31 December, 2013

Book Review: Barracuda

From Goodreads: "He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close."
His whole life Danny Kelly's only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he's ever done - every thought, every dream, every action - takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny's win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys - he's Barracuda, he's the psycho, he's everything they want to be but don't have the guts to get there. He's going to show them all.
"He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm."
A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families.

Thoughts: My kids bought me this book for Christmas and like any good reader I started it immediately! It's my last review for 2013 and I am glad to be finishing on a high note.
Tsiolkas is an excellent writer. To say I enjoyed his book, The Slap  would be incorrect, because they are not books you enjoy really. You do however get engrossed and challenged by them.
Barracuda was the same - not enjoyable per say, but challenging and engrossing. At certain points in the book the Australian character is discussed, and not always in nice terms. This was unsettling, to see Australian's as others may see as and agree with some of the assessments they make about us.
Tsiolkas never sets out to make you like his characters. Flawed doesn't even start to describe some of them. Danny in particular had me running the full range of emotions about him - pride, pity, annoyance, understanding...
By the end of Barracuda you are questioning a lot of things - what does it take to make a champion, why do some keep going and others give up, what role does the family around you make and is what you perceive others think about you the truth and does it really matter.
Barracuda is an excellent read and a great way to finish the year.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenges

Book Review: Bring Up the Bodies

From Goodreads: Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.
At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies" follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?

Thoughts:  Wolf Hall was my last book of 2012, which apparently I then failed to review! I know that while I enjoyed it, it wasn't easy going, so have looked at this several times this year, but never quite been game enough. I finally bit the bullet and am glad I did. I found this easier to read than Wolf Hall, more familiar with the characters and more stable characters. (Let's face it, anything set at the King's Court during this period has a cast of thousands, all with hidden motives!) While I won't say I flew through it, I did read it a lot quicker.
I think you could read this as a stand alone quite easily, especially if you had a little knowledge about how Henry came to be married to Anne Boleyn. 
Mantel focuses on Cromwell, something not often done. You can almost feel the tightrope he walks as he deals with the King, Anne and the other members of court. I really hope she writes further books about Cromwell, as I know it doesn't end well for him and really would like to see how she chronicles his downfall.

Challenges: Ebook Challenge

Book Review: Men At Arms

From Goodreads:'Be a MAN in the City Watch! The City Watch needs MEN!'But what it's got includes Corporal Carrot (technically a dwarf), Lance-constable Cuddy (really a dwarf), Lance constable Detritus (a troll), Lance constable Angua (a woman... most of the time) and Corporal Nobbs (disqualified from the human race for shoving).
And they need all the help they can get. Because they've only got twenty-four hours to clean up the town and this is Ankh-Morpork we're talking about...

Thoughts: Ah Pratchett, when all else fails, there is Pratchett. I have finally started to drift into the territory of Pratchett's I haven't read before - don't ask me why I stop reading an author I so obviously love - I just did. Men at Arms focuses on the Night Watch, as they become a more professional outfit - going for a bit of representation of minority groups and actually attempting to solve crimes. However, there are people (including that Patrician and the head of most of the Guilds) who aren't so sure about these new fangled ideas. Once again though, good wins over evil (sort of) and everyone lives happily ever after (until the next time).

Challenges:  Ebook Challenge

26 December, 2013

Book Review - The Shifting Fog

From Goodreads: Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.
Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

Thoughts:  This has also been published as The House at Riverton.
As the end of her life draws near, Grace Bradley looks back at her life as a housemaid at the grand house, Riverton, and the tragic events that happened there.
This is the second Kate Morton I've read and I wonder why I left it so long! I actually listened to this as an audio book. While it took a little while to get into, it ended up being very engaging.
Morton shifted back and forth between 1999 and 1924 with ease. Using Grace as the connection, her recollection of earlier events opened the door onto the past. There was a twist at the end, which had been hinted it through the book, but you were never really sure what had happened and it still managed to surprise me. I can only hope I don't leave it this long before enjoying Kate Morton again!

Book Review: Habibi

From Goodreads:Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.
At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

Thoughts: This came around because I enjoyed Craig Thompson's Blankets  so much. 
Habibi follows two orphan slaves who run away and live in an abandoned boat in the desert. Separated, their journeys travel different paths, but they never forget each other.  Eventually they are reunited, but can the changes they have both gone through be overcome to find happiness.
Into the story Thompson swirls Christian and Islamic religious beliefs and ideas. If there was somewhere he lost me, that was it. The religious stories were meant (I think)to lend deeper meaning to the whole story - be a layer to help explain the content, but I often found it too hard to link back. They were more of a distraction or a side story.
The drawings were exquisite. Detailed and rich, you again could lose yourself in just looking at them. The story was engaging and you did become invested in the characters lives. Well worth the read.

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

From Goodreads: Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.

