19 July, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This is how it works:

•Grab your current read
•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

This weeks teaser comes from:

Currently Reading
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It was like being forcibly undressed; somebody had sntached all her clthes and left her shivering naked in the cold. But she saw a good sign there. Since she had lost all her savings, then she could not possibly lose her sister, too; the custodians of fate were not that wicked.

What's your teaser? Leave me a link, I'd love to know!

18 July, 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you reading Monday  is hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. Head over and check out what others are reading!

Would you believe I haven't done a Monday post since April! I'm not going to bother with what I've read since then. If you are interested, check out my 100+ Reading Challenge page to see what I have been reading!

What am I reading now?

Half of A Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is our next book club book and I am really enjoying it. The story centres around the rise and fall of Biafra. Biafra was a secessionist state in Nigeria from 1967 until 1970 when is was reabsorbed into Nigeria. I've never even heard of it, but the book is quite thought provoking.

The Sunday Philosophy Club - Alexander McCall Smith

I'm listening to this in the car. I love the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, so decided to check out another of McCall Smith's series. Must admit, I'm not impressed and am unlikely to go looking for the second in this series.

What's next?

As usual, I ploughing my way through a backlog of library books. I'm also reading and review books for some posts about the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards.  I've already reviewed all the Older Readers books and chosen my winner and honour books. Look out for posts regarding the younger reader, picture books and early childhood categories.

10 July, 2011

The Dark Room

Author: Minette Walters
Genre: Crime Fiction
Audience: Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Jinx Kinglsey wakes in hospital after what appears to be a suicide attempt. The problem is she can't remember the last two weeks and her best friend and fiance have been killed in circumstances similar to her husband's death 10 years earlier. The question is who killed them - her millionaire domineering father, one of her half brothers or possibly Jinx herself.

What I thought: Walters is my current go to author when I want a good thriller/ murder mystery to read and this one fit the bill perfectly. Once again I was not able to pick the killer, although I did pick it wasn't one of the obvious suspects. But even then, in the end you are left with questions unanswered and mysteries left up in the air. I like the fact that Walters had intelligent police and characters. Too often in these books I find the police  especially be either bumbling idiots or major chips on their shoulder types who get very boring very quickly. It is nice to come across police characters who seem to have a brain and use them!

Recommended for: fans of quality crime fiction

Challenges: 100+ Challenge,   A-Z Challenge

08 July, 2011

Free-Range Kids

Author: Lenore Skenazy
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Lenore Skenazy allowed her then nine year old son catch the subway in New York home - alone. He'd ridden the subway many times before with his family, he was a sensible kid, so after going over the ground rules, giving him a map, money and contact information off he went. Skenazy then wrote a column about it for a NY newspaper and overnight as labeled America's Worst Mother. This lead her to having to defend the way she raised her kids and start the website Free-Range Kids. This book explains what free range kids are, how you can become more free range and dispels alot of the myths around child safety.

What I thought: So I'm a pretty free range mum. I live on an island and my eldest (9) pretty much has free rein to wander around it. My 5 year old is allowed to walk to her friend's place around the corner without supervision and rides her bike/ scooter on the road outside our house. I don't worry overly about my kids getting taken  or hurt. There are a few things in this book that made me realise there were still things I was worried about. I now let my 9 year old boy go into the mens toilets alone at the shops. I'm considering letting him ride to school, even though it's a bit of a hike. What Skenazy does in this book is explain how the media and our fear of judgment by others has caused us to curtail our kids childhoods. Now I live in Australia, so a lot of the stats she quoted don't relate to me - but we are constantly told America is a more dangerous place to live than here so I assume are stats are similar or better. For example, the chance of an American child being kidnapped and killed by a stranger is 0.00007%! Yet this is the reason for not letting kids walk even two blocks to school or the bus stop. And that is just the beginning. Skanazy also looks at the booming business of baby/ child safety products (Baby knee pads for when they are crawling and the Thudguard - a helmet for your toddler to wear while learning to walk! Seriously!!), other countries and how they don't "protect" their kids like this and the value of failing. She also explains the best way to make your kids safe - don't baby proof the world, world proof your child. Teach them things like don't go off with strangers (completely different from don't talk to strangers), what to do if someone does try to grab you (yell, scream, run), and gives you baby steps, brave steps and Giant leaps to becoming free range. A final thing to think on, and this I'm going to quote straight from the book.

 But there are two more reasons why all this good news may not be at all reassuring to you:

1. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is YOUR KID?

2. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is MY KID?

