Damn

You’ll be happy to know that my lack of posting for a couple weeks means I have finally finished Gone With the Wind.


And Damn it Scarlett, what a waste of time.

Mitchell could give Tolkien a run for his money in the pointless descriptive prose stakes. So much about what things look like, that have no bearing on the actual plot. These though were easy parts to skim. Didn’t miss out on any important detail. 

But the worst parts were the dialect. It always bugs me when to understand something I have to read it out loud. That’s why I only read Dickens when forced. Unluckily for me Mammy’s parts pretty much explain every critical moment, so skimming had to be done here with caution. I may have missed a few insightful comments but I think I got the gist.

My skimming did almost cost me one pivotal, or at least movie worthy, moment – 

Frankly my dear…

All in all I’m pretty sorry I read it. I suppose it may have been amazing for its time, or perhaps holds interest for people actually into American Civil War history.

Scarlett herself is an engaging character, as is Rhett. But they are both as bad as each other. That is, not very nice and careless about other people. I don’t think I’ve ever met two more self obsessed characters on any text I’ve ever read. 

But frankly, I don’t give a damn.

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#readharder

The plan was to read a book every day of January. I didn’t quite get there. Hence why a plan is called a plan. I did end up reading twenty books, which I feel pretty chuffed about.

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These are the books I read for January. I still haven’t put them into the categories for the #readharder challenge I do at work because I just wanted to read for fun. A lot of the time last year I felt I was just reading to tick a box and I kept reading things I didn’t like because they fit in a spot that was hard to fill. It meant I didn’t feel like I was actually reading for me. So I started this year just reading things that I didn’t get to, or things that I bought over the holiday break, or were given to me as Christmas presents. Of course, the list is always in the back of my mind, I just don’t want to be a slave to it.

The problem I have found with this approach, though, is that if a book is not particularly memorable I may forget what it was about and, therefore, which category it might fit into. I think what I will do is categorise at the end of the month. So they will still be somewhere in my brain, but I don’t need to worry as I go.

I’ve already started my reading for February too. As I’ve returned to work I think a book a day, even twenty in the month is going to be a little ambitious, so I’m thinking I’ll set the goal at ten. For February this is still a push, but for the other months it will be quite achievable. Reading this month so far has consisted of:

both finished on the same day, yesterday.

I re-read Frankenstein because I had to. It has it’s own category on the reading challenge, number 50. I think it’s because it’s like 200 years since it was first published or something like that. I didn’t love it the first time I read it (for school) and it certainly hasn’t grown on me in the interim. I used it as my going to bed book because the print is so tiny and the plot just drags on. Put me to sleep every time. I must say the ending of this novel is probably the most anti-climactic I have ever read. I get it’s supposed to be moralistic and all, but

go into the northern Arctic and think about what you’ve done you naughty monster

just doesn’t really cut it.

I also finished Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson this month too. I wanted to read it because it has been turned into a TV show for the NITV network. It was a different kind of novel. The way it is narrated is odd, but also oddly works. And there is this really good idea in it about “sit a while”. So when you have a problem, go into nature and connect with it and mull over what you need to do. And after you will see what to do and feel better. I love this idea of “sit a while”. I know I get too caught up in the stress and worry of life and to just let it mull and know that everything will be ok is such good advice. The other concept I love out of this book is that described in the title “grace beside me”, and that is the calm you get from connecting with the natural world around you and the peace you feel when you come to terms with your problems. Both are used like mantras in this novel and I am totally going to adopt them as well.

Just another teen novel

18. A book published this year

While this isn’t your average teen novel, it is your average teen novel. YA fiction is so diverse these days that characters like these don’t really stand out. The setting makes a small difference, small town rural NSW, but my feeling is that change permeates all of society.

The main character is a lesbian and both her sidekicks are Asians. I don’t​ think that any of this actually matters in the scheme of things. It’s kind of like a diversity love triangle mixed bag sub plot. What actually matters in this novel is figuring out who you are without letting others aspirations for you cloud your judgement.

It is a pretty sad story. The dementia plot line is all too real, as is the one of patriarchal abandonment. Though perhaps that’s only because of my personal experiences. I cried a bit, which means it’s pretty well written, I’m not usually a crier. It also made me go

Ah, that’s so true 

In a lot of places as well.

 So maybe there is more of me in this novel than I realised.

I did have a conversation about censorship with this book at the centre. I honestly think though that adults like to cover their backs rather than offer teens the things they might need. And it’s funny how people are ready to ban things that don’t match their way of thinking. If it’s an alternative lifestyle, that is, not heterosexual, it must be going to lead someone astray. 

26. A book with multiple authors

I’m actually skipping writing about a book I read before this one firstly because this is an awesome book, and secondly because I don’t know what to write about Anthony Bourdain yet.

So this is another book about books. It’s kind of my favourite genre.

I just love reading about what other people think of books. Though not reviews, per se. I like knowing what they think about books or what it made them feel or what makes it great. I don’t want to know plot. If you can convince me it’s a good book without really talking about plot then I might read it and I don’t want any spoilers.

