30 June, 2010

The Lost Quilter

The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Lost Quilter is the 14th book in the Elm Creek Quilts Series. Only two more to go - at least until March 2011 when the next book is due!
After my disappointment at the last Elm Creek Book - The Quilter's Kitchen - I was really pleased to find how much I enjoyed The Lost Quilter.
In the Runaway Quilt, we were introduced to Joanna, a runaway slave who was sheltered by the Bergstroms and set them on the path of being a station on the underground railway. The Bergstroms and therefore the readers, never found out what happened to Joanna. All they knew was she had made a Birds in the Air quilt that had landmarks stitched into it, presumably to help her find her way back to Elm Creek.
The Lost Quilter opens with the discovery of an old letter in a desk, asking Gerda (one of Sylvia's anscestors who helped Joanna) if she knew the whereabouts Douglass Frederick. It is assumed this is Joanna's son who was born during her stay with the Bergstroms and raised by Sylvia's great-grandparents as their own. Once again this encourages Sylvia to try and discover what happened to Joanna.
After this introductory piece, the reader is led back to 1859 and Joanna's recapture. The book then follows her story from that time to her eventual escape to freedom during the civil war.
I've read a little about the time of slavery in America, but not a huge amount. Everytime I do, I am struck with the same anger and confusion I feel when I read about the Stolen Generation in Australia. I simply cannot wrap my head around the arrogance it must take to believe you are better than someone else simply because of the colour of your skin. Not only that, to think that another human does not feel emotions like you do, again, simply because of skin colour. I know there is a historical context, influences of church, state and peers, but I frequently find myself enraged that someone can be so stupid!  At one stage during the book, Joanna is seperated from her husband and child. Sent to live in another household with no thought to the anguish this will cause. In fact, as far as her owners (and I shudder as I type that word. How can you own another human being??) are concerned, Joanna simply doesn't have those feelings.
Negroes don't feel love or sadness the way we do. They may give the appearance of true feeling, but they understand these sensations only in a brute, rudimentary way, such as a dog or horse might. What you see now is fear and stubbornness, as simple as that.
How could you or can you (as, unfortunately I know some people still do.) think like that? Just. Don't. Get. It!

I know this book is a work of fiction and in the scheme of slavery fiction, a fairly fluff piece at that, but I feel Chiaverini has done enough research to project a fairly accurate picture of one slaves life in those unbelievable times. Quite possibly my favourite Elm Creek book so far.

29 June, 2010

What the Mother Knew

What the Mother Knew: The Real Story of the Jody Galante Murder by Edmund Tadros

On January 7, 2006, Mark Galante reported his wife Jody missing. For the next 6 weeks he played the part of grieving husband, making public pleas for her safe return. In reality, Mark knew exactly where Jody was and what had happened to her, because he had killed her.

Jody's mum, Julie-Anne wasn't overly fond of Mark. She didn't like the way he controlled who she could and couldn't see, where she could and couldn't go and felt sure he was instrumental in her disappearance. However, she supported him, held his hand at Jody's funeral, comforted him during press conferences, all to protect her grandchild and to give the police the time they needed to collate the evidence. They didn't want to tip Mark off.

I've always admired Julie-Anne Hand. It's unthinkable to stand next to the man you and the police are sure killed you daughter and hold his hand.

Tadros says in the introduction of the book:

This is not the book I intended to write. That book focused on...Julie-Anne Hand, and the investigation into Jody's murder. but, as I began talking to friends, family and acquaintances of Jody and her husband, Mark, it became clear that many answers lay in the past.
The issue then became how much I should reveal to the public. There is an amorphous lone between reporting accurately and providing to much detail...I have always erred on explaining enough so that it is clear wha is going on without going into excessive detail.
This line is different for everyone so it is up to the reader to decide if I have succeeded or failed in this regard.
For me, he failed. The book examines the events leading up to Jody's murder and the events leading to Mark's arrest. In the end, it has very little to do with Julie-Anne. I thought the book would look at her feelings, what she knew, how she knew and how she found the strength to pretend to be supporting Mark while wanting to get him as far away from her and her family as possible.

The book is well written and informative - it's just not what I thought it would be about. Given it's not the book he planned to write either, maybe Tadros should have changed the title.

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.

Today's Teaser Tuesday comes from:

 The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

On other rooftops throughout the city, others gathered, watching the fierce spectacle. For hours every other fort in the harbor unleashed its fury upon the starving men holed up in Fort Sumter, but not a single shot came from the Battery. 

