Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Maus, Vol 1 (Art Spiegelman)

Title: Maus, Vol 1: My Father Bleeds History
Author: Art Spiegelman
First Published: 1986
This Edition Published: 1991
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Pages: 160
Source: Book club
Genres: Graphic Novels, Non Fiction
Goodreads  |

I have not read many graphic novels in my life. It is not a literary medium that I am overly familiar with, however they do intrigue me greatly. After the highly acclaimed conversion of some famous graphic novels into movie format, such as the likes of Watchmen and Sin City, graphic novels have certainly started hitting the radars of a number of book bloggers. A few of them such as Maus and Persepolis really help to bridge the divide for readers and I believe are a must for any book enthusiast.

Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, told by his son Art Spiegelman who is not only trying to come to terms with his father's story but his entire relationship with his father. Maus is an incredibly powerful portrayal of one families story. I think one of the biggest things to note is that this is not simply a story of Vladek's time in Poland during World War II but also a unique exploration of one man's relationship with his father. I think it is this aspect that really personalises the story and allows us to connect with it.

The Graphic Novel concept itself is also unique in that it uses animals to depict the different races throughout the novel with Jews as mice, Nazis as cats and Poles as pigs. This leads into some incredible imagery such as characters wearing masks of the other animals when they are trying to hide who they are. One particular excerpt stayed with me where Vladek and his wife Anja are walking the streets at night and he knows he has to find them a place to hide before daylight as although he could pass as Pole more easily "But Anja - her appearance - you could see more easy she was Jewish". To accompany this the imagery showed Anja depicted with a pig mask but you could see poking out from her long cloak a very definitive mouse tail.

Maus is an incredibly unique view of the impact of the Holocaust on a single family. I am really looking forward to reading part II.

Read It

Monday, 19 November 2012

It's Monday, What are you reading? 19 Nov 2011

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.

Last week I went up to Auckland for a few days to visit my sister and made a guest appearance at my old book club and luckily for me my favorite second hand book shop in Ngatea was open on my way through. This turned out to be incredibly great timing because they were in desperate need to make some space for some new books and so they were giving away a bunch of hardback books for free because they are the slowest type to move in a second hand book shop. I grabbed a stack load thinking even the ones I don't read I would give away to those who do. And so it was that I ended up with a box full of hardback books.

Now of course I can't walk out of a bookshop with just a stack of free books so I also had a great time sifting through the bargain books looking for some great finds. I got 6 books for $4 which were
31 Songs (Nick Hornby)
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (Marina Lewycka)
Two Caravans (Marina Lewycka)
Slam (Nick Hornby)
Five Quarters of the Orange (Joanne Harris)
Man and Boy (Tony Parsons)

And although not on the cheap list but so worth it I also picked up.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
Ulysses (James Joyce) - The one I have was borrowed off a friend so I'll be glad to be able to give it back, I've had it awhile!
Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
Travels with Charley in Search of America (John Steinbeck)
The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh)
Smoke and Mirrors (Neil Gaiman)

I also just received in the mail two books for review Sin (Zakhar Prilepin) and Christened with Crosses (Eduard Kochergin). As most of you know my taste in books is rather broad and I love exploring new things so when an opportunity to try some modern Russian literature came up I was really excited. These were sent to me by Glagoslav Publications, an independent British-Dutch press that specialises in publishing English translations of works by Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian authors.

And finally this week I made a guest appearance at my old book club. Luckily for me they are still quite happy for me to borrow books so I picked up Notes from an Exhibition (Patrick Gale), American Gods (Neil Gaiman) and that nice big hunk of a book Les Miserables (Victor Hugo). I am going to have a lot of spare time on my hands soon so I thought it was right time to try and tackle Les Mis.

Phew that's a lot of books to acquire in one week! So what am I actually reading? Well I just finished The Scarlet Cloak (Jean Plaidy), Always Looking Up (Michael J. Fox) and yes I did manage to finally get my way through Fifty Shades of Grey. This week I have picked up Book of Lost Threads (Tess Evans) as I needed a nice light read and it's exactly what I need right now. Next I'll pick up one of the translated Russian novels.

In NZ and want a free book? If you're in NZ and keen for a free copy of Bryce Courtenay's - Sylvia, Whitethorn or Jessica or Wilburn Smith's Monsoon then get in touch and I'll try and get it to you.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

After Dark (Haruki Murakami)

Title: After Dark
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Jay Rubin
First Published: 2004
This Edition Published: 2007
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Pages: 202
Source: Book club
Genres: Translated Literature, Japanese Literature, Contemporary
Goodreads  |

This is the first book by Haurki Murakami that I have read so I am not familiar with his writing style at all, although I have heard a lot of things about his books Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore and IQ84, so I knew that I might be getting into something a bit different, and well yes I think I can definitely sum up this book as a little weird... weird and brilliant.

