Archive | March, 2013

#20 Youth – J. M. Coetzee

27 Mar
Youth - J.M. Coetzee

Youth – J.M. Coetzee

Goodreads rating: 3.78/5 (2,200+ ratings)

My rating: 6/10

First Published: 2002 by Secker and Warburg

Genre: Autobiography

So, I only just found out that this book is a semi-fictionalised autobiography by J M Coetzee. When reading it, I thought it was total fiction, and was originally going to comment about how there was no climax/event in this book and how it just plodded along. However, now knowing that it’s actually about Coetzee himself, it’s a lot more interesting! Real life often doesn’t have a huge event that changes the course of your life (usually), which is what you usually expect in a fictional book. Originally I was going to give this a 4, but have moved it to a 6 knowing what I now know.

Basically, Youth is the second book in a series by Coetzee called ‘Scenes from a Provincial Life’ of which there are 3 books. If i’d known it was a series I would’ve read the first book before this one! It follows Coetzee from being an aspiring poet, and mathematics student in Cape Town, South Africa, to moving to London in the 60s and working as a computer programmer whilst trying to pursue his love of poetry and prose.

Youth was a slow read, but it did keep me interested and it wasn’t too long which helped. It was quite depressing though, especially the description of London and how dull his life was. I found him quite boring too, although the book was well written so I was kept interested.

My favourite part of this book was the description of what was happening in South Africa at the time. My Dad is South African and grew up during Apartheid. There were events, political parties, and people referenced in this book that I found myself needing to Google and read up about, which has expanded my knowledge about South Africa, and has made me hungry to read more books about that period in time. I know that it had a big effect on my Dad, and would love to learn more! Also, another thing that i’ve learnt about the author is that although he’s of South African origin, he now lives in Adelaide, Australia which is where my Dad first moved to after leaving South Africa.

I don’t think I’d recommend this. However I’m not turned off reading Coetzee books because I’ve heard great things about some of his other novels, and I do think Youth was well written.

-H-

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Teaser Tuesday

26 Mar

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I’m still reading Youth by JM Coetzee! I’ve almost finished, i’m up to page 152 of 169, so not long to go! The teaser is from page 161.

Is it fair to be using mechanical aids to writing – fair to other poets, fair to the dead masters? The Surrealists wrote words on slips of paper and shook them up in a hat and drew words at random to make up lines.

Youth - J.M. Coetzee

Youth – J.M. Coetzee

-H-

Stories Sitting on the Shelf

23 Mar

I know lots of people like seeing other people’s ‘To Read’ lists. My list is over 2000 books long, so instead of sharing that, I like to show you some of the books currently sitting on my shelf to be read. I’m a bit odd, and read books I currently own alphabetically by title. I have about 30 books on the shelf at the moment to read, but here I’ll just show you the next 14 that are coming up. Sorry for the poor quality image!

Stories Sitting on the Shelf

Stories Sitting on the Shelf

A Clash of KingsGeorge R R Martin: Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead…victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. Read my review of the first ‘A Song of Ice & Fire’ novel here

A Fine Balance Rohinton MistryWith a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

A Judgement in StoneRuth Rendell: On Valentine’s Day, four members of the Coverdale family–George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles–were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine’s Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life.  A brilliant rendering of character, motive, and the heady discovery of truth, A Judgement in Stone is among Ruth Rendell’s finest psychological thrillers

A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving: John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best.

A Tale of Two CitiesCharles Dickens: After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

All Quiet on the Western FrontErich Maria Remarque: Paul Bäumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other–if only he can come out of the war alive.

The Book ThiefMarcus ZusakNarrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever they are to be found.

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant Daniel TammetThis unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger’s syndrome. Tammet’s ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he’s capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation. Besides being able to effortlessly multiply and divide huge sums in his head with the speed and accuracy of a computer, Tammet, the subject of the 2005 documentary Brainman, learned Icelandic in a single week and recited the number pi up to the 22,514th digit, breaking the European record. He also experiences synesthesia, an unusual neurological syndrome that enables him to experience numbers and words as “shapes, colors, textures and motions.” Tammet traces his life from a frustrating, withdrawn childhood and adolescence to his adult achievements, which include teaching in Lithuania, achieving financial independence with an educational Web site and sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. As one of only about 50 people living today with synesthesia and autism, Tammet’s condition is intriguing to researchers; his ability to express himself clearly and with a surprisingly engaging tone (given his symptoms) makes for an account that will intrigue others as well.

