Monday 28 April 2014

Penguin History of the World- Update 1

Update One of Penguin History of the World

I must say I am having fun with this book. Much more fun than I thought I would. It is a big undertaking for me to read this so as I have said before I am reading a chapter a day before I start my other "fun" reading for the day.  (See previous post for project details).

So far I have covered The Introduction, The Foundations, Homo Sapiens which included Homo Erectus first ( I always thought they were the same but they aren't and were quite separate).  I must say I really enjoyed the thoughts of us as all tree climbers at one time before homo erectus.

Imagine populating the entire world, except Antarctica walking from continent to continent (over time of course) after the ice age trying to find shelter and food.  Although fire was around it was only recently that the use of it happened.  I feel like Gary Larsen in the Far Side when I think of people discovering that fire is useful. How did it happen?

Then it goes into The Possibility of Civilization which is basically the ability to congregate and to grow food for one's needs.  We covered palaeontology and then into the neolithic which was the beginning of tools.

We hit the chapter on Early Civilised Life which leads into Mesopotamia.  I am finding this incredibly interesting because it is 3000 BC and when we first started to write.  They discuss the development of seals and markings on clay tablets.  Now think if we went to the shop, bought a new dress and got a clay tablet with a seal and mark as a receipt.   Like I said this is great fun.

But now I have to stop because we just got to Gilgamesh and his Epic which is about the first written language we had. I have seen Gilgamesh somewhere in my book collection or I thought I had but it must have just been in a second hand book store.  I have downloaded the free copy of Gilgamesh who writes about the floods and the fear of death and one of the first discussions of the afterlife.  I feel I can't quite go further with Mesopotamia (the middle east) without a couple of days to look at Gilgamesh.

This project is taking on a life of it's own.  I think whenever I get to areas in the book (Penguin History) about literature I will stop and have a closer look at it.  I am trying to get a more realistic chronology of history and not ever having studied history in my life I need to think about this a bit.

So I am going to spend the next couple of days looking at Gilgamesh's epic and then get back to my history book.  I am finding the Penguin History of the World well written and covers all the periods quite succinctly and I am able to follow it.  It is easier than I thought it would be but mind you we have only come down from the trees and still have a long way to go.  After Mesopotamia we get into the chapter of Ancient Egypt which should be wonderful but then I am getting ahead of myself.

I have just downloaded a free Kindle book of Epics of Gilgamesh (with mixed reviews) and I will look at that.  The wonderful thing about a Kindle is that you can get books right away and not lose time or momentum more to the point.  But back to the hard copy of Penguin History and I'll update again when I move on a bit.  I have no idea if anyone finds this interesting but it is helping me keep ideas straight in my head and make it a bit lighter so I apologise if you get bored and stop reading.

Don't worry I am still reading other books to stay balanced. Yesterday I spend the day on the couch reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson Mc Culler's.  I could have joined the Readathon had I known the weather would be so cold and windy and I'd be hibernating for a day.  I'll talk about that book after I read the last little bit left in the book.

So stay tuned......such excitement. Ha ha

Friday 25 April 2014

Penguin's History of the World

Ever since I retired a few years ago I have been intrigued to know about everything that was not in my field of work.  I worked in health and education as a speech pathologist for 40 years and I always had much variety in my work.   But now I am retired I am absolutely over it. There is so much I want to learn outside of the health field.

I have purchased a few books since, all non fiction with various degrees of programs etc to follow. Literature, science and history.  However I found all of them to be monster books and overwhelming in scope.  So I have devised a plan.  Having heard stories of one man who read the whole Britannica encyclopaedia from cover to cover by reading an hour a day and another man who read great works by allocating the first 15 minutes of the day to them also succeeded.

As I always  seem to have two or three books on the go I decided I would read a chapter a day out of my book of choice. As a reward for doing that I can then read anything I want.

I began yesterday with the book The Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad. It is a real chunkster at 1100 pages plus and an extensive reading list at the back and a comprehensive index.  It begins with the beginning of man and goes up to current days.  I wouldn't think you could write a history of the world in one book but the chapters have extensive coverage and are anywhere from 7 to 20 pages each.

Yesterday I read about homo-erectus and found the times the author spoke of fascinating. So hard to imagine life millions of years ago. It really does boggle the mind to think back that far. Today's next chapter is about homo-sapiens. It is interesting the way people traversed the earth so many years ago and reading these chapters I can only think of more questions to ask.  I find learning new things lifts my mood and excites my brain.  I begin the day feeling very happy if not a little self-righteous.

