Thursday, July 5, 2012

Loving the classics

I can't help it, I just love classic romantic tales. Like so many women I can't get enough Jane Austen, in any format. Of course, I love Mr Darcy and Lizzy and  Mr Knightley is my favourite Austen hero but they all pale into insignificance next to Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. You thought Elizabeth Bennet was a strong woman, Jane is much stronger and as for the romance, well, Jane Austen's stories are about class and manners, she was such an astute social commentator, but Charlotte Brontë's book is so full of passion!

I have recently read two other Brontë books, Vilette and The Professor and I have enjoyed them immensely (it helps to have a little French!). What an extraordinary family the Brontës were! I rather prefer Charlotte and Anne (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) to Emily, I have read Wuthering Heights twice but find it a lot bleaker than the stories her sister wrote and I certainly don't fancy Heathcliff!

Which classic romatic hero is your favourite?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

Past the Shallows is the debut novel for Favel Parrett and has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

This novel follows a Summer in the life of three Tasmanian brothers, Joe, Miles and Harry, after their mother has died in a car accident.

It is an evocative novel, filled with emotion and yearning for another way of life. As the story unfolds the sparse text intimates their father’s violence before he ever lays a hand on them.

The boys live under the shadow of their violent father and his irregular drunken beatings.

It is the character of Harry who is the heart and soul of this novel. As a reader, you can embrace his innocence as a ray of hope in the brothers’ lives.

It is only Harry, the youngest son, who escapes work on their father’s illegal fishing boat. His light hearted view of the world is contrasted against Miles and Joe’s oppressive and steeled ‘adult’ view of the world (yet Joe at 17 is the eldest of the three).

The depth of this novel lies in Parrett’s ability to draw the reader into the brothers’ lives without giving everything away up front. She uses the suggestive power of her writing style to great effect, particularly in the books striking concluding chapters.

Past the Shallows embodies the Tasmanian shoreline, rough and unrelenting – yet beautiful in its simplicity.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Animal People by Charlotte Wood

I highly recommend this book! Gee, how I wish I had written it!

From the very first page the storyline intrigued me. There was something about the language and the character of Stephen as an anti-hero that evoked feelings of comfort and familiarity. He is not special in any way, nor does it seem that he is living up to his potential, yet he still seems to be striving for happiness, safety, and love…. all those elemental aspects of life.

The novel follows one day in Stephen’s life. The urban setting, the symbol of the animal as it appears in the book (in several different guises), is telling of how we think of ourselves as humans, as the ‘other’.

Stephen as a character is lost; his reactions to events as they unfold throughout the book are reactive and almost always controlled by fear. I think this fear is mainly a fear of not wanting to be controlled or bound by something, particularly his relationship with Fiona. Which, in the end, is perhaps what he really wants the most in the world; he just thinks he shouldn’t want it.

I found the ending redeeming and satisfying.  I enjoyed the openness, the promise of something beyond the story.

After reading Animal People, you should read The Children by Charlotte Wood (Stephen first appears as a character in The Children).

Aside – Animal People was shortlisted for the Nita B Kibble Award and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012.

Book Challenge: Books you may have missed!

For the next few weeks I’ll be giving myself a challenge to “fill the gaps” of the classic youth and junior fiction titles I didn’t read while I was growing up.

For a start, I’ve chosen the following five titles:

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Nicolas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

There is no rhyme or reason behind choosing these titles, they are simply books I had heard good things about, and I hadn’t read them before!

Feel free to leave comment if there is a book from your child/ young adulthood that you think I should have read!

I will be posting my thoughts/comments/review of these books as I read them. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strictly Confidential by Roxy Jacenko

So to be straight with you from the start, this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I found Strictly Confidential to be an enjoyable, albeit slightly voyeuristic read – it is certainly not going to win any prizes, but that is just the kind of book it is.

Jasmine Lewis, affectionately known as Jazzy Lou, is a go-getter, much like the book’s author, Roxy Jacenko.

Roxy Jacenko works in fashion PR in Sydney owns her own business, Sweaty Betty PR, and is famous for being classy, tough and good at what she does. Funnily enough, this even extends to writing a pretty decent chick-lit novel.

At the book’s beginning, we find Jasmine working for Wildenstein PR, with a control-freak boss. Yet when her boss finds her captured in the paper, in a compromising position with a client (read the book to find out), she gets fired from her job.

Jasmine, a borderline Nurofen Plus addict and all-round workaholic, (you’d have to be to get out of bed at 3am to rescue a client from a night club) opens her own PR business, aptly titled Queen Bee PR - and this is where the fun begins!

With an interesting range of characters (supposedly based on some of Sydney’s elite), and enough drama to keep you on your toes, this book would make the perfect holiday read, whether you are curled up by a roaring fire or lazing by the beach – though a cocktail in hand is definitely recommended!

Find this book at the library!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Younger Man by Zoe Foster

What a fun read!

The Younger Man is Zoe’s third novel, and is strictly a ‘girls’ own’ kind of story.

The storyline focuses on the life of Abby and her two girlfriends, Maddy and Chelsea, sassy and self-confident thirty-somethings, whose voices ring true throughout the text.

The book rollicked along with romance, work-life balance and friendship as the central themes.

The ‘younger man’ of the title is Marcus, a twenty-two year old, who captures the attention of thirty-three year old Abby.

The to and fro as to whether it is appropriate for Abby to be dating a man who is ten years younger than her is an old storyline, but Zoe makes the plot fresh and modern, which is helped by the playful interaction between the characters. Like this interplay between Abby and Chelsea:
‘How young? Like, eighteen?’

‘No, you sicko...twenty-five.’ Abby looked down.

‘How. Old.’


‘WHO’S the sicko?? Twenty-two! Was he wearing a nappy?’

Oh, you’re an idiot. Twenty-two is an adult! God knows what I was up to at twenty-two, but I wasn’t a child. I knew what I was doing.’

The conclusion doesn’t feel as if Zoe has fought too hard to tie everything up in a neat little bow, but it is still satisfying.

The Younger Man is a great option for an easy-to-read romantic novel for the intelligent reader. I wouldn’t recommend this book to males or those with a distaste for chick-lit.

Find The Younger Man in the Adult Fiction section of the library.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

This delightfully written tale includes, among other things, the Russian ‘mafia’, a road trip (including numerous dodgy budget hotels and one gin induced hangover), a bunch of lies and a very precocious ten-year-old boy.

Children’s librarian, Lucy Hull, begins to worry about one of her regular young patrons, Ian Drake, at for a number of reasons:

1. Ian’s mother suggests to Lucy that he should only read books with “the breath of God in them”,
2. Lucy inadvertently finds out Ian has been attending anti-gay classes run by an organisation called Glad Heart in a town two hours drive away, and
3. She finds Ian camped out in the library one morning when she opens up – Ian has run away, and he is taking Lucy with him!

Unsure of whether Lucy has kidnapped Ian, or whether he has kidnapped her, this story is about running away, being true to yourself and realising being a kid isn’t always easy, but is often a lot of fun!

The enjoyment in reading The Borrower was that the plot was unpredictable, I was never sure of how the book would end, but I enjoyed the trip along with Ian and Lucy immensely and was sad when it finished.

Heartfelt characters and a lot of silliness makes this story burst at the seams with loveliness… you don’t have to be a librarian to enjoy this story – just enjoy sharing the joy of reading.