Thoughts: Well, hmmm, interesting. Like many, I loved The Time Traveler's Wife. It was such a beautiful love story and Niffengger is a lyrical writer. I'd been warned by many that this was very different and they were right.
Niffengger's writing is most probably what kept me going. She is mesmerising to read. The story however just kept getting stranger and stranger and the characters more and more inconsistent and unlikable. While I found the premise of The Time Traveler's Wife plausible, the further Her Fearful Symmetry wnet, the less believable I found it. I just think if Niffengger had taken it in a different direction or even changed the motivations  or actions of a couple of the characters it would have been a very different book. Instead I think she had an idea of where she wanted to go and continued (unsuccessfully) to force the story to that framework.

Chanllenges: Ebook Challenge

Book Review: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

From Goodreads: Precious Ramotswe has taken on two puzzling cases. First she is approached by the lawyer Mma Sheba, who is the executor of a deceased farmer’s estate. Mma Sheba has a feeling that the young man who has stepped forward may be falsely impersonating the farmer’s nephew in order to claim his inheritance. Mma Ramotswe agrees to visit the farm and find out what she can about the self-professed nephew. Then the proprietor of the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon comes to Mma Ramotswe for advice. The opening of her new salon has been shadowed by misfortune. Not only has she received a bad omen in the mail, but rumors are swirling that the salon is using dangerous products that burn people’s skin. Could someone be trying to put the salon out of business?
Meanwhile, at the office, Mma Ramotswe has noticed something different about Grace Makutsi lately. Though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing, it has become clear that she is pregnant . . . But in Botswana—a land where family has always been held above all else—this may be cause for controversy as well as celebration. 

Thoughts: It's always a good day when I discover a new No 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. It's like having an old friend pop over for a cup of tea and cake (because, as Mma Ramotswe says, you must have cake!) In this, the 14th book in the series, Mma is dealing with several issues. She needs to establish the true identity of a young man who is the beneficary of a will, discover who is trying to destroy the reputation on the new beauty salon at the mall and work out what she is going to do without Mma Makutsi when she has her baby!
As always, the contrast between the old Botswana and the new is apparent. The beauty of the landscape is showcased and the relief of rain felt. I always finish these books with a smile on my face, looking forward to the next one already.

Challenges: Ebook Challenge

25 December, 2013

Book Review: Emma

From Goodreads: 'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.

Thoughts: Finished! Two Austen's in one year - how good am I!

As always, to help with a classic, I also watched various versions - the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, The Emma inspired movie Clueless, The BBC 1970's version (very dry and very English!) and a later BBC version. Going a bit overboard?? Maybe...

I enjoyed the book, although like most writers of her time, Austen could get a bit verbose. Seriously, if one sentence takes up half a page, it might be time to review it! What I find really interesting is how judgmental the characters could be. The women would be described as plain, or pretty enough, but no great beauty, their intelligence judged and questioned. We talk about how bitchy women are today - I think they may have had their beginnings in Austen's time! To be fair, the men were also subject to such scrutiny. I did find Emma to be a pretentious cow at times, lucky to have any friends at all. Austen obviously was a great believer in the class system - everyone had their place and please stay there! However, I enjoy her books and will continue my quest to read all of her works.

Challenges: Ebook Challenge

Book Review: And The Mountains Echoed

From Goodreads: Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and step-mother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Adbullah, Pari, as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named, is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their skulls touching, their limbs tangled.
One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand.
Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways that we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history, and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.

Thoughts: I had high expectations for this book as I loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed.
Hosseini is a master storyteller. He weaves the threads of the story so perfectly it's seamless. The reader is let into secrets the characters will never know. You hold you breath as you wonder when or if the characters are going to find out that one crucial piece of information, or will they meet before it is too late.
Hosseini exposes both the beauty and brutality of Afghanistan. His characters are flawed and damaged, unable to keep promises or realise their full potential. Never read one of his books expecting a happy ending, but do expect to be spell bound and touched by a writer whose books are bound to become classics.

24 December, 2013

Book Review: A Game of Thrones

From Goodreads: Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.
The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Thoughts: If you haven't heard about this series, what rock have you been living under? Between the books and the TV series, A Game of Thrones has become a sensation. 
This is the first book in the series - and it was good. In a break with tradition, I saw the series before I read the book. I enjoyed the series and am glad that the book was also worth my time. These books are very blood thirsty. Lots of nasty ways to die and characters who seem to enjoy inflicting them on others. Just so you get an idea of how many deaths are in the series, check out this picture I found on Geekologie 

Every post it is a death - so just a few.

The intrigues in the book are complicated with a lot of characters to keep track of but I somehow managed - I do think having seen the series first helped.
I do think this is a series you will either rave about or wonder what all the fuss is about. Personally I just hope Martin maintains the interest and momentum for the whole series.

Challenges: Ebook Challenge

Book Review: The World's Strongest Librarian

From Goodreads: Josh Hanagarne couldn't be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn't officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6'7" when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette's tics escalated to nightmarish levels.
Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to "throttle" his tics into submission through strength-training.
Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City's public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette's.
The World's Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

Thoughts: I picked this up on recommendation from a friend. Josh Haragarne is a 6ft7 librarian with Tourette's. He is also a Morman (somewhat lapsed) and a weight lifter. This book explores his journey with Tourette's, it's increasing effect on his life and his search for a way to control it.
Having read this book, I'd love to meet Josh. While he has obviously had tough points in his life and his fair share of struggles, he has also maintained a great sense of humour. The stories of people in the library made me laugh out loud - mostly because I've had fairly similar experiences and conversations while working in libraries myself. His honesty about his faith, both at full belief and as it waivers was refreshing and incredibly non judgmental. This is a really wonderful read.


