Thursday 30 January 2014

I have been looking at a series of books recently published by Penguin and thinking "Will I buy it?" I waited quite awhile but when I saw they actually put them into a boxed set I had to get them. Something about the boxed sets.  I have written to Penguin several times in both Australia and the UK and asked them why they have stopped their smaller books from being collected in boxed sets with no reply.

The first two sets of New Ideas were in a set but the subsequent books were sold individually. So instead of having the 100 Great Ideas in 5 different sets I only have 40 in two boxed sets. I do pick up the individual copies though if I find them in Op shops.

This set is called Penguin Underground Lines. They are a set of 12 stories written to tie in with 12 tube lines in London, England.  They come in an assortment of colours and the Penguin logo that is on each book is in a different colour to match it.  The first book I read is an orange one.

The tube lines they cover are: Victoria, Piccadilly, Waterloo & City, Circle, Jubilee, Hammersmith & City, Northern, District, Metropolitan, Central, Bakerloo and East London.

The first book I read from the set was Mind The Child by Camila Batmangherlidjh and Kids Company.  Perhaps people living in London are familiar with the Kids Company but I wasn't.

This book is a series of case studies of the homeless children that live in the tube lines and on the street and get some help from Kids Company.  Kids Company is an organisation that provides them with food, shelter, training opportunities. They care for the uncared.  The case studies of these children are really quite horrendous to read. They are of the throwaway children who live in fear and poverty. They are starving as their parents use any money they get for drugs. They are sold into prostitution, slavery and used any other way that might benefit their parents. They are often beaten.  It is not a happy book to read but the work Kids Company does is amazing.

The writing is concise, to the point and the stories really suck you in.  I was fascinated by these stories. They simply stated facts as to what goes on in London. It is a whole different side to that of what the tourist sees.

It is well researched with several pages of notes at the end to tell you what their sources are for their statements.

For example:  Britain is among the six richest countries in the world and yet has the highest child poverty rates.

  • The average age of women when they become involved in prostitution is just 12 years old
  • 68 % of young people who run away are not reported to the police as missing.
  • 1.2 million young people aged 14 to 15 run away in a year
  • In 2011 there were 615,000 referrals to child protections agencies, but only 49,000 children received a child protection plan. Many others were left with inadequate levels of help or none at all.
  • 1.5 million children every year endure child abuse.
  • In early 2012 more than 1.6 million young people were on Jobseeker's Allowance
These are only some of the statistics listed.

Although there are many statistics the main interest in the book comes from the stories the children themselves told in their own words.  You wanted to go to London and grab the first street child you saw and give them Happy Ever After care.

I'm sure the stories told within are not only in London. You would find these children in any large city in the world and beyond but to read of these children in what is 140 pages of a Penguin book set is a bit disconcerting. I wasn't expecting that.

The Orange Line
I don't know what the other books in the set are about except the categories listed are Tales of Growing Up and Moving On, Romantic Encounters, Breaking Boundaries, Laughter and Tears, A Bit of Politics, Musical Direction, Design for Life, Tube Knowledge and A Breath of Fresh Air.

They are both fiction and non-fiction.

I am looking forward to randomly choosing a book from this set and seeing what it entails. I will continue to share them with you as I go.  Does anyone have any of these or other boxed sets of speciality books from Penguin.

Has anybody heard of the Kids Company and the work they do?

Sunday 26 January 2014

Sunday Animals With Books

I really love this photo and I hope it makes you smile as well. If only...........

What are they reading that has them so engrossed???

Saturday 25 January 2014

Collecting by Miranda Wilson - Thoughts

Collecting by Miranda Wilson

Review copy - Kindle

I won this book on The Library Thing and was asked to review it.  Miranda Wilson is a new writer from England and I believe this is her first book. 

Walter is a 69 year old man living in the family home in London.  Since his wife died 15 years previously he began obsessively collecting tiny things. Things that have been discarded in society. Pieces of insects, little beads, pieces of trees. Things he would find in gutters or streets outside his London home with a magnifying glass and pair of tweezers.

He collects things, bags them up in tiny bags and meticulously labels them with the street name on which it was found. He stores them in his downstairs bedroom.  