That's how everyone thinks - including me. And I've been thinking that way even more, ever since the world decided to weigh in on whether or not I was irresponsible jerk to let my nine year-old ride the subway alone. Usually after I replied to my detractors by rattling off all my safety stats, the person would probe, "But what if that one was your kid? followed by, "How would you ever forgive yourself?"
Answer: I wouldn't
Of course I wouldn't! But what was so upsetting about these questions was the notion behind them: that I'd deliberately put my son in harm's way - and didn't give a hoot - when actually I was allowing him to do something that was extremely safe. And confidence building and competence building too.
Then one day I got an e-mail...It suggested that from now on, whenever anyone asks, "How could you possibly let your child get around on his own? Wouldn't you feel terrible if something happened?" you respond "How could you possibly let your kids get in the car with you? Wouldn't you feel awful if they were in a crash? 
After all a child is forty times more likely to die as a passenger in a car crash than to be kidnapped and murdered by a stranger.
..."How could you possibly make you kids stay inside after school instead of letting the wander on their own. Wouldn't you fell awful if they were burned to a crisp" After all, there are about 50 children killed by kidnappers each year, but ten times that number are killed by fires at home.
"How could you possibly let you kids visit a relative?" After all, they are eighty or ninety times more likely to be molested by someone they know than..
- pages 183/4

Great advice I feel and I will it the next time someone asks me how I can let my kids roam free.

Recommended for: parents or parents to be of kids at any age 

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 

05 July, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This is how it works:
Grab your current read
•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

OK, I haven't done a teaser Tuesday since February! Hope I remember how!

This weeks teaser comes from:

Free-Range Kids - Lenore Skenazy

For most of human history,  parents believed a baby needed milk and a place to sleep, not, as many of us believe today, board books, soft books, story tapes, light-up rattles, and musical mobiles playing Mozart. Even Mozart didn't grow up hearing Mozart. (But his kids did, and whoever heard of them?)

For the record, my kids are pretty much free-range kids. I think Skenazy is bang on the money with most of what she says - the world is no where near as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Raising kids to be scared of every little thing will lead to a generation that will not know how to assess risk - a very dangerous place to be indeed.

Wilful Blue

Author: Sonya Harnett
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Young Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Walt, Guy and Jesse are three artists chosen to create works for a new artists retreat. Guy and Jesse work together on a huge canvas, forging a friendship based in paint. But when Guy dies, Jesse wonders if he really knew Guy at all and then Guy's sister appears, wanting to know what happened in those last 5 weeks. What should Walt and Jesse tell her, what is the truth about Guy's death.

What I thought:Over and over again I find Hartnett's strength in the characters she creates. I find myself believing I could go have a beer with these people, talk, reminisce about events that have never really happened. In Wilful Blue I found the start of the type of flow I've read in other Hartnett books. Her development as a writer is clear and it's tighter, more polished than earlier works. Wilful Blue is classed as a YA read although I'm not so sure. It would be just as at home on the adult fiction shelves. 

Recommended for: Hartnett lovers.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge,  Aussie YA Challenge, For the Love of YA,

04 July, 2011

The Happiest Refugee

Author: Anh Do
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Anh Do is one of Australia's funniest comedians. He also arrived on our shores with 39 of his family members in a boat. The Happiest Refugee recounts the terrifying journey his family took and the life they built in Australia.

What I thought: I was a bit hesitant about this. I've so often read books by comedians I love and have found that while their stand up may be brilliant, their writing leaves a lot to be desired. Happily, Ahn Do turns out to write pretty well. While there are laughs in this book, there is also a very serious side. This book gives you a look into what it's like to grow up with nothing and still think you have everything.

Recommended for: people who like Anh Do's stand up or for those who want an insight into a different type of life in Australia.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge,


Illustrator: Nicki Greenberg
Genre: Fiction 
Audience: Young Adult 
Format: Graphic Novel - Library

Synopsis: Shakespeare's Hamlet completely retold in a graphic novel form.

What I thought: Wow! Let me just say that again...WOW!! This was fantastic. Nicki Greenberg "stages on the page" Shakespeare's Hamlet in a form that will engage teenage readers and possibly open their eyes to Shakespeare. And here's the thing - I'm not a big reader of Shakespeare. Apart from the stuff we had to read at school, like most people, I struggle with it. Put on the stage or screen and I'm there, love it, but I don't read it. This I read and enjoyed. I've seen other works done is a story book or comic book form, but I think the reason this worked so well is Greenberg took it completely outside the norm by making her characters non human. I'm not sure what they were , part monkey, part alien, but they weren't human and it worked. And the pictures are lush and gorgeous. I hope she does more, in fact, I'd love to see Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing or Merchant of Venice!

Panel from Nicki Greenberg's website, www.nickigreenberg.com Check it out, well worth it.

Recommended for: teens who are studying Hamlet. The format may make it just a bit easier to digest.

An Artist of The Floating World

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Fiction 
Audience: Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis:Mazuji Ono, a Japanese artist looks back on his life before the war and it's effects on his life now in retirement. As  Japan moves forward and rebuilds, Ono reflects on his role as a propagandist artist and the rights and wrongs of those decisions.