This book sees a whole bunch of Australian authors who mostly write for children and teens talk about books that affected them most. I didn’t read it with post its beside me this time but I should have.

It is completely fascinating to see how books imapct on people and then to consider how they may have impacted on you. I don’t know if I could pick just one book to say affected me most, and some of the authors don’t just choose one.

Jane Eyre or Northanger Abbey are my go to books for a re read but that’s mostly because I like the story. Nothing jumps to mind in terms of having a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. I do wish I had every Teen Power Inc ever written but alas I borrowed them from the library. 

I’m going to have to give it some more thought and get back to you.

15. A book that takes place on an island

And very conveniently, and homophonic, Ireland.

I did not like this book very much. At least, not as much as Kent’s first book Burial Rites which I read a few years ago.

This is another truish story about an alleged crime, inspired, as they say, by true events. I just didn’t really care about those events. Though I didn’t dislike it enough to put it down either. As you all know I never finish a book I don’t like (I’m looking at you Ian McEwan).

Set sometime before running water and electricity in rural Ireland, this book looks at the transition between pagan and church ways of thinking. It questions customs and beliefs, and tries to get the reader to understand how these can come and go out of fashion.

I think I had a hard time reading this book because I read so much fantasy. In those books fairies and magic are ‘real’ whereas in real life they are not. So I just couldn’t get my head around this as historical fiction with all the talk of the Fey. Her writing couldn’t make me believe that people really used to think this way. I wasn’t convinced, perhaps because I now have running water and electricity.

She is a good writer, don’t get me wrong. She evokes the period and tells the story in an enthralling way. It just wasn’t a topic that really drew me in.

Like her other novel the build up to the event took a long time too. Though this was written in the present tense, rather than looking back like the other one. It still had the same sense of foreboding though, that dramatic irony where you know something is going to go wrong. It just wasn’t the injustice of the other novel. It was just a bit meh for me.

3. A book set in your home state

I’m not sure how I feel about this book.

I did read it in about two days which means I must have liked it because I stop reading when I don’t like a book.

I think it is a good book. It’s set back on the early 1990’s and I like that because I’m a child of the nineties. It’s also set in rural NSW and I like that too because I’ve spent a lot of time there.

Normally I don’t like modern Australian fiction. Too much of the convict mentality taints it. Or perhaps that’s just David Malouf. But I’ve found myself reading a little more of it lately. Last year I read all of Inga Simpson’s novels and I can’t wait for her to right more. And I love all Helen Garner’s true writing.

In this novel, I think it’s the way it unfolds that I like best. Because the narrator is writing from the future, after all the events have taken place, she tells the story on real time, as it happens, even if she didn’t know the information in real time. This way the mystery unfolds chronologically and I’m not confused or kept in the dark as a reader, something I loathe. 

All good mystery/crime fiction should allow the reader to become the sleuth. There should be just enough information for you to have a stab at picking the killer but not so much that you actually do. The twists and turns of this story really fit with the rural community setting, reflecting both the historical time and some contemporary concerns.

The ending was a little abrupt but I was unsatisfied, just a bit taken aback that it was finished.

My problem at the moment is that I dont know what to read next because there is no YA fiction on my shelf and the ones I want to read haven’t been published yet.

Reading Challenge 2017

Every year I complete a reading challenge. For the past three years this challenge has been set by my colleagues at work and is based on the Read Harder model.

Reading Harder means picking up books that you never normally would. It’s not about reading more in quantity, but makes you read more widely. Because we all know if I really had the choice I would just read YA non stop all year.

So this challenges gets you to read 50 different books that are each used to fill one category on the list.

Sometimes I plan what I am going to use for each category and other times I have to do a bit of tweaking to make the book I want to read fit. This year I think there is going to need to be a lot of planning as the categories are more specific than ever.

Category

Title

Author

1

A book based on a fairy tale

2

A Young Adult bestseller

3

A book set in your home state

4

A book translated into English

5

A book set in Europe

6

A book that’s becoming a movie this year

7

A book written by a celebrity

8

A book at least 100 years older than you

9

A book recommended by a family member

10

A book with a protagonist who has your occupation

11

A book that takes place during summer

12

A book with a blue cover

13

A dystopian novel

14

A book about a road trip

15

A book that takes place on an island

16

A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy

17

A book written by a local author

18

A book published this year

19

A book based on a true story

20

A book whose author has an X in their name

21

A ghost story

22

A book with a month in the title

23

A book by a female author

24

A book recommended by a librarian

25

A book that is a story within a story

26

A book with multiple authors

27

A book with a cat on the cover

28

A book by an author who uses a pseudonym

29

A book with a subtitle

30

A book from a non-human perspective

31

A steampunk novel

32

A book set in two different time periods

33

A book set in a hotel

34

A book that’s been mentioned in another book

35

A book from a genre you’ve never read before

36

A book with a synonym for chase in the title

37

A book by an indigenous author

38

A book of short stories

39

A book by your favourite author

40

The first book in a series

41

A book with more than 350 pages

42

A book about history or science

43

A prize winning book

44

A book by an author you’ve never read

45

A classic

46

A book of poems

47

A play

48

A book with an alliterative title

49

A book with a great first line.

