28 November, 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!

We won't even talk about how long it's been since I've participated in this!

What am I reading now.

Anil's Ghost

A friend lent me this months ago and I've finally got around to starting it. Enjoying it as well!

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

26 November, 2011

The Year of the Flood

Title: The Year of the Flood
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction - Dystopian
Audience: Adult
Format: Own

From Goodreads: The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.
Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .
Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away . . .
By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

What I thought: Margaret Atwood is a dystopian dream! Her imaginings of the future world is scary and imaginable. In a world where many seem to care less and less about the environment around them, what they put into their bodies or the welfare of others, Atwood's Year of the Flood seems to be a possibility. I love Atwood's characters. Even her good guys are flawed, no one is perfect and all have their little imperfections. I always find it hard to swallow perfect characters.
I think one of the reasons Atwood manages dystopian so well is her ability to draw the here and now into her future world. Things are identifiable to reader. In this, many of the saints honoured by God's Gardeners are present in our world today or close past as ecological and environmental crusaders. People such as Dian Fossey (American zoologist), Euell Gibbons (American proponent of natural diets, Anil Agarwal(Indian journalist and environmentalist, Nganeko Minhinnick (New Zealand Maori rights activist),  Wen Bo (Chinese environmental activist) and Tim Flannery (Australian environmentalist and global warming activitst) are all given Sainthood status. (You can find a full list of The Year of the Flood saints here)
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be the ending. It just stopped. I don't expect all the ends to be tied up, but I did find the ending a bit abrupt and sudden.

Recommended for: those who like dystopian fiction - especially if they enjoyed Atwood's The Handmaids Tale.

Challenges:  100+ Challenge,  A-Z Challenge

23 November, 2011

Quotable Quotes

Sometimes when I am reading a book, I come across a quote that for some reason grabs me. It may simply be beautifully written or it speaks to me on a deeper level. I often think I must write that down! - which I do, on a piece of paper somewhere that floats around for a week or two until it disappears. So, I thought instead I would create a page for these quotes. Every now and then, I will do a Quotable Quotes post and then add the actual quote to the Quotable Quotes page so I can keep track of them. The link for the page is now on the right hand side of the page - made for me by my wonderful husband!

My first Quotable Quote (how many times can I write that in one post!) Comes from Brenda Walker's book, Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life.

Emperor Saga read as a saviour, Adolf Hitler as a slaughterer. The rest of us probably read as we hope to travel, flying away, losing our bearings just enough to be shown some strangeness, some wonder. Knowing we might not be comfortable for the whole journey but that we'll have something to talk about when we touch down.

 Just prior to this quote, Brenda Walker had described the different ways these men were described when they read. Emperor Saga savoured texts, looked to them for meaning and insight, a different way of looking at the world. Hitler dissected what he read, taking what he wanted to support his theories and ideas, discarding that didn't agree with his point of view. The idea of what we read taking us away, possibly making us uncomfortable, but leaving us with a tale to tell had me nodding my head and saying emphatically - Yes! That's why I read!

I'd love to read your thoughts on this quote, or read what has jumped out at you lately. Feel free to leave me a message, I'd love to hear from you!

22 November, 2011

Reading by Moonlight

Title: Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life
Author: Brenda Walker
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - Library

From Goodreads: The first time Brenda Walker packed her bag to go into hospital, she wondered which book to take with her. As a novelist and professor of literature, her life had been built around reading and writing. Now she was also a patient, being treated for breast cancer, fighting for her life and afraid for herself and her family. But turning to medicine didn't mean she turned away from fiction. Books had always been her solace and sustenance, and now choosing the right one was the most important thing she could do for herself.
In Reading by Moonlight, Brenda describes the five stages of her treatment and how different books and authors helped her through the tumultuous process of recovery. As well as offering wonderful introductions and insights into the work of writers like Dante, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Beckett and Dickens, Brenda shows how the very process of reading – surrendering and then regathering yourself – echoes the process of healing.
Reading by Moonlight guides, reassures, throws light on dark places, and finds beauty in the stories that come to us in times of jeopardy. It affirms that reading can be essential to life itself.

