30 December, 2012

2012 - The End is Nigh!



The end of 2012 is approaching, so I thought I should make some attempt to end this year with all my reading listed! Here's what I've read since I last posted.



The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This was another book from my list of books from other blogs. I know that at some stage I thought it would be good for a challenge I did in 2011, so it's been there awhile. I thought I was wading through this, but suddenly found myself almost at the end! A book to make you think and wonder - a love story, a mystery, pure literature and totally absorbing! I'm looking forward to the sequel which is waiting for me at home.

Small Gods (Discworld, #13)
Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
And the journey through Pratchett continues. I was half way through this when my kindle died. *sob* Thankfully my new kindle arrived just before we left for two weeks away so I was able to continue and finish it! Yay for Pratchett!

And that is basically it! I'm almost finished Wolf Hall (95% on my kindle), but it requires such concentration that I won't guarantee I'll finish before New Year's Eve.

So in the end I finish the year with 84 definite finishes, hopefully 85. You can view my 2012 list here.

I have decided to continue to blog in 2013, although it will no longer be solely a book blog. I [plan to use GoodReads a lot more to track my reading. Feel free to follow me over there.In the meantime, if I don't get back in here before New Year, I hope you have a wonderful and safe new year and your 2013 brings many, many good books.

16 December, 2012

Reeling

Like many around the world I woke up yesterday to the devastating news of another school shooting in America - and like many around the world my heart broke for the victims, their families and friends and the survivors.

Source  
I can't decide if this man's look if relief at finding his child alive or appealing to a higher being to explain this.
 
Source
This is relief

I quickly flicked through a few twitter posts, some online news stories - growing anger that this had happened again and once again large amounts of America did not want to talk about gun control. 
 
You see, I hate guns. See no reason for them to be in a suburban setting. See no reason for any civilian to possess something that can spray a large number of bullets in a very short period of time. I live in Australia and after a horrific massacre at Port Arthur in 1996,  the Australian government introduced strict gun control laws in the face of opposition from farmer and gun lobby groups. But they did it - and it worked. In the 18 years before 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings. There has not been one since.
 
Source
 Port Arthur, Tasmania. The site of Australia's last mass shooting
 
Anyway, I went through my day - kids activities, shopping, gathering of friends at my place last night for end of year drinks. But all day I checked twitter, news feeds - looking for ?? answers, I suppose.
 
And then last night, after our guests had gone and I sat down, I picked up my tablet one more time, to just check before bed and read that the children killed were aged between 5 and 10. My kids are 7 and 10. I broke down, I sobbed, I hurt. I tried, so hard, to imagine that those warm little bodies upstairs asleep were gone and I couldn't, I couldn't go there. How, I asked my husband, how do you go to sleep tonight? How do you reconcile that child you dropped off at school that morning with your brutal, harsh reality of now. His answer - you don't. Even now as I type this I cry. I cry for all who have suffered in this and a cry for a whole nation that is hurting, but must start taking steps, must start the conversation. . 
 
 Source

Victoria Soto - a teacher who died protecting her students 
 
 Finally - Walter Mikac who lost his children and wife at Port Arthur has, since that day refused to say or write the name of the gunman. Too often in these crimes we remember the name of the perpetrator, but not the victims. I too refuse to name the gunman -  in either of these terrible events. But here is a list of those who deserve to be remembered, both from Port Arthur and Sandy Hook, remember them, for they deserve your time and thoughts, as do all the victims of these horrific crimes.
 
Port Arthur Massacre - Australia 1996
 
Winifred Joyce Aplin, 58
Walter John Bennett, 66
Nicole Louise Burgess, 17
Sou Leng Chung, 32
Elva Rhonda Gaylard, 48
Zoe Anne Hall, 28
Elizabeth Jayne Howard, 26
Mary Elizabeth Howard, 57
Mervyn John Howard, 55
Ronald Noel Jary, 71
Tony Vadivelu Kistan, 51
Leslie Dennis Lever, 53
Sarah Kate Loughton, 15
David Martin, 72
Noelene Joyce Martin, 69
Pauline Virjeana Masters, 49
Alannah Louise Mikac, 6
Madeline Grace Mikac, 3
Nanette Patricia Mikac, 36
Andrew Bruce Mills, 49
Peter Brenton Nash, 32
Gwenda Joan Neander, 67
Moh Yee Willing Ng, 48
Anthony Nightingale, 44
Mary Rose Nixon, 60
Glen Roy Pears, 35
Russell James Pollard, 72
Janette Kathleen Quin, 50
Helene Maria Salzmann, 50
Robert Graham Salzmann, 57
Kate Elizabeth Scott, 21
Kevin Vincent Sharp, 68
Raymond John Sharp, 67
Royce William Thompson, 59
Jason Bernard Winter, 29



Sandy Hook, USA - 2012
 

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
 
 
 

14 December, 2012

I also sew!