23 December, 2013

In Which I am Crafty...

I'm an intermittent quilter. I will go guns blazing for weeks and then nothing. I'm finding it too hard (and just a little embarrassing given how long my sewing blog has been neglected!) to maintain two blogs so I've decided to blog any quilting stuff here. I am hoping in 2014 that I might also get into some Project Life stuff as a way of encouraging me to take more photos and record our lives.

As for now, this is what I wanted to show off.

Pinwheel Flowers - lots of them!
My sister had a friend who was pregnant, and Dale (my sister) asked if I would make a quilt for her - sure! I said. And then did nothing!

In the meantime, Dale found a pattern, we bought fabric, she sent me the pattern...and I did nothing...well not nothing, I made a doll's quilt for a swap and a quilt for my son's teacher, but nothing about the baby quilt. In the meantime, the baby was born and I had done nothing! So in between school ending and sorting Christmas stuff, I started the quilt. It calls for 18 different sized pinwheel flowers. I had fun making them! Today I knew I wanted them finished, ready to start putting the quilt together after Christmas. All I had to do was put the centres on and appliqué them...I don't needle turn appliqué! Luckily the pattern said if you didn't you could do it however you want...thank goodness! So out comes the Visoflex and the iron. Then I simply stitched them in place with my sewing machine.

I say simply, but I have never used my machine for anything but straight stitching visoflex stuff and I wanted something a bit fancier. I love discovering new things I can do with my machine!

Not bad for a first timer I feel! So now all the flowers are done and I am ready to construct the quilt - but after Christmas. For now there is a trampoline to assemble, presents to wrap and food to prepare. Dale is coming to visit for a week on Boxing Day so hopefully she can watch me put this little quilt together.

In the meantime, I also plan to blog a backlog of books and some other crafty stuff. However, if I don't manage that, I'm sure you won't be surprised!

21 December, 2013

Christmas Boogie

Miss Dove over at Little White Dove has decided to revive Bloggers Boogie for the holiday season.

In fact I am listening to her Christmas installment as I type!

Miss Dove has gone a Christmas theme - me, while I don't mind the odd Christmas carol/ song, am, on the whole, not a fan.

However, with it being holidays and me having promised my kids I will try and get them to a surf beach at least once a week, I do expect to spend some time in the car. So my five songs are the top 5 on high rotation in our car at the moment!

My advice? Turn it up loud!

Want to link up and join in? Well you can, over here!

15 December, 2013

Book Review: Kingdom of Silk Series

The Kingdom of Silk by Glenda Millard

Synopsis: The Kingdom of Silk is a wonderful, beautiful engaging series of books aimed at younger readers. The Silk family lead a life full of love, laughter and tender moments. They also face their own perils and problems, which they solve as a family, embracing the nature around them and the wider community.

What I thought: I had to write my own synopsis since I plan to review the series as a whole. The link under the picture will take you to the Goodreads entry for the first book, The Naming of Tishkin Silk.
There are 7 books in the series.

The Naming of Tishkin Silk
Layla, Queen of Hearts
Perry Angel's Suitcase
All the Colours of Paradise
Plum Puddings and Paper Moons
The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk
Nell's Festival of Crisp Winter Glories

I reviewed The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk as part of the Younger Readers category for The Children's Book Council Awards, 2013. This inspired me to purchase the series for my 8 year old daughter and read them.

The Kingdom of Silk series is written by Australian author Glenda Millard. I've always been a fan, and this series once again shows us her wonderful talent.

I read a review that said Glenda Millard knows how to write families and she does. In this she has written a gorgeous family that anyone would love to be part of. But they are still believable, they have foibles, worries and concerns. The way they choose to face these problems though give us all food for thought.
The series explores a variety of sensitive themes in a caring and compassionate manner. Millard covers grief, SIDS, acceptance of others, foster care, refugees, aging and health scares. She approaches all of these issues from a child's point of view, exploring the fear and trepidation involved. She also explores the importance of community during these times, as well as the value of celebration. While they sound like tough topics for kids books, Millard's handling of them is perfect, always leaving the reader with a feeling of security and love and the ability to face the toughest challenge as long as you have the support and love of family and friends.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge

31 October, 2013

Book Review: Blankets

From Goodreads: Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.

Thoughts: I'm not sure how I came across this. In fact when I go the notification from the library it was ready to pick up, I struggled to remember even requesting it! I'm so glad I did. Running to just short of 600 pages, this exquisite graphic novel is a semi auto-biographical account of Thompson's relationship with his family, his first girl friend and faith.

The intensity of a first love is perfectly portrayed with angst filled illustrations and dialogue. His journey as he questions his faith, the fear of sin and reprisal is heart wrenching.