Walter’s son William of whom he is quite disappointed in has recently moved into Walter’s home with his wife Delores and infant daughter Millie in order to save money.  Walter is gradually being moved aside much like the things he collects. He is seen as no longer being useful.

William spends long hours away from home and his wife Delores increasingly begins to rely on Walter and they discover they have more in common than she does with her husband.

Walter’s collection is “discovered” by the local gallery woman and he begins to rise in the art world locally in London.  He is pulled in different directions by this change in his life, his relationship with Delores, the ongoing relationship with William until it all comes to a fairly explosive end.  

I enjoyed this book and thought it was a fine effort by the author.  If I could find fault with it at all it would be in the way she always made Walter so nervous, always mopping his brow by the new events in his life. I got tired of him always “mopping his brow’.  A finicky criticism but once I noticed it I saw it more and more.

This is a wonderful character study of Walter and Delores especially and of the art world and how Walter was so manipulated by it in order to make him more “saleable”.  

The characters and experiences he shares are very well written and I truly felt for all of the characters. Walter and Delores were especially believable. William was a character who you loved to not like and was more of a caricature of a bad husband but he comes around in the end which was quite realistic as he really needed to spend time with his father to get to know him.

I would certainly give this first novel a high standing and look forward to more work by this author. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Presents PIXAR

 Sunday afternoon saw us do something very special. Let me start at the beginning.  First there are James and Sarah. Now when you do not have children of your own you must borrow your friend's children. That way you can see all the children's movies and read all of their books with no guilt. I mean, after all it is no fun to go into a children's animated film by yourself, an old person with lots of kids sitting around you.  There are feelings of being left out.

Sarah and James were born 14 and 11 years ago respectively.  I have never missed a birthday or Christmas and every time something comes to town we go.  As a result I have enjoyed all the Toy Story movies, Rattatoulie, A Bug's Life, markets, country fairs, concerts and all the stuff that kids get to do.

Last week as we cashed in the book vouchers I gave them for Christmas at Fuller's Book store (these kids love to read), we started talking about who I am in their life.

Their remaining grandmother sadly died the day before Christmas so they don't have a Nan anymore. Both of them are gone now. Their mother is like a little sister to me (that's how I came to know the kids).  I met Kate 20 years ago when she was a 4th year University student and I was her supervisor.

Who knew we'd go on together to share an office, I'd be her boss, she'd be my boss, I saw her engagement party, her marriage, her overseas trip that all Aussies do, her first house, her second house, birth of her daughter and then birth of her son and the death of both of her parents.

We have been through a lot.  I'd love to put their photos here but as it is a policy to not put personal pictures of other people on this blog I won't.  Instead you can pretend they look like this.

Anyway- what to call me in their life. I can't possible be a grandmother or Nan.  They have big families and lots of aunts so I can't be an aunt.  Hmmm    Being so literary we have agreed on Fairy Godmother.  How great is that?  I can buy them things, I can spend time with them, I can borrow them, maybe they'll even care for me in my dodderage.  Ha ha.   F A I R Y  G O D M O T H E R.
And I can disappear at the end of the day when they get tired.

Well there are responsibilities with being a Fairy Godmother. 

Yesterday afternoon I drove to their country home and picked them up in my pumpkin of a car. We went to the Derwent Entertainment Centre which is a big hall for all kinds of events. We saw the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Plays PIXAR. Everyone has to know the delightful characters of Pixar. Who didn't cry during the final scenes of Toy Story 3? Who hasn't delighted in the wit and wisdom of the insects in A Bug's Life? Listened to jazz music in Cars? Stressed over the possible demise of Nemo? Cried their eyes out when the old lady dies in UP?

Along with the best orchestra in Australia, the highly renown Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, playing the animated film music we watched on a large screen the various scenes from different movies.

There were no voices. The screen was above the orchestra and as the animated characters filled the room with their various antics the orchestra played the music and sound effects below. The timing was everything. If you have never paid attention to the background music of films, especially animated ones this really brought it home.  The sound effects had to be just right. Going into the room, going out of the room. A house flying through the air. A car race.  All of it was on target to the last split second.  After two hours of performance with an intermission we had a new understanding of this wonderful craft.