True Blood Giveaway!

Now I have ummed and ahhed about whether or not to read this set of books, but when there is a chance of winning them, well it must be fate!

For your chance to win head over to Ayesha's blog, The Readings of a Busy Mom and leave a comment. Extra chances if you follow and blog about it yourself! And the best bit? - it's international!!

28 June, 2010

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

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

What I have finished this week
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert 

What am I reading now?
What the Mother Knew by Edmund Tadros

From smhshop.com.au

From the moment Julie-Anne Hand was told her pregnant daughter's body had been found in the Blue Mountains in January 2006, she was certain her son-in-law was guilty of the murder.
A devastated Mrs Hand had to spend the next five weeks pretending Mark Galante was innocent - comforting him about losing a wife, publicly supporting him and even holding his hand at Jody's funeral - while police gathered evidence.
What the Mother Knew is the real story of Jody's murder and subsequent trial, pieced together from police transcripts, interviews with the family and conversations with the killer.
 This has been on my to read shelf for awhile. I remember this case. I remember Julie-Anne Hand standing beside her son-in-law, holding his hand, comforting him during press conferences. I love true crime books and find that I am flying through this.

What's next?
Hmmm, so much to choose from! I picked up The Lost Quilter  from the library this morning. I'm getting to the end of this series and am eager to finish it. I've also got Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer out from the library. I had to renew it this morning so should most probably read it and get it back.

So, what are you reading this Monday?


Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love which I read back in January.

At the end of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth had met and fallen in love with Felipe. Felipe had also experienced a failed marriage and neither were interested in remarrying so they swore never to marry. Which was fine - until the day the U.S government would not allow him back in the country. The only way around it was to marry.

While waiting for the appropriate paper work to come through, Elizabeth and Felipe traipsed around South East Asia. For Elizabeth it was a chance to research marriage and find a reason to make it valid, other than it was the only way her and Felipe could live in America together.

What I love about the way Elizabeth Gilbert writes is she doesn't make me feel guilty or wrong for believing in marriage and being happy in mine. She makes it very clear, frequently that these misgivings and fear are hers and hers alone. She owns them, she examines them and she accepts they are not every ones. In a book that could be incredibly preachy and judgemental - she isn't.

It took me a little longer to get into Committed than it did Eat, Pray, Love. I think because she does go into the history of marriage and the statistics involved. But once I got over that, it was another un-put-downable book. Her experiences in talking to different cultures about marriage are fascinating. Her search for something that will alleviate her fears and misgivings interesting and her final discovery of something that makes it all ok a relief. You just want these people to be happy!

Elizabeth Gilbert has also written 3 fiction books that I am debating whether or not to read. Having enjoyed her non fiction so much, I am scared they won't live up to what I expect. So, today's question, do I read her other stuff, or do I not tempt fate?

25 June, 2010


Tracks by Robyn Davidson

I read this for our Book Group. Well, to be honest, I read most of it and then skimmed the last 60 - 70 pages.

In  1977 Robyn Davidson trekked across Australia from Alice Springs to the west coast with camels. The two years prior to this was spent in and around Alice Springs, learning about camels and equipping herself for the trip.

I would like to say I admire the woman for what she did, but I don't. I didn't like her and while traipsing across harsh desert country is hard work, her attitude towards other people and her apparent dislike of what she is doing just didn't endear her to me. In fact, several things confused me.

For a start, she continually goes on about how she wants to be left alone, to trek by herself, yet when she is by herself she seems to be miserable, prone to bouts of depression only to become happy when staying for awhile at a station or settlement.

She meets and learns how to handle camels from a man who is abusive and sadistic. She continues to allow him to treat her in the most horrendous way and continually refuses to take any responsibility for staying and allowing him to. I know about battered wife syndrome, I know it can be hard to walk away from someone you love who is not good for you, but she didn't even like this man! He had no hold on her, yet she stayed!

Davidson also took a sponsorship deal from National Geographic. In fact without the sponsorship it is unlikely she would have been able to buy the equipment she needed.  The deal was for articles written by Davidson and a photographer to join her on several sections of the track to take photos. She resented this immensely and at times was, to my mind, incredibly rude to someone who helped her secure the sponsorship and was just trying to do his job. His sin, as far as I can work out, was to not be as into the whole experience she was. He wanted to get his photos and then move onto his next job. Really how dare she!