What I thought: I reserved, borrowed and returned this book twice before I actually got to read it on my third attempt. I wonder if I partly put it off because of the subject matter. My most wonderful mother in law (and I mean that sincerely, she is wonderful) is currently battling cancer. Not breast cancer, but cancer all the same. And at times, this book bought me to tears, just wondering if she was feeling the same way Brenda Walker describes her own feelings are various parts of her journey. To me the book read like a battle with cancer. I wouldn't say it was uplifting but anger iducing, tiring, causing self doubt, defiant and relentless. Walker's ability to draw comfort and parrallels with books was wonderful. I know there have been many times in my life when what I have been reading seems to reflect my life and I wonder if during those times you subconciously select those books, looking for direction or needing to identify with someone else and know you are not alone.
This book is worth it, just don't go into it thinking you will walk out feeling up lifted and triumphant. It is an honest account of one woman's  journey.

Recommended for: those who want a truthful, gritty account of dealing with cancer.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge

20 November, 2011

The Complete Peanuts 1957 - 1958

Title: The Compete Peanuts 1957 - 1958
Author: Charles Schulz
Genre: Comic
Series: Peanuts
Audience: Everyone!
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Volume 4 in this series takes us through 1957 and 1958.

What I thought: This was my much needed light relief while reading The Fear. I haven't read one of these since April, and in the end the comment is the same! Want a laugh? Go find a Peanuts book. Amongst the belly laughs is some great social and emotional commentary on the world as a whole and the life of a kid. Can you get any better than this? I enjoyed it so much, I'm off to put the next one on reserve now!

Recommended for: those who love Snoopy and the gang!

The Fear

Title: The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe
Author: Peter Godwin
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Library

From GoodreadsIn mid-2008, after thirty years of increasingly tyrannical rule, Robert Mugabe, the eighty-four-year-old ruler of Zimbabwe, met his politburo. He had just lost an election. But instead of conceding power, he was persuaded to launch a brutal campaign of terror to cower his citizens. Journalist and author Peter Godwin was one of the few observers to slip into the country and bear witness to the terrifying period that Zimbabweans call, simply, the Fear. Following on from his compelling and moving memoirs, "Mukiwa" and "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun", this is a personal journey through the country Peter Godwin grew up in and knows so well - a landscape and a people, grotesquely altered, laid waste by a raging despot. At considerable risk, he travels widely to see the torture bases, the burned villages, the death squads, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, the churchmen and the diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage. Told with Godwin's brilliant eye for character and natural story-telling gifts, this dark story of Africa's corruption and violence is populated by extraordinary characters whose lives have been shaped by the Fear.

What I thought: Do not read this book if you have a weak stomach. In fact, even if you have a strong stomach, prepare to be nauseated on a regular basis. Peter Godwin's account of the atrocities that have occurred in Mugabe's Zimbabwe is stomach turning. From the running off of white farmers, to the torture of those who support the opposition, Mugabe has taken Zimbabwe from a once prosperous, peaceful country to a hell on earth. I had to stop several times while reading this and go to something lighter. Unfortunately those living there don't have the same luxury.

Recommended for: those who want to bear witness to those who suffer for their beliefs.