Some of the illustrations had me examining the pages, discovering hidden treasures within the panels. A smooth line, a jagged edge or nothing at all can portray so much feeling.
Just like Maus, the felling in this graphic novel is raw. Without a lot of language to hide behind, Graphic novels seem to strip back to the raw emotions. A good graphic novel bears out the saying, a picture is worth, a thousand words.


Book Review: The Stalking of Julia Gillard

From Goodreads: This is the story of one of the most extraordinary episodes in recent Australian political history, of how a powerful media pack, a vicious commentariat and some of those within her own party contrived to bring down Australia's first woman prime minister.
'Don't write crap. Can't be that hard. And when you have written complete crap, then I think you should correct it.' Julia Gillard
When Julia Gillard took the reins of the Australian Labor Party on 24 June 2010 she did so with the goodwill of the majority of her party and a fawning Canberra press gallery. The man she had supplanted, Kevin Rudd, led an isolated band of angry Labor voices at this surprising turn of events. The collective political and media verdict was that his time, short though it had been, was up. But when Gillard announced in February 2011 that her government would introduce a carbon pricing scheme, Rudd and his small team of malcontents were already in lock-step with key Canberra and interstate journalists in a drive to push her out of the prime ministerial chair.
Never has a prime minister been so assiduously stalked. Cast as a political liar and policy charlatan, Julia Gillard was also mercilessly and relentlessly lampooned for her hair, clothes, accent, her arse, even the way she walks and talks. Rudd, on the other hand, could barely do any wrong. His antics were afforded benign, unquestioning prime-time media coverage.
This is the story about one of the most extraordinary episodes in recent Australian political history. It focuses on Team Rudd and the media's treatment of its slow-death campaign of destabilisation, with its disastrous effect on Gillard and the government's functioning. It is about a politician who was never given a fair go; not in the media, not by Rudd, not by some in caucus.

Thoughts: The reality is, if you didn't like Julia Gillard, if you truly believe she was lying, back stabbing bitch who nearly ran the country into the ground (something that a lot of the facts do not bear out), you most probably won't like this book. If you do not agree with the view that Kevin Rudd is an egotistical, power hungry, narcissistic man, who struggled to make decisions, insisted on micromanaging the government into paralysis and refused to believe he was no longer the saviour Australia needed, you will dismiss it as the one eyed view of a pro Gillard loyalist - and nothing will change your mind.
The book reads very much like a diary or a blog. In fact Walsh makes sure in her introduction that you know this is the case. She doesn't pretend it's an indepth analysis of the Rudd/ Gillard stoush. Instead she recounts what she observed and saw over the period of time from Gillard taking the leadership, through to the unsuccessful second challenge. Unfortunately the book came out just after the final successful challenge which handed Rudd back the leadership. That's a pity because I would be interested to know what she thought about that whole incident!
What this book does is outline how Kevin Rudd and his small, but powerful band of followers (who, despite what the mainstream media and the Liberal party would have you believe,  were not faceless, but very, very up front and obvious!)white anted and undermined the Gillard government and made it near impossible to get any good publicity. The mainstream media (also known as the fourth estate)bought into the whole thing, focusing on a leadership challenge that had no legs. (Rudd never had the numbers needed) Coupled with the fact that the media rarely, if ever reported on the success and skillful management of a minority government,* Gillard had little to no hope of retaining leadership, let alone government.
I believe this book gives a good account of the egotistical, self centred personality that Kevin Rudd appears to be. A man whose desire to lead over rode everything - including the best interests of the party he professed to love.
Walsh recounts and notes the major news stories during the time. She also notes the lack of coverage of other events. She shows the media's bias and how they failed in their duty to the Australian public. Little wonder people are losing faith in the fourth estate.

*Regardless of your view of Gillard and her government, they manged to pass close to 600 pieces of legislation during the minority government. Given the negotiation that would have had to happen to get any legislation passed, this can only be seen as successful and a testament to their ability to negotiate with independents and other members of parliament.  In fact,  an analysis by Nick Evershed in the Guardian online, showed that Julia Gillard and her minority government passed more acts per day of their term than any other Australian government - ever!

Challenges: Ebook Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge

Book Review: The Rosie Project

From Goodreads: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. Then a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire-a sixteen-page, scientifically researched document-to find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is strangely beguiling, fiery and intelligent. And she is also on a quest of her own. She's looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might just be able to help her with-even if he does wear quick-dry clothes and eat lobster every single Tuesday night.

Thoughts: A totally enjoyable, humourous, quirky book. Professor Don Tillman is obviously at the far end of the Asperger's Spectrum - but completely unaware of it. His way of dealing with being a "misfit" is to play up to it. In younger years he was the class clown, now he accepts the laughs and jokes at his expense, even if he doesn't understand them. His life is ordered and controlled and perfectly ok thank you very much. Then he meets Rosie. She turns his world upside down and while at times it makes him uncomfortable, it shows him the possibility of there being more, of the positives of being less structured. 
What I loved about this book was watching the growth of Don - of him going from being totally rigid and timetable driven to relaxing that slightly (not too much!), of learning to trust other's may have something to contribute to his world and he having a contribution to make to theirs.
This book made me laugh, wince, question and really just plain entertained me. Love it!