I have another blog which focuses on my quilting.  I'm thinking of merging the two - sewing and reading. To see how it goes, for the rest of this year I will be posting my sewing here as well as over on my other blog.

Recently I participated in a Doll's Quilt swap where I made a small, doll sized quilt for someone and another quilter made one for me. Here's the results.

I thought I should blog the doll's quilt I sent and the one I received!

I sent this little number to Caz over at The Accidental Quilter

Rainbow Dreams

I used this tutorial from One flew Over and I loved how it came together. I'm always scared of sending something off to someone else so was very happy when Caz was pleased with it.

The quilt I received came from the lovely and talented Carmel over at Solomon Sewing

Poppy Breeze

I love the colours and the light breezy feel of it. The quilting is exquisite and it now hangs at the bottom of my stairs where I get to look at it every morning as I come down - it never fails to make me smile!

I really enjoyed this swap and hopefully may participate in a few more next year...might even run one myself...


Another two reads

Instead of posting individual reviews, I'm just going to do posts that list what I have finished recently. As I said before, I'm not sure where I'm going with the blog, but want to track my reading until the end of 2012 at least.

So recently I have finished:

Room - Emma Donoghue
It took me a bit to get use to the writing style of Donoghue, but once I got into the swing of it this book sucked me right in. Would love to see it made into a movie.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty - G Neri and Randy DuBurke
This graphic novel is based on the violent death of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an eleven year old Chicago gang member who shot and killed a young girl and then was hunted and killed by his own gang. It's confronting and it's heart breaking. Told through the eyes of one of Yummy's class mates, it's an attempt to make sense of the events that happened and how an eleven year old boy ends up a killer. Gut wrenching.

My First Challenge for 2013

A friend of mine, who writes the gorgeous blog Little White Dove was disappointed with her lack of reading this year. Now before you say (think) any thing - she is a writer, prolific crafter, photographer and mum - not surprised she hasn't had much reading time! Anyway, to challenge herself to read more she has started the 13 in'13 reading challenge. Put quite simply, read 13 books ( of the no-pictures-not-for-small-people variety) in 2013.



Now when I said I might sign up for this challenge I could hear the cyber snickers.

I think you'll leave the rest of us in your dust!! 

Kylie will kick our butts.

(Quotes from FB!)

So to make it more interesting, I (and anyone else who choose to) will have to read 13 books from 13 different genres. The list is:
  
Mystery
Romance
Thriller
Drama
Historical
Fantasy
Sci-fi
Non-fiction
Graphic novel
Autobiography
Motivational
Spiritual 
Poetry

I'm putting in my own condition that they cannot be re-reads - nothing I have read before! I am open to suggestions for any of the categories - especially motivational and spiritual - not books I naturally choose. Please give me some ideas!

 
 

11 December, 2012

Long Time No Blog

Well it's been awhile since I blogged, but I'm still reading. Truth be told I'm not sure what is going to happen with the blog - may take a break, may stop, may change it's purpose. I know however that I am not enjoying it as much - seeing it more as a chore and that's not what it's suppose to be about. So from now until the end of the year, I will pop in, update my reading list - maybe post a review (or not) and then in the new year. who knows! I'm not blogging on my craft blog either and I think part of it is trying to maintain two, so I might merge them into one! If you are one of my few followers, stay around, until Feb/ Mar next year at least and I should have a decision!

So, I'm not going to post reviews, but here is what I have been reading.

Various Positions - Martha Schabas
 I really enjoyed this but was confused by reviews on GoodReads that suggested it was a YA book.  I never saw it as such and my library has it shelved in the adult fiction area so I'm not sure where the idea came from. It's dark and it's nasty - definitely not YA!


Fifty Shades Darker - E L James
I promised myself I wouldn't, but I find it so hard to read only one in a series! Slightly better written than the first, Ana slightly less annoying, but I still don't get the huge attraction of these books or of Mr Grey. Yes he is rich and gorgeous, but he is also controlling and totally unreasonable in some of his demands



Reaper Man - Terry Prtachett
 Ah, my beloved Pratchett, what more can I say!


The Vanishing Point - Val McDermid
 The first of McDermid's I've read that didn't have Tony Hill as the lead character. I enjoyed it and finished it in less than 24 hours - been a long time since I've done that!



The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - Ambelin Kwaymullina
So we went camping the other weekend and someone (most probably one of the kids) I think sat on my kindle and broke it! So while I am waiting for Amazon to send a replacement (their customer service is pretty good!) I've decided to start going through this list of books I've take from other bloggers. Basically working through it, using the library. This was first cab off the rank - not bad. Has potential.

Afterwards - Rosamund Lupton
Took me a little while to get into it, but really enjoyed it in the end. Interesting idea really.


