Exploring the landscape of Australia's written words.

Category Archives: General

For the past two years, I have been reading Australian books and reviewing them on Little Swag of Books, in an attempt to increase my own reading of Australian books and to explore exactly what makes a book Australian. Initially, I intended to blog for a year, but I was enjoying it so much, I continued.

For now, I have decided to stop blogging on Little Swag of Books. It is time for me to move on to other projects, and I am not able to dedicate as much time to this blog as I would like. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Australian books, confirming my beliefs of the wide range of writing found within Australian literature, and I cannot thank all of you enough for following me, reading my posts and engaging with my exploration of Australian writing. I may revive this blog at some point in the future, but for now, if you wish to continue following my blogging I will blog more general posts as not only a reader but as a writer too (I will still post the occasional book review) on my Tumblr website, www.raelkegrimer.com.

Thanks again for all your support, and, as always, happy reading!

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October has been a busy, busy month. I returned from my trip overseas at the end of September, and immediately started packing to move out. I finally moved out, but my partner and I decided to paint the two bedrooms in the place we’ve moved into, so I’ve spent many October days inside, applying coat after coat of paint. When I wasn’t painting, I’ve been writing job application after job application, trying to find myself a job. And after three months of not being able to write a word, I finally sat down at my laptop and started writing again, and I have some exciting projects coming up over the next few weeks and months which I’ve been working on, one of which is getting my blog back on track.  So finally I’m feeling ready to get back into reading and blogging regularly.

I’ve decided to start this new post on the first Monday of every month, because I don’t exclusively read Australian books. I choose to blog about Australian books because I’m exploring what makes a book Australian, but to read exclusively Australian books would be to shut out a large majority of wonderful reads! So here’s a look at the other books and magazines I read this month (3 of which, were, admittedly, Australian).

 

frankieThe new edition of Frankie magazine, a bimonthly Australian publication with a strong focus on anything vintage and creative types. I find some editions more inspiring and more to my interest than others, and this month’s wasn’t an edition I read and thought WOW, but they did have a wonderful feature on some zine creators, who publish zines on everything from dogs to coffee.

My new discovery this month was SLOW Magazine, a quarterly Australian publication about the slow living movement. It is a wonderful publication. This month had an in-depth feature on the philosophy of the Steiner school system, a handwritten extract by Tim Winton from his new novel Eyrie (which I’ve been promised as a slowmagazineChristmas present, so I still have two months to wait before I get to read it!) and the experiences of different families as they swapped their fast-paced city lives for country living. It will definitely become one of my few regular magazine buys.

The Lifted Brow Melbourne Writers Festival Edition. I’ve reviewed The Lifted Brow on my blog before, but this edition was really something- the team wrote, edited, designed and printed the magazine all during the week of the Melbourne Writers Festival. And I must say, it’s a wonderful issue, all the more so because it was put together in a week. One week. I won’t say any more. If you want to know what’s inside, you’ll just have to get yourself a copy.theliftedbrowmwf

lean-inLean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. I actually won this book back in April, without really knowing what the book was, but from the first page, I was hooked. Sandberg writes about women and careers. She acknowledges that it is, of course, a woman’s choice to decide if she wishes to work in or outside the home, but that for those who choose to work outside the home, there are still major obstacles which prevent women from getting to the top of her profession (if that’s what she chooses to do). I’ve never read anything like this book. Sheryl makes some excellent points, others I don’t agree with, and still more which I’d never really considered, but can already see in my own approach to my work and career. A fascinating book!

Happy reading!


GetReadingIt’s that time of year again: Get Reading! Australia have released their list of Top 50 Books You Can’t Put Down. Of those on the list this year, I have read only one so far (Burial Rites, Hannah Kent) and two others are loaded onto my e-reader, awaiting their turn to be read (Mateship with Birds, Carrie Tiffany and Questions of Travel, Michelle de Krester). A few other titles are already on my mental hit list. I love this initiative of encouraging people to read, and I especially love that the list includes books from all genres, including picture books.

This year, Get Reading! have taken things further, announcing Australia’s Top 100 Favourite Homegrown Reads, as voted by Australians. Again, this list includes books from all genres, and I was pleased to see that many of my favourites made top100homegrownthe cut. There are so many wonderful titles on the list, and of the 100 books, I’ve read 26 of them. Not terrible, but there are definitely some fantastic titles on the list which I’ve overlooked. Some I even have sitting on my bookshelf, yet they keep getting pushed to the back of the queue and somewhere along the line forgotten.

In the spirit of the Get Reading! initiative and in order to acquaint myself with some more Aussie classics, I’m going to start my own Get Reading! challenge and read my way through the 76 books I haven’t yet read. This will include committing to giving Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet a third attempt, despite my resolution to get on with reading books I enjoy. Instead of writing straight reviews of these titles, I will blog about my experience of reading these books as I go. My goal will be to finish reading all 76 books by September next year, when the 2014 Get Reading! initiative is launched.

Join me in the challenge! I would love to hear other readers’ thoughts about the books on the list, and their experiences of reading them.