Breakfast at Tiffany’sTruman Capote: In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

The Bride Stripped BareNikki GemmellA woman disappears, leaving behind an incendiary diary chronicling a journey of sexual awakening. To all who knew her, she was the good wife: happy, devoted, content. But the diary reveals a secret self, one who’s discovered that her new marriage contains mysteries of its own. She has discovered a forgotten Elizabethan manuscript that dares to speak of what women truly desire, and inspired by its revelations, she tastes for the first time the intoxicating power of knowing what she wants and how to get it. The question is: How long can she sustain a perilous double life?

The Bridge to Holy Cross – Paullina Simons: The Bridge to Holy Cross is a powerful story of love and hope — a passionate and epic love story from the Russian-born author of The Bronze Horseman. The world at war …two people in love. Tatiana is eighteen years old and pregnant when she miraculously escapes war-torn Leningrad to the West, believing herself to be a widow. Her husband, Major Alexander Belov, a decorated hero of the Soviet Union, has been arrested by Stalin’s infamous secret police and is awaiting imminent death as a traitor and a spy. Tatiana begins her new life in America. In wartime New York City she finds work, friends and a life beyond her dreams. However, her grief is inescapable and she keeps hearing Alexander calling out to her. Meanwhile, Alexander faces the greatest danger he’s ever known. An American trapped in Russia since adolescence, he has been serving in the Red Army and posing as a Soviet citizen to protect himself. For him, Russia’s war is not over, and both victory and defeat will mean certain death. As the Second World War moves into its final violent phase, Tatiana and Alexander are surrounded by the ghosts of their past and each other. They must struggle against destiny and despair as they find themselves in the fight of their lives. A master of the historical epic, Paullina Simons takes us on a journey across continents, time, and the entire breadth of human emotion, to create a heartrendingly beautiful love story that will live on long after the final page is turned. Read my review of the first Tatiana & Alexander book here.

Cocaine BluesKerry Greenwood: This is where it all started! The first classic Phryne Fisher mystery, featuring our delectable heroine, cocaine, communism and adventure. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back. The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honorable Phryne Fisher–she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions–is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

The Colour of MagicTerry PratchettOn a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious buy inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist ifyou believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

Cross StitchDiana Gabaldon: In 1945, Claire is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently, she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats – and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I think that this is an exciting mix of books, and I’m looking forward to reading (and reviewing) them all! If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts – although please don’t spoil them for me!

Descriptions taken from Goodreads, as I obviously haven’t read the books yet!

-H-

#19 The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

22 Mar
The World Beneath - Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

Goodreads rating: 3.45/5 (250+ ratings)

My rating: 7/10

First Published: August 2010

Genre: Modern Fiction, Australiana

The first thing that I noticed in this book, and loved, was how it depicted a pretty regular broken family. Sandy and Rich were activists in the  80’s at the Franklin River blockade in Tasmania, and are both stuck in nostalgia of the time. They later went on to have a daughter, Sophie, who is now 15. Sophie is a feisty, strong-willed, slightly ’emo’ teenager, who is very obsessed with her weight. . Rich left the family before Sophie was 1, and has been practically estranged since then, aside from the occasional postcard from his travels as a photographer, or a birthday call to his daughter.

Rich comes back into Sophie & Sandy’s lives when he asks Sophie to come on a trek at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia. Sophie jumps at the chance to get to know her dad, and also to get away from her slightly nutty, occasional pot-smoking, jewellery stall hosting mother who is currently driving her insane. While on the trek, Sandy goes to a ‘Goddess’ retreat to try to sort her mind out and figure out who she is and what she wants from life.

I love the first 75% of this book. The depiction of family life was interesting and believable, and the description of the Tasmanian landscape was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed that as I’ve done a trek down the Freycinet Peninsula on the East Coast of Tasmania with my dad! However thankfully I have a much better relationship with my dad, and didn’t have nearly as much drama on our walk!

However, the last quarter of the book irked me a bit. It felt like Kennedy took a lot of time with the majority of the story, and then rushed a whole lot of drama into a small amount of time – anorexia, injury, getting lost in the forest, possibly sighting of an extinct animal, and a frantic mother. I think, at 352 pages should have been expanded and explained more thoroughly.

Overall I enjoyed this story quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it.

Bits & pieces

  • The World Beneath was Cate Kennedy’s first novel. She is an acclaimed short story author.
  • Winner of the People’s Choice Award for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2010, as well as being shortlisted for multiple other awards

-H-

Teaser Tuesday

19 Mar

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I have just started Youth by J.M. Coetzee. My dad is South African, and as this book begins in South Africa, i’ve wanted to read it for a while. I’m up to page 51, which is the start of Chapter 5. My teaser is from page 115.

He is in need of human intercourse: what could be more human than sexual intercourse? Artists have frequented prostitutes since time immemorial and are none the worse for it, that he knows from his reading.

