Sunday 29 June 2014

The Letter "R" on a Sunday Morning

A few bloggers out there are playing this little game. You must think of a book, author, song, film and object beginning with a designated letter assigned by another blogger.  My letter today is "R" given to me by the wonderful, winsome Dolce Bellezza (here).  She got the idea from Simon (Stuck in a Book).

It's always fun to do something different on a Sunday morning so here are my featured choices.

Miss Read is a delightful author and several of her books take place in Thrush Green, a wonderful little place in England.
Today we have Return to Thrush Green.

Here we have a photo of Miss Read.  From the Guardian we know that:
Miss Read was the bestselling author who made real the idea of the English village school as a sane and safe haven for those growing up after the second world war. The books were written under a pen name by Dora Saint, who died aged 98. She took her pseudonym from her mother's maiden name.

Favourite Song- This is one of many but what a favourite song and who doesn't love the Muppets? The song is The Rainbow Connection.   This song has been an old favourite since it arrived on the scene with all of the wonderful Muppet characters.

 Yes I know nobody likes Tom Cruise but everyone loves Dustin Hoffman.  This great movie released in 1988 is still an old favourite.  I enjoy the relationship between these two brothers and watching them get to know each other better. A real classic. (And I must admit Tom Cruise was very good in it.)

Favourite object:  A rainy day.  Who doesn't love a rainy day when one can sit in a comfortable place with a new book, some chocolate and a hot coffee. It doesn't get any better than that sometimes.

If you would like to participate in this game leave a comment and state you'd like to participate and I will give you a letter for the day.  If you'd like to just comment without getting a letter that would be nice too. I love chatting to people who love book blogs.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Tasmania's World Heritage Forests Will NOT be Delisted

What a happy morning for the forests of Tasmania.  Our government in all their wisdom (not) decided the world heritage forests should be logged or mined so put in a submission to have their world heritage value delisted.

The UNESCO decision has come through this morning that it was a unanimous decision not to do so. It was madness in the first place to even think of logging these wonderful, ancient forests.

I am happy that the people of the world and all the animals will continue to enjoy this part of our home state.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Thoughts on a Children's Book

Every once in awhile I'll be in the library and will pick up a children's book.  I guess having worked with young children for 35 years it is a habit that is hard to break even though I am now comfortably and happily retired.

I especially like Australian books and that has to be solely for the illustrations.  Children's books have the most marvelous illustrations and I never get tired of looking at them.

The other day when I was in the library I picked up this charming book about the Kookaburra.  Unless you have woken to the sound of a gardenful of laughing kookaburras in the morning you cannot completely appreciate how funny it is.  They are a very social bird and love nothing more than to gather in trees as families with cousins howl in laughter over who on earth knows what.

There is always one, once the din subsides that then has to get the last word or may I say laugh in.  You will hear an amazing cacophony of sound for almost a entire minute or two and then it will be still. Dead still. You wait and then one more states a little sound of "ahahaha-he".  Then it is still again. 
Information about kookaburras on the inside cover.

I loved the illustration on the front of this book.  I also loved inside the cover where information is printed about the kookaburra. It states they are the largest of the kingfisher family and how they stay together as a family for up to 4 years.  There is other factual information as well.

The story and illustrations throughout the book are quite simple and only one or two sentences in large print on each page. I would think it would be appropriate for 4 to 7  years olds to either listen to or read themselves.  It has adjectives on each page ranging from easy (big, baby, ugly to more interesting ones: spiky, palm, flapping).

It would be a fairly quick book to read before bedtime and it has a bit of an ending that will make children wonder what happened to him as it says the people who raised him never saw him again but it is also happy in that he found his own family to live with "ever after".  Nothing scary here.

If I can find one criticism with the book it would have to be the environmental message it sends.  It pretty much tells children that if they find a baby bird, eyes unopened, no feathers that they can feed it special food with an eye dropper (doesn't say every two hours around the clock) and it will thrive.

Not only will it thrive but it will become your friend and live a happy life.  I know that unless a baby bird gets immediate specialist care from a bird carer or vet who can get it to a carer it will not live. 

I don't want children to go through their neighbourhood in the springtime looking for baby birds to raise on their own.  It will be an unhappy experience for both the child and the bird unless the family has specialist bird skills.