Also we heard jazz, western, bagpipes, soothing music for the soul and many other genres to mention.  We heard about the men who wrote the songs and saw a short clip of what they do when they collaborate. The conductor of the symphony explained things to us intermittently. However there wasn't too much information for all the ages that sat in the audience.  We really loved it and hope you enjoy the character's pictures of the PIXAR family.  

Monday 20 January 2014

Sycamore Row- John Grisham

I think I have only read two John Grisham books in my life. A Time To Kill was his first one about a black man being tried for killing the white men who raped and killed his daughter.  It was a really good story but few people knew about it. Then The Firm came out and Tom Cruise made it into a movie and suddenly everything Grisham was popular.  When Julia Roberts made his book The Pelican Brief his status was cemented in forever for legal thrillers.

There have been many since but I have not read them.  I'm busy with medical things at the moment. I have to laugh. I had this mini stroke three weeks ago and since everything has reversed back to almost normal. I would say I am 95% well. I don't think I was 100 % before it started.

But when they did the MRI to determine if damage had been caused by the stroke they found a little growth in my nasal passage.  I never would have known I had it so probably a good thing.  They are going to remove it Thursday and biopsy it (expecting it to be okay) but they found it so they're going to remove it. So Thursday I will be knocked out into sweet oblivion.

I haven't been able to drive for 2 weeks (they told me that after one week of extensive motorbiking rides) but that time too has passed.

During all of this I decided to read something lightweight and chose Grisham's Sycamore Row for the Kindle.
Sycamore Row takes place in the same town in Mississippi as A Time To Kill did.

What a good story.  Seth Hubbard is an eccentric old man who has more than 24 million dollars.  He is also dying.  One day he gets all of his affairs in order, drives out to the old Sycamore Tree and hangs himself.  He also revises his will the day before. He leaves a bit to his long missing brother mainly because of what he witnessed as a child, (we don't know what thought) a bit to his church and 90% of 24 million dollars to his black housekeeper who nursed him and cared for him for three years.

Well, the proverbial you know what hits the fan with his completely uncaring two children and his grandchildren. They would never visit him, they were egocentric, nasty people but they sure came in fast enough when he died with all that money.

A few days later the protagonist of the story, Jake Brigance, who is a struggling lawyer receives a letter from Seth.  In it is the handwritten will with a letter of instruction to defend it at all costs.

The story revolves around Lettie, the maid; the children of Seth and of course all of the small town Mississippi folk who take an interest in the case and of course the lawyers who represent .........everybody.

Questions arising were why did he leave all of his money to her? They weren't lovers, she did not talk him into it as she was a pretty unassuming quiet person who simply did her job well.  Was it the drugs he was on for his illness making him goofy?

The storyline around the long missing brother is hinted at in the beginning and only at the end do we find out the horrible story behind it all. What is the significance of the property called Sycamore Row?

I figured the story out. It wasn't very hard to do so but I wasn't sure until the end of the book. The book is not rocket science but it is a darn good read when you don't want to think about the rest of the world.

I also learned a lot about the trial process and the tricks lawyers follow during the trial. Some of these were quite interesting. The author is a trial lawyer so he writes from experience.

It could perhaps have been a little shorter, they tended to belabour a few points during the trial but overall it is a good solid read.  It would be good for the beach, a holiday, an airplane ride, a trip to the hospital where you wait for things to happen all day. It is one of those books you keep in your bag and read during the waiting periods of the day. It's also good to curl up with on a rainy day and enjoy the ride.

The Penguin and I enjoyed it very much.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Welcome to animals with books

Tonight I'm just thinking of something to add to my blog for a little whimsy.  There are many bloggers who have regular features of people reading books or various libraries.  I always enjoy looking at the occasional photo so I thought since I love animals so much and I love books I'd search the net and see how many combinations of the two I can find.

So welcome to the first posting of animals with books.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Library Loot for January 2014

Well, it's very hot in Hobart and there is no wind and I should be out scooting around on my motorbike looking for old Penguin books. But as I'm grounded for two weeks since my mini stroke (according to Dept of Transport) I took the bus into town to the library. There is air conditioning and wi-fi there and I had some books to pick up. 

