Just a short note to explain my lack of posts, as I am currently travelling and internet sources are for the most part unreliable! So please bear with me. I’ll post where I can, and there’ll be no book club books for the next couple of months, until I return home, as I can’t be sure I’ll be able to get posts up in time. My post for ‘Burial Rites’ will hopefully be up in the next couple of weeks. I have a stash of books on my ereader to enjoy while I’m away, so I’ll have lots to post about when I return home.
Gary 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
June 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!
There are books I re-read which I loved as a child, and I love to re-read them because of the nostalgia attached. I get to relive my memories of the book. I also sometimes read books by authors I loved as a child, books which I didn’t read as a child, seeking to rekindle my love for that author in a new book. But more often than not, I find the book not nearly as exciting as I would have found it as a child. It takes a special author who is able to capture the imagination of children and adults alike, and Morris Gleitzman is an author who achieves this feat seamlessly.
Boy Overboard is the story of eleven-year old Jamal and his nine-year old sister, Bibi. They both love soccer and want to be famous soccer players to make their country, Afghanistan, proud. But they are forced to flee when the government discovers the secret school their mother has been running. Together with their parents, Jamal and Bibi escape the country and end up on a boat to Australia.
Gleitzman has the most amazing knack for seeing the world through the eyes of a child, and showing the reader the world through his young protagonists’ eyes. A child reading this book will perceive and trust and accept Jamal’s opinions about the world; an adult reading the book will recognise the gaps and misunderstandings in this boy’s perceptions. On the one hand, an adult reading Jamal’s story will be touched and heartbroken at his extravagant plan that becoming a soccer superstar will make everything okay again, and on the other will find solace in the fact that, for the moment at least, he is sheltered from some of the realities of his situation. That this young child is able to see past hopelessness and hold onto some sort of hope.
Boy Overboard is a moving story about the sacrifice and hardships asylum seekers who attempt to make it to Australia by boat go through, told through the eyes of a child. But at its core, the book is about so much more than that. This is a story of two kids with big dreams and big hearts who, apart from living in and having to escape from a war torn country, are no different to kids anywhere else in the world.
Morris Gleitzman was one of my favourite authors as a child, but I love his writing more and more the older I get.
Puffin Books, Penguin Australia, 2001
June’s book club book is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Really looking forward to this one! Happy reading!
Whenever I see or hear the word Grug, a warmth of nostalgia floods through me. I learnt to read on Grug. And once I could read, I kept re-reading the Grug books, because the stories always made me smile. Each time I picked up one of the books to read, I’d read through it once, get to the end, and then flip straight back to the first page to read the story over again.
Grug is a strange little creature. Ted Prior’s beloved character was born when the top of a Burrawang tree fell to the ground. Prior created Grug in 1979, and the books continued to be published until the early 1990s. In 2009 Simon & Schuster reprinted the series, and more Grug stories have been created since then.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why I like Grug so much. Perhaps it is because he looks so different from any other character in any book I’ve read. Or maybe it is because Grug is usually perfectly happy on his own, doing the things he loves. It might even be the fact that no matter what problem Grug faces, he always comes up with a solution and manages to sort things out. Or maybe it is simply because although each story is so short, they are so satisfying to read and the illustrations so full of life.
Whatever the reason, late last year a box set of Grug including a plush Grug toy was released and I’ve been itching to buy it ever since I saw it. I want to place Grug up on my bookshelf along with my Grug books, so that every time I glance at my bookshelf I’m reminded of my first experiences reading, my recollections of these wonderful little stories, and why I still can’t stop devouring books, one after another after another.
Grug, 1979- 1992, Hodder & Stoughton Australia
2009- present, Simon & Schuster
I 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:
- List 11 Random Facts about you
- Answer the questions that were asked of you (By the blogger that nominated you)
- Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and Link to their Blogs
- Notify the bloggers of their award.
- Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer once they accept the award
So, my 11 Random Facts…
- I don’t like reading fantasy, although I have read a few wonderful fantasy titles that have made me rethink this dislike recently.
- Bubsy on the Super Nintendo is my favourite video game.
- I can speak German and have studied Spanish and French. At the moment I’m learning Czech and Chinese.
- I’m a writer of YA and children’s books.
- I’m allergic to fur.
- My favourite colour is yellow.
- I used to take hip-hop dance classes.
- 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.
- My ereader is a Kobo.
- I’m five weeks away from completing my Masters in Applied Linguistics.
- I love wearing bright colours on a cold winter’s day.
And my answers to the question Doing Dewey asked…
- 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.
- Do you have a favourite genre?
Young Adult is still probably my favourite- there are so many brilliant YA novels out there.
- 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.
- What are your hobbies?
Reading, writing, learning foreign languages, beading and origami.
- 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.
- Where would you go for a dream vacation?
- Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Neither, but I do have a soft spot for golden Labradors.
- Do you always match your socks?
- Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?
- 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.
- 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…
- Freedom Tights. Shannon is a writer, and blogs about reading, writing and day to day life. Her posts are always so engaging and entertaining.
- 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.
- Whimsical [Space]. This blog is beautiful, full of whimsical words and inspiring photography. A place to go for inspiration.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- FrusteratedReader. I love the rants and ramblings on books and reading and life on this blog. Lots of fun to read.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- What inspires you?
- Which languages do you speak?
- What was the last holiday you went on?
- Do you carry an umbrella with you in case it starts raining?
- How long have you been blogging for?
- Why do you blog?
- If you could speak any language fluently, which would you choose, and why?
- Poetry or prose?
- Which is the book which has made the greatest impact on you?
- Summer or winter?
- What is your favourite song?
I suppose I could call myself an amateur book fossicker: I love trawling through book fairs and op shops, searching through row after row of books for anything which might take my fancy. Before reading Anthony Marshall’s Fossicking for Old Books, I didn’t think there was anything more to it than showing up at a book fair, having a look, and hoping to bag some good finds, but no. Apparently, it’s a much, much more brutal game than a casual leisurely peruse.
Anthony Marshall’s light-hearted book makes it clear that fossicking for old books should definitely be a sport, at least amongst book dealers. These are the people who show up an hour early to a book fair, to try and get a head start, to find the best deals for their bookshops. They take bags and boxes to throw their loot into, and aren’t afraid to elbow someone out of the way of a really good find. Marshall himself admitted to one day finding an edition of a book in an op shop, which was priced at five dollars, when all the other paperbacks were priced at two dollars. He decided this was a great injustice, and replaced the five dollar sticker with a two dollar sticker. He felt guilty as soon as he left the shop, having ripped a charity off three dollars, and has been trying to rid himself of his guilt ever since.
This book is a quirky insight into the world of second-hand book dealing. I didn’t read it cover to cover, rather, I picked out different chapters and read them out of order, delving into the book as and when I wished, but the book is so enticing that it was impossible to stop myself at one chapter at a time.
I don’t think I’ll change my game plan and join the ranks of the professional book dealers any time soon. I’m more than happy to quietly browse through the books, collecting those that mean something to me, and leaving the rest for the book dealers to fight over. But nevertheless, Fossicking for Old Books is a fascinating read, which isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, the industry or the business. Because after all, deep down, it’s not about finding the best loot. It’s about an unquenchable love of books.
Bread Street Press, 2004