Monday, 30 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you reading? 30 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

Been a busy week getting back from overseas and settling back in at home. Finishing off The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) for the readalong. So will be posting the last update soon. Then I'm trying to decide what to read next. I think it will be The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) about the daughter of Jacob from the Book of Genesis, followed by either Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) or To the Lighthouse (Virigina Woolf) or maybe both? Who knows. I think I'll be grabbing whatever takes my fancy.

I have also acquired quite a few books in the past couple of weeks. I stopped in at my favourite bookshop in Ngatea on my way to the airport the week before last, plus I bought a couple of books from Oscar and Friends in Sydney (best little book shop ever!) and I ordered a couple online. So here are all the new additions to my bookshelf:

From Oscar and Friends in Sydney
Beautiful copies of Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) and 1984 (George Orwell)

From the Second Hand Shop
Gallows Thief (Bernard Cornwell)
Antony & Cleopatra (Colleen McCullough)
The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
A Dangerous Vine (Barbara Ewing)
And a hardback version of Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)

Ordered Online
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Woman in White Part Trois

Watch out peoples - spoilers!

We're near the end. Only a few more chapters to go and it gets more and more exciting. I've been in transit so a little behind in this post but chatting about good books is always worth the wait! Ok so where did we get up to? Oh yes Marian was ill and Fosco had discovered and read her diary, the sneaky bastard.

Of course the next section had me all in a tense as to whether they were going to kill off Marian but I kept telling myself Wilkie wouldn't dare kill such a cool chick and I'd feel better. So then the Count, his doormat wife and Percival start to get all sneaky again and we all knew they were up to something but the way they tricked Laura to leave Blackwater was not at all what I guessed would happen and the evilness that is the Count/Percival pair started to emerge.

And then we find out that Laura has gotten ill and died?! Say what?! I knew that some more sneakiness was going on there, and when Hartright came back on the scene (with everything Marian dreamed about him true) and ran into them at the grave my mind was racing with the possibilities of what happened. That's why I think Collins is such a great story teller, he gives you enough suspense to get super excited and then forces your mind to race over all the possibilities while you read forward trying to decipher the goings on.

So we learn that Laura and Anne did the old switch-a-roo and Laura got landed in the Asylum in place of Anne and Marian finds out and breaks her out (go Marian!) but no-one else believes it's Laura. Don't really blame them though as she has gone all weird. So Hartright swoops in to look after them and to fight for Laura. At least Hartright is finally growing on me thanks to obtaining some balls in Central America. Enough said.

Finally Hartright becomes Mr Detective and starts investigating everything and questioning everyone. So Mrs. Catherick got pregnant and it wasn't her husbands and my mind instantly went to the idea that Laura and Anne were sisters and their dad was Percival which would make their marriage the grossest thing in the world! Ick. But thankfully that idea was killed as quickly as it appeared in my mind. Not something I would want to dwell on.

Anyone else mightily impressed by the interview with Mrs. Catherick? That was a kick ass scene and one I would love to see in a BBC made mini-series of the book. Oh please make that happen.

So the final part is to go and this is the most frustrating part of a great book because you desperately want to finish it but you also don't want it to end! Oh the conundrum.

UPDATE: Turns out I finished a chapter early and everyone else knows The Secret and I don't! Gah! Better read the last chapter before I read anyone else's posts just in case I read a spoiler. Woops.

UPDATE AGAIN (Uber spoiler!): So I read the bit I missed and I know The Secret! Everyone else seems disappointed, like not being Sir isn't that big a deal but I so get why this is a huge issue. It's not losing the baronet title he's worried about, he commited fraud which at one point would have been punishable by death but although now he wouldn't die straight away he would get shipped off to Australia as a convict for ever. I bet in that time getting shipped to the other side of the world which they probably imagined was as wild and dangerous as South America was to Hartright, is enough to freak the crap out of anyone and cause them to hide their secret away. I read a book about the convicts going to Aussie and they travelled on slave ships and heaps of them died in the journey over. I'm just stoked I never guessed it. I hate when I pre-guess things.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Woman in White Readalong Part Deux

I don't want to stop and write this post, there's too much fantastic reading to be done! I was so excited that this section had Marian's narrative and I was not disappointed. I heart Marian so much. She is such a strong minded, determined woman who saves dogs from boathouses. Who wouldn't love her?!