50

A book you love – read it again!

29. A favourite book from your past

 I can’t remember why I picked up this book originally, or how many of the four books I have actually read

   
But I’ve chosen the following

 
As a favourite book from my past, not so much for the novel itself, but rather for the time that I read it.

Now, A Wizard of Earthsea is your pretty basic fantasy novel that deals with good and evil and how they balance in the self. It’s got a pretty good demon metaphor that at the end makes you go “oh, that’s deep”, but other than that there’s not much to write home about.

In year 9 my English was given this book to read. We had an enthusiastic new (young) teacher so along with all the normal things you do with novel study – character analysis, themes, literary techniques – we also did some of the most fun activities that I can still remember and think fondly of today.

One of the things about the novel is that, like many fantasy stories, the protagonist goes on a journey. He sails around a bunch of islands fleeing this demon. So as part of our study our teacher asked us to create a travel guide for the world of the novel. It was perhaps one of the most fun activities I have ever done. My friend and I partnered up and we raided the local travel agents for old brochures to cut out pictures from . We embellished on the descriptions of some of the settings and made up five day itineraries for potential travellers. Like I said, it was so much fun. It’s those activities, rather than the novel itself, that make me think back fondly about this text.

I recently found my workbook from this class, obviously I had loved it so much that I kept my book for more than a decade. Flipping through it reminded me of so many good times with my friends in this class (even being forced to watch Schindler’s List) and of the amazing teacher I had (who pretty much chose my career path for me).

When I re read the book I felt like a lot of plot was missing which makes me think that perhaps I did read some of the others as well. Or perhaps it’s just easier for me to read now that I’m twenty eight and not fourteen.

It’s not my favourite book from my childhood, nor is it even a favourite book that I have read this year, but it reminds me of such a happy and creative and formative time in my life that it fulfills this category perfectly.
Coming up on my next blog: It’s practically Christmas.

29. A favourite book from your past

 I can’t remember why I picked up this book originally, or how many of the four books I have actually read

   
But I’ve chosen the following

 
As a favourite book from my past, not so much for the novel itself, but rather for the time that I read it.

Now, A Wizard of Earthsea is your pretty basic fantasy novel that deals with good and evil and how they balance in the self. It’s got a pretty good demon metaphor that at the end makes you go “oh, that’s deep”, but other than that there’s not much to write home about.

In year 9 my English was given this book to read. We had an enthusiastic new (young) teacher so along with all the normal things you do with novel study – character analysis, themes, literary techniques – we also did some of the most fun activities that I can still remember and think fondly of today.

One of the things about the novel is that, like many fantasy stories, the protagonist goes on a journey. He sails around a bunch of islands fleeing this demon. So as part of our study our teacher asked us to create a travel guide for the world of the novel. It was perhaps one of the most fun activities I have ever done. My friend and I partnered up and we raided the local travel agents for old brochures to cut out pictures from . We embellished on the descriptions of some of the settings and made up five day itineraries for potential travellers. Like I said, it was so much fun. It’s those activities, rather than the novel itself, that make me think back fondly about this text.

I recently found my workbook from this class, obviously I had loved it so much that I kept my book for more than a decade. Flipping through it reminded me of so many good times with my friends in this class (even being forced to watch Schindler’s List) and of the amazing teacher I had (who pretty much chose my career path for me).

When I re read the book I felt like a lot of plot was missing which makes me think that perhaps I did read some of the others as well. Or perhaps it’s just easier for me to read now that I’m twenty eight and not fourteen.

It’s not my favourite book from my childhood, nor is it even a favourite book that I have read this year, but it reminds me of such a happy and creative and formative time in my life that it fulfills this category perfectly.
Coming up on my next blog: It’s practically Christmas.

47. A Fantasy Book

This is probably my favourite genre. And certainly if the novel is aimed at a teen audience I am bound to like it. Such is the case with Maria V Snyder’s novels.

  

This is a recent addition to her Study series, and while I had forgotten a lot that had happened I still loved this book.

YA Fantasy is my favourite because things usually work out alright in the end, even if it does take the mandatory three books to get there. There’s always a great love plot and a strong female lead.

This novel revisits some of my favourite characters, Yelena and Valek, and has them going on the same old adventures. I like the witty sidekicks and the intrigue but was disappointed by the loose tie ending. Snyder had said she only wrote this book because fans pestered her so much to do another story about the pair, but she has totally left it open for another in the series and if she doesn’t write it I will be totally devastated.

Honestly, go back to Poison Study and read them all (I probably will) you won’t regret it one bit.
Coming up on my next blog: I think I’ll have to admit defeat in the Read Harder challenge.