How do other people manage non fiction books when there is such depth of information?
Do you plough through the entire book at once and remember what stands out or do you study it in more depth?  I'm hoping this procedure works okay and I can get through more of my non-fiction collection. I'll let you know how I go with this in periodic updates.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Sweet Things That Happened During the Week

Last week was a pretty good week. I was able to get out and about and noticed a few really lovely things. Hope your week was okay too.

I went to the library and because I got a good car park I was able
to take time for a cup of coffee in the library cafe.  Notice how coffee 
always plays a part in my "sweet weeks" ?

I went to the garden store and bought some colour
to give to my little Buddhist monk I have in the back patio
area for Easter. I thought he looked most Easter-y.

This is the coffee shop we meet at in Eastern Hobart. It is called
Moto-Vechio and they have restored motorbikes around the
edges of it. Old tables and chairs and big couches to sit on.
They also give our Ulysses motorbike club a 10% discount.
We stop by here before our midweek fortnightly rides to socialise.

Back in town again I was walking back to the spot I had parked
my motorbike and between two large buildings this tribute
to Antarctica was on display.  I forget that there are sculptures
around the city at different points celebrating Mawson's adventures
and Antarctica.   Hobart is the last point south in Australia before
you get to Antarctica and we are known as the Gateway to Antarctica. 
Many of their big ships come here. I love these penguin sculptures. 

Monday 21 April 2014

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening - Thoughts

Well Easter is over in Australia and it was a pleasant, quiet day. With all our family overseas we don't usually do much for the holidays so we talked about holidays and read all day.  Did I mention too I ate a Lindt chocolate rabbit?  That was really nice.

The book of the day was Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening. I read it in a day.  It is a true story by Carol Wall and the title sounded so appealing. Carol lives in Virginia with her husband. Her children are grown and have moved away. She has battled with cancer in the past and worries all the time it will come back. Neither she nor her husband are gardeners and one day she realises how ragged her back yard finally looks.

She sees her neighbour's garden bloom and grow under the fine hands of Mr. Owita. Mr. Owita is a Kenyan refugee, highly educated along with his wife Benita but they cannot find jobs equal to their education because of the prejudices that abound in the community.

However he works at the local grocery, in the garden shop and in people's yards. He is full of wisdom and his quiet manner is quite endearing to everyone who meets him.  Carol hires him to work his wonders in her garden and there the story begins.

I didn't enjoy Carol's role in this book. She irritated me to no end. She won't irritate everyone but she did me. I am a type of person that deals well with crisis then crashes about 3 weeks later for a day then gets over it. Carol is a worrier. She is anxious about everything and feels the whole world is out to get her in one way or another. That just got on my nerves after awhile.

Her battle with cancer is real and would be difficult under any circumstance. But she thinks and talks about it all the time. She talks about it to anyone who will listen and Mr. Owita gets the full brunt of it. The Owita's have their own burdens to bear, having left their daughter in Africa and trying to get her to the USA.  Carol is interested in their lives but to me it always seemed as if it was after she had talked about herself and then she asked about Lok, the daughter. There are other issues in Owita's life that are very serious but of course she doesn't  know that but the reader can figure it out from Mr. Owita's manner. It seemed to go over Carol's head. She also seems to pride herself in her racial tolerance and I would have preferred if she had just talked about Mr. Owita and his wife as people not so much as black people.  We all have our own struggles.

I enjoyed the Owita family very much but there was a secrecy about Benita that was alluded to that I didn't think ever evened out.

The gardening aspect of the book was wonderful and I enjoyed reading about the transformation of her garden. Carol is also dealing with ageing parents and this is difficult for her and she writes of the relationship with her parents which I also enjoyed.

Germaine Greer wrote somewhere once that a person, once over the age of 50, should not have body parts in their conversation because they will be dead boring.  This is a premise I try to stick to with my friends and we laugh about it as at times it is quite difficult to do.

This is probably why I found Carol so annoying because everything she talked about was gloom and doom. Maybe it was because of the book. This is her first novel and it is obvious her health is a big concern to her. I sympathised with that but I have always believed you acknowledge your health problems but keep moving on and doing those things you enjoy.  Talking about all the ramifications and what "might" happen is useless.

A lot of people will really enjoy this book but I'm afraid there were bits I loved but balanced with bits that made me want to slap Carol with a wet noodle.