We get to meet Count Fosco and what a character. A big fat man who wears crazy waistcoats? Definitely not what I expected. Add to that that he looks like Napoleon and has a love of animals including a bunch of mice and birds for pets? Seriously would never have guessed a character like that appearing ever. But I just don't know what to make of him and I'm not the only one, Marian was all like besotted and entranced when they first met and then it all changed and now she is deeply disturbed by him. I had a really similar experience at first I thought sweet a good guy who is going to back up the girls and put Percival in his place, but no he has to be all sneaky and spyish and I just don't know where it's going. I'm so excited.

And his wife?! What a good little obedient assistant she is, rolling his cigarettes and holding up Marian so the Count can be all dastardly. I want to just scream at the page "look out Marian they're being all sneaky".

Finally Sir Percival's true nature is revealed. He's an angry angry broke man who just married for money. To be honest I saw that all coming with the whole marriage settlement section setting up for that but I didn't expect him to get all 'you are my wife and you will obey me and sign this document' and I definitely didn't expect a new Laura with some balls going 'woah no stuff that'. Yea you go girl! Finally Laura gets interesting. Now tell me your Secret Sir Percival!!

Don't know what to make of that dream stuff. At first I was like oh no a dream, don't like it, and then afterwards I was all - wow I so want to know what's going on with Hartright right now. And the ending of this section? I wouldn't have been able to stop at the originally planned stopping point if I had tried. Oh Marian what has happened to you?! And the update in the diary by Count Fosco? - Pure Genius. Give me more!

Monday, 16 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you reading? 16 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

I'm in Sydney! So going to be a bit sparse here sorry. Making good progress on The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)  readalong. It is a freakin good book and I can't put it down! I also stopped off at my fav second hand book shop in Ngatea, NZ on my way to the airport and got 7 new books! Will post about my new finds when get back to NZ next week. There's some goodies in there....

Friday, 13 April 2012

Audiobooks - To Abridge or Not To Abridge

Due to a change in my work circumstances I now find myself travelling in the car for several hours a week. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try some audio books. As I need them in CD format I decided to borrow a couple from the library and to see whether I enjoyed listening to them in the car. Firstly I'll do a quick review of the two I have recently listened to.

Blue Shoes and Happiness (author - Alexander McCall Smith, narrator - Adjoa Andoh)
I have only read a couple of the books in the No 1. Ladie's Detective Agency although I have a few on my shelf (including this one!) but I know these are nice relaxing books and so thought it would be perfect for my first exploration into audio books. I thought the narrator was incredibly talented and did so well with many of the accents and different voices although a couple of them grated a little in the early morning. I like these stories and it was just as enjoyable on audio.

Silver Wedding (author - Maeve Binchy, narrator - Kate Binchy)
So after the success of the first one I decided to try another one. This time a chick-lit style book, again easy and light hearted so should be fine for audio. Silver Wedding essentially follows a family and other interconnected characters as a Silver Wedding approaches. This audio book was only on 3 CDs so it was a lot shorter than the first. Unfortunately this was it's downfall. About half way through I realised I was quite lost. I couldn't work out who some of the characters were, the story had jumped so quickly that I felt I had missed a whole heap of the character development and there was even one chapter where I was so confused I thought I had been understanding one aspect of the book completely wrong. And then all of a sudden it all ended. I was at a loss, it all happened so fast.

And that's when I realised the downside of an abridged audio book. Now I knew both audio books were abridged versions - I mean it's pretty obvious you can't fit a whole book on 3 CDs. The problem was in Silver Wedding it was glaringly obvious that I was reading an abridged version. I felt like I had missed whole character developments, plot lines and lead ups. The whole thing made me think I'd missed half of the story.

Now Blue Shoes and Happiness wasn't as bad. That felt like a whole story in it's own right and I think was put together really well (it was on 5 CDs). But here's my problem - I still want to read the book because I know that I've missed some bits. Maybe it's the perfectionist in me but it really bugs me to think that I haven't heard every word of the book, that the story is just slightly different, that my experience of Blue Shoes and Happiness is different to that of someone who has read the book. I just can't get over it.