What I thought: Ishiguro is a beautiful writer. His words just flow off the page. In this, I feel the calm and serenity of an old man's life as he pottered in his garden and reflected on life. A real sense of the old giving way to the new was also present and the quiet resignation of one who can do nothing to change it. I always feel when I read Ishiguro's work that there is more to it than I am getting, but that doesn't stop me enjoying his work! Ono came across to me as possibly thinking he had more influence with people than he actually did. In the old Japan he may very well have, but I think his influence was diminishing and although he accepted this on some level, he still thought it was more than it was.

Recommended for: Ishiguro lovers. Beautifully written.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 

02 July, 2011

Library Loot

Library Loot is co-hosted by Claire at The Captive Reader and Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader.  This week it's hosted by Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. ,  so pop over and see who else is participating.
Well compared to last week, a small loot this week! Only four books.

This was a recommendation from a client at work, and with a subtitle like that, how could I resist!

From the blurb: When Miles Franklin-shortlisted novelist Brenda Walker became sick, she turned to two healers: doctors and books. This is the story of how she recovered.

One of the last two books from the 2010 CBC Older Readers Shortlist
that I need to read.

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark - Glenda Millard

The other book from the 2010 CBC Older Readers Shortlist
that I need to read.

The Happiest Refugee - Anh Do

Anh Do is a very funny Australian comedian who along with his family, arrived in Australia in the late 70's via boat.

At the moment (in fact for several years) there has been fierce debate in Australia around boat people. At the moment, they are detained in detention centres for up to and past 12 months. These are people fleeing persecution and danger. Last week, SBS TV showed a brilliant three part "reality" show, where they took 6 ordinary Australians with a variety of views on refugees coming to our country and took them on a reverse journey. It has sparked huge amounts of debate - which can only be a good thing. The series was called Go Back to Where You Came From and is well worth a look if you can get hold of it.

Hamlet - William Shakespeare; illustrated by Nicki Greenberg

The whole of Hamlet in graphic novel form! Brilliant!

Library loot since I last posted: 5                         Year to date  Fiction - 48
                                                                                                     Non Fiction - 21
                                                                                                     Non Book - 30
                                                                                                     Total - 99

01 July, 2011

Children's Book Council 2011 Older Readers Shortlisted Books

So I have read and reviewed all 6 of the books on the Shortlist for Older Readers in the Children’s BookCouncil of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards. The six books are:

The winner and 2 Honour books will be announced on August 19. I remember when I was working as a teacher librarian, this was the beginning of a very exciting week. I would run all sorts of activities in the lead up to Book Week, including getting the children to judge who they thought would win and why. So, having read all of the older readers short listed books, here is who I think should win.


About a Girl by Joanna Horniman

For me, this is the clear winner. Not only is it a well written story, the themes of depression and accepting difference are fantastic springboards for discussion. The main character is flawed, but is still a strong female character who is able to prove her ability to stand on her own, yet also realise when she needs to ask for help. An all round excellent book.


Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

A book whose character shows great resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Not only is Six Impossible Things well written, it strikes a perfect balance between a light refreshing read with some real issues worth exploring.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

I think Marchetta is a possible favourite to win the top gong. The Piper’s Son is yet another book this year with strong themes and excellent writing.

So that’s my two cents worth. I’ll be keeping an eye out on August 19 to see if the judges get it right!

Sophie's Choice

Author: William Styron
Genre: Fiction 
Audience: Adult 
Format: Kindle

Synopsis: In the years after WW II, Stingo, a southerner, relocates to New York to write his novel. There he is befriended by Sophie and Nathan, one a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz and the other a New York Jew. But both hold secrets and their all encompassing love for each other puts all three friends on a path whose end is unknown.

What I thought: This was our book group book for June and it took me a month to read it! The last time it took me that long to read a book it was because I struggled. This I didn’t struggle with, but you need to READ it. Sophie’s story is traumatic and difficult. As Stingo relates it, you cannot help but be aware of his feelings for her. Nathan is a complex and dark character. One moment a true gentleman, a honest friend, his mood can swing in a instant, making him volatile and dangerous. Sophie is the lynch pin in the friendship between Nathan and Stingo. Without their shared love of her, I feel Stingo would have left Nathan to his destructive ways, would not have even pursued the friendship in the first place.
When we discussed this at book group, we agreed that in the end, Sophie was not a likeable character. She seemed completely unwilling or unable to do anything to help herself or try and change her situation. The book was dominated by male characters and a strong, unrelenting male voice and women in general were not portrayed in a favourable light at all. In the end, Sophie’s choice was not one, but many choices.
As a book group book, this is an excellent choice. It provides a lot of room for discussion and debate. I would be interested in reading further Styron books, especially The Confessions of Nat Turner which he refers to in Sophie’s Choice.

Recommended for: book groups. A great book to provoke discussion