Challenges: Ebook Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge

Book Review: Dirt Music

From Goodreads: Luther Fox, a loner, haunted by his past, makes his living as an illegal fisherman — a shamateur. Before everyone in his family was killed in a freak rollover, he grew melons and played guitar in the family band. Robbed of all that, he has turned his back on music. There's too much emotion in it, too much memory and pain.
One morning Fox is observed poaching by Georgie Jutland. Chance, or a kind of willed recklessness, has brought Georgie into the life and home of Jim Buckridge, the most prosperous fisherman in the area and a man who loathes poachers, Fox above all. But she's never fully settled into Jim's grand house on the water or into the inbred community with its history of violent secrets. After Georgie encounters Fox, her tentative hold on conventional life is severed. Neither of them would call it love, but they can't stay away from each other no matter how dangerous it is — and out on White Point it is very dangerous.
Set in the dramatic landscape of Western Australia, Dirt Music is a love story about people stifled by grief and regret; a novel about the odds of breaking with the past and about the lure of music. Dirt music, Fox tells Georgie, is "anything you can play on a verandah or porch, without electricity." Even in the wild, Luther cannot escape it. There is, he discovers, no silence in nature.
Ambitious, perfectly calibrated, Dirt Music resonates with suspense and supercharged emotion — and it confirms Tim Winton's status as the preeminent Australian novelist of his generation.

Thoughts: Ah Tim Winton, you've done it again! Winton's characters are so flawed and damaged you wonder how they manage to get out of bed in the morning! But he drags them out and makes them expose themselves to the reader, using the harshness of the Australian landscape as a perfect, brutal back drop. Winton's description of the landscape are awe inspiring. A few words and you are standing there on the baking blacktop, clear blue sky with an overly bright sun above, rugged cliffs plunging to a perfect sea on one side, scrubby, stunted bush on the other as you shade your eyes and feel your skin burn.
Georgie and Fox are both hiding from their past - or ignoring it. Fox's pain especially leaks off every page. Georgie's need to save him so blatantly a way to avoid her own issues. 
Don't read Winton expecting a fairytale ending...in fact don't expect an ending at all! He will leave you hanging, the last line an open statement that resolves nothing. My love for Winton is so large he is the only author where this doesn't annoy the shit out of me! In fact, if he ended any other way I would be disappointed. Needless to say, my love affair with Winton and his writing continues.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge 

Book Review: The Shape of Snakes

From Goodreads: Mrs. Ranelagh has never stopped thinking about the dead body she found in the gutter twenty years ago, during Britain’s Winter of Discontent. “Mad Annie,” as she was known, was the only black resident of her West London neighborhood and openly despised by the community. The police called her death an accident, but Mrs. Ranelagh has always suspected it was murder. However, her pleas for an investigation were met with a vicious hate campaign that drove her and her husband from the country. Now, determined to uncover the truth, Mrs. Ranelagh has returned to England, where she quickly discovers a sordid trail of domestic violence, racism and adultery that shockingly could lead back to her own family.

Thoughts: Once again Minette Walters writes a fantastic book that simply keeps you turning the pages.I truly believe she is one of, if not the best crime writer around.
In this, M (you never find out her first name, just M or Mrs Ranelagh) is trying to prove that "Mad Annie", a black woman who suffered from Tourettes, was murdered 20 years ago and not killed by an accident as claimed.
Walters leads us through many twists and turns as M does what the police didn't - unravel the stories of those in the street - many who did not like having a black woman in their neighbourhood.
Walters uses a lot of characters - some of which are red herrings, others that play a larger role than you first imagine. The plethora of characters can be confusing, but as the net narrows on the guilty, there are less to deal with. None of the characters are perfect - in fact none of them are even truly likable, even M, whose motives you find yourself questioning. In fact, frequently throughout the book I questioned her mental stability and wondered what she was really looking for. In the end the mystery is solved, but the outcome is not necessarily satisfactory. A really good read.

14 October, 2013

Book Review: Big Brother

Goodreads: For Pandora, cooking is a form of love. Alas, her husband, Fletcher, a self-employed high-end cabinetmaker, now spurns the “toxic” dishes that he’d savored through their courtship, and devotes hours each day to manic cycling. Then, when Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn’t recognize him. In the years since they’ve seen one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? After Edison has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It’s him or me.

Rich with Shriver’s distinctive wit and ferocious energy, Big Brother is about fat: an issue both social and excruciatingly personal. It asks just how much sacrifice we'll make to save single members of our families, and whether it's ever possible to save loved ones from themselves.