I also have issues with how she discusses the aboriginal population and their treatment, however, this became less of an issue as I continued to remind myself of when the book was written. However, her tone is condescending and patronising.

Many of the reviews I looked at on Goodreads had a problem with the violence towards the camels as well. Now I'm not an expert on camels, but I am sure there has to be a better way to teach a camel whose boss that to tie it to a tree by its legs and then proceed to beat it with a bit of wood until it breaks and then use an iron bar. (I kid you not) I get the animal charged, I get that it was in a rage, but it was tied to a tree by the legs!

Really, without the motivation of book group, I would not have gone past the first 50 pages. Definitely not one I will be recommending!

24 June, 2010

The Quilter's Kitchen

The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini

This is the 13th book in The Elm Creek Quilts series.

I'm still really struggling with Tracks, so when I got notice from the library that The Quilter's Kitchen was in, I decided to take a break.

For the first time, I wasn't impressed at all with an Elm Creek Quilt novel. Basically the new chef and Sylvia are cleaning out the kitchen in preparation for it's remodelling. As they clean various items trigger Sylvia's memories of her family and the role of the kitchen in the house. Each chapter is accompanied by a bunch of recipes. In a 220p book, (large print - it was the only copy the library had) only 75 pages were story. The rest were recipes that while interesting, I feel could have been made into a stand alone book rather than having a story attached to them. For me, the story was written simply to give a reason to publish the recipes. The Elm Creek franchise by this stage is strong enough that a book of Elm Creek Recipes most probably would have sold anyway without the lure of a story attached. Given I only read the stories and not the recipes, I will be honest and list this as only having 75p. in my page count.

22 June, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

This is a new meme (for me anyway!) 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.

So my first Teaser Tuesday is:

 In the beginning, the women had everything. They had the power to procreate, they supported the tribe and kept them alive with their knowledge of bush foods, and they had a natural superiority.
From: Tracks by Robyn Davidson

21 June, 2010

What are you reading Monday?

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

I have been slack in participating in this meme, but I'm trying to blog more than just reviews, so lets get back on track!

And speaking of tracks, that's what I'm reading! Tracks by Robyn Davidson. Tell you the truth, I'm struggling. I'm reading it for my book group this month and that is the only reason I am still going.

So, my question is, when you are struggling with a book what do you do? Do you keep going in the hope it gets better or do you decide to chuck it in? Does it make a difference if there is a reason behind reading it, like a book group? Seriously, if it was any other book I would have chucked it to one side by now and moved onto something else! I'm mean, it's not like I don't have any other options! (I am, by the way, down to 56!)

A Lucky Child

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy - Thomas Burgenthal

Being a Jewish child in Nazi Germany was not a good thing. The Nazi's didn't have a lot of use for children - you were either killed or used for medical experiments. Thomas Burgenthal managed to avoid both.

A fortune teller told his mother before the war that he was a lucky child and would come through the coming period unscathed. This is what his mother held to when everyone around her said there would be no chance of a child surviving - especially when he had been sent to Auschwitz.

For me, Thomas Burgenthal was lucky in so many ways. He and his mother found each other after the war, so many survivors had no family left. Given what he went through, he came through relatively intact - physically and mentally.

A Lucky Child was an interesting read. It is quite amazing that he survived.

17 June, 2010


Columbine by Dave Cullen

Everyone knows the story of Columbine, right? April 20, 1999 two kids, outcasts in their school, pushed to the edge by bullying, went on a shooting rampage that turned the name of a school into a noun.

Wrong. I will freely admit it, this is what I thought, this is what the media fed us and, while I can't speak for other countries, especially the USA, I am assuming this is what a lot of people continue to think.

Dave Cullen reported on Columbine. He freely admits to helping perpetuate some of the myths surrounding the event. But in this book, he details not only the event and events leading up to it, he shines a light on what was reported, what was suppressed and the fight to make sure people understand exactly what happened at Columbine High.

I will put my hand up to a morbid fascination on things like this. My shelf is full of books on serial killers and mass murderers. What drives someone to do this? How twisted and messed up do they have to be? And what can we do to stop it?

Columbine is not an easy book to read, but it is compelling. Dave Cullen's recreation may not have all the answers, but it definitely allows you to understand that most of the popular assumptions about Columbine, it's victims and it's perpetrators are simply myths.