I loved that I could sit on the couch all day and read a book though and eat chocolate.  That alone was worth the entire day.

Friday 18 April 2014

Bookish Questions for a Friday

Thanks to Simon of Stuck in a Book for these questions. He did a post sometime back that had more questions but I thought 10 were enough.

10 questions about reading

1. Favourite childhood book?
My favourite childhood books were a series of junior biographies in the Grand Ledge, Michigan library about inventors and explorers. I learned about Madame Curie, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and many others. I read the entire series but don't  remember how many there were. I also loved the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew mysteries and Trixie Belden. I loved strong stories about girls doing adventurous things. Old dog stories such as The Incredible Journey (I loved) and those dogs that did heroic things like saving people from fires or finding lost children.  The more I think of those books the more I remember.
2. What are you reading right now?
I'm reading a few books right now. I'm into The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers for our May book group. I'm listening to a series of short stories by Emma Donaghue - Touchy Subjects on audio book and I've just started a non-fiction book called A History of Armchair Travel by Bernd Stiegler that is about 18th and 19th Room Travel. (More on that later I hope).
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I have a few books on hold at the library but some have a bit of a waiting list on them. One is The Magic Toyshop which I will read in June for the Angela Carter challenge. Also there is  Orange is the New Black, A Year in a Woman's Prison; another Emma Donoghue, Frog Music; and Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton. I don't know why I reserve books at the library but I do. I may or may not get a chance to read the many others I have but I just love going to the library and getting a pile of books to look through. I read some, others I skim, others go back.
4. Bad book habit?
Ha! Me?  Probably starting too many books at once. I generally have about three or four on the go and that can prevent me from not finishing any of them.  But if it really grabs me then I will finish it.  I just love being surrounded by books. 
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I have two books by Emma Donoghue, Room is one of them and the audio book Touchy Things. I also have Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall. All of them look interesting. 
6. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes, I have a Kindle Fire but I mainly use it when I travel or go camping or somewhere on my big scooter because it is easy to pack.  I can also check emails on it when I am away. I still prefer real books to it but the e-reader is good for out of print books, Gutenberg like stuff and Amazon's cheap deals.  So I do see a place for both e-readers and real books. 
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I think I have covered this questions. I often have a book of fiction and non-fiction going at once and maybe an audio book. They seem separate enough that I don't get them mixed up but if I try to read several books of fiction at once it is a total failure. 

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Absolutely they have. I read my favourite blogs almost every day.  I keep up with a number of them and am always inspired not only by what people are reading but what they do in their daily life. So my favourite blogs are those that talk about the walks they take, the bookshops they visit, their travels, books they read and their pets.  Quite a few people are really interesting and they inspire me in many ways to get out there and read and do things and visit places. I also like the things they cook. Those blogs are perfect when they cover more than just one thing. I'm reading more and learning about authors I didn't know about. The blogs covering translated fiction are very interesting. There are so many genres of books and it is just so much fun learning about all the new books and old classics.9. 
9. Least favourite book you’ve read this year (so far)?  
I have enjoyed all the books I have read this year. I don't go through books as quickly as a lot of people do so if I'm not enjoying it by 60 to 100 pages I generally stop and go to something else. Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy.  
10. Favourite book you’ve read this year? 
So far it would have to be The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCuller's as I love the characters and the locale so much. Another one is Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.  Also I have read a couple of vintage Penguins that I have enjoyed about Captain Hornblower. I am pretty easy with books. I am not as discerning as some people and like I said I am open to reading anything. I'm generally a good natured reader. her hee.
Well I hope everyone has a good Easter weekend whether you go to church services or just eat a lot of chocolate while going away or lying around the house resting up and catching your breath.   I hope you enjoy the break.

Thursday 17 April 2014

The Old Dog Barks Backwards - Ogden Nash

Published 1972

Last week I began the Monopoly Board challenge. It is just a bit of fun and I have linked it to my huge TBR pile of books in the front room library.

When I shook the dice from I ended up on Oriental Avenue.  My assignment that I chose to accept was to:

Read a book with a mostly white cover OR a book whose title starts with O OR a book set in the Orient OR a book by an author whose first or last initial can be found in “ORIENTAL”

This book not only has a white cover, it was unread and the author's name and the title begin with the letter O.

Ogden Nash is an almost forgotten figure in the book world. I remember reading his poems when I was a young person in junior high school and at the time I can remember thinking he was fun. No doubt I bought this book somewhere along the line in the name of nostalgia.

