Wired

I am wide awake.

And this time it’s not because I drank a cappuccino at three o’clock in the afternoon.

  

I have basically been caffeine free for almost a year because apparently it’s bad for a developing foetus. This means I had to give up Pepsi Max (and all other cola beverages), drink flavourless decaffeinated tea, and have decaf cappuccinos when I went out for coffee.

The last one wasn’t so bad. Except that not everywhere has decaf on the menu (especially really hipster places) and anywhere that does charges you extra for it. I mean, I’m taking something out so surely it should be cheaper? In the end I got quite used to me stimulant free lifestyle and even enjoyed decaf coffee. Everyone seems to think it is lesser than it’s full on cousin, but if you go somewhere with good coffee even the decaf is good.

But that brings me to today’s problem. I don’t think I can drink regular coffee now. I’ve had a Pepsi Max and that was awesome. And I’m back to regular tea so it doesn’t just taste like I’m drinking dirty water anymore. But I’ve had three normal cappucinos and each time my sleep has been affected. Granted the first one I had was way too late in the afternoon. Even before I had given up caffeine I could never drink coffee after lunch time without my sleep being affected. But the other two times I had the coffee in the morning and I still couldn’t get to sleep until after ten o’clock. And that’s pretty had for a person who is usually in bed before eight thirty.

And I’m not even sure I like the taste of regular coffee anymore.

It’s funny because we often forget that coffee is a stimulant. That it can affect us just like alcohol (though in the opposite way). And yet it’s not regulated by the government. Those energy drinks can kill you but there’s no warning label on their packaging. It’s funny how some things are deemed legally harmful.

I guess I’ll just stick to decaf.

Coming up on my next blog: Another review and then more reading. Plus the best event of the year – the Easter Show.

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38. A Book Set in Australia

 

This is another one of those cross category books. It could have been non fiction, or mystery, recommended by a family member, or written by a female author. But I have chosen to include it as my book set in Australia.

I don’t read many books written by Australians, and definitely not really any set in Australia. I was kind of turned off them by study at school and university.  For every engaging Melina Marchetta out there, there is also a John Marsden or David Malouf or Tim Winton. I find Australian authors and novels set in Australia to be dour. They seem to perpetually focus on the lucky country turned sour. The hardship of the convicts seems to permeate to the present day throughout the literature, like nothing can ever be truly good here because there is that underlying criminality, that at heart all Australians and their dreams are bad. I find life is tough enough without having to spend my free time reading about it.

That being said, I do have a favourite Australian author – Helen Garner. But only her non fiction. At uni we had to read Joe Cinque’s Consolation and it was fascinating. This House of Grief is no less fascinating, though Garner seems to be becoming softer in her old age.

For this story Garner attended the trial of a man accused of killing his children by driving them into a dam.

What makes her crime non fiction writing so interesting is that we the reader see all the information through Garner’s eyes. She has to tell us about the evidence, about how the accused and witnesses appear in the trial. All the facts are painted with her emotion. When I started reading I didn’t agree with her point of view. I could see where she was coming from but I thought she was being naive. As I read more she had me questioning my own position as she began questioning hers.

A book like this always throws up more questions than it answers. It makes for great conversation. My whole family has read it, and so we debate over coffee our opinions.

What struck me is that there is no doubt whether he did it or not. He did murder his  children. What is in doubt is his intent. Did he mean to do it or not? Now that I have my own kid I have to believe he did it on purpose. Even though your initial response would be to free yourself first (it’s the whole put your own oxygen mask on first in the airplane principle) there is no way you wouldn’t do everything you could to then save your children.

Guilty is my verdict.

What’s yours?

Coming up on my next blog: I am reading more and more. Plus I want to talk about caffeine. Odd combination I know.

Lingua Franca



I am a native English speaker and yet even I couldn’t tell you what all the parts of my language are called or explain how they work. So it doesn’t surprise me that learning to speak English as a second language is a pretty hard thing to do. 

So when I saw the title of a TV show on ABC’s iView titled Why don’t you speak English? I was intrigued and had to watch. 

Basically it is a two part series about four people trying to learn English in Britain. To do so they are sent to live with a British person to immerse themselves in the language. It is a beautiful show.

In Europe, as it is here in Australia, there seems to be a lot prejudice towards immigrants and refugees. The British families begin by not understanding why these people can’t speak the language of the country they are in. But as they get to know their guest and personal stories emerge they can’t help but get invested and strive to help them learn. 

One of the girls learning to speak English is a Rwandan refugee. Her story is heartbreaking. But she is paired with a family who know her pain. They become fast friends. She calls her host sister because of their shared experience.

In the second show the tables are turned and the guest becomes the host with the British family moving in with their new non-English speaking acquaintance. It opens their, and the audience’s eyes, to the struggles immigrants and refugees face. One of the immigrants has a Masters degree and yet cannot get a job. It is baffling and heart wrenching at the same time.

What this goes to show is that even if you cannot speak the same language as someone (at least not fluently) there are other ways to communicate. And our shared humanity creates bonds that can even surmount a language barrier.

Last year I tried to teach myself to speak Japanese. I had learnt as an adolescent the basics but returning to it as an adult proved more difficult than I thought. This show has taught me to persevere. 

Coming up on my next blog: That book review and some reading. I promise.

19. A Book Based On A True Story

This one is a bit of a stretch.



Originally I was going to write this novel up as my sequel, but then, after the biography debacle, I realised I would need something for a true story and this kind of fit there. I say this because I don’t really like reading true stories, hey are pretty much like biographies which you already know are not my favourite. I have read a few novels based on true things, one by Louis Nowra and of course Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and I adore In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. But I am not really in the mood to look for one this year, especially as I have read this book and need to fit it somewhere.