NOTE: On April 28, 1996, a gun man massacred 35 and injured a further 21 at Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia. Walter Mikac lost his wife and two young daughters. In his 1997 book, To Have and To Hold, he wrote the following note.

A conscious decision has been made in this book not to print the name of the gunman who perpetrated the dreadful acts of 28 April, 1996 - a campaign begun by the Dunblane parents in a book published in Great Britain in 1997 called Our Year of Tears.
As we prepared the book for publication, we were determined to continue the crusade. This is a story of love and hope with no place for either of these creatures. They do not have a place in history, alongside their victims.
 When I first read that note, it struck a chord with me. So often we remember the people who inflicted the pain, but not those who died, or who will forever be affected by their acts. As a mark of respect to those affected by Columbine, I will not type the name of the offenders. And, although I cannot list all those injured physically or mentally by their actions, I will list the names and ages of those who died that day.

Rachel Scott - 17
Daniel Rohrbough - 15
Dave Sanders - 47
Kyle Velasquez - 16
Steven Curnow - 14
Cassie Bernall - 17
Isaiah Shoels - 18
Matthew Kechter - 16
Lauren Townsend - 18
John Tomlin - 16
Kelly Fleming - 16
Daniel Mauser - 15
Corey DePooter - 17

15 June, 2010


Scission by Tim Winton

This is Tim Winton's first collection of short stories and made for a very easy read. Stories range from a young girl who discovers a hidden cache of eggs, the changing relationship between neighbours, a couples honeymoon that doesn't live up to expectations and plans to get ahead that don't work out.

As I have said before, I love Tim Winton, but I am sure I miss half of the symbolism in his writing. I find his writing almost lyrical and his imagery so clear.

A cow bassooned softly. Egg lay on his back. The sky pressed down and it made him think that is someone knocked the chocks from the right corners, the whole lot would crash down and the world would be as it must once have been, with no margin between earth and space, no room for light or dark, plant or animal, no people. (Lantern Stalk p. 46)
 It just sings to me. Once again, with my ban on new books until I work through some existing,  I'm not sure when I will get to Winton again. I will miss him.

The Ice House

The Ice House by Minette Walters

Minette Walters is an author I have recently added to my Authors I Want to Read page. I know I have read some of her stuff, but know I haven't read all of them, so the best idea is to go back to the beginning! Although after my husband put a ban on me procuring more books until I reduce the number I already have, I don't know when I will get to another of hers.

The Ice House was Walters first book, published in 1992. Ten years ago David Maybury disappeared. The police suspected his wife, but without a body, were unable to prove he was actually dead and hadn't just left as she claimed. Now ten years on, a body has been found in the ice house at Streech Grange and the questions start again.

Walters is a fantastic writer. She manages to maintain the suspense throughout the novel, making the reader want more, but also scared to find the truth. Her characters are believable, likeable and not always what they seem. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read more. Surely I can manage to hide a few library books from The Husband??

Teachers Who Change Lives.

Teachers Who Change Lives by Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game

I saw this at the library one day and as a teacher, just had to pick it up. It has interviews with many well known Australians such as Stephanie Alexander, Drusilla Modjeska, Greg Chappell, Shane GouldMichael Kirby and Julie McCrossin about teachers who touched their lives and what it was about them that have made them so memorable. It also interviews practising teachers about what they do to inspire and encourage their students.

While I found the book interesting, by the end I found it a bit repetitive. Good teachers are the ones who inspire their students with passion, who provide a safe and supportive environment to take risks in and encourage their charges to pursue those things that interest them the most. It was worth reading if for no other reason it reminded me of good teaching practise and reaffirms that what I do in a classroom counts.

10 June, 2010

How many is too many?


Is that really such a big number?? It's the number of books currently on my "to read" shelf. It's not the total number of books I want to read, just those I actually have in my physical possession.  
Some I own, some have been borrowed from friends, some have be borrowed from the library.

Some have been there mere hours, some for years.

I plan to read all of them...eventually.

When I told my husband the number this afternoon. His eyebrows raised and he said "hmmmmm." Which was followed a little later by "Maybe you should stop until you get it down to ten."

My heart skipped a beat. I mean, he may be partly right, we are trying to watch the money a little closer at the moment, maybe I could stop order of Book Depository for a bit, but surely I could keep borrowing from the library. He shook his head.

The one concession is I can still order Book Group books.  I'm going to see if I can make the last four of my Elm Creek books, my library concession.