Ogden Nash wrote a lot of nonsense verse that satirised social types that he observed. He was a great observer of life. A little known fact about his family is that an ancestor, General Francis Nash gave his name to the city of Nash-ville in Tennessee. *

Ogden was born in 1902 and died in 1971. 

He was a great one for knocking language out of shape and making wisecracks with it.  His comic verse is pointed by rhythms that become funnier the more strained and tortuous they are. *

He did quite a lot of free lance work and finally became a staff member for New Yorker magazine in 1932. 

This book is an assortment of verses throughout that make statements about all kinds of social situations and people from times gone by.  I enjoyed reading through this book.  It reminded me of a time of growing up in midwest America and the gentleness that I remember the small town I grew up in to be.

I imagine many people would think his poetry is quite simple and dated by today's standards but I quite enjoyed it.  It was fun visiting an old school book of authors we studied in the 1960's.  

I have always enjoyed American poets and although Longfellow and Whitman were my favourites I do remember seeing Ogden Nash's short verses throughout some of my English textbooks.

This book was very much like visiting an old friend.  

*A History of American Lit by Richard Gray.  
So before I leave you here I'll post up a couple of his poems and hope you too enjoy them.

Family Court  
One would be in less danger
From the wiles of a stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

To keep your marriage
brimming, With love in the 
loving cup, Whenever
you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, 
shut up.

If you don’t want to work
you have to work to earn
enough money so that you
won’t have to work.

A Lady Who Thinks She is Thirty
Unwillingly Miranda wakes, 
Feels the sun with terror, 
One unwilling step she takes, 
Shuddering to the mirror. 

Miranda in Miranda's sight 

Is old and gray and dirty; 

Twenty-nine she was last night; 
This morning she is thirty. 

Shining like the morning star, 

Like the twilight shining, 

Haunted by a calendar, 
Miranda is a-pining. 

Silly girl, silver girl, 

Draw the mirror toward you; 

Time who makes the years to whirl 
Adorned as he adored you. 

Time is timelessness for you; 

Calendars for the human; 

What's a year, or thirty, to 
Loveliness made woman? 

Oh, Night will not see thirty again, 

Yet soft her wing, Miranda; 

Pick up your glass and tell me, then-- 
How old is Spring, Miranda? 


Tuesday 15 April 2014

Sweet Moments To Get Me Through The Week

I think this subject will become a regular because it makes me look for loveliness during the week and reminds me there are many things that may be simple, but make me happy.
I hope others will join me and Dolce Belleza in this endeavour because being mindful of good things when they happen can't be a bad thing.

Monday our book group met at Fuller's Book shop. It meets in the evening and when I get there early I am able to roam around the closed shop and look at all the books for sale. They really are beautiful.

In the evening when things are hectic putting the house to bed Eddie makes me smile once he goes to sleep.

Who can resist a sleeping kitten?

One day last week I took myself into the city and walked around looking at clothes, books and bedding. Winter is just upon us and who can resist beautiful bedding and wonderfully warm pyjamas. So I did a bit of shopping and then I took my bags into a coffee shop and relaxed.

I wonder what I will experience this week.

Monday 14 April 2014

A Bookish Catchup

I have been in a mad reading mood lately and have gotten through a few books in record time which for me is unusual. I'm generally a bit slow about these things.  Here are three very different books, 
all of which I enjoyed.

The Boy Who Fell To Earth by Kathy Lette is a story about her and her son who has Asperger's Syndrome.  It was a great story about her relationship with her husband and soon to be ex-husband. Then she gets a very zany boy friend who seems completely irresponsible but he does show her a different way of relating to her son that is quite useful.  I enjoyed this book every step of the way. However if I could change anything, Kathy Lette cracks a lot of jokes. Every other sentence seems to be a joke and while they are quite funny I got weary of all the wise cracks.  Sometimes I found the jokes interfered with the story so I would have tamed it down a bit.


The Young Desire it by Kenneth Mackenzie is a coming of age tale written in 1937. It takes place in Western Australia and is the story of a teenage boy dealing with being sent to boarding school in a quite English establishment and his relationships with teachers, students and a girl from his hometown.  The writing is absolutely beautiful and it pulls you into the boy's story.  I found it a trifle long and would have liked firmer editing but I couldn't argue with the characters and the style of the book.