I like fantasy in books for children and believe fantasy is healthy for them and gives them a lot to talk about but I don't appreciate fantasy in situations that can also be realistic.  Most of us have found birds at one time or another but we did not raise them to adult hood when they fly off and have their own happy family.  I want nature books to be realistic for children.  Maybe it is only a story and doesn't matter, maybe it is the responsible thing to do to be realistic but not as much fun.

Food for thought I guess in what we expect in books for this age range.  However the illustrations are beautiful and very cute and I would love this little bird to live in my house. I imagine my cats and dogs would have other ideas though.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Another Week Another Catch Up

This week has been busy with acquiring books but as for reading I am still travelling through Moby Dick.  Progress on Moby Dick is up to Chapter 60.  It continues to amaze and amuse me.  I am seeing all the Christian symbolism in this book. You cannot help it as it hits you in the face but I am choosing to ignore all of that because I simply like the story.  As I am not reading this book for any course I am able to do that.  There is also a major theme of living together with other people. The sailors onboard the Pequod come from every country, they are poor, they are middle class, they are people of all colours.  There are obsessive goals on board as well. Considering this book was written in 1851 America the point of it is not lost on me.

We are now well and truly out to sea and the white Whale Moby Dick is being discussed at length. Captain Ahab is truly a mad character as he walks about on deck with his ivory leg and I look forward to seeing what happens to him.

It was also not lost on me that a white whale was seen the other day off the coast of Sydney.  It's picture was in the newspaper.  I thought that was a bit of synchronicity.


On another note I received our daily Hobart newspaper the other day.  It is a Murdoch publication and the editing in it is abysmal. So when I read it I take great delight in going through it with a red pen and circling the errors.  There are often words spelled incorrectly. As in those words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently with different meanings.  I am sure if we ever had a bear in the street it would be spelled bare.  In fact they would probably print something like "The black bare walked down the rode."   Luckily Tasmania doesn't have bears so this will not happen.

I call them "clunkers" and the "clunker" this week was:  "Graphic designer Jess N. is passing on lessons learned through her own allergies to schoolchildren."    Now is Jess allergic to school children? I doubt it.  Is "schoolchildren" one word? Are there any English teachers out there reading this. What would you write?

New books this week.  One from the bookshop in town.  This book, The Moor by William Atkins is a new one out of England and though I have read a review recently that did not glow I am looking forward to reading it.  It is supposedly about the Lives, Landscape and Literature of the moors in England.

Other books came from the library after a significant wait. Orange is the New Black was one I really wanted to read ages ago but I have since watched the entirety of series one and now series two is about to start on TV.  I really loved series one and the people in it are quite interesting.  This is often the case, by the time the book arrives in the library I am onto something else.  But it is a shortish book so I will probably have a go at it.

Another one was ordered when I was determined to cut out all sugar (read chocolate) in my life.  I was trying to lose weight and get fit.  Now I have gone through that phase this books comes in for check out.  Maybe it will motivate me to try again.

The last of the library books is this wonderful Australian children's book about Jeremy the Kookaburra.  The kookaburras are one of my favourite birds and I often see them sitting on wires or low branches in trees as I scoot down country roads. I hear them in the morning laughing at life
around them. They are so much fun to listen to.  Besides I have young nephews and nieces and I like to keep up on children's books as well as young adult writing.  It is so much different than it was when I was growing up.

Last but not least it continues to be the depths of winter here though mild days are most enjoyable. I am sure it is related to global warming but I am enjoying the 50 to 60 F (15 C) degree days with sunshine. Also the winter solstice is upon us with longer days ready to begin.   I know the worst of winter is still ahead of us.    My animals do not want to get up in the morning and they certainly seem quite smoochy these days.  I can hardly separate these two.
Odie and Cousin Eddie

Saturday 14 June 2014

Weekly Update 14 June

I don't know if it is because Friday was both the full moon and Friday the 13th but
I just stopped reading for a couple of days. In reading my last post I think in hindsight I was just a bit burned out. Last night I found myself watching an old Steve Martin movie The Lonely Guy instead of reading.  I had not seen it before, it was completely silly and not the type of movie I am usually drawn to but I laughed throughout. It has a happy ending which is what I needed. I just needed some down brain time I think.
Just for fun. 
I finished my allotted chapters of Moby Dick. I think it was stressing me out how I would review this book.  There is so much in it and it is absolutely outside of my expertise to appropriately review everything in this book. I will instead offer this wonderful review from Roof Beam Reader.  It is his blog that is hosting the Moby Dick Readalong and the insights he has into this book are wonderful.  I could not improve upon it and reading the review really helps in reading the book.