Fifty Shades Freed - E L James
See comment above on Fifty Shades Darker. Every time I see that #1 New York Times Bestseller tag I think - really??

Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett
Pure Pratchett!

22 November, 2012

Book Tour - Curiosity Killed The Kat

HUGE HUGE APOLOGIES TO ELIZABETH NELSON AND VIRTUAL AUTHOR BOOK TOURS FOR THE LATE POSTING OF THIS STOP! GREMLINS IN THE SYSTEM, BUT WE GOT HERE IN THE END!
Welcome to my stop on the Curiosity Killed the Kat Virtual Book Tour! Hosted  by 
I was lucky enough to be asked to review this book, but first a bit about the author, Elizabeth Nelson. (Her facebook page can be found here)


Elizabeth wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills and relationship techniques have helped hundreds of others find their mojo. After earning a master's degree in secondary education from UNC, she worked abroad teaching English, bar-tended at late night clubs in Chicago, and continues various philanthropy projects that focus on empowering women. But she always returned to writing.

Though she'll forever be a free-spirit at heart, she now lives in Los Angeles with her two dogs. If she's not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rock concerts.



Katherine ("Kat") thought she had the perfect marriage to International Lawyer Steven Flynn. Until he tried to kill her.

Katherine was the perfect obedient wife. She would do anything for her husband. That is, until she discovers he's the ring leader of a human trafficking organization. The action is fast and furious, the dialogue smart and the sex scenes hot. Meet Katherine in Curiosity Killed The Kat as she goes farther and farther down the rabbit hole of political intrigue, sex, and revenge. Will she let herself be saved by love or will curiosity and a thirst for killer justice kill the Kat?

Review: At only 120 pages, Curiosity Killed the Kat is a good, quick read. It's the first book in the series and sets the scene perfectly for the following books.
Katherine Flynn is an interesting character. Throughout the book she emerges from a down trodden, beaten wife, into a woman ready to take control of her own destiny again. The more I read, the more I liked her and started cheering for her. A bit of a warning though, take note when the blurb says the sex scenes are hot - they are - just as I like them!
I really look forward to reading more in this series and seeing how Katherine develops and grows - she has great potential! 

27 October, 2012

HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION II - FREE!

Just a reminder that from today until October 31, Hellfire and Damnation II is available FREE via Amazon for Kindle!

Get over there and grab it now - I dare you!

 
 
 

25 October, 2012

The Rise of the Fifth Estate

Title: The Rise of the Fifth Estate
Author: Greg Jericho
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - Library

From Goodreads: The Rise of the Fifth Estate is the first book to examine the emergence of social media as a new force in the coverage of Australian politics.

Using original research, Greg Jericho reveals who makes up the Australian political blogosphere, and tackles head-on some of its key developments — the way that Australia's journalists and federal politicians use social media and digital news, the motivations of bloggers and tweeters, the treatment of female participants, and the eruption of Twitter wars.
The mainstream media's reaction to all this tends to be defensive and dismissive. As Jericho found to his own cost when he was outed by The Australian as the blogger Grog's Gamut, hell hath no fury like a criticised newspaper. And although journalists welcome Twitter as a work tool and platform, they have to deal with vitriolic online comments, and face competition from bloggers who are experts in their fields and who, for the most part, write for free.

What I thought: Yet another "heard it on the radio" book. Thank goodness for public libraries is all I can say!
So lets be unfront to start with - in terms of politics I am definitely left wing. In fact I think if I got much further left I would end up back where I started - I blame my mother and her strong socialist leanings.
I also have a fairly healthy interest in politics. My most common soap box topic at the moment is how it seems Australians don't actually seem to get how lucky they are to able to vote, to voice an opinion and to feel safe why they do so. The level of apathy about politics - about the system that affords us this life we seem to feel is our right - astounds me.
I was thrilled to find a book which could point me in the direction online of others who are interested in politics in this country. Not only interested but write about it, analysis it, discuss it, but not from the point of view of the mainsteam media (MSM). Jericho is not a journalist - doesn't say he is, in fact emphatically denies it, and he doesn't want to be. But he is intelligent and thoughtful and provides great insight into how blogging and social media is helping to shape the MSM, even though areas of it are fighting it all the way.
Gone are the days of journalists being the gate keeper of information and opinion. Today anyone can voice their thoughts and call governments to account for what they do. Twitter in particular is becoming an excellent way to break news and tap into dialogue about the days events.
Jericho admits there are issues around blogging and tweeting, but as he points out, they are here to stay no matter what your more traditional areas of the media wish.
Rise of the Fifth Estate was a bit dry in areas - I'm not a big fan of stats-  but Jericho's ability to relate personal experience in the social media world and his thoughtful analysis of how politicians and MSM are viewing and using social media gave me a great insight into what a valuable tool social media can be and reassured me I am not alone in wanting a wide variety of places to get my information from. Well worth the read for anyone who is looking for a way to access political coverage outside the MSM.