In Search of Hobart by Tasmanian writer Peter Timms.  I have put off reading this book although I have wanted to. When I saw the audio version (unabridged of course) in the library I checked it out. I played it while doing some cooking one day and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you were going to visit Hobart then by all means read this book first. It tells you about the population, the weather, the shops, the culture, the history. I was amazed at how much it covered regarding all aspects of Hobart and there is quite a bit of humour in it which I thought was quite entertaining.  Although it's definitely a specialty book to this area it is very interesting and I got a real feel for the city I live in from a different perspective.

Happily I enjoyed all three books and would certainly recommend them.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Animals Reading Books

Book lovers seem to also enjoy cats being around them. So this is the photo I found for the day.

Friday 11 April 2014

Booking Through Thursday- Question for the day.

We are waking up to wind and rain today. Thank goodness we're at the bottom of Australia as the top end, in northern Queensland is expecting a Category 5 hurricane this afternoon. Very scary. Tasmania is immune from such things. At least this century. 

I looked in at Booking Through Thursday today and you can see the question below.

btt button
Does the price of a book affect your decision about buying it? Do you wait for cheaper editions of books you want?

I have to say when I go into a book store I have a very difficult time coming out of it without something. The other day I came out with a pencil. Yes, a pencil. I was having a coffee in the cafe and working on my introduction to The Glass Menagerie for my upcoming Play Reading class and I wanted to mark the book a bit. I won't use ink in a book so I went up to the counter (they know me by now) and asked to buy a pencil. There were some drawing pencils by the counter so I took one of those.  Whoops! Will you sharpen it for me. And they did. 

Anyway, I digress.  If a book is absolutely beautiful I may covet it and sometimes I'll buy it but generally I won't.  If it is over $50.00 you can almost be sure I won't.  But I must laugh because if I do give in and buy it I have these visualisations of buying it, displaying it, reading it, of course, from cover to cover, learning something from it and having it become a main focus of my life. The reality of course is much different. I'll  buy it, bring it home, put it on the shelf for "later" and then get wound up in something else life is doing. 
Now that I know this is what I do I tend not to buy it as I must face my own reality when in these beautiful book shops. 

How about you? How do you approach a beautiful, expensive book?

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Monopoly Challenge - The Electric Company

We're back with the Monopoly Challenge today.  I finished Oriental Ave. with the Ogden Nash book (about to come out in review) and when I went to I rolled and got the number 6.

This put me squarely on the Electric Company (see above).  When I looked up what the challenge is I read:

ELECTRIC COMPANY: Read a book with a daytime scene on the cover OR a book set at least 50 years in the future OR a “light and fluffy” book

I have decided that I will opt for the book with daytime scene on the cover and am about to go to my library to see what I can find.  Once I read it I'll be back with the review.  This is quite fun.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

This morning saw me lying in bed reading this delightful little book.  I didn't think I would like it and reviews of it on the web are mixed.  For one it is a graphic novel. Though it is only 193 pages long so it is quite quick to read.

Lucy and her mother live in Chicago. They decide to go to Paris for a month in January to celebrate her mother's 50th birthday and her 22nd birthday.  They rent an apartment and settle in to enjoy their almost 5 weeks away.

In the beginning I didn't think I would like this book because for one it is a graphic novel and that is not a genre I am used to.  But as I kept reading, I refused to give up because the book is so short, I found myself very much enjoying it.

Now I cannot draw but I dearly wish I could.  Give me a ruler and a pencil and I will show you a crooked line. I mean really, look at my Penguins I dress.

But Lucy's journal is quite amusing and she covers quite a range of things in Paris for the month.

She draws a page a day so the book is in a journal format. She draws her apartment with quite a bit of detail, where she ate, the wondrous cafes and restaurants and the museums they visit.  She includes the food they ate almost daily and the sights they saw in the museums. The nude women are quite entertaining. She can't get over all the naked women that are portrayed in Paris. She details the things they buy when shopping.

She falls in love with Paris milk, foi gras and the many different delicatessen foods. She draws them in abundance.

She visits the cemeteries and includes grave stones of Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett to name a couple. She also include the bookshops and she and her mother buy and read books throughout the month that she includes in her pictures.  I quite enjoyed her visits to bookshops, art supply stores and cemeteries.
She also includes some photographs of herself on the left side of the book that match the graphics on the right side of the book.