 I chose one of the many books from my Book Jar not long go.  I think I told people that with a backlog of reading magazines of book reviews, books from blogs, books from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and on it goes are stuffed into a very big pickle jar.  

I put some old book titles in the jar and sure enough that is what I drew out. A Mrs Buncle book.  I have never heard of Mrs Buncle but I'm sure my English friends have.  I looked it up at the library and they have quite a few books by the author, D. E. Stevenson. There are a few Mrs Buncle books and no doubt I should read them in order but I chose three and two have been sent in to me for pick up so far. I have The Two Mrs. Abbotts and Miss Buncle Married here to have a look at.  The Two Mrs. Abbotts looks quite old but there is no date in the book. I will need to look it up to see when it was published. No doubt both will qualify for my Century of Books Challenge.

However there is a very old Tasmania State Library Sticker attached to the front inside cover that I thought was pretty cool. I have not seen this before and I'm sure the book must have been sent in from small country library.

Another couple of books I  had come into the library were from 2013 and I'd forgotten about them. 

Salvage the Bones was the winner of the National Book Award but I'm not sure what nation or why I ordered it. Sometimes I read a review, see if the library has it and then order it. By the time I pick it up I can't remember it anymore.  I know other people do this also so please don't pretend you don't. I really like the cover of it though being the dog person I am.

Now this book was reviewed on somebody's blog??? Or maybe I just wanted something contemporary but this looks like fun.  So I have a few things on the go now and as none of these are popular books I'll be able to renew them up to two more times.  Our check out period is 3 weeks and you can renew two more times for a total of 9 weeks unless there is a hold on it. So these will easily get me into February.

I finished John Grisham's Sycamore Tree last night on my Kindle and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll do a review on it soon.  I also won a book through the Library Thing Giveaway to review. I  might do that next. So much for my TBR pile but I have started one of those and am reading a chapter a night. More on that later.  Well that's the loot for this month. What are you reading right now??

Saturday 11 January 2014

McKay's Book Store- Nashville Tennessee

I finally got my trip photos downloaded and one of the places I visited was McKay's Book Store.  I decided when I got there I wouldn't buy any books because I had already bought books in California and Florida and I was worrying about my suitcase home. As it was I was on the limit of weight and only managed to get the things home because I put them in carry bags and then pretended they didn't weigh anything when going through gates?  I just about killed myself, really.

So I decided on two things.

1- I would enjoy the moments of all the books, dvd's, CD's and LPs knowing I really didn't need anything. 

2- In the event I DID need something, that book I couldn't live without then I would photograph it and find it online once I got home.   That actually worked.  Although now the moment has passed I haven't actually shopped for them.  I quite liked the 1952 American Lit book and am thinking about it.

So without further fanfare I hope you get to Nashville TN one day to enjoy this store and if you do get in the area you can easily find the directions on Google.   Otherwise enjoy the photos.

If you need a coffee or tea this little caravan out front can help you out.
There is no cafe once you are inside.

I loved this because I was in a Jack London mood and this had all his major
works in it.

I just liked the cover of this book so took a photo 

I loved these reference books and they had them from all different countries.

I really liked this 1952 copy and if I had bought anything it would have been this.

The authors that the above book talked about. They thought a well
read American Lit would include these.

Part 2- American Lit authors

This was a very interesting book but you can tell McKay's
don't care about stickers on front covers. Why don't they put them
on the back?  My only gripe.

I really seemed attracted to books about books. I think I'm finally
at the stage that novels can be gotten from the library or Kindle

This gives you an idea of how many books there are.

Merry Christmas, the tree at the entrance of the shop, I loved the fantasy
figure in place of the angel.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Always One Thing Or Another

Just when I thought it was safe to go in the water..................I had a minor stroke last week. I say minor because it was. I woke up one day with dysfluent speech, weakness in the right side of my face and difficulty writing and typing.

What a nuisance was my first thought. My second thought is I'm too young for this and on top of my MS what else do I need? Well, really.

The good news is it has made me evaluate what is important to read and to write. It has also taught me that I need to get on with it.  So now blogging has become not only important but it has become therapy.  