We are up to Chapter 38 this week and although there are parts where I really must concentrate and reread bits I am continuing to enjoy this 'whale' of a book. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) So I suggest you read his review if this book interests you.  I can read what he says and certainly see all of what he says in my own reading so I am getting what I wanted from this book. I just don't want to try to express all of what he says about the book myself. I don't think I would do the book justice.

I am just awed by the fact Herman Melville sat down at a table with a pen and paper and wrote this book. It is really wonderful. The fact he never got recognition for his writing in his own lifetime is truly heartbreaking.

Another blog I follow, A Moleskin Reader displayed a wonderful literature map which I have borrowed from him to put here.  I really got sidetracked adding names to this wonderful little tool of the internet. Do have a look at it because it is good fun. It is interesting, when I put my favourite author's name, John Steinbeck into it,  the authors names who came up really are ones I have been attracted to. Will definitely spend more time with it.  The names closest to Steinbeck's name are those authors who are most similar to him.

This week has only seen me working my way through Moby Dick, the Australian Book Review magazine and the literature course I'm doing on line at Sheffield University (see last post).  I have to get rid of the expectations I have in my head of reading more numbers of books. I need to  focus on the quality of the ones I do read.

I have been arguing with my inner self about whether to keep on blogging or not and then I realised how silly I am being in thinking I must read and blog about more books each week.  I had to ask myself who on earth am I doing this for? Myself? or the Phantom Readers I think may read this out there....wherever out there is. So I sorted that out quite quick smart in my own ditzy head.

Today there is a big rally at noon down at Parliament Lawns in Hobart. Although this blog is not political in anyway this is something I do feel strongly about.  Tasmania has pristine wilderness forests that have not been touched. The forests are old, large and filled with native animals that live only in this state worldwide.  The forests are heritage listed internationally and people come from all over the world to see them because they still exist unlike many countries that cleared their forests long ago.
Our government in all their idiocy have determined they want the international heritage organisation to delist the heritage listing of them so they can be mined and logged.  You can imagine how people feel about this. The short sighted forestry workers want to bulldoze them and the rest of the world wants to save them.  It is looking like it may not happen because fortunately the international community is a bit smarter than the local politicians but it is still a possibility. The decision is going to be made soon.  Maybe this whole scenario is what is giving me a crabby mind this week because I certainly feel it.

I will certainly be attending this rally and hopefully the streets will overflow with people who will be there.

Then perhaps I'll come home, curl up on this rainy day and continue with the next allotment of chapters for Moby Dick or maybe I'll read something absolutely fluffy for the weekend and get back to Moby on Monday.  I need to catch up with my lessons too with the Country Homes of England and Literature.  But for now I need to concentrate on the forests of Tasmania and all the animals that live inside these wonderful castles of nature.

Monday 9 June 2014

Moby Dick- Chapters 1-20

Whenever I thought of Moby Dick I thought what an overwhelming read. However participating in Roof Beam's  Readalong is good fun and will be great to tackle this book with others. I have not done this previously.

For the first part I must say this is not an overwhelming book to read. I am enjoying it thoroughly.
I am reading it in such a way that I use both auditory and visual methods.  I listen to the unabridged audio copy while following along in the Penguin copy.  Both methods work a treat and make it quite fun to hear the voices of the narrator of the audible while I read the visual book.  He does the voices wonderfully.

Now to the book.  This is Herman Melville's sixth novel and was written in 1851.

Ishmael is the protagonist and the story is told from his point of view. He has arrived in a small harbour side fishing town, New Bedford and the weather is less than ideal.  He searches for a place to lay his head for the night when he comes upon a very busy little hotel, The Spouter Inn. It is described much like an old rooming house.

When he enquires about a room he is told the hotel is absolutely full up but if he agrees to share a bed with a harpooner who is staying there, as the bed is a very big bed, he can stay.  Well he hems and haws and thinks this is a terrible idea but in the end after trying the chaise lounge that is far too narrow and short he agrees. After all what else is he going to do.

The description of him going to his room, figuring out how many of his clothes he will take off, thinking about the harpooner lying beside him, a man he has never met is very funny.  The hour grows later and there is yet no return of the harpooner. As it is so late into the night he finally decides to go to bed, thinking the harpooner has landed somewhere else for the night and he settles down.