You can find Greg Jericho's blog, Grog's Gamut here.

Challenges: Australian authors

22 October, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a meme hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. A weekly check in to see what you are currently reading and what is coming up. Head over to Shelia's blog to see what others are reading this week.






What am I reading now.

The Rise of the Fifth Estate - Greg Jericho
Another one I heard about on the radio first, although I can't remember which program. A bit dry in bits, but on the whole very interesting, especially in the wake of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's speech last week which attacked the opposition leader for being a misogynist - an event which was covered widely online and not so much in the main stream media. 

What I've  Read In The Last Week.


Bit of a non fiction week this week!

Gone Viral - Frank Bowden

A Private Life - Michael Kirby

Get Well Soon - Kristy Chambers

What's next?

Hmmm, not sure, although I think it will be fiction! Most probably Various Positions
since it's due back at the library soon!

What are you reading this week? Leave me a link, I'd love to know!

20 October, 2012

Get well soon

Title: Get Well Soon! My (un)Brilliant Career as a Nurse
Author: Kristy Chambers
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - Library

From Goodreads: Falling into the nursing profession, Kristy Chambers spent almost a decade working with a wide range of people, ranging from drug addicts to cancer patients. Dark, humorous, honest, and compassionate, this memoir illustrates the incredible work nurses do and the many challenges they face. A tribute to the wonderfully brave people Chambers met during her career, this book portrays both joyous and difficult experiences.

What I thought: Yet another book I discovered through Richard Fidler's excellent radio program called The Conversation Hour. You can access the audio of the interview here.
I know it's most probably completely politically incorrect to find a book about sick people funny, but this was! Kristy Chambers takes us through her pre graduate placements and her first ward placements, giving us a warts and all view of nursing. It was funny from the first, and very refreshing! Chambers had no great calling to nursing. In fact it came down to choosing between it and teaching and she decided 
 sick people trumped teenagers.
 If your looking for sympathetic, overly concerned politically correct stories about the sick and dying - wrong book!  Chambers is brutally honest about everything including hating some of her patients (the trick is to hide it) and finding body fluids stomach churning and not really her cup of tea. In fact, I can imagine some people being offended by the off hand way she talks about some diseases.

And even though though throwing up was definitely not my idea of a good time, the bulimic at least got to have a bit of fun first, eating everything before they did whatever ugly, cut-throat shit was necessary to get rid of it. I thought I would choose their tribe if pushed.  Chapter 1 Anorexiaville p.9


And then she shows you a side that made you realise she did care about her patients and sympathised with them.

So I had some of the same hang-ups, perhaps, but luckily, I fell far short of the extreme examples before me. It was not inevitable that I would have early onset osteoporosis, or be rendered infertile. ...I didn't have hard calluses on the back of my hands from shoving them down my throat 50 times a day, from throwing up water, and I didn't want to disappear. These girls were winning at losing, dying right in front of your eyes. Chapter 1 Anorexiaville p.12

In fact the tone of the book reminded me of the way as a teacher we would speak about kids in the staffroom on a Friday afternoon after a hard week. You'd say things you would never, ever say outside the staffroom, using words you would never, ever say normally (stupid, idiot, little shit) , but also needing to debrief. I would assume a lot of what Chambers says is the same that nursing stuff say all the time in the safety of a staffroom, knowing what's said in the staffroom, stays in the staffroom.
Chambers makes no apologies for her attitude, although she does make sure the reader knows that a lot of what she says in her head is never heard by the patient. What they see and hear is a professional nurse whose job is to care for them, clean them up and hold their hand - no matter how rude and terrible they are to her.

Get Well Soon is what I imagine nursing to be like - warts and all. I would suggest NOT eating while reading it, but would completely recommend it to anyone who wants to know what nursing is really like.

Challenges: Australian authors

19 October, 2012

A Private Life

Title: A Private Life: Fragments, Memories, Friends
Author: Michael Kirby
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adult
Format: Kindle

From Goodreads: Michael Kirby is one of Australia's most admired public figures. At a time of spin and obfuscation, he speaks out passionately and straightforwardly on the issues that are important to him. Even those who disagree with him have been moved by the courage required of him to come out as a high-profile gay man, which at times has caused him to be subjected to the most outrageous assaults on his character.
This is a collection of reminiscences in which we can discover the private Michael Kirby. It allows the public figure speak in his own voice, without any intermediary. He opens up as never before about his early life, about being gay, about his forty-two year relationship with Johan van Vloten, about his religious beliefs and even about his youthful infatuation with James Dean, which sent him on a sentimental journey to Dean's home town in the year 2000, an adventure he here wryly recalls.
Beautifully written, reflective and generous, in that warm and gently self-deprecating voice that is so characteristic of him, this is a memoir that Michael Kirby's many admirers have been waiting for.