Don't even talk about drawing clothes for the Travellin' Penguin.  My right hand was dodgy at the best of times but it has slowed right down but blogging has already helped it. Drawing with a mouse has been hard but it can be done.  The Penguin might look more dishevelled than he did but he won't be naked.  But he too is ageing. Being in his third year and all. Yes, sadly Penguins  don't live as long as humans.

But we both have a lot of years in us yet and I can still ride a motorbike.  That really is the true test of ageing I think.

So things are slower here but they do go on and I for one, am glad that I woke up and can continue on with all of the things that I love (nothing  like some melodrama here).  So know we will still continue on and the Penguin will guide me through all of the books I still want to read.  After all it IS a new year so let's get on with it. And yes, I do have a lot of Penguin books to still collect.

Monday 6 January 2014

Penguin's THE FATAL IMPACT (thoughts)

The Fatal Impact: An Account of the Invasion of the South Pacific 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead
Published by Penguin Books 1968
Number 2773

I chose this book at random using When I saw what I had chosen I thought "Oh no, not this." But I read it anyway, after all how bad can a couple of hundred pages be?  I'm glad I read it. I really liked it.

It was the 1770's and Captain Cook was going to Tahiti for the first of several trips. It is written in such a way that I cared about him, the crew and the Tahitians. It was idyllic. I cared what they got up to.

"It is, of course, growing increasingly hard in this machine age to understand what it was like to be on a long voyage under sail in the eighteenth century; the monotonous uneventful days, the absence (in the Pacific) of any European ships at sea, the sense of leaving civilisation far away behind, perhaps to never be regained. They sailed from Plymouth in August 1878, and towards the end of the year they called at Rio de Janeiro.  That was their last contact with the known world. The days drifted away, punctuated by storms, by the catching of sharks and dolphins, by the shooting of birds, by the minutiae of the little happenings on board that make a ship a world onto itself."

It talks of the remoteness of the world at that time and how they never knew what was ahead. In referring to Tahiti he writes: 

"We are dealing here with a time when the Far East was almost a closed book, when Africa was known only in outline, and, most mysterious of all, the immense Pacific offered the possibility of anything. It could be haunted by demons and monsters but it could also be the abode of the blessed. And now Cook brought back the proof that it really did exist, this golden island inhabited by happy, healthy, beautiful people whose every want was supplied by the tropical forest, and who, best of all, knew nothing of the cramping sophistries of civilisation."

The second part of the book is the later exploration and development of Australia. I would have been happy if it ended after Tahiti as I was in Tahiti. My thoughts were with the illustrator and the camp cook and the scientists then that ended quite tidily but we began again in Australia.

I would have preferred two separate books. But onwards we went into Australia. It talks about the development of the eastern seaboard, the seaboard, the fauna and flora to be discovered. It talked at great length of the interaction of the Aborigines. But it was anti-climatic. I was still in Tahiti. 
It went on to tell of how the Aboriginal people were effected by the invasion of white people after Captain Cook was there.

It talked of the people who came later, the fellow explorers and the whalers. 
I wouldn't have chosen this book to read but having chosen it I'm glad that I did.

Although I know much of the history there remained a lot to be learned and isn't that was really good non-fiction is?

Have you read anything about Captain Cook?

Counts for 1968 for Century of Books

Saturday 4 January 2014

The List of My Desires

The List of my Desires by Grégoire Delacourt

This is our book for February's Book club so I'm feeling a bit self righteous I have finished it so early. Usually I slide into my seat at the last minute having only finished it ten minutes before.

What does one do when one is happy with their lot in life and feels they don't need another thing? But maybe a new bag, a bath mat or a new car? But upon winning $18,000,000 dollars doesn't quite know whether to cash it in or not.  That is what happened to Jocelyne when having been talked into buying a ticket she wins.

She owns a haberdashery shop that she goes to each day. She is happily married to Jocelyn (her husband has the same name as her) and she has raised her children successfully. Yes, she is a bit overweight but her haberdashery blog is taking off and she loves the fact she is still attracted to her husband.

So she hides the cheque in her shoe and leaves it there, taking it out only to look at it from time to time.

