31 August, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Wrap Up Post!

Welcome to the end!

Today is the last day of winter and therefore the deadline for the Pride and Prejudice Challenge! So here's how it went for me.

First off I watched the Keira Knightley movie.

As I've said before, I struggle with the classics and always do better when I know what is going on. Otherwise I find myself fighting the language to understand the story.

I didn't mind this movie - it was OK, but then I watched the BBC production.

This was superior in every way. Longer, but covers the whole story and the acting was vastly improved (even if Mrs Bennet did drive me completely mad!) As for Colin Frith as Darcy - now that was swoon worthy!

Hmmmm...eye candy...
My recommendation? If you want to watch Pride and Prejudice, take the extra time and go the BBC version.

Next to finished was the book.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I have started to understand the fuss made about Jane Austen. Dare I say, I can even imagine re-reading this...voluntarily. I love the way Austen managed to write strong female characters in a time when women were not meant to be strong and independent minded. I also love how she had male characters who found that trait to be attractive.

And finally, the modern day adaptation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

This was really well done. I think knowing the original storyline made it more enjoyable and interesting. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone who had not at least seen the BBC version or read the book. This covered the whole story and if you were simply relying on the movie, there is too much storyline you would be confused about, where it came from and how it fit in.

So there you have it, my Pride and Prejudice wrap up. Did you take part? What did you watch/ read? Have you done a wrap up post? I'd love to know what others have done, so please post a link below!

P&P Challenge: Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So my final task for the P&P challenge was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The LBD (as it will be known from here on in!) is a modern day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It's presented as a video blog (or vlog) by Lizzie Bennet, about her life.

I think LBD may have been the catalyst for the whole challenge. It's the first time I've ever watched anything like this, but I can see the appeal and can imagine the form of media has the potential to become huge. Since I didn't watch it live, I didn't get into the transmedia side of things - so I didn't get the characters Twittering or Instagraming or stuff like that. (Thank you to Miss Dove for explaining what Transmedia was!) LBD also spawned spin offs such as Lydia Bennet's vlog and Sandition.
It was really interesting to see how they adapted the story to modern day ideals. I mean really, no modern audience was going to give a toss if Lydia and Wickham ran off to shack up together. The scenario they came up with for that part of the story was extremely well done and fitted the overall tone of the show well.
I think it would have been better to watch it as it was released - too much at once did lead to a little bit of LBD overload!
It has also spawned a new adaptation of Emma, called EmmaApproved. Miss Dove over at Little White Dove, has come up with the Emma Challenge. I have, of course, signed up!
As for now, all I can call the P&P Challenge complete! Yay!

Book Review: BlueBack

From Goodreads: Abel Jackson loves to dive. He's a natural in the water. He can't remember a time when he couldn't use a mask and snorkel to glide down into the clear deep. Life is tough out at Longboat Bay. Every day the boy helps his mother earn their living from the sea and the land. It's hard work but Abel has the bush and the sky and the bay to himself. Until the day he meets Blueback, the fish that changes his life. Blueback is about people learning from nature.

Thoughts: Yep, another Tim Winton audio. Blueback is one of those beautiful cross over books written fro children, but with so much to offer adults as well. On the surface it's the story about a boy and a fish, while deeper down it's about respect for our environment, the importance of keeping what matters in sight and the love of family.
I listened to this in car with my kids (aged 11 and 7) and love the fact they protested every time we had to stop. Winton's writing loses none of it's eloquence when he writes for children. His descriptions are as rich, his characters as accessible. Seriously, with Winton, you cannot lose.

Challenges:  Aussie Author Challenge

21 August, 2013

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice

From Goodreads: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the "most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author's works," and Eudora Welty in the twntieth century described it as "irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."