 

What I thought: This is our book group book for this month and I think we are on a winner! Justice Michael Kirby is a well known and respected name in Australia. As the blurb above says, he is renown for his plain speaking and passion. This memoir is not lineal, instead Kirby has written on things he is passionate and interested in - growing up homosexual in the '50's, AIDS, his beautiful relationship with his long term partner and James Dean! Kirby has this wonderful ability to take an issue and put in terms that make it so obvious the way things should be - he uncomplicates the complicated.

One can intellectully embrace an idea of celibacy as the path that society seemed irrationally to enforce on people like me. But in the midst of the loneliness, the nagging, demands of the body and mind, the heart would urge the spirit to look for what the law, religion and society forbade.

I referred to the archbishop's statement reported in the newspapers that day* and gave my own point of view. The boys looked and listened quietly. I told them to have nothing to do with hate speech -'poofter', 'faggot' - or with gay bashing, bullying and harassment. I suggested that a life of celibacy was not a pratical solution for homosexual people...But those who condem and demand silence in the years of youth must wear the moral burden of the family rejections, suicides and the despair that the world of shame and silence brings.

*The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney had released a statement  condemning the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras [he said] the Church 'teaches that homosexual practices are contrary to the moral law' so that homeosexual people 'are required to exercise self-discipline and avoid such conduct.' They are, he believed, called to a life without sex. The Anglican Archbishop was contacted for comment and endorsed the statement.

One of the things I admire most about Kirby is his unwillingness to compromise his principals. Asked by a Catholic boys school to give a talk on 'judical activism' he explained it was more of a topic for politicians and suggested the alternative of homophobia. The school came back with a suggestion of social justice which Kirby agreed to, making sure they understood he would use social justice as a context for homophobia. But while he was happy to talk on this point, he refused to ambush the school, providing a copy of his talk points to a master at the school so they would be fully aware of the direction he was taking. The talk was a resounding success, the boys asked pertinent and thoughtful questions. Kirby's answers were just as thoughtful and respectful. The majority of parents approved, with several writing letters to thank Kirby for his talk. A similar situation happened with a talk Kirby presented at a Salvation Army Conference.

This is an excellent book for book groups, it's bound to provoke lots of interesting discussion. I'm looking forward to our meeting this month!

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge,  EBook Challenge

18 October, 2012

Gone Viral

Title: Gone Viral 
Author: Frank Bowden
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - Library

From Goodreads: Featuring 15 infectious diseases—eight bacteria, six viruses, and a parasite—and one friendly fungus, this book explores significant medical themes and highlights the effect micro-organisms have on modern life. Hilarious, informative, yet deeply moving, it discusses each disease while weaving true stories of patients and their families and the difficulties doctors face. Touching upon the swine flu, golden staph, SARS, hepatitis, and HIV, this account teaches crucial lessons about public health and the human experience of disease.

What I thought: Well the first thinkg I would say about this book is don't read it if you have a weak stomach! As an infectious diesease and sexual health specalist, some of Frank Bowden's descriptions are a little off putting to say the least!
I came to this book from a radio interview by Richard Fidler's excellent program called The Conversation Hour. (Australian's may know Fidler as 1/3 of the comedy trio Doug Anthony Allstars.) You can actually access the audio by clicking here.
I love when the way someone talks or is interviewed translates to their writing. Bowden was a very interesting speaker - giving a great mix of facts and anecdotes, with a humerous or thought provoking twist.
Most probably the scareiest thing I found about this book was the level of politicking that goes into getting funding for treatment programs. The eradication was made possible by governments agreeing to vacinate and treat in a wide spread program. There are so many diseases such as Chlamydia and Hepatitis C which are rife, especially in indigenous communities, that could be all but eradicated IF governments were willing to fund extensive comprehensive education, vaccination and treatment programs. While the cost of these programs is not insignificant, the long term savings from on going health care due to the original disease plus it's complications would be significant - to say nothing of the quality of life for many.
On the whole, Frank Bowden takes a subject that could be dry and boring and brings it to life. His balance of scientific information and real life examples gives the reader much to think about, laugh at and learn. Well worth tolerating a few stomach churning descriptions!

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge

16 October, 2012

Hellfire and Damnation II - FOR FREE!

  To celebrate Halloween and the release of her book Hellfire and Damnation II, Connie Corcoran Wilson has made it free via Amazon Kindle from October 27 -31!
 
 
How cool is that!
And while your waiting for October 27 to grab your free copy, you can pop over to Rhodes Review and J.A.Beard's Unnecessary Musings, who both have stops on the tour today.

15 October, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a meme hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. A weekly check in to see what you are currently reading and what is coming up. Head over to Shelia's blog to see what others are reading this week.





