fiction under the name Kimberley Freeman. It was quite exciting to see Veronica Roth up close and hear her talk about her books and her recent experiences with Australian wildlife. The highlight, of course, was when Bec was able to have her copy of The Fates Divide signed by Veronica.

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On Friday, Bec was having a study day while I caught the train into the city to attend two sessions and just soak up the literary atmosphere. My first session for the day was A Hundred Small Lessons with Ashley Hay and Kristina Olsson. I was unfamiliar with Ashley Hay but she has had a very accomplished career in journalism and fiction. Ashley was interviewed by Kristina Olsson, who is another award-winning author new to me, but that’s the beauty of writers festivals. We not only get to meet our favourite authors but also discover some new ones too. Ashley’s work is apparently known for its ”incandescent intelligence and a rare sensibility.” Her most recent novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, is about “the many small decisions – the invisible moments – that come to make a life.” It explores what it means to be human and the way that place changes who we are. It is a story of love and of life.

I really enjoyed the conversation between Ashley and Kristina. One of the things that really stood out to me, was Ashley’s encouragement to pay attention to the little things of life because these little moments or lessons are the real stuff of life. Straight after the session I headed directly to the Festival bookshop and bought two of her books, The Railwayman’s Wife, which explores grief, and A Hundred Small Lessons. Of course, I was also tempted by two other titles, The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose (winner of the Stella Prize in 2017) and Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. And I just couldn’t resist a Hermione Granger library bag…. You might notice the little yellow tag in the top right hand corner. Remember the days when we used to fill out those little yellow cards when we borrowed a library book? Well, that’s exactly what it looks like. The bags were produced by Out of Print and proceeds of their products go towards funding literacy programs and donating books to needy communities. A very worthy cause.

After lunch I attended Writing as Women’s Work with Anne-Marie Priest and Melissa Ashley. Anne-Marie’s most recent book, A Free Flame  is a group portrait of four leading 20th century writers, Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Hewett, Ruth Park and Christina Stead. It explores their lives and the challenges they faced as women writers when women’s writing didn’t receive the respect it deserved. Melissa’s novel, The Birdman’s Wife, also focuses on another overlooked woman, Elizabeth Gould, who was responsible for the beautiful illustrations in the Gould collections. Elizabeth was often just known as her husband’s assistant, but as Melissa notes, John Gould’s books wouldn’t have been possible without her artistry and attention to detail.

Saturday was our last day at the BWF but unfortunately our first session The Lace Weaver with Lauren Chater had to be cancelled. Sydney had been experiencing some very wild storms and Lauren was unable to fly out. It was a bit disappointing but I did enjoy reading her debut novel which is set in Estonia during the second world war. I didn’t know much about Estonia’s history, but Lauren’s book brings to life the difficulties faced by the Estonians caught between the Soviets and the Nazis, as well as the Estonian tradition of knitting lace shawls. I thought it was a very fine debut.

We wrapped up our BWF experience with Love YA: Crafting Futures. Part of the BWF program included a Love YA festival held across the river at the Brisbane Square Library. These sessions were free and focused especially on YA. The Crafting Futures session featured Veronica Roth (again!) and Cally Black, whose debut novel, In the Dark Spaces  was published in 2017. The focus of the discussion was “Reflecting on the present through the lens of dark speculative fiction.” A few of the highlights included Veronica’s explanation of how she developed the language for Carve the Mark and the important place that series like Harry Potter have played in the evolution and success of YA. Veronica made us all laugh at how excited she would be to meet J. K. Rowling. We sometimes forget that writers are human too – just like us. They get excited too about meeting the authors who have played an important part in their life, especially during those teenage years. 

Well, that was our BWF experience for this year. Now we have to wait to see the program for next year. 

Happy Reading!

Love Your Bookshop Day

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Today is Love Your Bookshop Day across Australia, and as avid readers, Bec and I surely do love our bookshops. We probably love them a little too much, however, you can never have too many books. Just gazing at all the titles crammed into our bookshelves brings a sense of quietness to our overstressed souls. And it’s amazing how much enjoyment you can have trying different ways of rearranging the books, trying to squeeze just one more book on that shelf and making the most of every square centimetre of space.

There’s nothing like the feel of a new book in your hands. Or the smell of new pages. It’s almost as good as opening a new jar of coffee and breathing in that distinct caffeine aroma. E-books are okay for travelling or maybe to sample a new author – but they’re just not the same as a real book. Cuddling up in bed or collapsing into a beanbag with an iPad is just not quite the same.  Besides, you read differently off a page than you do off a screen.

Why read?

Readers often struggle with this question because for us, why not read? There are heaps of different reasons for reading, but here are some of my favourite reasons.

  1. To learn – about anything you like: history, science, art, sport, health ….
  2. To expand our horizons – experience a different culture, a different era
  3. To develop empathy – step inside someone else’s shoes
  4. To develop imagination – be inspired, take a new idea in a different direction
  5. To expand your vocabulary  – sometimes you do need to keep a dictionary alongside
  6. To develop critical thinking – we don’t always have to agree with an author
  7. To be inspired – the stories of others can give us hope in dark times
  8. To reduce stress – escape from the demands of life, even if just for a little while
  9. To help you sleep – reading from a page helps to calm your mind
  10. To save money – once you have the book, you can read it over and over and over again, for free!

Here in Toowoomba, you can buy books in a number of places, but our favourite bookshops are QBD (Queensland Book Depot) and Dymocks.