Thoughts: Yay! I finished! And ahead of time! As you may or may not recall, I was reading this as part of a challenge I set back in May. The idea was to have read the book by the end of August, but I found I was losing momentum by sticking to a timeline so in the end I just kept reading until I was done!
It was worth it. As I got closer to the end, I got more and more engrossed .I knew what was going to happen (I'd watched the Keira Knightly movie and the BBC production), but I wanted to know how Austen had written it. In the end I loved it. I still don't find the classics easy to read, but knowing the story via movies or television definitely makes it easier and makes me stress less about the language.
I've also finished the last part of the challenge - watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries  - but that's another post! In the meantime, I've signed up to Miss Dove's Emma Challenge. Bring it on!

Challenges: eBook challenge, P&P challenge

17 August, 2013

Book Review: Anonymous Premonition

From Goodreads: From an authentic, powerful indigenous voice comes this body of poetry that examines issues of identity and culture from a woman's point of view. Lyrical yet radical, uplifting yet uncompromising, this collection evokes pride, painful memories, the realities of Aboriginal life and death, and the power of sisterhood to act as a tribute to the resiliency of Aboriginal women everywhere.

Thoughts: So the last category in my 13 in '13 challenge is poetry. I like poetyr, I wish I read more of it. I considered reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, a present from a friend which I love. But I love dipping into it. It's a casual, relaxed read and not one I wanted to be forced to read. So off I went cruising the shelves at work for something appropriate.
For the record I'm not a classics girls for poetry - no Keats or Cummings here - too much hard work. I like my poetry modern. Modern themes, modern phrasing. Poetry to me is most probably one of the most personal forms of writing and reading. If the words on the page don't sing to you, there is no point. You should never have to wade through poetry - it should jump off the page and embed itself in your soul.
There are a few things that attracted me to Yvette Holt's slim anthology. It's a collection of poetry written from such a personal stand point. It won the David Unaipon Award and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award, and the bits I read as I flicked through were beautiful. Holt is a member of the Bidjara Nation, a group of indigenous Australians from Queensland. In her own words, she is:

& Best Friend

Caffeine free
& Chamomile
Sipping feminist

Human Rights
Child Protection
Domestic Violence
Immigration Laws
Socially active
Community worker
Desperately seeking
Social Justice


Bargain  hunting
Lay-by wearing
Credit card declining
Broke-arse Undergraduate
(Under sixty seconds)

Her poetry reflects her life growing up and her experiences as a woman, a mother and an Indigenous Australian. Her poetry gave me a small glimpse into her world, while reminding me that I can watch her struggles, sympathise with them, but I cannot share them. I can however, be incredulous (and incredibly amazed by some peoples audacity and small mindedness) about some of the experiences she has had.
In year one I was the quiet native
Two years later the friendly coloured girl
By year five, it was I, the inquisitive aborigine
Entering high school everyone wanted to be indigenous
When I disagreed with conformity, they would whisper, "Is it because she is black?"

On my very first day at work I was asked "what nationality are you", when I told them I was Aboriginal they replied, "But you look so clean."

Last year, hailing a taxi in George Street, Sydney, the driver asks, "Where are you from?" I ask the driver to take a wild guess, after surveying the paying customer in the back seat, he triggers the meter then casually replies, "You sure don't sound koori because you speak English very well".

There are some days when "others" may need to persevere with my silence...because there are some days when I may no longer have the inclination nor the fucking head space to educate your reply.
(Primary Education)

This to me is poetry at it's best. It speaks to the reader personally, bares the soul of the writer and allows a connection between the two.

14 August, 2013

Book Review: The Good Life

From Goodreads: "No one can promise you that a life lived for others will bring you a deep sense of satisfaction, but it's certain that nothing else will."
Hugh Mackay has spent his entire working life asking Australians about their values, motivations, ambitions, hopes and fears. Now, in The Good Life, he addresses the ultimate question: What makes a life worth living?
His conclusion is provocative. The good life is not the sum of our security, wealth, status, postcode, career success and levels of happiness. The good life is one defined by our capacity for selflessness, the quality of our relationships and our willingness to connect with others in a useful way.
Mackay examines what is known as the Golden Rule through the prisms of religion, philosophy, politics, business and family life. And he explores the numerous and often painful ways we distract ourselves from this central principle: our pursuit of pleasure, our attempts to perfect ourselves and our children, and our conviction that we can have our lives under control.
Argued with all the passion and intelligence we have come to expect from one of Australia's most prolific and insightful authors, The Good Life is a book that will start conversations, ignite arguments and possibly even change the way we live our lives.