What am I reading now.

Gone Viral: The germs that share our lives by Frank Bowden
I heard the author of this on a radio program called Conversations with Richard Fidler and immediately wanted to read it. (This happens a lot with this and other ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) programs - I think I need to stop listening!) Word of warning - not for those with weak stomaches! Some of the descriptions are very graphic!

What I've  Read In The Last Week.


Hellfire and Damnation II - Connie Concoran Wilson - actually I read this one awhile ago, but the review has just been posted as part of the book tour for it. You can still enter the competition to win a digital copy just by commenting here!

The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling


The House of Memories - Monica McInerney


What's next?

Still need to get to  A Private Life by Michael Kirby for this months book group. I also have a few library books that need to read and returned

So what are you reading? Leave me a link, I'd love to know!

The House of Memories

Title: The House of Memories  
Author: Monica McInerney
Genre: Fiction
 Audience: Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are those that matter most.
Following a tragic accident, Ella O'Hanlon flees to the other side of the world in an attempt to escape her grief, leaving behind the two people she blames for her loss: Aidan, the love of her life, and Jess, her spoilt half-sister.
In London Ella is taken in by her beloved uncle Lucas, whose extraordinary house holds many wonderful memories for her. Along with other members of the very colourful Fox family, Lucas helps Ella to see that she is not the only one still hurting, and that forgiveness can be the greatest healer in a family and in a marriage.
For anyone who has ever loved and lost, this is an exquisitely moving and life-affirming novel by the internationally bestselling author of Lola's Secret
.


What I thought:  Monica McInerney is very hit and miss with me - I either love her books or can't get past the first 50 pages. I heard her on the radio this week and made a mental note to check out this one. The next time I walked into my local library, there it was, sitting on the Hot Reads shelf. Hot Reads at my library are books that can't be put on hold and are only a one week loan - see it, grab it, read it, return it!
This one really tugs at your heart strings. It deals with a scenario that is every parents worst nightmare- the loss of a child. I don't know how I would cope if anything happened to my gorgeous kids, but I would like to think I would draw family closer to me, not push them away. Ella pushes.
For me the book worked because it was all from Ella's point of view. Her grief is all consuming and you are immersed in it. You see things only as she sees them, giving you a skewed vision of events and others involved in it. This immersion allows the reader, like Ella, to slowly discover things are not completely as they seem, that the hurt in this situation is not hers alone, or hers to bear alone.
As with any "chick lit" style book, things all work out in the end - lets face it, it's one of the reasons we read books like this - a nice, tidy ending every now and then is good. So despite the emotional subject, it is still a light read. I enjoyed it.


14 October, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

This is how I plan to spend Sunday afternoon on my deck. Does it get any better?


13 October, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Kindle

From Goodreads: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

What I thought: I was thrilled to recieved my pre ordered copy of this book. I in no way expected it to be another Harry Potter, but one of the things I loved about the Potter books were that they were written by someone who could actually write! I am a big believer in the best idea in the hands of a bad writer will result in a bad book. Potter was not only a brilliant idea, Rowling knows her craft and hooks the reader not just with her ideas, but her ability to bring them to life on the page. And that's what I was looking for here - good writing. I'm a big fan of writers who step outside of what they are known for. Too often I find writers who write one genre get boring, repetative and give me a feeling of haven't-I-read-this-before? So I was excited to find out not only was Rowling stepping away from children's books, but also away from fantasy. I was also terrified! What if she didn't pull it off? What if she wasn't versitle enough to translate her skills? What if I hated it? What I am pleased to say is she did pull it off - and well! The book is no Harry Potter, but then again, for I think Potter may be a once in a life time thing. I don't think she will ever write something so engrossing again (although I will be more than happy to be proved wrong!). But The Casual Vacancy is good. The writing is tight and just as expressive as Potter. Once again her ability to breath life into characters is a real strength - in fact the true strength of this book is it's characters. The Casual Vacancy is a character driven book. The reactions and the emotions of the characters is what keeps you reading. It's real and gritty. The characters are not all likeable, they don't all fall neatly onto the side of good or evil. What they are is believable, flawed, struggling with their own demons and determined to live their lives they way they feel they have a right to. I've heard some people have had issues with the swearing and sex in the book, but I can't see what the fuss is about. It's no worse than you get in a lot of books and the reality is people swear and have sex. It's not out of place and it's not gratuitous, it just is. Having read The Casual Vacancy, I look forward to more adult fiction from Rowling. I believe she is a writer who is here to stay.

 Challenges: Ebook Challenge    


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12 October, 2012

BOOK TOUR - Hellfire & Damnation II - AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Welcome back to the Hellfire & Damnation II Virtual Book Tour! Hosted  by 
 Don't forget to comment on this or any other post on my blog for a chance to win a digital copy of the book. Competition is open internationally and closes on the last day of the tour - October 31.
Click on the tour link on the right hand side to see the rest of the tour dates and places.