Herman Melville does not fool around with descriptions. If you hate lots and lots of adjectives this book is not for you. However I have never minded excellent and overbearing descriptions because I feel like I am in this room with Ishmael.  Once settled, late into the night the harpooner does arrive in the room.

You must read the account of this to appreciate how funny the situation is.   He is a Polynesian harpooner of magnificent size named Queequeg.  He is also a cannibal and quite ferocious looking.  He has been out on the town selling the many shrunken heads he has acquired on his journeys. So you do not expect tenderness from this man.  You would be wrong.

 A friendship develops between the two men that is quite touching. Even going as far as they touch nose to nose when they greet each other. Again like the Maori or Polynesian culture.

They explore the town together during the daytime and there is much description about the church service and the sermon they attend together one day.  The thought of them sitting in a church pew, listening to a roaring sermon and their attitude towards it continues to entertain.

Now I notice some blogs love to talk about the food they eat in various literature. Well if you are once of those people you will not be disappointed for the hotel food is known for its mussels or cod.  However when the two sit down and the woman in charge of the kitchen asks if they would like cod or mussel there is great angst thinking how will a tiny mussel sustain them.  They choose the mussel I think mainly to see what it is like and are served a big heaping bowl of hot mussel chowder.

Now the northeast of America is known for their chowders and a good chowder is probably featured in every cookbook up and down the Atlantic coast. The description of the chowders make one salivate. Once finished with the mussel chowder they again order the cod chowder this time. Again another chapter of descriptions.  I quite enjoyed hearing about these delicious hot chowders, mainly as it is winter here and the thoughts of hot fires in the room and steaming chowders with crusty hot bread sounds most comfortable.

The final shrunken head that Queequeg, the harpooner tries to sell less so.

The chapters continue to describe the goings on in this town and more recently now they are starting to think about finding a whaling ship to leave the town.  They come across the small fishing ship of the Pequod when they go to Nantucket and both have interviews.  The criteria for being a whaler is quite interesting and once Ishmael is offered a job he tries to get a job for Queequeg.  However when they find out he is a cannibal there are some concerns.  They also have not met Captain Ahab but hear some very disconcerting news of him after their interviews on board with others on the ship.

After all, I guess if I was going to sea for several months I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable with a cannibal.  I think when you read this book you must pretend you are right beside these two and are sharing the journey with them.  They are extremely well developed characters. I think Herman Melville does a wonderful job with getting the feel of things right.

The only other experience I have with Herman Melville was my Grade 12 English class of Billy Budd.  I was absolutely traumatised by boredom in the way it was presented and I swore back then I'd never go near Melville again.  Well it has taken almost 50 years but I am there.  I still remember the Billy Budd experience as if it were yesterday but I think I can finally put that memory to rest. I might even read it again after enjoying this one. But we'll think about that more later.

I am ready now to begin Chapter 21 and hope to be back again in another week with an update of it all.   So far I am loving this book.  It truly is a wonderful, wonderful book. We'll see if I still feel that way next week.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Saturday Bits. Bobs. Books and Pets (A Catch Up)

The past couple of weeks have sailed by and I don't feel I have done very much but in writing this I guess there has been a bit of chaos.  First off, my pets who always make me laugh. I came into the bedroom the other day and caught Odie and Molly having a tug of war game on the bed with their flamingo in a Santa hat.  Snapped a couple of pictures because they were too busy to notice.

Then went into the bathroom only to see Eddie looking at the water. He never seems to get tired of staring at the water in the toilet.  If he hears it flush he comes running from wherever he is in the house to watch the water swirl. He's not fussy. Sometimes he watches the water go down the kitchen sink drain as well. It does not take much to entertain this little creature.

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Or else he just hangs out in a box. I have never met a cat who doesn't like a box. The funniest thing he did this week was to hide out in a friendly green bag after we got groceries. He was hunkered down in the very bottom when two of the dogs wandered into the kitchen to see what goodies we brought home from the grocery store. As they went to stick their head into the bag he flew out of it and I swear they went 6 feet into the air.  Sometimes I just sit back and laugh so much I can't get anything done.

Do you believe he's 7 months old now?  Getting bigger too.