Youth - J.M. Coetzee

Youth – J.M. Coetzee

-H-

World’s largest floating bookshop delivers books to the poor

18 Mar

I was just watching ABC News, and saw this story. The world’s largest floating bookshop delivers books to the poor. The ship, Logos Hope, carries more than 5000 books around the world and sells them at low prices to poor communities where books are hard to find.

Currently en route from Bangkok, Thailand to Hong Kong, the Logos Hope will be open to the public for 2 weeks. Last time they visited Hong Kong (in December & January), 92,000 people visited the floating book shop, and nearly 150,000 books were sold!

Logos Hope

Logos Hope

I think this is a fantastic idea, because I know I personally would be lost without reading, and it makes me so happy that kids around the world can have the opportunity to enjoy books. You can read more about the initiative here, and if you want, you can donate to the cause here.

-H-

Teaser Tuesday

12 Mar

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I’m STILL reading The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy. I have been so busy at work i’ve hardly had a chance to read. I’m now up to page 194, and my teaser is from page 295.

As if flowers, she thought wonderingly, could hold so much power over human emotions, as if they contained the essence of all our frailties. As if we could be rescued.

The World Beneath - Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

-H-

WWW Wednesday

6 Mar

W…W…W…Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading. 

TO PLAY ALONG, JUST ANSWER THE FOLLOWING THREE (3) QUESTIONS:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

_________________________________________________________________________________

What are you currently reading?

Currently I’m reading The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy. It’s set in Australia which I always love, and i’m about a quarter of the way through and am enjoying it. Here’s a teaser. I know I said in my last WWW Wednesday that i’d be reading a Ken Follett book, however my Mum is still reading it so I’m reading this instead.

The World Beneath - Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

What did you recently finish reading? 

I just finished The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey. Here’s my review.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey

What do you think you’ll read next?

The next book I’ll read is Youth by J.M. Coetzee which I’m looking forward to since it’s set in South Africa which is where my dad is from.

Youth - J.M Coetzee

Youth – J.M Coetzee

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books, although no spoilers please for the ones I haven’t read yet!

-H-

Teaser Tuesday

5 Mar

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I’m reading The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy. I’m up to page 111, and my teaser is from 206. 

‘The views weren’t as spectacular as Pelion Gap, but it was good to just look back to see hor far they’d come since then. He could see all the way until it vanished into cloud cover like a delicate Japanese painting, the rocky rises and summits with their tree-filled silhouettes disappearing and reappearing fitfully through the watercolour wash of white silk.’

The World Beneath - Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

-H-

#18 The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey

4 Mar
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey

Goodreads rating: 3.41/5 (1,100+ ratings)

My rating: 6/10

First Published: April 20th, 2010 by  Pocket Books

Genre: Modern Fiction

Set in Trinidad, switching between the 2000’s and the late 1950’s to early 1970’s, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle explores racism, politics, marriage and injustice. Sabine and George Harwood move to Trinidad in the late 50’s after George’s company sends him there for work. Originally only meant to be a 3 year thing, Sabine grins and bears it through those years, although often expresses to George how much she wants to return to England. Promotion after promotion for George results in the Harwoods starting a family in Trinidad, and staying around for a lot longer than 3 years.

The first part of the book is set in current times, when George & Sabine are in their 70s. It displays what the country has done to them, both as individuals and a couple, and it’s not pretty. Sabine is clearly depressed, sad and lonely; George a philandering, rum loving man.

The rest of this novel goes back to when the couple arrived in Trinidad in the late 1950’s, and how a Dr Eric Williams takes over the country as Prime Minister, and Sabine’s mind. From living in a tiny apartment, to owning lots of land in Trinidad and having multiple maids and help. And to the downfall of Eric Williams, and the high racial tension and hate of the white people living on the island.

It took me a while to get into this book. Towards the end of the first third is when it started to get interesting, and the chapters about them arriving in Trinidad and the beginning of their lives there were captivating. It’s a place I’d never actually thought much about and I enjoyed reading about it. The fact that the author was born in Trinidad (educated in the UK) adds validity to the novel and the experiences these ex-pats would have had, especially considering Roffey says this book ‘blends family biography with a lot of fiction’.

None of the main characters are very likeable, except for the maids. Although Sabine is a bit of a miserable woman, I found myself feeling very sorry for her and her situation, particularly towards the end. She hates this country and wants to leave, but is forever trapped.

I think at just over 450 pages it was too long. Many chapters dragged on for me and I think it would have been a much better book had it been 50 – 70 pages shorter.

Overall this was a decent book, and had some interesting ideas and stories. I think that many of the story-lines in the first part of the book weren’t fully explained or closed off, which was disappointing.

-H-

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