So The FitzOsbournes in Exile is the sequel to a book I read and enjoyed last year. It is about a family who are the royal family of a fictitious country off the coast of Spain which has been taken over by the Nazis. It is set just prior to World War Two and the royal family is now living in exile in London.

The whole plot revolves around the family’s trying to get something done about the invasion of their country. What makes it interesting is that they are all adolescents and he book is written in diary form by the eighteen year old princess. So it’s a coming of age novel set against the backdrop of the world also coming of age.

This is why it is a stretch to say it is based on true events. Because while the characters are fictitious the world which they inhabit, their historical context, is very real. There are references to the Spanish Civil war, Guernica, the Mitford sisters and of course the build up to the war. 

It raises the debate about whether historical fiction is really fiction. If something really happened and a person who wasn’t there writes about it does it make it any less true. If an author sets their novel in a historical period and gets the language, customs, social hierarchy, food etc right but the whole plot and characters are made up does that make it untrue? These are hard questions. It all boils down to – what does based on true events mean? It could be that this novel doesn’t really fit this category and maybe I will have to read another anyway.

Coming up on my next blog: One more review before I can start reading again.

34. A Book With Magic

I don’t think there is a better writer of magical tales than J.K Rowling.



I think I will be able to reread these books forever. My favourite line of all time is 

You’re a wizard Harry.

Though it’s not quite written that way in the novel.

My sister and I came to this series a little late. We were in Lithgow with my Mum and Aunt and both got to choose one book to buy each. That was our holiday ritual, a new book to keep us entertained as we’re not the type to play outdoors. Both of us would rather explore worlds of imagination than the backyard. So my sister chose Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The first three were out by the time we started the series, but in a way that was a good thing because it meant we didn’t have to wait to keep reading like we did for all the others.

The anticipation of a new Harry Potter book is one of my favourite memories of growing up. By the time the last book came out I was 18 with a part time job and I read a page in between serving customers. By that time we were also buying two copies of each book because my sister is a slow reader and I wasn’t patient enough to wait for my turn. She also had this daft rule that I wasn’t allowed to read ahead of her when we were sharing so I had to buy my own. 

The magic of this book doesn’t just come from the fact that it is about wizards. It comes from the depth of the world. You feel this alternate universe could be real. There could be a Hogwarts and a Diagon Alley hiding behind a brick wall in London. My sister was convinced she was going to get an owl when she turned eleven even though there is no mention of a wizarding school in Australia. 

This series is so magical I even went out, in public, dressed as a house elf for the release of the fourth film. 

Any book that gets so many people reading, so many people talking about reading, must be magical.

Just as an aside I have never understood why they needed to change to sorcerer for the American audience. Do they not have the word philosopher in their vocabulary? I feel they are very different types of people. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Also if you are into education at all or interested in moulding a future teacher please check out this blog written by my brother in law.

Coming up on my next blog: More reviews, less reading.

23. A Biography or Autobiography

IMG_2576

This was going tone one of the harder categories for me to fill, mostly because I don’t really care to read about other people’s lives. There is not anyone I am really interested enough in I read their whole life story. Once I tried to read a biography of Nancy Wake because I thought what she had done sounded fascinating but I couldn’t stand the biographer’s writing style. It serves me right though for trying to read anything written by Peter FitzSimons. And that’s he problem with this genre. You need to have a good writer because otherwise the book just ends up reading like a really bad recount.

So while this book may not be your average biography, it does tell the story of two men growing up with video games and becoming kings of the genre.

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It’s the

coming of age

part that I like best. I don’t want to read a whole life story and I don’t really love autobiography because I think they are a bit biased. But this story is as much about the men as it is about the rise of computer video games and that is just fascinating.

I am not really a video game enthusiast. I don’t have the hand eye coordination. I’m one of those people who turns their body as they steer in games like Forza and I get stressed out when my Sims have a bad day or need to eat and go to the bathroom urgently at the same time. So this is not a book I would have picked up myself. But my husband loves gaming. We have Xbox and Playstation and a 3DS and a computer built for gaming. Games is how he unwinds. So he suggested I read this book. And because one of the categories is a book suggested by a family member I said I would. But I got so engrossed and it fit biography so well that I’m going to need a new suggestion for that one.

What makes this book so interesting is the intensity of the two Johns. Each has a distinctive personality and approach to gaming and their combined story gives insight into how games are created.
It’s also interesting because they grew up as the industry grew up. And I think the industry matured a little better than they did.
There is just the right mix of information about their personal lives – loves, family – and their importance and influence in the gaming community. It’s not all focused on the business side which would be quite boring. Kushner has done well to show how their upbringing and personalities have affected the way they work and their philosophies about gaming.

The funny thing about this book is that as the Johns relationship begins to fail and things fall apart in the business so does the book. There is a huge lull about two thirds of the way through where things are going pair shaped and that’s reflected in the plot, it begins to be less engaging.

The only thing I didn’t like was the end. I didn’t feel that we got back to where we started, and the opening had suggested a cyclical plot which just wasn’t fulfilled. I didn’t need to know what they were doing now, I just wanted to know more about their meeting at the convention. The opening suggested a huge showdown was going to take place, but all I felt was a deflation.

Still, it’s a good read.

Coming up on my next blog: All my other March reviews.

There Will Be Blogs

March has been an excellent reading month for me, which should mean it is also an excellent blogging month. But while I have found the time to sit down and read I haven’t really found the motivation to sit down and write. This is mostly because I would have to use my brain and at the moment it’s a little bit mush.
Any spare time I have had lately I have given over to eating and sleeping and some reading. Blogging just hasn’t been high on my list of priorities.
But I promise to be better.
I’ve got four books to write about and I will endeavour to do it before the end of the month.

Coming up on my next blog: Writing, writing, writing.