Midway through their trip her father comes for a visit and the three of them enjoy wandering around Paris together. They see a few films, take photos of dogs and on many pages she records her moods as happy to sad to grumpy to just plain homesick. Though generally she is happy, she is establishing a good relationship with her mother and she enjoys most of the experiences she has.

Surprisingly enough if I were to visit Paris and followed her itinerary I would enjoy quite a few varied experiences as she names the places she visits, everywhere from cafes, restaurants to bookstores and monuments.

This is a light read and once I got into the rhythm of the graphic nature of it I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend this book for some light hearted and intelligent fun.

Monday 7 April 2014

Weather In Books

Monday morning and I'm catching up on the Saturday Melbourne Age newspaper book section today. It is a wonderful newspaper and it takes me about a week to get through everything. Today I'm reading a column by Jane Sullivan about how weather is portrayed in novels.  This is from the 5 April copy and I'm going to retype it here because it does give cause for thought (and a lot of fun).

The American poet, John Ashbery said the great themes of poetry are death, love and the weather. As a friend of mine says, once such a statement would have produced polite laughter. Not any more.

The weather, in the guise of climate change, has itself become a matter of life and death and the subject of a new global literary proect, Weather Stations. Tony Birch at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne and four other writers in residence in London, Berlin, Warsaw and Dublin will be blogging this month and working with young writers to explore the effects of climate change on future generations.

A welcome project, because weather writing has had bad press. "It was a dark and stormy night" is how Edward Bulwer-Lytton began is 1830 novel Paul Clifford, and sadly that opening has become the sign of cliched writing for everyone except Snoopy. Elmore Leonard warned writers never to open a book with the weather: "The reader is apt to leave aged looking for people." 

And yet writing about the weather is one of the oldest kinds of writing there is. Usually it's spectacularly bad weather. Tales of cataclysmic floods go back to Noah's story in the Bible; The Epic of Gilgamesh; and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, where rain falls non-stop for five years and gradually washes away the town of Macondo. In Middlemarch, Dorothea and Will Ladislaw stand hand in hand looking out at a storm where the lightning is "the terror of a hopeless love". And where would Wuthering Heights be without the wuthering? 

Science fiction thrives on weather disasters. A new brand of dystopian fiction, particularly popular in novels for young adults, foreshadows a post-apocalyptic future where climate change has stricken our planet with floods, droughts, storms, permanent heatwave, bushfire and ice age. Fiction likes to ignore climate sceptics, and perhaps that's just as well.

We've seen some fine Australian examples of this kind of fiction in Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming, Alexis Wright's The Swan Book and Lisa Jacobson's verse novel, The Sunlit Zone. And, if you want a rip snorter of a weather novel where every climate event seems to be on steroids, there's Andrew McGahan's extraordinary and rather underrated Wonders of a Godless World. You don't have to have weather crashing in on every page, however. Some of the most wonderful writing uses it quite subtly. "A cold coming we had of it..." Charles Dickens used weather frequently to reflect the moods of his characters, or to foreshadow a change in their lives.

A volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1816 led to a gloomy summer in Europe, and as writer Sophie Hardach reminds us, this was a good thing for literature. It inspired Lord Byron's poem Darkness, Joseph Mohr's poem that became the Christmas carol Silent Night, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Heat, on the other hand, builds and gradually drives characters to passion, madness and violence, especially if they're buttoned-up Anglo-Saxon types. Somerset Maugham's colonial chaps go troppo because they're in the tropics. Long, hot English summers do strange things to libidos of folk in L.P. Harley's The Go Between and Ian McEwan Atonement.

The book with the most weather I know is Annie Proulx's The Shipping News: I can't open it without feeling storm-tossed. And yet that rain, wind, sleet and pounding ocean never get monotonous. They hold down the place like a snow dome; and we watch the characters writing and fighting inside it.

Can you name any books where weather played a significant place?  I remember reading The Perfect Storm and of course that whole book was about weather as are storms in most shipping stories. Stories of snow also abound.  I'd love to think of more. I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did and again it is from the Melbourne Saturday Age - 5 April 2014 written by Jane Sullivan.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Sunday's Animals Reading Books

This definitely gives the old story of The Three Little Pigs 
a different slant.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Lovely Things From My Week

I follow Dolce Bellezza's blog (here) and every so often she puts up sweet things that happen in her week.  I thought, "what a great idea" because life often throws curve balls at you and I for one get a bit tired of all the nasty news in the media, the whinging people who carry on about nothing important so I decided to follow suits.