The premise of the book is that at midnight in Tokyo we meet Mari, a 19 year old student who is reading a book at Dennys at midnight. Into Dennys comes Takahashi who knows Mari's sister Eri. The story follows Mari and her sister Eri through aspects of their night and finishes up at 7am. Well 6:52am to be exact, you see each chapter of this book is a time which I thought was so well done.

The descriptions of Tokyo at midnight are just incredible, it really does feel like you are there, I visited Tokyo a couple of years ago and this book took me straight back to that incredible city. The language of this book is simply beautiful, this was one of my favourite excerpts.

"Even at a time like this, the street is bright enough and filled with people coming and going - people with places to go and people with no place to go; people with a purpose and people with no purpose; people trying to hold time back and people trying to urge it forward."

There are some incredibly interesting characters in this book (I'm going to go into a bit of detail in this paragraph so skip if you hate knowing too much about a book before you read it, but don't worry I never give away too much plot!). Takahashi is a Trombone playing student who bumps into Mari in between band practices. Through Takahashi she is introduced to Kaoru, the retired female wrestler who is now the manager of a love hotel. Mari also meets a Chinese prostitute, along with Komugi and Korogi, maids whose names mean Wheat and Cricket. We also meet Eri, Mari's beautiful sister who has been sleeping for months, literally a sleeping beauty. Eri's sections are certainly the most unique thanks to her encounters with The Man with No Face.

Okay you're pretty safe now. The narration in Eri's sections was incredibly unique using terms such as 'we see such and such' and highlighting the fact that we are but a point of observation that cannot interact with the scene in any way. It was fascinating. I would love to know what kind of narration style it would be called. Maybe something along the lines of an external or video narration, where the point of view  changes to take in different aspects of the scene and is actively talked about as part of the narration?

Ultimately this book explores ideas of sibling relationships and alienation through the exploits of a scattering of outcasts on one night in Tokyo. It was a joy to read and I recommend it to you all.

Read It


Every now and then you hear about someone who really inspires you due to their unselfish actions and incredible attitudes. Today that was a Father and Son from New South Wales.

John Simon and his 9 year old son Lucas are walking the length of the South Island, 1200 kms (745.6 miles), to raise money for Room To Read, a charity that aims to raise money to improve literacy in developing countries.

See their journey on their website or follow them on Twitter at  @walkingwithdad1

Room to Read
"Room to Read Australia Foundation is a global organization seeking to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Founded on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children, Room to Read works in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and to ensure girls have the skills and support needed to complete their secondary education. Since 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of more than six million children in Asia and Africa and aims to reach 10 million children by 2015."

If you want to help this worthy cause head here -

Monday, 5 November 2012

It's Monday. What are you reading? 5 Nov 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.

The countdown to Christmas has begun. Local stores have started stocking decorations and advertising gifts, supermarkets are pulling out the gift chocolate boxes and advent calendars and Christmas tree farms are being advertised on the road side. Which means it's time for me to start thinking about my Christmas shopping. I absolutely despise visiting stores in the week leading up to Christmas, the idea of the crowds and the mad dash to try and find something, anything, that is suitable is enough to make me break out in a sweat. So I like to get in there early before all the crowds hit and this is the perfect time to do it. Stores have just started to get their Christmas gift stock - I was chatting to one store manager and she said they had three truck loads in the last week alone and half of it was still sitting out the back in the alleyway waiting for space - but the shoppers haven't hit yet and you can walk around a store without getting knocked into a hundred times.

Onto the books we have two brilliant authors running live chat's through Goodreads this month. Both Barbara Kingsolver and Jasper Fforde are featured this month. Such a great chance to hear two incredible authors.

As for what I'm reading. Now that I am not able to regularly go to my old book club as I have moved towns I have joined a new book club at my local library. This book club defines a theme each month and this month it's Spain. So I'm reading The Scarlet Cloak (Jean Plaidy) which is set in Spain during the era of King Phillip II and the Spanish Armada. I will also talk about The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) which I read last year.

More recently I finished Middlesex (Jeffery Eugenides), After Dark (Hauki Murakami) and Maus I (Art Spiegelman). Reviews for each to come.