So, how many are on your to read shelf? Do you think you could stop accumulating? Do you think I should? 

UPDATE: I'm in real trouble! My husband, being the techie geek he is has actually rerouted BD's web address on my computer so it loads to his business home page! HELP!! Think I may take a friend's advice. Her comment on my Facebook page reads:

So, that means no housework/school run/cooking dinner etc until you're at the magic number... right?

The Winding Ways Quilt

The Winding Ways Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini.

This is the 12th book in the Elm Creek Quilts Series.

With this we are back on track. New staff have been employed and this summer marks the last season for two of the founding members of the Elm Creek Quilts. The books chapters deals with each founding member separately, telling the story of how they became a quilter and the effect the breaking of their circle is having on them.

I liked this. Chiaverini has taken this approach before - examining each character separately and weaving their individual story into the whole. It gives you a chance to catch up with each character and discover a little more of their personal histories. By delving into the characters back story, I find Chiaverini avoids the idea that there is one drama after another at the quilt camp, a problem I find with many serialised books and TV shows. (Just how many murders can you have in Midsommer??) The dramas the camp itself faces are believable as well - staff not turning up, staff leaving.

I only have 4 more books left in this series to read and am torn between having a Elm Creek Quilt fest, or drawing it out a bit! I may have to draw it out, especially once I talk to my husband! Watch out for my next post to see what I mean!

New Year's Quilt

New Year's Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini.

This is the 11th book in the Elm Creek Quilts series.

I've discovered with this series that at times it jumps backwards from where you expect it to be! In my mind there are two types of Elm Creek Quilt books. The first are set in the present or immediate past. These books focus on the women who have set up Elm Creek Quilts or those who attend camps there. The second are historical and focus on the history of Sylvia's family and friends, usually around the time of the civil war. The last of the books set in the present time was The Circle of Quilters which focussed on the search for new teachers. New Year's Quilt however, is set directly after The Master Quilter. Once you manage to sort out the time line in your head, it's all good and you are off on another wonderful, easy to read, fun book.

After finding the last of these books, The Quilter's Homecoming, a bit slow going, I was worried I was losing interest in these books. But, no. Once again this was started in finished in just over 24 hours. Seriously, for me, you can't beat these books for a good, light easy read. Unfortunately due to the timeline issue, I can't say too much about the book, as it would give away what happens in the Master Quilter and I would hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read them yet.

Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies

Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies. A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made by Michael Adams

It's just about to hit midnight on New Year's Eve and my pulse is pounding because the ball in about to drop. I'm not in Times Square, watching the big orb descend, surrounded by a million screaming New Yorkers. I'm in my living room in Sydney, cranking a toy bingo machine, while my better half, Clare, and a few close friends count down the last seconds of the year...
I catch their bemused glances. I know it is reiculous, being this excited...about little white number spheres. Then again, the rattling cage of balls is going to decide how I spend the next twelve months. It's a common notion - what you do on New Year's Eve is what'll you  do for the following year - but for once it's true. For the next 365 days I 'm going to watch one bad film a day to discover what is the worst movie ever made - and I'll view the schlock in the order dictated by the bingo machine.
 And that is how Michael Adams started 2008. For the whole year he watched bad movie after bad movie. Who knew there was so many, although you most probably won't be surprised to learn that a large number of them are monster movies or sci-fi.
Using The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) bottom 100 list and recommendations from friends, acquaintances and others in the movie business, he spent a huge amount of money on acquiring the movies and a massive amount of time on watching them.

It took me awhile to read this. It was an on-again, off-again type thing. It was interesting but not riveting. For me, a book mainly for movie buffs, especially if they are into cult movies.

Perfect Skin

Perfect Skin by Nick Earls

The 5th book in my Nick Earls retrospective. Perfect Skin revisits Jon Marshall, who we first met in Bachelor Kisses. Jon is older, partner in a laser surgery practise and has a 6 month baby. No mother of the baby is apparent, although you know there must be one and you do eventually find out about her.

Perfect Skin contains one of my favourite Nick Earls moments. It involves a toilet and a cat. Personally, I find the whole episode hilarious, but I won't spoil it for anyone here!

Once again Earls shines a spotlight on a specific time in someone's life, takes events that are quite challenging and make it entertaining. I continue to see his style develop. The further I go into his books, the more serious he becomes, yet he remains incredibly readable and enjoyable.