Who else out there has this issue with abridged versions? For those of you who read audio books - have this ever concerned you? Do you read the book version too just to see how different it is?

And what about reviews? Should reviews for abridged audio books be lumped together with book reviews when the total story is slightly different? Maybe I would have liked the full version but I disliked the audio version? Should reviews clarify if they are reviewing an abridged version? Wouldn't the narrator also have an impact on how good the 'book' is perceived in these situations also?

For me I'm now going to be a bit more careful with audio books. I can see them as a fun way to listen to a story but I probably still want to read the full book version of any I listen to. Unless of course I can find some unabridged versions at the library.

Where I go nutty over a tv show

I was so excited about this it deserves it's own post. BBC have created a TV series of Call the Midwife (my review here) and it's screening here in NZ in 2 weeks time. So can't wait! I so hope it lives up to my expectations.

But what's more Miranda Hart who I adore is playing Chummy Browne who is quite possibly the coolest person in the book so I'm even more excited! Can't wait till it starts.

More details:

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Woman in White Readalong Part Un

Oh Wilkie, you and your fantastic beard do not disappoint. You have me already throwing around phrases like "I'm off to have my forenoon cup of tea" and "oh those brats, I agree with Mr. Fairlie we need a reform in the construction of children" (as I glare at the noisy neighbourhood kids out my window). Such fun!

Quick disclaimer this is my first post as part of The Woman in White readalong and as such please expect complete plot revelations and in depth discussions so you have been warned and if you keep reading you only have yourself to blame!

So the first part has us reading the Preface through to the End of Hartright's Narrative. Seriously Preface's are weird. Especially 1860 prefaces. Enough said.

Right off the bat we're thrown Mr. Pesca who has got to be one of the best short lived characters ever. With his "this man of phlegm and money" and his "the immortal fire of genius burns in this Englishman's bosom". Oh Mr. Pesca please come back.

And then we have the pleasure of meeting Marian Halcombe and what an awesome chick she is! Not one of your wimpy, flaccid Victorian woman but a tough nut who speaks her mind. I think all of us in this readalong are slowly falling in love with her. Team Marian! It seems her awesomeness was lost on Mr. Hartright who predictably falls for the beautiful but oh so boring Miss. Fairlie. Oh well no great loss there. Can't say Mr. Hartright is anything special really. Hope I'm not the only one thinking that. Certainly no swoon worthy characteristics in sight.

We of course can't forget about Mr. Fairlie who locks himself up in his room for his nerves, calls his servants asses and who is completely self obsessed. His exchanges are priceless.

And there was a ghost! Even if it was just some silly little kid mistaking a woman in white to be a ghostly apparition. Oh well we'll take it! Anyone else a bit put off by this whole similarity between Miss. Fairlie and Miss. Catherick? I'm sitting there thinking long lost sisters, cousins? Separated at birth? Secretly they're the same person? Oh all of these possibilities are a little depressing for me. Please be a spectacular reason that wants me to throw the book in the air with joy!

And so we come to the end of our first pass as Mr. Hartright has hightailed it outta there after his little puppy dog eyes over Miss. Fairlie don't go unnoticed and all this letter writing mystery stuff gets thrown over to the lawyer, a Mr. Gilmore, who I just can't help but think is going to be an even more boring character than Mr. Hartright. Oh but this Sir Percival Glyde, he just has to turn into an ass who I can hate with all my venom. I love a good villain. Please be a villain.

Until next time....

It's Monday. What are you reading? 9 April 12

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

Okay so it's not actually Monday. It's now Tuesday but dammit yesterday was Easter Monday and I had much  more important things to do like eat chocolate and hot cross buns and drive to another town to help out a friend.

So my reading is focusing on The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)  readalong. And of course I'm enjoying it lots and lots and lots! And loving the beautiful cloth bound edition I have. I also found enough time to write a review for Room (Emma Donaghue) which lets be honest I think I'm the last one to read! :)

Hope you all had a great Easter break.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Room (Emma Donaghue)

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donaghue
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Picador
Source: Library
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads | |

It is highly likely that I'm one of the few people in the world who hadn't read this book, I've seen it everywhere! So when I joined up to the local library in my new town (we've recently moved) and I spotted this one on the shelf I snapped it up.