Speaking of life in the kitchen.  I pulled out this little book I have had for years and years and made some blue berry muffins. I must say they came out reasonably well and tasted even better.  Will certainly be doing that again. The only thing is there are only two of us in the house that eat them and they are too good to give to the dogs. So they are a bit heavy in the waistline department.

I also decided this past week I had too many books. When they don't fit onto the shelves anymore and start piling up on the floor I begin to feel uncomfortable.  So I pulled all my books off the shelves (except the Penguins) and alphabetised them by author (instead of title) and began to put them back on the shelf.  As I went I was ruthless in culling them into boxes for auction.  They are all going to go to auction so I can get hard cold cash for them and who knows, I'll probably buy some more. Sad isn't it.

As for updates on the challenges of my blogs.  There is a lot going on in the next month. You can see the pictures in the side bar.  I began Roof Beam Reader's Moby Dick challenge. We are reading this book as a Readalong and so far I am enjoying it very much. I had no idea it would be so amusing. There are many parts that make me laugh out loud and though it is the most descriptive book I have ever read I am feeling that I am living in this time period and about to set sail with Ishmael and Queequeg very soon on Captain Ahab's ship.  We were supposed to be up to Chapter 20 by today (finishing it on a planned timetable in mid July).  I am right on target. Will talk about this more soon.

My book group at Fullers Indie Book Shop in town has assigned Moonstone by Wilkie Collins for the July book.  I have scheduled that in my diary to begin it in two weeks. That gives me about 10 days or so to finish it.  I would like to jump ahead on Moby Dick to allow free time to read this book which looks excellent.  I haven't read a Wilkie Collins book before but have several of them reviewed  on blogs.

I still have the Letters of Rachel Henning, an Australian classic to read and post by July 7th for my Classic Club Spin.

Haven't worked out how I will fit that in but I plan on getting into it after I do the daily Moby Dick read.  I have put the Penguin History of the World on hold until Moby Dick is finished.  

In the hairdressers yesterday I got half way through a very short little fable called The Tiny Wife and what a strange fable that is. I will keep that one in my bag and read it in cafe's and such when I have time.  I have a few waiting room visits coming up with medical appointments next week. A good time to read. It shouldn't take time to get through the rest of it and I do want to see what happens. Will review that when finished.

The Monopoly challenge is up to date and it is time to roll the di again.  I need to do that soon and see what comes up for that.  Might wait until later in June to do that one once I am caught up with the others.

As for the Book Phantom I haven't delivered anymore books to public places because I have not been out on my scooter much in this winter weather.  I have not received any emails from anyone who has found one of these books. I wish at least one person would write so I could share it with you.

And last but not least. Some exciting book news. I have been reading Australian blogs quite a bit lately and am embarrassed by how many Australian authors there are I have not heard of. I know the big ones like Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton but not so many other, less prolific ones.  There are some really excellent books being reviewed at Whispering Gums (here) and ANZ LitLovers (here) to name a couple. They are inspirational blogs when it comes to Australia and New Zealand.

I thought I needed to read more of what is going on in this country in the field of literature. After all I have been here 26 years now. So I took out a subscription to the ABR (Australian Books Review). My first one arrived yesterday for June/July and I am enjoying it very much.  
It is published 10 times a year.

As if I don't have enough to do I also signed up for a MOOC.  These are free classes, run online by universities from around the world for free.  I read about MOOCs and one day with not much to do I googled "MOOC- Literature"  just to see what would come up. Well up popped an 8 week course through Sheffield University in England that is hosting a class of Country Home and Literature

We study for 8 weeks and visit 8 country homes, mostly in the Derbyshire area where Sheffield University is. Through weekly units of assignments, discussion forums and videos of the homes we get escorted tours through the homes. In addition the lectures relate the homes not only to their history both economically and politically but by the literature that refers to them or was written at them. I am nearly finished with Week I and there must be several thousand people who are signed up. The discussions are fun, the organisation is excellent and I will certainly be doing another MOOG class.  What a wonderful way to spend long dark winter nights. 

People who live in the United Kingdom have so much access to these beautiful old homes and gardens throughout their country but in Tasmania, with such a recent history I'm afraid we have nothing quite so grand. People come here to visit the wilderness that nature provides us but sadly not too many grand old historic 1600's homes. 

Well that is my week. You see what I mean by saying more happened the past couple of weeks than I thought.  What have all of you been up to book wise lately???  

Until next time.....