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Interestingly, QBD was originally started by the Uniting Church in the 1890’s and at one point had up to 50 stores across QLD.  Then from the 1990’s it was a family-owned business, until just a few years ago, expanding to have stores across Australia.

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Dymocks is another family-owned business, that started in Sydney in 1879 and is still the oldest Australian-owned bookstore. We still buy books online sometimes, but we love to take any opportunity to drop into QBD or Dymocks.

Love Your Bookshop Day is all about encouraging people to visit their local bookshop. There are some very good reasons for buying locally, apart from supporting writers which is always the best reason, and you can read about them here . Sometimes, when we think about our never-ending TBR lists, we try to impose a book buying ban upon ourselves – it’s difficult but sometimes we just have to do it. At those times we know that we have to stay right away from the bookshops. Just don’t go there because we know what will happen. We’ll stroll in through the entrance past the new release section and be instantly captivated by a shiny new cover, a book title recommended by any of the numerous book reviewers we follow or the latest title by any one of our favourite authors.

Today, on Love Your Bookshop Day, we are all invited to visit our local bookshop and hang out. Now, you don’t have to go today, but just remember to keep your local bookshop in mind as a place where you can go to discover a new friend. A friend that is  waiting for you to take it home, to read and love, and to reread, again and again.

Here are our most recent finds – some brand new ones and some old favourites.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Spelling Out the Blog with the TBR

For the uninitiated, TBR means – To Be Read. It’s a list that readers have of the books sitting on our shelves, on our bedside tables, or in piles all over the house which we are yet to read. My TBR is a work in progress –never ending, always growing.

As a reader, I like to read book reviews. It helps me discover new gems and new authors that I may not have come across before. It also adds considerably to my TBR. Currently there is a meme going around which involves spelling out the name of your blog using book titles from your TBR. Straight away I thought, how cool. This will be fun.

So here is the name of my blog, spelled out in book titles from my TBR. All of these books are currently sitting on one of my bookshelves, waiting patiently to be read. The words “the” and “a” at the beginning of a title don’t count.  I thought that V might be a challenge, but it turned out that I had two titles to choose from. Of course, there are plenty more books sitting on my TBR, but I have tried to select from a range of authors. Who knows, I might get to some of these books this year, or maybe they will still be on the TBR this time next year.

L is for The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún by J R R Tolkien

I is for I for Isobel by Amy Witting

V is for A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I is for The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

N is for Nellie’s Vow by Leonie Binge

G is for The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

 

O is for Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

N is for The Night Manager by John le Carre

T is for Three Dollars by Eliot Perlman

H is for Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

E is for Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen

D is for The Dry by Jane Harper

O is for One Hundred and One Ways by Mako Yoshikawa

W is for The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike

N is for The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

S is for The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

 

What’s sitting on your TBR?

 

 

I Love a Good Story

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In the Age of Technology there are champions and nay-sayers. Some praise the wonderful advantages of technology in the modern life, while others voice concerns about failing eyesight, bad posture and poor social and communication skills. I’m inclined to think that both sides have a point. Technology is a major part of our lives today and it is quite easy for it to become the master rather than the tool. How often do we hear the story about people working in the same room, eyes glued to their screens, e-mailing or texting each other, rather than actually getting off their seat and walking just a few steps to talk to someone in person. On the other hand, technology can be a great tool for sourcing information, locating services and connecting people. Especially when you move to a new place.

A few months ago I needed to find a new dentist. In the old days I would have just flicked through the yellow pages, picked a number out and hoped for the best. Not anymore. Now, we just Google it!  I scanned through the list, checked out a few websites, and made an appointment. All without leaving the comfort of my own computer screen.  It wasn’t  just about efficiency and time-saving. I wasn’t just finding a good dentist for me – I was also looking for a good dentist for Dan.

A good story can be the beginning of a long-lasting relationship

Anybody with a child on the spectrum knows how difficult trips to the doctor, hairdresser or dentist can be. They can be an absolute nightmare, so it’s very important to find the right person. A good website doesn’t just give me the facts about a service provider: it tells me a story about them – their values, their experience, their goals. You don’t get second chances with Dan. I have to be the guinea pig and check them out first. A good story can lead to a long-lasting relationship.

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I love a good story. No doubt that explains my ever expanding book and DVD collection. Stories have a way of connecting people over time, space, and the tyranny of distance. Here too, like never before, technology connects readers with writers, and readers with other readers, and so on. I must admit that I have been somewhat slow in my uptake of the digital world. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. However, as an avid reader, I like to meet other avid readers too, and so I have joined the Goodreads community. And it’s funny how joining an online community has actually led to the discovery of a local book club that meets in real life.

There is nothing quite like meeting people face to face

Through my study at USQ, I have slowly become more comfortable with participating in online forums, and with students across Australia and the world, it is the only way to foster a learning community. But still, there is nothing quite like meeting people face to face. Conversation flows more naturally, especially with a glass of good red wine, and there is an immediacy of response, an ebb and flow in the natural rhythm of conversation that is difficult to achieve online. It can be hard to meet new people when you’re the newbie in town, so it is quite exciting to discover a group of like-minded people who enjoy devouring books as much as I do.

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I think it’s important that we don’t throw the good out with the bad. We do need to ensure we find a good balance in the way we use technology in our lives but we can also savour the good stories that make us laugh, inspire hope and help us connect with real people.