So what are we waiting for? Shut your laptop screen, disable your WiFi and dive into that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages. My only dilemma is which of the 76 books to read first…


childrenwriterGary Crew is an author I first discovered through his picture books, most notably The Watertower. The Children’s Writer is the first novel I’ve read by Crew. The characters in his novel are really hard to like, with all their human imperfections, but despite that, or maybe in spite of that, I really enjoyed this book in the end.

Charlie Bloome is a uni student and an aspiring writer who all of a sudden finds himself in danger of losing his girlfriend Lootie to Sebastian Chanteleer, a children’s writer with a strong distaste for children. The charm of this book is the fact that these three main characters leave a lot to be desired. The flaws in these characters make them jump off the page, as though they are real people, and not fictional creations. Their imperfections made me take a good hard look at myself  whilst I was reading. All the more so because I am a writer myself, and Sebastian Chanteleer embodies the fears and insecurities of a writer, albeit in him, those fears and insecurities manifest in smugness and snobbishness.

I personally feel that Crew is at his best with picture books, and while this novel was interesting, the plot didn’t pull me in and hold me there until the end. There were times I put it aside in frustration halfway through a chapter; although after a day or so I felt the need to pick the book up again. So while it was a novel I could put down, it wasn’t a novel I could put down and never pick up again. Once I started reading, I needed to know what happened in the end. And, for me, endings make or break a book. There have been many books I’ve loved until the ending, where those final pages have culled the book from my list of favourites. Similarly, books which had only mildly kept my interest have completely changed my opinion in those last few words, propelling the book onto my list of favourites.

While I wouldn’t call The Children’s Writer one of my favourite books, the ending features an unexpected twist, and overall it is a compelling read, exploring what it means to be a writer and what it means to be a reader.

Published HarperCollins, 2009


GRSticker_silver_smlaJune is turning out to be a big month in Australian writing and Australian reading. June is National Young Writer’s Month, run by Express Media, where young writers set themselves a goal for the month and can participate in activities and opportunities online and offline. They have a blog, which is updated daily with advice and motivation for young writers, and they also profile some of the writers taking part. My goal for the month is to write two new short stories and finish writing a non-fiction piece I am working on.

June has also seen the launch of a nationwide search to find Australia’s favourite home grown books by Get Reading. Every year they put out a list of 50 Books You Can’t Put Down, and this year they’ve also decided to announce a list of Australia’s favourite books, as voted by Australians. It was tough deciding which books to vote for, as there are so many Australian books I love, but I decided to narrow my list down to the following books:

Saving Francesca, Melina Marchetta

Two Weeks with the Queen, Morris Gleitzman

The Arrival, Shaun Tan

My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Ice Station, Matthew Reilly

An Imaginary Life, David Malouf

All of the books on the list are the first I read of the authors, and the books which made me fall in love with their writing and their work. Voting closes on July 26th, and you can vote on the Get Reading website.

So if there was ever a time to rekindle your love for Australian writing, June is the month to do it. So put pen to paper, eyes to the page and read or write your way through the winter months!


LiebsterI must say, it feels so good to know that there are people out who are reading my blog. I would write it anyway, but to know that there are people who are interested in what I have to say makes it all so much more worthwhile. So I was stoked when Doing Dewey nominated me for my first award, The Liebster Award. Thank you for seeing value in what I write!

The Liebster Award is then passed on by bloggers to new bloggers who have less than 200 followers, and to support the blogs that you like by sharing them with your readers.

Before I list the blogs I want to share with you, these are the rules of the award:

Recipients of the Liebster Award must:

  1. List 11 Random Facts about you
  2. Answer the questions that were asked of you (By the blogger that nominated you)
  3. Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster  Blog Award and Link to their Blogs
  4. Notify the bloggers of their award.
  5. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer once they accept the award

So, my 11 Random Facts…

  1. I don’t like reading fantasy, although I have read a few wonderful fantasy titles that have made me rethink this dislike recently.
  2. Bubsy on the Super Nintendo is my favourite video game.
  3. I can speak German and have studied Spanish and French. At the moment I’m learning Czech and Chinese.
  4. I’m a writer of YA and children’s books.
  5. I’m allergic to fur.
  6. My favourite colour is yellow.
  7. I used to take hip-hop dance classes.
  8. I have a long-held obsession with the Baby-Sitters Club and Little Sister books by Ann M Martin. I am currently trying to complete my collection.
  9. My ereader is a Kobo.
  10. I’m five weeks away from completing my Masters in Applied Linguistics.
  11. I love wearing bright colours on a cold winter’s day.

 

And my answers to the question Doing Dewey asked…

  1. How did you get started blogging?

It occurred to me that as a Australian writer, I had read very few Australian books and I wanted to change that. The Miles Franklin Award is one of Australia’s top literary awards, and one of the conditions of winning the award is that the book must convey something of Australian life. Which means it could also be won by a non-Australian writer.