Thoughts: Shriver inspiration for this book came from her own brother who died from complications due to morbid obesity. My first thought was, could you write this book without that personal experience? There is a lot of stigma around weight, carrying it and losing it. As someone who does struggle with my weight, I know how annoyed and incensed I get when someone who has never had a weight issue tells me how to lose weight or, even worse, how fat they are. You feel insulted and belittled and it's only recently that I have come to accept that quite often that's not what people mean. The thing is fat is a very personal issue and one that people are frequently judged for by strangers, the media and even our own families. By having had experience with this issue through a family member, Shriver lends a legitimacy to it.
This is the first of Shriver's books I've read the whole way through since We Need to Talk About Kevin and I enjoyed it. She raises many questions about relationships, loyalty and blame. I also found the dichotomy between a husband who over controlled food and a brother who had no control over food interesting. Was what her husband doing any better than what her brother was doing? And again, having had personal experience of a certain level of food control in my childhood, I was aware of the possible implications on the kids at a later date.
Loyalty was a big thing to. Who do you owe your loyalty to? A family member you have chosen (your husband) or a family member you have had your whole life? (your brother) Or is it a matter of choosing who needs you most at that time? While I could understand Fletcher (her husband's) reactions, I felt he was an incredibly selfish man. He was also one of those who pre judges those who are fat and immediately assumes they can not change, that they are at complete fault for their situation and if they would just show a bit of will power they would be fine.  He is the exact person who makes you feel that you can never change, you will never lose the weight and so why should you try? In fact I wonder if Pandora would have chosen Emerson if Fletcher was not such as arsehole.
Then there is the end. It's not what you expect and I can imagine that some people would feel betrayed and angry about it. I was at first, but the more I thought about it, the more ok I was with it. And while I'd love to say more, I can't for fear of spoiling the book.
Big Brother is very readable. Funny in parts (laugh aloud funny), tragic in many. If you are incredibly sensitive about weight issues I wouldn't recommend it, but I do think it gives an interesting take on a growing issue in the western world.

08 October, 2013

Book Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

From Goodreads: The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth's beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley's wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham - Elizabeth's younger, unreliable sister - stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered. Inspired by a lifelong passion for the work of Jane Austen, PD James masterfully recreates the world of Pride and Prejudice, and combines it with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly-crafted crime story. Death Comes to Pemberley is a distinguished work of fiction, from one of the best-loved, most- read writers of our time.

Thoughts: Having recently come to discover the joy that is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I was curious to see what other authors could do with it. Let's face it, one  of the biggest problems with finishing a well loved book is the want, even the need to know what happens next! Do they live happily ever after? Do they have children? Does everyone else come to terms with the fact that Darcy married not only a woman who was seen as beneath him, but also appeared to hate him? So many questions!!
And yes, they were mostly answered, but as to whether it was satisfactory or not may be up for debate. For me, this lacked...something. The plot trudged along, neither slackening it's pace or picking up. Elizabeth seemed to have lost some of her fierce independent mindedness that I loved in the original. Darcy was a little lacklustre too, although Lydia and Wickham lived up to expectations.
If you're a fan of P&P, by all means read it. Just don't expect to fall in love with it or with James' interpretation of the characters. 

05 October, 2013

Book Review: Wishin' & Hopin'

From Goodreads:
It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.
LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.
Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from QuÉbec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin' and Hopin' barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.
From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin' and Hopin' is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been—and how far we've come.

Thoughts: I like Wally Lamb, but I don't find his books easy to read. This however, I powered through in a day! Lighter than his other books (reviewed here, here and here) I found myself laughing out loud several times. Felix is so naive and innocent that you just can't help but love him and his view of the world. His family is loving, but unassuming. You get the feeling that he will look back on this time and realise how wonderful and precious it was.
I love Lamb's characters and especially love that Felix, who is second in the class (behind the most annoying Rosalie Twerski!) is best mates with Lonny, who has been kept back twice. There is no huge angst in this book, just the year in the life of a really likable character on the verge of puberty, discovering things about life he never really knew.

04 October, 2013

Book Review: Thursday's Child

From Goodreads: Through the long years of the Great Depression, Harper Flute watches with a child's clear eyes her family's struggle to survive in a hot and impoverished landscape. As life on the surface grows harsher, her brother Tin escapes ever deeper into a subterranean world of darkness and troubling secrets, until his memory becomes a myth barely whispered around the countryside.

Thoughts: Sonya Hartnett does not write cheery, happy books. No, instead she complex, dark, thoughtful stories that leaves her reader shocked and bleeding - I love it! Her real strength is in her characters, so simply drawn but with such depth you feel you would know them the moment you saw them.
She frequently uses the Australian landscape to punctuate the desolation felt in her stories - the stark, dry landscape, the tough, suspicious people it breeds. If I close my eyes, I can see the Flute family standing in front of me, sunburnt and dusty, squinting into the sun, sunbaked earth all around them.
Like most of her books, Thursday's Child is character driven. The story happens around the people in it, with seemingly every day events taking on greater meaning as the story builds to it's climax. In less talented hands the story would drag and falter, but Hartnett's characters keep you there with them, watching as their lives fall apart, sharing with them the belief that finally, eventually it must get better. Hartnett is, without a doubt, one of Australia's most talented writers.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge.

03 October, 2013

EmmaApproved: Clueless

Clueless is a modern day adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Cher, the Emma-ersque character is played by Alicia Silverstone - rather well I thought!

Half the fun of watching this was working out who was who, drawing parallels with the book and today's world. I also walked away feeling like I shouldn't like Cher and her friends, but I did. Best of all, it does stand alone. While having an understanding of Emma gives you some aha moments, it is not necessary. It was pleasant way to while away an afternoon.