One day, unbeknownst to her the husband finds it and while pretending to go away for a week due to work he disappears altogether taking the cheque with him.

I think the reason the author gives him the same name is so he can rub out the e and cash the cheque.

To tell anymore of this story would be to ruin it but I did enjoy it.  It was a bit of fluff and though I didn't find it very deep I must say it gives some food for thought.

Does one ever need more than one has to be happy?  Does the things one has wanted their whole life in terms of material wealth make a person happy?  More importantly did it make Jocelyn and Joscelyne happy?  Or would they have been okay going along as they had.

Read this French translation of such a book and see what happens to these two. It doesn't end like one would think. Or does it?

Friday 3 January 2014

My Author of the Month

I said on the first of the month I would write out the Good Reads quote.  I receive one of these each day and in a bid to learn more about an author I would print the first one I get each month.The first quote of this year was one by Neil Gaiman.
 I am familiar with this name but haven't read anything by him. I can see he is a current author.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making're Doing Something. 
Happy New Year! What kind of mistakes are you looking forward to making in 2014?

I know of The Ocean At The End of the Lane and I know of Coraline.  I was not familiar with the Sandman books of which I think there are three.  
 He has won many Awards that can be seen on his Wikpedia page. He writes novels for adults and children and more recently has been doing some Graphic novels.

He's been touring the United States the past couple of months so maybe you have seen him.

Has anyone read him?  What did you think?

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Christmas Book Loot

Last Christmas I didn't receive one thing book related and I thought it was quite funny really.  I spend most of my days with my books and evidently people thought I probably didn't want anything more to do with them.  I could tell they are not in that addicted book state that most people who might be reading this are.

I made a joke of it to a few people and this year I ended up with books.  I earned a book voucher from my favourite indie store in Hobart. When I was in the USA my brother in Tennessee and sister in California made sure I knew where the bookstores were. We visited several.  Then along came Christmas.  In the interest of convenience my brother's family in combination with my mother sent me an exceedingly generous gift card to Amazon.  That will keep my Kindle turning over for sometime to come and is greatly appreciated because if I want something specific I should be able to easily download it on the spot.

However my favourites will always be the real deal that one holds in their hand and it is those that I am sharing here today.  If anyone has any of these I hope you let me know what you think of them. If you aren't familiar with them I hope you enjoy their beauty.  There are a couple of others but I will share them another day in their own right.  I did also acquire some more vintage Penguins for the collection but as they are early ones they are in the orange and white banded copies so won't post them up until I read them all.... ahem....

Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion

These two women have been lifelong friends and travelled the world visiting 
second hand bookshops in many countries.  This is their story. I have dipped into it
and I love them already so can't wait to get into this one. 

For The Love of Books

This is a great one for dipping in and out of.  It is a compilation as it states on the cover,
of 115 Celebrated Writers on the Books they love the most. It appears that most, if not all
of those who contributed are American writers.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Australian author Richard Flanagan is being described by
everyone as a genius of a book. When I saw Tim Winton, author of Cloudstreet
at a book event recently he stopped talking about his own newly released book
to comment on this one. The following statement is from the Guardian Book Review of it online:
"The Narrow Road to the Deep North is dedicated to Flanagan's father, prisoner san byaku san ju go (335), the Japanese number given to him as a PoW, one of Weary Dunlop's thousand on the death railway."
(Thanks to Kate for such a lovely Christmas present)

This is another book that strikes my fancy.  It is an interesting
course of drawing which I am somewhat compromised in doing so thought
it would be fun to have a go. I picked this up with a voucher.

Paper Bliss
I got this one with a voucher from the Sale table at my local store, Fuller's.
It is such a beautiful book with great ideas of all the ways to use
paper to make not only notebooks but also cards, decorate letters and even how
to make your own decorative paper. Fun to look through and who knows, I might get
very creative during a cold winter's day in the future.

This is another book about books.  I love these kinds of books and will have fun dipping into
it as the calendar year goes by and what a great time to receive such a book with it now being the first of January. 
This one may have some quips and quotes that pop up  here again and again.

As we just watched the fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (on TV), 2013 is well and truly behind us.  All the best for 2014. Let the good times roll.