This got me thinking about what actually constitutes an Australian book- is it enough for a book to simply be written by an Australian writer? So I decided to start reading books by Australian writers and blog about them.

  1. Do you have a favourite genre?

Young Adult is still probably my favourite- there are so many brilliant YA novels out there.

  1. What was the last thing you read, watched, and listened too?

Last thing I read- a chapter of So lebe ich jetzt, the German translation of Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now.

Last thing I watched- Rage, music video program on TV.

Last thing I listened to- Songs from The Lifted Brow’s (Australian literary magazine) mix tapes which were free downloads with their recent music issue.

  1. What are your hobbies?

Reading, writing, learning foreign languages, beading and origami.

  1. Of the books you have read this year, which is your favourite?

It was actually a book not written by an Australian, and non-fiction- Michael Erard’s Babel No More. A wonderful insight into the lives of hyperpolyglots (people who speak more than 11 languages) and how they learn, maintain and use their languages.

  1. Where would you go for a dream vacation?

The Caribbean.

  1. Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Neither, but I do have a soft spot for golden Labradors.

  1. Do you always match your socks?

Definitely not.

  1. Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate!

  1. Ebooks or hard copies?

Both! Although the majority of the books I read are still hard copies, I’m going travelling soon and planning on loading up my ereader with as many books as it will hold. Gone are the days when I had to choose a select few to take on holiday with me.

  1. Do you play an instrument? If so, which one?

I play the keyboard. Computer keyboard, that is. I tried piano and guitar, but I’m just not that musical.

 

And now, the blogs I’d like to nominate for the award…

  1. Freedom Tights. Shannon is a writer, and blogs about reading, writing and day to day life. Her posts are always so engaging and entertaining.
  2. Passages of Writing. Julie Proudfoot is a fiction writer, and her blog is full of thoughts on writing, books and art, and I love the insight and inspiration which I always find in her posts.
  3. Whimsical [Space]. This blog is beautiful, full of whimsical words and inspiring photography. A place to go for inspiration.
  4. Book Gossips. Four cousins from Perth who write book reviews and gossip with their readers about books. They review such a wide range of books and have such a wide range of opinions.
  5. Writereaderly. This blog features considered, thoughtful reviews of books, and I especially love the information at the bottom of each post of where the book was obtained from, how it was read and where it ended up. I also loved the fact that a review written in Spanish was in there too- enabled me to test out my fledging Spanish skills!
  6. The Paperbook Blog. The posts on this blog are so considered and insightful, again about life, books and writing, and all three entwined together in the same posts.
  7. FrusteratedReader. I love the rants and ramblings on books and reading and life on this blog. Lots of fun to read.
  8. Work Your Way Out. I only recently discovered this blog, but wished I’d found it sooner! Writer June Furore is currently attempting to write 365 days of poetry, one poem each day, and her poetry is absolutely beautiful.
  9. Der Linguistische SprAAchen Blog. This blog is in German, but if you’re into linguistics and know some German, this is a wonderful blog. Lots of information and thoughts on language, words and linguistics.
  10. Language Lens. For those of you who don’t speak German and aren’t as linguistically minded, Meg’s blog is a lovely site filled with quotes about language, and less technical posts about language and linguistics.
  11. One Doodle at a Time. I find this blog so inspiring- the words, the artwork and the writing all get my creativity flowing and make me want to sit down and write.

 

11 questions for the nominated blogs…

  1. What inspires you?
  2. Which languages do you speak?
  3. What was the last holiday you went on?
  4. Do you carry an umbrella with you in case it starts raining?
  5. How long have you been blogging for?
  6. Why do you blog?
  7. If you could speak any language fluently, which would you choose, and why?
  8. Poetry or prose?
  9. Which is the book which has made the greatest impact on you?
  10. Summer or winter?
  11. What is your favourite song?

awwbadge_2013This year, I’ve decided to join the Australian Women Writers Challenge. The challenge began when it became apparent that women writers were not as reviewed as male writers, and therefore their books were not as well-known and thus less-read than male writers. The challenge encourages readers and book bloggers to set themselves the challenge of committing to reading and reviewing, or just reading, a set number of books by Australian women writers this year.

 
You may be wondering if this is really necessary, especially in the twenty-first century. And I was asking myself that very same question. Do I discriminately read male writers over female writers? And, for that matter, do I discriminately read female writers who are not Australian over Australian women writers? One of my reasons for starting this blog a year ago was to explore Australian writing, as I felt I didn’t know enough about the literary and writing scene of my own country. I knew my reading of Australian books wasn’t very deep, and that must have included my reading of books by Australian women writers.

 
Therefore, I have decided to join the challenge, to motivate myself to continue reading even more Australian books this year, and to ensure I read a fair share of books by Australian’s women writers! I’ve chosen the Miles level, which means reading six books and reviewing at least four of those books throughout the year. Because from my experiences over the past year of reminiscing about old favourite Australian books and discovering new ones, there are a plethora of wonderful Australian women’s voices waiting to be discovered and shared, and that’s something I definitely want to be a part of.



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