Book Review: The Boy Who Fell To Earth

From Goodreads: Meet Merlin. He's Lucy's bright, beautiful son -- who just happens to be autistic. Since Merlin's father left them in the lurch shortly after his diagnosis, Lucy has made Merlin the centre of her world. Struggling with the joys and tribulations of raising her eccentrically adorable yet challenging child, (if only Merlin came with operating instructions) Lucy doesn't have room for any other man in her life.
By the time Merlin turns ten, Lucy is seriously worried that the Pope might start ringing her up for tips on celibacy, so resolves to dip a poorly pedicured toe back into the world of dating. Thanks to Merlin's candour and quirkiness, things don't go quite to plan... Then, just when Lucy's resigned to a life of singledom once more, Archie -- the most imperfectly perfect man for her and her son -- lands on her doorstep. But then, so does Merlin's father, begging for forgiveness and a second chance. Does Lucy need a real father for Merlin -- or a real partner for herself?

Thoughts: I've never been a big fan of Kathy Lette as an author. Apart from Puberty Blues, I have never managed to finish one of her books. I read this on the recommendation of a friend who has a young child with high functioning Autism. I mention this because it did colour the way I read the book.
I don't have a child with special needs. I have taught children with a variety of special needs - either physical, intellectual of behavioural. I have many friends who have children with autism, ranging from you wouldn't know the child had a diagnosis unless you had spent a lot of time with them through to the child who will need care for the rest of his life. I have seen people who react (for want of a better word) to children with special needs in atrocious ways and those who don't react any differently than they do with any other kid. I've dealt with the education system as a teacher, trying to provide the best opportunities and I have heard stories of an education system that want to wash their hands of anything out of the ordinary that make me so angry. I'd like to thinking that I have at least a basic understanding of autism and the challenges faced by families with children with autism, but I know I have no real idea of what it like day to day.
I had some issues with this book. I had some issues with Lucy. I has some issues with Lucy's mother, her mother-in-law, her boyfriend and her ex husband. I had no issues with Merlin. 
My thoughts can best be summed up by another reviewer over on Goodreads, Sam Pope, who has a daughter with Asperger's.

Additionally, if [Lucy] is meant to be portrayed as a sympathetic character, Lette has failed miserably. She talks constantly of how much she loves her son but doesn't properly inform her army of lovers of his difficulties and when he puts his foot in it and talks inappropriately she just feels embarrassed rather than protecting him. I have a child who at times blurts out things that are best left unsaid and try to gently steer her away from a topic of conversation if it is inappropriate. What we see with [Lucy] is her just sitting there and indulging her own embarrassment rather than shielding her son.
 And that was my issue. For all of her talk of love, for all of her trying to get Merlin into a decent educational setting, she never seemed to sooth the way for Merlin in social situations. Even I know you don't take someone to meet someone with Asperger's without first explaining the person's quirks, their lack of filter, their inability to pick up social cues. It astounded me that she continued to have conversations with people within Merlin's hearing, saying things you really don't want repeated (like the fact your MIL is two faced and you wonder which one she will be wearing today), knowing there is a really good chance he WILL repeat it. I was infuriated by Archie's inability to understand that Merlin would take things literally - that if you told him to play in the traffic he would.

And yet, despite all of that, I did enjoy the book.It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me wince. I do think it gave insight into what life with a child with Asperger's could be like. However I don't think it took any time to celebrate the joy a child with Asperger's can bring as well - and for that it is a poorer book.

02 October, 2013

Book Review: Behemoth

From Goodreads:The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.

Thoughts: This is the second book in the Leviathan series. I reviewed book one here as part of the 13 in'13 challenge
So Deryn, a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek, the heir to an empire posing as a commoner, are back as World War I continues to heat up. Set largely in Istanbul, it once again give a bit of a view into world history - even if it is set in an alternate universe.
I love the steampunk universe, the way what we consider the natural order of things may not be so. The question also being, would you be a Darwinist - someone who tinkers with the natural to make it more than it was, or a Clunker - someone who replies on pure mechanics. Personally, I like the idea of living, breathing machinery!

EmmaApproved: Emma - The Movie

So once again I am hitting off the challenge by watching the movie.

Having not read the book, it's hard ot tell how good a job the movie does. Gwyneth Paltrow makes a better Emma that Keira Knightly made Elizabeth. I love Toni Collette in anything and I think she made a wonderful Harriet. In the end, the movie was sufficient for it's purpose - to make me familiar enough with the story to allow me to tackle the book.

01 October, 2013

Challenge: Emma Approved

I mentioned awhile ago that my friend, Miss Dove over at the Doves Nest, had issued a challenge in regards to Jane Austen's Emma.

After the success of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Pemberly Digital (who produced LBD) are now doing an Emma adaptation.

So, to celebrate, Miss Dove issued a challenge. Of course I'm in.

My plan - watch the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version, watch the BBC version, watch the movie adaptation, Clueless, read the book, watch Emma Approved and (so help me!) join up for the Tumblr stuff! (I won't link there, I have no idea what I'm doing!)