I think I will try to photograph three things a week that stand out as really nice. So this was my week.

Sharing a friend's birthday.

Attending Lady Windermere's Fan at the Playhouse Theatre
after reading it in my Play Reading class.

Enjoying a cappuccino after a long motorbike ride with friends.

Friday 4 April 2014

Do You Write In Your Books ?

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Do you write in your books? Highlight? Make notes? Or do you like to keep your copies as pristine as possible?

I just checked in with Booking through Thursday (here).  This is a question that absolutely divides people.  I have spent years never making a mark in a book.  I wouldn't dog ear pages either, instead I cut out bookish pictures from fine book catalogs and make book marks or put greeting cards into them.

Once in awhile now though I will write something in the margin but I feel terribly guilty. I have no idea where this guilt comes from.

When I go to my book club I notice the facilitator uses different colours of ink and writes all through the book.  Sentences are underlined. There are arrows in the margins, and page numbers written everywhere.  It used to bother me then I thought, "How ridiculous."  She bought it, she reads it, she studies it, she totally immerses herself into it. After all it is HER copy. Why not write in it." 

It makes me laugh. Every once in awhile I get a library book where someone has written in the margin. Usually in pencil but not always. I thoroughly love reading marginalia. I find it a lot in my old Penguin books I read from Op shops.  Especially if they were read previously by students.

I read one library book once where there were grammatical errors within the book. It was a piece of modern fiction and it wasn't edited all that well. Someone had gone through and made the corrections that the editor missed. I found that entirely entertaining.  Let's face it, the books we read are not usually valuable collectors edition. None of us owns a copy of the Gutenberg Bible that I know of so why not mark up your book and study it? Why not use different colours and make it really interesting and personal?   I still can't do it. 

Do any of you write in your books? Do you enjoy reading other people's writing in books?  

Wednesday 2 April 2014

The Spin Book Review: CS Forester- The Happy Return

Title: The Happy Return (aka Beat To Quarters)
Author: C. S. Forester
Vintage Penguin No. 835   (1951)

When I saw the Classics Club Spin Book was number 20 of my TBR pile of books I was a little disappointed. It was one of my Vintage Penguins entitled The Happy Return by CS Forester.  I had never read anything by him before and I thought it would be some sort of pirate story.

But a deal is a deal so Book 20 it was.  Travellin' Penguin and I reluctantly travelled to 1808 off the coast of Nicaragua in the Pacific.
We were under Napolean's rule and had been travelling for months.

We put ashore to meet Don Julian Alvarado better known as El Supremo, a monster of a man (we found out later) who you weren't sure was going to get along with Hornblower's men or kill all of them. 

He claims to have links to the powers of the Aztecs and sees himself as quite the powerful land owner and leader.

They exchange the things they need on both sides and there is quite a bit of suspense at not knowing what this El Supremo is going to do. It is a nerve wracking time for us.

While in the harbour we encountered the Natividad, a Spanish lugger sailing in which is more powerful than our own.  We know Spain is the enemy so Captain Hornblower waits until nighttime when he can capture it and control the men.  El Supremo demands this ship is given to him so he will have the beginnings of a navy but before it is handed over the Spanish sailors are saved and hidden upon his own ship, The Lydia because he knows El Supremo will kill all of them if found. He believes all of them were killed in battle.

Once the exchange of goods is finished and he has tackled the Navidad he leaves for the high seas.  He again encounters another Spanish ship and finds out there is a treaty between England and Spain under Napolean so he returns to the area of El Supremo to destroy the ship he had handed over and kill El Supremo.  Another big battle.

I know, a bit of a convoluted tale but quite entertaining.  He also manages to pick up a young England lady, Lady Barbara Wellesley who cannot be left on these islands as typhoid is rampant and she must be saved from it.

So Captain Hornblower brings her aboard and talk about putting the cat amongst the pigeons.

I enjoyed the writing of CS Forester, his descriptions were quite interesting and I learned a lot about the ships and the daily running of them.  The characters were well fleshed out, I cared about them when they went to battle and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

Naturally Captain Hornblower, married of course, falls for the English woman and they have long dark conversations behind the scenes thereby creating yet another storyline.

I can't see myself reading all the other books in the series, about 10, but if it weren't for the Spin and the random list of my TBR books (Penguin collection) I drew up.  I never would have chosen this book.  It was a great exercise as it was the first Spin I participated in and what a great time we had.