 Today I have the privilege of sharing an interview with the author of Hellfire & Damnation II - Connie Corcoran Wilson!


About the Author
Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo) which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year . She is an active, voting member of HWA (Horror Writers Association).
Her stories and interviews with writers like David Morrell, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederik Pohl and Anne Perry have appeared online and in numerous journals. Her work has won prizes from “Whim’s Place Flash Fiction,” “Writer’s Digest” (Screenplay) and she will have 12 books out by the end of the year. Connie reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch and now blogs for 7 blogs, including television reviews and political reporting for Yahoo.
Connie lives in East Moline, Illinois with husband Craig and cat Lucy, and in Chicago, Illinois, where her son, Scott and daughter-in-law Jessica and their three-year-old twins Elise and Ava reside. Her daughter, Stacey, recently graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, as a Music Business graduate and is currently living and working in Australia.
  
So, grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee, or if you prefer, a glass of wine and welcome Connie Corcoran Wilson to Little Black Marks!


Kylie: In his introduction, Jason V Brock says when he first met you, you were "a bit of a blur: Fast-talking, fast moving, on the run." Is this an accurate description of you? If yes, do you struggle with sitting down to write?
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Connie: I have a terrible time tearing myself away from all the fun distractions of life (movies, dinner out, etc.) with the husband (of 45 years), so I bought myself a Writer’s Lair in Chicago, which is quite near my son’s home there (with his wife and three-year-old twin daughters.) When I really need to get something done, I have to shut myself away and go there to write…I mean, if I have A LOT to get accomplished. I’m working on being able to write anywhere any time, but I can, right now, only do that when I write “short” (i.e. Yahoo pieces, blog pieces, etc.) I tend to multi-task and, even when watching television, I have my laptop on and am doing something or am playing ‘Hanging with Friends” on my cell phone. There are only so many hours in your life, and I don’t want to miss a thing (as the song goes.) Plus, I started writing fiction late (2003), although I’ve written for pay for 57 years, just not fiction.
K: Obviously you took inspiration from Dante's Inferno for Hellfire & Damnation II. I thought some of your writing was reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe (who I love). Was he an influence? What other influences do you have?

C: I LOVED Poe’s work, too, and visited his grave in Baltimore, because the franchise system I was a member of for close to 20 years (Sylvan Learning Systems) was headquartered there. I remember reading “The Collected Works” of Poe while sleeping on the floor of the lounge in Currier Hall on campus at the University of Iowa in 1960, where I was visiting my older sister. [She was supposed to get me a bed, but failed in her task, so I stayed up all night reading.] I also enjoy Stephen King and Philip K. Dick and William F. Nolan (a mentor, of sorts)---especially Bill’s short stories--- and Dean Koontz and Peter Straub---plus many others too numerous to mention. Two new names you should check out are Jason V Brock and Pete Giglio, both very good new writers.

K: My favourite stories in this collection were Limbo (First Circle) and Letters to LeClaire (Circle six). Do you have a favourite?

C: I have a wicked sense of humor (appropriate term, don’t you think?) so I like the semi-funny ones “M.R.M.” and “Room Service,” but I think one of the best, in terms of plot, is “The Bureau” and I also liked the non-stop dialogue of “Oxymorons.” But, then again, I like “The Champagne Chandelier,” which was the last one I wrote. I’m glad you like “Cold Corpse Carnival,” however, as my Norwegian Grandfather Monson inspired that one. And, as for “Letters to LeClaire,” that one was one of the most interesting to write, because of the research that went into it. In the paperback (which is slightly different in its illustrations) the publisher (John Teehan of The Merry Blacksmith) really did a masterful job of inserting certain REAL documents I had ferreted out. It also was written for a good cause, to benefit the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire (his hometown) and “M.R.M.” in “Slices of Flesh” anthology also was contributed for a good cause (literacy, my life’s work).

K: Having read Hellfire & Damnation II I have now downloaded Dante's Inferno. Do you hope to encourage people to read more of the classics? What else would you recommend for those who were interested in exploring this genre further?

C: I would recommend that they IMMEDIATELY order “The Color of Evil,” the first novel in my trilogy, which was released in January AND order the first “Hellfire & Damnation” book. (Interviewer's note: I have taken this advice and ordered both books!) There’s a website up now at www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com which will give you an idea what sort(s) of stories are contained in the first book. So, run, don’t walk, to that website and, while you’re at it, check out www.TheColorOfEvil.com. Let’s drive these puppies to the front page of Kindle! You can do it! Who’s with me? (Imagine John Belushi now leading people from the room, who do not follow, a la “Animal House”)

K: Many of the stories appeared first in other anthologies or as flash fiction. Did you review or rewrite and of them before publishing them in this collection?