In the meantime, look out for my review of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie!

Book review: The Deep

From Goodreads: Alice lives in a house by the sea. Snakes and spiders don't scare her, but she's very afraid of the deep ocean water. Her swimming, splashing, diving family urge her to come out and play with them, but no matter how hard she tries, Alice still can't leave the green shallows for the deep. This moving story about a girl besting her fears is matched with warm, light-splashed illustrations.

Thoughts: I thought if I was going to aim to read all of Tim Winton's books, I couldn't ignore one just because it was a picture book.
The Deep is about Alice and how she is afraid to swim in the deep. Every day her family jump off the jetty to swim, but Alice is afraid. She knows how to swim, so why can't she swim in the deep? Then one day some new friends help her conquer her fear. 
Winton captures the fear and frustration of Alice beautifully, helped by Karen Louise's illustrations. I am seriously in awe of this mans ability to move between audiences. 

30 September, 2013

Children's Book Council Younger Readers Short List 2013

So once again it's time to review the Short List from The Children's Book Council of Australia's shortlist. I reviewed the books from the Older readers short list, so now it's the turn of the Younger Readers. So here we go again, my reviews of all 6 shortlisted younger readers books.I tried to limit the reviews to about 6 sentences each.  Click on the link below each book to go to the Goodreads entry for it.

After by Morris Gleitzman
 The fourth book on Morris Gleitzman's story about Felix, a Jewish boy in hiding during World War II. Chronologically it comes between Then and Now although any of the books (Once, Then, Now, After)  could be read as stand alones. This takes Felix's sotry through to the end ofOlder Readers books the war. Gleitzman has an amazing ability to portray things from a child's point of view. The reader always feels they are reading something written by a child, not an adult trying to be a child. It's a book and a series which opens the door onto much more complicated and involved discussions.

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
This story blends the near past and far past together. Cecily and Jeremy are sent, with their mother, out of London during the Blitz. In a country house owned by their uncle, they are joined by May, a child evacuee. While it's Cecily who is older, May is more mature, having lead a less sheltered life. In an abandoned castle they find two boys who may not be all that they appear. While I quite enjoyed this book, I was looking for something more in the end. The way things were tied together at the end just didn't sit well with me. The story of the tow boys in the castle did not seem to play a big part and the book would have stood just as well without it.

The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk by Glenda Millard
Saffron Silk keeps getting really bad headaches and no one knows why. Everyone, including Saffron is a little bit afraid, but the Silk family and their friends know how to get through tough times - live and remembering and sharing the tender moments.
This is a stunning, beautiful little book. In just over 100 pages, it folds you into the world of the Silks and lets you share the wonder of living simply with good family and friends. This book reminds you of what is important and why it's important to stop and share the tender moments. It is guaranteed to make you want to go hug your closest ones for no other reason than letting them know they are loved.

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend by Steven Herrick
I love a book in verse - quick to read with surprising depth. Pookie Aleera Is Not My Boyfriend gives the reader insight into the lives of class 6A. It explores their secrets, fears, thoughts and shows how one small act of kindness can have far reaching consequences. Steven Herrick is a master at the book in verse genre, instilling as much description and feeling into a few lines as other authors do into a whole paragraph. Perfect for you reluctant reader who finds pages and pages of text confronting - Love it!

Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French
In the horrors of the concentration camps and the mass killings of WWII, I sometimes think we forget about others affected during the war. Those who weren't persecuted, those who weren't Nazi's, but those who were just trying to survive.
Georg is one of those people. Sent away to his aunt in England after his father is killed, he becomes George. In a climate of fear and hatred he needs to hide his German heritage. When London becomes too dangerous he is sent onto Australia where he discovers that while hatred is contagious, so too is kindness.
Jackie French is such a professional writer that I doubt she could turn out something bad. Pennies for Hitler is well researched, well written and would be a great discussion starter.

The Other Brother by Simon French
Bon, a cousin Kieran hardly knows, suddenly intrudes on his life. Bon is different and Kiernan doesn't like him upsetting his life. But eventually you have to do what you know is right and choose where your loyalties lie.
The Other Brother is quite a powerful book. At times I found it hard, simply because of Kieran's attitude. Here was this child who has so much and was so begrudging of sharing any of it. If he'd been my child I don't think I would have been as patient as his mother was! But the true power of the book was the lack of quick fixes and easy explanations. Too often I find with books aimed at children the resolution comes easy and everyone is happy - friends. This book seemed to take  a more realistic approach while still showing you can make a difference to someone just by following your heart.

Unlike the Older Readers books, several of the Younger Readers books jumped out at me. Saffron Silk, The Other Brother and Pookie Aleera were absolute stand outs in my mind. In fact, it was hard to decide between Saffron Silk and The Other Brother as winner, but in the end, I must choose The Other Brother for its completely believable characters and reactions, leaving Saffron Silk and Pookie Aleera as my notables. What is really interesting is the book the CBC chose as the Winner - The Children of the King - was most probably the book I was least impressed by. Only one of my choices - Saffron Silk made their notable list and their other was Pennies for Hitler.