Thoughts: If you google "good life" it is defined as:
                   1. a life abounding material comforts and luxuries
                   2. a life lived according to the moral and religious laws of ones    
                       culture (Dictionary.com)

Hugh Mackay defines the good life as one lived for others - "defined by our capacity for selflessness, the quality of our relationships and out willingness to connect with  others in a useful way."

Mackay suggests that our focus on ourselves, the misplaced importance on accumulating money and possessions is leading us into a misguided idea of a good life. He has no problem with money and possessions - just the use of them to measure our worth.
Instead he suggests that a truly good life is lead if you follow the golden rule - do to others as you would have them do to you. (Interesting point - this rule or a version of it has been around a lot longer than it's religious connotations. All ancient civilizations has a variation on the theme...) Something that is not as easy as it sounds. I really enjoyed the part of the book where Mackay delved inot how to apply the golden rule in situations such as criminal behaviour, break ups, having to fail someone or deal with someone who is a bully - situations where the golden rule may appear to not apply. In the end, while no one wants to reward bad or inappropriate behaviour by excusing it, revenge also never works. Instead Mackay suggests you ask the universal question - what would happen if everyone acted like that? Bad behaviour needs to be addressed - but with courtesy and respect (the way we would all like to be treated regardless of our behaviour) - even if that courtesy and respect is not returned - a hard ask indeed.
Finally, Mackay suggests three things we need to do to live the good life:
                  1. Listen attentively. 
                  2. Say sorry (and mean it!).
                  3. Forgive generously. (even when not asked to)

Having read this book, I will be making mindful attempts to follow the golden rule. What I will really concentrate on though is listen attentively. Too often I believe we are distracted when listening - I know I am. It's hard to attend completely to someone when there is so much else going on internally and externally. Listen attentively is my personal goal.
The Good Life feels laboured at times, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I found it useful and meaningful without being preachy. Unlike many self help/ motivational books, it didn't feel like it was telling me my life was wrong and if I don't change I would be miserable. In fact I think Hugh Mackay has struck the right balance and he'd be a most interesting man to sit and chat with.

Challenges: eBook challenge, Aussie Author challenge, 13 in '13 challenge

13 August, 2013

Book Review: The Riders

From Goodreads: Fred Scully has decided to leave Australia to carve a new life for himself and his young family in Ireland. He labours alone to make their dilapidated cottage habitable, but when he arrives at the airport to pick up his wife and child, only his small daughter steps off the plane. So begins Scully's desperate odyssey across Europe, searching for the one person he thought he'd never lose.

Thoughts: Tim Winton writes to be read aloud. I listened to this as an audio book and I frequently found myself sitting in the car in the carpark, not willing to get out, mesmerized by the prose.
 I know I read The Riders many years ago. I remember being confused by it, struggling to follow the story. However, with a bit of time (and I dare say maturity!) it's completely different.
Winton evokes so many emotions - humour, joy, fear, anger, sadness - often within sentences of each other. I started off feeling sorry for Scully, angry at his wife, concerned for their daughter Billie. As the novel progresses and Scully's search for Jennifer becomes more frantic, more out of control I became angry with him. His concern for Billie becomes patchy, unfocused and she is forced, at the age of 7, to take control. Although I see the reason behind this (the book is about obsession after all) as a parent it just made me want to shout at him. Who the hell drags their 7 year old across Europe looking for a woman who doesn't want to be found? But then again, who abandons her husband and 7 year old without a word of explanation?
In true Winton fashion the "problem" is not resolved. However, the journey is complete. The decent into sanity testing obsession and the scramble out of it again is richly described. It's truly a book where the destination doesn't matter, but the journey does - and maybe that's what I missed when I was younger.
If I do have a complaint about this particular version (the audio book), it was that the narrator was terrible at female voices! Luckily there weren't too many and in the end the story carried the day!

 Challenges: Aussie Authors