Challenges:  100+ Challenge,

08 November, 2011

Listening to Country

Title: Listening to Country
Author: Ros Moriarty
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Library

From GoodreadsFrom a trip made by the author to the Australian desert to spend time learning the secrets and hearing the stories of her husband's family's matriarchs, comes a warm, intimate account providing rare insight into the spiritual and emotional world of Aboriginal women. Ros Moriarty is a white woman married to an Aboriginal man. Over the course of many visits to her husband's family, she was fascinated to discover that the older tribal women of his family had a deep sense of happiness and purpose that transcended the abject material poverty, illness, and increasing violence of their community—a happiness that she feels is related to an essential "warmth of heart" that these women say has gone missing in today's world. In May 2006, she had the chance to spend time in the Tanami Desert in north central Australia with 200 Aboriginal women, performing women's Law ceremonies. Here is the story of that trip and her friendship with these women, as she tells their stories and passes on their wisdom and understanding. Offering a privileged window into the spiritual and emotional world of Aboriginal women, this book is a moving story of common human experience, the getting and passing on of wisdom, and the deep friendship and bonds between women. It carries a moving and profound sense of optimism in the fundamental humanity we all share.

What I thought: This is a profoundly moving and emotional book. Ros Moriarty's husband, John, is one of the Stolen Generation, a generation of children taken from their indigenous families to be raised in missions and homes. He is one of the lucky ones in that he was able to find his family later in life and reconnect with them and his culture.
The cultures of many Aboriginal tribes are dying out. The older generation, the last to remember living bush, remember the dreaming and remember all the old ceremonies and customs are dying out. The younger generation who through various government interventions and policies are caught between the indigenous culture and the white world. They are not as interested in the old ways, but are disenfranchised by white culture. Australian Aborigines have higher rates of disease, maternal death, child death and incarceration than their white counterparts.
This book looks at the value of Aboriginal culture and the changes Ros Moriarty has seen over the years of traveling back to visit family. It explores the importance of retaining the links to the bush and the Law and why those links are not being maintained.

Recommended for: those with an interest in Aboriginal Australia past and present.

Challenges:  100+ Challenge,

05 November, 2011

When She Woke

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hilary Jordan
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Library

From Goodreads: When She Woke is, in its simplest terms, a futuristic retelling of The Scarlet Letter. This sophomore novel from Mudbound author Hillary Jordan takes Hawthorne's classic several steps further, turning it into a pointed, blunt warning about the consequences of an America run by the church, not the state. Hannah Payne is sentenced to sixteen years of melachroming for aborting her child. Instead of bearing a scarlet "A" like Hester, Hannah's pigment is dyed a stop sign red, leading her to endure an ostracizing societal punishment as well. Jordan seamlessly interweaves the back story of Hannah's relationship with her unborn child's father; their relationship is sudden, passionate and the short interspersed flashbacks enhance the story and Hannah's spontaneous personality. While she stumbles through rebuilding her life, her sudden decisions in moments of trouble are made with confidence and determination. Jordan purposefully makes the story about Hannah's journey by keeping her secondary characters exactly that -- secondary. Although they may guide and assist Hannah on her path, the decisions, character-building, and strength all come from within. Hannah is ultimately responsible for her future and she takes full responsibility for her past. While some readers may balk at Jordan's political and religious messages, the story of owning our decisions and actions is the focus of this engaging tale of redemption.

What I thought: What an interesting idea. In a world where the prison population is ever expanding, we take to dying people's skins to let the world know what it is they have done. Add the fact that if the melachroming is not refreshed every four months your mind starts to "defrag" and you have a very effective wall-less prison. Of course, as with most of these things, it's never as easy and clean cut as it sounds. Jordan's book was a great exploration of what could happen if the church enmeshes itself in state affairs. There is good reasons to keep them separate. I did have a few issues with the book though. Hannah's transformation from a true believer in God, trying to live the righteous life to the strong, independent woman was too swift for me. The seeds were always there - it mentions frequently she questioned her religion at a younger age and often struggled to do the "right" thing - but with the turmoil in her life, I wonder at the speed of it. The ending also ties up all lose ends, you are left questioning nothing. It wasn't quite a "and they all lived happily ever after" type ending, but you knew what happened to everyone and that they all survived to fight the good fight. In the end though, I enjoyed the book and would read more of Jordan's work.

Recommended for: those who like dystopian fiction

Challenges:  100+ Challenge, A-Z Challenge,