Now I'm always a little nervous when I read a book that everyone else has raved about because sometimes you can expect things and when your expectations aren't met you get a bit disappointed. So I tried really hard to go into this one with an open mind.

I did really enjoy it, predominantly because it's different. As the entire book is narrated by the 5 year old boy it provides this unique perspective. Donaghue was able to perfectly capture the innocence and love that envelops a child's world while still conveying so many raw emotions. It is a very clever book and a great read.

*Little spoiler follows*
I had thought that this book took place entirely in the 'room', that's as much as I knew about the story itself but I was pleased to find that the location moved throughout the novel which meant for a much more exciting read. It's a pretty grim subject matter but somehow the child's point of view turns everything on it's head and makes you thing about situations differently.
*Little spoiler ends*

I can see why this book has had such acclaim and I would definitely recommend it.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

And so it beings.. The Woman in White readalong

Excitement reigns supreme at my house right now as I bounce around like a little school girl because the readalong has begun! I have wanted to read The Woman in White for months now, ever since it was brought along to my UK bookclub but somehow I missed out on it when it did the borrowing rounds. And yet I know so little about this book which is such a contradiction. So apparently no ghosts (poo!) but I think I have purposely avoided finding out anything so I can be happily surprised when I read it for reals.

My version has a whole lotta intro stuff at the beginning which of course I've skipped right over because I don't want it to reveal even the slightest bit of plot so I can go into this knowing nothing. I love my ignorance.

And aha I'm reading from my beautiful cloth-bound edition and somehow it just makes it that much better. Classics should be read in hardcover wherever possible - even better if they are old, stained and smell like musty libraries.

As for Wilkie - who couldn't love a male writer who can grow such a beard? Writing genius is all about the beard isn't it?!

Monday, 2 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you reading? 2 April 2012

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

I finished and wrote my review for Rosetta (Barbara Ewing). Ewing is such a great writer I recommend you try any of her books because so far I've like them all.

I also read Room (Emma Donaghue) which I picked up at the library and only just finished last night so no review just yet sorry. I have two other reviews waiting for me to write too so I better get onto it. This is the first time I've been behind in my review posts :)

I've just signed up for The Classics Club so see what I'm reading here:

Today I start The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) as part of Reading Rambo's readalong. Yay! So exciting. My first ever readalong. Can't wait. I'll do a separate post to showcase all my over-excited hysteria soon!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Rosetta (Barbara Ewing)

Title: Rosetta
Author: Barbara Ewing
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 448
Source: My own copy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads | |

Right so first thing I better mention is that I have to admit I am a little biased towards this author because I have read two of her books before (The Mesmerist and The Fraud) and LOVED them so for me so far she can do no wrong. And this one is no exception. Rosetta, who grows up loving the written word, was named after the beautiful port town in Egypt her father had visited. When the Rosetta stone is brought to England her passion for language is once more renewed and she dreams of one day visiting the land of the hieroglyphs. However her marriage to the handsome Harry Fallon and the marriage of her best friend Fanny Hall to a young clergyman turn out not to be what they dreamed of as young girls looking to be wed and it leads Rose into paths she never imagined and a terrible secret sees her set off alone on a journey to Egypt.

Set in the early 1800s this book takes us on one women's life during an extraordinary time in world history - through the French Revolution, the battles for Egypt between the English and the French, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, and the Napoleonic Wars. Ewing has this incredible ability to capture the struggles and trials of an individuals story while entwining it with the much large history of the time. Her characters are strong, determined and heroic and you so badly want everything to work out for them even knowing that fluffy romantic endings aren't Ewing's style.

In a time when a women's place was seen as at home doing her husbands bidding, Ewing manages to portray the quiet determination of a number of individuals in the fight for greater equality. Miss Proud, the older unmarried neighbor, is possibly my favourite character due to her individuality and strength.

Rosetta is a story of adventure, suspense, love (of more than just the romantic kind), and one women's determination. I seriously can't recommend this book enough, in fact I'd recommend any of Ewing's books if you like a good historical fiction with strong female characters. You won't be disappointed.

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