C: Actually, not that many appeared anywhere else before this book. I think that, out of 11 stories, only “M.R.M.” and “Letters to LeClaire” and a version of the Resurrection Mary story that is totally different appeared elsewhere. I try to keep nearly all of the stories in the “H&D” series as new and never seen before, if possible. It is true that I submitted a couple to a local writing prompt contest, but those never saw the light of day so those don’t count. So, 3 out of 11 is, I think, the previously published number and 2 of those 3 are among the very shortest stories (“M.R.M.” and “Tempus Fugit: Resurrection Mary”) in terms of words. I rewrote “Tempus Fugit” about ten times; it kept getting (slightly) longer each time. And, as I mention in the “From the Author” portion, I rewrote “M.R.M.” to change the name of the protagonist and, also, to lengthen it. But, if you were to figure up the actual word count of the “already saw that” stories, I doubt if it would even be as high as 15% of the 53,000 words. (Of course, somebody mathematical will now do that and prove me wrong, but I do think that most of the stories are “new.”) I did post “The Bureau” on Kindle for 99 cents as a “teaser” and a publisher in Germany has contacted me about publishing it and/or the entire book, but I don’t know if that will happen. (Dr.Bodo Polzer, if you’re reading this: call me).

K: Can you describe your writing environment?

C: As I mentioned earlier, when I really need to “Bear down Chicago Bears,” I go to my Writer’s Lair in Chicago, which is located within a small brick building I refer to as “the baby building” at 1250 S. Indiana (Lakeside on the Park) because it is only 14 stories with 168 units, while the 5th tallest building in the city is across the street and to the left in the Central Station District. I used to have a totally unobstructed view of Lake Michigan from the side bedroom (my writer’s room) but then the Big Glass and Steel Buildings began to be built, so now I can (still) see a sliver of the Lake with sailboats, the fake dinosaur outside the Field Museum and, as a special treat, the blue top of the Shedd Aquarium, which is lit up at night. But I used to be able to sit in the living room and see the fireworks from Navy Pier and it is truly a treat to visit there, even if I am working. It is at the end of Grant Park, right across the street from where Obama accepted the nomination in 2008 (I “live blogged” all night from that location), on Indiana, one block off Michigan. I love it and that’s where most of my writing gets finished.
It’s either that or the basement of my home in the Illinois Quad Cities, which is crammed with books and drifted over with papers. Which would you prefer?

K: When you're not writing, what do you like to do?
C: My husband and I are leaving for Hawaii (August 30th) as I will be a presenter at the Hawaii Writers’ Conference now known as www.SpellbindersConference.com. I’m very excited, as Jane Smiley, John Travolta, Jacqueline Mitchard, Gary Marshall (of TV sit com fame), the gentleman who wrote “The Book of Eli” and a host of other famous names will be there. Then, I was planning on attending KillerCon in Las Vegas (Sept. 20-23), because the IHeartRadio show is going on down the street at the MGM Grand (Aerosmith and Bon Jovi on Saturday night). I went last year. We plan a cruise to New Zealand from Sydney for a month in January, as our daughter is there, living and working, and we will go to Cancun at Easter, as we have for 2 weeks every year for 18 years. (*Note story “The Shell”). We own time shares there and in Mazatlan. I like beaches and reading and movies and fine dining and politics as a spectator sport and was the Content Producer of the Year for Politics for a 400,000 member blog which was bought by Yahoo, so I now write for that 600000 member group. I will be covering the Chicago Film Festival for 2 weeks in October (as I have for at least 5 years) and I’ll be writing many of my adventures up on www.WeeklyWilson.com. We also drove all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica Pier in 10 days back in 2008 and attended the Fort El Reno Ghost Tour to write 3 volumes of short stories about “Ghostly Tales of Route 66” for a small press in Iowa (very “G” rated). So, I like to travel, go to concerts and movies, write about them, socialize, follow presidential politics (Romney will be here at 12:30 tomorrow and Obama was here in Davenport, Iowa, last week) and I covered the NATO demonstrations in Chicago for Yahoo. I think I have something like 850 articles “up” on that blog. I also play 4 musical instruments and enjoy music, and the daughter is a Music Business graduate of Belmont in Nashville who worked for Taylor Swift (briefly). I am a person either in constant motion or in a deep coma. I also like to write at night and sleep late, so there are some conflicts that I need to work out, but, so far, it works for me.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Connie Corcoran Wilson for this interview - my very first.

 Bev over at The Wormhole, also has a stop on the tour today - go check it out!

Want to know what other stops are on the tour? Click on the Tour link on the right hand side of the page.


DON'T FORGET TO COMMENT IN ORDER TO WIN AN EBOOK COPY OF CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON'S HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION II!